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Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist | PSY 22022

Dr. Cassidy Blair, Psy.D.

Substance Abuse and Addiction

It is estimated that over 20 million Americans are addicted to alcohol or drugs. That means it’s highly likely that you know someone personally who has an addiction. If that person is someone close to you such as a son or daughter, parent, friend, spouse, or significant other, then chances are, their addiction is having an impact on your life as well. 

When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, it’s a widespread problem that carries with it a lot of questions and misunderstandings. In today’s blog from Blair Wellness Group, we hope to provide useful and accurate information to those wanting to learn more about addiction. Whether you want to help a friend or loved one, or you’re looking for your own guidance, seeking out information and educating yourself is a good place to start. When you’re ready to take the next step and speak to someone who can help, we encourage you to make an appointment at Blair Wellness Group in Beverly Hills.

What is the Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction?


There are several different terms that are used when talking about drug or alcohol use. The terms substance abuse and substance use disorder are often used interchangeably to refer to someone’s intense focus on using a particular substance. They are not, however, the same as addiction. Although both can have the same consequences, addiction differs from substance abuse in that it is a chronic disease that is incredibly difficult to control.

Frequent or prolonged substance abuse can escalate into an addiction. The difference is that with an addiction, chemical changes occur in the brain that makes it much more difficult to stop. People with a drug or alcohol addiction cannot stop drinking or using at will. They progressively crave more and more of a substance in order to achieve the same high. Finally, people who have an addiction will continue to use despite the catastrophic consequences it may cause. 

Does Addiction Only Involve Drugs or Alcohol?


When people hear the term addiction, they usually think of a condition that involves drugs or alcohol. Although these are the most common forms of addiction, there are several others as well. Addictions are usually grouped into one of two categories — chemical and behavioral. Chemical addictions include alcohol and drugs such as opioids, nicotine, cocaine, and methamphetamines. Behavioral addictions, on the other hand, include things such as addiction to gambling, food, sex, pornography, and social media.

Why Do Some People Become Addicted While Others Don’t?


There is one clear answer for why some people develop an addiction while others do not. What is known, however, is that addiction is a complicated disease that can be affected by many factors. One of the most common influences is genes. In other words, addiction can run in the family. In fact, genetic factors may contribute to up to half of your risk. 

Another reason why some people are more prone to developing an addiction than others is because of psychological factors. Those who have preexisting mental health conditions or have suffered trauma, abuse, or other severely distressing experiences may also have an increased risk of addiction.


What Are Some Common Signs of Addiction?


Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if someone has an addiction because they may be in denial, and if it’s something they’ve dealt with for a long time, it’s possible that they’ve gotten very good at hiding it from other people. If you suspect someone you know has an addiction, you’ll likely notice one or more of these signs:

  • Changes in physical appearance — looking tired, having bloodshot eyes
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Deterioration in personal grooming habits
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Sudden changes in mood / increased irritability and aggression
  • Neglecting relationships or work responsibilities
  • Increased secrecy, lying, and denial 

When People Have an Addiction, Why Can’t They Just Stop?


For those who have never experienced addiction, it might seem like someone who is abusing drugs or alcohol should just gather the willpower to stop. This is one of the most common misconceptions about addiction — that it’s a lack of willpower driving a person to engage in a particular substance. On the contrary, addiction actually causes physical changes in the brain affecting your perception and motivation, making it especially difficult to stop. Addiction impacts the brain’s reward system triggering a response that makes someone want to continue to use a substance or engage in risky behavior despite harmful consequences. 

How Can I Help a Loved One Who is Struggling With Addiction?


When someone you care about has an addiction, it can be frustrating and heart-wrenching to see what they’re going through. Your first instinct may be to criticize them or provide an ultimatum, but their health and wellness depend on you being compassionate and realistic about what it takes to change. The best thing you can do is to first educate yourself about addiction, and then assume that they will be reluctant and maybe even angry that you are confronting them. Don’t expect immediate change, but be supportive. Although you can suggest treatment, they may not be willing. Consider seeking therapy for yourself to maintain your own mental health.  

Learn More By Contacting an Addiction Therapist Who Can Help


Do you have more questions about substance abuse, addiction, or treatment? Are you searching for an addiction therapist who can help you or someone you love? At Blair Wellness Group, we offer effective therapy and treatments for those living with an addiction or who are impacted by another’s addiction. 

Addiction recovery is possible, but it’s a long-term process that almost always requires help from a professional therapist. Without it, people are more prone to relapse and may not be able to sustain the lasting change they desire.

To get the personalized support you need in a nurturing and healing environment, we encourage you to contact Blair Wellness Group at 310-999-4996 to schedule an appointment.


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