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Mental Health and Substance Abuse Crisis Guide

Many people experience different types of crises. Recognizing a drug problem or substance abuse crisis and pursuing addiction treatment can seem overwhelming. You may be searching for the right addiction crisis center for you but don’t know where to look. Although it may be difficult to know where to start on the path toward recovery, this mental health and drug and alcohol crisis guide can provide answers to your questions.

What Is a Crisis?

You may be wondering what constitutes a mental health or substance use crisis. In psychological terms, a crisis refers to a short-term, substantial change in one’s mental health functioning or circumstances. The individual might experience drastic changes in their thoughts, mood or behavior. During a mental health crisis, a person exhibits behavior that prevents them from being able to care for themselves or function effectively in the community. They may be at risk of hurting themselves or others.7

Crises often involve feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. During these times, people need support from family, friends and professionals. Many situations can lead to a mental health crisis, including:7

  • Home or environmental stressors: Including changes in relationships, death of a loved one, conflicts with loved ones, trauma.
  • Social or work stressors: Including worry about upcoming projects, feeling misunderstood by teachers/co-workers/supervisors, discrimination.
  • Additional stressors: Including experiencing community or domestic violence or natural disasters, changing medication prescriptions or dosages, the use or abuse of drugs or alcohol.

Crises may coincide with alcohol or drug abuse. Deteriorating mental health can lead to substance use, and the reverse is also true: substance use can negatively impact mental health. For someone who is struggling with drug or alcohol use, an addiction crisis may be an indicator to family or friends that they have hit what’s often called “rock bottom”, or, in other words, their lowest point, and it may be time for an intervention.8

Recovery from an alcohol or drug crisis is possible with the right help. Seeking the help of drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers can start you on the journey to recovery and lasting sobriety. 

What Is an Addiction Crisis?

Alcohol or drug addiction is a treatable medical disease whereby a person engages in compulsive behavior despite harmful consequences. It changes how the brain works.1,9 These changes may impact both an individual’s behavior and cognitive function, leading to moodiness, memory loss or even trouble processing information and making decisions, and these changes can last for a prolonged period of time.1

Symptoms and Signs of Alcohol or Drug Addiction

Symptoms or behaviors of drug or alcohol addiction may include:2,10

  • Needing more of the substance to have the same effect.
  • Experiencing strong urges for the substance.
  • Using more of the substance over a longer period of time.
  • Failing in work, school or family responsibilities.
  • Using the substance despite consequences in your personal, academic or professional life.
  • Taking risks to obtain the substance, including stealing.
  • Spending large amounts of time obtaining, using or recovering from the substance.
  • An inability to stop the use of the substance.
  • Going through withdrawal symptoms if you do attempt to stop.

Is My Loved One Experiencing a Substance Crisis?

While there are not always warning signs of a mental health or substance crisis, there are various warning signs that may reveal that someone is going through one. These may include:7

  • Increased energy level or the inability to stay still.
  • Inability to perform daily routine including bathing, dental hygiene, changing clothes.
  • Rapid movement into feeling depressed or withdrawn.
  • Rapid mood swings.
  • Isolating self from friends, family, work, school.
  • Abusive behavior toward self or others.
  • Paranoia.

When it comes to addiction, it can be difficult to recognize signs of a loved one’s drug or alcohol use. Signs of substance abuse may include the following:2

  • Health issues: Lack of motivation or energy, weight loss/gain, red eyes.
  • School or work problems: missing school or work often, losing interest in work or school activities, a drop in grades or work performance.
  • Change in appearance: indifference toward hygiene, clothes, grooming.
  • Change in behavior: efforts to keep loved ones out of their room/office/home, keeping secrets about where they are going, what they are doing and who they are doing it with.
  • Money problems: borrowing money without sufficient reasons why, missing money, missing items from home.

Additional signs of an alcohol or drug crisis may include a loss of interest in passions and hobbies, mood swings, depression, missing important commitments and prioritizing substance use over other obligations.2,3

Receive 24/7 text support at your convenience with American Addiction Centers. Our team is well prepared to advise on all things treatment and help you or a loved one find the care you need for a substance use crisis. We’ve helped thousands recover from addiction and we can help you too.

Mental Health and Drug Abuse Treatment Options

Addiction and substance use disorders (SUDs) are treatable. A variety of treatment options is available. When a SUD co-occurs with other mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety, it is considered best practice to address both a patient’s physiological dependence on drugs or alcohol concurrently with any co-occurring mental health disorders they are dealing with.4 There are many addiction treatment centers that deal with dual diagnosis for mental health and drug abuse.

When you begin alcohol or drug rehab, the following treatment approaches may be involved:4-6

  • Detox: This is the process through which the body clears itself from drugs or alcohol. The detox process helps patients by managing acute and possibly dangerous withdrawal symptoms that occur with the stopping of drug use. It does not address the psychological, social or behavioral problems connected to the addiction and should only be treated as a first step in the recovery process.
  • Medication: During detox, side effects that result from withdrawal may be unpleasant or even potentially fatal, so medication may be prescribed to manage those symptoms. Medication may also be used to reduce drug cravings.
  • Therapy: Behavioral therapy—individual, group, and family—is typically used in addiction treatment. Patients will likely talk with a counselor/therapist about their mental health concerns and addictive behaviors. Sessions may also involve developing skills to resist drug or alcohol use, improving problem-solving skills, discussing the patient’s motivation to become/stay sober, figuring out strategies for dealing with relapse etc. Group therapy and involvement with other groups of people who are also in recovery provide patients with a better chance at continued recovery.
  • Inpatient treatment: Inpatient treatment facilities allow patients to live in the facility and receive support, monitoring and care 24 hours a day. They are typically better for individuals who do not have stable, supportive home environments, are at a greater risk of relapse or who have greater severity of addiction to one or multiple substances.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment programs allow patients to live at home while receiving treatment. The minimum time spent in outpatient is 9 hours per week, typically spent over three 3-hour sessions. It is often recommended for individuals who have a stable work/home life and solid social support networks. Treatment typically involves individual and group therapy and may also involve prescribed medication. You may choose an intensive outpatient program.

The insight into your behavior and the coping skills that you learn during treatment are tools to incorporate into your life after substance abuse rehab. Practice these things in the real world and talk to friends, family or another professional about them. Attend mutual help groups (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA)) that provide you with support and a judgment-free environment. Beginning to recognize these patterns—with self-compassion—is a great first step.

How Long Does Rehab Last?

The length of time that is spent in drug or alcohol rehab varies, but there is evidence indicating that treatment is most effective when it takes place over a longer period of time. You may choose a 28- or 30-day, 60-day or 90-day inpatient program. In order to achieve long-term sobriety or reduced use of the abused substance, many patients need at least 3 months of continued treatment.4 Your treatment plan will also include an aftercare component, where skills learned during treatment can be reinforced. This could be one or a combination of many things, from individual counseling to attending mutual-help groups to self-care strategies like regular exercise or daily mediation.9

There isn’t 1 treatment strategy that works for every patient, and it is imperative that a patient’s treatment plan is assessed and adjusted regularly.4 Individualized treatment plans that are developed after a professional assessment in conjunction with the patient and later adapted or adjusted as needed during treatment can provide patients with a greater chance at sustained recovery post-rehab.

How Do I Get Help for Addiction or a Substance Use Crisis?

Acknowledging your SUD and pursuing treatment for it can be very difficult. But, while it is challenging, remember that recovery is possible, and you can achieve the clean, healthy and happy life you deserve. If you are having a substance abuse crisis, help is available for you to begin on your path toward recovery. An intervention to address your substance abuse can help you overcome a drug or alcohol crisis.

Call one of our admissions navigators for free at . They are here 24/7 to provide you with the guidance, information and support you need to achieve better health and a life free from unhealthy drug and alcohol use.

Worried about being able to afford rehab treatment? Find out what your insurance covers by clicking here or filling out the form below.

There are also free alcohol addiction and drug abuse hotline numbers you can contact.

Insurance Providers That May Cover Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment

Learn more about paying for rehab with these insurance providers:

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