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Substance use disorders are on the rise, while fewer are seeking treatment 


By Kristin Bryan

The use of addictive substances has been on the rise in recent years. This increase has been linked to a number of factors, including the availability of drugs, the normalization of substance use in popular culture and the rise in mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.  

As a result, substance use disorders (SUD) impact many that we know and love. 

Yet, a recent study released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 94% of patients with a substance use disorder don’t get treatment. 

What is substance use disorder? 

Substance use disorder occurs when a person’s brain and behaviors limit their ability to control their use of legal or illegal substances. People with SUD may have issues with alcohol, recreational, “street,” or synthetic drugs, and even prescribed medications. 

With the rise of substance use, the prevalence of SUDs has been steadily increasing as well. It is estimated that 1 in 7 people suffer from a substance use disorder, occurring when an individual has difficulty controlling their use of substances, such as alcohol, drugs, or both.  

Often a SUD is accompanied by other co-occurrences of mental health stressors, conditions or disorders. In fact, 1 in 4 people with a SUD also have a diagnosis of a serious mental illness. In many instances, their substance use is a contributing factor to a mental health issue. 

The impacts of SUDs 

Substance use disorders can adversely affect a person’s health, relationships and work, leading to risky behaviors that can have serious consequences. However, we know how to treat substance use disorder and there is hope for those who suffer from it.  

A variety of treatment options are available, and research has shown that integrating mental health treatment along with substance use disorder treatment can have a positive impact on recovery. Treatment options may include: 

  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): MAT involves the use of medications prescribed by a psychiatrist or a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner to manage any withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings for substances. 
  • Behavioral Therapy: Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), helps you identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors related to substance use. 
  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy can provide you with support, guidance and a safe space to explore the underlying issues that may have contributed to your substance use. 
  • Group therapy: Group therapy provides a supportive environment where you can share your experiences and receive feedback from others. Our group therapy offerings are helpful for individuals with conditions that co-occur to substance use, like depression and anxiety. 

Recovery is possible 

Early diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce the severity of the disorder and improve an individual’s quality of life. Additional support from family and friends can also play an important role in overcoming a substance use disorder.  

Yet, the stigma around mental health conditions can be part of what’s preventing people from seeking and receiving the treatment they need and deserve. “Substance use” risks defining people by their disease. Instead, we should recognize them as a person with a medical condition. No one wakes up and decides they want to put substances in their body without reason. Substance use disorder is a disease that needs to be properly treated and addressed.  

If you, or someone you love, is struggling with substance use, local health care professionals can help offer solutions. Seeking treatment can help provide personalized care, support and the tools needed to overcome addiction and achieve lasting recovery. 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but with a strong support system, open discussion and understanding, recovery is possible. 

About the Author

Kristin Bryan is an advanced practice registered nurse for Elite DNA Behavioral Health, a comprehensive behavioral and mental health service provider. One of the largest mental health providers in the state celebrating 10 years in business, Elite DNA provides in-person and virtual behavioral health services from more than 30 locations across Florida. For more information, visit 

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