Interventions for possible substance use disorder (SUD) can happen at any point, regardless of whether it’s newly emergent or advanced. But as with most physiological and mental health issues, clinicians will generally advise that potential SUD cases be treated as early as possible.
Here we’ll talk about why it’s best to seek professional help even before you’re certain that you might have a drug or alcohol problem. If you suspect that you or someone you’re close to has a SUD or is at risk of developing one, Dallas Drug Treatment Centers offers access to some of the best treatment facilities and programs in and around North Texas.
What is Early Intervention?
Early intervention is the practice of treating health conditions as soon as signs of an illness manifest. It is a mainstream idea in mental health, premised on the idea that mental illnesses are easier to treat and can be prevented from getting worse if they are diagnosed and addressed early.1 In the context of SUD treatment, it is directly opposite to the once-prevalent idea of “hitting rock bottom”.
What is Rock Bottom?
Waiting to hit rock bottom is the idea that individuals with substance use issues first need to realize that they need treatment. Rock bottom is usually defined as the so-called place people with drug or alcohol use disorder reach when they finally realize they need help.2
Rock bottom looks different for each individual. For some people, it may be their first DUI arrest or the first time they regret doing something while under the influence. For others, It may be something much more serious. There has long been criticism of the idea of hitting rock bottom precisely because it’s so subjective.
Additionally, personal circumstances can affect whether or not a person even faces consequences for substance misuse, further reducing the merit of waiting for rock bottom. For instance, a person with good financial and social standing may not experience any repercussions from their behavior. As a result, it may take decades to reach their personal rock bottom, if at all. Meanwhile, someone without a financial or social safety net is far more likely to feel the ramifications of their substance misuse much sooner.
Today, clinicians will generally agree that when it comes to substance use disorders, early treatment tends to be preferable, whether or not the person realizes they have a problem.
Reasons Why Early Intervention for Substance Misuse is Important
A 2016 paper published by the Office of the Surgeon General recommends early intervention even before signs of a substance use disorder are confirmed.3 In other words, the first signs of problematic substance use should already be a reason to seek help.
Reasons for this recommendation include the following:
1.) Early Intervention Reduces Potential Harm from Substance Misuse
Regular drug and alcohol use tend to result in cumulative negative health effects. The more a person misuses substances, the more physical and mental harm is likely to result. Preventing such misuse or intervening early on can prevent worse health issues from occurring.
2.) It Reduces Risk Behaviors Before They Result in Serious Injury
Intoxicating substances can interfere with decision-making, which can result in accidents or violent interactions with others. Each time a person uses intoxicants, they run a risk of harm because of their resulting behaviors. By intervening early, these risks can be mostly avoided.
3.) It Helps Improve Health and Social Functioning
People with drug and alcohol problems are at a much higher risk of developing chronic health issues. At the same time, they may find it harder to succeed in their personal and professional lives. Getting help early may prevent chronic illness and social interactions from becoming a lifelong issue.
4.) Early Treatment May Prevent Progression to SUD or other Disorders
Though individual instances of drug and alcohol use can raise an individual’s health risks, it takes repeated substance misuse before a SUD or another mental health disorder develops. Fully-fledged disorders can be complex, often requiring the assistance of specialized clinicians and possibly years of treatment. This usually makes mental health disorders more expensive to treat.
How Do I Identify Signs of Substance Misuse?
Some signs someone you know might have issues with substance misuse include the following:4
- Finding drug paraphernalia
- Unexplained mood swings
- A decline in grooming
- Frequent intoxication
- Reclusive behavior
- Strange sleep patterns
- Indifference to old hobbies, friends, and interests
Find Help for Substance Misuse Now
Signs of drug and alcohol misuse need to be addressed before they become a serious problem. Early intervention not only greatly reduces the possibility that substance misuse progresses into a SUD, but it also helps reduce the financial and time burden associated with treatment.
If you think that you or someone you know has a problem with substance misuse, Dallas Drug Treatment Centers can give you access to rehab and intervention services across North Texas. Call us today to discuss your options.
- Addington, J. (2007). The promise of early intervention. Early intervention in psychiatry, 1(4), 294-307
- Kirouac, M., & Witkiewitz, K. (2017). Identifying “Hitting Bottom” Among Individuals with Alcohol Problems: Development and Evaluation of the Noteworthy Aspects of Drinking Important to Recovery (NADIR). Substance use & misuse, 52(12), 1602-1615.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US), & Office of the Surgeon General (US). (2016, November). Early intervention, treatment, and management of substance use disorders. In Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. US Department of Health and Human Services.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2019). Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders.