Are Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Different?

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Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex mental health disorder that causes a person to lose control of their use of drugs or alcohol. SUD typically presents itself through alcohol use disorder (AUD), drug addiction, or sometimes both. Alcohol and drug addiction are very similar since they’re both a form of SUD. Does treatment look different for them though? Do those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction face similar challenges? Is recovery more possible for one than the other? At the end of the day, recovery is very similar whether it’s from drugs, alcohol, or a behavioral addiction. The important thing is that you take the first step towards recovery.

Many people seeking addiction treatment have hundreds of questions. The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center helps create a space for growth, healing, and long-term transformation. We offer partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, and sober living on the island of Hawaii. So, regardless of whether you’re struggling with addiction to alcohol, drugs, or both, we have the tools to help you start your recovery adventure today.

Alcohol Use Disorder

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines alcohol use disorder (AUD) as a “medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.” AUD is a disorder that presents itself differently in each person. Some only have a mild issue while others have a more severe case of AUD. Excessive alcohol consumption will cause changes in the brain, making it more difficult to abstain from it and recover. Treatment and recovery are possible thanks to a combination of evidence-based treatments, support networks, behavioral therapies, and several resources. The NIAA also references a national survey which indicated that in 2019, 14.1 million adults – 18 years and older – struggled with AUD. This addiction continues to be an ongoing issue, not only among adults throughout the country but among our youth as well.

This is no single cause of AUD. Individuals who binge drink or heavily consume alcohol may be at an increased risk of developing AUD. However, the core cause tends to be more deeply rooted. Genetics, family history, and childhood trauma are all strong contributing factors to the development of AUD. Mental health professionals have debated the nature versus nurture question for years. The development of AUD is typically influenced by both our nature and the way we were nurtured. Underlying disorders can also impact the likelihood of developing AUD. For example, individuals suffering from anxiety or depression may turn to alcohol to cope with their symptoms. Alcohol consumption can exacerbate those symptoms. If untreated, both AUD and co-occurring disorders can cause many adverse effects.

Understanding Drug Addiction

AUD and drug addiction overlap. We shouldn’t look at AUD and drug addiction as two completely separate entities. We should, instead, see them both as substance use disorders. Defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), addiction is a “Chronic relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” Just as excessive alcohol use causes changes in the brain, so will excessive drug use. However, if we’re discussing the difference between alcohol and drug use, we should also note that addiction and SUD can also be different.

Addictions can be behavioral. An article from the International Journal of Preventive Medicine on behavioral addiction and substance addiction lays claim that behavioral scientists believe “All entities capable of stimulating a person can be addictive.” If a habit becomes an “obligation,” it has become addictive. They concluded that substance addiction and behavioral addictions are similar, but behavioral addictions do not exhibit physical signs the way SUD does. 

Behavioral addictions rewire the brain, the same as excessive alcohol and drug consumption. However, both alcohol and drug addiction exhibit physical symptoms like unusual weight loss or gain, lack of personal hygiene, tremors or body shakes, bloodshot eyes, and impaired cognitive function or speech. It’s important to know the differences between all forms of addiction, but our main question today is whether or not drug and alcohol treatment is the same.

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatments

Discussion on alcohol and drug addiction treatment should be prefaced with the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment, whether a person is dependent on alcohol or drugs. For addiction treatment to be successful, it must be individualized.

Alcohol addiction treatment will typically begin with detoxification followed by inpatient or outpatient treatment. Treatment may include medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to help with symptoms of withdrawal and behavioral therapy. Treatment also varies based on the severity of the disorder and the damage excessive drinking has caused.

Drug addiction treatment is very similar. Treatment will also depend on the severity of the disorder, in addition to the types of drugs someone may be using. Drug type will be a big factor in creating an individualized treatment plan. Some may decide to go through detox, similar to alcohol addiction treatment, and will then enter into an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

So, the short answer is no, alcohol and drug addiction treatment are not very different from each other. Going more in-depth, we learn that regardless of the substances used, treatment must be individualized. Additionally, The Ohana focuses on holistic approaches to treating our clients, ensuring that we are focused on treating the person, not the disorder. Whether you’re dependent on drugs or alcohol, The Ohana can help. To start your recovery adventure, call us today.

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According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in 2023, scientists combed through genomic data of over one million people and identified genes
According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in 2023, scientists combed through genomic data of over one million people and identified genes
According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study published in 2023, scientists combed through genomic data of over one million people and identified genes

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