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Substance Use & Addiction

What is addiction?

“Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease affecting the brain’s reward, motivation, and related systems. People struggling with addiction are unable to control their actions or make rational decisions about their behavior, even in the face of negative consequences.” There are many reasons why people use substances and often times it is not always completely identifiable. It could include trauma, heredity or a legitimate need for the drug to treat a condition that lead to use for other reasons.

Substances that require medical attention:

Opioid overdose

  • Confusion, delirium, or acting drunk
  • Mood swings
  • Nausea or vomiting or extreme constipation
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Extreme sleepiness, or the inability to wake up
  • Stopped or irregular/slow breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin, or bluish skin around the lips or under the fingernails

If you see these symptoms, call 9-1-1 and ask for Ambulance.

If you have Naloxone (Narcan), use it – do not wait for EMT. You cannot harm someone in this state by using Naloxone.

Depressed breathing is the most dangerous side effect of opioid overdose. Lack of oxygen to the brain can cause other organ systems, like the kidneys or heart, to shut down. If a person suffering an opioid overdose is left alone and falls asleep, the person could die due to depressed, and eventually cessation of, breathing.

  • Call 9-1-1 for suspected drug overdose.
  • Apply Naloxone (Narcan) treatment immediately.
  • Go to the Emergency Department after treatment.

Alcohol/ Benzo Withdrawal

Alcohol / Benzos:

  • Includes Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin
  • Easily obtained
  • Overuse (poisoning) is deadly
  • Withdrawal is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY and must be medically managed to prevent DEATH
  • After physical withdrawal person needs family, peer, and professional support to be successful

Types of treatment


  • Get the poison out of the body
  • Stabilize from withdrawal
  • Acute medical scenario requiring supervision or monitoring by medical staff.


  • Learn to live without the substances
  • Life skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Hygiene and self-care
  • 14-45 - day residential program at a rehabilitation facility


  • More structure and intensive level than outpatient care
  • Ability to accommodate the person’s home and work life


  • Outpatient drug rehab is less restrictive than inpatient program
  • Outpatient drug rehab can be a good standalone option for someone with a mild addiction

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