NJCMO Newsletter

Defining Substance Use Disorder

The term “substance use disorder” refers to a condition where an individual’s use of alcohol or drugs leads to health issues or problems at work, school, or home. SUD is identified by a pattern of symptoms resulting from the use of a substance that continues despite experiencing problems as a result.

Recognizing the Signs of a Substance Use Disorder

Recognizing substance use disorder in youth and teens can be challenging, as the signs are often mistaken for typical adolescent behavior. Key indicators include:

  • Changes in behavior: This might include sudden mood swings, withdrawal from family or friends, and a decline in academic performance.
  • Physical health issues: Unexplained health problems, such as frequent sickness, changes in appetite, or sudden weight loss.
  • Neglected appearance: Lack of interest in personal grooming or a noticeable decline in personal hygiene can also be a sign.

Substance Use Disorder Assessment: The First Step to Recovery

The assessment phase is pivotal in the journey towards recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). This phase is not just about identifying the presence of a disorder, but about understanding its depth and nuances. Healthcare professionals conduct a thorough evaluation, which often starts with a detailed interview. During this interview, clinicians gather information about the individual’s substance use history, including the types of substances used, duration of use, and any prior attempts at recovery. This conversation also explores the impact of substance use on the individual’s personal, professional, and social life, providing a holistic view of the disorder’s effects.

Beyond the initial interview, the assessment may include physical examinations to identify any physical health issues related to substance use, such as liver damage in alcohol use disorders. Psychological or Psychiatric Evaluation can also be part of the assessment to uncover any co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or anxiety, which often accompany substance use disorders. This comprehensive approach ensures that the treatment plan addresses all aspects of the individual’s health and well-being. It’s a crucial step that lays the groundwork for a tailored treatment plan, which could range from inpatient rehabilitation programs to outpatient therapy and support groups. The goal of this detailed assessment is to create a path to recovery that aligns with the unique needs of each individual, recognizing that substance use disorder is a complex issue requiring a multifaceted approach.

Seeking Help: Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Treatment for substance use disorder varies depending on the individual’s needs. It often includes a combination of therapies, such as:

  • Detoxification: Safely managing withdrawal symptoms.
  • Behavioral therapies: Such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to modify drug-use behaviors.
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Using medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to treat substance use disorders.
  • Support groups: Peer support to help maintain sobriety.

The Growing Challenge of Substance Use Among New Jersey’s Youth

In New Jersey, the concern about teen substance use is escalating, as highlighted by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health and various state reports. Notably, around 14% of teens in New Jersey begin drinking before age 13, and approximately 24% engage in binge drinking, surpassing national averages. Additionally, marijuana use is prevalent among 37% of teens, and there’s a concerning trend in the use of inhalants and non-prescribed prescription painkillers. These statistics emphasize the critical need for early intervention to mitigate long-term adverse effects on youth health and development.

The Role of a CMO in Guiding Families Through Substance Use Disorder Diagnosis

Care Management Organizations (CMOs) offer crucial support to families and youth seeking a substance use disorder diagnosis. Their role is multifaceted, focusing on guiding, supporting, and facilitating access to appropriate care.

  • Navigate the Healthcare Landscape: One of the primary functions of CMOs is to help families navigate the often complex healthcare system. This includes identifying and accessing resources like mental health professionals, addiction specialists, and treatment facilities that are best suited to the individual’s needs. They simplify this process, which can otherwise be overwhelming for families dealing with the stress of a potential substance use disorder in a loved one.
  • Emotional and Educational Support: CMOs also help to link youth and families to emotional support and education about substance use disorders. They can also link to information about the nature of addiction and its effects and ways to support a family member during treatment. This information is crucial in helping families understand what their loved one is going through and how they can contribute positively to their recovery journey.
  • What CMOs Cannot Do: It’s important to note that while CMOs play a vital role in guiding families, they do not diagnose substance use disorders themselves. Diagnoses are made by licensed healthcare professionals, such as psychiatrists, psychologists, or specialized addiction counselors. CMOs assist in connecting families with these professionals and support them through the diagnostic process, but the actual diagnosis must come from a qualified healthcare provider. This ensures that the diagnosis is accurate and that the treatment plan is tailored to the individual’s specific needs.

In essence, CMOs serve as a bridge between families and the healthcare system, ensuring that young individuals and their families receive the necessary support and resources to address substance use disorders effectively.

Conclusion: A Path Forward

Recognizing and understanding the signs of substance use disorder in youth and teens is the first step towards recovery. With the right support and treatment, individuals struggling with SUD can regain control of their lives. In New Jersey, numerous resources and support systems are available to help youth and their families navigate this challenging journey.

Substance Use Disorder FAQs

What should I do if I suspect my teen is using substances?

If you suspect substance use, address the issue promptly. Start by talking with your teen and expressing your concerns. Seek the advice of a healthcare professional for guidance and consider a formal assessment for substance use disorder. Early intervention is key to successful treatment and recovery.

What treatment options are available for teens with substance use disorders?

Treatment options include behavioral therapies (like cognitive-behavioral therapy), family-based interventions, medication-assisted treatment (if applicable), and support groups. The choice of treatment depends on the individual’s specific needs and the severity of the disorder. In many cases, a combination of these treatments is most effective.

Are there specific substances that are more commonly used by teens?

Yes, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs (often used without a prescription) are among the most commonly used substances by teens. The popularity of certain substances can vary depending on social trends and regional availability.

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