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  • On the weekends my friends and I binge drink at parties. My sister is afraid I’m going to hurt myself. Could she be right?
  • Because of her use of prescription drugs, my wife isn’t taking proper care of our children. What can I do?
  • I grew up in a home where there was alcoholism. I do not want my children or myself to repeat this pattern. How can I prevent this?

What the experts say: Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is an excessive, destructive pattern of drug or alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. This can be exhibited by a failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school, or home, recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically or psychologically hazardous (i.e. driving a car or giving an important speech), recurrent substance-related legal problems, and/or continued substance use despite ongoing and repeated social, or interpersonal problems caused or made worse by the effects of the substance.


Let’s face it, the use of alcohol and drugs is extremely common and even encouraged in our society. This doesn’t make it right, it just makes it hard for us to recognize when the use of these chemicals has become a problem.

There are two schools of thought about what causes people to abuse alcohol and drugs. Some research points to addiction as a medical problem in which those with a certain genetic predisposition simply can’t ever use substances. Others believe that people with emotional problems use substances to self-medicate. Either way, those who regularly abuse substances tend to become emotionally and physically dependent upon them. There are treatments that help both the physical and emotional conditions.

Overcoming addiction isn’t simple. With intensive, long-term support and sometimes medication, even the most heavily addicted person can succeed in treatment. Beating addiction requires every available tool – medication, counseling, social support, family support and nationally recognized recovery programs. The strongest predictor of success is the time spent in supportive therapy.

One of the most hopeful messages coming out of current research is that addiction is highly treatable when appropriate tools are used. For that reason, all sorts of psychosocial interventions, ranging from psychotherapy and medications to 12-step programs, can and do help.

National research has shown that after just ten weeks of therapy, some patients manage to “resculpt” not only their behavior, but also, the activity patterns in their brains. At Birmingham Maple Clinic, one of the most successful treatment methods is cognitive therapy, which supplies people with coping skills (exercising after work instead of going to a bar, for instance) and new ways of understanding their problem. 

For more information visit The National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Birmingham Maple Clinic | Michigan Mental Health