Addiction Facts and Treatment Options

A severe substance abuse disorder or addiction is a dependence on a legal substance (such as alcohol or nicotine), illegal drug, or even prescription medication.

It can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex or socioeconomic status, and can cause serious, long-term consequences, according to David Vittoria, assistant vice president of the South Miami Hospital Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center, who recently answered questions from Carlos Smith, M.D., of the Medical Center at Ocean Reef.

Q. How can people struggling with alcohol or drug use get past the stigma associated with it and seek help?
People struggling with addiction may not see the severity of it, or the impact it’s having on their life. Family members are often the first to request help, or to provide motivation for an individual to seek help. The individual can take the first step toward improvement with an honest self-evaluation of the consequences they experienced by confiding in a trusted friend or family member or consulting an addiction treatment provider.

Q. What factors contribute to development of substance abuse, addiction and dependence?
The primary factors that contribute to addiction are:

  • Having a blood relative with alcohol or drug problems.
  • Men are more likely than women to have problems with drugs, but progression of addiction tends to be faster in women.
  • Depression, attention-deficit disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Lacking a good family bond.
  • Using drugs to cope with anxiety, depression or loneliness.
  • Drugs such as stimulants, cocaine or painkillers.

Q. What are some of the most effective approaches?
“Once an individual has sought help, we conduct an evaluation to create a customized treatment plan,” Mr. Vittoria says. “We communicate to the patient and family that:

  • The patient is not a bad person, but a good person with a medical condition
  • Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, but remission is possible; and
  • It’s not a moral failing or issue of willpower.”

Talk with your primary doctor or one who specializes in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor. You also can call 800-YES-HOPE (800-937-4673) or visit for more information.

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