CBT for Substance Use Disorders

What is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance Use Disorder is a mental health disorder that encompasses a wide range of substances wherein continued use causes an individual significant problems in major areas of life and/or distress. These substances may be legal (such as alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, and caffeine) or illegal (for instance, cocaine and methamphetamine).

What are the symptoms of Substance Use Disorder?

Individuals who experience Substance Use Disorder may present with the following symptoms:

  • Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer periods of time than intended
  • Consistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to control or cut down substance use
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of the substance
  • Cravings or strong desire to use
  • Continuing to use the substance even though it causes failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or at home, and interferes with family and other social relationships
  • Needing more of the substance to obtain the same desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms after ending substance use 
  • Recurring use of the substance in situations that are physically dangerous
  • Giving up or reducing time engaging in important social and recreational activities

When is it time to get help?

The consumption of certain substances may depend on cultural and societal factors, as well as local drug regulations. However, if substance use causes considerable problems in work or school, relationships with family and friends, hobbies, and overall daily functioning and it is difficult to stop using despite its harmful effects, it might be time to seek professional help. Some people might be ready and committed to giving up substance use, while others might be more ambivalent or only intend to cut back on their substance use when considering treatment. Therapy can be beneficial to discussing one’s treatment goals and to help address the challenges related to substance use.  

How can CBT help treat substance use disorder?

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is widely used in treatment for substance use disorders. CBT teaches individuals to build connections between thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and gaining an awareness of how people can get stuck in vicious cycles of substance use. Individuals will learn a new set of skills to help address unhelpful thinking patterns about oneself and their substance use, understand their cravings and urges, engage in problem-solving and planning, and learn behavioural strategies to reduce harm and increase enjoyment of sober activities. Additionally, individuals will learn about creating a plan for relapse prevention and address other potential life stressors that may increase the risk of relapse. Treatment can include:

  • Understanding external and internal high-risk situations and triggers
  • Addressing dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs about self and one’s substance use
  • Practicing behavioural strategies to manage physiological cravings and urges
  • Building communication skills and problem-solving situations to reduce harm
  • Cultivating a new routine of activities and participation in social engagement that helps to support sobriety
  • Learning emotion regulation strategies through coping and distress tolerance skills

How can the team at Oakville Centre for Cognitive Therapy help?

At the Oakville Centre for Cognitive Therapy, we have trained psychologists with experience in helping individuals overcome the problematic effects of substance use and achieve a healthy lifestyle and recovery. If you have symptoms of Substance Use Disorder and are interested in receiving evidence-based treatment, please call us at 905-338-1397 or email us at admin@oakvillecbt.ca or via our Contact Us page.

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