By Brooke Faulkner
Healthcare in America is confusing enough to navigate if you’re a person with only minimal health issues. However, if you’re someone with addiction or mental health issues, it can be even harder to find affordable and adequate care. Stigma and stereotypes surrounding those suffering from addiction are still fairly common around the world, especially so in the States.
Yet, mental illness and addiction often go hand in hand. Comorbidity — a common medical term used to describe those suffering simultaneously from multiple chronic illnesses, such as depression and substance-use disorder — is a common condition, and it can create additional challenges to treating those who struggle with addiction, as both of their conditions can exacerbate each other.
As American culture shifts and begins to accept the truth about addiction, or substance-use disorder, medical officials are on the forefront of some of these shifting ideas and new discoveries. Unfortunately, there can still be those struggling with decades-old stereotypes, and interacting with biased physicians can be discouraging when you’re seeking out medical help. Luckily, there are resources available to help you find the right professionals — as well as find affordable options with or without insurance.
When to Seek Help
As anyone who has struggled with mental illness can tell you, these conditions can very easily get in the way of your everyday life. Anything from doing dishes to socializing with friends can seem like an impossible task, and struggling with addiction can make daily tasks seem even more insurmountable. You may feel you’re unable to function unless you partake in substance abuse.
However, substance abuse can also be tricky to diagnose. Oftentimes addiction can originate from prescribed medications — such as opioid painkillers that are commonly prescribed for chronic pain management — and it’s difficult to determine just when help is needed. Anything from dangerous behavior to additional health problems (such as narcolepsy or inability to eat) could be a sign you’re struggling with substance use.
Additionally, if you’ve tried to quit in the past but found yourself struggling with withdrawals or returning to the substance after a few days, then you may be struggling with addiction. For many people who were once prescribed opioid painkillers, they may have eventually turned to more serious drugs, such as heroin, to try to ease the pain and prevent withdrawals — which can be serious and deadly if not properly treated.
Because of this, anything from your romantic life to your employment could be negatively affected. Seeking out treatment is vital and should be done as soon as possible. Of course, it’s not easy taking that first step, but seeking out the knowledge on how to achieve help is proof you’re ready to make the leap.
Treatment can come in many different forms, and some people may find one treatment option works better for them than others. There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment for mental illness, substance-use disorder, or comorbidity. Additionally, there may be multiple treatments that provide you with the help you need in different ways. To start, it’s always helpful to have a discussion with a professional physician — preferably one who is empathetic or understanding of your situation, is familiar with your background, and has experience in comorbidity or substance-use disorder treatment.
There are various other treatment options that may also help you, including:
- Peer Support or Group Counseling: Some of the most common forms of peer and group counseling are Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). The benefit of groups such as AA and NA is they provide peer support and social reinforcement to help in addiction recovery. AA and NA are not the only options, and there are some unique groups out there that might pair well with your lifestyle — even surfing support groups exist. Group counseling can pair well with individual counseling, which will focus more on your unique needs and experiences.
- Psychotherapy or Individual Counseling: Psychotherapy is a form of therapy that combines psychiatric knowledge with traditional counseling. Both psychotherapy and individual counseling can help with either mental illness struggles, addiction, or both. They can focus on emotional and mental suffering and help you develop positive behavioral traits and coping mechanisms to help you learn to live with your condition(s). Psychiatrists can also prescribe mental health medications and work in tandem with counselors to help you manage your condition in a constructive and healthy way.
- Residential or Inpatient Services: For more severe cases of addiction, inpatient and residential services can help provide a structured and health-focused environment for those struggling to find sobriety. Many of these services can offer detox devices or medications, counseling sessions (both group and individual), and other medical treatment onsite. Residential services are not permanent options, and once an individual has reached sobriety (or a designated milestone in their path), then they may move on to outpatient services and continued monitoring with counselors, mental health professionals, and psychiatrists.
- Recovery Support Services: These services are designed to pair with other addiction treatment options and are non-clinical in nature. Some examples include: case management, housing and transportation assistance, behavioral therapy, vocational and educational services, financial services, and child care services.
Paying for Addiction Services
Often the largest barrier to seeking out help is a financial one, and finding affordable care in the American healthcare system can be discouraging and difficult. Luckily, there are some social services and assistance programs that can help you get the help you need to start on the road to recovery.
For those with insurance, there is both private healthcare (often provided by an employer) or Medicaid and Medicare options through the government.
Unfortunately, not all states provide Medicaid services to those living below the poverty line, and so you may have to resort to other options. Those options may include:
- Free or Sliding Scale Clinics: Often built and run by local non-profit groups, these services are designed specifically for low-income individuals. They can offer anything from traditional medical services to addiction recovery services. Find a clinic near you for more information on what they provide and how their sliding scale is adjusted.
- Community Mental Health Centers: These centers are aimed at providing low-income individuals with the services they need at a low cost or for free. They are similar to free clinics, but are also dependent on the needs of the community, and are focused specifically on mental health and addiction services.
- Pastoral or Religious Counseling: Similar to peer group counseling, religious-based counseling can help with social reinforcement and peer support through your designated religious institution or church. With the added benefit of having the services be religion-focused (and often free), you may find peace and the help you need through your local church. However, stigmas can also be prevalent in religious institutions, so ensure your religious leader is familiar and empathetic with conditions like yours before you seek out their services.
- Self-Help Groups: AA and NA are two common examples of free or low-cost and peer-led self-help groups, but there may be other options in your local community. There are also many illness-focused groups that have been created over the years, including ones that focus specifically on depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, and more. Look into support resources in your area to find out more.
- Mental Health or Substance-Abuse Hotlines: Often run by nonprofits and volunteer groups, there are many free addiction and mental health specific hotlines throughout the country that may help you in times of crisis. The volunteers can help talk you through your situation, find local services for you if you need help, or may be able to provide you with medical advice (if they are certified).