Addiction & Substance Use Disorder: Understanding and Overcoming Addiction

This comprehensive resource page provides insights into addiction and substance use disorder, a complex condition that can have significant physical, emotional, and social consequences. It covers various treatment options, including therapy, medication, and support groups, and encourages individuals struggling with addiction to seek professional help.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a behavioral health crisis, get help now with crisis intervention.

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Freedom from addiction means you can …

Be Your Own Person

Heal Relationships

Earn Success Through
Meaningful Work

Overcome Co-occurring Mental Illness and/or Substance Abuse

Heal from Trauma

Feel Grounded and At Ease

Enjoy a Renewed Sense of Belonging

Substance Use Disorder

We provide Same-Day Access, so you can begin your addiction recovery today.

Many people recovering from addiction discover that mental health issues and addiction/substance abuse can be co-occurring. At SummitStone our certified and licensed counselors are trained to meet overlapping and complex needs at the same time. As the largest and longest-running provider of behavioral health services in Larimer County, SummitStone helps people overcome addiction through whatever combination of lifestyle changes, medication, vocational training, peer support, and therapy is best suited to their individual situation.

SummitStone is here to provide you with the holistic support you need to triumph over habitual substance use, live with greater joy and purpose, and nurture your career and relationships.

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Available Treatments for Addiction & Substance Use Disorder

Intensive Outpatient Therapy

Hope is the first thing our Intensive Outpatient program offers. Recovery from addiction is a process. It takes a significant amount of courage, open-mindedness and willingness to make life changes. New ways of thinking and behaving will help participants realize more completely their goals in life. The Intensive Outpatient Treatment Team is here to support and guide participants by providing tools necessary tools, access to community resources and mental health support when needed. The Intensive Outpatient program provides a minimum of nine hours of treatment per week. Treatment is provided through group therapy and individual outpatient counseling sessions. Case management is also included to help clients access basic needs and resources to increase the likelihood of recovery.

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Substance Monitoring

SummitStone provides substance screening including breath tests, urinalysis, oral swabs, hair testing and sweat patches. Research shows that substance monitoring during treatment helps clients to be more accountable to their recovery, and it helps clinicians to know when treatment interventions need to be adjusted.

Adolescent Addiction/Substance Use Disorder Treatment

Research on drug addiction in teenagers clearly shows the negative impacts on the developing brain including emotions, high-risk behaviors, lack of motivation, memory and concentration.

At SummitStone, treatment is adapted to each individual’s needs and may include the following:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Prevention & Education
  • Anger Management
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy/Mindfulness
  • Yoga for Recovery
  • AcuWellness
  • Medication Evaluation

You can learn the skills needed to live life to the fullest without the use of mind-altering substances!

Specialized Women’s Services

Many women feel ashamed that they cannot stop using alcohol or other drugs during or after pregnancy. Through our Specialized Women’s Services program, SummitStone will help you to have a healthy baby by getting and staying healthy yourself. We offer drug and alcohol therapy and treatment with no judgments, guilt-trips, sermons or scare tactics.

Working with your prenatal care provider, we provide you with individual counseling, relationship and parenting coaching, and women’s only group therapy. Transportation and childcare may be available during your treatment.

This program is funded through a Supportive Women’s Services grant from the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health.

Addiction & Substance Use Disorder FAQs

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is the most severe form of a substance use disorder (SUD). An SUD develops when a person’s continued use of alcohol and/or drugs causes significant issues, such as health problems, disability, and failure to meet responsibilities at work, school, or home. An SUD can range from mild to severe.

Addiction is a complex, chronic brain disease characterized by drug craving, seeking, and use that persists even in the face of devastating life consequences. Addiction results largely from brain changes that stem from prolonged drug use—changes that involve multiple brain circuits, including those responsible for governing self-control and other behaviors. Drug addiction is treatable, often with medications (for some addictions) combined with behavioral therapies. However, relapse is common and can happen even after long periods of abstinence, underscoring the need for long-term support and care. Relapse does not signify treatment failure, but rather should prompt treatment re-engagement or modification.

How quickly can someone become addicted to a drug?

There is no easy answer to this common question. If and how quickly you become addicted to a drug depends on many factors, including your biology (your genes, for example), age, gender, environment, and interactions among these factors. Vast differences affect a person’s sensitivity to various drugs and likelihood of addiction vulnerability. While one person may use a drug one or many times and suffer no ill effects, another person may overdose with the first use or become addicted after a few uses. There is no way of knowing in advance how quickly you will become addicted, but there are some clues—an important one being whether you have a family history of addiction.

How do I know if someone is using or is addicted to drugs, and how can I find help?

The signs of drug use and addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug, but some common signs are:

  • impaired speech and motor coordination
  • bloodshot eyes or pupils that are larger or smaller than usual
  • changes in physical appearance or personal hygiene
  • changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • changes in mood or disinterest in engaging in relationships or activities

If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug(s) despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, family problems, or physical problems brought on by drug use, then he or she is probably addicted. And while people who are addicted may believe they can stop any time, most often they cannot and need professional help to quit. Support from friends and family can be critical in getting people into treatment and helping them to stay drug-free following treatment.

If you know someone who has a problem with drugs and needs help, call SummitStone Health Partners at (970) 494-4200 or text TALK to 38255.

If a pregnant woman uses drugs, how does it affect the baby during and after pregnancy?

Many substances, including alcohol, nicotine, medications, and illicit drugs, can have negative effects on the developing fetus because these substances reach the fetus through the placenta. Nicotine has been connected with premature birth and low birth weight, as has the use of cocaine. Heroin exposure results in dependence in the newborn, requiring treatment for withdrawal symptoms. Drug use during pregnancy is also linked to brain and behavioral problems in the baby, which may lead to cognitive challenges for the child. It is often difficult to tease apart the various factors that go with drug use during pregnancy—poor nutrition, inadequate prenatal care, stress, and psychiatric comorbidities—all of which may affect a baby’s development.

What is detoxification, or "detox"?

Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. Detox alone is not treatment, but is often the first step in a drug treatment program. Treatment with behavioral therapy and/or a medication (if available) should follow detox.

What is withdrawal? How long does it last?

Withdrawal describes the various symptoms that occur after a person abruptly reduces or stops long-term use of a drug. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug. For example, physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes. These physical symptoms may last for several days, but the general depression, or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria), that often accompanies heroin withdrawal may last for weeks. In many cases, withdrawal can easily be treated with medications to ease the symptoms, but treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) can be a struggle, but there are many treatment options available today that will help you recover and get back to living a healthy and fulfilling life. Having a support system and help from a team of medical specialists can help celebrate your successes and work with you through any challenges.

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When is it time for treatment for addiction and substance use disorder?

Alcohol-related problems — which result from drinking too much, too fast, or too often — are among the most significant public health issues in the United States.

Many people struggle with controlling their drinking at some time in their lives. Approximately 17 million adults ages 18 and older have an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and 1 in 10 children live in a home with a parent who has a drinking problem.

Does Treatment Work?

The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with an alcohol use disorder can benefit from some form of treatment.

Research shows that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.

Signs of an Alcohol Problem

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a medical condition that doctors diagnose when a patient’s drinking causes distress or harm. The condition can range from mild to severe and is diagnosed when a patient answers “yes” to two or more of the following questions.

In the past year, have you:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
  • Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change. A health professional can conduct a formal assessment of your symptoms to see if an alcohol use disorder is present.

For an online assessment of your drinking pattern, go to

Options for Treatments for Addiction & Substance Use Disorder

When asked how alcohol problems are treated, people commonly think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab, but may have difficulty naming other options. In fact, there are a variety of treatment methods currently available, thanks to significant advances in the field over the past 60 years.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and what may work for one person may not be a good fit for someone else. Simply understanding the different options can be an important first step.

Behavioral Treatments

Also known as alcohol counseling, behavioral treatments involve working with a health professional to identify and help change the behaviors that lead to heavy drinking.

Behavioral treatments share certain features, which can include:

  • Developing the skills needed to stop or reduce drinking
  • Helping to build a strong social support system
  • Working to set reachable goals
  • Coping with or avoiding the triggers that might cause relapse

Types of Behavioral Treatments

  • Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy can take place one-on-one with a therapist or in small groups. This form of therapy is focused on identifying the feelings and situations (called “cues”) that lead to heavy drinking and managing stress that can lead to relapse. The goal is to change the thought processes that lead to excessive drinking and to develop the skills necessary to cope with everyday situations that might trigger problem drinking.
  • Motivational Enhancement Therapy is conducted over a short period of time to build and strengthen motivation to change drinking behavior. The therapy focuses on identifying the pros and cons of seeking treatment, forming a plan for making changes in one’s drinking, building confidence, and developing the skills needed to stick to the plan.
  • Marital and Family Counseling incorporates spouses and other family members in the treatment process and can play an important role in repairing and improving family relationships. Studies show that strong family support through family therapy increases the chances of maintaining abstinence (stopping drinking), compared with patients undergoing individual counseling.
  • Brief Interventions are short, one-on-one or small-group counseling sessions that are time limited. The counselor provides information about the individual’s drinking pattern and potential risks. After receiving personalized feedback, the counselor will work with the client to set goals and provide ideas for helping to make a change.

Ultimately, choosing to get treatment may be more important than the approach used, as long as the approach avoids heavy confrontation and incorporates empathy, motivational support, and a focus on changing drinking behavior.


Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.

Mutual-Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and other 12-step programs provide peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. Combined with treatment led by health professionals, mutual-support groups can offer a valuable added layer of support.

Due to the anonymous nature of mutual-support groups, it is difficult for researchers to determine their success rates compared with those led by health professionals.

What can affect my recovery for addiction and substance use disorder?

The Importance of Persistence

Because an alcohol use disorder can be a chronic relapsing disease, persistence is key. It is rare that someone would go to treatment once and then never drink again. More often, people must repeatedly try to quit or cut back, experience recurrences, learn from them, and then keep trying. For many, continued followup with a treatment provider is critical to overcoming problem drinking.

Relapse Is Part of the Process

Relapse is common among people who overcome alcohol problems. People with drinking problems are most likely to relapse during periods of stress or when exposed to people or places associated with past drinking.

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Just as some people with diabetes or asthma may have flare-ups of their disease, a relapse to drinking can be seen as a temporary set-back to full recovery and not a complete failure. Seeking professional help can prevent relapse — behavioral therapies can help people develop skills to avoid and overcome triggers, such as stress, that might lead to drinking. Most people benefit from regular checkups with a treatment provider. Medications also can deter drinking during times when individuals may be at greater risk of relapse (e.g., divorce, death of a family member).

Mental Health Issues and Alcohol Use Disorder

Depression and anxiety often go hand in hand with heavy drinking. Studies show that people who are alcohol dependent are two to three times as likely to suffer from major depression or anxiety over their lifetime. When addressing drinking problems, it’s important to also seek treatment for any accompanying medical and mental health issues.

Advice For Friends and Family Members

Caring for a person who has problems with alcohol can be very stressful. It is important that as you try to help your loved one, you find a way to take care of yourself as well. It may help to seek support from others, including friends, family, community, and support groups. If you are developing your own symptoms of depression or anxiety, think about seeking professional help for yourself. Remember that your loved one is ultimately responsible for managing his or her illness.

However, your participation can make a big difference. Based on clinical experience, many health providers believe that support from friends and family members is important in overcoming alcohol problems. But friends and family may feel unsure about how best to provide the support needed. The groups for family and friends listed below under Resources may be a good starting point.

Remember that changing deep habits is hard, takes time, and requires repeated efforts. We usually experience failures along the way, learn from them, and then keep going. Alcohol use disorders are no different. Try to be patient with your loved one. Overcoming this disorder is not easy or quick.

Pay attention to your loved one when he or she is doing better or simply making an effort. Too often we are so angry or discouraged that we take it for granted when things are going better. A word of appreciation or acknowledgement of a success can go a long way.

Addiction & Substance Use Disorder Resources

Addiction FAQs

Addiction FAQs

What is drug addiction? Drug addiction is the most severe form of a substance use disorder (SUD). An SUD develops ...