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Help with Drug Dependency

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: September 2019

Since HIV is transmitted through the blood, behaviors that expose an individual to someone else’s blood can also transmit the virus. An example of this is injection drug use. Sharing needles (or other materials used to prepare or inject drugs) can expose an individual to another person’s blood. If these supplies come into contact with blood with HIV, the next person who uses them can get the virus. In fact, although HIV cannot live long outside the body, it does have the potential to live inside syringes or needles for several weeks.1 This is why people who inject drugs are at an increased risk of getting HIV.

Additionally, receiving a life-changing diagnosis like HIV can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety. Increased stress and mental health issues can then lead an individual to use drugs or alcohol or to worsen a previous drug or alcohol habit as an unhealthy method of coping.

Addiction is a complicated illness that often requires support and professional treatment. It is important to remember that addiction is a medical diagnosis, and is not one that should be rooted in blame. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and decide to seek help, it’s critical to avoid making judgments or placing blame and to seek medical professionals who do the same. Addiction can affect anyone, anywhere, and does not discriminate based on background, age, financial status, or any other characteristic. The most important thing is to seek help if you (or a loved one) think you may be struggling with addiction.

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Where to start when it comes to getting help

One of the first steps in seeking help with addiction is to visit your healthcare provider if you have one. If you feel like you have a comfortable, safe relationship with your provider, and feel as though you can open up to them, they should be equipped to point you in the direction you need to go. If your provider doesn’t have much experience with navigating addiction, they may have a colleague or know of an organization that does. Your healthcare provider or a trained professional (such as a social worker) in their clinic can help you navigate your next steps.

If you do not have a healthcare provider, or don’t want to talk to your healthcare provider about addiction issues, there are still plenty of options you can utilize. You can use the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s Find a Physician tool or the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry’s Patient Referral Program to find a specially trained professional in your area. If you’d rather take a first step that isn’t in person, you can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357). These calls are confidential, and trained specialists will provide you with information and local resources.

Once you are connected with an addiction expert, they can help create a treatment plan for you and serve as a guide. Some treatment plans may consist of medications, counseling, support groups (including both informal and formal groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, among others), time in rehabilitation centers, and other medical interventions aimed at addiction. If you need to go to a facility for treatment, you do not have to tell anyone where or why you are going unless you want to. Your health information is protected under privacy laws and you can request a general medical leave from work.2,3

How will I pay for treatment?

While the idea of treatment may sound great for some, the costs associated with certain options can be high. The good news is, many health insurers will cover substance abuse treatment services and are required to do so by law. In fact, under the Affordable Care Act, the coverage of mental health and substance use disorders is considered an essential health benefit. The SAMHSA hotline above can be used to find treatment centers and services, and can provide information on their price or if they are covered by your insurance. They can also provide information on low- or no-cost treatment centers if you don’t have insurance or your insurance doesn’t cover enough. If you are a veteran or are covered by veteran health benefits, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) can assist with treatment. Further, some treatment facilities may offer loans or scholarships to attend.2,3

The road to sobriety and the detox along the way can be difficult. However, starting treatment can be helpful for those who are able to take the first step and remain dedicated to their health. If you are in a treatment facility or under the care of a provider who is not respectful or encouraging of you during this time, it is important to seek new support. There are thousands of professionals in the United States alone dedicated to providing compassionate and supportive care to those trying to navigate this process.