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Mental Health Guide: Substance Abuse

A guide of mental health resources in the Quad Cities.

Ask For Help

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)




Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. Yet a number of effective treatments are available and people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives.

People can develop an addiction to:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • PCP, LSD and other hallucinogens
  • Inhalants, such as paint thinners and glue
  • Opioid pain killers, such as codeine and oxycodone, heroin
  • Sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics (medicines for anxiety such as tranquilizers)
  • Cocaine, methamphetamine and other stimulants
  • Tobacco

People with a substance use disorder have distorted thinking, behavior, and body functions. Changes in the brain’s wiring are what cause people to have intense cravings for the drug and make it hard to stop using the drug. Brain imaging studies show changes in the areas of the brain that relate to judgment, decision making, learning, memory, and behavior control.

These substances can cause harmful changes in how the brain functions. These changes can last long after the immediate effects of the drug — the intoxication. Intoxication is the intense pleasure, calm, increased senses, or a high caused by the drug. Intoxication symptoms are different for each substance.

American Pyschiatry Association

It's Hard to Stop on Your Own


Addiction is a chronic and treatable disease. Using drugs repeatedly changes the brain, including the parts that help exert self-control. That’s why someone may not be able to stop using drugs, even if they know the drug is causing harm, or feel ready to stop.

Some common behaviors of addiction and substance use disorder include:

  1. Trying to stop or cut down on drug use, but not being able to.
  2. Using drugs because of being angry or upset with other people.
  3. Taking one drug to get over the effects of another.
  4. Making mistakes at school or on the job because of using drugs.
  5. Drug use hurting relationships with family and friends.
  6. Being scared at the thought of running out of drugs.
  7. Stealing drugs or money to pay for drugs.
  8. Being arrested or hospitalized for drug use.
  9. Developing a tolerance, and needing larger amounts of drugs or alcohol to get high.
  10. Overdosing on drugs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Addiction Affects Everyone

People from all backgrounds experience addiction. Addiction doesn't care how old you are, how much money you make, or the color of your skin; it has no bias. While the initial choice to use a drug is often voluntary, the powerful effects of addiction makes it very hard to stop, even if someone wants to.

When drugs or alcohol are used so often that they have significant negative effects on your life, making it unlivable to the quality it was before, this is called a substance use disorder.

Join a Support Group


Join a support group of peers. People who have common life experiences have a unique ability to help each other. Peers can be very supportive since they have “been there” and serve as living examples that individuals can and do recover. There are peer groups for people in recovery as well as their families and loved ones, including:‚Äč

Narcotics Anonymous 


Alcoholics Anonymous 


Faces Voices & of Recovery 

Calling a Facility


What should I know before I call?

When you call, the facility staff will ask questions about yourself. You can ask questions too. It’s important to make sure the services and facility are a good fit for you.

This is a confidential call. Answering the questions honestly is important, and you won’t be reported to law enforcement for talking about using illegal drugs.

If a facility can’t see you within 48 hours, try another one. A sign of quality care is being able to be seen quickly. Many programs offer walk-in care, or interim care if only a waitlist is available.


Insurance Coverage

Does insurance cover substance use treatment?

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 requires health insurers and group health plans to provide the same level of benefits for mental and/or substance use treatment and services that they do for medical and surgical care. That means your insurance company can’t tell you “we don’t do substance abuse treatment” or “mental health isn’t covered." If they do this, they’re breaking the law.

If you don’t have insurance

Some facilities offer free or low-cost care, sliding scale fees based on your income, or have payment assistance available.

You’ll need an estimate of your annual income and a correct count of your family members to determine if you’re eligible for some services. You don’t have to know exactly how much you make, just get as close as you can.

Every state has funding to provide treatment for people without insurance. Contact your state agency for information on how the process works in Iowa.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration



Detoxification (Detox)

Supervised withdrawal from substance use

A process that helps the body rid itself of substances while the symptoms of withdrawal are treated. Detoxification by itself is not treatment; it is a first step that can prepare a person for treatment. More details about pretreatment and detox.

Interim care

When immediate admission to other care isn’t available

Many facilities have long waitlists, but can still help. Interim care provides daily medication and emergency counseling. This can be a helpful bridge from beginning recovery to admission to a regular outpatient, inpatient, or residential setting.


Treatment at a program site while a patient lives on their own

Outpatient treatment is best for people willing to attend regular appointments and counseling sessions. Since there is no overnight care, it’s important to have a stable living environment, reliable transportation, and supportive family or friends. Outpatient care usually lasts from about two months to one year.

Hospital inpatient

24/7 care connected to a hospital, lasting days or weeks

These are usually connected to a hospital or clinic, and provide detox and rehabilitative care. People with serious mental or medical concerns, as well as substance use disorders, are the most likely to use inpatient treatment.


Live-in care, lasting for one month to one year

They’re best for people without stable living or work situations, and/or who have limited or no family support in treatment. They also help people with very serious disorders who have been unable to get and stay sober or drug-free in other treatment.

Co-occurring mental health and substance use treatment

Integrated care that addresses substance use and mental illness

Having both a substance use and mental health disorder is called a co-occurring disorderAbout half of people who experience one will also experience the other. Addressing both is critical for success in recovery, and integrated treatment programs can help.






Methadone is a long-acting medication that reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms. It can block the euphoric effects of short-acting opioids, such as heroin. Because methadone controls withdrawal symptoms and blocks cravings, people who are addicted to opioids tend to stick with it. People who take methadone for a year or more have the best rates of success.


Buprenorphine works in a similar way to methadone, controlling withdrawal symptoms and blocking cravings. Buprenorphine is widely available in a formula that contains added naloxone (commonly known as Narcan), which discourages abusing or injecting it.


Naltrexone blocks the ability of opioids to eliminate pain and induce euphoria. It is available in either an extended-release injection that is given every 30 days or in tablet form that is taken once a day by mouth. Before starting naltrexone, you need to get through an initial 7-10 days of withdrawal. Since it is approved for treating alcohol problems as well, people taking naltrexone may find it also helps them avoid drinking.