Substance use disorder (SUD), also called drug addiction and substance abuse, is a disease that affects millions of Californians. In 2022, 9% of California residents met the criteria for an SUD diagnosis.

Trying a drug once or having a few drinks at a friend’s birthday party doesn’t necessarily mean you have an SUD. A hallmark of addiction is the inability to control drug use — despite the consequences.

If you struggle with addiction, know there’s hope for brighter days ahead. Substance use disorder is treatable, and we can help you get your life back on track.

Types of Substance Abuse

A person can become addicted to just about anything. Still, some substances are more harmful than others and can greatly impact a person’s ability to function. Certain drugs, like opioids, can lead to an overdose death — over 10,000 Californians died from a drug overdose in 2021.

Substances commonly misused in California include:


Opioids include prescription medications like Vicodin and OxyContin. This category of substances also includes heroin.

Opioids are a central nervous system (CNS) depressant that slows down brain activity. They’re extremely addictive and can lead to withdrawal symptoms in just a few hours after the last dose. Someone with an opioid addiction may need to take the drug to feel OK.


Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamines increase heart rate, reduce appetite and create a sense of euphoria. At higher doses, they can lead to anxiety, seizures and death.

People take stimulants to feel confident and powerful. Some people use stimulants to have more energy for work or school. These substances are highly addictive and can lead a person to experience intense cravings if they try to quit.


Like opioids, alcohol is a CNS depressant. Many people use alcohol to cope with stress or feel good during difficult times. Repeated alcohol use can cause changes in the brain and lead to habit formation and addiction.

Alcohol addiction is characterized by an impulse to drink and an inability to control alcohol use. If you struggle with alcohol addiction, you might also experience negative emotions when you can’t drink.


Cannabis is a psychoactive drug that can act as a depressant or stimulant, depending on the strain and the person. While cannabis may be used for medicinal and recreational purposes in California, it doesn’t mean it’s without risk.

It is possible to develop a dependence on marijuana and experience negative consequences due to frequent use. For example, cannabis addiction can lead to memory and learning issues. It can also affect a person’s ability to sleep, relax or feel content without cannabis.

If you’re struggling with addiction to any substance, we can help you move toward a healthier, happier life.

What Causes Substance Abuse?

There’s no single known cause of addiction. However, certain factors, like genetics, can increase a person’s chance of using substances and developing addiction. Other factors that can lead someone to form an addiction include:

  • Mental health issue: People often use substances to relieve symptoms of depression, an anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder. Sometimes, people misuse substances to help them sleep when nothing else seems to work.
  • Stress: Experiencing stressors like divorce or debt might drive someone to use drugs as an escape.
  • Social pressure: Spending time with others who use drugs or alcohol to have fun, socialize or cope with life’s problems can make it seem OK to use. The wrong group of friends might also encourage someone to take drugs or drink, even if the person doesn’t want to.
  • Physical pain: Some people can become addicted to prescription drugs such as opioids to relieve intense pain. These medications may be obtained through a doctor’s prescription or illicitly from a friend or drug dealer.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Most substance abuse starts with the recreational use of drugs like alcohol, nicotine, marijuana or heroin in social situations.

Addiction occurs when the excessive use of the drug changes the brain’s normal functioning. Some of the signs that you need to consult a substance abuse doctor include:

  • A strong feeling that you must use the drug several times a day
  • Having a strong urge for the drug that blocks out all other thoughts
  • Taking a greater quantity of the drug than you want over a long period
  • Spending money on the drug, even when you can’t afford it
  • Using the drug continuously, even when you know it’s interfering with your life
  • Stealing and lying to get the drug
  • Losing your ability to control your desire to get the drug even when you want to stop

Know that anyone can develop an addiction at any time. But it’s never too late to heal and recover.

Treatment Options for Substance Abuse in California 

The type of treatment you should receive depends on the type of drug used and any related mental health issues you may have. Usually, an effective treatment program provides individual and family therapy sessions and helps you understand the type of addiction you have.

Evaluation and Diagnosis

The first step in treatment is to get evaluated by a psychiatrist for drug addiction. A psychiatrist will perform a complete evaluation and assess your symptoms and medical history to diagnose you or your loved one. A licensed addiction counselor may also interview you.

If you live in northern or southern California, contact one of our full-service mental health facilities to take the first step. We have one of the most comprehensive treatment centers in the state, with a highly skilled and compassionate team of addiction psychiatrists and counselors.

Detoxification or Withdrawal Management

When you stop taking a drug or using alcohol, you might experience withdrawal. Withdrawal can cause uncomfortable symptoms, ranging from insomnia to increased anxiety. In some cases, it’s dangerous to go through withdrawal alone.

Withdrawal management aims to help you remove the substance from your body as safely and comfortably as possible. We closely monitor our patients and provide medication to help relieve pain and minimize discomfort.


Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy or counseling, is an important part of recovering from a substance use disorder. With a counselor’s care and support, you’ll learn:

  • How to cope with drug cravings
  • How to rebuild relationships with family, friends and colleagues
  • The root cause of addictive behaviors
  • Techniques that help prevent relapse

With the right treatment plan and support, you or your loved one can overcome the harmful effects of drug addiction and regain full control of your life. The first challenge is admitting that you have a substance abuse problem and need help.

A Substance Abuse Psychiatrist Can Help

If you or your loved one has a substance abuse issue, don’t put off getting help. Seek professional guidance from a psychiatrist immediately.

Remember that overcoming addiction isn’t just a matter of using your willpower. Substance or drug abuse changes the way your brain works, and this causes very intense cravings and a compelling desire to use. The change in the brain makes it very difficult to stop.

For more details about overcoming drug addiction or mental illness, call us at Advanced Psychiatry Associates today. We offer treatment for teens and adults. Our comfortable outpatient psychiatric facility provides all the services you need to receive a diagnosis, treatment, medication and therapy. We accept all major health insurance providers, including Medicare and HMOs.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or get in touch with a mental health professional — we’re ready to help you right now.

“I’ve been going here over a year now. I’ve always been treated professionally. Everyone is so nice. My clinicians are courteous and caring. Everyone I’ve dealt with has treated me respectfully while I’ve been learning to deal with my diagnoses. Highly recommend this office!”

- KIM K.