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Addiction to substances or behaviors can lead to dangerous effects on physical and mental health. At UT Southwestern Medical Center, our psychiatrists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, counselors, and psychologists offer the latest treatments and therapies to treat addiction.

We work closely with patients to understand what they’re experiencing and provide treatments to help them rebuild their lives.

Empathetic Treatment With Addiction Medicine Specialists

Addiction is a chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among a person’s brain, genes, environment, and life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive (uncontrollable) and often continue despite harmful consequences (outcomes).

Repeated behaviors or substance use can cause long-lasting changes in the brain, leading to addiction. Addiction affects brain circuits (networks of nerve cells) among the areas of the mind involved in reward, motivation, impulse control, judgment, and memory, among others. With these brain changes, people with addiction are unable to stop addictive behaviors, and biological and behavioral responses increase their need for the addiction’s rewards.

At UT Southwestern, our addiction specialists have advanced training in psychology, psychiatry, addiction medicine, and related fields. Our team includes psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, psychiatric physician assistants, and counselors – including licensed professional counselors (LPCs).

We evaluate and treat people with many types of addiction, from substance use disorders to gambling addiction. Our experienced team works closely with each patient to create a personalized treatment plan that addresses physical and mental health needs. We’re dedicated to restorative, compassionate care that supports the whole person.

Services We Provide for Addiction

Our addiction treatment program offers outpatient services and treatments for people with addictions. Depending on each patient’s needs, we often recommend a combination of treatment options, which might include:

  • Comprehensive psychological and psychiatric evaluation and diagnosis
  • Medications to treat symptoms and side effects related to cravings and withdrawal
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Addiction recovery therapy group
  • Medical care, as needed, for physical symptoms

Types of Addiction We Treat

The types of addiction fall into two categories:

Substance use addictions

Overuse of certain substances, often called substance use disorder, can lead to addiction. People can develop addictions to:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Hallucinogenic drugs such as PCP and LSD
  • Inhaled substances, such as glue
  • Opioid pain medications, such as codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, heroin, kratom, and fentanyl
  • Medications to treat anxiety and insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  • Stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine
  • Tobacco

Behavioral addictions

This category involves addictions to behaviors that become compulsive, such as:

  • Gambling disorder
  • Hypersexual disorder, also called sex addiction
  • Gaming/internet addiction
  • Day-trading addiction

Symptoms of Addiction

The signs and symptoms of addiction vary depending on the type. Some signs that are common to all types include:

Impaired control:

  • Strong urge or craving to use the substance or do the behavior
  • Desire or unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop the use or behavior

Social problems:

  • Problems with personal and family relationships
  • Absences or reduced performance at work or school; loss of job or school opportunity
  • Failure to complete major tasks at home
  • Loss of interest or less involvement in work, social, or leisure activities

Risky use:

  • Behavior or substance use in risky settings
  • Inability to reduce or control the behavior or substance use, even with harmful consequences
  • Legal and financial problems that directly result from the substance use or behavior

Signs that are specific to substance use addictions include:

  • Tolerance (need for increasingly larger amounts of a substance to get the same effect)
  • Withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, nausea, vomiting, shakiness, sweating, and restlessness

Signs that occur with behavioral addictions include:

  • Use of the behavior to relieve feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt, stress, or helplessness
  • Use of larger amounts of money to try to regain past gambling losses
  • Use of crimes or fraud to get money for gambling
  • Recurrent, intense sexual fantasies, urges, and behaviors that feel uncontrollable and interfere with daily activities
  • Continued sexual behaviors even with the risks of sexually transmitted infections and loss of relationships
  • Difficulty establishing and maintaining healthy relationships

Substance use addictions can cause health symptoms such as:

  • Sleep problems, such as oversleeping or difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in mood, such as sadness, excitement, agitation, or quick mood swings
  • Confusion, delusions, hallucinations, or paranoia
  • Difficulty with thinking, attention, concentration, and memory
  • Slurred speech, red eyes, changes in pupil size, or involuntary eye movements
  • Changes in appetite, such as overeating or not eating

When to See a Provider and When to Seek Emergency Care

Addictions of any kind can become dangerous and even life-threatening. Getting mental and physical health care as early as possible can improve the chances of remission and long-term recovery. Questions to consider include:

  • Have family members, friends, or co-workers expressed concern about your behavior or substance use?
  • Are you worried about your behaviors or substance use?
  • Can you control your impulses to engage in the behavior or use the substance?
  • Is your behavior or substance use hurting your relationships, affecting your work, or causing problems such as getting arrested or losing large amounts of money?
  • Do you try to hide the behavior or substance use?
  • Have you engaged in unsafe behavior such as needle sharing or unprotected sex?
  • Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms after stopping use of the substance?

Seek immediate emergency care if a person with a substance use addiction has taken a drug and:

  • Might have overdosed
  • Loses consciousness
  • Has physical reactions, such as difficulty breathing, seizures, convulsions, or signs of a heart attack, such as chest pain

People who might have behavioral addiction should seek immediate emergency care if they:

  • Might cause harm with uncontrolled gambling/gaming/internet/sexual addiction
  • Feel that their behavior is out of control
  • Think about self-harm or suicide

Anyone who is thinking of attempting suicide should call 911, their local emergency number, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Diagnosing Addiction

It can be challenging to diagnose addictions. To take the first step toward diagnosis and treatment, the person who has the addiction must acknowledge the problem and the need for help.

That’s why it’s important for people to see a licensed mental health specialist with expertise in addiction medicine. At UT Southwestern, our psychiatrists and psychologists have advanced training and years of experience in distinguishing the signs and symptoms of addiction. With a caring approach, we work to build relationships with our patients, based on respect and trust.

We thoroughly evaluate each patient, beginning with a:

  • Discussion of symptoms, personal medical history, and family medical history
  • Physical exam
  • Psychological tests to assess thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  • Psychiatric evaluation to screen for mental health conditions and assess cognitive and social functioning

Treatment for Addiction

Based on our evaluation, we tailor a treatment plan to each patient’s specific needs. We use treatment options backed by the latest research in addiction medicine to give our patients the best chances for successful recovery.

Treatment for addiction most often combines medications with psychotherapy (counseling) to address the physical and emotional symptoms of addiction. At UT Southwestern, our treatments for addiction include:

  • Individual psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to develop coping skills, emotional management, and healthy beliefs and behaviors
  • Family psychotherapy to strengthen the patient’s support system
  • Therapy and support groups for patients, sometimes with friends or family members, to share experiences with other people who have addiction
  • Medications to treat substance use addictions such as buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone®) and naltrexone (Vivitrol® and ReVia®)
  • Medications to treat behavioral addictions such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and naltrexone
  • Coordinated care with primary care providers and specialists, as needed, for physical health

Clinical Trials

To develop new treatments, improve diagnosis, and help prevent diseases, UT Southwestern conducts clinical studies and clinical trials to add to existing knowledge about addiction. For example, we led the Accelerated Development of Additive Pharmacotherapy Treatment (ADAPT-2) for Methamphetamine Use Disorder study, which showed that the combination of oral bupropion and injectable naltrexone reduced methamphetamine use and cravings.

Ask us about current and upcoming studies, or search for a clinical trial.