Insight Behavioral Health – Are you struggling with addiction to alcohol, drugs, or other substances? If so, you are not alone. According to the latest data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 46.3 million people age 12 or older in the U.S. (16.5 percent of the population) meet the criteria for substance use disorder (SUD), making this a “public health emergency.” Of those with a substance use disorder, 94% did not receive any treatment and nearly all people with a substance use disorder who did not receive treatment at a specialty facility did not think they needed treatment. These numbers may seem grim, but there is hope. With the right tools and resources, millions of people are able to overcome substance use disorder each year. Whether you are experiencing addiction yourself or someone you know is struggling with substance use, here are six coping strategies for substance use disorder.

What is Substance Use Disorder?

Substance use disorder (SUD) is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health as a mental disorder that affects a person’s brain and behavior, leading to the inability to control use of substances such as legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications.

Symptoms of SUD range from mild to severe and can co-occur with other mental health disorders, including anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. SUD affects people of all ages and socioeconomic statuses. It can also develop before a user ever realizes they have a problem. If you or someone you know are experiencing mental and/or substance use disorders and need immediate help, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is an excellent resource.

They also operate a national hotline (1-800-662-HELP) that is free, confidential, and offers assistance 24/7, 365 days a year.

6 Coping Strategies for Substance Use Disorder

Commit To Making a Change

The decision to make a change in your life is the first and most important step in your path to overcoming substance use disorder. People often struggle with stigmas associated with addiction that can interfere with their ability to get help.

That’s why educating yourself about your condition and the resources available to help you is one of the best things you can do to get started. Whether it’s contacting a helpline like SAMHSA, visiting a local support group, or reaching out to a trusted friend or family member, knowledge is power and will give you a foundation for success.

Get Professional Support

After identifying you have a problem and deciding to make a change, it is a good idea to talk to your primary care physician or a behavioral/mental health professional. Addiction is a chronic disease caused by genetics, environmental influences, and other factors that affects a person’s brain and behavior.

A healthcare professional will be able to assess your symptoms, diagnose your condition (including any underlying mental health conditions), and help you begin a comprehensive treatment plan based on your unique needs. Treatments may include medication-assisted therapy/detox, psychiatric treatment, individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.

Change Your Surroundings

Once you begin treatment for substance use disorder, it is important to consider your surroundings. People with addictions to alcohol or drugs are much more likely to relapse when they continue with the same routines or are surrounded by people who are still using.

To sustain your recovery, avoid people, locations, and situations that could have a negative impact on your progress. Instead, surround yourself with a support system of friends and family who encourage your recovery and are a positive force in your life. It is also important to identify triggers that may urge you to use substances again and develop coping skills to handle them. Common triggers include stress, certain environments, social isolation, and mental or physical illness.

Don’t Replace One Addiction With Another

It is not uncommon for people being treated for substance use disorders to substitute one addiction for another. This sometimes means becoming compulsively involved in other activities such as gambling, work, video games, sex, or shopping.

However, the ultimate goal of recovery is learning to regain control over your life. If you transfer one addictive behavior to something else (even if it is productive), it is likely that you will impede your ability to fully recover. Remember to always be open with your healthcare providers about your concerns or struggles and mindful of any behaviors that could become compulsive. One of the most important aspects of your recovery is finding balance in your life.

Make Exercise a Priority

People do not usually associate exercise with substance use disorder, but regular physical activity plays a key role in the addiction recovery process. Exercise reduces stress, improves mood, increases energy, and can even lead to better sleep.

According to research published in the journal Health Education & Behavior, “nearly three quarters of the studies reviewed documented a significant change in addiction-related outcomes (e.g. more days abstinent, reduced cravings) in response to exercise exposure, particularly while someone was receiving treatment in an in or outpatient clinic.” There is no right or wrong way to be more active.

Whether it’s running, playing sports, or yoga, find something you love and make physical activity a priority in your recovery process.

Focus on the Benefits of Sobriety

People recovering from a substance use disorder often find that the process is more challenging than they anticipated. Recovery is different for everyone and it is normal to experience pain, depression, frustration, and even empowerment along the way. As you begin treatment, it is helpful to set realistic goals and focus on the benefits of sobriety you are hoping to achieve.

Whether it’s healing your relationships with family and friends, improving your mental and physical health, or working toward financial stability, celebrate your victories and keep your sights set on what matters most to you.

Overcoming a substance use disorder is no small feat. It takes dedication, strength, and a trusted support system of family and friends, as well as your healthcare team, to help you take steps toward a better life.

These six coping strategies for substance use disorder will give you a foundation and resources to overcome your addiction and live well. Remember to take things one day at a time and never hesitate to reach out for help. For more information on substance use disorder and our services at Insight Behavioral Health, contact us today to schedule an appointment.


Q: How can family or friends help someone with a substance use disorder?

A: One of the best things family and friends can do to help someone with a substance use disorder is to avoid blaming and arguing with the individual. Instead, make it clear that you care, want to help, and be a trusted support system as they work to overcome their addiction.

Q: What are some common signs of substance use disorder?

A: Substance use disorder varies depending on the person and type of substance/addiction. Some common signs to be aware of include persistent cravings, inability to stop use, using large or dangerous amounts, neglecting responsibilities like work or family, use that interferes with relationships, and use that leads to hazardous situations.

Q: Is substance use disorder treatable?

A: Substance use disorder is a chronic condition that has no cure. However, there are a wide range of medication and therapy-based treatments that are highly effective in helping people stop substance use safely.