About Substance Abuse

What to Do If You're Experiencing a Substance Use Crisis

We all know what to do if we’re facing a medical health crisis or other emergencies—dial 911, the newly implemented 988 or go straight to the ER to seek treatment.

But what should you do if you’re having a substance use crisis?

Substance use crises are all too common. Drug overdoses have ravaged our communities in the past two decades. More than 104,000 Americans died due to a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending in September 2021. 14.5 million Americans aged 12 and older suffer from alcohol use disorder in 2019.

But many times when people are facing a substance use crisis, they don’t know where to turn for help. Often, they are unaware that rather than waiting in an overcrowded emergency room for hours on end, there are crisis stabilization facilities, like the Bridge Center for Hope, where they can receive immediate care specifically designed to help individuals experiencing a substance use disorder crisis.

Here’s what to do if you’re experiencing a crisis with substance use.


Recognize the Signs

It can be difficult to see when your substance use has been a disorder or even a crisis. Warning signs that may indicate you are experiencing a substance use crisis can include:

Using more of a substance than planned, or using a substance for longer than intended.

Inability to reduce substance use despite wanting to do so.

Spending a substantial portion of one’s time obtaining, using, or recovering from substance use.

Cravings and intense desire to use substances.

An inability to meet personal or professional obligations because of substance use.

Continuing to use substances even knowing that doing so is causing problems.

Giving up important activities because of substance use.

Using in dangerous or harmful situations.

Continuing to use substances even when you know that use is causing or increasing physical or mental problems.

Developing tolerance, so that you need to use more of a substance to have the same effect.

Withdrawal: experiencing negative physical effects when you have less of the substance in your system.

Know Where to Go

​The emergency room is often not the best place to go in a substance use crisis since the wait times can be long and the psychiatric care can be insufficient. A crisis-receiving facility provides crisis stabilization services to people in need of urgent care for a substance use disorder.

Similar to an emergency room, a facility-based, walk-in crisis center like the Bridge Center provides short-term, behavioral health crisis intervention, offering a community-based, voluntary, home-like environment as an alternative to more restrictive settings. In addition, crisis stabilization services provide an alternative to costly, overcrowded emergency rooms.

Guests admitted to a crisis-receiving facility are assessed by nurses, licensed mental health professionals, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychiatrists to determine if the individual meets one of the three criteria: a danger to self, others, or gravely ill. If one of the three criteria applies, the treating physician issues a physician emergency certificate, and the guest remains involuntarily committed.

Seek Support

Dealing with a substance use crisis is extremely stressful for both you and your loved ones. While it’s important to seek immediate help when you’re experiencing a substance use disorder, it’s also important that your loved ones affected by a crisis take care of themselves so they can help support you in your recovery.

This might be by connecting with family members or friends who have gone through similar situations or finding a support group specifically focused on helping those struggling with a substance use disorder. You can reach out to your local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter to find support resources in your community.

It’s important to know that mental health crises are common, and you are not alone.