Archive for November, 2013

5 Lies About Addiction

Friday, Nov. 22nd 2013

cross-my-fingers
Do you know the truth about addiction? Much of what most people know or rather think they know, is perpetuated through the media by myths and stereotypes. Before it is ever possible to fully comprehend and resolve a problem, it is important that you know the facts. That is why people may benefit when we address five blatant lies you may believe.

We Have Isolated the Genes Responsible

It is widely debated that genetics may play an important role in whether someone develops a dependence on drugs or alcohol, and if so, to what extent. Furthermore, it would be foolish and untrue to suggest that we are ‘predetermined’ to become addicted. It is true that some people are far more prone to developing dependence than others are, but that does not mean that others could not develop problems with dependency or that these people with a genetic predisposition are somehow ‘doomed’.

You are an Addict for Life

While the initial twelve-step treatment model suggests that this is true, our current understanding of dependence suggests that substance abuse occurs on a spectrum. Some people may struggle with the same issues for years, but many are short-term users who only use momentarily. Whether it is a long-term or short-term battle, it is possible for someone to live a sober life if they are provided with the right guidance and treatment.

It is Important to Hit ‘Rock Bottom’ before Seeking Help

This is not only untrue, but also dangerous. The first thing that people need to understand is that different people would have a different ‘rock bottom’. This means that this is an incalculable concept. However, studies have shown that successful recovery is not correlated to the number of negative consequences. This belief sometimes gives friends and family a chance to turn a blind eye and stop attempting to help the person recover. They may tell themselves “we cannot do anything until they hit rock bottom.” If the user is motivated to make a change, it is possible to recover at any stage.

It ‘Fries’ Your Brain

Some people refuse to seek treatment because they believe that their brains have already experienced irrevocable damage. Especially the public service message in the 80s that showed “your brain on drugs” really promoted the idea that drug abuse causes irreversible damage. While it is true that certain illicit substances may lead to brain damage, it is NEVER too late to seek help. It is true that an overwhelming majority of people struggling with these issues can get better with professional counseling during extended periods of time.

Marijuana is a ‘Gateway Drug’

There are plenty of reasons that might detract people from using marijuana, but this is not one of them. While it is true that most people do not try harder substances without trying marijuana first, there is no scientific evidence that suggests that it is a ‘gateway drug’. However, this does not mean that it does not have its share of dangers and problems.

Make sure that you do not let these lies stop you from getting the help you need. If you are ever unsure, remember that asking qualified counselors is a far superior option than relying on hearsay and other negative information.

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7 Things to Know about Drug Detox

Tuesday, Nov. 19th 2013

doctor-and-patient
Some people believe that rehabilitation and detoxification are interchangeable terms, but nothing could be further from the truth. It is only part one of a long-term journey towards sobriety. In order to clear up any possible confusion about detox and what it means, you have to remember these following seven facts about it.

Detox is NOT Rehabilitation

It is important that you steer clear from recovery programs that suggest that detox is the same thing as rehabilitation. When recovering from addiction, detoxification is a crucial component of recovery. However, aftercare and inpatient counseling are important factors in their rehab as well. Do not fall for the common misconception that one means the other.

It Does Not Take Long

For most people, the actual detoxification process does not take very long. It may only take a few weeks to complete, but again that does not mean that the underlying addiction is resolved. It merely means that the immediate craving is gone. If the user experiences certain triggers or experiences severe stress, they may relapse if they do not seek out further counseling.

It is Important to Complete before Rehab Begins

One of the reasons that long-term inpatient recovery programs work far better than the short-term programs is because you cannot hope to begin rehabilitation while the person is undergoing withdrawal symptoms. As long as these harmful toxins are still present in the bloodstream, it is next to impossible to get to the underlying issues of dependence.

Withdrawal Symptoms are Likely

It is important to recognize that the body undergoes considerable stress throughout this period. Withdrawal symptoms are dependent on the abused substance, but may include hallucinations, sweats, anxiety, depression, vomiting, nausea and more.

It is Important to Do So in the Presence of a Medical Professional

Even though these withdrawal symptoms are rarely life threatening, it is important to realize that the process takes place at a time where most users are already physically weakened. This is why completing this process under the care and supervision of a medical professional is important.

It is No Guarantee for Success

Especially if there are no immediate changes in the behavior of the patient, chances are that undergoing detox alone will not bring about major change. The risk of relapse remains high until the person undergoes long-term rehab that focuses on why he or she started using drugs or alcohol in the first place.

It is Still an Accomplishment

Despite the fact that it is only a single step in a much larger process, it is important that anyone struggling with addiction realize that this is an important first step and an impressive accomplishment in and of itself. Not acknowledging this is being unrealistic about the treatment process.

There are countless different ways to complete the detox process, including the most recent addition, biophysical detoxification. If you want to learn more about the different processes and how you can benefit, make sure to rely on qualified counselors who are able to give you the pros and cons of each procedure.

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Myths about Pot Legalization

Saturday, Nov. 16th 2013

marijuana
More and more States appear to be pushing for the legalization of marijuana. In fact, it seems that social acceptance is becoming greater than ever before. However, it is important that we establish that the concept of this being a recreational drug – a drug that is not addictive or harmful – is false. In the hands of someone who has a propensity toward addiction or someone already struggling with dependence, any drug may be habit-forming or dangerous. Before you ascribe to the notion that cannabis use is non-harmful, it is important that you understand these often-ignored facts.

Marijuana and Addiction

Despite the fact that many people are going to argue that ‘pot is not addictive’ research has shown that this is not necessarily true. While it is true that this drug is nowhere near as habit-forming as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are, estimates suggest that close to 10 percent of regular users may develop some form of dependence. This number is higher for those people who smoke on a daily basis and those who start at a young age. Contrary to popular belief, regular users do experience withdrawal symptoms. These include cravings for the drug, excessive worry, changes in appetite, difficulty sleeping and mood swings.

The Effects of Cannabis

Like most other illicit substances, marijuana has immediate, short-term effects. Regular, continued usage may also lead to the development of long-term effects. Some of the short-term effects include:

  • Paranoia
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Faster heart rate
  • Inability to solve problems
  • Impaired thinking
  • Impaired coordination
  • Learning problems
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of sense of time

 
Some of the long-term effects include:

  • Motivational problems
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Growth disorders
  • Increased risk of lung infections
  • Increased risk of chest colds
  • Breathing problems
  • Weakened immune system

 

Other Possible Effects of Use

In addition to the aforementioned effects, smoking marijuana greatly increases the risk of a heart attack for those who are vulnerable to heart attacks for other reasons. The reason behind this is the fact that upwards of three hours after using cannabis, the heart rate remains drastically increased. Furthermore, there is a strong connection between use of the drug and mental health disorders/mental illness.

It is important to understand that just because this does not have the same dangerous problems that are associated with many other illicit substances, it does not mean that marijuana is somehow ‘a completely safe substance’. Even over-the-counter pain medication has a long list of possible side effects that people have to be aware of before using.

Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric about legalization seems to revolve around cannabis not being as harmful as other substances or revert to the fact that its dangers were greatly exaggerated before. The truth is that while it is not going to make someone a rampaging goon or lead to horrible self-destructive behavior, there are still problems associated with its use.

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The Hardest Drugs to Quit

Wednesday, Nov. 13th 2013

stop-smoking
There are several factors that determine whether you are prone to developing dependence on a certain drug: how much money you make, substances your friends take, social history and others. However, the chemical makeup of certain drugs simply makes them more addictive than others. Some of these more difficult substances actually train our brain to want more of them. Dutch scientists devised a “dependency rating” that uses a precisely calibrated scale of 0-to-3 to measure addictive potency. The hardest substances to quit are the following:

Heroin – 2.89 out of 3

This cannot be surprising to anyone. Most people have heard that heroin is incredibly addictive. It is capable of causing pleasure, reducing pain, mimicking endorphins and affecting opioid receptors throughout the body. By taking heroin, the user is essentially training his or her brain to want more of the same substance later on. Pair that with difficult withdrawal symptoms and you may understand why this is the hardest drug to quit using.

Crack Cocaine – 2.82 out of 3

Despite the fact that powder cocaine and crack cocaine have similar effects and chemical compositions, smoking the processed crack ensures a much more intense and faster rush that only lasts a very limited time (approximately 10 minutes or so). The efficient method of ingestion and intensity of the high determine why people become much more dependent on the crack variant than the snorted powder.

Nicotine – 2.82 out of 3

While this may seem surprising to some and while it certainly does not have the same intense rush that crack or heroin does; it is biologically similar in a number of important ways. The most important is that it mimics a common neurotransmitter. Due to it reducing the sensitivity and amount of these receptors, users keep ingesting more nicotine in order to satisfy the sensation. It is theorized one in every five deaths nationwide is in some way linked to smoking.

Methadone – 2.68 out of 3

To think that some actually consider this a treatment for heroin dependence is rather interesting. Some proponents even suggest that a user is going to become resistant to the euphoric effects of methadone rather quickly. Unfortunately, a tolerance to this substance is one of the primary signs of addiction to methadone.

Crystal meth – 2.24 out of 3

We have discussed that certain substances ‘teach’ our brain to want a drug. This is how nicotine and heroin work. However, crystal methamphetamine goes even further than that. It actually imitates the alertness chemical norepinephrine and reward chemical dopamine. This forces the brain to release more of both substances, while simultaneously craving the brain to want more. It is the worst nightmare for someone struggling with addiction and is a drug dealer’s dream.

Cocaine – 2.13 out of 3

This drug is going to prevent the brain’s reward areas to reabsorb dopamine. As a result, the brain is going to reduce the number of dopamine receptors in this region. Because the body needs dopamine to feel good, if you stop using cocaine, it is going to make you crave the substance even more. Unlike methamphetamine, it does not destroy dopamine neurons; but the rapid tolerance, short high and fast method of use still makes it highly addictive.

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How to Increase Your Success in Drug Recovery

Sunday, Nov. 10th 2013

happy-in-the-grass
Simply showing up is not enough to make it through detoxification and drug rehabilitation, successfully. It is important for the person enrolling into a treatment program to put his or her best foot forward and actively participate in the recovery process. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to ensure that you have a better chance of success.

Leave At-Home Problems Behind

One of the reasons that inpatient recovery is successful is because it does more than just eliminate the immediate access to drugs and alcohol. It also means leaving other stresses, including work issues and relationship problems behind. It is important that the focus is on the patient – on getting better and making sure that they have an understanding of what led to their dependence in the first place.

Honesty with the Therapeutic Team and Providers

If you hope to understand what problems initially led to drug-seeking behavior, it is important to share all applicable information. This includes mental health history, drug history and medical history. This means being honest during the evaluation and diagnostic period and during one-on-one sessions with a counselor. This is not about ‘sharing is caring’ or forcing people to open up, it is about making an accurate diagnosis and developing a treatment plan that is specifically targeted to those needs.

Take Part in the Process

Though we started the article by saying this, just showing up is not enough. Speaking to your counselor, sharing what you believe may have been your prior triggers; these are all important steps. The more patients become involved with the program, the larger the chances are that they are going to benefit from it.

Take the Advice of the Professionals

Sometimes it may be frustrating to hear people tell you where you went wrong, what type of mistakes you have made in the past. Even though it is important that a program take patient-input into consideration, it is important that you adhere to what the recovery professionals are saying. While this may be aggravating and people often think they know themselves better than anyone else does, it is important to remember that these are trained professionals who have done this for years, possibly decades and understand what it takes in order to make a complete recovery.

Make Sure You Do Not Leave Without an Aftercare Plan

Contrary to what some people think, the recovery process is not over once the doors of the rehabilitation facility close behind you. In fact, for many people, this is when the difficult journey begins because they no longer have around-the-clock support and are ‘on their own’. Fortunately, you can rely on aftercare services to help where possible. Many patients end up not needing the aftercare services available to them, but it helps them feel confident knowing that it is there if needed.

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Things People Say (That Drive a Recovering Addict Crazy)

Thursday, Nov. 7th 2013

 
frustrated-teen-girl
Someone who has never struggled with drug addiction or alcohol abuse often has no genuine understanding of what someone attempting to remain sober has had to deal with. There are times that people have to explain their situation to people who have an extremely limited understanding about recovery. These are just a few of the most frustrating comments.

“So you don’t even drink wine?

Most people fail to understand that if someone manages to overcome a cocaine addiction, it is not a good idea for them to consume other addictive substances. Even though different substances have different addictive properties, it is important to understand that addictive tendencies are not merely limited to a single drug. Just because a person stops drinking alcohol, that does not mean that they should suddenly rely on OxyContin to manage their daily stress. Perhaps one of the best analogies to date for this behavior is ‘switching seats on the Titanic’, while it may seem like a change, it is still not going to end up well. So yes, this means not even wine and not even marijuana.

“You still meet with your counselor? Even now?

Most people who seem surprised by this have no idea what dependence or long-term recovery truly is. Just because a person walks out of a drug rehab facility, that does not mean that their journey is over – it means that their journey towards sobriety is just beginning. Sometimes a person in recovery just wants to follow up with an aftercare counselor to discuss particularly difficult situations, this allows them to get feedback on how to avoid them in the future. Not following up with aftercare is similar to going on a strict diet for six months and then eating whatever you want. While you saw some change in those six months, it is likely to all be for naught if you do not stick with it.

“I admire your willpower

Overcoming drug or alcohol addiction is one of the most difficult things to do, but anyone who has ever successfully managed to become sober understands that willpower only plays a small (yet important role). If sobriety exclusively focused on willpower, we would see far more people relapse. Most people in recovery are tempted at some point or another, but they understand what might happen if they do. They have been given the tools to overcome this obstacle.

“It must be so hard for you

While this may come from a place of love, sometimes it sounds condescending. Of course it is hard; of course it is a challenge to be unable to see old friends, to partake in the traditional celebration of weddings, New Years, etc. However, all these people need to do is look at the person they used to be in order to give themselves a reason to abstain. Compared to what these men and women have had to overcome already, remaining sober is not always the hard part.

Now you know a few of the things that non-addicts say that drive people in recovery crazy. If society as a whole had a better understanding of what recovery means, chances are that it would be easier and less stigmatizing for those people to seek help in the first place.

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What Should Not Stop You from Seeking Treatment

Monday, Nov. 4th 2013

sympathy
Entering into a drug addiction treatment program remains one of the most challenging things to have to do. Countless factors can make it difficult, but too many people use these factors as an excuse. Some will suggest that the high cost associated with addiction treatment is keeping them away or that they are worried about how friends and coworkers are going to respond. While these are genuine concerns, it is important to remember that these are never reasons not to get help.

Finances Should Not Stop You

Many people who need drug and alcohol addiction treatment are concerned that a long-term, inpatient recovery program is going to cost them a lot of money. The truth is that financing may be available with a program of your choice and it is always a good idea to check whether the program functions on a ‘sliding scale’. Remember that continuing to live with addiction may not only be more destructive, it is also more expensive.

Do Not Let the Social Stigma Stop You

Even today, now that we know that addiction plays a complicated role in our body and manages to interfere with our brain’s ability to feel good, some people still attach a social stigma to entering into rehabilitation. Many people who are contemplating enrolling are worried about their career, their friends and their family. Remember that while no one can guarantee how people are going to react to someone seeking therapy, it is far more destructive to continue abusing illicit substances and eventually run into more severe problems. Ultimately, dependence is not a problem that can be contained forever.

Family Responsibilities are No Excuse

There are people with families who feel as though they are unable to enroll into an inpatient recovery program, mainly because they believe it would take them away from their families. There is no denying that this might be a struggle. However, both you and your loved ones are far better off if you do get the help you need to recover. How can we prioritize anyone else’s needs if we do not help ourselves first?

Work Responsibilities are also Not an Excuse

People often mention this in the same breath as family responsibilities. Even if this has not happened yet, it does not mean that dependence is not going to affect or ruin your ability to do your job. Your job may even help you enroll into better treatment facilities by supplementing your own finances and insurance (sometimes applicable) with the insurance from your work place.

Fear Must Never Hold You Back

When we strip away all the other excuses, most people who live with addiction are afraid of sobriety. They are afraid of the physical withdrawal symptoms, they are afraid of the unknown, of having to deal with genuine emotions instead of sedating themselves. Even though it may seem terrifying at first, remember that fear must never control your decision-making process. Pick up the phone, make that call, and get the help you need.

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How to Spot a Cocaine Addiction

Friday, Nov. 1st 2013

cocaine dollar
Despite its popularity waning since the 1990s, cocaine addiction is still a serious problem that can lead to many dangerous health issues. While there is no guaranteed way to determine someone is struggling with dependence, there are a number of signs to look for that might hint that this person is struggling with cocaine addiction.

The Person is Prone to Getting Nosebleeds

This has long been one of the classic symptoms of cocaine abuse. The drug (taken intranasally) is going to damage and ultimately destroy the nose membranes. This leads to frequent, unexpected nosebleeds. A constantly runny or stuffy nose may also point towards nasal symptoms associated with regular use.

The Person Tends to ‘Crash’ after Being Energetic

After abusing cocaine for prolonged periods, users are likely to run low on energy and become lethargic. After having abused copious amounts of the drug before, the user is likely to sleep excessively for days after last using. They may also appear sluggish and refuse to leave the house.

There are Sudden Financial Problems

Cocaine is an extremely expensive addiction to maintain. Many people are going to use every cent they have, including any life savings they have set aside, in order to support their habit. People offering to sell their possessions at a greatly discounted rate or frequently want to borrow money may be struggling with financial problems related to the abuse of this substance.

Paranoia or Panic Attacks

Because of the way it is used, prolonged use of the drug may cause a variety of psychological symptoms. The substance actively alters the way the brain works, which can lead to heavy sweating, chest pains, including the feelings of ‘walls closing in around them’ or ‘everyone being out to get them’. Even in normal social settings, these users may experience anxiety or nervousness.

Talking Very Fast

One of the main identifiers of this substance is the way that it offers a significant euphoric rush. This may lead to episodes where the user is going to experience moments of grandiose thinking and talks very fast. Alternatively, they may have a hard time sitting still and keep pacing back and forth. If forced to sit down (whether it be a social queue or otherwise) these users are often going to fidget with something to keep themselves busy.

A New Group of Friends

People struggling with addiction tend to associate with people who share or at least condone their drug use. These are their codependents, never looking down on the user because of repeated drug abuse or asking questions. These might be people that you have never even heard them mention before.

It is important to understand that drug abuse can overtake the user’s life. This means that everything previously important to him or her is now suddenly inconsequential. Everything that matters is using the drug again; it does not matter if this means letting hobbies and activities fall by the way side, hurting their position at work, hurting the people closest to them or anything else. This is one of the reasons it is vitally important to get help as quickly as possible if you recognize these symptoms.

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