How to Avoid Alcohol Withdrawl

You might scoff at something like alcohol withdrawal while the opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc on our country, but withdrawal from alcohol is very real and nearly as prevalent. Withdrawal from other drugs like benzodiazepines (benzos) and opioids have certainly taken hold of the public consciousness, and rightfully so, but alcohol withdrawal is just as dangerous, even deadly.

In this post, we’re going to discuss what exactly alcohol withdrawal is, how alcohol affects family members, its symptoms, the withdrawal timeline, and also dish out some advice on how to avoid alcohol withdrawal.

What Is Withdrawal?

Withdrawal will be a difficult part of the recovery process no matter what substance a person has become dependent upon, but alcohol withdrawal is actually more severe than most other drugs. Alcohol is one of the few substances that can cause death, along with opioids. Fortunately, alcohol withdrawal fatalities can be prevented as long as a person tapers off their alcohol use safely.

The Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

Alcohol withdrawal occurs in three levels and comes with a wide range of alcohol withdrawal symptoms:

Stage 1: Minor Withdrawal – The symptoms of minor withdrawal may start to appear just six to 12 hours after an alcoholic stops drinking. They will include sweating, shaky hands, mild anxiety, nausea, insomnia, panic, twitching, and headaches.

Stage 2: Mid-level Withdrawal – Mid-level withdrawal symptoms will set in around 12 to 48 hours after the last drink. These can manifest as more intense versions of the symptoms listed above, as well as some visual and auditory hallucinations. The person usually will be aware that the hallucinations aren’t real, but they will still be difficult for them to deal with. Other symptoms may include an irregular heartbeat, elevated pulse, and even possible seizures.

Stage 3: Major Withdrawal – Setting in 48 to 72 hours after a person stops drinking, significant withdrawal symptoms will peak in around five days. These can include further hallucinations, during which the person won’t be able to distinguish their hallucination from reality. They may also endure withdrawal seizures, an irregular heart rate or racing heartbeat, profusely sweating, fever, high spikes to their blood pressure, rapid breathing, become easily agitated, intense tremors, or even death.

As you can see, major withdrawal is the one where the real danger lies. Minor and mid-level withdrawal can be dangerous as well if the person already has high blood pressure or a bad heart. And the longer a person has abused alcohol, the more severe their alcohol withdrawal symptoms will be.

Another common symptom of minor and mid-level withdrawal is shakiness, which people will often refer to as “DTs,” or delirium tremens, however, this is a bit of a mislabel, because actually DT is more associated with major withdrawal and can be severe and life-threatening. Shakiness from minor and mid-level withdrawal is not dangerous and should pass within a few days.

What Actually Causes Alcohol Withdrawal?

On the surface, the cause of alcohol withdrawal seems rather obvious: a person who was abusing alcohol stops drinking, and then alcohol withdrawal symptoms set in. But what actually occurs in the body?

When a person drinks, the dopamine levels in their brain become elevated, which results in pleasant feelings. Thus, the consumption of alcohol can elevate a person’s mood, low their inhibitions, and increase self-confidence. When the person stops drinking, the alcohol leaves their bloodstream and the dopamine levels and feelings that come along with it will dissipate.

When this behavior is repeated by the constant consumption of alcohol, the repeated altering of dopamine levels in the brain will cause it to expect alcohol to be present, and will discontinue its normal production without the presence of alcohol. This is how a person builds a tolerance to alcohol.

The more they drink, the more tolerant to alcohol their body becomes, and the more dependent their brain will be on its interference. When this has reached the level of dependence, the person may suffer withdrawal symptoms as the effects of alcohol wear off, symptoms that can range from mild to quite severe.

To be more scientific, it turns out alcohol withdrawal is actually caused by a neurotransmitter rebound within the brain in the GABA system. When a person consumes high levels of alcohol over an extended period, their neurotransmitters will adapt and work harder to try and perform their function despite the effects of alcohol. When the person removes alcohol from their system, the neurotransmitters won’t switch right back with them, they will actually continue to produce excess levels.

With alcohol no longer coming into their body to suppress the hyperactive neurotransmitters, the person will begin to see the symptoms we listed above in stages. The symptoms of withdrawal are actually quite the opposite of the symptoms caused by consuming alcohol. When alcohol is in a person’s system, it causes relaxation, sleep, and calm, while removal and alcohol withdrawal cause panic, insomnia, anxiety and others. Benzo and opioid withdrawal affect the body much in the same way.

How To Avoid Alcohol Withdrawal

Obviously, the easiest way to avoid alcohol withdrawal is to never drink at all, but if you do plan to consume alcohol, is it always best enjoyed, and safest, in moderation. Alcohol withdrawal will occur when your brain has been affected by alcohol over a long period of time.

Have Less Than Four Drinks Per Day

Therefore one way to avoid withdrawal is to not exceed four drinks per day if you are going to drink every day. This should limit the level of affect alcohol has on your brain. However, while you can generally consume low amounts of alcohol daily and avoid withdrawal, drinking that much every day is not recommended for your overall health.

Mix In Abstinence Days

If you can avoid drinking every day, you should. Another way to avoid alcohol withdrawal is to mix in abstinence days each week, and it’s best if you can take several days off from drinking at a time. Even if you do choose to get intoxicated some days, as long as you mix in some detox days in between, you should be able to avoid any withdrawal symptoms.

If you can manage to have several abstinence days each week it will give your neurotransmitter systems the chance to return back to their normal levels. This is because it takes a few days off each week for the alcohol to get completely out of your system. Since the body metabolizes roughly one standard drink per hour, limiting yourself to four drinks per day will give your neurotransmitter systems the time they need to  As long as your neurotransmitters have enough time to return to their normal levels, alcohol withdrawal will not set in.

If you go on a weekend bender, say for a bachelor party or any other big event, you may encounter some minor symptoms at the end, especially if your alcohol consumption was especially high, however it should be rather minor, and pass within a day. Yes, this is also known as the infamous “hangover.”

Don’t Mix Alcohol With Benzos & Opioids

Benzos like Valium and Klonopin and alcohol have similar effects on the GABA neurotransmitter system. If you were to mix the two, it would first increase the chances that a person can overdose on benzos, but also compound the withdrawal symptoms from each, making the process much worse when the person stops using one or both.

Who Is Most Likely To Have Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms?

Alcohol withdrawal is a largely individual process that will depend on a lot of factors, including a person’s body composition and genetics, their history with alcohol, length of alcohol abuse, amount of alcohol consumed, and more. However, in general, some common factors would position a person to be more likely to encounter significant alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

This group mainly includes those people who have consumed alcohol to the point of getting drunk over any duration of time. Someone who has stayed drunk for several days in a row can expect to feel some minor withdrawal symptoms once they stop drinking. Those who drink during the day for over a month, or get drunk every night for a month or more are highly likely to have severe withdrawal symptoms. Those with a history of alcohol abuse, or have dealt with alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the past, will be highly likely to re-encounter them, most likely in a more intense form.

Those who drink in moderation or just get drunk every once in a while are unlikely to see any alcohol withdrawal symptoms. But those who abuse alcohol for a month or more can expect to experience both physical and mental health issues if they stop drinking.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

If you do encounter lighter forms of alcohol withdrawal, it’s not an emergency situation, and you most likely won’t need any help or support to get you through it. Simply keep yourself in a quiet place with soft lighting and try to have limited contact with people, as you’ll probably be quite easily agitated. The best thing you can do to support your own system is to drink a lot of water or drinks with electrolytes as well as eating healthy food. In a couple days, the symptoms should pass.

For more severe cases of withdrawal, as in those who have a long history of alcohol use disorder and are in stage 3 of withdrawal, you should seek help to deal with your symptoms. Since alcohol withdrawal can be quite difficult and dangerous, it is in your best interest to not attempt to recover on your own. Enter yourself into a alcohol treatment center so you can safely taper off of your alcohol dependence.

Tapering Off Of Alcohol Withdrawal

Because the symptoms can be so severe, it is not recommended to stop drinking “cold turkey ” or detox from home. Someone who has abused alcohol for any duration of time should actually taper off of their drinking, instead of trying to completely stop drinking all at once. This helps keeps withdrawal symptoms moderate and allows the person to safely cut back on their drinking.

Essentially, if you or someone you know have been drinking consistently for a long period of time, visibly shake, sweat profusely, have a rapid pulse or heartbeat, or high blood pressure, then it will be much safer to taper off from drinking rather than quit cold turkey. Tapering off of alcohol actually means that you will continue to drink, just in smaller amounts incrementally until your body and mind become less dependent on alcohol, and it is safe to stop. Doctors can now even prescribe prescription medication to take along with a tapering plan, and tapering off of alcohol should be done under supervision, most likely in a rehab facility.

When tapering off of alcohol, it’s best to use beer because of its low alcohol content. The person dealing with withdrawal symptoms should only drink as much as they need to keep their sweats and shakes at bay. Depending on the person’s level of alcohol abuse, the process may only take a day, while for others it can take up to a week or more. While tapering, the person must also remember to stay hydrated. If the person is tapering in a rehab facility, they may be given an IV and vitamin shots, but if you’re trying to taper at home, Gatorade is a great pick because of its balanced electrolytes.

If a person chooses to taper off of alcohol, they will be most successful if they set up a tapering schedule. The schedule will depend upon how much the person has been drinking and the withdrawal symptoms they are already encountering. But essentially, the more they have been abusing alcohol, the slower the taper schedule will be, meaning the process will last longer. The person will have to pinpoint their average consumption, put it in terms of how many beers that amounts to, and slowly start to cut a couple beers out of the schedule each day.

If the person tries to taper too fast, their blood pressure and pulse will rise, and the shakes and sweats will return. No matter what, it’s important to remember during the process that the beer is being consumed as medicine, and not for pleasure. Tapering too quickly can be fatal, which is why it is best to detox in a professional rehab facility, where the patients can be properly supervised.

At APEX Recovery, we help you identify motivating factors for long-term change, develop necessary skills to maintain recovery and include your loved ones in your recovery.  We treat individual patients and their unique needs through a model that we recognize is not a “one size fits all”. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to give you the support you need to make positive changes.  Call APEX today.


How Alcoholism Affects Families

Many American families find themselves dealing with what seems like an unstoppable force for destruction. Addiction plagues many families and significant others on a daily basis. Many families lack the knowledge or understanding of how addiction impacts a family unit. Often, once chaos, financial burden, and hardship plagues a family, due to a family member suffering from addiction the family is left wondering how, why and what contributed to their loved ones’ situation. Often, many family members and marriages are torn apart by the devastating and long-lasting impact that addiction leaves on a family. Families wonder what they could have done better and what they could have changed. This article will discuss why addiction is more than a mere individual issue and will help educate families about why and how they can make lasting changes in their loved one’s life, and for themselves.

The family unit is a system. The famed clinician, Dr. Murray Bowen, researched family dynamics and pioneered the treatment and model of Family Systems Theory. This approach is useful when trying to glean an understanding of addiction. In fact, Dr. Bowen’s first research into family systems focused in large part on analyzing alcoholism. Alcoholism is often a trait that is passed down both through heredity, and also due to systemic dynamics observed and practiced within a family system.

Looking at a family through a lens of a system is like looking at a car with all its interworking pieces. Without a steering wheel or tires, a car could not operate. Similarly, when a family system is broken or dysfunctional, such as in the case of a parent with an addictive disorder, it leaves the entire system out of balance, and sometimes inoperable. Additionally, when one part of a system is dysfunctional, other parts of the system often over-function in order to keep up. This can be called homeostasis and often poor coping mechanisms, poor communication, and faulty defense mechanisms begin to be the norm. This leads to repeated patterns of behavior that sometimes lasts generations.

Enabling Factors

Many families dealing with a family member with addiction have heard the term “enabling.” Enabling by definition is giving permission to another to do something. In most addiction cases, family members often knowingly or unknowingly “give permission” to a substance user within their family. Often the family outwardly says they want their loved one to change or stop their addictive behavior, but because of ingrained patterns or faulty systems behavior, and overcompensating, many family members indirectly support continued addictive patterns, despite their words and best intentions. This is what enabling is all about, and it can be often found in dysfunctional family systems.

The term enabling grew out of the Al-Anon peer support group, a 12-step group created for family members dealing with an addicted loved one. It also is referred to in more clinical models such as Family Systems Theory. Enabling has many keys factors, but the primary concept from a family systems perspective is that due to emotional stress or dysfunction, some key people in a family system begin making excuses or attempt to overcompensate for another member. This is usually the addicted family member. Often, fear that the addicted family member will die, get in legal trouble, or further hurt the function or reputation of the family, leads members to make repeated attempts to gain control of the faulty behavior. These attempts usually fail and fail again. The system becomes strained, there is yelling, crying, bargaining between family members and the one using. This leads to emotional fusion and a decrease in “differentiation” or healthy interdependent behavior within a family. Often it looks like grown adults trying to parent grown adults, which is never a pretty picture.

Genetic Factors

In addition to generational transmission, a process of behavioral teaching and practicing that lends itself to generations of addiction and dysfunctional behavior, families often must realize the underlying genetic factors can play a role in addiction within a family. Modern research has opened the door for understanding family addictive process on a broader level. While there is no specific gene that codes for addiction, it has been researched and found that many aspects of behavior associated with addiction are passed on. So, what does this look like? If both parents are alcohol dependent, the offspring will be significantly more likely to develop the same malady. This has also been shown with biological twins. The good news is that there are many children of substance abusers that do not end up addicted. While this may be true sometimes, system theory looks at historical and genealogical patterns to illuminate potential problems. Genetics plays a role, in impulse control, reward circuitry of the brains, as well as with depression and anxiety, a large factor for self- medicating and ending up with an addiction problem.

Genetics also plays a role in personality and how well stress is tolerated. In general, the less someone tolerates stress, the more prone they can be to fall into addictive patterns. This process of poor stress tolerance is one that is directly hinged on genetic factors. In short, if parents do not tolerate stress well, the children will be at risk for the same. Much in that same way that addiction to substances can come from genetic factors, so can controlling and enabling behavior. Personality, while hinged on both environmental and genetic factors, it is widely agreed that genetics often plays the primary role. Couple this with learned behavior, and it is no wonder why generations of dysfunctional alcoholic families can be seen and studied. If one wants to understand addiction within the family, doing a good look over the family tree can provide a good starting place. Often clinicians will use a genogram, which is a clinically developed “mapping” technique that looks at various components of family trees, such as addiction.

After looking at both systemic issues and genetic components to addiction within a family, it is crucial to look at treatment for the entire family. Attempting to treat an individual without treating a family unit will often lead to relapse or failure. This is because any system that does not require function of all parts, will inevitably return to the previous dysfunctional pattern that occurred before. This is why family treatment is such a crucial part of treating any one person with addiction issues. Only with simultaneous treatment of the family and couple system, will allow for a marked change with that system, allowing both the addicted patient and family to change to a more optimal behavior pattern.

So, what does the family treatment of addiction look like? It is really quite simple, any treatment or detox program for any addictive individual, should also offer some sort of family therapy program. These programs often differ from program to program. Traditionally 12-step programs would recommend that spouses, family members and children of addicts should attend Al-Anon or Alateen. This model should not be confused with actual family therapy or treatment.

While the 12-Steps can provide family members with needed support and some spiritual philosophy, it fails to do offer two critical components. One, it does not provide actual therapy, or a process of clinically trained individuals working to assist in the counseling of the family process. This is necessary for learning communication skills, as well as to work through hurt from both sides of the family.  Two, it does not allow for integration with the addicted patient, who has been diagnosed with addictive use disorder. So often during the course of experience for a family dealing with addictive illness, many emotional wounds, lack or trust, and failure to communicate has been at play for sometimes decades. It is crucial that families attend therapy together to repair and restore needed attachment bonds in a new healthy way to improve a family’s and individual’s outcome.

Family Therapy

Family therapy and specifically family systems therapy, allows both an addicted patient and their family to work through much of the dysfunction that preceded treatment. Family therapy also allows people to share their needs, ideas, and what works for them, getting away from the lopsided and over-functioning behavior that often allows addictive problems to continue and grow. Finally, it allows a needed conversation about what life will look like for the family and individual after treatment is finished. Families must understand that every member must learn new ways to function healthier and more productively if the system is to grow and change for the better.

It is also crucial for an addicted patient to understand what boundaries and expectations family members have of them moving forward. Conversely, it is crucial that family members understand that a person that has worked through substance use disorder has a new way of thinking. Often this is a struggle for family members. Even though they always dreamed and hoped for recovery and abstinence, dealing with a family member that used to hide out, be passive, not communicate is often very different and challenging from a healthier adult person who sets boundaries and requires family members to have respect for their new ways of handling their situation and recovery.

In summary, addiction affects the entire family. This maladaptive pattern can lead to years of systemic dysfunction. Often, despite best intentions, advice, and attempting to control an addictive family member, a family becomes disengaged, angry and hostile. All members are left in a state of stress that leads to further dysfunction. Reasons for this family behavior and addictive illness within families are multigenerational processed and encompass both learned behavior and genetic factors. These deeply ingrained traits that are inherited as well as repeated within families, lead to cycles where it is impossible for both individuals with addiction, as well as their family members to function without professional help.

While there have been traditionally 12-step peer support groups, they fail at targeting more important factors that are required to get a system functioning healthy again. This is why it is crucial for families to be treated in conjunction with any one specific family member that struggles with addiction. Furthermore, it is important that any family or individual seeking substance abuse treatment does not do so without making sure the family as a whole seeks out family therapy.

Family Systems Therapy is one such model that was created out of evidence-based research by Dr. Bowen, who studied alcoholism within families. Working on differentiation with family members, as well as supporting direct communication, leads to improved outcomes for both the family and the newly sober patient. Only with this type of help, will a system be able to avoid a return to the pitfalls of homeostasis or repeated addictive behavior.

At APEX Recovery, we help you identify motivating factors for long-term change, develop necessary skills to maintain recovery and include your loved ones in your recovery.  We treat individual patients and their unique needs through a model that we recognize is not a “one size fits all”. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to give you the support you need to make positive changes.  Call APEX today.


Why Detoxing From Alcohol at Home Isn’t Safe

If you or someone you know has been abusing alcohol, at some point you may decide that it’s time to stop. Alcoholism can have severe effects on your health and your life, and making the choice to quit is a significant first step to getting things back on track.

However quitting cold turkey, or trying to stop drinking on your own at home simply is not safe. The reason why is alcohol withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal

When a person has abused alcohol for an extended period, they are likely to deal with some very uncomfortable alcohol withdrawal symptoms and avoiding them can be challenging. In fact, alcohol withdrawal symptoms are known to be much more severe than those associated with most other substances. Withdrawal from alcohol can even lead to death.

Alcohol withdrawal is actually caused by a rebound of neurotransmitters in the GABA system in a person’s brain. GABA receptors are responsible for producing a person’s feelings of calm, relaxation, and sleepiness. When alcohol is present in a person’s system, it enhances the function of their GABA receptors, giving them these feelings.

However, when they have abused alcohol for a long period of time, the receptors will struggle to return to normal function when alcohol is removed.

The GABA receptors will respond weakly to the presence of GABA in the absence of alcohol, and this will produce adverse feelings of anxiety, panic, and even insomnia, among others. The presence of alcohol also makes a person’s brain try to overcompensate and produce more neurotransmitters, which run rampant in the brain when alcohol is removed, elevating blood pressure, raising their pulse, and even causing hallucinations, fever, and DTs, or delirium tremens, which is the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal. DTs cause sudden confusion in the brain, can occur without warning, and can even be fatal.

While alcohol withdrawal symptoms will vary widely from person to person and are dependent on many factors, withdrawal generally occurs in three stages.

Stage 1: Minor Withdrawal

Minor withdrawal symptoms will include shakiness, sweating, some mild anxiety and/or panic, insomnia, twitching, headaches, and even some nausea. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms will appear within six to 12 hours after the last drink.

Stage 2: Mid-level Withdrawal

During mid-level withdrawal, a person will see the symptoms involved in stage 1 intensify, in addition to a rapid pulse, irregular or elevated heartbeat, and potential seizures. They may also encounter some minor visual and auditory hallucinations, but the person should be aware that they aren’t real. These alcohol withdrawal symptoms appear roughly 12 to 48 hours after the person’s last drink.

Stage 3: Major Withdrawal

Stage 3 withdrawal is when things get dangerous, as all symptoms will reach their highest levels. The person may have seizures, profuse sweating, intense tremors, rapid breathing and pulse, fever, significant spikes in their blood pressure, and will no longer be able to distinguish their hallucinations from reality. Stage 3 is also where death may occur. Major withdrawal arrives 48 to 72 hours after the person’s last drink and will peak around day 5.

While this information might make you think you should stop drinking right away, this isn’t the case. In fact, quitting cold turkey is quite dangerous and not at all recommended. Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal if you suddenly remove the depressant from suppressing the neurological activity in your brain.

So, how exactly can you quit drinking? The best way to stop an alcohol addiction is the tapering method.

How To Safely Quit Drinking Alcohol – The Taper Method

If a person has been drinking alcohol heavily over a long period of time, it won’t be safe for them to stop drinking suddenly. Worse, it can actually be fatal. Alcohol’s effect on the brain is so severe, that if it is suddenly removed from your system, the rebound of your neurotransmitters could cause severe rebound symptoms and even death. While someone who has abused alcohol for only a short time can probably safely quit “cold turkey” without dealing with anything more than mild withdrawal symptoms, those who have been long-time drinkers should taper off of their drinking.

Tapering means that the person will keep drinking, but safely cut back on their alcohol consumption over a period of time. This will help them manage their withdrawal symptoms and make sure nothing gets too intense for them. If symptoms start to set in a little too heavily, the person can simply drink a little more until they subside.

Beer is the drink of choice for the taper method due to its low alcohol content, and the amount of beer the person will drink and how long they will need to taper down their consumption will completely depend on the individual. If they were drinking a liter of hard alcohol per day, they may start out drinking quite a lot of beer, and slowly but surely cut back by a couple beers each day.

In the tapering system, beer is medicine, and the person will need to view it as such. They should only drink more if they absolutely need to because their symptoms have become too severe.

Since policing yourself, especially if you have an addiction, can be so challenging, it is best to detox from alcohol with some help, and you’re generally better off not attempting detoxing from alcohol at home. Here’s why.

The Danger In Detoxing From Alcohol At Home

Deciding to get sober is a big decision, but it isn’t a journey you should take on your own. It might be tempting to try and isolate yourself, and it’s entirely understandable that you wouldn’t want to put the burden on anyone else, but the fact is that trying to detox from alcohol at home is not safe.

Monitoring Your Detox Is A Lot To Ask Of Your Family & Friends

Even if you have a care system in place in the form of supportive family and/or friends, they may not be able to provide the proper care you need when withdrawal symptoms set in. After all, would your friends or family be prepared to deal with a life-threatening emergency if your withdrawal symptoms got that severe? It’s a big risk, and a lot to ask of someone you know and love.

You also aren’t going to be easy to deal with during this time, as beyond the physical withdrawal symptoms, you will also become easily irritated and agitated. This is normal, and part of the recovery process, but it is best to not let your frustrations affect your family.

Alcohol Withdrawal Can Be Life-Threatening

There is a common misconception that detoxing from alcohol isn’t dangerous, or at least isn’t as dangerous as detoxing from other drugs, but the fact is, that it’s one of the most dangerous substances to detox from, period. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly severe, and even life-threatening, so being monitored by a medical professional through an alcohol therapy program will put you in the safest position to quit safely.

Symptoms Are Worse If The Person Used Other Substances Or Has An Underlying Condition

The withdrawal symptoms are also compounded if a person used any other substances, such as benzos, heroin, opioids, cocaine, or methamphetamine, at the same time they were drinking. Any underlying medical issue that the person has, such as bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, asthma, anxiety, and more, can also complicate the alcohol detox process.

The withdrawal process, and alcohol abuse, in general, are often tied to depression, which can make it easy to slip back into drinking if you aren’t monitored. Medical professionals will make sure you taper off safely and don’t start to drink again for pleasure. They know the right amounts to give to keep symptoms at bay while also cutting back to the point of safely eliminating alcohol from your system entirely.

Detox Is Not A Quick Fix

As you read in the section about tapering off from alcohol, getting over alcohol withdrawal symptoms won’t be as simple as sleeping it off. The process is going to take some time, and you or someone you know was a very heavy drinker for a long time, it’s going to be very hard.

Staying Home Keeps You In A Bad Environment

If you try to detox at home, you are leaving yourself open to temptation to relapse and continue drinking. Withdrawal symptoms may be so bad that you may want to start drinking again, it’s easy to get right back into it. However, if you are able to remove yourself from your environment and bad habits by entering an inpatient alcohol treatment program, you’ll give yourself the best chance for a safe recovery.

Detoxing From Alcohol Symptoms

The symptoms of alcohol detox will closely mimic those of alcohol withdrawal because the two are tied at the hip. Those in alcohol detox can expect to sweat profusely, especially at night, will probably experience some headaches, feel overcome with shame, guilt and other emotions, and have a tough time with some other physical and mental issues. There’s no way to know what symptoms you will encounter until you make the choice to quit and begin the process. But again, if you taper off of alcohol, you’ll be able to quit safely.

The Detoxing From Alcohol Timeline

While there is not a specific timeline for alcohol detox, it will generally follow along with how severe a person’s withdrawal symptoms are. Withdrawal typically begins within 12 hours after the person’s last drink. These minor symptoms could get worse and move on to stage 2 or 3 within 24 to 72 hours. Sometimes, the intensity can pick up rather rapidly, while others, it may take a while for the true impact of withdrawal to hit.

Stage 3 withdrawal tends to peak around day 5 and should taper off thereafter. Some psychological effects may continue for a few weeks after the initial withdrawal period has ended but should be treatable.

We bring up the alcohol withdrawal timeline again here because withdrawal is actually the first step in alcohol detox. Detox is the process through which you will remove all of the harmful substances in your body. Alcohol detox, in particular, can take a few days or even a week or more, depending on the person’s level of abuse and health history.

During the detox process, you will work together with medical professionals to keep your withdrawal symptoms under control. By checking into a professional rehab center, you will be in a place where you can be constantly monitored by people who know how to handle the symptoms you may encounter and can react should a serious situation arise.

They will administer medications and make sure you are taking in the proper fluids and foods. Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated will be extremely important during the detox process. However, once detox ends, things aren’t all fixed forever, detox is just the start of a long journey in recovery that will last the rest of your life.

The first goal during detox is to monitor you constantly and make sure your physical symptoms are kept stable. Some benzodiazepines may be prescribed during this time to help manage over-activity in your central nervous system as it attempts to rebound. Your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and breathing will all be closely monitored as well in a detox center.

Because tapering is often the safest method, staff will also monitor your alcohol usage during detox to make sure you stay on your tapering schedule and don’t start over-drinking again. They will help you taper down to wean the alcohol out of your system while making sure you are getting the proper nutrition you need. This controlled manner of detox is much safer than any program you can set up for yourself at home, and ensures you won’t harm any relationships with friends or family along the way.

Detox from alcohol is nothing to be embarrassed about, and asking for help is the first step toward a successful recovery. If you or someone you know is having problems with alcohol, seek a detox facility near you to help, and never attempt detoxing from alcohol at home without a real support system in place.

At APEX Recovery, we help you identify motivating factors for long-term change, develop necessary skills to maintain recovery and include your loved ones in your recovery.  We treat individual patients and their unique needs through a model that we recognize is not a “one size fits all”. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to give you the support you need to make positive changes.  Call APEX today.


Is Alcoholism a Disease?

For decades, the accepted view on alcoholism and addiction was simple: addiction is a disease. This disease model of addiction shaped treatment, changed social outlook on addiction and became the acceptable excuse for all individuals suffering from addiction to alcohol. Even for those not struggling with alcoholism or addiction, it is difficult not to be aware of this flawed belief. Recently while watching television, I found myself looking at an actor posing to be a medical expert, wearing hospital scrubs and a stethoscope around his neck, telling me “Addiction is a disease!” But is there truth in this, and is alcoholism really a disease? To truly understand the most effective treatment for alcoholism, it is first important to understand why the disease model developed, and the negative impact of considering alcohol addiction an illness.

History of Disease Concept

The concept that alcoholism is a disease began with Dr. Benjamin Rush in the 1800’s to promote the prohibitionist political platform and was based on the idea that individuals that drank too much were diseased. This concept was continuously used through the early 1900s by those involved in the prohibitionist movement and the Temperance Movement, all based on a political agenda. This disease model belief of alcoholism as an illness gained additional popularity in the 1930’s with the rise of Alcoholics Anonymous and was supported by a study published by E.M. Jellinek. The evidence behind this study could be easily debated, however through understanding alcoholism as a disease, it helped change the common perception of the time that alcoholics were sinners, and instead removed the stigma. Shortly after Jellinek’s questionable findings, the American Medical Association identified alcoholism an illness, and then in 1955 officially identified alcoholism a disease.

To say that alcoholism is a disease only because of social and political reasons negates the evidence that does support the disease-like qualities of alcoholism. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Use states “addiction is a complex disease of the brain and body that involves compulsive use of one or more substances despite serious health and social consequences. Addiction disrupts regions of the brain that are responsible for reward, motivation, learning, judgment and memory. It damages various body systems as well as affects  families, relationships, schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods.” Alcohol over time and with chronic abuse changes brain chemistry, including pleasure centers, which causes functioning to change. Furthermore, an individual in the throes of long-term alcohol abuse, experiences physical alcohol withdrawal symptoms characterized by shaking, nausea, dizziness, sweating and risks of seizures when they stop heavy drinking without the care and support of medical personnel.  For these reasons alone, attempting to stop drinking suddenly and without support and attempting to detox from home can have long-standing medical implications. Just as not seeking treatment for a physical ailment can have potentially drastic health consequences.

The Global Concept of Disease

Further understanding the disease concept of alcoholism comes with understanding the global concept of disease. Disease by definition is an abnormal condition not caused by an external force that causes an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.  Using this definition, we can compare alcoholism to heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and hypothyroidism, all which require treatment. It may be argued that heart disease or lung cancer may be a result of an individual’s choices, whether it includes an unhealthy and cholesterol ridden diet or smoking cigarettes daily, however, the diagnosis does not change. The ability of the heart to pump blood without restriction or the lungs to provide oxygen to the body shifts from the natural state, and is therefore considered a disease.

An individual born with Type I Diabetes or who develops hypothyroidism is not to blame for the physical disorder or the need for treatment and furthermore is not refused care because of choices that they made.  Similar to heart disease or lung cancer, the diabetic’s pancreas stops producing insulin and in the case of hypothyroidism, the thyroid slows down with less production of hormones. In the case of alcoholism, changes in the brain’s chemistry occur as well as damage to the heart, liver and pancreas. Additionally, without treatment, the only remedy for the physical withdrawal signs experienced by the alcoholic, is to consume more alcohol.

Just as some individuals are more prone to heart disease, diabetes or certain types of cancer, the disease model argues that some individuals are more prone to develop alcoholism. Years of research on alcoholism has explored this concept to help answer the question is alcoholism really a disease. It is fair to say that not every individual that drinks a beer, indulges in a cocktail or enjoys a glass of wine with dinner develops alcoholism. Studies have attempted to link genetic and biological markers to alcoholism to help explain the difference between the individual that is able to engage in moderate drinking behavior, and the individual that develops alcoholism. Despite these studies, there has not been evidence to support the presence of genetic predisposition, but rather significant support of the biological, social and environmental development model. In this development model, it is clear that when raised in a chaotic home, when exposed to alcohol and drug use at an early age, and when not taught the necessary emotional regulation skills, the likelihood of developing a substance abuse disorder increases.

Using this information and understanding the similarities between other physical illness and disease, it makes sense why alcoholism is a disease. The problem with considering alcoholism an illness comes from the concept associated with chronic disease, as chronic disease is considered a long-lasting condition that can be controlled but not cured.  But if alcoholism is not a disease, then what is it? Gene Heyman, a psychologist at Harvard University, takes a different approach in his book Addiction: A Disorder of Choice.  Heyman presents research that 80 percent of individuals with an addiction overcome the addiction by age 30 and can do so because of the demands of their adult life. If keeping a job, paying bills or being a parent can be a significant incentive for stopping use, then this directly contradicts the idea that addiction cannot be cured. With this, begins the argument that alcoholism is not a disease.


Before the disease model is entirely debunked, it is noted that labeling alcoholism as a disease has some benefits. It helps conceptualize alcoholism as a major problem requiring treatment and therapy and helps make treatment more accessible as it is thought of as a disease and not a deviant behavior. When conceptualizing alcoholism as a disease, it helps provide hope for treatment and implies that similarly to other diseases, relapse may occur and should not be a source of shame The problem is not in labeling alcoholism an illness, but rather in understanding the treatment for alcoholism, which begins with moving away from the disease model. And as we move away from the disease model, we also move away from the term “alcoholism” and “alcoholic” and move towards the terms “alcohol use-disorder” and “person”.

Traditional treatment for alcoholism and addiction based on the disease model was the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA and the subsequent 12-step groups are based on the concept of powerlessness, with step one stating “We admitted were powerless over alcohol” and subsequent steps referring to “defects of character” and personal “shortcomings”. Additionally, AA preaches that the alcoholic can only live “one day at a time”, that the alcoholic can never be cured and that if an alcoholic does not attend meetings, that they will certainly relapse. The problem with treatment for an issue when there is belief of lack of personal power and ability, is that a self-fulfilling prophecy occurs. With the belief in lack of power and choice, the individual absolutely does relapse and begins to act in which they do not have the ability to control themselves. It is in this that the alcohol use becomes chronic and “incurable”. This model simply does not work in helping people to move towards recovery and living a fuller and more stable life.

So if alcoholism is not a disease, and substance use disorders are in fact a choice, and the 12-steps do not support long-term recovery, the question of how to treat the disorder presents itself. In the late 1970s, a model commonly known as the Stages of Change Model was introduced, which then influenced the development of a technique called Motivational Interviewing. This model was based on the idea that every person has different and unique motivation for quitting a behavior and that they move through a series of stages that begins with not recognizing that a behavior is problematic and ending with sustaining positive behavior change.  

To understand this, think of a young adult female that smokes cigarettes. In the beginning stages of change, she does not believe it will negatively impact her health and does not seem to be swayed by rising levels of tobacco tax and the cost associated with smoking. Despite friends telling her the smoke makes her smell, she continues to puff away. This same woman marries and gets pregnant, in finding out that she is with child, she throws away her cigarettes and never smokes again. This same concept can be applied to alcohol use, with the idea that with the right motivation and sufficient reason for change, and individual can move from not recognizing the need to stop drinking, or denying that there is a problem, to wanting to treatment, making changes, and eventually achieving long-lasting sobriety.

In this non-traditional model of recovery, not only is recognizing the need for change and identifying reasons for wanting to change important, but the idea of self-efficacy is necessary. If I believe that I can make a change and be successful, I become more likely to be able to handle challenges and make continued choices that support that change. Self-efficacy is the exact opposite of AA’s notion of “powerlessness” and the need to rely solely on meeting attendance. If an individual adopts the belief that alcohol use disorder is a choice, and that they have the power to choose another option, they are able to use coping skills and will able to maintain their forward progress, despite challenges to their sobriety. Just as the disease model normalizes the concept of relapse, this model recognizes that challenges will arise, however with the belief in personal power and choice, a person is more likely to choose behaviors that support health and well-being.

Importance of Support System

The last and most important missing piece in the disease model of alcoholism, is the inclusion of family, friends and a support system in treatment. From a systemic approach of the treatment substance use, helping the individual to navigate relationship challenges and develop personal meaning in their lives is imperative. In his Ted Talk “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong”, Johann Hari addresses the concept of creating loving and supportive relationships. He highlights Portugal and their decriminalization of drugs that began in the year 2000, specifically with Portugal’s policy towards rehabilitation. In a country with one of the highest rates of addiction, Hari shares that through redistributing money spent on incarceration to rehabilitation, addiction rates drastically decreased. Most importantly, Portugal helped addicts find meaning in their daily lives, as addicts were assisted in identifying vocational goals and engaging in work in which they were able to find meaning.

Similarly, the founder of empirically-supported Emotionally Focused Therapy, Dr. Susan Johnson discusses the importance of attachment and connects the importance of finding meaning to connecting with people.  We as human beings have an innate need to securely attach to others, and she argues that the individual in the midst of addiction has turned to their drug of choice, rather than to others, to find the security that comes with connection. Dr. Johnson teaches that when individuals learn to turn safely to their loved ones, their relationships replace the need for addictive substances and become an antidote to addiction. Through this research, the need for treatment providers, friends and family, and even the substance user themselves to learn to implement compassion is clear. Threats of disengagement and detachment are not working, and instead replacing those threats with tools to assist with engagement and secure and positive attachment may be more effective.

With a fuller understanding of the disease model of alcoholism, similarities between alcoholism and physical diseases is clear, however this model is not the be all end all to understanding alcohol use disorder.  It is only through identifying alcoholism as a choice, that a new recovery model can be implemented and truly be effective. To impact long-lasting and positive change, a person abusing alcohol must first recognize their choice and power, develop the skills to combat challenges, and create relationships that support their recovery.  

At APEX Recovery, we help you identify motivating factors for long-term change, develop necessary skills to maintain recovery and include your loved ones in your recovery. We treat individual patients and their unique needs through a model that we recognize is not a “one size fits all”. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to give you the support you need to make positive changes. Call APEX today.


Staying Sober in Legal Marijuana Cities

A number of states recently made the decision to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Today, it is legal to use and possess a small amount of the substance in California, Colorado, Vermont, Nevada, and other states. With legality comes a means for distributing cannabis. “Pot shops” have opened, making it easy for people to acquire marijuana and edible versions of THC in several cities.

While much time is spent on the recreational and medicinal benefits of marijuana, little time is invested in discussing the impact that legal marijuana has on those who may be recovering from addictions. Major metropolitan cities are home to people of all backgrounds, including those who are attempting to put problems with substance use behind them. The legal availability of marijuana in several cities and states can make life complicated for someone who wishes to stay as far away from drugs as possible, including those that are legal.

Remaining Clean in Cities Where Pot Is Legal

Anyone who has completed drug and alcohol rehabilitation knows that the path to recovery isn’t an easy one. Temptations exist at every place alcohol or even over-the-counter drugs are sold. Having easy and legal access to marijuana can make things even more complicated. Those struggling with sobriety need to follow wise advice on how to remain sober when so many sounds and images promote the use of marijuana.

The Dangers of a Relapse

Anyone who is struggling with addiction must keep one very important thing in mind: The use of any mind-altering substance—be it alcohol or any type of drug—creates the potential for a relapse. This includes both legal and illegal substances. Whether marijuana is legal or not in a particular jurisdiction isn’t the point. What does matter is avoiding the use of any drugs or alcohol in order to avoid a full-blown relapse and a return to using harder drugs.

Many people may need to enter rehab or a sober living facility more than once before becoming completely free of addiction. Frequent relapses bring with them many risks and health hazards. The unfortunate reality is that all the problems associated with addiction return during a relapse. Staying away from legal substances with addictive potential reduces the chances of falling into old habits. Unfortunately, when marijuana becomes legal, several related problems arise for those recovering from an addiction.

There is also something else to contend with: all the sources heralding the benefits of marijuana. These benefits won’t likely extend to someone in recovery.

The Hype Over Cannabis

Media hype over the legalization of marijuana does not help those wishing to remain sober. Unavoidably, though, news about the legalization of marijuana often comes with a great deal of media attention. Depending on the source of the reporting, the media coverage is often positive. The reports repeat sentiments by many in society who feel marijuana isn’t a dangerous drug.

Others celebrate the legality of marijuana as a win for civil liberties. Such reports make the use of marijuana not seem like a big deal. The decriminalization of cannabis certainly pushes forward the notion that it is harmless.

Messages of this nature won’t be a help to someone who wishes to be free of addiction. Positive messages about marijuana are no different than positive messages about beer and other types of alcohol. The affirmations can make it difficult for someone to remain clean because they hype everything but the possible harm and drawbacks of using the substance.

With these thoughts in mind, it becomes necessary to take concrete steps to avoid a relapse. While doing so may not be easy for someone in recovery, the steps do need to be taken.

A Clear Understanding

The key thing for those in recovery and persons close to them is not to fall into the trap of assuming legal marijuana somehow becomes safe to use. No drug rehabilitation counselor or other professional would suggest that using marijuana would be harmless for those recovering from a substance use disorder.

The presence of dispensaries in a neighborhood could dull the senses and accompanying attitudes necessary to assume the worst about the common gateway drug. The smell of marijuana smoke could create further problems for a person hoping to avoid drugs and alcohol. Walking past a bar can bring forth certain problems, but the smell of alcohol won’t exactly linger in the street. Marijuana smoke coming from a window, however, can hang thick in the air.

Inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke certainly doesn’t make it easy to curtail temptations. Unfortunately, the presence of places selling marijuana and the public use of the substance won’t keep down the urge to use, either. Therefore, a diligent and aggressive attitude becomes necessary to avoid falling into the trap of not taking the dangers of marijuana use seriously while in recovery.

No Small Amounts or Minor Usage

The use of marijuana has been referred to metaphorically as a “light switch.” That means that once the recovering addict starts to use marijuana, the “light switch” of addiction is turned on. Just as the flow of electricity travels to a lightbulb, impulses would be released in the person in recovery.

Marijuana may reopen gateways to addiction. Unlike a light switch, the power flow cannot simply be shut off. A full-blown relapse may occur. Even smoking marijuana just one time creates the potential for a relapse. As such, staying completely away from using marijuana under any circumstances is likely the best option.

Basic Points About Avoiding a Relapse

Common sense and simple advice may be quite helpful to someone who doesn’t want to fall into the drug dependency cycle once again. Such suggestions are not meant to oversimplify the complexities associated with remaining sober. However, the points do note that certain behavior patterns and lifestyle choices could reopen doors to addiction and all its troubles. Here are a few tips for staying sober in a city where pot is legal:

1. Stay Away From Places Where Marijuana Use Is Prevalent

Rules still exist even in states where legal marijuana laws have been passed. The use of marijuana in public places remains banned. Zoning laws in particular cities or counties may bar the sale of marijuana or ban dispensaries from operating. When choosing to live in a particular state, extra care must be taken to avoid those locations that have a high tendency for marijuana use and sale.

In some ways, this approach might come with more than a few inconveniences. Choosing to rent an apartment farther away from a place of employment may be required. Otherwise, the potential exists to be much closer to the dispensaries as opposed to staying a comfortable distance away from them.

Inconvenience won’t be as serious a problem as a relapse, however. Those in recovery know they must invest significant time and effort into staying sober. Therefore, accepting certain inconveniences may be required to achieve a worthwhile goal. Staying sober definitely falls under the heading of a worthwhile pursuit.

2. Do Not Associate With Marijuana Users

Visiting locations in which marijuana is sold definitely places someone near the specter of temptation. Unfortunately, there are ignorant people who do not realize the complexities those in recovery face. Because they do not see marijuana as a “real” drug or a substance that comes with dependency potential, they may be very inconsiderate to someone who is working to remain drug-free. This churlish behavior is more than rude. It could even be considered dangerous because it places another person at risk of relapsing.

Unfortunately, controlling the behavior of another person isn’t always possible. In fact, depending on the person, it may never be possible. However, someone could very well exude a certain level of control over himself or herself. The responsibility then falls on those wishing to avoid a relapse to cease associating with people who indulge in alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs.

3. Remain in Contact With Therapists

Continuing with therapy would be a wise move on the part of anyone concerned about how to remain free of the disease of addiction. As many point out, staying sober requires a lifelong commitment to the cause. Doing so on your own is not always easy.

In a state where marijuana is legal, the difficulty level increases even more. When cannabis is heavily promoted as a harmless substance, lax attitudes toward marijuana use persist, which complicates things for someone wishing to stay clean. So, why carry all the weight of staying clean on your own shoulders? Seeking help from an experienced drug and alcohol counselor may assist with remaining on the sober path.

4. Stay Close to Supportive Friends

Professionals are not the only ones who could prove enormously helpful to an individual in recovery. Leaning on the support of friends could prove beneficial when struggling with the temptations associated with prevalent marijuana use in a particular region.

The friends and acquaintances who understand the delicate situation in which you find yourself could be the most supportive. People who likewise struggle in a legal marijuana state know this is not an easy scenario to navigate. They also understand the great difficulties associated with battling the public’s somewhat lax sentiments toward marijuana, so they can often offer advice and guidance.

5. Make Wise Comparisons to Bars

Bars and other establishments that serve alcohol are found virtually everywhere in the United States. During rehabilitation treatment, recovery involves helping people make clear determinations to stay away from such places. One treatment method promoted by a rehab facility entailed taking a “field trip” to a restaurant where alcohol was served in order to help patients learn to avoid the temptations to drink while around alcohol.

Obviously, this approach doesn’t come into play until the patient is far along into the program. Visits to bars and other places serving alcohol cannot be done with a flippant attitude. The participants did not visit the bar on their own and without necessary and qualified supervision.

Still, the example of the trip may be considered a source of inspiration. In essence, the example proves it is possible to remain in the vicinity of legal substances and still overcome the urge to indulge. Granted, extensive therapy and treatment might be required to achieve such results. The fact that these results are achievable, however, should create a sense of hope.

6. Seriously Consider Relocating Elsewhere

On the surface, this might seem like an extreme response to dealing with the legality of marijuana in a particular state. After considering the harm that relapsing brings forth, however, a decision to make a move to a new state might not truly be deemed that extreme. Anything that supports sober living and remaining free from drugs or alcohol could prolong and preserve someone’s life.

Overcoming addiction involves major life decisions. Great difficulties may exist when planning out a relocation, but the ultimate goal of staying healthy should mitigate any concerns about moving. Living in a particular region isn’t worth dealing with certain struggles that can be avoided.

Professional Assistance Is Available

No easy answers exist for anyone who deals with an addiction. Our professional drug and alcohol counselors and medical experts are capable of helping people who are finding it difficult to address their substance use issues. Living in cities in which marijuana use is both legal and common further adds to the difficulties. Anyone who finds the struggles overwhelming may be best served by turning to Apex Recovery Rehab’s professional drug and alcohol rehabilitation service for assistance.


Relapse Prevention: Coping Skills & Warning Signs

Preparing to leave an inpatient treatment program can seem intimidating, especially if you have undergone intensive treatment for many months. It is normal to worry about relapse. No one wants to reach the point of deciding to get free from addiction only to begin having thoughts of failure once the immediate treatment team is left behind. Relapse prevention is one of the essential parts of a complete treatment plan. Learning how to avoid relapse through recognizing warning signs and utilizing all available coping skills will help keep you on the road to total recovery.

What Is a Relapse?

One definition of relapse is “to fall or slip back into a former state, practice, etc.” Beyond dictionary definitions, relapse can send someone in the midst of recovery spiraling into regular use of a given substance if not handled quickly. The goal is to never fall into relapse, but that is not the reality when entering the recovery process.

As with any disease, there is an ever-present danger of relapse. Rather than facing this in fear, it should be used as a push to stay vigilant and watchful for warning signs. It is possible to maneuver through this challenging landscape and avoid scenarios that lead you toward a slip if you’re armed with preventative measures and adequate coping skills. You can adjust and learn how to prevent relapse and stay on track toward complete recovery.

How to Avoid Relapse Using Prevention Techniques: The Essence of Recovery

Understanding how pervasive the disease of addiction is in the lives of addicts is critical before entering the recovery highway. Drugs or alcohol have been the driving force in the lives of addicted individuals for the duration of the illness. Every waking thought has been about using, obtaining, and having the funds to get the desired drugs or alcohol. Relapse can happen for more reasons than a robust physical craving. The entire lifestyle built around the addiction consumes the energy of the addicted person.

A complete change occurs is when a full recovery takes hold and sticks. Even under optimal circumstances, the statistics show there is still a real risk of relapse. The Journal of the American Medical Association shows the numbers of relapse requiring additional medical assistance with several diseases. Asthma and high blood pressure show a 50 to 70 percent relapse rate, diabetes type 1 shows 30 to 50 percent, and drug addiction comes in at 40 to 60 percent.

Stages, Warning Signs, and Triggers of Relapse

Rarely do individuals travel the distance from normal recovery mode to drug and alcohol use overnight. It is a journey that can begin at any time after treatment and unfolds in stages. The more acute self-awareness is, the easier it is to spot potential problems. Below are three universally accepted stages that indicate levels of relapse.


The stage of emotional relapse is not one of actively using or even considering use. In fact, denial is usually strong at this point, and it is a period of emotional setup. It is marked by:

  • Isolation
  • Negative views of others
  • Sporadic meeting attendance or missing them altogether
  • Not staying involved while in meetings
  • Being emotionally reclusive
  • Reduced personal hygiene care and sleep difficulties


The mental stage of relapse involves an increasing lack of resistance to full relapse. It can vary from basic cravings to the planning stages of drug or alcohol use. There are more times of people placing themselves in harm’s way, looking for an opportunity to use. Without recognizing these warnings, it is merely a matter of time before a complete relapse occurs. A few of the signs include:

  • Increasing focus and strength of cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • Viewing past drug and alcohol use in any positive, glamorized light
  • Thinking about the ability to manage drug or alcohol use
  • Thinking of or making contact with those associated with past use
  • Placing yourself in dangerous positions and circumstances that can lead to use
  • Bargaining
  • Lying about activities and feelings
  • Complete planning of relapse or expressing inevitability


A complete physical relapse is when drug or alcohol use begins and becomes an uncontrolled activity after a period of recovery. A small lapse or one-time use can be turned around in some cases, but it is imperative to recognize the warning signs of mental relapse before it goes too far.

<2>Triggers of Relapse

The actual trigger for an addict to use again varies, but stress and opportunity are the prime culprits. The need to stop, slow down, and see what is going on is a vital part of remaining faithful to proper self-care. The use of coping skills is the best defense in relapse prevention.

Coping Skills to Avoid Relapse

Observing and taking the warning signs seriously is the first step in how to avoid a relapse. You need to incorporate as many coping skills as possible that work for you and the stage of relapse you find yourself facing. Below are a few helpful coping skills that can reduce the danger level and keep you from falling into complete relapse.

Stress Control

Thoughts of self-medicating begin to take on a realistic value if stress levels are allowed to rise unchecked. Those who suffer anxiety issues will struggle with stress the most. Learn to recognize the overtaxing of your system in crisis situations, such as the death of a loved one or a job loss. You can help reduce stress naturally by:

  • Exercising or doing a physical activity that is enjoyable
  • Watching a positive movie
  • Getting involved in volunteer work
  • Contacting a loved one or sobriety peer member
  • Avoiding negative thinking

Avoiding high-risk contacts and behaviors is also crucial. It’s important to:

  • Avoid people from the past you used to get high or drunk with
  • Stay away from locations at which you used drugs or alcohol
  • Avoid parties and gatherings with drug and alcohol use
  • Never feel you are strong enough to abstain from drugs and alcohol
  • Keep in mind that using drugs or alcohol one time is not harmless and can cause complete relapse

You’ll also want to avoid isolation. To this end, you should:

  • Maintain steady interactions with people for relapse prevention
  • Stick with your therapy and support group meetings
  • Never try and manage a crisis alone
  • Reach out and ask for help if you feel overwhelmed

Maintaining open communication is also important. Make sure to:

  • Actively participate in meetings and therapy sessions
  • Always use open and honest communication
  • Let loved ones and professionals know when you are struggling
  • Maintain a positive journal that emphasizes your progress
  • Celebrate your victories with a special lunch, dinner, or personal item purchase

When managing cravings:

  • Know that they are a regular part of recovery and that they will pass
  • Find distractions such as reading a book or taking a walk
  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly
  • List the negatives of drug or alcohol addiction and why you will not go there again
  • Call trusted, nonjudgmental individuals you can discuss your cravings with

When Things Get Messy

If you or a loved one slips up and ends up using drugs or alcohol again, it is not the end of the universe. Relapse is actually a common occurrence in the recovery process. If it is your loved one who has relapsed, wait for them to be in a moment of sobriety before approaching them about entering treatment again. If you are the one experiencing relapse, know that it is a matter of undergoing more treatment and devising a more effective treatment plan.

Is Treatment Necessary for Every Relapse?

Not every case of lapse or relapse requires undergoing intensive treatment again. The real priority is honesty about the situation. Falling and taking one drink or using drugs one time does not necessarily mean a complete relapse will be the ultimate outcome. The duration and severity of the relapse are the determining factors. Your counselor will need to look at:

  • What led up to the lapse or relapse
  • The effectiveness of your coping skills
  • Getting you an improved support system
  • The length of the relapse and your possible need for detox

Any incidences of lapse or relapse offer opportunities to change what does not work and increase the things that are working. It can seem disappointing, but recovery can still proceed at a steady pace. The more critical factor to consider is the safety of you or your loved one if the relapse has progressed to the point of dangerous levels of drugs or alcohol in the system.

The Perfect Treatment Plan

The perfect treatment plan is one that is malleable and changes to fit the needs of the addict. Treatment plans are never the same for two individuals. The types of drugs and alcohol used, amounts, length of time, stress management abilities, predisposition to addiction, duration of treatment, and plan continuity by client all play a massive role in treatment plan success. A few of the necessary pieces of an ideal treatment plan are that it:

  • Is adjustable to fit the client needs at each stage of treatment and recovery
  • Addresses, identifies, and includes all support team members
  • Provides an assortment of planned coping skills
  • Identifies personal triggers that bring awareness for avoidance
  • Includes a fail-safe plan for possible lapse and relapse
  • Contains regular maintenance of the plan for changing needs

Critical Effectiveness of a Supportive Environment

Recovering from drug or alcohol addiction is one of the most challenging battles an individual will ever wage. It is one of the most important when it comes to health and well-being. The more supportive the environment and programs are, the better the results are for anyone attempting to break free from the grip of serious addiction. A few of the critical benefits of supportive teams, families, and sobriety peers are:

  • Increased and honest communication
  • A feeling of the client getting trustworthy advice
  • Supportive people who will warn when they see danger signs the recovering addict misses
  • Shared celebrations at all achievements
  • Support that lacks judgmental attitudes and social stigma
  • Ways to replenish strength when the recovering addict feels weak

Starting Over: You Can Still Win After a Complete Relapse

Although it may sound counterintuitive, relapse can often be a large part of the complete recovery process. Starting over after a serious relapse is done with gained knowledge about your weaknesses and strengths. It is a time to appreciate your humanity and realize that well-known celebrities have had to undergo additional treatment for relapse. No one is ever immune to moments of weakness.

Seeing the battle through is done by living life to the fullest each day and enjoying the moments of sobriety. Falling can happen, but the real winners are the individuals who can stand back up and shake off the dust with a smile. Living a healthy and sober life begins with deciding never to give up.


LAPD Addiction Prevention Unit

Rather than deal with a problem, it is best for the problem never to arise in the first place. Few would argue with this simple and often-repeated sentiment, and few would suggest all problems are easy to prevent. The epidemic of drug addiction, particularly opioid addiction, has been ravaging the United States for the better part of several years. No easy solutions exist to lead people to avoid using prescription or street drugs. However, steps can be made to prevent people from becoming involved with drugs. Educational programs and support groups may help with this noble cause.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has devised a strategic plan intended to cut down on drug abuse in the City of Angels. It is to be hoped that the work done by the LAPD Addiction Prevention Unit can prove inspiring to other law enforcement agencies across the nation. Even a small amount of help toward assisting those dealing with drug or alcohol issues might save lives.

Who does this LAPD prevention program actually seek to benefit? The answer may prove surprising.


The common assumption is that the LAPD has set up a program to help the public with substance abuse prevention. Police do involve themselves in many community outreach programs. These outreach programs do frequently focus on drug education and prevention.

With this unique addition prevention program, things are a bit different. The LAPD Addiction Prevention Unit works at helping police officers avoid falling victim to alcohol and drug problems. Rather than seeking to terminate someone with substance dependence problems, the LAPD tries to help. Let’s hope the LAPD’s approach proves inspiring to other police departments as well.

The Unfortunate Stress of the Often-Thankless Job

Police work has long been referred to as a thankless job. In truth, millions of people thank the police for what they do. Others, sadly, do not realize just how difficult working as a police officer can be.

What many people fail to comprehend is the stress level associated with performing the work of a law enforcement officer. Many also do not understand just how consistently the exposure to stress truly is for a cop. Quiet nights become few and far between for many police officers. A police officer may even be required to respond to more than one major crisis per night. That takes a mental toll on the person exposed to such incidents, incidents that could end up being violent ones.

As career police officers and detectives note, the life experiences of law enforcement personnel involve seeing human misery to a level few others come into contact with. Crime and accident scenes can leave even a veteran of the police force shaken to the core. Certain images become difficult to dismiss and may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Excess stress and the psychological anguish that comes with it might possibly lead to substance abuse problems. Since police personnel may be exposed to tremendously high levels of stress, they become at risk for substance abuse problems. While the public may not accept the possibility of law enforcement agents succumbing to addictions, the problem does manifest among an unfortunate number of police officers.

Police Officers Do Face Addiction Problems

A significant amount of study has gone into the impact of drug and alcohol use by law enforcement professionals. The reports associated with the studies have come back with shocking results. Per The American Journal on Addictions, 18% of male offices and 16% of female officers have suffered serious consequences from using alcohol. That comes out to a truly staggering number of police officers when you take into consideration just how many thousands work in the Los Angeles precincts alone.

Once again, stress and anxiety often lurk as the cause of these addictions.

Stress and Substance Abuse

The correlation between stress and substance abuse has long since been established by the addiction therapy profession. People under stress might reach for something seemingly capable of altering their less-than-desirable state of mind. As one of the members who runs the LAPD Addiction Prevention Unit noted, officers under a high level of stress may turn to alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medication. Those who suffer from high anxiety are often prescribed anti-anxiety medication in order to calm their nerves. While not everyone may be a believer in prescription psychiatric drug treatment, the medical profession has long established prescription therapy as a viable way to treat stress.

With legitimate prescription therapy, a proper diagnosis of a condition occurs and is followed by a written prescription for an appropriate drug in the appropriate daily amount. The patient is monitored and may also undergo special counseling to determine the root cause of the problem.

Choosing to self-medicate is hardly the same thing. Opting to drink alcohol in excess or turn to prescription painkillers illegally acquired would not fall under the category of legitimate therapy. Yet, this is what many do to address stress and PTSD. The mind-altering and mood-changing effects of alcohol and drugs become an unreliable means of addressing their current mental state.

Self-medicating becomes unreliable because there is no therapeutic benefit that comes from drug or alcohol abuse. The problem likely will get worse. The development of a full-blown addiction brings with it more psychological and physical problems. In short, as difficult as the problem of stress appears, the problem now runs the risk of becoming worse many times over. The stress and the root of stress now become compounded by the inclusion of a substance abuse issue.

A person who succumbs to the use of drugs and alcohol for self-medication rarely admits to a problem because he or she sees the rightness of the action. In other words, the person sees his or her behavior as the correct way to address stress. Alcohol calms nerves and helps a person forget about a stressful situation. Since it works, why let a judgmental person tell him or her what is wrong with the behavior?

Of course, substance abuse clouds judgment and behavior. Someone who chooses to self-medicate starts with a habit, and the habit expands into a full-blown addiction. This doesn’t occur overnight, but it will occur in time if the proper treatment isn’t undertaken.

Traumatic Events and the Use of Drugs and Alcohol

Substance abuse may occur as a means of dealing with traumatic events. The blanket of abuse covers up the memories and flashbacks associated with the trauma. Police officers see many horrible things over the course of their careers. Haunting images that stick with them might not go away quickly, if at all. So, alcohol and controlled substances become the means to hide the lingering sounds and images.

Unfortunately, a trigger effect may occur here. Anything that reminds the afflicted person of the traumatic event could trigger a desire to drink or use drugs. Since the underlying problem is never actually treated, the triggers always remain. Therefore, the problem with drugs and alcohol does not disappear.

Stress triggers refer to those incidents, events, and images that may lead to the onset of anxiety, depression, or other psychological and emotional responses. A person who undergoes a triggering event may not even be aware of the connection that exists between the trigger and the mental or sensory response. Consider this another issue associated with the lack of therapy and counseling required to deal with stress.

A police officer who suffers from trauma related to injuries inflicted upon children may, for example, suffer from triggers every time he or she passes by a schoolhouse. Since these triggers lead to a stress response, the way to deal with the feelings involves the choice of taking a drink. The triggers continue to fuel alcohol and other substance abuses. The cycle continues and won’t end without some sort of counseling. In the Los Angeles law enforcement world, steps have been taken to try and assist those in need.

Police Work and Painkillers

Stress isn’t the only cause of addictions among those involved with law enforcement. Police work can be quite physical. SWAT team members, in particular, may be required to perform physical duties that can affect the body in many ways. Of course, others who work on normal calls run the risk of suffering from physical injuries.

Sadly, problems with opioids and prescription painkiller abuse usually start when people suffer injuries and rely on the prescriptions to address chronic and daily pain. What might start with a legitimate prescription issued by a doctor may lead to increased habitual use and then to a major addiction. Prescriptions such as Oxycontin and Vicodin come with a significant potential for abuse. Those who commence use for legitimate reasons may never become free of the physical and mental hold the drugs eventually impose on them.

Such addictions affect people from all walks of life; this includes those who work in law enforcement as the LAPD has clearly acknowledged. The presence of the expanded peer groups shows the department does take the problem seriously. Most importantly, they are trying to help those who are suffering from addictions.

Dealing With the Issue in Los Angeles

The LAPD approach to helping fellow officers deal with alcohol and substance abuse problems commenced in the 1970s. Originally, the program started as a peer counseling group intended to assist those officers who were struggling with addiction. Over time, the peer counseling group would evolve into the official Addiction Prevention Unit of the Los Angeles Police Department. The members who run the program are not only sworn employees of the department; they also possess specialized training and education in addiction and recovery. An example of the training received is visible in a California Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) certification held by one officer. This certainly contributes to their ability to help those fellow officers in need.

Of course, police officers dealing with an addiction may be leery about working with a peer group.

Concerns did and do exist about privacy matters related to counseling. Clearly, the addiction prevention sessions are not published or released as public information. Cops who venture into these sessions can feel confident that they won’t be stigmatized among other members of the police force. If this were the case, no one would continue the sessions, and the entire prevention program would shut down. If those participating were disappointed with the results of attending, the program’s reputation would suffer, leading to the end result being a major decrease in participation.

Seeking Help for Addiction Issues

While the assistance of the addiction prevention system surely would be appreciated by anyone dealing with substance abuse issues, nothing can supplant complete treatment at a drug rehabilitation facility. Whether the care is inpatient or outpatient, the person undergoing the care would be examined and treated by professionals with the experience and background necessary to safely help someone address addiction. Call us today to see how we can help you or your loved one overcome their addiction.


How to Prevent Overdosing | Overcoming Addiction

Drug addiction is a disease that requires an individual to take an ever-increasing amount of a substance to achieve the same high. Overdose prevention begins by understanding that not everyone is addicted to the same substances and recognizing that each type of addiction requires its own course of treatment. Treatment for addiction involves identifying the problem, going through physical detox, and then learning how to live a productive life without abusing substances.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total number of deaths from drug overdose in the United States was 64,070 from January 2016 to January 2017, a 21 percent increase from the previous 12 months. Without treatment, this number will only continue to rise.

Overdose Prevention Must Address the Widespread Increase in Drug Abuse


Despite growth in the addiction treatment industry, the need for quality treatment continues to rise faster than the number of treatment options available. New regulations for prescription pain medications seek to stem the rising tide of opiate addiction, and this may result in an eventual decrease in opiate-related overdoses. While cocaine and other harmful drugs are also abused, prescription pain medication is among the fastest-growing drug epidemics.


Prescription of Opiate Pain Medications Has Decreased

Only a few short years ago, prescription opiates such as Vicodin and Oxycodone were relatively easy to acquire, even for a minor injury. While the addictive nature of prescription opiates may have been a small concern, few people could have predicted the widespread opiate epidemic caused by the overuse of prescription drugs. It is now harder to get prescription opiates, but it’s still not impossible for those who have had a recent surgery or injury.

When using opiates for pain management, patients can quickly become addicted to the medication. Breakthrough pain occurs, and it becomes necessary to use more medication to get the same pain relief. Over a short period of time, this leads to an addiction that is difficult to escape. Many people who begin opiate use because of a prescription later turn to illegal opiates such as heroin to continue feeling the same effects.

Drug Addiction Reaches Across All Demographic Barriers

Drug addiction and the need to prevent overdoses applies to all demographics. An increasing number of people understand the nature of drug addiction and the methods required for treatment, so trends in addiction treatment have changed. Individuals who are addicted to substances can go through the process of recovery one step at a time, starting with time spent in a supervised detox facility.

When more individuals begin to recognize that addiction doesn’t discriminate, the approach to addiction changes. Once people acknowledge that addiction has reached their own neighborhood, they are more likely to show empathy rather than contempt for those addicted to substances.

It’s Time for a Re-branding of What Drug Addiction Means

Drug addiction is not a small problem in the United States. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than 11 million Americans abused prescription opiates in 2016, which led to an influx of individuals needing treatment for substance use issues.

With that in mind, it’s time to reconsider the meaning of drug addiction. While drug addiction has long been treated through the criminal justice system, this is not an effective strategy for long-term recovery. Addiction is a disease that requires professional, empathetic care in order for the individual to get better. It’s time to start looking at addiction as the disease it is and to address the issue accordingly.

How Is the Drug Abuse Epidemic Being Solved Today?

With better education for the public and more treatment programs available to give people the help they need, the opiate epidemic is starting to be addressed. Considering that opiates are responsible for an estimated 30,000 deaths per year, this is a critical issue that needs continued attention.

Beyond opiates, other illegal drugs such as cocaine are also a major cause of overdose deaths in the United States. Cocaine overdose accounted for 10,619 deaths in 2017, which is 16.5 percent of the total drug overdoses from January 2016 to January 2017.

Programs for addiction treatment have spread rapidly throughout the United States in recent years. People are starting to understand that addiction is not a lack of willpower but a disease that worsens without professional treatment. This knowledge is a key factor in putting an end to drug abuse and preventing overdoses.

So, how is it possible to prevent overdosing on a significant scale?

Education, Treatment, and Recovery Options

Educating the public about addiction is a good first step in the prevention of an overdose. Drugs such as Narcan have been developed that can reduce opiate deaths if the drug is administered at the right time to an individual who has too many opiates in their system. People can learn how to administer Narcan in areas of heavy abuse, making it possible for average citizens to combat the opiate epidemic one person at a time.

Teaching the public about the addiction signs to look for may also prevent overdosing in some individuals. When parents of susceptible teens know the signs to look for, for example, it can become easier to identify potential drug abuse early on.

Teenagers are abusing opiates at high rates for a number of reasons. Heroin is highly accessible and not very expensive. While drugs like cocaine are often financially out of reach for teenagers, prescription pain medications can sometimes be found right in a parent’s medicine cabinet.

A teenager who suddenly starts doing poorly in school, who loses excessive amounts of weight, or who often appears lethargic even when awake may be abusing substances.

It’s important to open the lines of communication between parents and teenagers. Early intervention can be a big help when it comes to addiction. While teenagers can suffer from substance use disorder, it may still be early enough to mitigate the potential for long-term addiction and physical harm.

Addiction treatment for people of all ages has progressed in the United States, but it still has a long way to go. While recovery programs have become more accessible and treatment facilities have opened in response to the opiate epidemic and the rise in illicit drug use, many people still aren’t getting the help they need. Some are concerned about the cost, some lack the knowledge necessary to find a worthwhile facility, and others are still in denial about their addiction or afraid to seek treatment.

Continued investment in treatment facilities and education for those struggling with addiction is necessary if we want to quell this growing epidemic. While new regulations on prescription pain medications may be a good start, there is still much work to be done.

Creating New Treatment Opportunities for Those Dealing With Addiction

Addiction treatment is a multi-step process. Those who struggle with addiction may require prolonged inpatient and outpatient treatment in order to develop the necessary skills to conquer their urges. If a patient receives insufficient treatment or returns to the same environment that fueled their addiction in the first place, a relapse may soon follow. Without long-term recovery, the likelihood of an overdose increases exponentially.

Community support is an essential part of recovery and overdose prevention. Most people in recovery go to support groups of some sort while living independently, and they find support from others who are also striving to live a sober life. When community buildings such as churches or nursing homes open up their space so that meetings can be held, this can improve the quality of treatment that individuals receive.

Learning about addiction and what it does to the individual can make a big difference in the prevention of substance abuse. It’s important to understand that addiction is not a weakness. Addiction is a disease, one that continues to spread throughout the United States. The longer a person waits to get treatment for addiction, the more likely they are to experience a fatal overdose. This is due not only to an increase in drug exposure but also to the fact that long-term use requires greater quantities of the drug to achieve the same high. If you struggle with addiction or notice signs of addiction in a loved one, it’s important to seek help right away.

Overcoming Addiction to Prevent Overdose

People addicted to substances need to start slow in the recovery process. It begins with time spent in a medically supervised detox. This is the safest way to withdraw from substances, as withdrawing on your own at home can be dangerous. Withdrawal symptoms can become extremely painful and possibly even harmful. Access to supervised treatment programs is essential to the success of any push to reduce the number of overdose deaths in the United States.

Once detox is complete, support is necessary for learning how to cope with the emotional side of addiction. Those who are newly sober need to educate themselves about abuse triggers and how to cope with the stress of everyday life. A person new in their sobriety is often overwhelmed by the road ahead and requires the support of a structured environment in order to successfully live life without drugs or alcohol.

Sober Living Helps Prevent Relapse

People who aren’t ready to return home will go on to a sober living community. This is a residence where everyone is working on sobriety and trying to live their lives one day at a time. Sober living communities are sometimes difficult to get into because the need is so great. A sober living community offers support during a time when a person is learning how to live, work, and survive in a sober world, but the programs are just not available to everyone.

As the United States continues to gather information on drug abuse and restrict prescriptions for pain medications, program development will also be essential. With more targeted programs to combat the growing drug epidemic, over time the United States should see a slow but steady decline in the number of people addicted to substances.

With the right treatment, it is possible for anyone to fully recover and live a productive life. Without treatment, however, the addiction likely will only get worse. Early prevention can help stop the growing tide of those addicted to substances while intervention, later on, can help reduce the number of overdoses and people actively abusing substances.

The number of deaths caused by drug overdose is higher than ever in the United States, but an overdose is not impossible to prevent. Education and support are key. Be aware of the signs of addiction, and know which drugs are available to help reverse an overdose, such as Narcan. Recovery is possible, especially with professional help from a treatment program.


Books to Read in Recovery & The Top Secret Project

We may live in a digital paperless age, but the power of books still proves strong. People read more nowadays because of social media and clickbait than perhaps ever before. In America, people also overdose on heroin and prescription painkillers more than ever before. It’s a sad plight, the epidemic of our nation, the opioid crisis, and it kills about 100 of us every day. We believe strongly in the power of professional rehabilitation, and we endorse the latest in evidence-based therapies and medicines. We also believe in the power of words.

Although nothing can replace enrolling into a professional addiction treatment facility, sometimes a little reading can go a long way. The first half of this article will focus on some selections of reading that could serve as quite positive during addiction recovery. The second half of this article takes a turn toward community activism, words in motion.

This article must start with a sincere thanks to Mary Healy, manager of the Anoka County Library Centennial Branch in Minnesota. Her recent article for Hometown Source inspired us to both share her article and expand on it. Mary’s heartfelt article discusses some books she believes can be empowering to an opioid addict who is either considering quitting or is in the process of recovery already.

We will discuss the literature, but there is another layer to this, one much deeper. Mary Healy isn’t just a librarian. She is a member of The Top Secret Project, a program based out of Anoka County that employs quite unique methods to help parents identify potential substance abuse among their children.

The Literature

Mary brings to light four books: one non-fiction, two that might be labeled as ‘self-help’ and also a children’s book. The non-fiction selection, Dreamland: The True Tales of America’s Opiate Epidemic, is by former LA Times reporter Sam Quinones. The book tells the story of how a combination of Mexican drug cartels, over-prescription in America and greedy pharmaceutical companies pushed us into our current opioid epidemic. While not necessarily comforting, Mary calls it “one of those books that everyone should read to see where the connection from OxyContin overuse escalated to full-blown heroin addiction in small town USA.”

Of the two self-help books Mary chose, one is more for family members of addicts and the other for addicts themselves. Addict in the House: A No-nonsense Family Guide through Addiction & Recovery by Robin Barnett is for the family members. If you know you need to step in for a loved one but you don’t know how, get yourself a copy of this book. As Mary puts it, “This book can be a great start to finding the help one needs for their loved ones and themselves.”

The second self-helper is Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy by David Shef. The main point made in this book is something we have been stressing for years. Shef compares substance addiction to other diseases, such as diabetes, as it should be, since addiction is indeed a disease. The problem? America as a whole doesn’t see it that way. America as a whole sees addiction as a crutch, a weakness, a sign of lack of will. Read David Shef’s book. It’ll change your mind, but it will also help you understand that as an addict you are not a bad person, not at all.

Lastly we have a children’s book. We feel of all Mary’s selections that this one is perhaps the most important. It also ties in perfectly with The Top Secret Project, the program Mary is a part of. Bird by Zetta Elliot is actually a picture book. Through illustration, a story is told of a young boy dealing with his older brother’s drug-caused death. The boy realizes in the end that there is indeed much optimism in the world. This message is crucial. One in three homes in America are directly affected by the opioid crisis, and sadly enough that means there are plenty of young children with older siblings or other family members who have died at the hands of drugs. Learning early to cope with this unfortunate reality is critical, and Bird gently teaches children how to handle the drug-induced loss of a loved one.

Some Other Selections

Mary’s list ends here, but before we delve into the Top Secret Project, we wanted to briefly share a few more literary works that may serve as a positive boost to a recovering addict. Believable Hope by Michael Cartwright, a former addict so deep in it he was in a catatonic state in a psych ward, is a powerful book. According to the Amazon review, “…he shares his personal struggles, his recovery process, and the 5-pronged approach that has caused dramatic transformation with clientele ranging from those living on the street to celebrities and everyone in-between.”

Reddit is actually a wonderful place to read some inspiring words. There are plenty of sub-reddits about sobriety and recovery, and it provides a free, easily-accessible community. Of course, like all social media websites, there is plenty of trash to waddle through, but some of what you’ll read on there is raw and eye-opening, perhaps enough so to provide a boost of encouragement along your own path to sobriety.

The Top Secret Project

Okay. Here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. The Top Secret Project of Anoka County, Minnesota, is a free traveling exhibit that visits mostly schools but also community centers and/or parks. Their mission statement: “The Top Secret Project is committed to helping adults uncover the mysteries in the lives of teens, providing tools and resources to foster safe environments, and encouraging ongoing dialogue.” Their method? Not entirely so straightforward.

Attendees walk through a full-size model of a teenager’s bedroom. They are taught to look for signs of potential substance abuse, but also much more. Parents (or whoever wants to attend) will learn to discover signs of self-harm, eating disorders, bullying, and many other risky behaviors. How? By recognizing the presence of certain everyday objects to perhaps mean more than it appears.

the top secret projecct
A shot of participants walking through a virtual bedroom set up by The Top Secret Project

The idea is not to spy on your kids. It’s to recognize that the presence of, say, aluminum foil or candles, might mean more than it seems. The idea is to “recognize unfamiliar hazards that are often in plain sight,” as it says on their website. In the virtual bedroom are literally hundreds of items and/or indications of possible risky behavior. And there’s more.

After the virtual bedroom tour, The Top Secret Project offers a resource fair involving both local law enforcement and community programs. Also, there is an hour-and-a-half long discussion hosted by staff members of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, one of America’s most prominent addiction treatment and advocacy organizations. Rhonda Sivarajha, chairwoman of the Anoka County Board, from the above-linked site: “We all want to help our children safely navigate the teen years, but we can’t do that if we don’t know what to look for. The Top Secret Project offers invaluable insight and resources for parents to help them identify warning signs that are often hiding in plain sight.”

And there’s even more.

For children age 2 on up to fourth-grade, there is free daycare at a Top Secret Project event. There are activities for children in fifth-grade and older. There are prize drawings. There are guest speakers. There is free pizza. Free pizza. In fact, the entire event is free. Here is the event’s upcoming schedule so far:

  • January 9: Centennial High School West Building, 4757 North Rd., Circle Pines, MN
  • January 11: Anoka-Hennepin School District Educational Service Center, 2727 N. Ferry St., Anoka, MN
  • February 22: St. Francis High School (time to be determined)

If you happen to be even somewhat near any of these locations, you should go. This author has not attended as this author lives on the east coast, but if this author could this author would! It truly seems not only that it works, but that it’s fun, and fun is a major motivator for an American in 2018. And at heart, it serves to prevent risky behaviors in our youth, which is when it all starts. According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation website, “This project stemmed from a desire to make our families safer, stronger and healthier. There is no manual for raising children but if we come together to share experiences and resources, we can be stronger because of it.”

In Conclusion

We realize this has been sort of two articles crammed into one, but the spirit behind both recovery literature and something like The Top Secret Project is the same. The prevention of drug abuse is paramount, and the treatment of inevitable substance abuse is equally important. There unfortunately will probably always be addicts. What we can do is spread the message that addiction is a disease, a treatable one, and far too many people are afflicted and live untreated.

If you are an addict and you are not in any kind of treatment, seek help immediately. The literature suggested in the first half of this article is meant for addicts already in some form of viable recovery. The Top Secret Project is meant for parents seeking knowledge on how to best recognize risky behaviors in their own children. A professional rehabilitation center is meant for addicts not in treatment.

Let me leave you with something a bit personal. This writer is too a former addict. From age 16 to about age 18, ecstasy was my drug of choice. About two months after entering into a rehabilitation program, my counselor died of a massive heart attack in his sleep. All hope was lost, and my addiction came back, this time in the form of “what have you got?” It took my best friend ending his life with a shotgun for me to finally get my life back together. Sometimes it takes an unfortunate tragedy to sort of wake up. Don’t go looking for one.

Some of the best advice ever came from my father, who fought with me through my years of addiction. He told me that drug addicts only ever end up in one of three places: dead, locked up, or in a looney bin. Those were his words, but they’re true words. Without stopping and without help, drug use will kill you, criminalize you, or land you in a home.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, act now. Every moment an addiction continues untreated is a dangerous one. If you are even thinking that maybe you should reach out, then now is the time. Don’t let yourself or your loved one become a statistic.


Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms | Detox & Treatment

You can become addicted to just about anything. You can be addicted to something good, like exercising, something neither good nor bad, like video games, or something horrible, like heroin. The important thing to realize is the difference between being addicted to something and being extremely passionate about something. One of the main ways to tell that difference is whether or not withdrawal symptoms are suffered without whatever it is, whether it’s gummy bears or cigarettes.

Determining whether or not you’re addicted to alcohol, (an alcoholic), can be a tricky beast, mainly due to four reasons. For one it’s legal, for two it’s glamourized excessively in the media, for three, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that approximately 56% of American adults consume alcohol at least once a month, and for four, alcohol is everywhere.

This article will describe alcoholism, the withdrawal symptoms of alcohol, how important supervised detox from alcohol is, and what types of treatment are available post-detox.

alcohol withdrawal

Alcohol Use Disorder

Having a get together? Better get some alcohol. Stressed? Have a few glasses of wine. Everyone’s going out after work. Where? To the bar! Hung over from the night before? Have another one to cure it! Three of us are going to Bill’s for the game. Bring your own beer! Attending a concert? Purchase that eleven-dollar Budweiser. Alcohol really is everywhere, and it seems to have to be involved in many of the things we do, from celebration to coping with stress. It’s when you move from “I could really use a drink” to “Oh wow I need a drink” that drinking turns from a fun party favor to a disease.

Using the NIAAA percentage and current population totals, of the 42 million Americans over eighteen years of age who are drinkers, 15 million are alcoholics. That’s nearly the entire population of the state of New York, which is why alcoholism is indeed a public health crisis, at least according to a September 2017 article in the Journal of American Medical Association. The title of the article alone should make it clear: Remarkable Increases in Alcohol Use Disorders. The researchers say alcoholism rates have gone up about 50% since a decade before the study began in 2012. Therefore, for every two alcoholics that existed in 2002, five years ago there were three. Stretching that rate out to present day means there are nearly twice as many alcoholics right now than there were in ’02.

So how do you know if you suffer from an alcohol use disorder? Do you suffer from any of these symptoms of alcoholism?

  • Inability to control how much you drink
  • Feeling the need to cut back on drinking, or trying to unsuccessfully
  • Spending significant time recovering from alcohol use
  • Strong urges to drink
  • Interruptions at work or at home due to drinking
  • Continuing to drink regardless of negative effects
  • Losing interest in hobbies or social life due to drinking
  • Drinking in unsafe situations, such as driving or watching your child
  • High tolerance to alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

As the cliché tells us, just because something is last does not mean it is least. One could begin to exhibit withdrawal symptoms from alcohol as soon as eight hours after the last drink. If you experience any withdrawal symptoms from lack of alcohol, do not ignore them. Alcohol withdrawal is much more than a sign of addiction; it can be fatal. If you are an alcoholic planning on quitting, seek professional treatment immediately. If you are suffering from any alcohol withdrawal symptoms, seek medical help. Quitting without assistance can be extremely dangerous. Withdrawing without assistance can kill you, just as it did Amy Winehouse.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome (AWS)

Understand not all symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are life-threatening, at least not individually. Some are. It’s easy to tell the difference. Any combination of symptoms has come to be recognized as AWS, or Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome. Although some cases are worse than others, every single case of alcohol withdrawal is dangerous. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include but are not necessarily limited to:

If you are a casual drinker and after a night of partying you wake up hungover and therefore irritated and a little anxious, it may not necessarily be that you are suffering from AWS. You should know the difference. If you are a heavy drinker and you wake up from a night of partying extremely depressed and with the shakes, seek help. If it’s someone you know who is struggling, please click the link for their sake. These symptoms are signs of severe alcoholism. It is ever so important to listen to your body and know the differences between withdrawal symptoms and a hangover. Some of the more severe symptoms of AWS include but are not necessarily limited to:

Alcohol is an extremely potent substance, and when abused it becomes a dangerous weapon against the body and brain. With alcohol abuse, your brain’s neurotransmitters actually start to adapt to the presence of alcohol – which is not just when you’re actively drinking. For every fluid ounce consumed, alcohol stays in the body for one hour. This doesn’t seem like long until you add the time up. For someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08, legally drunk, it would take over five and a half hours for the alcohol to be fully gone. An alcoholic actively drinking to excess can reach a BAC of 0.25 or higher. (A 180-pound man who consumes a six-pack has a BAC of about 0.21). Now you’re talking about nearly an entire day having to go by before alcohol is out of the system. If this alcoholic does this every day, well, the brain knows nothing else.

Now consider someone who drinks this way for years. His or her brain is fully adapted to the constant presence of alcohol. If that person suddenly stops drinking, even for a day, several bodily malfunctions can, and probably will, occur. Hence there exists AWS, a condition that covers all of these malfunctions.

OK so let’s say you, dear reader, are an alcoholic looking to quit. How do you do it? Lucky for you we have it all figured out.

The Road to Recovery – Step One: Detox

Anybody entering into any type of treatment for alcoholism is going to undergo detoxification prior to anything. Safely ridding the body of alcohol is paramount to curing addictions of all types, the first step on each and every road to recovery. Now for the specifics…

Because alcohol withdrawal symptoms can start as soon as eight hours after the last drink, it’s important to seek professional detox immediately upon deciding to stop. Whichever of the symptoms mentioned above you endure will peak within 24-72 hours, and can last a few weeks. Doctors, nurses, and a supporting staff will guide you through the discomfort, meanwhile ensuring none of the symptoms turn fatal. Alcohol withdrawal without proper treatment can indeed be deadly.

Spend quality time in deciding which facility to enter into. As we will discuss, treatment very often (and should) follow detox, and regardless of which level of treatment you opt for, these will be the people who literally help you change your life for the better, and keep it that way. Talk to the program representatives. Discuss the following:

  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Amount of alcohol you consume daily/weekly
  • How long you have been drinking excessively
  • Your drinking patterns previous to realizing you had a problem
  • Overall nutrition
  • Weight, age, habits & hobbies
  • If you abuse other substances as well
  • If you have any co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, or an eating disorder

These details will help guide you toward the right facility for you personally, since recovery from addiction is a personal journey. As mentioned, detox should be followed by treatment for addiction, the second stop on the pathway to sobriety. There are endless options today when it comes to seeking help. Develop a plan for long-term support, consult with medical professionals, pay attention to your body and health needs, and be sure to seek support groups after release from a program.  There are many options out there once you or someone you love makes the decision to quit drinking.

The Road to Recovery – Step Two: Treatment

In less severe cases, an outpatient treatment program may be suitable. This is where you would visit the recovery facility according to a schedule, checking in for guidance, therapies, and any applicable medicines. In the case of moderate to severe symptoms, an inpatient stay may be more fitting, where you actually stay at the facility.

Most alcoholics who quit suffer from some form of AWS. Approximately one out of ten will exhibit severe symptoms. Regardless of severity, treatment should include the monitoring of blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, and blood levels of multiple different chemicals in the body/brain. Moderate to severe cases may also include the assistance of medication; benzodiazepines tend to be used most often. There exist two possible approaches with benzodiazepines:

  • The symptom-triggered approach is primarily reserved for high-risk alcoholics. As it sounds like, medicine is used to combat symptoms as they occur.
  • The fixed-regimen approach involves the medicine being dispersed in time intervals, with additional doses given as required, based on the individual’s symptoms. This is the much more common approach.

Benzodiazepines are much safer than alcohol. They help to restore the brain back to normal neurotransmitter levels. They can be prescribed and self-administered. In rare instances, a patient can become addicted to the benzodiazepines. In the U.K., an alternative, called Clomethiazole, possibly less addictive, has proven successful in treating AWS but cannot be self-administered as of yet.

For less severe (and more common) cases of AWS, treatment will likely be more patient-oriented, as the risk of fatality is much lower. Something called the harm reduction model is commonly utilized. This is where the patient gradually scales back his or her drinking under a controlled system. It is much safer to wean than to cut off.

Other common forms of treatment for less severe cases of AWS include:

  • Sedative drugs to help ease withdrawal symptoms
  • Blood tests
  • Patient and family counseling to discuss the long-term issue of alcoholism
  • Testing and treatment for other medical problems linked to alcohol use

In Conclusion

It’s almost silly in a way to think about how quitting drinking can be equally as dangerous as drinking itself. This is the case, though. Don’t let the symptoms deter you from quitting, though. With the proper care, detox and treatment is much less painful than a lifetime of alcoholism.

If you or a loved one is struggling with Alcoholism, do not hesitate to call us. Our caring and compassionate team is here to help you on the road to recovery.