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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.

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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.

Treatment

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.

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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.

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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.

Emotional

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

Mental

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

Physical

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.

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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.

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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

how-to-prevent-overdosing

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.

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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.

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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.

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Holiday Spirits: A look at Holiday Time drinking (and ways to cope)

The end of December brings America alive. Christmas is coming, a new year is next, and cheeriness is running on high. The holidays are a time for family and friends, for love and for togetherness, for giving (and for hopefully getting) some pretty cool stuff. For many, the holidays are also a time of indulgence – overspending, overeating, and overdrinking. When it’s just egg nog, no big deal… just make a resolution to work out more! It’s when the egg nog gets spiked, so to speak, that trouble can start.

Not to scare you, but starting Christmas Eve and ending on New Year’s Day, the number of DUIs increases by 33% on average. Furthermore, 41% of accidents on Christmas are alcohol-related, and 58% of them on New Year’s. This is much higher than average daily percentage of alcohol-related crashes, which is 28%. Now to scare you, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), nearly half of all car accident fatalities during that holiday week involve drunken drivers.

This is not an article on drunk driving. This is not just a regurgitation of statistics, although many will be cited. This article takes a look at holiday-time alcohol consumption, brings awareness to how dangerous Christmastime binge drinking can be, and offers a little background on Alcoholics Anonymous, the model example of the many free support groups that can further assist you in having a safe holiday.

The holidays bring a spike in problematic drinking.

Although this year’s Thanksgiving has come and gone at the time of this writing, the serious increase in national binge drinking actually starts the day before turkey day, which has come to be called ‘blackout Wednesday’. Many bars and alcohol-serving establishments say they receive more business the day before Thanksgiving than on St. Patrick’s Day, or even New Year’s Eve, according to PR Newswire. High school friends who have since moved on to live their lives are again reunited, possibly spurring on this day of binge drinking.

The Harris Interactive Survey recently took a poll regarding American holiday drinking. The results are eye-opening to say the least. Nearly one in six people admit to drinking more than they usually do during the holiday season. Nearly one in five say they’ve felt pressured to drink during the holidays. One in two people say their family’s holiday get-together involves alcohol directly. Most shocking of all, virtually everyone polled (96%) either admitted to being hungover for work after a holiday party the night before, or having known someone who was.

According to Scram Systems, makers of some of the top-of-the-line ignition interlock devices, half of those who already have a legal history of drunken driving consume more alcohol than normal during the holiday. (More than nine out of ten DUI offenders said having an ignition interlock device saved their lives). The holidays are meant to be fun, and there are ways to drink responsibly. We hope what we’ve discussed so far will give you reason to do so.

We drive (drunk) more during the holidays.

It’s an expensive time of year, what with dinners and gifts and travel expenses, and driving as opposed to any other form of transportation definitely saves some dollars. Driving sober saves lives. According to AAA (the Automobile Association of America), an astounding 48.7 million Americans drove at least fifty miles last year for Thanksgiving. (Over 89% considered the drive to be a road trip.) The number of those who drove such distances for Christmas surely is not far behind. Last year actually set a record for the number of individual holiday drivers on the road between the 23rd of December and the 3rd of January: 103 million. The highways are quite crammed, and in many areas of the country, snow is falling, making for even more hazardous conditions.

Also according to AAA, over the course of a year, one in eight drivers who are users of alcohol drive their vehicles with what they believe to be a blood alcohol content over 0.08, the legal limit. That means one in eight admitted to it in a survey. So, in reality, this writer bets everything in the bank that in reality, the number is more like 2 or 3. For the sake of the benefit of the doubt, even if the number is 2, this means of the 103 million drivers on the road during the holidays, well over three million of them are drunk.

Okay, there are just a few more stats courtesy of AAA, but stats paint a picture in a unique way, offering insight from a bird’s eye view. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, approximately 25,000 will be injured in an alcohol-related car crash, and another 1,200 will perish. This is about three times the average for this period of time, the highest spike all year.

Control your holiday drinking. Here’s one way how.

About 24 million Americans consume alcohol with some regularity. The number of Americans that consume alcohol during the holidays is probably somewhere in the range of 30 million. The NIAAA says just over 15 million Americans have AUD, or alcohol use disorder, commonly known as alcoholism. Half of those drinking during the holidays are alcoholics. If you find yourself among them and you want to be safe this year, or even if you’re not an alcoholic but you want to educate yourself on safe holiday drinking, an excellent place to start is Alcoholics Anonymous.

Disclaimer: Alcoholics Anonymous and similar self-help groups are not substitutes for alcohol abuse treatment in a professional facility. If you feel you have a drinking problem, absolutely check into a rehab as soon as possible.

Before the stock market crash of 1929, Bill Wilson made himself quite a wealthy man from Wall Street trading. By 1934, Wilson drank it all away. His severe alcoholism cost him his law school degree and his marriage, and then nearly his life. Hospitalized in New York City’s Towns Hospital, his doctor suggested to him that alcoholism was a disease, not a lack of willpower.

Through some now outdated therapies, Wilson stopped drinking successfully. Then he heard his calling. Wilson was a longtime member of the Oxford Group, a Christian missionary group, searching their philosophies for an answer to his drinking problem. At their meetings, still an active alcoholic but still seeking a cure, Wilson decided to make it his life’s goal to save as many other alcoholics from the disease that he could. In Akron, Ohio, on a business trip, Wilson found himself tempted to drink, and wanted to speak with a fellow alcoholic. Asking around, he was introduced to Dr. Bob Smith.

Henrietta Sieberling was also an Oxford Group member, and was the person who Bill Wilson asked about talking to an alcoholic. Sieberling was at the time attempting to help someone with severe alcoholism, a medical doctor named Bob Smith, who for seventeen years had been getting extremely drunk every single night. Sieberling arranged a meeting between Dr. Smith and Wilson, which reportedly lasted six hours.

Wilson actually moved into Dr. Smith’s home, living alongside the doctor and his wife. Wilson was able to cure Dr. Smith of his alcoholism, and the two men set out to develop one uniform program that could help people with any and all levels of alcoholism. It was 1935 when what would become Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) began. Since then, millions upon millions of people have attended and benefitted from the free service.

If you are an alcoholic, a problem drinker, or simply a concerned social drinker, call us today.

How do I know if I have an alcohol use disorder?

Alcoholism, AKA alcohol dependence, AKA alcohol use disorder, is a disease. However, the definition is not exactly clear cut. This is unique. Nobody can be on the fence with diabetes; you either have it or you don’t. Such is not the case with alcoholism. However, as a general rule of thumb, there are four components to the disease of alcoholism.

  1. Craving – Every drinker on every level experiences a craving for an adult beverage. If you experience this craving often, and the craving is strong, that is a sign of alcoholism. If you crave alcohol a few times a year, and even then could live without it, chances are you are not an alcoholic.
  2. Loss of Control – You may remember the longtime slogan for Pringles potato chips: “Once you pop, you can’t stop.” If this is how you feel about alcoholic beverages, there’s good chance alcoholism has crept in. Alcoholics are either literally unable to control, or have an extremely hard time controlling their consumption. Picture yourself at an open bar with no drink limits. Do you have a few and enjoy the rest of whatever the night has to offer, or do you find yourself drinking as many drinks as you can in order to achieve maximum drunkenness?
  3. Dependence – Being dependent on something is when the desire crosses over from a craving to a need. If someone exhibits withdrawal symptoms when sober from alcohol, it’s safe to say that someone is an alcoholic. Symptoms commonly associated with alcohol withdrawal include but are not limited to shaking, sweating, agitation, nervousness, nausea/vomiting, increased heart rate, and in rare cases delirium tremens which can be fatal.
  4. Tolerance – A tolerance to a substance is defined as the need for more and more quantity of that substance in order to achieve the desired effect. The first time someone gets drunk, it usually only takes one or two drinks. If you find yourself needing to drink six, twelve, maybe even more beers than that just to feel your desired level of intoxication, you, my friend, have an alcohol tolerance, and that is a surefire sign of alcoholism.

There is a commonly accepted AUD quiz. Here it is.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) offers a free online self-assessment as to whether or not you have alcohol use disorder. There are far too many questions to list here. All of the questions are important and play their own role, but we have determined there are nine pertinent questions. Reworded, they follow. The more answers of ‘yes’ you have to the following nine questions, the more likely you have alcoholism.

  1. Do you sometimes find yourself drinking more or for longer than originally desired?
  2. Do you sometimes want to cut back on alcohol intake but fail to?
  3. Do you need more time than average to recuperate from a night of drinking?
  4. Do you often feel a strong urge to drink?
  5. Does drinking ever interfere with your personal life, i.e. work or family?
  6. Do you sometimes find yourself giving up on or avoiding your hobbies in order to drink?
  7. Do you ever find yourself in dangerous or hostile situations due to drinking?
  8. Do you consistently need more alcohol to feel drunk?
  9. Do you ever experience any alcohol withdrawal symptoms when not drinking?

In Conclusion

Holidays are meant to be fun, family-filled, and ultimately safe. Contribute to safety this year and drink responsibly, if you drink at all. If you need help, then as stated, AA is not meant to be a substitute for rehab. If your drinking is excessive, and you question whether or not you’re an alcoholic, chances are you are. AA is, however, a wonderful place for recovering addicts to join and fight the good fight together. Good luck, and happy holidays.

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Trump Anti-Opioid Commission Overlooks Prevention, Favors Supply Cuts

First and foremost, this article is politically neutral. We are not here to oppose President Donald Trump, and we are not here to support him. America has become quite a divided nation in this regard. We are simply here to report on the latest report from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and then to give some opinions from there. We will say that Trump’s commission has quite a long name, so from now on it will be referred to as the CCC, which we’ll say is short for ‘the commission combating the crisis.’

The CCC’s latest report was issued this October, and it heavily favors limiting and/or cutting-off opioid supply over reducing and/or eliminating demand for illegal opioid use. In other words, the CCC is extremely focused on both the criminal side of opioids and the way legal opioid prescriptions are handled. They are focused loosely at best on the prevention side of the fight against the opioid epidemic. This article explains why this is true, why this could be bad, and what could change if prevention were weighed evenly with cutting off supply.

Limiting Supply is a Good Thing, But…

Yes it is. Trump and his commission’s focus on criminal drug-dealing operations is extremely important business. There are plenty of high-scale dealers willing to do just about anything for another dollar. This includes violence, spiking drugs with deadly substances, and selling to anyone with cash – regardless of his or her condition. However, criminalizing regular people who happen to be opioid addicts has proven to be devastating. We all know how absurd some of the jail sentences are for non-violent drug offenders. So, does all of American law enforcement believe that addicts are diseased, not criminals? We think you know the answer here…

The CCC’s focus on prescriptions is also extremely important business, perhaps more so than the black market. After all, the vast majority of heroin addicts began with legal opioid pills such as Vicodin or OxyContin. It’s difficult to pinpoint who exactly is to blame for it, but this country is FLOODED with opioid pills. There are enough prescriptions for them written every year to give every single adult American his or her own bottle. Over-prescribing opioids is a terrible thing, and changes need to be made. However, just as with fighting the criminals, restructuring the legal side of opioids still doesn’t prevent people from abusing drugs.

The Commission’s Report

The full text of the report can be found here. The report in total makes 56 recommendations for how to combat the opioid crisis. Two of them are focused on prevention, and one of those two recommendations is for an ad campaign. Advertisements are old news. We live in a world now where we fast forward through them all, because we’ve recorded the program we actually want to see. Sorry, CCC, but ad campaigns simply don’t work. The commission’s other prevention-based recommendation is called SBIRT. It’s short for ‘screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment,’ and frankly it’s an awesome program. However, it does not prevent people from starting abuse – it (attempts to) identify people already abusing and prevent further abuse.

The commission did not invent SBIRT. It began with a theory presented by the Institute of Medicine, and is now endorsed by SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SBIRT actually consists of three separate components: the screening, the intervention, and the referral to treatment. Here’s how it works.

Say you have a regular old doctor visit. You’re just getting a physical examination and hoping your cholesterol levels are normal. If the office you’re visiting participates in SBIRT, (which many do nowadays), part of your visit will include a screening for possible drug abuse. Your doctor will assess you and determine using standard screening methods if you are abusing substances. No, it’s not foolproof, but it is evidence-based.

Next comes the ‘BI’ part of SBIRT, the brief intervention. According to the SAMHSA website, during this part of the process, “a healthcare professional engages a patient showing risky substance use behaviors in a short conversation, providing feedback and advice.” If your screening shows you to be negative for substance abuse, there will not be an intervention. Finally comes, the ‘RT’ part, the referral to treatment. Again according to SAMHSA, “a healthcare professional provides a referral to brief therapy or additional treatment to patients who screen in need of additional services.”

Does it work?

Keith Humphreys is a government adviser in the field of drug prevention and treatment. He also happens to teach at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He also happens to think that SBIRT isn’t as effective as it should be. Humphreys was quoted as having said this recently to the New York Times: “The brief intervention part of S.B.I.R.T. has had success at changing problem drinking, but little with drug use. Referral to treatment has been a failure across the board. Almost no one follows up.”

Also, SBIRT does not prevent people from getting into drugs.

Preventive Methods to Combat the Epidemic

The remaining 54 recommendations made by the CCC involve in some way or another cutting off the supply of opioids to America. Obviously we are much more prepared to get rid of the drugs than we are to get rid of the addictions. This could be bad. It’s this writer’s humble opinion that we will never be able to fully get rid of drugs. They will always exist, no matter how many pounds of them are seized. It’s like that arcade game Whack-a-Mole; every time we knock one down, another will pop up.

If you prevent people from getting into drugs in the first place, it essentially doesn’t matter how many drugs are around. This is not to say we shouldn’t try and limit the supply of opioids. This is to say we should also be preventing the desire to abuse opioids altogether. Trump’s commission mentioned two methods of prevention in their report last month. However, there is an entire world of preventive methods out there to combat the opioid epidemic.

Let’s discuss a few of them. We think you, dear reader, will start to see just how important preventing drug abuse truly is.

The Nurse Family Partnership

Sometimes effective drug abuse prevention comes in a form you wouldn’t quite expect. The Nurse Family Partnership, or NFP, is a non-profit organization which places registered nurses in homes of first-time mothers who have low income. The nurses are there to educate the mothers about pregnancy and motherhood, help develop parenting skills, and promote infant health. It’s a beautiful program. What does it have to do with drug abuse prevention?

Well, in the results section of a fifteen-year long 1998 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association all about the long-term effects of nurse home visitation, there is this sentence: “Parents of nurse-visited children reported that their children had fewer behavioral problems related to use of alcohol and other drugs.”

More up to date, a similar study, but twelve years long, was published in 2010 in Pediatrics and Adolescent Magazine that claimed, “By the time the firstborn child was 12 years of age, those visited by nurses, compared with those in the control group, reported fewer days of having used cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana during the 30-day period before the 12-year interview…”

The Good Behavior Game

Back in 1967, Muriel Sanders just began her new job as a fourth grade schoolteacher. In order to maintain good behavior in her classroom, she developed a kind of game. Students were given a point for each occurrence of bad behavior, and then whoever had the fewest points would win a prize. Two years later, Sanders, Harriet Barrish, and Montrose Wolfe (who invented the ‘time-out’ for kids), officially created the Good Behavior Game.

The game is still being used in classrooms. In fact, in 2010, NIDA, (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), published a paper with the title Behavior Game Played in Primary Grades Reduces Later Drug-Related Problems. The opening line of the paper: “Awarding smiley-face stickers to teams of first-graders in Baltimore for the good behavior of the individual team members greatly increased the likelihood that the students would experience an adolescence free of substance abuse and dependence.”

The Good Behavior Game doesn’t just work – it works quite well. From the NIDA paper as well comes this eye-opening graphic:

trump anti opioid commission

Communities That Care

The final program we will mention began at the University of Washington and is now national. Communities That Care, or CTC, creates support groups within communities nationwide that foster good decision making and try to utilize evidence-based methods to stop and/or prevent drug abuse. It works well too. A trial involving 4,407 students was conducted, and followed them for three years starting in fifth grade. There was a control group not given the CTC program, and a group that was given the CTC program.

According to their website, “Panel students from CTC communities were 25% less likely to have initiated delinquent behavior, 32% less likely to have initiated the use of alcohol and 33% less likely to have initiated cigarette use than control community youths.” These numbers are staggering.

In Conclusion

It should be known that Trump’s CCC report from last month does mention these programs, and more, but it does not actually recommend implementing them. One can guess that means governmental funding for them will not be supplied. This doesn’t mean they’ll disappear, but they could be used on a much grander scale. This writer, for one, remembers the D.A.R.E. program and how inefficient it was. Perhaps things like the Good Behavior Game and Communities That Care should be implemented.

Strangely, no specific funding amounts were given in the report at all. For this reason, the report was met with some disdain. For example, Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health, said the CCC’s report “starves the country for the real resources it needs to save American lives.” On the bright side, the report recommends a one-application process for states to receive multiple federal grants, which is a world easier than the current process of applying for each and every grant individually.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is head of the commission. He knows personally how tragic drug abuse can be, having lost more than one person close to him to drugs. Although nobody knows how much money will actually be spent to implement some of the report’s suggestions, Gov. Christie did say in late October on cable news program This Week that Trump would soon be asking for an increase in funding for the good fight.

Richard Frank, former Obama administration member and Harvard Medical School professor, believes that it would cost approximately $10 billion annually “to provide medication and counseling to everyone with opioid use disorder who is not already in treatment.” Considering how many billions of dollars are tossed around daily, this seems well worth the cost.

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