How Do Opioids Affect the Brain?

Ever Wondered How Opioids Affect The Brain?

Perhaps you’ve wondered, “how do opioids affect the brain?” It seems like every time you turn around, you see news about opioids. You hear words like “opioid epidemic” and “opioid crisis.” The news talks a lot about addictions. They frequently mention the deaths. But how does a person get real information about opioid effects on the brain?


In this blog, Harmony Treatment & Wellness assesses the following:


  • What are opioids?
  • How do opioids affect the brain?
  • What is opioid use disorder?
  • Do treatments exist for opioid use disorder?
  • What if I want more information about opioids and the brain?

What Are Opioids?

Opioids occur naturally in your body. Your brain makes them. Researchers call these endogenous opioids. When we hurt, our brains release these opioids to make us feel better. Opioids have the function of easing pain.


What’s The Difference Between Opioids And Opiates?

We can also find opioids in nature. They come from the poppy flower (papaver somniferum). 3 natural opioids we get from the poppy plant include:


  • Opium
  • Morphine
  • Codeine


You may see the terms “opioid” and “opiate” used like synonyms. But they don’t mean the same thing. The word “opioid” refers to both natural and artificial substances. We apply the word “opiate” to natural substances.


Opioids have legitimate medical uses. But when news reports refer to an “opioid crisis,” it makes opioids sound terrible. You may hear the word “synthetic” used in this context. It means that a human being created it. Find a few examples of synthetic opioids below:


  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydrocodone
  • Oxycodone


How Do Opioids Impact The Brain?

We learned that our brains manufacture opioids. So, what happens if we consume an opioid? Our brain rewards us. It releases chemicals that make us feel good. Imagine the feeling when you spend time with a loved one. Or when you eat a good meal. Now, imagine that you could amplify that feeling. That represents a glimpse of what opioids can do in the brain.


Our brain becomes accustomed to this feeling. It views this heightened sense of pleasure as its new normal. Over time, the brain begins to require opioids. Without them, it will not function properly. We use the term dependence to describe this state. If a person dependent on opioids stops using them, withdrawal may result.


What About The Body?

We know that opioids help ease pain. They also slow down the brain’s processes. This can make our bodies feel heavy and sluggish. Opioids cause us to get sleepy. We might experience a sense of calm. Therein lies much of the problem with opioids. They slow things down too much.


Opioid overdose can lead to a condition known as ”hypoxia.” It happens when the brain doesn’t get enough oxygen. Opioids slow down the brain and the body. Therefore, they reduce our breathing. If we don’t breathe enough, our brains don’t get enough oxygen. This condition of hypoxia can prove fatal.


What Is Opioid Use Disorder?

Humans like to feel good. And opioids give us good feelings. We should not feel surprised by the fact that people become addicted to opioids. They make pain go away. They provide relief. And they do it well.


But, abusing opioids can lead to opioid use disorder (OUD). The CDC has published a wealth of literature on the exact definition of OUD. For your purpose, you need only keep one thing in mind. Someone struggling with OUD keeps using opioids. And they cannot quit. They keep consuming opioids despite the presence of negative consequences.


Do Treatments Exist For Opioid Use Disorder?

If you struggle with OUD, do not respond with fear. If you love someone with OUD, hold fast. One must not OUD as a life sentence. Harmony Treatment & Wellness knows that people can (and do) recover from OUD. So, inhale. Below, you will find some examples of treatments for OUD.



Treatment providers might treat OUD with a method called medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD). You could hear it called medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MOUD/MAT offers someone with OUD an opioid prescription to help them recovery. Treatment centers have used methadone for such purposes. More recent innovations in MOUD include buprenorphine and naltrexone.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Humans don’t inherently know how to think about our own thoughts. We just assume that we have thoughts. We (quite erroneously) believe we cannot change them. Enter cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT teaches people to evaluate their own thoughts. It helps them to question their thoughts. With CBT, we learn not to take our thoughts at face value. Particularly when used with MOUD, CBT has proven effective in treating opioid use disorder.


What If I Want More Information About Opioids And The Brain?

Thank you for reading this far. Help exists at Harmony Treatment & Wellness. If you’d like more information about how opioids effect the brain, reach out to us. We believe information empowers people. Contact us today to learn more.


Telehealth for Addiction

Benefits of Telehealth for Addiction

Telehealth is one form of treatment that has resulted in promising results in addiction recovery management. There are many benefits that can be reaped from the different forms of telehealth for addiction. In this article, learn more about telehealth and how it can benefit the addiction treatment industry from a Florida recovery center.

What is Telehealth for Addiction?

Telehealth is the practice of using telecommunication, such as phone calls and video conferencing software, to provide care services. By using the internet, patients can access a variety of services without having to travel anywhere. This can include possible treatment options for their addiction or mental health disorder.

Benefits of Telehealth for Addiction

The use of technology has allowed doctors to treat patients that are not available to make it to the office for a face-to-face appointment. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth became extremely useful because it allowed patients to remain isolated in their homes while still getting the care they needed. These are a few of the many benefits that telehealth has to offer patients dealing with addiction.

1. Quick Screening and Intervention

One of the more prominent benefits of telehealth is that it can be used to screen and help patients quickly. Patients can have an online assessment done, and the results are given quickly. This quick screening can then be followed up with a full treatment plan. Interventions can be done at any time or location that is best for the family.

2. Reduces Stigma

Studies have shown that the stigma associated with addiction has had some effect on whether people seek out treatment for it or not. Telehealth allows individuals to seek treatment in a less stigmatized environment, which can reduce the likelihood of them not seeking treatment.

3. Increased Accessibility

Telehealth has allowed for decreased costs for patients seeking treatment. With the expansion of telehealth treatment options, people can have a more accessible addiction recovery plan. This is especially beneficial to impoverished patients who may not have the financial means to afford an in-person care option or for those that cannot take time away from work or family commitments for a full-time, residential program.

4. Treatment from Anywhere

One of the most significant advantages of telehealth is that there is no need to be at a certain location in order to obtain treatment. Patients can become instantly connected with services that are thousands of miles away from them, allowing them to get help when they need it most. This is especially beneficial for those who have moved away or otherwise become geographically isolated.

5. Help Outside Office Hours

An age-old problem with addiction treatment is the inability to receive help at times when it is most needed. With telehealth, patients can have access to a doctor or therapist after hours in order to work through issues that are often present during those late evening hours. This is an especially beneficial option for those who have unsupportive families or live in unsafe environments.

6. No Travel Costs

One of the largest costs of receiving treatment is the amount of time and money patients must dedicate to travel for appointments or treatment centers. Telehealth has allowed patients to remain in the comfort of their homes, and with the assistance of telehealth providers, treatment can be accessed wherever they are. While many people travel out of state for residential care, telehealth is a great option for those that are not able to afford traveling.

7. It’s Less Expensive Overall

A general misconception is that all forms of treatment are expensive, which is not always the case. Telehealth can be used to provide patients with the care they need at a significantly lower cost than other treatment methods. This is great for those who may have a hard time affording even one in-person appointment, but can still benefit from the care available through telehealth.

8. Part of a Holistic Approach to Complement In-Person Treatment

Telehealth can be a part of an addiction recovery program. It does not have to be all in-person or all telehealth. This combination of treatment options allows for a more holistic approach to addiction recovery that can be tailored to the needs of the patient.

9. Beneficial to Aftercare Programs

Telehealth can be used to better facilitate aftercare programs. Patients can have an ongoing care plan with follow-up sessions that are monitored through a video conferencing program to provide ongoing care after treatment. Aftercare programs can make it easier for patients to maintain sobriety in the early stages of recovery.
As technology continues to develop, telehealth is expected to become more prevalent in the addiction recovery industry. As more people begin using telehealth and become aware of its usefulness, more clinics and treatment centers are likely to adopt these services in order to provide a greater range of options for their patients. As more people seek out treatment, there will be a greater need for these services.
Because of the nature of telehealth and the benefits it provides, it has created a new environment for addiction recovery. By using technology to connect patients with care options that are local and global, there is more access to treatment that much more convenient for individuals who need it most.
Telehealth for addiction can also help more people to access recovery from a Florida addiction and recovery center even if they live far away. If you have more questions about telehealth or about addiction recovery, contact Harmony Stuart to speak with one of our representatives today. We can help you to start the treatment process and to avoid the traps of early sobriety.

Prescription Pill Detox: What To Expect


Prescription Pill Detox

Prescription pill detox can be every bit as difficult as detoxing from street drugs. It also comes with many unique challenges. These include the mental and physical changes that go into any detoxification. Even if you weren’t a heavy user of prescription pills, your body and brain will still experience some discomfort. This can range from mild pains to serious suffering. Before you begin prescription pill detox, it’s important to know what to expect. When you know what is coming, you are able to prepare. This can make the process of quitting pills far easier and safer.

What is Prescription Pill Detox?

Detox, also known as detoxification, is the process by which toxins are removed from the body. This is the first step for anyone trying to quit using substances of any kind. Before someone can live without drugs, they must get their body back to a more natural state. This is necessary to end the cycle of dependency. The longer someone has used drugs, or the more they have used, the more difficult this process is. Detox is split into two types. These are:

Medical detox – Medical detox – AKA medically assisted detox or medically supervised detox – takes place in a clinical environment. This can be a hospital or other facility. During medical detox, medical professionals monitor the person. These people are able to help manage the symptoms of detox. Often, doctors will use medications to help make the detoxification process less uncomfortable. Anyone undergoing prescription pill detox should be in a medical facility in order to minimize the dangers that go along with pill use.

Social detox – Social detox takes many forms. If a person is quitting on their own, they are undertaking a “social” detox. Sometimes social detox takes place in a facility where the person is monitored. In this case, they are not given medical care unless an emergency arises. This can include a jail or state detox facility.

During detox, a person will go through withdrawal. Because withdrawal can have unpredictable symptoms, it is always safer to have medical care.

What is Withdrawal?

When a person uses a substance on a regular basis, their body becomes dependent on the substance. If the substance is removed, their body enters withdrawal. In withdrawal, the body and brain are craving the substance. This is because the person doesn’t feel “normal” without it. Anyone going through prescription pill detox is going to experience some level of withdrawal. Even if the person only used the pills as prescribed, they will still feel side-effects from quitting. Some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal are:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Aches and pains.
  • Shakiness.
  • Sweating.
  • Insomnia.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Tiredness.
  • Irritability.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Death.

These can last for a few days to several weeks. Prescription pills tend to flush out of the system faster than other drugs. This is because they are manufactured legally and regulated by the FDA. Narcotics made in illegal facilities have no regulation or oversight.

Those who have used painkillers, especially opioids, will usually feel the effects of withdrawal for a week or two. People who have used Benzodiazepines – such as Xanax, Klonopin, Ativan, or Valium – can feel the effects for several months. Withdrawal from other pills have an equally wide range.

How intense the withdrawal symptoms are, and how long they last depends on how much a person used. If you take pills in higher dosages, or have been taking them on a daily basis for months or years will have more symptoms. These will also be more severe.

Prescription pill detox can be fatal. This is especially true with Benzodiazepines and opioids. Anyone quitting these needs to consult with a doctor before stopping. If you are seeking detox centers in Florida, reach out to us for help. We provide full medical detox. We are also able to make withdrawal easier.

How to Prepare for Prescription Pill Detox

There are a few steps that are important for anyone trying to quit pills. The better you prepare to detox, the easier it will be to recover. Many people relapse during the detox period because the drug cravings are so intense. Often, they will self-medicate with other substances during the detox period. This can lead to a new addiction. To avoid these issues, here’s some steps to make your prescription pill detox easier:

  • Consult with a doctor before you quit.
  • Undergo an evaluation in order to determine the best detox program for you.
  • Take time for yourself to fully detox. This means taking a vacation from work, and maybe getting some space from your family.
  • Seek out a comfortable detox facility. Medically assisted detox is always the safest way to go.
  • Tell friends and family what you are trying to do. Their support will help.
  • Give yourself ample time to rest. You’re going to feel sick.
  • Provide yourself with healthy comfort foods. Nourishing your body during detox gives it the tools it needs to heal.
  • Be kind to yourself. This process is painful.

One of the major things to remember during detox is your body is going to feel unnatural. You’re probably going to feel like you’re crawling out of your skin. On a physical level, you are changing the chemistry that you’re used to. This means your emotions are also going to be in upheaval. Be ready for feelings to come up. These are likely to be negative and hurtful. That’s okay. By surrounding yourself with positive support, you can make this process easier.

Get Help for Your Detox

It cannot be restated enough that prescription pill detox is hard. Doing it alone only makes it worse. It also makes it far more dangerous. By finding a comfortable detox facility with proper medical care, you increase your chances for success. When you have the right tools, the job is far simpler. No matter where you are, it helps to find a detox facility nearby.

If you’re looking for a Florida detox, call us and let us set you on the best path. Our staff is trained to manage the problems with prescription pill detox. They are here to get you through this and start you in your recovery. Quitting doesn’t need to be agony, and it certainly isn’t worth losing your life. To ensure your safety, let us help you quit. We offer personalized care and can build a treatment program to fit anyone.

What is the Abstinence Model?

In recovery circles, you might hear the term “abstinence model.” The abstinence model implies that a person stops using any and all substances. Some treatment centers might require abstinence. Even prior to getting treatment. Some people might be able to swing that. But what about the rest of us?

In this article, you will learn:

  • How to define the abstinence model
  • Advantages of the abstinence model
  • Disadvantages of the abstinence model
  • Alternatives to the abstinence model
  • How to determine if the abstinence model is right for you

How To Define The Abstinence Model

Merriam-Webster defines abstinence as, “the practice of abstaining from something: the practice of not doing or having something that is wanted or enjoyable.” To abstain means, ”to choose not to do or have something: to refrain deliberately and often with an effort of self-denial from an action or practice.”

You decide to quit. You quit. You pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Dig your way out. You make a plan. You stick to the plan. You succeed. All you need is some willpower. Seems easy, right?

For some people, the abstinence model might work. Let’s explore a few advantages of the abstinence model.

Advantages Of The Abstinence Model

Perhaps you can muster the strength. Perhaps abstinence lies within your grasp. If you can abstain alone.

Let us explore a few advantages of the abstinence model. Advantages include:

  • Unrestricted personal autonomy
  • Maintenance of personal rhythms
  • Faster recovery journey

Unrestricted Personal Autonomy

Let’s face it. Most forms of treatment demand a lot. You have to surrender. Your time. Your schedule. Maybe even your money. Who wants to give all that?

The abstinence model has no restrictions. Or rather, it only places those restrictions which you set for yourself. You’ve decided that it’s time to quit. And so, you quit. You’re an adult. As such, you make your own choices about your life.

Maintenance Of Personal Rhythms 

Your life has a rhythm to it. Likely several rhythms. You have patterns and routines in place. And you’ve set them exactly as you want them. Treatment plans interrupt those rhythms. Providers ask you to put new rhythms in place. Rhythms that you must agree to in order to participate in recovery.

But adhering to the abstinence model lets you have the final say-so. You elect where and when your life’s obligations are.

Faster Recovery Journey

You don’t have weeks and months to spend trying to recover. You know best. If you can wake up tomorrow and quit, do it. Today was the last day. This time was the last. Tomorrow, you’re done. It’ll be a new day. Your recovery will see completion.

Disadvantages Of The Abstinence Model 

Like any recovery tool, the abstinence model has advantages. But it also comes with some distinct disadvantages. Disadvantages include:

  • High likelihood of relapse
  • The abstinence violation effect (AVE)
  • Not addressing root causes or underlying problems

High Likelihood Of Relapse

Success will vary from person to person. For some people, quitting cold turkey has potential. But relapse remains common. Even among those who seek treatment. In an abstinence-only model, you bear all responsibility. You provide all the resources. But perhaps we shouldn’t trust in willpower alone. Recent research suggests that willpower might not be all we thought. How willpower works seems to vary on our motivations for using it. Abstinence might make for a noble endgame goal. But the journey to abstinence involves more than one single decision.

The Abstinence Violation Effect (AVE)

Most recovery journeys don’t turn on a dime. Treatment providers expect those enrolled to struggle. If everyone could simply choose to quit, why would we need treatment centers? The abstinence violation effect occurs when a person attributes their relapse to a personal moral failure. Typically, shame and guilt result. In binge-eaters, AVE remained the most stable predictor of future relapse. In other words, people who felt the most responsible felt the worst. As a result, they tended to relapse faster.

Not Addressing Root Causes Or Underlying Problems

Substance use disorder (SUD) doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Granted, not everyone who uses drugs develops SUD. But often, SUD develops alongside a mental illness. Researchers refer to this as comorbidity. If you stop consuming a substance, you’ve done well. But abstinence isn’t the goal. In recovery, wholeness is the goal. Abstinence doesn’t make you whole. It doesn’t heal you by itself.

Alternatives To The Abstinence Model 

For most people, the strengths of the abstinence model also comprise inherent weaknesses. Treatment models demand a lot of you. They set their standards quite high. But you’ll find that abstinence sets impossibly high standards. Therefore, familiarize yourself with alternatives to the abstinence model. Alternatives include:

  • 12-step programs
  • Outpatient therapy
  • Harm reduction treatment

12-Step Programs 

If you choose abstinence, at least don’t abstain alone. Seek the support of 12-step programs. 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have been helping people for a long time. In these settings, you’ll at least have the company of others on a similar journey. Though AA and NA advocate for abstinence, they don’t require it.

Outpatient Therapy

Seek out a therapist or counselor. Make scheduled visits. If for nothing else, just to check-in. Even quarterly visits will help you continue your abstinence.

Harm Reduction Treatment

For many people, complete and total abstinence presents an impossibility. Harm reduction treatment works in degrees. Let’s say that last month, you consumed once a day. Every day. For thirty days. You enroll in harm reduction treatment. Thirty days after you begin treatment, you’ve only consumed twenty-five times. We call that progress. That’s how harm reduction treatment works.

How To Determine If The Abstinence Model Is Right For You 

Abstinence may indeed work for some people. The severity of dependence seems a strong predictor of future relapse. Harmony Treatment And Wellness supports evidence-based treatment models. We’re here to help you recover. We offer treatment plans customized to fit your unique situation. No single treatment model works the same for everyone. But recovery is possible and hope is real.

Call Harmony today at 772-247-6180 for more information!

How to Achieve Long Term Sobriety

happy man walking through the city

If you’ve achieved sobriety for even one day, take a moment. Moments can lead to long-term sobriety. Exercise gratitude. Feel thankful for your sobriety. For some, dealing with sobriety presents a completely new way of life.

Sobriety challenges us. It means setting boundaries. Telling ourselves “no.” Developing new habits and untangling old ones. It means taking time to evaluate the past. To learn what led us to our current place.

In this article, you’ll learn the following methods for how to achieve long-term sobriety:

● Finding a why
● Understanding the consequences of substance use
● Setting appropriate boundaries for yourself
● Investing in positive relationships
● Caring for the whole you

Finding A Why

In Twilight Of The Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “If a man knows the wherefore of his existence, then the manner of it can take care of itself.” Or, to paraphrase Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, we don’t ask life for meaning. Rather, life asks us to provide the meaning. Life presents us with circumstances – good, bad, and all points in between. In these circumstances lie opportunities. Opportunities for us to define what matters most.

Finding a why helps you understand what’s at stake in your recovery journey. Sobriety gives you clarity. Clarity to think and plan. To discern where you’ve come from. And to aim at where you’re going. Defining this meaning forms the bedrock of your long-term sobriety.

From that bedrock, you can cultivate concrete actions that will improve your life. A person doesn’t become sober simply because they like being sober. You need a reason. Sobriety is the means. Your reason is the end.

Understanding The Consequences Of Substance Use

Having established the why for your sobriety, you’ll have something to strive for. Something to protect. Something worth fighting for. Your reason for sobriety represents something you’re ready to stand in front of. To defend. One research study indicated that 46% of participants viewed escalating consequences of substance use as their main motivation for long-term sobriety.

Physical Consequences

Effects of long-term substance use manifest in the body. Even prescription medications can harm the body. As an example, consider benzodiazepines. Diazepam (Valium) works best in increments no longer than 4 weeks. Anything longer could result in dependence and/or benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome.

Long-term substance use can result in heart and lung problems. Opioids, when used for too long, can compromise your immune system. Prolonged use of cocaine puts consumers at higher risk for strokes and seizures. These kinds of physical consequences present a threat to your why. And as a result, they present a threat to your long-term sobriety.

Mental And Psychological Consequences

Drug use physically changes the structure of the brain. These changes occur as a result of neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to alter and adapt. Historically, this trait helped our ancestors survive in hostile environments. But long-term drug use does not equate with long-term survival.

Long-term drug use interferes with neurons in the brain. Over time, the brain begins to work much differently. Severe effects of some drugs, like opioids and benzodiazepines, include psychosis and hallucinations. Furthermore, mental illnesses also occur comorbidly with drug use. So, while drug use may not cause mental illness, it can certainly aggravate a pre-existing mental illness. And make it much worse.

Interpersonal Consequences

Long-term sobriety makes you more employable. Using drugs at work, or coming to work after using, can get you terminated. Furthermore, even those who have undergone treatment may face difficulties finding gainful employment.

Relationships with friends and family can suffer as well. Excessive alcohol consumption has adverse effects on marriage and parenting. Research demonstrates a very strong link between alcohol abuse and domestic violence. Look at long-term sobriety as a way to repair interpersonal relationships. Or even to form new ones.

Setting Appropriate Boundaries For Yourself

Sticking with long-term sobriety means setting boundaries. It means saying “no” to some things, and saying “yes” to others. As earlier established, you’ve found a why. So you’ll need to keep potential threats at bay.

In practice, this might mean that you recognize cues. Cues, or triggers, act as signals that cause you to crave something. Long-term sobriety gives to the space to become aware of these cues. Your cues might be specific places, people, or circumstances. Once you’re aware of them, you can put strategies in place for eliminating them from your life.

Investing In Positive Relationships

In recovery, you found social support among others. You entrenched yourself in relationships that encouraged your long-term sobriety. You weren’t dealing with sobriety alone. For long-term sobriety to last, you must form relationships that contribute to your new lifestyle.

Research indicates that positive relationships predict long-term sober living. Relationships require investments of time and emotional capital. As part of your recovery journey, you may need to rectify relationships with those closest to you. You can strengthen relationships you already have. You also have the power and agency to form new ones.

Caring For The Whole You

You have a body and a mind. You have a self. Some might call it a spirit or psyche. You must view yourself as someone who deserves care. And that care must encompass the whole you. Your long-term sobriety must involve measures that address all of you.

When taking care of your body, find a sustainable healthy diet. Recent research suggests that ketogenic diets help alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. But ketogenic diets might not be sustainable for everyone. Try different ways of eating and find one that works for your lifestyle. Apply the same metric to physical training. An exercise program like yoga helps reduce stress and depression.

Your mind needs care as well. One of the best ways to care for your mind is to give it rest. Protect your sleep. Set up safeguards so that you get adequate sleep nightly. Your long-term sobriety will thank you. Meditation has positive mental effects for sobriety as well.

Still, Have Questions About How To Achieve Long-Term Sobriety?

Don’t hesitate another second! If you’d like to know more about how to achieve long-term sobriety, call Harmony Treatment & Wellness now at 772-247-6180.

5 Reasons to Go to Rehab

woman sitting outside with a coffee thinking about going to rehab

Why Should I go to Rehab?

You’re fine, right? You’re doing just dandy. The world is your peach. You can quit anytime you want. You just don’t want to. Only alcoholics go to meetings. You only smoke, drink, snort, inject, whatever, to keep yourself calm. It’s the world that needs to sit itself down. Mellow itself out.

Have you got a lush, rich lifestyle? You’re rolling in more money than Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street? No doubt. Your business is at an all-time high. Your relationships thrive. Healthwise, you’ve never felt better. Other people are the problem. They need to leave well enough alone. Just get out of your way and let you do you.

Quick question, though.

How’s all that working out for you?

Thrown Into The World

You didn’t ask to be born when you were. Where you lived in the world. Who your family members were. Your genetics. As far back as you can remember, life’s just sort of…been this way. You just woke up here. And then it was all up to you. To figure life out all on your own. To describe these feelings, German philosopher Martin Heidegger coined the term “thrownness.” Here’s your life, with its predetermined set of circumstances over which you had no control. How do you orient yourself on this rock that meanders through space around a giant ball of fire? What are you here for? How do you decide what is important and what isn’t?

Contemplate? Or Self-Medicate?

It’s not like there are easy answers to these questions. How are you supposed to figure it out? Just thinking about it provokes a headache. To think about such things unsettles us. Dread, anxiety, anger. We don’t want to contemplate why we’re here. We don’t know our purpose. We cannot find meaning. So we wander through life, drifting about like ships without rudders. We feel nothing. We want nothing. We love nothing. No wonder we turn to substances for relief! At least they make these feelings go away for a little while!

What’s Rehab For?

Don’t repeat the refrain of the late Amy Winehouse. Consider rehab. You know your life has problems. You just don’t want to say it out loud. Because that will make it true. And you know what? It’s ok that you don’t want to say it out loud. Nobody wants to. But those who do say it out loud reap benefits. They can learn how to assemble their lives around a purpose. They can form deep interpersonal relationships. They can find a meaning and direction that offset the dread of “thrownness.” Still not convinced? No problem. Here are five reasons to consider rehab.

Rehab Is Cheaper Than Addiction

There’s no two ways about this. Addiction is expensive. Whether it’s cash, or some illicit form of bartering, the cost of addiction far outweighs the cost of rehab. To afford your substance of choice requires a job. Well now, that’s complicated. You need a job to make money. You need money to buy your substance. But if you consume your substance at work (or come to work after consuming it), then you get fired. Bit of a catch 22, isn’t it? On the other hand, most addiction recovery centers offer treatment options for people who don’t have jobs or insurance. And, at least in the beginning, rehab centers expect that you’ll show up after consuming your favorite substance! That’s kind of what you’re there for. They might be a little more willing to accommodate you than, say, your employer might.

Rehab Is Cleaner Than Addiction

Substance abuse treatment centers are medical facilities. As such, they value hygiene. The floors, the walls, the carpets, the furniture. Their staff clean and sanitize everything. Particularly since the COVID-19 epidemic, treatment centers have tightened up their tidying. But when you’re nurturing an addiction, you don’t know what you’re consuming. You don’t know what else is in your substance of choice. What it’s been mixed with. What tools or instruments were used in manufacturing it. Does the provider of your specific supplement wash his/her/their hands regularly? Do they sanitize their equipment? Has your product passed through industry standards?

Rehab Provides Order And Structure

Let’s face it. When you’re struggling with addiction, you don’t exactly keep regular hours. You might sleep thirty minutes a night. Or, you might sleep for two entire days. Maintaining that 9-to-5 likely isn’t in the program for you in this season. Same with food. You might eat three pounds of food at one meal. And then not eat again the rest of the week. You probably aren’t hydrating that well either. What about exercise? Substance use disorder doesn’t leave a ton of room for zumba or weight training. In treatment, you’ll learn how to regulate your biology. You’ll form habits around sleeping and waking. You’ll learn about nutrition. And you’ll be able to move and test your body in ways that preserve your health.

Rehab Is Less Fatal Than Addiction

From May 2019 until May 2020, the CDC recorded their highest number of drug overdose deaths. Over 81,000. That’s the highest number of deaths in a 12-month period. Ever. The CDC also estimates that about 95,000 people each year die as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Do you know how many people die because they go to rehab? Zero. True, not everyone who goes to rehab stays sober forever. Not everyone who goes to rehab survives their addiction. But the decision to continue a pattern of addiction always comes with the risk of death.

Rehab Can Help You Find Meaning

Remember that sensation of “thrownness?” That gnawing, aching, anxious feeling in your gut that just won’t go away? Feelings like that lie beneath addictions. Addictions don’t just happen. There are problems under the addiction that you must deal with. Broken relationships. Wounds to your psyche and emotions. Adverse childhood experiences. Mental illnesses. Enrolling in treatment assists you with probing deep into these problems. Not to help you become sober. But to help you heal. To become whole. Because wholeness is really what rehab is all about.

Changing the Way We Talk About Addiction

Changing the way we talk about addiction

Language And Thought

In 1946, George Orwell published an essay called Politics and the English Language. He wrote, “A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” How we write illustrates how we think. To honestly observe the words we use to show us how we form ideas.

The “foolish” thoughts we have are not limited to political matters. In the public forum, changing the way we talk about addiction should strive to eliminate slovenly language. Which, to Orwell’s point, encourages “foolish” thoughts. Much of the rhetoric about addiction contains either A) lazy, uninspired language or B) derogatory, weaponized language. Neither tactic presents a helpful, proactive solution.

Weak Words

Weak words are those used simply because they’ve been around for a long time. Nobody really knows why they’re here. Maybe they meant something at one point. But they’ve been used so many times that nobody really gives them a second thought. Most often, no one intends to insult or belittle a person with an SUD with words like these. For that reason, they may stigmatize addiction in a more sinister way than do weaponized words. Here’s just one example.

Much of the jargon around addiction uses divided language. Words that separate people into 2 groups. In and out, us and them. Any terms that maintain this divide must go. You’ll often hear contrasts between cleanliness and uncleanliness. “Clean” or “dirty” needles. “Clean” drug tests, or “peeing hot.” Even people with SUDs use this language with statements about how long they’ve been “clean.” Overuse of this language, without proper thought to what these terms really mean, further instantiates the division between those with SUDs and those without them. Remember, our words indicate how we think. So when people use these words, they tell the truth about what they think about addiction. People with SUDs are “dirty,” and people without SUDs are “clean.” Terms like these have been part and parcel of recovery jargon for a long time.

Weaponized Words

No one who struggles with a substance use disorder (SUD) feels like a winner. They don’t wake up in the morning overcome with joy. Many of them balk at the idea of waking up one more day. They don’t relish their lives. People with SUDs battle feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness on a regular basis. Loaded rhetoric intensifies these feelings. Let’s be honest: personal responsibility is an element of addiction. But it’s only one of many other elements. Weaponized words like “junkie” are, at best, unhelpful. At worst, they are destructive. If you’re angry at someone you love who struggles with SUD, that’s acceptable and understandable. It’s ok and normal to have those feelings. If you feel like lashing out at them and calling them names, that’s ok too. You deserve to be heard. But that doesn’t make it ok to do those things. By all means, express your hurt, your anger, or your grief to them. But before you speak, ask yourself a few things:

  1. Will what I’m about to say encourage someone to want to get better?
  2. If I struggled with a SUD, would I want someone to say this to me?
  3. What’s the purpose in what I’m about to say?

To properly express how you feel, phrase your sentences in a way that your loved one will receive. Try something like, “When ____________ happened, I felt ________,” or “when you chose to ________, I felt ________.” Own your feelings. Talk about them openly. But you must decide ahead of time to do so without insulting, labeling, and blaming.

Changing the Way We Talk About Addiction

The unexamined language we use about addiction reveals how we think about it. Our words also show us how we think about people with SUDs. When a culture marks those seeking treatment with dishonor or shame, the culture creates a stigma. Stigma needn’t be intentional to harm the self-worth of people with SUDs. Combating stigma requires a conscious effort to use new language about addiction. New words pave the way for new thoughts. One changed, sharpened mind helps shape the culture around it. That’s how stigmas spread, and that’s how they are stopped. Consider the above example about “clean” and “dirty.” Rather than “clean,” use “abstinent,” or “not actively using.” Where “dirty” might seem appropriate, say “actively using” instead.

Bear in mind that these words don’t exist to soften the reality of addiction. They provide neither excuses nor justifications. People with SUDs have wills. They make meaningful choices. Sometimes those meaningful choices lead them into patterns of suffering. Sometimes they need help to create new patterns. Therefore, language about addiction must be accurate. Language must put people with SUDs first before constructing words about them. Doing so preserves their identities and their wills. Person-first language deepens the meaning of addiction. It gives people with SUDs back the agency they need to change their lives. People with SUDs are just that – people. Giving them back their dignity – not to mention their ability to make meaningful decisions – empowers them. It allows them to assume responsibility for their actions without being crushed by the repercussions of those actions.

Weak words rob people with SUDs of agency and will. Implicitly, weak words treat people with SUDs as ill-fated people with no power. Weak language, while usually well-intended, defines a person by something they do. Or something they have done. Weaponized language punishes. It seeks retribution, leaving the person with SUD beneath its weight. Both types of language sabotage progress. Both for the person with SUD and for those treating them. For their loved ones as well.

People-first language restores hope. It gives those with SUDs hope because it treats them as though they have personhood. Changing language isn’t about easing feelings. It’s about changing meaning. For individuals first, then for the culture at large. Let’s start changing the way we talk about addiction today.

If you’d like more information on combating addiction stigma, contact Harmony Treatment and Wellness now at 772-247-6180.

How Enabling Can Make Addiction More Dangerous

mother holding her daughter and kissing her cheek

Parental Instincts

You love your children. You believe in them. They mean the world to you. You want the best for them. You want to do your best for them. You worked hard to provide for them. Put a roof over their head. Made sure they were fed. Gave them a place to sleep. You want for them to succeed; to have things life didn’t afford to you. You offered the wisdom you had. You taught them. You trained them. Your children are your single biggest investment. It’s reasonable to want a return on that investment, right? They ought to be able to turn their lives into something. Shouldn’t they?

Denial and Deflection

You might think nothing is wrong. You may justify your child’s addiction. Or try to minimize it. “Well,” you might say. “They’re still in school.” Or, “they can still hold down a job.” Remember: drug abuse doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Addiction has an array of contributing factors. And one of those is a person’s home life. If you discover that your child is using, even once, ask questions. You should want to know why.

What Is Enabling?

In our quest to help our children, we want to spare them consequences. We want to protect them from their mistakes. This protective desire is normal. And healthy in many cases. But it can have a disadvantage. No matter how well intended our actions, they can enable our children to keep using. Enabling behaviors encourage or inspire continued substance abuse in our loved ones.

It’s an unfortunate consequence. If we shield our children from consequences, we can rob them of the impetus to change. As a result, they will have no desire to seek treatment. If an addiction continues unabated, it can cause irreversible health problems. Up to, and including, death.

Step Out Of Denial

“My child is an addict.” A very hard thing to say out loud. Even harder to believe. But that’s the first step, which is often the most difficult. Before we can begin to genuinely help our kids, we have to admit their problems. Try it. Put these words together. My. Child. Is. An. Addict. You must square up to this reality. You must acknowledge it. Don’t wait for a tragedy, like a lost job or failing grades. Intervene now. It might arouse anger, mistrust, guilt, or frustration. But not addressing the addiction will make it worse for you. And worse for your child.

I Admit My Child Is Addicted. Now What?

Cultivate trust. Trust is the essential ingredient in getting your child help. To cultivate trust, practice active listening. Look them in the eye. Ask them open-ended questions about their experiences. Respond with your body, as well as your voice. Nod. Use verbal affirmations (“yes, “I see,” “uh-huh,” “go on,” etc.). If you don’t understand something they say, then tell them so. Feel free to ask clarifying questions. Don’t offer advice. Don’t make any statements until they finish speaking. Once they are done, repeat back to them how you understand what they said. Preface with something like, “So, what I hear you saying is…” or, “let me make sure I understand…” Even if you get it wrong, it’s the effort that cultivates trust.

If you, or someone you love, is struggling with addiction, don’t wait. Treatment is available. If you’d like more information, call Harmony Treatment and Wellness now at 772-247-6180.

What is Polysubstance Abuse?

man sitting on a chair holding a bottle of liquor

At the end of 2019, Jarad Anthony Higgins, known around the globe as rapper Juice Wrld, passed away. A coroner’s report released the following January attributed Juice Wrld’s cause of death to oxycodone and codeine toxicity. Juice Wrld died on December 8, seven days after his twenty-first birthday. Gustav Elijah Åhr, who performed under the name LiL PEEP, died November 15, 2017 due to a combination of fentanyl and Xanax. Like Juice Wrld, Åhr was mere days into his twenty-first year. His birthday was November 1.

Polysubstance Abuse is Surprisingly Common

Juice Wrld and LiL PEEP were young, forward-thinking artists and entrepreneurs. They were only teens when they launched their careers. We won’t ever know what else they might have produced. But their deaths are just symptoms of a much greater problem. Mixing two or more substances together to amplify the effects is called “polysubstance abuse.”

Alcohol is easy to get. It’s also highly addictive. For those reasons, it’s common for people to use their drug of choice while drinking. Generally, alcohol enhances the effects of whatever drugs are in your system. Depressants, when taken with alcohol, can make you dizzy, impair your ability to walk, concentrate, or remember correctly. Stimulants in conjunction with alcohol, keep you from telling how much you’ve had to drink. Consequently, it becomes very easy to drink too much. Drinking while using opiates can slow down the breath, which can lead to loss of consciousness and permanent brain damage.

The Dangers of Polysubstance Abuse

Aside from alcohol, another common practice is to combine benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” include alprazolam/Xanax, clonazepam/Klonopin, lorazepam/Ativan. Examples of opioids are oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl. Opioids are painkillers. And benzos are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. Both benzos and opioids are depressants for the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS controls speech, memory, mobility, perception, and judgment. But according to the FDA, the biggest risk factor in using opioids and benzos together is their effect on breathing. Opioids and benzos can sedate a person so much that their brain “forgets” to breathe.

In 2001, 9% of people prescribed an opioid were also prescribed benzos. That number rose to 17% in 2013, which represents an 80% increase. In 2019, 16% of all opioid overdose deaths also involved benzodiazepine. As a result, the CDC recommends that doctors not prescribe opioids and benzos together.

No Such Thing as ‘Safe Substance Abuse’

But what if you switch it up a bit? If drinking is a problem, surely using something else would be an improvement? Make no mistake: there’s no such thing as “safe” substance abuse. Avoiding your drug of choice by replacing it with another substance does you no good. Dependence is real. Depriving your body of a drug can cause withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from alcohol, benzos, and opioids often requires a medical detox, supervised by a doctor. Substituting one substance for another can complicate your withdrawal. Likewise, abusing a second substance can create dependence on that substance.

But there is hope. Like any addiction, polysubstance abuse can be treated. If you or someone you love is struggling with polysubstance abuse, or any other addiction, call Harmony Treatment & Wellness now at 772-247-6180.

What is a Sponsor in Recovery?

sponsor sponsee talking outside

Sponsorship is an integral part of any 12-step recovery program. Most people begin by simply attending meetings and for some, that may be all they ever do. It is important to understand however that going to meetings alone does not constitute “working a program”. In terms of the 12-step recovery programs, the work is in the steps themselves. And to work the steps, you need a sponsor.

What is a Sponsor?

Simply put, the role of a sponsor here is to take you through the 12 steps. A sponsor will provide guidance and may ask you to read certain sections of text or to do some writing or journaling along the way. The purpose is to help you gain a greater understanding of the meaning of each step as you take it. It is the sponsor’s responsibility to help you understand the steps and to encourage you to think, ask questions and engage the material. Doing step work is intended to introduce new ways of thinking and generate insights. A large part of it is about understanding your own behavior and thinking and learning how to change for the better. You should feel comfortable being honest with your sponsor, and you should feel you can trust them implicitly. Trust and honesty are essential for the sponsor-sponsee relationship to work.

What a Sponsor Isn’t

A sponsor is not a therapist or a marriage counselor. A sponsor is non-professional. They may give you advice, but their primary role should always be focused on the literature of the program you are in. Ideally, there should be a clear separation between what is simply their opinion and what is actually in the literature. An effective sponsor will more often try to lead you to find your own answers in the literature and program. An effective sponsor will ask you just as many questions as you ask them. Their role is as a guide through the material and in working your steps. They may share wisdom and insight they have picked up along the way, but a sponsor is not a guru or a saint. They are not infallible. A sponsor isn’t your “higher power”. You should not choose a friend or a buddy as a sponsor. You should not choose an employee of a treatment facility you attended. You should not choose your employer or superior at work. The primary relationship should be sponsee (you) and sponsor (them). Any other relationship dynamic can potentially complicate matters. Steer clear of people who do not exhibit humility and do not put the program, literature and higher power first. Avoid narcissists and blowhards.

How to Choose a Sponsor

In most cases, you will find your sponsor through the meetings and fellowship. A great place to start is simply by listening. Listen to people who speak at the meetings. Look for people who demonstrate the qualities you aspire to in yourself. That means spiritual and character qualities. Honesty. Integrity. Virtue. Humility. Not the guy or girl who drives the nicest car or has the most impressive career. A sponsor should have worked all 12 steps and should have a sponsor of their own. Time in recovery is relevant, but not as relevant as character and knowledge of the program. You are likely better off with a sponsor with 3 years who applies the principles of the program in their life and knows the material than a sponsor who has been going to meetings for 20 years but does not work a serious program. Take care in choosing a sponsor, but do not spend months without one trying to find the “perfect fit”. You have the right to choose another sponsor if the first one does not work out. Just keep your focus on the primary purpose of a sponsor. It is to introduce you to the program, take you through the 12 steps and inspire thought and insight. Choose a person who you believe is of good character and will do a good job of those things for you.

In Conclusion

The relationship between sponsor and sponsee is a sacred one. You must be able to tell your sponsor things in complete confidence. Your sponsor should be someone you respect and trust. Remember that your primary goal in a 12-step program should be to work all 12-steps to the best of your ability. Meetings are about fellowship and support. They are an important part of the program, but they are not the program itself. Get a sponsor. Work all 12-steps. That is what 12-step recovery is at its core.