Is Alcoholism a Disease or a Choice?

man pouring beer from a tap

Humanity’s relationship with alcohol is almost as old as civilization itself. Almost as soon as people discovered fermentation, it became apparent that some people could become dependent on alcohol. In 1784, physician and father of the American temperance movement, Benjamin Rush, identified an “uncontrollable and irresistible desire to consume alcohol” among certain people.(1) For most of human history, however, alcoholism was seen as a moral shortcoming or a lack of discipline. People suffering from alcoholism were said to be “unable to hold their liquor”. This misconception has stubbornly persisted into the present day, unfortunately. Why laypeople might view alcoholism this way is somewhat understandable. Most of us are still conditioned to think of disease only as an acquired infection like influenza or an illness like cancer. Others see the disease model as a “cop-out” or an attempt by the addict or alcoholic to shirk responsibility. Mental illness in general, is still widely misunderstood and unfortunately can carry a certain stigma.

Alcoholism is Classified as a Disease

Some may be surprised to know that the debate over whether to categorize alcoholism and addiction as a disease was largely settled in the medical and scientific community more than 60 years ago. In fact, the American Medical Association formally recognized alcoholism and addiction as a disease as early as 1956. (2) The AMA’s position was even cited in the U.S. Supreme Court case (Budd v. California, 385 U.S. 909 (1966) (3). Dr. William Silkworth of New York City’s Towns Hospital is widely recognized as the first clinician to study and endorse the disease model of alcoholism. His pioneering work in treating alcoholics and advising the founders of Alcoholic Anonymous was directly responsible for transforming the way the medical community viewed alcoholism.

As Alcoholics Anonymous grew as a new resource for people struggling with alcohol, clinicians and scientists began to study the phenomenon of alcoholism and addiction from a different point of view. In the past, most chronic relapse patients were seen as “lost causes”, destined to be institutionalized for what was left of their lives. Following the work of Dr. Silkworth and others, they recognized that medical treatment combined with social intervention and therapy was yielding more promising results than anyone had seen with traditional methods alone. Today alcohol dependence is understood as a disease and listed as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Treatment for Alcoholism is Still Evolving

Thanks to the revolution in gene research, we are beginning to unravel the genetic component which makes some people so much more susceptible to chronic alcohol abuse. Two genes related to alcohol metabolism, ADH1B and ALDH2 have shown the strongest correlation with the risk of alcoholism. (4) The greater scientific understanding of the roots of alcoholism paired with a more data-driven approach to treatment has brought a new era in addiction treatment to fruition. Perhaps more than ever, the medical and recovery communities are working as partners and the long-term efficacy of treatment for alcoholism is the focus. It’s widely accepted that recognizing alcoholism as a disease was the essential sea change that needed to occur for more effective treatment to begin to be developed.

(1) https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/35/1/10/142396
(2) https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/318639
(3) https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/court-listened-ama-defining-alcoholism-disease-not-crime
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056340/

How to Protect your Sobriety on the 4th of July

Celebrating 4th of July Sober

As one of America’s booziest holidays, the Independence Day can be a major trigger for people in recovery. How can I still enjoy the holiday without risking my sobriety? We asked some sober friends for their tips on navigating the 4th of July while in sober. 

1. Don’t Pressure Yourself to Do Something

This year may be a bit easier to sit out than usual. With COVID-19 case numbers spiking across the country, big parties and gatherings for the holiday are less common. But if someone you know is having a party, and you feel unsure, you can always skip it. Don’t pressure yourself.

Mike, founder of I Will Not Drink With You Today, says “Holidays come and go, there’s no reason you can’t sit this one out. If you feel like going somewhere may trigger you to drink, ask yourself: ‘Is it worth risking my sobriety?’ The answer is always no. Camp at home and watch how nothing is different afterward.” 

 

2. Prepare your Coping Skills and Bring Them With You

If you are going somewhere, be prepared. Think about ways in which you can cope with any triggers that may arise. Amanda Gist, mental health and addiction speaker, suggests “excusing yourself for a ten minute walk, doing some deep breathing in the bathroom, or applying lavender essential oil to your neck and wrists to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Another option would be to have a friend you can reach out to via text with the agreement that they’ll help you untangle the thoughts you’re struggling with in the moment of the trigger.” Keep a list on your phone of the various portable coping skills you can use if you find yourself in trouble. 

 

3. Prepare Yourself for Questions, and Have Answers at the Ready

When you’re sober, being offered a drink at a party can be uncomfortable. Do you tell them your life story? Do you clam up? Amanda suggests having a verbal response prepared, so you won’t be stumbling around for words. “Have a few reliable one-liners. You could use the simple, but effective ‘No thanks, I don’t drink.’ Or the grateful but stern, ‘I appreciate the offer, that’s so thoughtful of you but I’m not drinking.’ Or you can always offer an alternative by saying ‘I don’t drink alcohol but I’d love a lemonade if you have one!’”

 

4. Bring a Substitute

Speaking of alternatives, Megan Kioulafofski, owner of Sol and Spirit, has a remedy for the sometimes awkward feeling of not having something in your hand whilst mingling. She says bringing a safe, non-alcoholic drink helps to avoid the awkward “you’re not drinking?” comments and also helps her feel like she isn’t missing out on anything. “I love to mix Kombucha with soda water, it has a nice bite to it,” she says. 

If you are going the substitute route, try to make sure your non-alcoholic drink choice avoids triggers. 

 

5. Be Ready To Remove Yourself if Needed

Joanne Ketch, of Chrysalis Counseling says, “Have your ‘outs’ ready and be willing to use them. The out can be physically leaving but it can also be a smaller ‘out’ such as a text, phone call or video chat with someone who can talk you through what you’re experiencing.” Planning ahead will help protect your sobriety in the event that the situation no longer feels safe.

 

 

Ultimately, we hope you have sober fun this 4th of July, in a way that feels safe to you. Whether it’s spending time at home with a pack of sparklers and a close friend or getting out and going to a party, a bit of planning will keep your sobriety safe. Thinking things through and preparing for different scenarios will mean you aren’t caught off guard or putting yourself at risk. 

And if you find yourself struggling or in need of support, we’re always here for you. Call us anytime. 

What is the Vagus Nerve and How Could it Support Addiction Treatment?

Vagus Nerve Stimulation for Addiction Treatment

Vagus Nerve Stimulation is showing promise as an addiction and Substance Use Disorder treatment. While still in early stages of research, animal studies have found that Vagus Nerve Stimulation results in a reduction in drug-seeking behavior and cravings. 

What is the Vagus Nerve? 

The Vagus Nerve runs from the brainstem through the face and down to the colon, winding through various organs along the way. It is the longest and most complex of the 12 cranial nerves. 

The Vagus Nerve provides both sensory and motor functions for various parts of the body. Sensory information in the esophagus, larynx, lungs, heart and digestive tract come from the Vagus Nerve. It also affects various motor functions in the body. The Vagus Nerve stimulates muscles in the heart, where it lowers resting heart rate. It also stimulates muscles in the intestines to move food through the digestive tract. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation 

VNS has had FDA approval for treatment of epilepsy, depression, and chronic inflammation for years. Researchers are also exploring VNS as a treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. However, VNS has been trending in wellness circles lately due to its ability to pacify the Central Nervous System (CNS). When we stimulate the Vagus Nerve we can bring the nervous system out of the Sympathetic Mode (“Fight or Flight”) and into the Parasympathetic Mode (‘Rest and Digest”). 

Harvard Health says, “Stimulating the vagus nerve activates your relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure.” One of the reasons deep breathing is so effective at calming the body is because it stimulates the Vagus Nerve, albeit to a lesser degree than the electronic stimulation seen in research studies. 

Now, researchers are looking at the Vagus Nerve’s connection to brain plasticity as a way to reduce drug-seeking behaviors and cravings among people with Substance Use Disorder and addiction. 

Vagus Nerve Stimulation to Support Addiction Treatment

In a 2016 study at University of Texas at Dallas, rats were taught to press a lever to receive a hit of cocaine, became addicted, then were weaned off the drug. Later, when the lever and associated cues were re-introduced, the rats exhibited severe drug cravings and relapse into drug-seeking behaviors. 

However, rats that received VNS therapy engaged in these behaviors at a much lower rate. In fact, the VNS some rats pressed the lever as much as 50% less than their non-treatment counterparts. These results show that they were experiencing less cravings. VNS was found to alter plasticity in the brain to facilitate “extinction learning”. This refers to the gradual reduction of a conditioned response. In the case of the addicted rats, VNS was able to create new reward behaviors. 

After the study concluded, Dr. Sven Kroener, the study’s lead researcher, said “VNS treatment may reinforce abstinence, eventually weaning patients off the drug-related behavior and protecting them better from cravings.” 

Currently, a study is underway at an undisclosed university, wherein they are testing the effects of VNS on people with Alcohol Use Disorder. More studies are necessary to determine how best to implement VNS in addiction treatment but preliminary results are very promising. We will look forward to learning more about VNS as a treatment for Substance Use Disorder and addiction. 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5859128/

http://learnmem.cshlp.org/content/24/1/35.full.html

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170123162315.htm

https://grantome.com/grant/NIH/R21-DA043150-01A1

7 Don’ts for Discussing Someone’s Addiction With Them

How to not to Talk about Addiction with a loved one

All loved ones of addicts reach the point where they need to discuss the problem with the person directly. In doing so, you have a chance to convince them to get them the help they need. But you also run the risk of pushing them away and further isolating them in their addiction. Learning to talk to your loved one about their addiction in a way that feels safe is the best way to get them the help they need. 

Avoiding saying or doing these important “Don’ts” will help you create a safe space and help get the best possible result for your loved one. 

 

 

1. Don’t Berate, Belittle or Blame

 

Accusatory tactics like these will likely result in your loved one feeling defensive, angry, and even storming out. Addicts are in a fragile state and are quick to emotionally spiral, which typically drives them to use in order to soothe their pain. Avoid these three B’s to maintain a safe and constructive environment. 

 

 

2. Don’t Make It All About You

 

Your experience of their addiction is part of this, of course, but right now the goal is to get your loved one the help they need. Try to make sure you’re focusing on them. Have you noticed they seem unhappy? Do they look different than they used to? Is their health declining? Rather than focusing on how you’ve been treated, focus on them. Your relationship to their addiction can be discussed later, once they are safely in treatment.  

 

 

3. Don’t Attempt to Know What They are Feeling or Experiencing

 

It is best not to talk to your loved one as if you know what it is like to have an addiction (unless of course you actually do). Every addict’s struggle is unique. Instead of trying to assume what they are going through, ask them. Opening the dialogue creates a space for honesty, transparency, vulnerability and ultimately, change. 

 

 

4. Don’t Pass Judgement

 

In creating a safe and open space, you may learn things you didn’t expect. If they are telling you things that make you  feel inclined to judge their behavior. Don’t. Whatever you do, do not judge them. Support them, listen to them, offer to help. Know that addiction is a disease that takes people away from their true selves. Their addict behaviors are not indicative of them as a person. 

 

 

5. Don’t Raise Your Voice

 

This is a surefire way to create a heated argument, which is very unlikely to end in a positive outcome. Sometimes a person in active addiction will feel accused by any discussion of their substance abuse. Keep your voice level, even if your loved one does not. Do not engage with any outbursts, stay calm, and maintain the safe space. 

 

 

6. Don’t use this as an opportunity to air all your grievances 

 

You might be angry or hurt over things that have happened during their active addiction. It’s understandable and ok to feel these things, but now is not the time to raise them. For now, do not criticize, express anger, or bring up the past in a negative way. The only things you should be talking about are your concerns for their safety and wellbeing. Again: safe space. 

 

 

7. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Goal

 

Keep reminding yourself of the purpose of this conversation: To get your loved one into treatment. Before speaking ask yourself, will what I’m about to say bring us closer to this goal? If the answer is uncertain, don’t say it. 

 

We hope this helped you learn how not to talk to a loved one about their addiction. However, if you feel you need more help or would like guidance on how best to get your loved one in to treatment, our expert team at Harmony Recovery Group can help. Call us today. We’re here to support you.

Am I Enabling? The Difference Between Helping and Hurting 

Am I Enabling? Learning the difference between helping and hurting

When our loved ones are in trouble, all we want to do is help. It is one of our most beautiful human instincts but unfortunately when a loved one is in the throes of addiction, our well-intentioned help can really hurt. So, it’s important to ask ourselves, “Am I enabling?”

There is a fine line between offering support and enabling, and it is a difficult line to walk. Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, our help can inadvertently harm the addict by making it easier for them to continue using. On our end, we often feel guilt, hurt and betrayal because our help was used to fuel their addiction. 

Understanding what enabling is will ultimately support both you and the addict, as you will only be taking actions that push them towards treatment. However, be aware that this road can be a painful one. We cannot force anyone to change who does not want to change themselves. 

 

What is Enabling? 

Enabling is any action that makes it easier, more comfortable, or financially possible to continue an irresponsible, inappropriate or dangerous behavior. This can be unrelated to substance abuse or addiction, such as letting your child stay home from school because he didn’t finish his project in time. In this instance, you are not helping them, you are allowing them to shirk the consequences of their choices. This ultimately enables them to continue being irresponsible. 

When drug or alcohol addiction is involved, the matter becomes much more serious and can play out in a highly co-dependent manner. For example, a parent gives an addict money for groceries so they won’t “go hungry” but the addict spends the money to get their drug fix instead. The parent has not helped the child, just enabled them to fall deeper into addiction. 

 

Am I Enabling? 

Enabling can constitute more than financial support and occur in a myriad of ways. Ask yourself the questions below.

 

Do I make excuses for the addict’s behavior? 

“He’s just tired,” and “she’s just drinking because she had a bad day,” are examples of excuses we can make to ignore the deeper problem. But pretending the problem doesn’t exist, does not make it go away. Excusing behavior will only hurt both you and the addict in the long run. 

 

Have I ever lied to others in order to cover up their using? 

If you’ve ever found yourself covering for your addicted loved one, you are enabling. Maybe they have gone on a bender and you call their employer saying they are sick, or make an excuse as to why they didn’t make it to the friend’s birthday party. These are all actions which allow the addict to avoid consequences of their using and thus allow them to continue to do so. 

 

Am I afraid to express my feelings or concerns for fear they will react negatively (i.e. they may leave you or be angry with you)? 

Acting out of fear is the opposite of rational behavior. When we act out of fear, we sacrifice our own comfort and wellbeing in exchange for momentary peace and safety. 

The truth is, your fears can and may come true. The addict may leave, they may get into trouble, they could wind up in jail, or they could get angry when you address their addiction. But not addressing what is going just means that the addiction continues in the dark, where it thrives. 

 

Do I constantly blame others for the addict’s problems or addiction to avoid placing responsibility on them? 

Blaming addictive behaviors on outside factors such as a stressful job or drinking buddies who are a bad influence is ignoring the root of the problem. Thinking that if those factors weren’t in the picture, your loved one wouldn’t abuse substances is likely to be inaccurate. It also denies that the person may be in a full-blown addiction which is a disease not a choice. 

 

Am I putting the needs of the addict above the needs of myself or my family? 

Because addicts are typically unable to care for their own basic needs, they often rely on an enabler to help them. This is textbook Codependent Behavior. The enabler feels a personal responsibility to “help” the addict and the addict relies on the enabler to fix their problems so their addiction can continue. Things like bailing the addict out of jail, buying them food, or skipping other responsibilities to go pick them up are all signs of enabling. It also means you are putting their needs first. Can you really afford to pay their rent or is it causing your hardship? Either way, you are helping them use. 

 

Stopping the Cycle

 

 

1. Face your Fears

You may be afraid that without your help they could wind up homeless, hungry, or in jail. Accept that these are possible outcomes of their addiction. Typically addicts must become uncomfortable in order to accept they have a problem and seek treatment. Sometimes they need to hit rock bottom, but not always. Unfortunately you have to be willing to find out. 

 

2. Create Boundaries (and stick to them)

Learn to detach with love. Stop protecting them from the consequences of their actions, do not offer financial support, and do not bail them out of trouble. Keep a schedule and stick to it, for example, they are welcome to 6pm family dinner but only if they come on time. 

 

3. Seek Education and Support

Learn all you can about addiction. Go to Al-Anon meetings. Find a counsellor and take care of your mental health. This is a difficult journey. Understanding the roots of addiction and speaking to others who understand can help with feeling powerless, lonely, or scared. 

 

4. Talk to Your Loved One About Treatment

Wait until they are sober to have a conversation with them about their using. Be honest with them: talk what you see when they are high, tell them how their addiction has affected you and others. Then suggest they get treatment. Be prepared for them to respond negatively or decline, we cannot make someone change until they are ready. 

 

Lastly, contact a professional if you need help or advice. At Harmony Recovery Group, we are here for you.

Reach out to us anytime. 

LGBTQ Month: Methamphetamine Use in the Gay Community

Meth Use in the Gay Community

 

Crystal Meth use in the gay community has been a concern since the 1990’s but in recent years, use has skyrocketed. Meth is a stimulant which makes users feel euphoric, energized, and invincible. Because of these feelings the meth’s popularity has grown significantly in the club and circuit scenes as a party drug. 

A recent study found that gay men are four times more likely to try meth than straight men. What’s troubling is that meth is so addictive that users often get hooked on their very first try. 

The euphoric state helps users escape negative feelings around the social stigmas and internalized homophobia which can affect many in the gay community. Furthermore, meth’s effect on self-esteem, lowered inhibitions, and increased sexual drive, endurance and pleasure all feed into a growth in use in the pick-up scene. 

 

Meth Dangers

Methamphetamine use is associated with a myriad of health concerns, both short and long-term. 

Acute Health Concerns
  • Erratic, dangerous, sometimes violent behaviors
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Psychosis
  • Hallucinations
  • Impotence
  • Convulsions or seizures when used in high doses which can lead to overdose and death
Long-Term Effects of Meth Use 
  • Increased heart disease risk at a young age 
  • Higher risk of contracting HIV, STDs, Hepatitis, and MRSA
  • Permanent blood vessel damage in the brain
  • Higher risk for developing neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Epilepsy
  • Liver, kidney, and lung damage
  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Malnutrition
  • Severe tooth decay and/or loss, also known as “Meth mouth”
  • Premature skin ageing

 

Combining Meth with Other Drugs

The gay community is considered to be the largest consumer of “party” drugs. While crystal meth is known to be the most popular but it is often combined with other drugs (polydrug use) such as Ketamine, Poppers, and Ecstasy when in a party environment. Each of these drugs on their own carry health and safety concerns but any combination creates additional risks. For instance, speedballing, mixing sedatives with uppers like meth, can wreak havoc on the body’s systems. Polydrug use is associated with numerous health concerns and consequently it is a common cause of emergency room visits, carries high risk of overdoses, and greatly increases heart attack risk. 

 

Meth & STDs among MSM

Meth use in the gay community is increasing STD risks in the party scene. Among men who have sex with men (MSM), apps like Grindr and Tinder are increasing the prevalence of anonymous sex parties, in which crystal meth use is commonplace. Because meth lowers sexual inhibitions and impairs judgement, users are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors such as unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners. Both of these behaviors increase the risk of contracting STDs and HIV. In fact, studies have found a strong association between methamphetamine use and HIV infection. Another study found that methamphetamine users had two times as many partners in the prior four weeks, were 1.7 more likely to have gonorrhea, twice as likely to have Chlamydia, and five times as likely to have syphilis then the general population. 

Further risk for disease comes when methamphetamine is injected using shared needles which increases the risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis and MRSA. 

 

Getting Help 

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug. Therefore, detoxing in a clinical treatment environment can help immensely with commitment, withdrawals, and support. Treating addiction as a medical condition offers the best chance for long-term recovery and a healthy sober life. 

However you identify, if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, help is available. Call us today to find out how we can support you through this difficult time. We’re here to listen. 

 

Sources

Colfax G. Crystal meth and the epidemic of HIV/STD among MSM in the United States. Panel session 10.

Jones TS. Methamphetamine use and infectious diseases. Panel session 10.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070827101123.htm

https://www.jwatch.org/ac200704130000004/2007/04/13/drugs-sex-and-hiv-infection-among-msm

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3375784/

https://www.jwatch.org/ac200712030000001/2007/12/03/crystal-meth-and-hiv-aids-perfect-storm

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000328084630.htm

https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/08/21/meth-and-heart-disease-a-deadly-crisis-we-dont-fully-fathom-report-says

How Prescription Painkillers Can Lead to Heroin Addiction

How Painkillers Can Lead to heroin

Painkillers such as Codeine, Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and Morphine are all narcotics from the same family of drugs as Heroin. Opiates are derived from Opium derived from Poppies while Opioids are synthetically made versions that mimic Opiates. Because of this connection, painkillers can often lead to heroin. 

This class of drugs act as depressants, relieving pain by binding to receptors in the Brain and Central Nervous System. They work by mimicking the effects of pain-relieving chemicals that are produced naturally in the body, but to a much higher degree. When opiates bind to opiate receptors in the body, they block the perception of pain. 

While excellent for short-term pain mitigation and management, opiates create both tolerance and dependence in the longer-term. Not only does a patient need higher and higher doses to get the same effect as before, but they also become addicted and dependent on the medication to function normally. It takes less than a month to develop a dependence on opiates, after which a person will experience withdrawal without it. 

Furthermore, Opiates are also known for producing feelings of euphoria, which then leads to recreational abuse. 

 

The Opioid Crisis

Most people know that Opiate and Heroin use, abuse and overdose has increased over the years. The Opioid Crisis regularly makes national headlines. In response to the Opioid Crisis, regulators cracked down on production and prescriptions of opiates. They demanded that manufacturers decrease production by 25% and made it harder for doctors to prescribe them for pain. On the surface, this makes sense. Reduce the amount of people getting opiates and you will reduce the amount of people addicted to opiates. However, this did not answer the problem of people experiencing chronic pain nor those are already hooked on prescription opiates. 

 

Turning to the Streets

Imagine you are a person with a chronic back injury and your doctor has been prescribing Oxycontin to help manage your symptoms for months. As we know, it takes less than a month to develop dependency, so you are fully addicted to your Oxycontin prescription. Now, due to regulations, your doctor can no longer prescribe your dose. Your pain has not subsided, nor has your addiction to opiates. Thus, you head to the streets. Unfortunately on the streets the price of prescription opiates, which was already high, has now spiked significantly. The street price of Oxycontin is $1 per milligram. If you have someone who takes 80mg per day, suddenly they find themselves with an $80/day habit. In order to get your fix, your painkillers can lead to heroin, a much cheaper option. 75% of all people with an opioid addiction end up switching to heroin as a cheaper source of opioids. 

 

Statistics on Use and Abuse 

Opiate use, and substance abuse in general, is on the rise all over the world, not only in the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that: 

  • In 2017, opiate painkillers were prescribed more than 190 times
  • Roughly 21 to 29% of patients prescribed opiates for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 26 and 36 million people worldwide abuse opiates
  • Over two million people in the U.S. suffer from substance abuse problems related to opiate painkillers
  • In 2010, the overuse of opiate painkillers resulted in nearly 17,000 deaths in the U.S.
  • About 80% of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
  • Overdoses from opioids increased 30% from July 2016 to September 2017 in 45 states.
  • The Midwest saw the highest increases overall, with overdoses increasing by 70% from July 2016 to September 2017.

 

Signs of an Opiate or Heroin Overdose

Early treatment can save a life. If you or someone else experiences these signs or symptoms after consuming Codeine or any other opiate, call 911 immediately: 

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsive to outside stimuli
  • Awake but unable to talk
  • Body goes limp
  • Light skinned people: skin turns blue or purplish
  • Dark skinned people; skin turns grayish or ashen
  • Fingernails or lips turn blue or purple
  • Vomiting
  • Sounds of choking or gurgling in the throat
  • Pale and clammy face
  • Slow, weak or non-existent pulse

People who survive overdoses do so because someone was there to respond. It is rare that someone dies immediately from an overdose, getting them help can save their life and prevent permanent damage. The longer you wait, the more damage can occur. It is vital to act quickly. 

 

Getting Help 

We hope this article has helped you better understand how prescription painkillers can lead to Heroin. If you or a loved one are struggling with Opiate or Heroin addiction, please reach out. 

Call us today and find out how we can help. 

 

Sources

https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/heroin.html

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/relationship-between-prescription-drug-heroin-abuse/prescription-opioid-use-risk-factor-heroin-use

Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder: What You Should Know

Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder

Schizophrenia is a very serious mental disorder which can be devastating to those affected and their families. It is thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and is estimated to affect between 0.5% and 1% of the population. Because of its debilitating effects, Schizophrenia often goes hand-in-hand with Substance Abuse Disorder. 

Movies and TV shows have created a lot of misconceptions when it comes to Schizophrenia which we’d like to clear up. People with Schizophrenia do not all live in mental hospitals. Not all of them are homeless and they do not have multiple personalities. 

Treatment is possible and typically includes medication and psychiatric support on a long-term and often lifelong basis. However, it is important to note that because Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder are very closely linked, addiction treatment is often needed to improve outcomes.  

 

Signs and Symptoms of Schizophrenia

  • Seeing, smelling, or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • The “flat effect” wherein the patient loses the ability to feel emotions
  • Trouble with logical thinking
  • Disordered thoughts and speech
  • Problems with attention, concentration and/or memory
  • Self isolation and social withdrawal 
  • Loss of personal hygiene 
  • Unexplained fears of basic things like eating or drinking

 

Four Subtypes of Schizophrenia

There are four types of Schizophrenia which bear the name of their dominant symptom. They are follows:  

 

Paranoid Schizophrenia

People with Paranoid Schizophrenia are consumed by the idea that they are being persecuted, threatened, or controlled by people or even inhuman forces. As a result of this paranoia, Paranoid Schizophrenics are usually socially isolated and can act with hostility, irritability and be perpetually afraid of others. They may often hear voices telling them to harm themselves or others. Hallucinations and delusions are very prominent in this type of Schizophrenia. 

 

Disorganized Schizophrenia

Disorganized Schizophrenics often exhibit bizarre behaviors, incoherent speech, chaotic thought patterns, and unusual emotional reactions. As a result, they tend to have trouble holding a job, taking care of themselves, and interacting with others. 

 

Residual Schizophrenia

Residual Schizophrenia is when someone has been affected by the disorder in the past but is no longer exhibiting obvious symptoms. For example, a patient may not experience the more debilitating aspects of the disorder such as hallucinations or paranoia, but are still affected by some of the less severe symptoms.

 

Undifferentiated Schizophrenia 

This form of Schizophrenia typically defies categorization, as symptoms don’t fit specifically into one of the other subtypes. They might have a milder experience than is clear for diagnosis, or only show some of the symptoms for diagnosis.

 

Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse

Therapists often consider substance abuse to be a side effect of Schizophrenia. Studies have shown substance abuse rates among people with Schizophrenia is 50% higher than that of the general population. 

For example, the use of alcohol is common among people with Schizophrenia. Because alcohol dampens neurotransmitter activity in the brain, it slows things down. For people with Schizophrenia, this slowing can temporarily quiet the noise of a brain that runs on high speed all day long. 

Unfortunately, abusing a substance like alcohol doesn’t actually help treat the problem. Instead, it can actually exacerbate some symptoms. For example, alcohol can make hallucinations more pronounced. Furthermore, the lowering of inhibition from alcohol use also makes the erratic behaviors associated with Schizophrenia much harder to control. 

Proper treatment of both Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder together can help patients have the best chance at long term recovery and a normal life. 

 

Treatment for Addiction and Schizophrenia 

Medication in combination with Psychological therapy is an important aspect of Schizophrenia treatment. While it cannot cure the disorder, medication can help mitigate symptoms so that patients can lead normal lives. Furthermore, therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Family Systems Therapy, and Trauma Therapies can be very helpful in working through the emotional and psychological trauma caused Schizophrenia. 

If you or a loved one are suffering with Co-occurring Disorders like Schizophrenia and Substance Abuse Disorder, contact us today. We are here to help. 

 

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2669586/

Rebuilding Foster Care Families in the Aftermath of Addiction

Foster Care and Addiction

It’s no secret that addiction tears families apart, this is especially true in the case of foster care. Studies have shown one in three children in the program were admitted due to parental substance abuse. But what happens when parents are in recovery and their children are able to come home. How do you heal the trauma that tore the family apart? 

 

Communicate 

Talk about what has happened, apologize, listen to their feelings. Depending on their age, this may be the time to have an open discussion with them and communicate honestly. Make sure they know that their feelings are valid, that you hear them, and of course, that you love them. 

 

Create a “New Normal” 

Children and families thrive on consistency. Try to create routines in your everyday life, maybe every night you have dinner at 6pm together. Or every morning you listen to the radio. Small things can make a difference in creating a feeling of consistency. Consider creating new traditions. Maybe every Saturday morning you take a walk together as a family or every Sunday you make pancakes. Making traditions make ordinary days feel special and make memories that last. 

 

Be Patient and Don’t Play the Guilt Game

Just because you’re in a different place now doesn’t mean you can expect things to change overnight. You may feel closed out or be frustrated by how your relationship building is going, but remember to be patient. This process takes time, particularly with older children. Don’t guilt them for holding a grudge or not responding the way you want them to. With time and consistency you can rebuild, but don’t put your expectations onto them. 

 

Keep Showing Up

It might be hard to face the circumstances, and new requirements such as supervised visitation however no matter what, continue to be there for them. It might take weeks, months, or even years for them to recover, feel safe, and accept the “new normal.” Regardless of how distant they may be, even when they act out or misbehave, stay with them. They need you and are likely testing your limits to see if you are here to stay. Be truly there for them. Show up, every day, in whatever way you can. 

 

Every scenario looks different. The ultimate goal is to heal, and let go of resentments and the shame. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and their children have been placed in foster care our case managers might be able to help. Contact us below or click here.

Telehealth: Addiction and Mental Health Conditions

Telehealth visit for addiction and mental health conditions therapy

Telehealth & Addiction Treatment: 

At Harmony Recovery Group, our practitioners have implemented telehealth services in all levels of care for addiction and mental health conditions. We offer this to patients who are unable to travel to our facility for treatment. We use telemedicine for individual therapy sessions, group therapy sessions and psychiatric care management for mental health conditions and substance use disorder. 

In this time of Coronavirus, telehealth is especially helpful. This service means patients suffering from addiction and mental health conditions can still receive treatment. They are able to attend group sessions, and receive the support they need without the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

What is Telehealth? 

Telehealth is a healthcare service available through a virtual platform. Visits occur on a device such as a phone, tablet or computer.

Telehealth also referred to as Telemedicine or Teletherapy,  has reduced the barriers to receiving care. Often used for those who are unable to travel for treatment. Patients can receive quick, on-demand counseling for medical conditions that do not require an in-person assessment or in mental health support like therapy. 

Is Telehealth Right For Me? 

Telehealth offers quick, on demand support when you need it most. Telemedicine is for a patient that would benefit from care that does not require travel or time off. However, for some it can feel impersonal compared to an in-person mental health experience. It is always down to the individual.

At Harmony Treatment and Wellness and all other Harmony Recovery Group centers, we aim to support any and all patient needs. Telehealth is just another way we aim to provide the best possible recovery care. 

Privacy and Telehealth:

The concerns with privacy risks involve a lack of control over the collection, use, and sharing of data. According to Hall and McGraw, “The primary security risk is that of unauthorized access to data during collection, transmission, or storage.”  Which is why the software used to conduct telehealth visits is HIPPA compliant and has special end-to-end encryption.

“Currently, the Health Insurance Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) contains the primary set of regulations that guide the privacy and security of health information. HIPAA requires that identifiable health information be encrypted so that only those authorized to read it can do so.”

Thinking about telehealth for yourself or a loved one facing addiction and mental health conditions? Give us a call with any questions.