What Does Evidence Based Treatment Mean?

male doctor holding a patient's treatment plan

You may have noticed some treatment centers describing their programs as ‘evidence-based treatment’. Your next thought may have been ‘what does evidence-based treatment mean exactly?

Evidence-based treatment is not limited only to the drug and alcohol rehabilitation sphere, but we will focus there. To understand how drug and alcohol treatment became what it is today, it’s helpful to know where it has been. Prior to the 1970s and 80s, drug and alcohol treatment occurred primarily in hospitals, psychiatric facilities and some dedicated rehab centers. The best most hospitals could do was to medically detox a patient safely and perhaps bring in a few Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Many people managed to get sober this way, however, the treatment providers themselves weren’t necessarily vetting every therapy for effectiveness.

By the 1960s and 70s, it was widely understood that the 12-step fellowships did help a great number of people when it seemed nothing else could. Hospitals, psychiatric facilities and rehabs relied on the fellowships to help patients remain on the road to recovery following treatment. In fact, 12-step programs are recommended to this day and they do help. However, what was largely missing in the treatment of addiction was a standardized approach to choosing treatment methods. Ideally this would mean using methods proven by peer-reviewed research. Furthermore, internal research, as to which therapies were working best for which patients and which were failing them was rarely done. The grim recidivism (relapse) rate was well known, but there were few concentrated efforts to determine what worked best and for whom. Without that critical information and a standards-based approach for therapies, the new substance abuse treatment facilities that began to appear in the 1980s were left to their own devices. Many had “alumni departments” that did some limited follow up, but almost no one was tracking the results of specific treatment methodologies. As a result, treatment for drug and alcohol abuse did not change dramatically during the latter half of the 20th century. New medications appeared and new forms of therapy, but there wasn’t a great deal of science or technology being brought to bear on the problem.

Several changes in the addiction medicine paradigm and the world around it came together to inspire adoption of the evidence-based approach. So, what does an evidence-based model look like?

A rehab that follows an evidence-based treatment model utilizes methods that have the following qualities:

  • The method has undergone study and research by reputable organizations.
  • The method has been proven effective and this is documented in peer-reviewed research.
  • The method can be repeated faithfully. There are guidelines that clearly define it.
  • The rehab rejects treatment methods that are not proven or may even harm the patient.

In essence, evidence-based treatment means using techniques that have been scientifically studied, are proven effective, and are standardized. (1) Examples of evidence-based methods include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing (EMDR). It may surprise you to know that attending Alcoholics Anonymous is also considered a part of evidence-based treatment. While AA itself conducts no research into its members, numerous studies have shown the 12-step method and meeting attendance is effective. (2)(3).

The adoption of evidence-based treatment is improving the outcomes for addiction care patients. This approach is also contributing to the evolution of care as more facilities conduct their own internal studies. The National Institutes of Health received substantial increases in funding to facilitate substance abuse research. Studies from the National Institute of Drug Abuse and others have helped bolster certain methods and discredit others. Most importantly though, the quality of treatment is better than ever before thanks to the embrace of scientific validation.

 

Sources
(1) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/evidence-based-approaches-to-drug-addiction-treatment/behavioral-therapies

(2) https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2020/03/alcoholics-anonymous-most-effective-path-to-alcohol-abstinence.html

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2746426/

Can Heroin Withdrawal be Fatal?

heroin needle, spoon, and pill bottles on a table

Any person who has been addicted to opioids for a while is well-acquainted with the fear of withdrawal symptoms. Nearly everyone knows that heroin use is inherently dangerous. The specter of overdose and withdrawal are constant companions. Many are aware that withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines can result in deadly seizures. What is not as clear is whether or not heroin withdrawal can be fatal. The answer is a bit complex, but it is safe to say that overdose presents the greatest risk of fatality for any heroin user.

Heroin withdrawal symptoms can include cold chills, muscle spasms, vomiting, and diarrhea. While these symptoms typically are not fatal a great deal depends on the person and the circumstances. Someone caught in the throes of heroin addiction generally is not taking good care of their health. This puts them at greater risk for any number of complications. Vomiting and diarrhea are both ways the body tries to rid itself of toxins. However, the side-effects of those symptoms include severe dehydration and higher blood sodium (hypernatraemia). Those conditions can lead to cardiac arrest and heart failure. (1) While deaths from heroin withdrawal are uncommon, they aren’t unheard of. Withdrawal puts extraordinary stress on the body. Combined with poor nutrition, personal hygiene and a lack of self-care makes it worse. Add just one more element like a congenital heart condition or a propensity for seizures and it is quite possible that heroin withdrawal can be fatal.

Another risk associated with withdrawal comes from the psychological effects. The physical agony is not the only potentially dangerous symptom of heroin withdrawal. Anxiety, depression, and anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure) can be intense during and following heroin withdrawal. Combined with the physical discomfort it can be too much to bear for some, making it a risk factor for suicide.

There is reason to be hopeful, however. The opioid use epidemic in the U.S. has led to innovations in treatment and an increase in accessibility of care. Tens of thousands of people recover from opioid addiction every year in this country. Regardless of how awful your story may be, there are people out there who will genuinely understand and are willing to help. Turning the corner from heroin addiction starts with the addict themselves though. It takes willingness and courage in equal measure to admit you have met your match and you no longer want to live that way.

A range of options awaits anyone who is ready to give up the fight and get off of heroin for good. The ideal for most people is to start with an inpatient medical detox. This is generally the safest and most comfortable way to begin. After detox, it’s best to attend a residential program for at least 30 days if possible and follow that up with a stint in a sober living of 6 months to a year. The ideal protocol may not fit everyone’s life or means, however, and there are choices to be made. Outpatient detoxes and Medication Assisted Treatment have grown in popularity recently and make recovering from heroin addiction within reach for even more people.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with heroin addiction, pick up the phone and give us a call. We are happy to provide information about treatment options or just advice on how to proceed.


Sources
(1) https://ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au/blog/yes-people-can-die-opiate-withdrawal

How is Heroin Addiction Treated?

man outside searching on his phone for how heroin addiction is treated

The Heroin Epidemic

It’s no secret that heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions in the United States over the last couple of decades. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found heroin overdose deaths increased by almost 50% since 2010. (1) There were 14,996 OD deaths from heroin in 2018 alone. That’s not including OD deaths attributed to fentanyl, which have skyrocketed to over 30,000 since 2014 alone. The positive side to these grim statistics may be that more people are going to treatment for heroin addiction than ever before. Demand for effective heroin addiction treatment has also driven innovation in care.

The Front Line Assault

The initial approach to anyone entering treatment for heroin addiction is medical stabilization. Anyone who has endured opiate withdrawal knows the terrible physical and mental discomfort it entails. Job number one is getting a patient stable and as comfortable as possible. This is ideally accomplished in an inpatient detox setting. Opiate detox protocols have become increasingly targeted and effective in recent years. Someone who detoxed years ago may well have an obsolete idea of what the process is like in the present day. A new class of medications is being deployed in an evidence-based model that delivers results. Buprenorphine (Subutex®) is part of most detox protocols, but only a part. Long-acting medications like IV Vivitrol may be used. Clonidine is a blood pressure medication that has been found to reduce adrenaline. By subduing the body’s “fight or flight” response, a patient can be made calm and more comfortable. Lofexidine is another non-narcotic medication that has proven effective at relieving heroin withdrawal symptoms. Certain antidepressants including Fluoxetine (Prozac) and Venlafaxine (Effexor) can also produce positive results. In some cases, anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) medications may be used. (2)

Supporting Early Recovery

After the initial week or so of heroin detox, most patients are ready to phase out of the medical detoxification portion of treatment. Research has shown dramatically better long-term outcomes for patients who remain engaged in treatment beyond the detox phase. (3) The options here vary from a longer inpatient stay to Partial Hospitalization (PHP, Intensive Outpatient (IOP), or a combination of these. An old adage in the treatment field says that there is no such thing as too much help for a problem, there is only ‘not enough’ and the research supports this idea. Heroin addiction is about more than chemical dependence. It is a complex ailment that involves the mind as much, or more than, the body. In order to have a fighting chance at recovery, a heroin addict must learn entirely new behaviors. These must become ingrained as habits they can sustain for a lifetime. Modern medicine has made total recovery more accessible than ever before. But there is no ‘easier, softer way’ that doesn’t involve dedicating oneself to a lifetime of recovery.

Holistic Recovery for Heroin Addiction

The term holistic is often misunderstood. This may be especially true as it relates to recovery. Simply put, holistic means treating the entire person, rather than just the symptoms. The detox phase of treatment is about relieving symptoms and allowing the body to rest. Little else can happen until a person is well enough to engage in therapy and activity. Effective heroin addiction treatment is a transformative experience. The detox phase is only the beginning. Assessments and accurate diagnosis of any co-occurring disorders usually follow. Then the real work begins. Individual and group therapy. Reading. Working on yourself becomes your primary purpose. Overcoming heroin addiction for a lifetime is a process. Luckily, many have followed the path before and they know the way.

The results any person gets from addiction treatment are proportional to the degree of dedication they apply. Change isn’t easy, but you don’t have to go it alone. Call us at Recovery By The Sea to discuss your options for care. A new way of living is just a phone call away.

(1) https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014033/
(3) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

What Alcoholism Does to Relationships

man and woman sitting on a bench arguing

Let’s get straight to the point here– alcohol use disorder is a disease that eventually has a negative impact on every life it happens to touch. In other words, it’s virtually impossible for an active alcoholic to maintain healthy and mutually beneficial relationships. It’s an unfortunate fact, yes, but one that every addict has to confront if they are to have a chance at true recovery.

In this post, we’ll examine some of the most common difficulties that alcoholics and other addicts face in their romantic and family relationships.

The Effect of Alcoholism on Romantic Relationships

The effect that alcoholism has on any type of intimacy is almost always destructive to both parties. No matter how much two people might love one another, an active alcoholic (often with a great deal of help from their well-meaning partner) is often so cruel, absent, erratic, and unhappy that the relationship ends in disaster.

Here are just a few examples of what alcoholism does to romantic relationships:

  • The erratic behavior of the heavy drinker leads to feelings of anxiety and fear
  • Deep feelings of mistrust can arise because of the alcoholic’s unreliability
  • A preoccupation with alcohol and self can lead to systematic neglect of the drinker’s partners
  • Social embarrassment, job loss, and obviously low self-esteem can lead to a loss of respect
  • Personality changes can destroy the shared values that make a relationship stable
  • Alcoholism can also result in mental, physical, and verbal abuse
  • Codependency is a frequent outcome of a relationship that’s poisoned by alcohol

Again, this is just a small sample of the destructive effects alcoholism has on romantic relationships. Fortunately, a little recovery often goes a long way in resolving even the worst conflicts. 

Alcoholism and The Family Dynamic

Alcoholism can damage a once healthy family dynamic in a distressing variety of ways. Here’s what can result if one or more family members progress into alcoholism

  • Fractured relationships
  • Suspicions and mistrust
  • Deep resentment
  • Divorce, separation, or the alcoholic being forced to leave the family home
  • Neglected and traumatized children
  • Enabling behavior and/or codependency
  • Various types of familial abuse

Perhaps worst of all, certain family members can end up feeling disregarded when everyone is forced to deal with the alcoholic’s chronic instability. If possible, these relationships must be repaired if the alcoholic is to recover and the other members want to live happier, more productive lives.

The Importance of Healthy Relationships in Recovery

It might seem like a contradiction in terms, but stable, supportive relationships are critical to individual recovery. This doesn’t mean that romantic partners and family members should jeopardize their quality of life just to give an alcoholic one last chance, but it does require the heavy drinker to make the internal changes that healthy relationships demand.

Unfortunately, most alcoholics can only make these changes with the help of supportive relationships. But this isn’t the stalemate it might look like on the surface. There is strength and wisdom in numbers, especially when the persons involved are pursuing similar goals. For good or for ill, relationship skill-building usually has to begin with other people working toward recovery.

While this might sound frustrating at first, it won’t take long before these newly learned skills start to bleed over into your non-recovery based relationships and you start to build a network of friends, family, and, just maybe, a romantic partner that inspires you to improve your insides even further.

What Is Opioid Withdrawal Like – What to Expect

distressed man sitting on the floor suffering from opioid withdrawal

Ask anyone who’s ever gone through it and they’ll tell you– opioid withdrawal is an agony like no other. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that opioid withdrawal is one of the most distressing conditions a human being can experience. Depending on the level of abuse, the symptoms associated with the abrupt cessation of opioid drugs can be so harrowing that it can be almost impossible to stop without extensive professional help.

Fortunately, there’s some good news to report as well, even in the face of an opioid epidemic that seems like it might never end. The good news is that anyone willing to accept help can stop using opioid drugs permanently and begin to recover. One of the keys to this success is knowing what to expect when you stop using opioid drugs abruptly. The information in this post will also be very helpful to the user’s family, friends, and other loved ones.

Opioid Drugs: Use, Abuse, and Why It’s So Hard To Stop

The pharmacology behind opioid addiction and withdrawal is extraordinarily complex, but the upshot is actually pretty simple. First, opioid drugs like heroin, morphine, oxycontin, hydrocodone, etc are extremely addictive and can send even the healthiest person into a hellish spiral in a very short amount of time.

The reasons for this are essentially twofold. First, opioid drugs induce an intense euphoria that many people spend years trying to recapture. Second, the withdrawal symptoms associated with opioid abuse (or even normal use) are probably the most grueling in the entire drug world.

To put it bluntly, stopping opioid drugs without professional help is so incredibly unpleasant that most people prefer the horrors of continued addiction to the experience of sudden withdrawal. And this ugly fact, as much as anything else, is the most powerful jet fuel of the opioid epidemic. Next, we’ll have a more detailed look at what happens to the user when opioids go away in a hurry.

Opioid Withdrawal: What To Expect To Start When You Finally Stop

Here’s the short version. When you stop using opioids abruptly, even after a fairly short amount of time, you will immediately start experiencing ugly and possibly life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Here are just a few of the symptoms you can expect to encounter when stopping opioid drugs without help:

  • Constantly high levels of anxiety
  • Extreme agitation, anger, and other negative emotions
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Deep, ongoing muscle pain
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, sneezing, runny nose, and diarrhea
  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • High amounts of sweating even in cool temperatures
  • Persistent insomnia
  • Painful stomach cramps
  • Significant increases in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Depression and/or suicidal ideation

Obviously, the intensity and duration of these symptoms depend on the person and their usage patterns. However, you will most likely feel intense physical, emotional, and mental discomfort for at least 3-4 days.

The physical symptoms typically decrease in severity significantly after between 7-10 days. And make no mistake about it– these will be among the worst– if not the absolute worst– 5-10 days of your life. Most people don’t make it that far. Moreover, even if opioid users can somehow endure these physical torments long enough, the depression, anxiety, and a sense of profound emptiness often continue for months.

Why Do it Alone?

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you or someone you love experiences this level of opioid withdrawal when they stop using, please find a medical detox facility immediately. Coming off of opioids will never be easy, but medical professionals can do a great deal to reduce your suffering or prescribe long term medications like Suboxone, methadone, or Naltrexone that will reduce your withdrawal symptoms and help ease you into recovery.

Managing Chronic Pain Without Opioids

black and white photo of man grabbing his neck in pain

The CDC estimates that more than 20% of U.S. adults experience chronic pain. Perhaps more significant is the fact that 8% of have high-impact chronic pain. (1) High-impact chronic pain is characterized as pain which lasts at least 3 months and comes with at least one major activity restriction. In other words, pain that someone lives with and has a significant effect on their life.

Risks of Prolonged Opioid Use

Since the dawn of modern medicine, opioids have been the traditional go-to for any serious pain. The options to relieve pain without opioids were quite limited. Aspirin and acetaminophen have been around since the late 19th century and were effective, but relatively short-acting and not nearly as effective for moderate to severe pain.

Opiate medications are still unsurpassed for effectiveness when it comes to severe short-term pain. But chronic pain patients have a unique predicament because they need solutions that are compatible with their lifestyle. What is effective for short-term pain may not be appropriate or even safe as a daily regimen for years. But until relatively recently, doctors did not have viable alternative non-opioid pain relief options for chronic pain patients. Even today, millions of chronic pain patients find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle.

People can begin to become opiate tolerant after just a week of use. Over longer periods, they not only experience withdrawal if they stop, but the same amount of opioid medication no longer delivers the same relief. Doctors, increasingly aware of opioid abuse are often reluctant to prescribe more medication. The chronic pain patient may find themselves running out of prescribed medications too early for a number of reasons. Then the panic sets in. They are faced with a terrible dilemma. Suffer until their next doctor visit? Or seek opioids in whatever form they can find them on the black market.

Alternatives to Traditional Opioids

To call this an imperfect situation is an understatement. Between opioid side-effects like constipation, withdrawal symptoms and tolerance, it’s a lot to endure. The demand for better solutions for chronic pain patients has been present for decades. Acupuncture, therapeutic massage and chiropractic have been helpful supplementals. But science is finally delivering a diverse array of options for chronic pain patients to relieve pain without opioids. Here are just a few.

  • Long-acting non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and COX-2 Inhibitors
  • Select Anticonvulsants (e.g. Pregabalin, carbamazepine)
  • Select Antidepressants (e.g. Tricyclics and SNRIs)
  • Topical Agents (e.g. Lidocaine, Capsaicin, topical NSAIDS)
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

We are even beginning to see non-opioid pain relief for post-surgical pain. A new generation of local anesthetics such as Exparel (bupivacaine liposome) has shown a lot of promise in this area. Medical science still hasn’t eliminated the need for opioid medications. There is a good possibility we won’t transcend opiates entirely for decades, if ever. There may also be circumstances under which doctors still feel an opioid medication is the best option for a chronic pain patient. We have now seen many thousands of chronic pain patients successfully relieve pain without opioids. As always, you should follow your doctor’s guidance. But be aware that non-opioid pain management is a reality and more and more professionals are informed about the issue. If you are a chronic pain patient who is tired of being opioid-dependent, give us a call to discuss the options for care.

Addiction Treatment for Pregnant Mothers

pregnant woman holding her belly

A saying we hear often in the treatment industry is ‘addiction is no respecter of persons.’  This phrase is used to emphasize that alcohol and drug addiction affects people from all ethnic groups, social classes, etc. It is also true that addiction doesn’t care how delicate your situation is. Someone can have all the motivation in the world to stop using and yet they continue to take alcohol and drugs.

Unfortunately, this includes pregnant women. And while these women present a unique set of treatment challenges, they still have access to a variety of options that are effective and safe for both the woman and her developing fetus. In the following sections, we’ll discuss the options available out there when it comes to rehab for pregnant women.

Meeting the Unique Challenges of Rehab for Pregnant Mothers

Pregnant women seeking help for alcohol or drug addiction have a variety of complex questions and fears. For instance, they might wonder if the detox and treatment processes will harm their unborn child. They might also be afraid of being unfairly judged for their drug or alcohol use during pregnancy.  Most significantly, these women might wonder if a rehab for pregnant mothers will cater to their specific needs.

These questions and fears are more than understandable. Fortunately, there is hope and help out there for these women. More and more treatment centers have programs that cater to pregnant mothers with addiction disorders. These programs are staffed by caring, compassionate professionals who understand the nature of addiction.h

So, while it’s quite natural for a pregnant woman to have specific concerns about entering a treatment program, they can be lessened greatly by choosing the right facility.

Choosing the Right Treatment Center

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a rehab for pregnant mothers:

  • It is absolutely essential that a pregnant woman undergo the detox process in the clinical setting under a doctor’s care. In fact, an inpatient setting with around the clock care is ideal. This will maximize you and your unborn child’s safety both during and after pregnancy.
  • If executed in a professional setting, pregnant mothers can detox in a way that’s safe to themselves and to their child.
  • It’s also important that you seek a treatment center that has experiencing helping pregnant mothers start the recovery process. Pregnancy is a difficult time for any woman, and treating pregnant women for addiction requires specialized treatment modalities during treatment as well as detox.
  • Lastly, the ideal treatment program for pregnant women will include things like parenting education, aftercare with addiction counselors, psychiatric services, and opportunities for transportation and housing services.

There is Hope

Remember– you don’t have to do this alone. There are many facilities out there that offer specialized care for pregnant with alcohol or drug dependency issues. Never let the stigma sometimes associated with addiction prevent you from getting the care you need.

Addiction is a disease that affects people from every walk of life, and pregnant women are no exception.  Keep in mind that there is a rehab for pregnant mothers out there that’s right for you.

Opioid Tolerance – What You Need to Know

pill bottle on a table spilling out

At one level, the concept of opioid tolerance seems fairly straightforward. Over any significant period of time, continued use of opioid drugs inevitably reduces the body’s autonomic response to the medications and higher doses are needed to achieve the same effect. Depending on the user’s situation, this decreased efficacy can result in long-term physical/psychological dependence, massive changes in brain chemistry, and death.

You can think of this as the ‘common sense’ conception of opioid tolerance. This is what we have learned through personal experience, pop culture, and the increased coverage of the opioid epidemic in nearly every media format on the planet. But while this description is fine as far as it goes, the fact is that it just doesn’t go far enough. In the following sections, you’ll find the accurate and in-depth information that the current opioid crisis requires.

What Exactly Is Opioid Tolerance

As most people know, opioid drugs are frequently used to treat moderate to severe pain in the clinical setting. Opioid drugs are one of the most popular recreational drugs in the United States as well, with some 230,000 people dying from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2018. Significantly, there were approximately four times more opioid deaths in 2018 than occurred in 1999.

Increased tolerance to specific aspects of opioids has been the driving force behind these avoidable deaths. That’s why it is critical that we acquire a deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of drug tolerance.

The exact pharmacology that animates increased levels of tolerance is extraordinarily complex. Fortunately, we can formulate a very revealing summary of tolerance development without digging too deep into the human body’s complicated metabolic processes. Here are the three things that concerned persons need to know about this form of tolerance development:

  • Broadly speaking, opioids have two classes of effects on the human body– pain relief or analgesia and negative side effects like nausea, gastrointestinal difficulties, and suppression of respiratory functioning.
  • Increased tolerance to the desired analgesic effects happens very rapidly, while tolerance to the unpleasant side effects of long-term opioid use happens at a much slower rate. This is one of the keys to gaining a more nuanced understanding of the phenomenon of tolerance– the need/desire for the euphoric analgesic effects of opioids will still be there long after the body starts to resist them. Couple this certainty with the much slower development of negative side effects and it becomes clear why increased tolerance is unavoidable for anyone who uses opioids for an extended period of time.
  • These first two facts lead us to a troubling but eye-opening conclusion. Simply put, the notions of both decision and choice begin to fall out of the opioid equation once users cross a certain dosage threshold.

Going Forward

As you can see, opioid tolerance and the tragic consequences that so often accompany it are undeniable physiological facts. As such, it will happen to anyone who uses opioid drugs for an extended period of time, regardless of the reasons behind their initial use. In other words, opioid drugs don’t care why someone started using them.

Whether the person is a recreational user ‘chasing the dragon’ of narcotic euphoria, or a cancer patient trying to increase their quality of life, they will come to need substantially higher doses to achieve the original effect and be exposed to the myriad dangers involved in opioid addiction. We will make little progress in the opioid battle until we internalize and apply this more nuanced conception.
External links:

1.) https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/prescribing/overview.html
2.) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628209/


Is it Safe to Detox at Home?

man in bed detoxing at home

Whether you, or someone you love is struggling with addiction, the urge to try to detox at home can be powerful. Shame, fear or concerns about missing work or school may motivate the decision. We may try to convince ourselves and others we can control a crisis that’s already out of our hands. The choice to consider outside help for alcohol or drug addiction doesn’t always come easily. No matter the circumstances though — it is critical to recognize addiction as a serious medical situation.

Dangers of Withdrawal

Drugs of abuse, including alcohol, create complex chemical changes in the body which affect everything from neurotransmitters to hormones. Withdrawal symptoms are not only uncomfortable, they can be dangerous and even deadly. Withdrawal from alcohol or benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Klonopin can be especially dangerous. Symptoms can include tremors, extreme anxiety and seizures.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) more than 2 million Americans are struggling with opioid abuse. (1) Opiate withdrawal often induces cold sweats, spasms, cramps, diarrhea and insomnia. The effects of withdrawal often last far beyond the initial week or so of the most intense physical symptoms. Compound effects like insomnia, lethargy, anxiety and depression can persist for weeks and even months. Research into the phenomenon known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) is in its infancy, but we are learning more about how to mitigate the long-term effects of prolonged drug abuse every year.
Medical science is beginning to unravel the complex relationship between addiction and neurochemistry. We know drug abuse can cause long-lasting changes to the brain. Studies at the National Institutes of Health have found these changes can include suppression of endorphin production and interference with the action of dopamine and serotonin. (2)

Should You Detox at Home?

What is certain is that a drug detox is a delicate process. Attempting to detox at home introduces unnecessary elements of medical risk and increases the likelihood of relapse. A supervised medical detox is designed to effectively alleviate withdrawal symptoms. More importantly, a patient is under observation so that any dangerous reactions can be immediately addressed. Following a medical detox, patients can be given a comprehensive plan that includes treatments which target the most common pitfalls that lead to relapse. Getting the detox process right is a key component of success in early recovery.

Building a life in recovery begins much like building anything else, with the foundation. Stable footing makes the work of recovery much more manageable. Many of the common causes of relapse can be avoided by diagnosing co-occurring psychological problems early on so treatment can address them. If you or someone you love is ready to take the first step, it’s worth having as many advantages in your corner as possible. Recovering from addiction can be a tremendous challenge. A safe, comfortable detox under medical supervision followed by a thorough treatment plan is the most solid foundation for a successful life in recovery.

(1) https://archives.drugabuse.gov/testimonies/2014/americas-addiction-to-opioids-heroin-prescription-drug-abuse

(2) https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/nida-notes/2017/03/impacts-drugs-neurotransmission

Am I Addicted? Five Questions to Ask Yourself

man thinking about whether or not he is addicted to drugs

Admitting that drugs or alcohol may have the upper hand usually isn’t easy. Whether it’s pride, fear or overconfidence that causes a person to remain in denial, it’s clear that we can’t begin to solve a problem until we accept that it exists. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) more than 23 million Americans struggle with drug addiction at some point in their lives.(1) The same NIAAA study also found that nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder at some point, but only about 20 percent receive treatment.

Most experts agree that cases of drug abuse and alcoholism in the U.S. are likely under-diagnosed and studies show the majority of sufferers never receive treatment. The disease of addiction does not discriminate. It does not matter how educated you are, how wealthy or accomplished you are. Addiction is not a moral failing or a sign of poor discipline. Addiction is a mental health issue that can affect virtually anyone. The first step towards a solution is recognizing that there is a problem and accepting that we need outside help to solve it.

Here is a series of questions you can ask yourself to help determine if addiction may be a problem for you:

  • Do you drink or use drugs alone?
  • Has your drinking or drug use affected your work or school performance?
  • Do you find yourself avoiding social situations where you cannot drink or use?
  • Have you ever lied about or minimized the extent of your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever had a DUI or any other legal consequences as a result of drinking or using?

If you answered “yes” to at least one of the above, there is a good possibility that you have a substance abuse and/or drinking problem.

Addiction ultimately comes with consequences. Often times we are already suffering those consequences before we become fully aware of our addiction. This is perhaps one of the most insidious things about the nature of addiction. It tries to keep itself hidden. Addiction lies to us and denies its own existence, often until we reach a point where the consequences are so terrible, they stop us in our tracks. Every addict reaches that crossroads at a different time. The good news is you get to decide where your bottom is. You do not have to wait until tragedy befalls you. You don’t have to wait until you lose your job or your marriage or family. You don’t have to wait until you are bankrupt or destitute.

The truth is if you are in a position to be asking yourself if you are an addict, then you probably answered ‘yes’ to more than one of the questions above. You already suspect you are addicted, but perhaps you weren’t quite ready to admit it to yourself. Shame and guilt can be two of the biggest obstacles that prevent people from getting help. It is important to recognize that an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a medical condition. Admitting you may need help is not a confession of failure. It’s affirmation that you aren’t going to let a substance control your life any longer. The key is to see that moment of awareness as a gift. Use it as inspiration to take the next step and ask for help. There is a whole new life waiting outside the spiral of addiction and despair. There are people who will help. All that’s needed to begin is a little willingness.

(1) https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/10-percent-us-adults-have-drug-use-disorder-some-point-their-lives

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