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America’s opioid epidemic has shed a light on the abuse of prescription drugs. While opioids are among the most popular prescription drugs that are abused, they are by no means the only prescription medications with highly addictive potential.

While many people believe that a prescription medication is safer than illicit drugs or excessive alcohol consumption, this is not the case. Abuse of these prescription drugs can lead to various mental and physical health problems- including addiction and overdose.

Highly Addictive Prescription Drugs

According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse, the most commonly abused classes of prescription drugs are opioids, central nervous system (CNS) depressants and stimulants.

The increasing rate at which these drugs are being prescribed is partially to blame for their spike in popularity in recent years.

While America accounts for around 5 percent of the world’s population, they consume about 75 percent prescription drugs. The number of prescriptions being written makes these highly addictive drugs easily accessible in medicine cabinets across the country- and the consequences of this are starting to make themselves clear.

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According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 50 percent of Americans get their prescription drugs for free from a family member or friend. Another 17 percent of people buy prescription medications off of a family member or friend.

As prescription drug abuse rates continue to rise, it’s essential to know the risks associated with the most addictive behind-the-counter drugs.

Xanax (alprazolam)

Xanax falls into a class of drugs called benzodiazepines- more commonly called benzo. It is commonly used to treat panic disorders, severe anxiety and insomnia.

Benzos, like Xanax, are central nervous system depressants that work by actively slowing down brain activity to reduce levels of excitement and create a calming effect on the brain and body. While these effects are what makes the drug so effective at combating insomnia and panic disorders, the blissful high is also what makes Xanax so addictive.

Abusing Xanax can lead to lowered blood pressure, slowed pulse and shallow breathing. When mixed with alcohol, which is common among those who are addicted to Xanax, the risk of respiratory distress and death increases.

Although commonly called Xanax, this benzo also goes by a collection of street names including candy, zannies, downers, bars and tranks. Other prescription medications that produce similar effects are Ativan, Valium, Klonopin, Librium and Halcion.

Ambien (zolpidem)

Ambien is a fast-acting barbiturate that is typically prescribed to treat insomnia. Like benzos, barbiturates work by suppressing the central nervous system to produce a calming, almost tranquilizing, effect on its user.

When taken in high doses, Ambien can create feelings of euphoria and excitement. These feelings are what make Ambien such an addictive substance.

As users continue to chase the high produced by Ambien, their tolerance for the drug will increase and force them to use higher dosages to generate the same euphoric effects. Unfortunately, Ambien can also produce feelings of irritability, fever and a life-threatening withdrawal process when used in extreme dosages over an extended period.

A variety of other prescription sleeping pills will also produce similar effects including Sonata and Lunesta.

Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant drug primarily used to treat ADHD. In some cases, it is also prescribed to help people who suffer from extreme and chronic fatigue.

The amphetamine in Adderall causes hyperstimulation throughout the brain and body and makes users feel stronger, more self-assured and energized. The extra confidence and energy allows those who abuse Adderall to accomplish more than they usually would without the drug. Due to this, it has become increasingly popular among college students looking to boost mental and physical performance. Adderall also suppresses appetite and is abused by those looking to lose weight.

Long-term Adderall abuse can lead to addiction, hallucinations, tremors, dizziness, heart palpitations, depression, anxiety and headaches.

OxyContin (oxycodone)

OxyContin is an opioid-based prescription painkiller. It is often used to treat patients with acute or chronic pain. While it is very effective at treating pain, OxyContin has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Due to this, it is generally prescribed only as a short-term pain management solution.

OxyContin doesn’t necessarily reduce pain, but it changes the central nervous systems’ perception of pain. It can also trigger an emotional response due to a release of the feel-good chemical in the brain- dopamine. This change in brain chemistry can make users feel a euphoric, pleasant high, and is also what makes OxyContin one of the most highly addictive drugs.

When abused, OxyContin can lead to coma, respiratory distress, overdose and death.

OxyContin in the brand name for a drug called oxycodone. Users also refer to it as cotton, oxys, O.C., or kickers.

Codeine

Codeine is a narcotic pain reliever that is commonly used in cough medicine to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms of upper respiratory infections and severe colds. It is also prescribed to help relieve symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. When the codeine is broken down by the liver, it reverts to morphine.

Prescription strength cough syrup that uses codeine has increased in popularity since the 90’s as hip-hop artists began glamorizing purple drank- a mixture of codeine cough syrup, lemon-lime soda and a Jolly Rancher hard candy for extra sweetness.

Codeine is responsible for making users feel blissful, relaxed and light-headed, but it can also cause coma, dizziness, weight loss and depression. When mixed with alcohol or taken in large doses, codeine can lead to coma and death.

Common prescription cough syrups that use codeine are Robitussin A-C and Empirin with Codeine.

Vicodin (hydrocodone)

Like OxyContin, Vicodin is an opioid painkiller. It is often used to treat chronic and post-operative pain. However, unlike OxyContin, Vicodin also contains acetaminophen to help reduce swelling and fever.

Vicodin changes the way the body feels and responds to pain. While it can give users a pleasant high, it’s the change to the brain chemistry that occurs when using Vicodin that keeps people coming back to this drug time and time again. Despite its euphoric side effects, long-term use of Vicodin can cause sedation, impaired coordination, slow heart rate, respiratory distress, paranoia, brain fog and depression.

While Vicodin is the most common name for hydrocodone mixed with acetaminophen, other brand names include Lortab and Lorcet.

A drug is not automatically less dangerous because it has been prescribed by a doctor. In most cases, drugs prescribed by a physician can be equally as harmful as illicit drugs when abused- and the current state of America’s opioid crisis serves as a painful example of this.

With over 100 people dying every day due to an opioid overdose, patients must be made more aware of the highly addictive and deadly nature of the drugs they are being prescribed.

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In a society that recognizes being thin as the ideal standard of beauty, around 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point in their life. The prevalence of eating disorders has made them the most deadly mental illness in the United States.

Like addiction, an eating disorder often begins as a harmless habit that soon spirals out of control. The two share so many similarities that researchers are beginning to recognize an active link between substance use disorders and eating disorders and how they commonly occur together.

Definition Of Eating Disorders

According to the American Psychological Association, eating disorders are mental illnesses characterized by abnormal eating habits that can threaten a person’s health and life.

While almost everyone worries about their weight to some extent, those suffering from an eating disorder take such concerns to the extreme. When someone is struggling with an eating disorder, their preoccupation with their weight and dietary habits become the most important aspect of their life and overshadows everything else.

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Eating disorders are most common in women and girls. Around 20 million females are currently struggling with an eating disorder, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. Despite being more popular in females, men are not immune to eating disorders. The same organization estimates that 10 million males have an eating disorder.

Eating habits among those with an eating disorder will differ based on the type of disorder they are suffering from.

Types Of Eating Disorders

There are three major types of eating disorders that are recognized by the American Psychological Association including:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: Those suffering from anorexia have a distorted body image. They see themselves as overweight although they are dangerously thin. Due to the way they view their body, someone with anorexia will resort to starving themselves and exercising compulsively in order to lose weight.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: When someone has bulimia, they will eat an excessive amount of food during a short period of time. They will then try to desperately rid their body of the food they ate by forcing themselves to vomit, abusing laxatives or exercising too much.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: Similar to bulimia, those with binge eating disorder will frequently experience episodes of out-of-control eating. However, those with binge eating disorder will not try to purge their body of the food they eat. Someone struggling with binge eating will continue to eat even if they are uncomfortably full because of their distorted relationship with food.

Although these are the only three eating disorders clinically recognized, there are several other common eating habits that would be considered abnormal. This includes a growing trend of dieting where a person will chew their food, but spit it out before swallowing. In this case, people believe they are getting all of the taste without the burden of calories.

When someone exhibits strange eating patterns, like the one described above, but does not meet the criteria for anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder, they are placed in the category of “eating disorder not otherwise specified.”

The Link Between Addiction And Eating Disorders

Although they are two different diagnoses, research suggests that eating disorders and addiction often go hand in hand. An article published in Social Work Today indicates that almost 50 percent of people struggling with an eating disorder are also abusing drugs or alcohol, and sometimes both. This rate of abuse is five times higher than what is seen in the general population. Additionally, about 35 percent of alcohol or illicit drug users have eating disorders compared with 3 percent of the general population.

In many cases, people who suffer from both an eating disorder and an addiction often use one to cope with the other. For example, someone may use highly restrictive eating habits to feel more in control of their life when struggling with an addiction or vice versa. This creates a vicious cycle where one mental illness feeds of the other and inevitably perpetuate themselves.

What Causes Addiction And Eating Disorders?

Like many other aspects of addiction and eating disorders, the causes of these illnesses often mirror one another and include:

  • Genetics: Research reveals that genetic predisposition is responsible for upwards of 60 percent of addictions and eating disorders. Additionally, there are multiple shared neurotransmitters involved in both eating and substance use disorders.
  • Environment: Popular culture often glorifies things such as extreme thinness and excessive alcohol consumption. These cultural messages can have a significant effect on the development of addiction and eating disorders. Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can also be a powerful environmental trigger, particularly in teenagers and young adults.
  • Emotional And Physical Trauma: Left untreated, past emotional and physical traumas can often significantly influence present substance or food issues. Eating disorders and addiction are typically a symptom of a much deeper problem.
  • Emotional Health: Suffering from any untreated mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety or PTSD, can make a person vulnerable to developing an addiction and/or eating disorder in order to regain some control over their life.

While eating disorders and addictions affect all types of people, these factors can increase a person’s risk factor for developing either condition.

Signs Of Eating Disorders And Addiction

The statistics and research make one thing abundantly clear- eating disorders and substance abuse often coexist and at times, mimic each other. When screening for an eating disorder or an addiction, signs to look for are:

Behavioral Signs:

  • Inability to stop destructive behavior even after multiple attempts
  • Obsessive preoccupation with food or substances
  • Intense cravings and strict rituals surrounding dieting or drug and alcohol use
  • Isolating to hide abnormal eating patterns or substance abuse
  • Giving up other interest to focus more time on addictive behaviors and substances
  • Continued use of substances or unusual eating habits despite negative consequences

Physical Signs:

  • Calluses on knuckles
  • Sunken cheekbones
  • Blotchy or scabby skin
  • Decaying teeth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Severe weight loss

The number of commonalities between the two diseases can make diagnosing addiction and eating disorders tricky. However, it’s essential to remember that they may be acting together.

Dual-Diagnosis Treatment: Addiction And Eating Disorders

Addiction and eating disorders are both chronic and fatal diseases with high rates of relapse. Due to this, it’s critical that those suffering from both receive a dual-diagnosis and care for both conditions as early as possible.

For the best chance at long-term recovery, addiction and eating disorders must be treated aggressively and together. Treated separately, studies show that only about 25 percent of those receiving treatment for either addiction or an eating disorder will achieve long-term recovery from their conditions. The remaining 75 percent of those suffering from both will fall into a relapse-remit cycle or continue to struggle with their illnesses.

Statistics show that only about 5 percent of women naturally possess a body that fits the ideal picture of American beauty. Unfortunately, about 92 percent of women report feeling unhappy with their shape and resort to dieting to change it.

Alarmingly, these numbers aren’t exactly that shocking- it’s what the United States has come to expect. As society’s concept of the “ideal” body image continues to dictate how men and women see themselves, it’s essential to understand the early signs of an eating disorder and how closely it is related to the disease of addiction.

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Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Addiction Campuses.

Does Every Person Struggling With Addiction Need Treatment?

*Names have been changed to protect anonymity

*Cheryl’s 19-year-old son,*Dylan, was only 14 when he first started smoking marijuana. Cheryl worried that smoking weed at such a young age might cause brain damage. She also worried marijuana could lead Dylan to use harsher drugs. She addressed her concerns with Dylan many times, but he always dismissed them. 

Dylan insists that marijuana is like medicine. He thinks it’s beneficial for you. Dylan claims smoking pot relaxes him and helps him chill.

Cheryl noted that Dylan did seem more laid back when smoking weed and wondered if she was just an overly cautious parent. She acknowledges her son has always been challenging. He resists authority and does not like being told what to do.

However, in the past year, Dylan has changed a lot. Cheryl says he’s up all night, he never eats and has begun picking at his face. Dylan has lost weight and is always jumping at shadows.

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The tension in Cheryl’s home has escalated due to Dylan’s odd behavior. After one terrible argument between the two, Dylan admitted he was using crystal meth. Dylan justified his use by saying that all his friends were doing it and he is just having fun. 

Despite what he says, Cheryl is nervous about Dylan’s drug habits and can’t understand why he uses crystal meth at all. Cheryl asked Dylan to quit, but Dylan swears drugs are not a problem. He says if his Mom would just stop nagging him, everything would be fine.

Cheryl feels torn and confused. She wonders if she’s blowing things way out of proportion. She knows it’s normal for teens to experiment with drugs and alcohol- Cheryl experimented with them, too. She still remembers smoking a joint in the school bathroom with her best friend.

However, Cheryl says being stoned was awful. She hated the way it made her feel, and this is where Cheryl and her son differ.

Those who do not suffer from addiction feel out of control and abnormal when they are drunk or high. They don’t like the feeling. On the other hand, those with the disease of addiction feel in control when they are drunk or high. They love the feeling.

Cheryl’s husband, *Dan, thinks their son should go to treatment, but Cheryl believes treatment is a little harsh. Cheryl says her son is not an addict; he just likes using drugs. She wonders: does everyone abusing drugs and alcohol need treatment?

To answer Cheryl’s question: No, not everyone will need treatment.

Some people who abuse drugs or alcohol will be able to stop using on their own. Others seek help through their church, a counselor, 12-step groups or other recovery programs.  Some will attend outpatient programs, while others will need 24-hour support.

Simply put, treatment works when everything else has failed.

Right now, Dylan has a roof over his head, and all his parents fulfill all his needs. In his mind, Dylan is having fun. For Dylan to want change, consequences must occur. The negative results that arise from Dylan’s using must be greater than the reward he gets from being high.

Cheryl and her husband will need to create boundaries with their son. They must require more from him. 

Dylan has taken the adult role in their household, convincing his Mom that his abnormal and dangerous crystal meth habit is okay. Dylan calls the shots in their home, and his mood dictates the emotional background. To keep the peace, Cheryl has learned to give in to her son. She says it’s easier to agree with Dylan than to go against him. Cheryl says when Dylan is angry, he’s scary. When Cheryl asks too many questions, Dylan blows up. Dylan has trained his mother to walk on eggshells and not confront him.

Cheryl feels frustrated, guilty and angry. She is sick to her stomach when her son is mad at her. What Cheryl doesn’t realize is that she gives in to Dylan to make herself feel better. When Dylan’s happy, she’s at peace.

For things to improve in Cheryl’s home, a lot has to change. Cheryl and her husband will need to get on the same page regarding Dylan. This will require them both to look at the role they play. 

Dan feels disappointed with his son and in response, lets his wife handle everything with Dylan. When Dan confronts Dylan, it doesn’t end well. Dan gets angry and says things he wished he hadn’t. In Dan’s mind, he is helping by not getting involved. Dan feels caught in the middle, satisfying his wife while distancing himself from his son. However, Dan can’t remain passive if he’s going to help his son and improve the health of the family. Dylan needs Dan to play a loving, but firm, role in his life.

If Cheryl and Dan reach out for support, they will learn – in the language of recovery, ‘no’ means ‘I love you.’ They will receive advice on how to create a plan that works for the entire family. They will be encouraged to establish house rules and set healthy boundaries. If Dylan violates those rules, consequences will need to be enforced – go to treatment or move out.

The excellent news is that addiction is a highly treatable illness. If you love someone struggling, reach out. Your sick loved one has a much better chance of succeeding when you’re healthy and in recovery too.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.

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2/10/18 – 2/16/18

Some of the most noteworthy events that happened this week in the addiction and mental health community around the world.

Purdue Pharma To Stop Marketing Addictive Opioid To Doctors

After being sued for their role in the opioid epidemic by many states, the maker of the opioid painkiller, OxyContin, will stop promoting the drug to doctors. While many are heralding the company for their decision, others believe that this action is coming a little too late. America is already in the midst of an opioid epidemic, one that can partially be attributed to Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing practices of powerful opioid painkillers. Learn more about how this decision will help combat the opioid epidemic.

Questions About Treatment? Call now to be connected with one of our compassionate treatment specialists. 1-888-966-8973
One Doctor Struggles With How To Treat An Opioid Addicted Patient

In the early 2000’s, Dr. Mukherjee was randomly assigned a new patient he would come to know as S. As he read through her file, Dr. Mukherjee noted that she was complaining of headaches and had visited three walk-in clinics in the past week- each time she left with a small stash of opioid painkillers. Despite being taught that opioids were the most effective and non-addictive way of treating chronic pain, Dr. Mukherjee didn’t feel comfortable prescribing his new patient such a potent drug without a real diagnosis. His decision to not prescribe opioids lead to a 12-month battle between doctor and patient. Read about Dr. Mukherjee’s ethical dilemma on prescribing opioids pre-epidemic.  

The Opioid Epidemic Has Cost The U.S. $1 Trillion And Counting

The opioid epidemic isn’t just costing the United States lives, but approximately $1 trillion and climbing since 2001. While the greatest financial cost of the opioid epidemic is productivity loss and lost earnings to employers, this public health crisis has also financially impacted the healthcare industry and taxpayers. Read more about who bears the financial burden of the opioid epidemic.

New Research Could Help Treat Alcohol Addiction And Relapse

New research has been released by the Journal of Alcohol and Alcoholism on the potential causes of alcohol addiction and relapse. Researchers scanned the brain of individuals diagnosed with alcohol use disorder and found that the neurotransmitter glutamate could have a role in creating intense cravings. With approximately 30 percent of all Americans suffering from alcohol dependence of alcohol use disorders, this discovery couldn’t have come at a better time. Learn more about how researchers plan to use their findings.

Decline In Life Expectancy Linked To Opioid Epidemic, Alcohol And Suicide

The life expectancy for Americans has been declining for the last two years, and today, it sits about 1.5 years below the benchmark for other industrialized nations. This trend marks a stark reversal of nearly a century of improving health for Americans and it’s largely attributed to opioid overdoses, alcohol related deaths and suicide. While this trend has touched every American in some way, this epidemic of despair is disproportionately claiming the lives of rural white Americans in the prime of adulthood. Read more about how the opioid epidemic, alcohol and suicide has influenced the life expectancy of all Americans.

Experts Share How They Would Combat The Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic was declared a public health emergency by President Trump in October 2016- but the administration has yet to pursue a specific strategy on how to combat it. This is where the New York Times stepped in. They asked 30 experts, including law enforcement officers, government officials and sociologists, how they would spend $100 billion to combat the opioid epidemic and developed the framework of a strategy. Read about their suggestions.

Massachusetts Opioid Overdose Death Rate Declines 8.3 Percent

Massachusetts experienced a surge in opioid related overdose deaths from 2013-2016, including a 39 percent increase in overdose deaths from 2013-2014. However, the public health commissioner of Massachusetts confirmed on Wednesday that fatalities by opioid overdose have fallen by 8.3 percent in 2017. While no one can pinpoint exactly what caused the downturn is overdose deaths, the state believes it can be attributed to the mass distribution of the overdose-reversal drug Naloxone, and a 30 percent decrease in prescribing opioids. Learn how Massachusetts plans to continue this trend.

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It’s universally understood that parents who abuse drugs or alcohol are not fully capable of taking care of their children. Addiction is a disease that hijacks the brain- when a parent’s mind is focused on chasing the next high, it leaves little room for them to put food on the table, pay the next rent check or read a bedtime story.

As more families are ravaged by addiction, grandparents are stepping up to the plate. It’s becoming increasingly common for grandparents to play the role of primary caregiver to their grandchildren as their parents struggle with substance addiction. According to Generations United, approximately 2.6 million children in the United States are being raised by their grandparents.

With so many grandparents taking on the new-found responsibility of raising a grandchild, how can they come to terms with their child’s addiction and successfully support a grandchild broken by their parent’s addiction?

Accept That Addiction Is Not You Or Your Grandchild’s Fault

Like most parents of those struggling with addiction, grandparents tend to feel guilt surrounding their child’s addiction. These feelings are amplified because grandparents also have a grandchild to worry about. The grandparents often fear that they could have done something to cause their child’s addiction and in turn, hurt their grandchild unknowingly.

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However, the harsh truth of addiction is that it is no one’s fault. It’s easy to place blame and point the finger at someone or something else, but addiction can happen to anyone. While some people have a predisposition to addiction based on genetic makeup, others fall into substance abuse as an emotional escape. Regardless, no one else can cause someone’s addiction, or cure someone’s addiction.

Accepting that addiction can’t be blamed on the grandparent or the grandchild is an integral step in healing.

Learn About the Second-Hand Effects Of Addiction

While those that are actively addicted don’t intentionally hurt the people around them, their words and actions often do regardless. When a child is removed from an environment where they were witness to heavy drug and alcohol use, they will likely suffer from some physical and emotional traumas due to their exposure to this lifestyle.

These traumas can manifest themselves in the many ways, including:

  • Low self-esteem
  • General fearfulness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Emotional detachment
  • Feelings of shame and guilt

Any combination of these symptoms can appear in a child who has been exposed to addiction. Grandparents should know these signs in order to watch for them and address them with their grandchild if or when they appear.

On the other hand, grandparents are also susceptible to experiencing the ripple effects of their child’s addiction. Understanding these signs is an essential first step in learning to manage and treat them.

Don’t Talk Badly About Your Grandchild’s Addicted Parent

It can be hard for a grandparent to not speak poorly of someone who has hurt their grandchild- even if it’s their own son or daughter. However, a grandchild’s parent is still their parent- regardless of their addiction.

A grandchild’s parent may be in jail, in treatment, or in denial of their illness at any given moment, but that doesn’t mean an addicted parent can’t recover in the future and rekindle a relationship with their child.

Additionally, when a grandparent speaks poorly about an addicted parent to their grandchild, it can cause tension between the two. This friction can create a tumultuous and unhealthy environment.

Instead, grandparents should help their grandchild remember happy memories of their parents, but remain honest about the realities of addiction. Preserving good memories of a grandchild’s parent while building an honest understanding of addiction will help children of addicted parents separate their mom or dad from their disease.

Find A Support Group

States hardest hit by the opioid epidemic are seeing as much as a 62 percent increase in the number of children being placed with a relative in foster care. Many of these children will experience the adverse effects of being exposed to a lifestyle surrounded by drug and alcohol abuse, and many grandparents will be left to manage the emotional aftermath.

With so much stress stemming from addiction, it’s critical that grandparents who are raising a grandchild with addicted parents find a network of support.

Support can come from anyone, but it can be especially therapeutic to speak with others who are going through a similar experience. As relatives are increasingly taking on the responsibility for babies, children and young adults affected by addiction, Generation’s United reports that there has been a surge in addiction support groups for families. Not only are grandparents dealing with raising a grandchild, but they’re also grappling to come to terms with their own child’s addiction.

Grandparents should seek out their local Al-Anon or Nar-Anon chapters to start connecting with other grandparents facing similar challenges.

Talk About Drugs And Alcohol With Your Grandchild

After all the heartbreak that drugs and alcohol have caused, grandparents may think it’s simpler just to brush these topics under the rug. However, not talking about them could hurt a grandchild who grew up in an environment where these substances were heavily abused.

In these cases, the only relationship that the grandchild has with drugs or alcohol is a destructive one. As the primary caregiver, it becomes a grandparents responsibility to show their grandchild that it is possible to have a healthy relationship with drugs and alcohol.

This starts by opening an age-appropriate dialogue between grandparent and grandchild about the reality of drug and alcohol use. While illicit drugs are out of the question, when prescription drugs are used as directed by a doctor, they can dramatically improve someone’s quality of life. Additionally, it’s possible to drink alcohol without getting drunk or blacking out.

Grandparents need to be talking about drugs and alcohol with their grandchild because many teenagers will experiment with one or both at some point in their life, and arming them with knowledge is often the best way to ensure that a grandchild makes the best choice.

After years of gradual decline in the rate of children placed in foster care, this number is once again on the rise with over 30 percent of kids in foster care living with their grandparents. The increase is largely attributed to America’s growing opioid epidemic.

Across the United States, the message is consistent- parents struggling with addiction are pushing more grandparents into the role of primary caregiver to their grandchildren. As this trend increases in popularity, it’s vital to begin including grandparents in the conversation surrounding America’s ongoing battle with addiction and the opioid epidemic.

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Enduring the physical symptoms of drug or alcohol withdrawal can be uncomfortable. Symptoms such as muscle aches, increased heart rate, nausea and vomiting are all common during the detox process. If managed correctly, these painful problems will lessen in severity over time and usually clear up within a matter of one to two weeks once the body has adjusted to the lack of substances.

Unfortunately, for many people in recovery, the withdrawal process is not limited to this short time frame. While the body may heal in the short-term, the brain will take months, or years, to recover from severe drug or alcohol abuse.

As the brain attempts to function without the help of a substance it’s grown reliant on; it’s typical for individuals to experience brain fog, intense cravings, sleep disturbances and a number of other psychological symptoms. This collection of symptoms is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS.

What Is PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome)?

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) refers to a group of symptoms that some people will experience after a prolonged period of withdrawal. These symptoms are primarily psychological and mood-related and can continue for months or years after the acute period of withdrawal.

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The acute period of withdrawal is typically when the body experiences the most physical effects of detox from drugs or alcohol and lasts for about one to two weeks. While post-acute withdrawal syndrome rarely involves body aches, stomach pains, increased heart rate, headaches or nausea, the symptoms can be equally as intense as acute withdrawal.

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome happens as a result of chemical imbalances in the brain. When someone abuses drugs or alcohol for a prolonged period of time, their mind becomes reliant on these substances to produce certain chemicals to function correctly. Once the drugs have been detoxed from the body, the brain will take time to correct the chemical imbalances and relearn to function without the assistance of drugs or alcohol.

PAWS Symptoms And Signs

There is an endless amount of symptoms that can be associated with post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Duration, intensity and combination of symptoms can vary based on a person’s drug of choice, length of abuse and overall health. Despite these factors, some of the most common PAWS symptoms are:

  • Inability to think clearly: Inability to concentrate, difficulty with abstract concepts and rigid or repetitive thinking patterns is often the first symptoms of PAWS. It is also often the most prominent symptom.
  • Cognitive impairment: Like other PAWS symptoms, memory and mobility problems are caused by an imbalance in the brain’s chemistry that will resolve themselves over time. However, in severe and rare cases of alcohol abuse, there can be brain damage that affects memory and mobility permanently.
  • Inability to feel pleasure (anhedonia): People who abuse drugs or alcohol typically rely on their substance of choice to produce the feel-good chemical in the brain, dopamine. Once drugs or alcohol are removed from the body, it can take some time for the brain to begin naturally producing normal levels of dopamine again.
  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances: Drugs and alcohol can often mask underlying sleep problems, or majorly disrupt the body’s regular sleep cycle. Disturbing dreams are also very common early on in addiction recovery and can make falling or staying asleep nearly impossible. It can take months for the body to relearn to sleep without the assistance of substances.
  • Mood swings: The brain of someone who repeatedly misuses drugs or alcohol becomes accustomed to a constant stream of mood-altering substances. As the brain is learning to rebalance itself without these substances, periods of depression and mania can occur for seemingly no reason.
  • Extreme sensitivity to stress: After giving up their primary coping tool, many people in recovery find that their threshold for daily stressors is extremely low after detoxing from drugs or alcohol. Regaining confidence in problem-solving and stress management techniques takes time.
  • Anxiety: Many commonly abused drugs inhibit the user’s brain activity in order to help them remain calm. When these drugs are removed from the system, this drastic shift can cause significant anxiety and panic attacks.

While these are some of the most common symptoms associated with PAWS, it is by no means a complete list. However, knowing these key signs of post-acute withdrawal syndrome puts those suffering in a better position to manage them.

How Long Does PAWS Last?

The overall duration of PAWS can be challenging to predict since it can fluctuate based on length of abuse, the frequency of substance abuse, amount of drugs or alcohol consumed, and an individual’s health.

PAWS symptoms usually begin to occur between seven to 14 days after the acute period of withdrawal. These symptoms reach a peak between three to six months after the start of abstinence and can continue up to two years after the acute withdrawal period.

The one prevailing theme among post-acute withdrawal symptoms is that they not consistent. Instead, they come and go intermittently, and each episode can last around two to three weeks. According to current research, many people experience these symptoms at regular intervals of 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, 120-day, 180-day, 1-year and 2-year sobriety dates.

The brain is going to take time and patience to heal once the acute withdrawal period is over, and everyone must work on their own timeline.

The Challenges Of PAWS

The most significant concern with those suffering from post-acute withdrawal syndrome is a relapse.

Due to the rewiring of the brain in active addiction, when someone seeks treatment for substance abuse and is no longer using, they can suffer from chemical imbalances. The fluctuating brain chemistry can make it difficult for recovering individuals to feel happiness, think clearly, sleep well or healthily manage stress.

The inability to feel peace of mind or positivity coupled with the stress and anxiety of life in recovery can create the perfect breeding ground for a relapse- especially for those in the early stages of sobriety who are still learning to cope with it long-term.

Adding to the challenges of PAWS is that fact that this syndrome is not universally recognized in the medical community and there is very little research on how best to manage this condition. Although it is widely accepted by those it the addiction treatment community, it remains absent from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- the standard classification of mental disorders used by all mental health professionals in the US. These factors make it difficult for those suffering from PAWS to receive adequate help.

How To Treat PAWS

There is no definitive path to treating PAWS. However, since the mostly psychological and emotional, ongoing support from a therapist, a recovery group, family and friends is an essential part of reducing the stress of post-acute withdrawal syndrome. Additionally, other methods that have proven to be successful in keeping clients on track in their recovery journey include:

  • Educate clients on PAWS and what to expect in recovery
  • Encourage exercise and a healthy diet
  • Celebrate the small victories
  • Identify triggers
  • Find a therapist who can teach healthy coping strategies
  • Practice impulse control

A helpful acronym for those struggling with post-acute withdrawal syndrome is H.A.L.T. It’s a reminder for individuals take a step back and try to identify the emotions that are causing them to lash out instead of acting irrationally. Typically, it’s one of the four emotions that H.A.L.T stands for- hungry, angry, lonely or tired. It’s these small but powerful reminders that help those in recovery maintain their sobriety even under stressful circumstances.

Most importantly, clients should remember that detox and treatment do not represent a “fix-all” for addiction. The brain will need time to heal and relearn how to function without the assistance of extreme drug or alcohol use.

While post-acute withdrawal symptoms can be frustrating, by showing themselves patience and kindness each day, those suffering will be able to manage their PAWS symptoms successfully in recovery.

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Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Addiction Campuses.

Addiction And Valentine’s Day Can Equal Love

Valentine’s Day conjures up images of happy couples strolling hand-in-hand down, children giving out heart-shaped cards in their classrooms, flowers for Mom, chocolate hearts for that special someone, a diamond necklace for your wife, long romantic dinners, or cuddling on the couch with candles flickering in the background.

Whether you like it or not, February 14 is all about love. Love is in the air- but not everyone is feeling it.

For the addicted person’s family, Valentine’s Day can be just another day to suffer through. They’re not likely to receive chocolates, cards, jewelry or flowers. Instead, what they might get is another request for more money, and a lot of grief if they say no. Or worse, they might get nothing at all. No phone calls, no arguments- nothing. Some families won’t hear from their loved one. They have no idea where they are, or if they are even alive

Those suffering from addiction are not purposely trying to hurt their families. They’re driven by a pathological need that consumes every waking minute. Their desire for drugs or alcohol surpasses everything else. Unless you’ve been addicted it’s hard to understand.

Drugs and alcohol look like the culprit, but they are only a symptom of something much deeper going on below the surface. Addicted persons suffer from denial, delusional and self-absorption. Many also have underlying, untreated, mental health issues. They can be oblivious to the vast stress and pain they create within their family systems. Some will even argue they are not hurting anyone but themselves.

To bring peace and balance back into the equation, the addict’s family puts the needs of their sick loved one above their own. They overcompensate by doing for their addicted family member what the family should be doing for themselves. The families live with shame, frustration, guilt, fear, bitterness, anger, rage, financial difficulties, extreme stress and verbal abuse. For some, living with a broken heart becomes normal.

Questions About Treatment? Call now to be connected with one of our compassionate treatment specialists. 1-888-614-2379

Truthfully, addiction is an ugly disease and if you’re doing the right thing, setting boundaries and helping without enabling, you won’t be thanked for it. Most families have no idea how powerful this illness is, or what they’re up against. Families often feel responsible for their addicted loved one and burn themselves out by caring for them. Without education and support, help becomes enabling and fear becomes control.

Addiction is cunning. You may believe your loved one is the same person you have always known, but they are not. Because you don’t always see the physical changes in them until much later, you may not be aware that continuous ingestion of drugs or alcohol has altered their brain. Reasoning, impulse control and logic are impaired. Simply put, the drugs are doing their thinking.

It’s natural to feel hurt when someone you love is neglecting you. However, it’s equally important to balance out your pain by spending time with people who are healthy for you and who are there for you. Putting your needs first is not selfish, it’s crucial. It’s easy to get sucked into the chaos surrounding addiction. Families can unknowingly cross the line into codependency, if not careful. When helping the addicted person is hurting you and everyone else in your family, it’s time to stop. Suffering, misery and martyrdom are not signs of love, they are signs of codependency and enabling.

If your heart is broken this Valentine’s Day, reach out. Please understand those suffering with addiction are incapable of meeting your emotional needs. Not because they don’t care about you, but because they are extremely sick. They’re self-centered, terminally ill and caught up in their own struggles. Maintaining a drug habit is a full-time job. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for friends and family.

If you’re miserable, exhausted and worn out, you have crossed the invisible line into enabling. It’s easy to do. Well-meaning families constantly struggle with helping, versus enabling. Without boundaries, it’s easy to become a puppet to this disease.

This Valentine’s Day give yourself the gift of love, compassion and respect. Be willing to let go of shame and blame. Know that the person you love is not at their best right now. Drugs and alcohol have made them flat, lifeless and depressed. You won’t be able to get your emotional needs met with them- but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Millions of family members are in recovery. There are safe, supportive groups in every community across North America. These people are your tribe. They understand. They’ve walked in your shoes and they know what it’s like. You can lean on them, they will listen to you, support you and care about you.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget about you. You don’t have to wait for someone else to show you love. Your happiness relies solely on newly constructed messages. Messages of love, hope, value and possibility. Make February 14 a day for you. For these 24 hours, focus on you. Peace is reached when one accepts the things they can’t change and changes the things they can. It’s important to remember you do have choices and practicing self-care should be number one on your list.

It might seem improbable, but Addiction and Valentine’s Day can equal love. This February 14th, start a new tradition – the tradition of self-love.

Healing starts with you. You have the power to change. You are deserving of all that is good. You come first. You are worthy. You are strong. You are love. Happy Valentine’s Day to you!

If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.

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2/3/18 – 2/9/18

Here are some of the most noteworthy events that happened this week in the addiction and mental health community around the world.

Opioid Epidemic Pushes More Children Into Foster Care

The rate of children being placed in foster care is surging in the wake of America’s opioid crisis. According to a social services director in North Carolina, as many as 90 percent of the children she works with have tested positive for two or more drugs after being taken from their homes- and this is just one county in the United States. As opioid-related death rates continue to rise, social services workers increasingly worry that this epidemic is creating a generation of lost children. Read more about how the opioid epidemic is affecting the foster care system.

Families Recognized As Important Part Of Addiction Recovery By Researchers

Family has been considered an integral part of addiction recovery for a long time, and now there is research to back it up. Addiction experts say that rehabilitation from addiction is much more effective when families are regularly involved in the process. This conclusion is pushing addiction treatment facilities to develop more comprehensive family programs. Read more about this study and it’s finding.

Reality TV Star Whitney Thore Discusses Heartbreak Of Watching Her Friend Struggle With Addiction

Addiction can happen to anyone- even reality TV stars. In a recent episode of TLC’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life, Whitney Thore opens up about her close friend’s cocaine addiction. After trying to manage his addiction on his own for years, Whitney’s friend, Buddy, entered and inpatient addiction treatment program to seek long-term recovery. While his friends are shocked, Buddy says his trip to rehab has been a long time coming. Hear Buddy speak candidly about his addiction and recovery process.

Alabama Joins Growing List Of States To Sue Oxycontin Maker For Their Role In The Opioid Crisis

On Tuesday, Alabama became the latest state to file a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive opioid Oxycontin. This lawsuit, like the many others that have been filed against Purdue Pharma, states that the company fueled the opioid epidemic by understating the risks of Oxycontin while overstating the benefits. Read more about the lawsuit. 

Those Struggling With Addiction Seek Strength Through Online Communities

The power of the internet is now being harnessed for addiction recovery, but it’s not just a place for those in recovery. Online forums, Facebook groups and chat rooms have become a safe space for those who have lost their loved ones to addiction to speak about their grief without fear of hateful commentary. At a time when nearly half of all American report having a close friend or family member who has suffered from addiction, the online community is a vital gathering place for support. Read more about the online communities are helping those in recovery and their loved ones.

Detroit Becomes An Example Of How Cities Can Successfully Combat The Opioid Epidemic

Detroit, a town that was once known as Murder City, is now being heralded for their efforts to combat the city’s opioid problem. Detroit judges are bringing down murder charges against dealers whose drug sales result in death and health care fraud charges against doctors who overprescribe opioids- but it doesn’t stop there. Judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, defense counsel, probation officers are also collaborating with treatment providers to help drug-court participants build accountability and make healthy choices. Read more about Detroit’s approach

Houston Resident Hosts Sober Bowl- A Sober Super Bowl Party- For Second Year In A Row

As a sober person and huge football fan, Houston resident Tracy Abbott saw the need for a place to enjoy the NFL’s biggest game of the year without the presence of drugs or alcohol. This is why he created the Sober Bowl two years ago, an event where people can watch the Super Bowl without the having to worry about the drunken crowds or fans. Learn more about the Sober Bowl.

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Mixing and matching substances can be hazardous. Regardless, the practice of consuming drugs and alcohol together has remained extremely popular among people looking to achieve a particular high.

Among the most popular combination of substances is Xanax with alcohol. For some, using alcohol and Xanax together creates a feeling of euphoria and relaxation. One online user described her high by saying: “I was so blissed out after a Xanax and some beers that I felt like I could do anything.” Unfortunately, chasing such an intense high can come with a steep price.

While mixing Xanax and alcohol has become increasingly popular in recent years among those struggling with addiction, the unpredictable nature of combining the two can lead to a dangerous and possibly deadly withdrawal process.

What Everyone Should Know About Alcohol And Xanax

Xanax falls into a class of drugs called benzodiazepines– more commonly called benzos. Benzos work by actively slowing down brain activity to reduce levels of excitement and create a calming, almost tranquilizing, effect on the brain and body. This is what makes it so effective at alleviating symptoms of the anxiety disorders they are frequently prescribed to treat.

Questions About Treatment? Call now to be connected with one of our compassionate treatment specialists. 1-888-966-8973

Like Xanax, alcohol also works as a central nervous system depressant. In many cases, alcohol can make people feel more animated and less reserved after the first round or two of drinks. However, the more alcohol a person drinks, the more noticeable the sedative effects of the substance will become. When combined, the two create a powerful sedative effect on the human mind and body.

Side Effects Of Alcohol And Xanax

The euphoric high that comes from combining alcohol with Xanax is what draws the majority of users back to this mixture of substances time and time again. Unfortunately, the combined sedative effects of these two substances can cause a series of uncomfortable and at times, life-threatening side effects including:

  • Slowed pulse
  • Slowed breathing
  • Vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Impaired memory
  • Fainting spells
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Blacking out
  • Coma

Over time, as the dependency deepens, those abusing Xanax with alcohol will need to take increasing quantities of these substances to get the same intoxicating high as before. The more Xanax and alcohol are consumed the longer these symptoms will prevail. Longevity of drug and alcohol use can make the withdrawal process increasingly dangerous.

Even more startling, the Morbidity And Mortality Weekly Report found that over 27 percent of emergency department visits involving benzodiazepines also involved alcohol and that over 26 percent of the individuals who died as a result of benzodiazepine use were also consuming alcohol.

When people become addicted to two or more substances in order to achieve a specific feeling, it is known as polysubstance dependence.  

Detoxing From Alcohol And Xanax

Since alcohol and Xanax both act as central nervous system depressants, the mixture of the two will significantly slow down the heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce the body’s temperature. When these two substances are abused over a period of time, the body will inherently adjust to these conditions and begin to accept them as the new normal. If both were to be suddenly removed from the brain and body, these functions would quickly rebound. This makes quitting Xanax and alcohol cold turkey extremely dangerous.

Detoxing from this combination of substances should only be done under medical supervision. The body’s vital signs must be carefully monitored during the detox process to help avoid and treat withdrawal symptoms including:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Impaired breathing
  • Headaches
  • Tingling in arms and legs
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Sweating and fever
  • Blurred vision
  • Coma
  • Delirium tremens

If detox from the combination of Xanax and alcohol is done without medical supervision, some of the more dangerous withdrawal symptoms can be deadly.

Out of all these uncomfortable side effects, delirium tremens is the most serious and life-threatening. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), this symptom is considered a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that can cause hallucinations, body tremors, delirium and seizures. While the NIH states that delirium tremens are frequently brought on within 12 to 72 hours after someone’s last drink, they also state that it can begin as late as seven to nine days after alcohol consumption.

Due to the complex combination of substances in the body, detoxing from Xanax and alcohol is unpredictable and vastly more difficult than detoxing from just one drug.

Timeline Of Withdrawal From Alcohol And Xanax

Alcohol withdrawal can be broken down into three stages.

  • Stage One: Begins about eight hours after last drink. Can cause anxiety, nausea, insomnia and body aches.
  • Stage Two: Begins about 24-72 hours after last drink. Can cause high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat and fever.
  • Stage Three: Begins about 72+ hours after last drink. Can cause hallucinations, body tremors and seizures.

When medically supervised and treated accordingly, alcohol withdrawal symptoms typically start to decrease after five to seven days.

However, withdrawal from Xanax, or any other drug in the benzo family, tends to last longer than alcohol withdrawal. While symptoms of Xanax withdrawal can begin as early as 10-12 hours after the final dose, the side effects reach a peak around two weeks after the last pill. Even after the withdrawal process reaches its peak, symptoms can last for months afterward if not addressed by a medical professional.

When these two withdrawal processes are combined, people can expect the side effects to feel more severe and last longer than if they were detoxing from one substance.

Some factors that can influence the length and intensity of withdrawal are how long someone has been using, dosage of Xanax, underlying medical or mental health issues, family history of dependency and amount of alcohol consumed.

Using Alcohol And Xanax Together

The public is often taught that those struggling with addiction have a “drug of choice,” or one specific substance that they abuse regularly. However, this is rarely the case. In recent years, it’s become common that drug and alcohol-related deaths are a result of a complicated and lethal cocktail of substances.

Due to this, it’s become increasingly important to understand the heightened risk factors that go along with detoxing from more than one substance at the same time. If you or someone you love is suffering from an addiction to alcohol and/or Xanax and needs help, call to speak with one of our treatment specialists today at 888-512-3326.

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Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Addiction Campuses.

Should I Stop Drinking To Support My Newly Recovering Son?

*Names have been changed

Sharon* is looking for advice on her son Brett* who will soon be completing treatment. Sharon wants Brett to move back home with her and her husband. Sharon says she knows it won’t be easy. Raising Brett has been challenging. She describes her son as mischievous, curious, sensitive, inpatient and at times, a good liar.

Sharon says Brett will drink or use anything he can get his hands on. Before treatment, Brett cleaned out his parent’s medicine cabinet. He finished off his father’s muscle relaxants and took Sharon’s valium. She says Brett tried her menstrual cramp medication, just to see what it felt like. Brett drank an entire bottle of cooking sherry and even tried cough medicine.

Sharon likes to have a glass of wine with dinner and admits that sometimes, she has more than one. Sharon says, “drinking has never been an issue for me.”

Sharon is a moderate drinker. She looks forward to her daily glass of wine and doesn’t want to give it up. However, Sharon worries her drinking might affect her son negatively.

While Brett has made a lot of progress in treatment, he is by no means cured. Brett’s inpatient counselor wants him to move into sober living so he can continue making progress through hard work, recovery meetings and group accountability– but Sharon isn’t convinced that her son needs the extra help. She believes Brett would be better off at home with people who love him.

Questions About Treatment? Call now to be connected with one of our compassionate treatment specialists. 1-888-614-2379

Sharon feels like many parents do. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the whole picture. Even though Sharon has seen her son at his worst, she doesn’t understand the true nature of his illness. Sharon believes she can control her son and make him well. She has drawn up a daily schedule for Brett, a disciplined regimen similar to the structure he follows in treatment.

While this might look like a great idea, the chances of Brett following through with Sharon’s schedule are slim. Not because Sharon isn’t a good mother or that her schedule is unrealistic, but because Brett will behave the worst with his family, just as many struggling with addiction do.

Brett is used to pushing the envelope in his childhood home. He knows how to manipulate his parents. When Brett messes up, he is used to Sharon making excuses for him. He knows what emotional buttons to push with Mom and Dad and how to play them off against one another.

Over the past few years, the dynamics in Brett’s home have changed. Brett isn’t the only one affected by his disease. Sharon stopped going out with her friends. She spends most of her time alone and worrying about Brett. Sharon and her husband barely speak to one another. They are not on the same page when it comes to setting boundaries with Brett. Their marriage has suffered and they have drifted apart. Sharon says she’s exhausted looking after her son. Getting him up in the morning, making sure he eats, getting him to do his chores and checking to see if he was high has been a full-time job. Sharon admits she feels more like Brett’s parole officer than his Mom.

Brett hears his parent’s arguing and feels terrible for them. He admits that when he feels upset, it might be tempting to sneak into their medicine cabinet or find Sharon’s bottle of wine and seek relief.

Brett knows leaving treatment will be challenging. He wants to please his parents, but he is afraid to return home. Although Brett doesn’t like admitting it, he’s scared. He hasn’t developed a good sense of himself yet. Going forward, the choices he makes will support his recovery and reveal the strong and successful man waiting to emerge from this experience, or he will relapse into old behavior which is familiar, habitual and easy to do.

Sharon has heard mixed messages. Some say the family should give up drinking to support their addicted loved one, while others believe the non-addicts should not have to change their lifestyle.

As a person in long-term recovery who has worked with many families, I have a different take on it. A loved one’s struggle is often an opportunity for families to learn more about their relationship with substance. How important is that drink or that pill to you? If it’s not a problem, then it won’t be hard to abstain from it. But if you feel torn, I invite you to get curious. Unwinding from a stressful day with a glass of wine is fine, but when it affects the people in your home, it might be a problem.

Imagine a lobster who has just shed his shell. In the process of re-growing his new one, he is most vulnerable. It’s like that with newly recovering addicts. Although they may say they’re fine and believe it, addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. Scarier still, it’s patient. Just being around substance can trigger cravings. Couple that with a difficult day, strained family dynamics and alcohol in the house and it’s a breeding group for relapse.

It’s in Brett’s best interest to be in a safe environment where there are no drugs or alcohol. Brett will need help in all areas of his life. Living clean and sober he will experience many firsts. To get through this difficult and overwhelming transition period Brett will need constant guidance and support from people who have walked in his shoes and know how to stay clean and sober.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.

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