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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of heroin use and over-dose has nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.  It’s also reported that more than 8,200 people died in 2013. Unfortunately, this statistic is on the rise since the last study and people are still abusing the drug and need help.

In the United States, heroin use and addiction doesn’t just affect one demographic. In fact, addiction levels are on the rise for men and women, various age groups, and nearly all income levels.

Heroin abusers need to decide- for themselves- when to cease their dependency on it. Abusers can stop on their own using online resources and a strong support system; however, the withdrawal symptoms might elicit relapse. A professional detox is the most successful way to rid an abuser’s body of the drug.

The more you, the heroin abuser, and your family know about supervised detox programs the greater success you’ll have.

You can understand how the program runs and what effort is needed on your part. Family and friends can recognize what you’re going through and learn how to be supportive every step of the way.

A supervised detox offers a safe and sure way for you to rid your body of the drug and toxic influences in a medical environment. This also reduces the risk of complications, if they occur. For some patients, their detox program may necessitate medication.

If you complete the program with absolute determination and purpose, you and your family will see immense progress.

For all who are involved in this journey: Outlined below are the five things you should know about a supervised detox program and how to continue progressing after.

 #1 Admission and Initial Assessment

At the first stage, doctors will give you a medical assessment. This is used to calculate your heroin use-level and help design a detox program and treatment plan for you.

You can expect questions similar to the ones listed below:

  • How long have you been a user?
  • Are you taking other drugs? If so, which ones?
  • If you drink alcohol, how often?
  • Have you tried treatment before?
  • Are there any other mental or physical problems you’d like us to know about?

As part of the assessment, you will also be given a physical exam to thoroughly determine your health condition. Your medical history will also be used with your written and physical assessment to create the best treatment plan for you.

Therefore, it is absolutely imperative to be honest on your assessment.

#2 Withdrawal Period

The next stage of the detox treatment is going through withdrawal. The intensity of the symptoms depends on how heavily you used heroin.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle aches or spasms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Insomnia
  • Sweating
  • Yawning
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated Pupils

When your body has been under the influence for long-periods of time, it’s not uncommon for it to malfunction. The endocrine system could misjudge normal experiences such a pleasure and pain and exaggerate them.

The fear of experiencing withdrawal symptoms deters many abusers from stopping. In a supervised detox program, the staff helps ease your symptoms and manage your cravings.

In these facilities, where resources and support are readily available, you have a higher probability of completing the program, and moving on to treatment. Supervised detox also reduces the chance of relapse and overdose in a safe and comfortable environment.

#3 Medicated Treatment Regime

In the third stage, the staff administers the supervised detox treatment plan, which is based on your assessment.

Sometimes, your treatment plan includes medications which control your cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

The medications may include the following:

  • Methadone: A synthetic opioid that helps reduce cravings. The drug mimics the opioid receptors in the brain. This strategy helps stabilize you while you’re in withdrawal.
  • Buprenorphine: Another synthetic opioid similar to Methadone except less intense. It only stimulates a part of the brain’s opioid receptors. It relieves the withdrawal symptoms and also hinders misuse by putting a limit on the blissful heroin effect.
  • Naltrexone: This medication completely blocks the brain’s opioid receptor. Naltrexone is sometimes taken even after the supervised detox is completed. This long-term drug regime discourages relapse and further heroin abuse.
  • Suboxone: This medication combines the Buprenorphine and Naltrexone to suppress heroin use. If taken properly, you will receive the effects of Buprenorphine. If the doctors first crush and then inject it, you will have extremely discomforting withdrawal symptoms.

The medication’s aim is to free your body of heroin and any of the drug’s impacts on your body. This is accomplished over time and on a decreased schedule. The timing depends on your history with the drug and withdrawal symptoms intensity.

#4 Non-medicated Treatment Regime

You have the option to elect for a treatment that doesn’t involve any pharmaceuticals. This is often referred as “social” detox.

This treatment often takes place in residential or inpatient facilities. The benefit is that you’d be in an atmosphere that supports and fosters your goal. You’ll be around people who have the same aspirations as you and can encourage you.

You’ll have support from not only your therapists but also your peers. If you do need it, there is medication available. Unlike the medicated detox program, this one uses natural medications to lessen your withdrawal symptoms.

#5 After Supervised Detox

Your journey is not over once you’ve completed your detox. The detox merely clears your system of the drug and its impression on you. After the detox and withdrawal symptoms have ceased, you can focus on treating your addiction habits.

Behavioral therapy is the most common way to treat heroin addiction. These sessions concentrate on the core causes of your substance abuse and cravings during and after treatment.

This is a great phase for your family to be involved in. Therapists can advise them about how to best support your progression and help you adjust to life at home.

The type of behavioral therapy offered depends on the treatment center and its philosophy, any present psychiatric disorders, and your preferences. Generally, there are three types of therapies available:

  • Family Therapy: It includes you and your family members.
  • Group Therapy: It’s with the company of other addicts.
  • Individual Therapy: It’s a one-on-one session.

There is still a wealth of resources available if you cannot participate in behavioral therapy or need support after.

Online resources helped former addicts further their progression and avoid relapse. The two most common are listed below:

  • Narcotics Anonymous provides a twelve-step program through regular group meetings. The website provides resources ranging from literature about addiction to finding a meeting.
  • SMART Recovery offers direction for finding support groups, starting your own, and an online community for between sessions.
Now, Take the First Step Towards Recovery

You’ve been given all the information about how to help yourself.

Now, it’s up to you to rouse up the courage to make a change for yourself and the people around you.

If you’re committed to receiving treatment, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does this treatment facility offer everything I need?
  2. Does this treatment program use medications?
  3. What types of therapy are available?
  4. What support or resources are provided by the treatment program?
  5. What type of staff are employed in this treatment facility?
  6. How much will it cost? And does my insurance cover it?

If you’re ready to learn more about our treatment center and detox programs please visit our website.


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There isn’t a doubt that there is a connection between drug addiction and depression.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration conducted a survey in the United States and the results were staggering:

  • ~ 17.5 million people over the age of 18 have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
  • ~ 4 million people with a mental illness also have a co-occurring drug addiction.
  • ~ 40% of the people struggling with mental illness and drug addiction seek out treatment for either one.
  • ~ 5% receive treatment for both issues.

When someone exhibits symptoms of both drug addiction and a mental illness, such as depression, they are battling a Dual Diagnosis.

Dual Diagnosis can come in many combinations:

  • Alcoholism and Depression
  • Weed and Anxiety Disorder
  • Painkillers and Bipolar Disorder

In most cases, the symptoms and problems of drug addiction can negatively affect those of a mental disorder.

Dual Diagnosis sometimes occurs when patients try to do something to ease their anguish. These patients often turn to self-medication in the form of drugs. In some cases, depression leads to drug addiction; and in others, the drug addiction causes depression.

To inform you and your loved ones about Dual Diagnosis, please read about the connection between depression and drug addiction. You can also read on about finding treatments available to you.

Depression Symptoms

There’s a difference between having a bad day and depression. A bad day occurs on occasion, while depression is a mental state that lasts for weeks or even years.

Symptoms vary person to person, but there are common ones:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loss of activity pursuits
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Appetite changes
  • Trouble concentrating

Depression alone is difficult to treat long-term. And the symptoms get worse with substance abuse, making it even more difficult to treat.

Symptoms of Drug Addiction and Depression

Regardless of whether you or your loved one was diagnosed first with depression and then drug addiction, or the reverse, it can be hard to distinguish between the two.

Common symptoms of drug addiction and depression are:

  • Loss of interests
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of irritable, angry, or hostility
  • Feelings of emptiness, lost, or helplessness
  • Change in diet or eating habits
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Careless appearance
  • Loss of enthusiasm or motivation
  • Deciding to be alone
  • Extreme weight gain or loss
  • Trouble concentrating, thinking, and/or remembering
  • Chronic pains and aches
  • Continuous thoughts of suicide

If you or a loved exhibit these symptoms, then you may a dual diagnosis.

The next question you might ask: Did drug addiction cause the depression? Or did depression initiate the drug addiction?

Well trained therapists will be able to figure it out using a psychological evaluation. Additionally, reports from family members and friends, work employers, and even court records can help clarify which one came first.

Why is it Important to Know Which Disorder Came First?

For treatment purposes, it becomes extremely imperative to know.

For patients whose drug abuse was from depression, they will undergo a longer and different treatment regimen. They will receive a supervised detox and possibly have a medical intervention. All before receiving treatment for their depression.

For those where depression was from drug addiction, they will be taken off their drugs. After, therapists will evaluate if the patients truly have depression.

How Does Depression Lead to Drug Addiction?

Depression causes a downward spiral. It makes people feel sad and lonely and show disinterest in their hobbies.

People affected by depression often try to assuage it with illegal or prescription drugs. The drugs temporarily alleviate their symptoms and makes them feel better. However, once the drug wears off, the feelings of despair return. This causes some people to use drugs even more, which leads to drug addiction.

How Does Drug Addiction Lead to Depression?

Drug addiction worsens or intensifies depression symptoms because it mimics them.

Since addiction and depression symptoms are so close, you may not even realize you have the disorder. When the drug is removed from your system, then a proper depression diagnosis can be given.

Drug addiction undercovers underlying issues such as childhood or adulthood abuse, other traumas, blocked memories, family structures, or a combination of things. Therapy can help work through these problems without depending on drugs.

Treatment

There are thorough treatments available for both drug addiction and mental disorders. Doctors and specialists use medication more frequently since it is more effective.

The best treatment is rigorous outpatient or inpatient treatment programs. By the end of these programs, you can stop your dependency and learn to manage your depression in a healthy manner.

Dual Treatment for Drug Addiction and Depression

The best option if you have a dual diagnosis is a dual treatment plan. Drug addiction and depression feed each other. Both need to be addressed to put a stop to the cycle.

A vigorous dual treatment program concentrates both on the drug addiction and underlying causes of depression.

A dual treatment may include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Medical support
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Onsite medical assistance
  • Family involvement
  • Relapse prevention support
  • Detoxification
  • 12-step programs
  • Medications

An effective treatment plan uses a combination of the strategies listed above.

Limits of Treatment

One of the major misconceptions of treatment is that it solves your problems upon completion of a program. Treatment is actually an ongoing process and requires support from therapists, group sessions, and family members.

Ideally, the treatment plan would work and you learn how to cope with depression and not relapse. However, that rarely happens.

In most cases, one-third of people with depression go to remission; one-third show progress but not in remission stage; and finally, one-third doesn’t feel better than when they started. To remedy this, long-term treatment needs to use both medication and therapy.

Overall, long-term treatment significantly reduces the risk of drug addiction and stages off symptoms of depression.

New Treatment Options

Treatment options are expanding and improving with our continuing understanding of co-diagnosis.

Treatment plans might use transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) when antidepressant medications and other established depression treatments do not work.

Scientists and doctors are creating new medications that will use new neural pathways for depression symptoms.

There’s even studies that hope to manipulate genes to help curb addiction.

Support Groups

There are also online resources readily available to help you.

Dual Diagnosis provides information for different support groups:

  • Dual Recovery Anonymous: A 12-step program that helps patients recuperate from drug addiction and mental illness. It concentrates on preventing relapse and improving the quality of attendees’ lives. The group urges people to build a support network.
  • ERG: Everyone’s Recovery Group: A 12-step program that’s inclusive to all types of addicts. The hope is that people will be more motivated hearing other people’s recovery and progress stories.
  • Double Trouble in Recovery: A 12-step program tailored specifically for dual diagnosed patients. People who have only a drug addiction or diagnosed with a mental disorder are also welcome.
  • Dual Disorders Anonymous: A fellow ship of men and women who wish to help those with both mental disorders and drug addiction.
  • Dual Diagnosis Anonymous: The group talks about the importance of group therapy and medicated treatment. The group wants its members to share their recovery stories along with their struggles.
  • Schizophrenics Anonymous: An adapted 12-step program run by non-professionals for those suffering from schizophrenia.
  • Depressive Manic-Depressive Association: National organization whose meetings provide scholastic information about self-help.
Help Yourself or Your Loved Ones

There’s no need to wait, you can now make an informed step towards recovery.

If you or know someone who is going through these symptoms, contact a treatment center to get the imperative treatment.


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When someone goes into rehab, we often get questions from families about what they should be doing while their loved one is undergoing treatment. Our number one answer might surprise you. We tell them to take care of themselves.

The truth is that when you love someone deeply, watching them struggle with addiction is very difficult. You want to help but you’re not sure what to do. And even after they start rehab, you may worry that you weren’t supportive enough.

That’s a lot to carry. That’s why we emphasize self-care and healing for the family members of our patients.

Why Self-Care Is Important

Before we share our self-care recommendations, let’s talk about why self-care is important. As we’ve already mentioned, caring for a loved one who is struggling with addiction is hard work. You may have put aspects of your life on hold as you tried to help them.

Addiction takes a toll on everyone in the family. You may feel exhausted, overwhelmed, relieved, sad, scared, and hopeful all at the same time. That’s a lot of emotions – and can drain you physically and emotionally.

Of course, you may also be wondering what things will be like when your loved one returns home. It’s essential for you to take some time to heal, rest, and recover from what you’ve been through. Only then will you be able to be a positive, supportive influence after rehab.

In other words, self-care is an important part of the recovery process for you and your recovering addict. You might not have a problem with addiction in that you’re not drinking or using drugs, but that doesn’t mean that addiction hasn’t taken a toll on you.

With that in mind, here are some ways that you can take care of yourself while your loved one is with us.

#1: Find Ways to De-Stress

One of the best things you can do is find ways to relieve the stress and tension that resulted from your loved one’s battle with addiction. Stress takes a physical and emotional toll on you, and it’s not possible to heal if you’re still feeling its effects.

Some things that may help include:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Getting fresh air and exercise
  • Doing yoga
  • Journaling about your experiences
  • Seeing a therapist or counselor
  • Meditating

These things can help you let go of your worry and anxiety and live in the present. The more you can de-stress, the better you’ll feel.

#2: Get Your Life in Order

It’s common for family members of addicts to experience disruption and confusion before their loved one goes into rehab. It’s important to use the time that they’re away to take care of things that may have fallen by the wayside.

Here are some things that you may need to deal with to get your life back on track:

  • Paying bills, balancing your checkbooks, and catching up on late payments that may have occurred because of the financial strain due to helping your loved one
  • Cleaning your home and getting rid of items that might be triggering to you or your loved one, including drug paraphernalia and reminders of addiction
  • Reconnecting with friends and family members you haven’t seen in a while
  • Catching up on work, errands, and other parts of your life that may have taken a backseat to your loved one’s addiction
  • Reprioritizing the elements of your life

Use this time to take control of your day-to-day, add balance to your life, and get things back on track.

#3: Find Support

Dealing with addiction isn’t easy. It’s very common family members of addicts to feel overwhelmed, burdened, and guilty. Your loved one’s addiction isn’t your fault, but it can feel that way – especially if family dynamics have not been balanced or healthy.

One of the best things you can do is find the support you need. The rehab process will give the recovering addict in your life support and guidance, but you need help, too. You may be feeling a lot of anger and confusion, and getting help now will put you in the best position to be supportive and helpful when your loved one comes home.

The kind of support you seek out is up to you. You may decide that one-on-one counseling is what you need to work through your emotions. Or, you might decide that a support group designed for friends and family of addicts is the best choice. You may even decide to try several support options before settling on the ones that work best for you.

Keep in mind that not all support has to be in person. There are online forums and support groups that you may want to try as alternatives to face-to-face therapy.

#4: Set Boundaries

It’s very common for healthy boundaries to be destroyed by addiction. Addicts tend to push boundaries by involving people in their addiction. Sometimes they borrow money to support their addiction; other times they simply take what they need.

Emotional boundaries are impacted by addiction, too. If you reach a point where you find yourself taking responsibility for someone else’s behavior and letting self-care slip, it’s a good sign that your relationship was a codependent one.

The solution is to think about your relationships and decide where your boundaries should be. Keep in mind that the only person whose behavior you can control is your own. Everyone else – including the addict – must take responsibility for their behavior.

Setting boundaries can be very difficult in the wake of addiction. It can take a long time to find and enforce them, but it’s important to begin that work while your loved one is in rehab.

On a related note, it’s a good idea to think about what you might need to do to enforce the boundaries you put in place. Your loved one will learn about healthy boundaries in rehab, but understanding on an intellectual level and putting what you learn into practice are two different things.

#5: Have Fun

There’s nothing fun about addiction. A lot of times, friends and family members of addicts find that their lives end up revolving around addiction.

The time when your loved one is in rehab is an opportunity for you to let loose and have a good time. Making time for social events and outings is a good way to shed some of the stress that has accumulated, and remind yourself of who you were before addiction became something you had to think about.

Sometimes, people feel guilty about having fun while someone they care about is in rehab. But keep in mind, fun is important in our lives. When you give yourself permission to have fun, you’re also laying the groundwork for positive things to come back into your life.

The healthier and happier you are, the better your relationship with your recovering addict will be. Having a bit of fun is an essential part of reclaiming your health and happiness.

Start Practicing Self Care

Watching a loved one cope with addiction is an exhausting, all-consuming thing. It can make your life feel very small – and getting back to normal represents a significant challenge.

Engaging in self-care while your loved one is in rehab is the best thing you can do to lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship with them post-rehab. Learn more about our rehabilitation services and how they can help your loved one by visiting our website.


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Making the decision to get help for an addiction is not easy. In fact, it’s one of the most difficult things that you can do. We don’t like to admit that we need help.

That’s natural, but it can also be a roadblock to healing. Even when you know that rehabilitation is necessary, it’s common for addicts to struggle to stay motivated and uplifted as they work to kick their addiction and rebuild their lives.

It’s for this reason that inspiration plays a very important role in the recovery process. We all find inspiration in different places, but a lack of inspiration can hamper your overall recovery.

Why Does Inspiration Help with Recovery?

The road to overcoming addiction is not just a physical path. It represents a mental and emotional journey that requires a full commitment from the person who is ready to travel it.

The bottom line is that recovery is hard work. Addiction is insidious, and most addicts find that they struggle every day with a desire to drink, use drugs, or engage in whatever harmful behavior landed them in rehab in the first place.

That’s why addicts can often benefit from inspirational, meaningful words to hold onto when things are difficult for them. A quote or phrase that reminds them of hope, encourages them to keep going, and asks them to reach just a little bit higher for the success they want can make a big difference.

Sometimes, addicts use inspirational quotes and sayings as mantras. They hang these words where they’ll see them on a daily basis, whether it’s on their bathroom mirror or at their desk at work. The words serve as a daily reminder to stay strong and keep pushing forward.

With that in mind, we’ve assembled a collection of some of our favorite inspiring quotes and sayings for people in recovery. We hope you find them useful.

Inspirational Quotes and Sayings

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up”. ~ Anne Lamott

“When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to FLY.” ~ Patrick Overton

“No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.” ~ George Chakiris

“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” ~ Carl Bard

“Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we learned something from yesterday.” ~ John Wayne

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ~ Joseph Campbell

“Every great tragedy forms a fertile soil in which a great recovery can take root and blossom… but only if you plant the seeds.” ~ Steve Marabou

“Life is way too short to spend another day at war with yourself.” ~ Saying

“Believe more deeply. Hold your face up to the light, even though for the moment you do not see.” ~ Bill Wilson

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” ~ Albert Camus

“When was the last time you woke up and wished you’d had just one more drink the night before? I have never regretted not drinking. Say this to yourself, and you’ll get through anything.” ~ Meredith Bell

“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.” ~ Richard Evans

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” ~ C.S. Lewis

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Sometimes we motivate ourselves by thinking of what we want to become. Sometimes we motivate ourselves by thinking about who we don’t ever want to be again.” ~ Shane Niemeyer

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” ~ Helen Keller

“We may think there is will power involved, but more likely… change is due to want power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.” ~ George Sheehan

“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” ~ Bernard Williams

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

“Nobody stays recovered unless the life they have created is more rewarding and satisfying than the one they left behind.” ~ Anne Fletcher

“I would rather go through life sober, believing I am an alcoholic, than go through life drunk, trying to convince myself that I am not.” ~ Anonymous

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Nelson Mandela

“Life is tough, my darling, but so are you.” ~ Stephanie Bennett Henry

“There’s not a drug on Earth that can make life meaningful.” ~ Sarah Kane

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” ~ Chinese proverb

“It’s difficult to believe in yourself because the idea of self is an artificial construction. You are, in fact, part of the glorious oneness of the universe. Everything beautiful in the world is within you.” ~ Russell Brand

“Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.” ~ Carrie Fisher

“It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.” ~ Agnes Repplier

“Every worthy act is difficult. Ascent is always difficult. Descent is easy and often slippery.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” ~ Mark Twain

“My recovery has been an evolution, not a sudden miracle.” ~ Patty Duke

“When you show up being your true, authentic self, you create space for others to do the same. Walk in your truth.” ~ Kate Maslin

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles – it empties today of its strength.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom

“Just because you made some past mistakes doesn’t mean you are one. Nobody’s past is perfect. Some people will never forgive you. But never let that stop you from forgiving yourself.” ~ Trent Shelton

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” ~ Charlotte Whitton

“The best way out is always through.” ~ Robert Frost

“The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Remember that just because you hit bottom doesn’t mean you have to stay there.” ~ Robert Downey, Jr.

Conclusion

Inspiring words can help recovering addicts stay on track, providing much-needed guidance both during and after rehab. Learn about our rehabilitation services at Alpine Recovery Lodge by visiting our website.


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Addiction to opioid pain medications has been all over the news in recent months. Medical professionals, addiction specialists, and politicians have all expressed concern that opioid drug abuse has turned into an epidemic in the United States and are taking steps to address the issue.

One of the most dangerous and addictive opioids on the market is fentanyl. If you have a loved one who’s taking fentanyl and you’re worried that they might be abusing it, it can be extremely stressful.

The signs and symptoms of fentanyl abuse are not as easy to spot as those of alcoholism and some other addictions. We get a lot of calls at Alpine Recovery Lodge about fentanyl abuse – so let’s talk about the signs and symptoms to help you determine whether you or a loved one has a problem with this dangerous drug.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is an opioid drug. Opioids may be natural or synthetic. The natural drugs in this category are derived from the poppy plant. They are most commonly used for pain relief. Some well-known opioids include legal prescription drugs such as oxycontin, codeine, and morphine, as well as the illegal drug heroin.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that doctors prescribe for breakthrough pain. When a patient has been taking opioid drugs for some time and develops a resistance to them, fentanyl is often the drug chosen to help them manage their pain.

Most fentanyl prescriptions take one of the following forms:

  1. Skin patch
  2. Lollipop
  3. Dissolvable pill
  4. Dissolvable tongue film
  5. Intravenous

In structure, fentanyl is similar to morphine. It’s considered a Class II drug. It’s sold under the brand names Actiq®, Duragesic®, and Sublimaze®. Because of its strength, it is sometimes sold on the street under names like China White, Jackpot, and TNT.

How Does Fentanyl Compare to Other Opioid Drugs?

Any opioid drug can be addictive, but there are some things that make fentanyl different from its relatives.

First, fentanyl is very strong. It’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine and 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin. Most people understand that heroin is dangerous, yet view a prescription medication like fentanyl as being safe because a doctor prescribes it.

In fact, fentanyl is so strong that even inhaling it can cause dizziness and shortness of breath. It acts on the brain in the same way that other opioids do, so its strength is what sets it apart from the other opioid drugs.

Why is Fentanyl Dangerous?

Opioid drugs are addictive because of the way they act on the brain. More specifically, they act on opioid receptors in the brain and spine to reduce feelings of pain.

Pain relief alone would not be enough to make these medications addictive. The reason they can be dangerous is that they affect parts of the brain that stimulate emotion. When it comes to reducing pain, this effect can be a good thing because it makes the patient less receptive to pain signals.

However, opioids also affect the reward center of the brain. In some patients, taking drugs like fentanyl can create a sense of euphoria. Thus, even patients who take opioids as prescribed have a chance of becoming addicted to them.

Fentanyl is a powerful drug, but its effects don’t last very long. That’s another reason that it’s highly addictive – people may feel the need to use fentanyl at quicker intervals to keep the euphoria feeling and the pain away. If they take it this way , their bodies will begin to develop a tolerance that can lead to increased usage.

The most dangerous aspect of fentanyl is how small one dose can lead to lethal consequences. You know that heroin can be lethal in high enough doses, but fentanyl is much worse. To give you an idea of why fentanyl can be dangerous, we will compare the lethal doses of the two drugs:

  • A lethal dose of heroin is approximately 30 milligrams
  • A lethal dose of fentanyl is only 3 milligrams

A fentanyl addiction is dangerous because the difference between a safe dose and a lethal one is miniscule. Someone who isn’t aware of the thin margin between safety and death could easily take too much fentanyl and overdose.

Symptoms of Fentanyl Addiction

A person who has developed an addiction to fentanyl will most likely show physical symptoms from their addiction. If you suspect that someone you care about has a problem with fentanyl, here are some of the symptoms to look for:

  • Constricted pupils (pupils are smaller than usual)
  • Noticeable elation or euphoria (due to the stimulation of the reward center of the brain)
  • Persistent drowsiness or sedation (a tendency to sleep more than usual or want to sleep at strange times)
  • Confusion or mental fog (losing track of important information; difficulty focusing)
  • Constipation (most opioid drugs cause stool hardening or constipation that can be painful and even debilitating)
  • Slowed breathing (opioids slow respiration and very slow respiration can be a symptom of addiction)
  • Nodding off or losing consciousness (people taking heavy doses of opioids may fall asleep in the middle of a conversation or pass out)

A person who takes opioid medication for pain may have some of these symptoms even if they are not addicted. However, the presence of severe symptoms should be viewed as a red flag that the person may have a problem.

Behavioral Signs of Fentanyl Addiction

In addition to the physical symptoms listed in the previous section, people who abuse opioid drugs may also demonstrate behavioral changes that can alert their loved ones to the problem. Here are some signs that your loved one might be addicted to fentanyl:

  • Money shortage or financial problems. Fentanyl is expensive and may be even more expensive if the person in question is buying it on the street.
  • Doctor shopping. It’s very common for people with opioid addictions to shop for doctors in the hopes that if one doctor won’t give them the drugs they want, another one will. Doctors are aware of the dangers of fentanyl and are cautious about prescribing it.
  • Pharmacy shopping. Just as doctors operate carefully with fentanyl, the same is true of pharmacists. An alert pharmacist or pharmacy technician would notice if a person came into their pharmacy with fentanyl prescriptions from two (or more) doctors. A person with an addiction might frequent pharmacies in different locations (and different chains) to avoid detection.
  • Extra pill bottles. People who are abusing fentanyl may have more pill bottles than they should. If you notice that your loved one has extra pill bottles lying around or in the trash, you should be concerned.
  • Mood swings and irritability. People who are struggling to hide an addiction to fentanyl can get angry and irritable if they are questioned about it. It’s common for addicts to react defensively when they feel their addictive behavior has been noticed.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation. A person who has an addiction to fentanyl may withdraw from social activities and avoid friends and family members. It may be difficult for them to hide the signs of their drug abuse and it’s easier for them to choose solitude over company.

Other signs may include the appearance of new friends and acquaintances, a change in appearance or body odor, secretive behavior, and nervousness.

The nature of addictive behavior is that it encourages secret-keeping. If your loved one demonstrates a significant change in their personality, grooming, and behavior, it might be a sign that they have an addiction.

Fentanyl Withdrawal

What happens when someone who has an addiction to fentanyl can’t get the drugs they want? The simple answer is that they will exhibit signs of fentanyl withdrawal:

  1. Yawning
  2. Perspiration
  3. Restlessness
  4. Runny nose and watery eyes
  5. Chills
  6. Backache
  7. Stomach cramps
  8. Body hair standing on end
  9. Joint and muscle pain

Withdrawal symptoms usually begin between 12 and 30 hours after the last dose of fentanyl was taken. It may take longer – up to 72 hours – if the person was using a fentanyl patch.

Because of fentanyl’s strength, cold turkey withdrawal is not recommended. However, if an addict runs out of money or can’t get access to more fentanyl, the withdrawal symptoms may be unavoidable.

Opioid withdrawal symptoms are painful and for that reason, addiction specialists usually recommend a tapering of fentanyl use. Sometimes patients are given another opioid drug as an interim measure, getting increasingly lower doses as time goes on.

What to Do If You Know Someone Who’s Addicted to Fentanyl

Now that you know the signs and symptoms of fentanyl abuse, you’re probably wondering what the next step is. If you or someone you know has an addiction to fentanyl, the time to act is now. As we mentioned, fentanyl addiction is exceedingly dangerous due to the low lethal dose.

At Alpine Recovery Center, we have extensive experience helping people who have developed addictions to fentanyl and other prescription drugs get on the road to recovery. Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our program or talk to someone about your loved one.


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Unlike using illegal drugs, drinking alcohol is a socially acceptable activity. We do it when we’re out with friends and at home.  Consuming alcohol is commonplace that it can make be difficult to tell when someone has lost control.

One of the most common questions we get at Alpine Recovery Lodge is, “How can I tell if my loved one is an alcoholic?” It never surprises us when people ask because we know how confusing and upsetting it can be to wonder if someone you care about is addicted to alcohol and needs help.

If you’re worried that someone you know might have a drinking problem, there are some simple questions and observations that can help you understand the differences between casual drinking and alcoholism.

What is Alcoholism?

Let’s start with a definition of alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder. A person who is an alcoholic has difficulty controlling their drinking. They drink more than average and continue to do so even when their drinking begins to cause problems.

Another way of looking at it is that alcohol abuse is any pattern of drinking that leads to problems with a person’s health, safety, or well-being.

How to Tell If Your Loved One Is an Alcoholic

Now, let’s look at some of the key hallmarks of alcohol abuse and contrast them with casual drinking.

1. A High Tolerance for Alcohol

The first thing to ask is whether your loved one has a high tolerance for alcohol. People who drink regularly develop a tolerance as a matter of course. For example, if you drink one glass of wine with dinner every night, you probably won’t be affected by it very much. However, if you had two or three glasses, you would feel the effects.

By contrast, alcoholics tend to have a very high tolerance for alcohol. Where you might feel tipsy or even drunk after three glasses of wine, they might need to drink a bottle or two to get the same feeling.

2. Secret or Forbidden Drinking

Does your loved one drink at times when they shouldn’t be drinking? One of the biggest warning signs of alcohol abuse is drinking in secret or drinking at times when it’s not appropriate to do so.

Drinking in secret might mean hiding bottles of alcohol from the family or drinking only when alone. It may also include lying about drinking when asked about it. Forbidden drinking might include drinking at work or while driving. A person who has a healthy relationship with alcohol doesn’t do these things.

3. Isolation

Casual drinking is often a social affair. We meet friends for a quick drink after work or go to a party. We don’t cut ourselves off from the people we care about.

On the other hand, someone who abuses alcohol may isolate themselves and avoid loved ones, particularly if they’re worried that people they care about may notice that they have a problem. They may also avoid situations where there won’t be any alcohol available because they need it to get through the day.

4. Missed Commitments and Obligations

A person with a healthy relationship with alcohol can perform all the functions of daily life. They get to work on time, do their jobs, and are present when the people they care about need them. They are able to control and limit their drinking and not allow it to interfere with their responsibilities.

An alcoholic may show up late to work or call in sick a lot. They may also take unnecessarily long lunches because it’s an opportunity to drink before coming back to the office. In addition to missing work, they may also skip out on social and family obligations. As their need for alcohol increases, their ability to focus on other things decreases.

5. Mood Swings

We all have days when we feel good and days when we struggle. That’s part of being human. Mood swings by themselves are not a sign of alcoholism, but frequent mood swings and irritability combined with drinking may be a sign that there’s a problem.

Being an alcoholic puts a tremendous amount of stress on a person’s body and brain. Many alcoholics live in constant fear that their problem will be discovered. They worry that people are judging them, and they often judge themselves quite harshly, too.

Their anger may flare up whenever someone attempts to confront them about drinking or says that they’re concerned. In these situations, the anger is born of defensiveness and fear, but it can be frightening to witness.

6. Physiological and Behavioral Changes

When a person drinks casually, the alcohol they consume doesn’t take precedence over self-care. The opposite is true for a person who has an alcohol addiction.

It’s common for alcoholics to stop caring about their physical appearance and surroundings. They may not shower as frequently as they used to, wear makeup, or get dressed. They may also neglect their homes, not doing dishes or laundry and letting trash accumulate.

There are many levels of cleanliness and a tendency toward messiness may not be a sign of alcoholism. But if your previously meticulous loved one is suddenly sloppy and doesn’t seem to care about it, it may be a sign that their drinking has crossed over into alcoholism.

7. Blacking Out

Most casual drinkers have, on occasion, had too much to drink. Sometimes our resistance is down and sometimes we got caught up in the moment and lose track of what we’ve consumed. Overindulging occasionally doesn’t make someone an alcoholic.

However, a person who has regular blackouts and persistent memory loss due to drinking probably does have a problem. Because alcoholics have a higher tolerance for alcohol than casual drinkers, they may think they can handle the amount of alcohol they’re drinking. Blacking out is not normal and is a serious warning sign of alcoholism.

8. Risk Taking

Alcohol consumption lowers our inhibitions. A person who might normally need a lot of cajoling to get up on the dance floor, for example, might go more readily after a couple of beers. That’s normal and not something to be concerned about.

However, heavy drinking and alcoholism can often lead to risk-taking behavior. For example, a person who has a problem with alcohol might drink while taking medication despite having been warned not to mix their meds with alcohol. They might get behind the wheel of a car and drive even though they know they’ve been drinking, thus endangering themselves and other people.

9. Making Excuses for Drinking

Most of us have said, “I need a drink” at one time or another. We say it after a hard day at work or when we feel a lot of anxiety. That’s normal and not a warning sign of alcoholism.

An alcoholic might make excuses about drinking as a way of masking their problem. For example, they might say that it’s a special occasion or that they’re stressed out. They may even claim that they’ve earned the right to drink because of their stress or for some other reason.

Is Your Loved One an Alcoholic?

Looking at the above signs, there is a considerable difference between casual drinking and alcoholism. Determining whether a person is an alcoholic can be difficult. But, as a rule, if your loved one exhibits three or more of these signs, there’s a good chance they have a problem with alcohol.

At Alpine Recovery Lodge, we have the resources to help alcoholics learn about their disease and begin a journey of recovery.. Learn more about our Alcohol Abuse Rehab program or contact us to talk about admission, treatment, and ask questions.

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Addiction, whether to alcohol, illegal narcotics or prescription medication, is a serious issue that can have a profound effect not only on the person with the addiction, but on their families, friends, and even co-workers.

Addiction has created a certain social stereotype and preconceived assumption about addicts and what kind of people they are.  And while we’ve probably all heard the familiar scenario of recreational use becoming a larger problem, for many the addictive behavior may be a symptom of another, equally serious problem, often in the form of a mental health disorder.

Like Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Cobain, people suffering from PTSD, depression or anxiety may turn to different substances, such as alcohol or narcotics, as a form of “self-medicating.”

Trying to medicate yourself for any serious condition is never a good idea. However when you aren’t aware that you have a treatable condition, and are only trying to make yourself feel better, you will go to great lengths to make the suffering go away.

Once one condition or disorder creates or intensifies another one, the patient is diagnosed with Co-Occurring Disorder, also referred to as Dual Diagnosis.

What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?

According to the American Addiction Centers, a co-occurring disorder is a diagnosis given when someone with substance abuse disorder, aka addiction, also suffers from a mental illness in the form of depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other.

Any combination of a mental health disorder with an addiction disorder will qualify for this diagnosis. These can include but are not limited to prescription drug addiction with anxiety, alcoholism with depression, anorexia with cocaine dependence, PTSD with heroin addiction and more. In each case, one disorder can exist before the other, but can sometimes trigger the other disorder.

When diagnosed with co-occurring disorders, the best course of action involves an integrated treatment plan that can address both the mental health and addiction conditions simultaneously.

Common Co-occurring Disorders

Even though any combination of mental health and addiction disorders can exist, there are some combinations that appear more often than others.

Alcoholism and Antisocial Personality Disorder

People who exhibit antisocial personality disorder often show little to no regard for social standards and tend to ignore the rights and interests of other people. Typical behavior includes manipulative and antagonistic characteristics, with no regard for the law or even their own safety.

Their actions result in no remorse for the outcome and are often initiated on impulse. This disorder is commonly seen with alcoholism.

Marijuana and Schizophrenia

Extensive research by the Harvard Medical School has indicated that marijuana use does NOT cause schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia is a diagnosed mental disorder where a person may show behavior that is socially inappropriate, may suffer from hallucinations, have diminished social skills, are unable to express emotions maturely, and has difficulty thinking in clear and logical terms.

According to the Brain and Behavior Foundation:

Schizophrenia affects men and women equally. It occurs at similar rates in all ethnic groups around the world. Symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions usually start between ages 16 and 30.

Men tend to experience symptoms earlier than women. Most of the time, people do not get schizophrenia after age 45. Schizophrenia rarely occurs in children, but awareness of childhood-onset schizophrenia is increasing.

It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a dropping of grades, sleep problems and irritability — all behaviors that are also common among normal teens.

Studies of co-occurring disorders have shown that approximately 50% of schizophrenia patients have a co-occurring addiction.

A November 2014 study of 2,082 people in the journal Medical Psychiatry found there was a “genetic predisposition” to schizophrenia among recreational marijuana users that showed symptoms of the disorder.

Essentially, it’s thought that while marijuana does not cause schizophrenia to occur, it might advance the symptoms in those who are already susceptible, since diagnosis of symptoms isn’t as easy in the early stages.

Cocaine Addiction and Anxiety Disorders

On its own, cocaine and its medical derivatives can have powerful results both medically and recreationally. When paired with mental health issues, the results can be astounding.

In the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, several psychiatric disorders are described to be brought on by cocaine.

These can include:

  • Delusions
  • Psychosis (an inability to distinguish between reality and hallucinations)
  • Paranoia
  • Homicidal or suicidal thoughts

The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry conducted a literature search and found that:

Paranoia occurs in 68 to 84 percent of patients using cocaine, and violent behaviors as a result of psychiatric symptoms induced by cocaine occur in 55 percent of patients. In patients who commit suicide, cocaine was found in 18 to 22 percent of cases. Many patients who abuse cocaine to the point of becoming dependent on it were also found to have a co-occurring psychiatric disorder.[15]

According to the Journal, cocaine has such an effect that developing a chemical dependence on it is as much a psychiatric and psychological disorder as it is a biological one. Cocaine can produce a wide range of mental illness symptoms, and it can worsen pre-existing mental disorders or lead to the manifestation of mental health disorders that were hitherto dormant or existed only in the potential.

The Integrated Treatment Model

When a health care provider is faced with treating a co-occurring disorder, the focus needs to be on both the addiction and the mental health condition.

The Integrated Treatment Model is a method that emphasizes the parallels between the treatments for mental health and the 12-Step approach of addiction disorders

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration explains how the Integrated Treatment Model works:

  • It helps patients consider the impact of their substance abuse.
  • It involves friends and family in the rehabilitation process.
  • It helps patients establish their own goals and shows them how to work towards those goals.
  • It connects them with jobs and other services that can help them get back into normal life following treatment.
  • It provides specific and special co-occurring disorder counseling.

Additionally, prescription anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications can also assist in this process, making coping techniques more effective, and giving relief from chemical imbalances within the brain

Now, more than ever, we have a better understanding of mental health issues and how they affect the body and mind. And, while even 25 years ago a certain stigma was often attached to the idea of seeking mental health treatment, our improved knowledge of how the human brain works under these disorders has made it more acceptable for people to come forward and receive help.

As conditions become more recognizable and treatments become much easier to understand and obtain, early diagnosis and treatment will hopefully begin to reduce the number of co-occurring disorders.

In the meantime, the Integrated Treatment Model represents how much science and research have done to provide hope and relief to patients and their families. It stands as a guide to diagnose, treat and give new life to those suffering unnecessarily from a co-occurring disorder.

Let us help you discover the source of your suffering and put you on the right path towards healing your body and mind. At Alpine Recovery Lodge, you can begin your own journey of recovery, simply by calling us at 877-415-4060.  Make your appointment today.

The post The Most Common Co-Occurring Disorders Found with Addiction appeared first on Alpine Recovery Lodge.

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When I was little, I liked the idea of keeping a journal. I couldn’t wait until I knew how to spell enough words to keep one. As soon as I was able to write complete sentences on my own, I used some of my allowance to buy my first journal. It was a floral fabric covered book, full of lined pages just waiting to be filled with all my thoughts and dreams. And, while my entries were sporadic at times, I did manage to keep up a fairly regular flow of entries that continue today.

My journals have taken many forms since that first volume. Some were originally made to be other things, like sketchbooks, others were the simple composition books, like those used in school, that I could customize the cover according to my likes at the time.

One I picked up in Italy. It was a beautiful leather-bound volume of blank pages, the front cover of which showed a stunning hand-rendered image of the Italian seaside. I admit it took me a while to work up the courage to use that one. It was really too gorgeous to write in. But I finally did, and eventually filled all the pages. It now sits on a special shelf with all my other filled journals, looking just at home there as the composition and sketchbooks.

When I go back to that first volume and re-read what my much (much, much) younger self had to say about friends, family, and life in general, I’m both amused and intrigued at how much I actually managed to capture.

Journaling can have many positive benefits. Life is full of very busy days as well as hopes and dreams. Having a place you can jot them all down will help you clear up the clutter in your mind, helping you avoid the oh so common feeling of being overwhelmed from living in our society today.

And, whether you suffer from stress, anxiety, depression, or are working hard to overcome an addiction, keeping a journal can go a long way to helping you work through the tough times. There is even research to show that show what those of us who journal regularly already know.

According to an article by Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm titled Emotional and Physical Health Benefits of Expressive Writing, the results of these studies prove that journaling can:

  • Increase immune function
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve lung and liver function
  • Reduce time spent in the hospital
  • Improve mood and enhance psychological well-being
  • Reduce symptoms of depression

Essentially, getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper will make it much easier for you to work through them.

Getting Started

Journaling is also a good way to improve problem-solving skills, reduce stress, and increase your self-esteem. When you’re faced with addiction recovery, each of these are important to help you stay on track and keep moving forward. Recovering addicts are very often encouraged to journal as a part of their treatment.

But, like a painter staring at a blank canvas or a writer peering at a blank page, it’s difficult sometimes to know how to get started. For many of us, it’s hard to let our feelings come to the surface.

There are no rules, though, and nothing says that each and every entry has to be full of inner speculation and profound self-discovery. In fact, they don’t even have to make sense as long as the process helps you.

Often when I’m “blocked” I start with something simple, like how I felt about yesterday.  It doesn’t matter if yesterday was really busy, or if nothing happened at all. Just take a minute, jot down the basic activities you remember and go from there.

You may be amazed to find how much one idea begins to flow into another. And before you know it, you’ve filled several pages and have begun to express more than you realize.

When this happens, it can be fun to go back later and read the train of thought that took you from eating breakfast yesterday morning, to what your favorite food was when you were 9 years old, to why you don’t like that food anymore, and on, and on, and on.

If yesterday doesn’t interest you, don’t worry, there are a lot more ideas out there.  In a previous article, we gave you 10 Prompts To Help You Start Journaling Through Addiction. These are:

  1. What things made you smile this week/month?
  2. What goals do you want to accomplish this year – in work, hobbies and your social life?
  3. What would you tell your teenage self if you had the chance?
  4. Start with “I couldn’t imagine living without…” and go from there.
  5. If my body could talk, it would say…
  6. What would you try if you knew you would not fail? Why?
  7. What relationships matter the most to you. How can you maintain or improve them?
  8. Write about someone whose life you changed for the better. What can you learn from this experience?
  9. What positive attributes make you unique?
  10. Think of someone you trust and confide in. How can you become like this person for others?

Each prompt on the list is an excellent way to get started on any given day. However, what if you are searching for something more but you’re not sure how to get it?

Perhaps you’re looking for something like greater spirituality or more creativity? There are a number of excellent resources available today that provide different goals for your journaling.

Going Even Further

When I was 15 years old, I was beginning to search for more ways to fulfill the spiritual side of my life. My parents gave me Anne Broyles Journaling: A Spirit Journey.  The goal of this particular book is to help you learn the journaling process while also expanding your spirituality and your closeness to God. In the new revised and expanded 2001 edition, Broyles offers even more “thought-provoking prompts and questions to help enrich your relationship with God through spiritual writing.”

Remember my sketchbook journals? Journaling does not have to be confined merely to words (something I didn’t realize at the age of 5 or I would have started a lot sooner).

In The Creative Journal: The Art of Finding Yourself, Dr. Lucia Capacchione does an amazing job of providing prompts and “vibrantly illustrated examples” to help the reader “release feelings, explore dreams, and solve problems creatively”  through writing and drawing.

Perhaps you’d like to take the creative side even further and unlock the hidden talents you thought you’d lost or never even knew you had.  Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity is a wonderful 12-week self-paced course that will take your hidden creativity and let it emerge. While not all of the exercises are specifically designed for journaling, I found them a good way to make entries into my journal and then expand on them when I felt like it.

Even if you don’t plan to be a great artist or writer someday, creating something, even if it’s only words in a journal meant only for your eyes, is a great therapeutic tool that can be continued anywhere and anytime you have a need for it.

Now You’re Ready

Overall, research has shown that journaling appears to be an excellent therapeutic tool in a wide range of settings, for a number of conditions. It can be included as part of more traditional therapies or as a self-help method of dealing with the underlying causes of stress, anxiety, and depression.

At Alpine Recovery Lodge, our nationally acclaimed treatment facility strongly recommends journaling as part of the individualized rehabilitation programs we offer.  Our facility offers a tranquil and serene setting ideal for clearing your head, organizing your thoughts and beginning that important first step toward addiction recovery.

Our staff of licensed therapists and counselors are skilled and compassionate professionals who help each one of our clients uncover the heart of the issue that has kept trapped them in addiction.

To find out more about our treatment programs and how we will tailor one to your needs, contact us at 877-415-4060 or contact our treatment center online.

The post Advancing the Healing Process Through Journaling appeared first on Alpine Recovery Lodge.

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When you’re recovering from a drug addiction, one of the most challenging aspects of life after rehab is learning how to combat addiction triggers and cravings. At Alpine Recovery Lodge, we work with our patients to give them the tools they need to do that.

Every recovering addict is unique, but they all share similar struggles. The key to long-term recovery and sobriety is not trying to avoid all potential triggers. That would be impossible. Some triggers – such as locational triggers and contact with drug-using associates – certainly should be avoided. However, a better course of action is to have tools in your arsenal to help you overcome triggers and cravings as they arise.

Method #1: Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of learning how to keep your thoughts in the present moment. More specifically, it involves training your brain to involve two things that can be triggering.

  1. Regret about past behavior; and
  2. Worry about the future

Once you learn to pay attention to your brain’s activities, you may be surprised to notice how often you do these two things. It’s very common for us to get off track and lose sight of where we are and what we’re doing.

A simple technique to use to ground yourself in the present moment and stop worrying is mindful breathing. Here are two things to try.

  1. First, do what’s called the box breath; this is a simple mindful breathing technique that requires you to focus on your breathing. To do it, empty your lungs by exhaling through your mouth. Then breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, exhale through your mouth for a count of four, and hold your breath for a final count of four.
  2. Second, in moments of extreme stress and anxiety, try the 4-7-8 breath. Begin by exhaling noisily through your mouth. Then, breathe in through your nose to a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven, and end by exhaling through your mouth to a count of eight; this is a profoundly relaxing breathing technique that can help alleviate anxiety.
Method #2: Avoid Panic

For many addicts, triggers and cravings can make them feel panicked and helpless. For that reason, it’s important to learn methods to help you get a wave of panic under control if you feel one.

The mindful breathing techniques outlined above can be very helpful, but there’s another method to try too. This one comes from Dr. Kristen Neff’s book Self-Compassion.

If you feel a sense of panic, make your right hand into a fist. Place it firmly over your heart, and then use your left hand to hold it there, applying gentle but consistent pressure.

This technique is very calming. The sense of pressure against your chest helps you be aware of your body and your heart, and in some cases, it may even be enough to bring you out of a panic attack. Hold your fist there as long as you like, and do your best to breathe evenly.

Method #3: Get Moving

When a drug craving strikes, one of the worst things you can do is to dwell on it. If all you think about is the craving itself, it may be virtually impossible to ignore the desire to satisfy it. For that reason, sitting alone with your thoughts isn’t the best idea. Instead, get up and get moving. You don’t have to hit the gym – although you can if you want. The main objective here is to get your body moving and your blood flowing.

The easiest way to accomplish those things is to go for a walk. Walking is great exercise, and it’s also naturally meditative. As you walk, pay attention to the way your feet feel when they strike the pavement or grass. Look around and notice your surroundings. What do you hear, see, smell, and feel?

As well as providing a distraction from the craving you’re experiencing, exercise also releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. Their presence in your body can help curb the craving and make you feel optimistic.

Method #4: Plan Ahead

Some triggers and cravings strike without warning. However, sometimes you go into a situation knowing that the potential to be triggered is there. When that happens, a little bit of planning can help you get through it.

For example, say a family member invites you to a wedding where they will serve alcohol. That’s a dangerous situation for any alcoholic, but there are some things you can do to keep your cravings under control.

One thing to do is to enlist the help of a buddy – a date or a family member who promises to be there for you and help you if you need it.

Another option is to attend the event armed with a recipe for a non-alcoholic drink that you really love. You can go to the bartender, explain your situation, and share the recipe if it’s not a drink they’re familiar with. That way, you’ll have something delicious to drink, and you won’t have to worry about making those decisions on the spot.

Method #5: Ask Questions

One of the trickiest things about being in recovery is learning how to control your self-talk – the things you say to yourself in your thoughts. We all have an inner critic, and in times of weakness, we’re very susceptible to that critic’s voice.

If you want to fight back against the desire to give into cravings, try asking yourself a question about it. You might really want a drink or a pill, but if you frame your question the right way you can put that decision in perspective. For example:

  • Do I really want to wake up hung over and angry at myself?
  • Do I want to break the promises I made to myself?
  • Is it worth trading the progress I’ve made for one night of drinking?

Pick a question that resonates with you and have it on hand so you can ask it if you need to.

Method #6: Create a Response to the Trigger

It’s very common for people who quit smoking to suck on hard candy or chew gum to give them something to do with their mouths. You can use the same technique to overcome triggers associated with addiction.

Do you feel a craving to use drugs because you’re lonely or sad? Go see a comedy or watch one on Netflix to lift your spirits.

Do you want a drink because you’re out with friends and you’re used to drinking with them? Try getting up and dancing or playing darts instead.

Are you bored? Call a friend, go out for a walk, wander through your local bookstore, or take up a new hobby to fill the time.

You get the idea. If you know that certain things trigger you, you can train yourself to respond with an alternative to relapsing. Over time, you’ll get used to these new activities, and they’ll be second nature to you.

It’s not possible to avoid everything that might trigger you or make you crave drugs or alcohol, but that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to a relapse. The six methods described here can help you learn to cope with them and develop healthy alternatives.

To learn more about how our programs help addicts learn to resist relapses, click here.

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The post How to Overcome Addiction Triggers and Cravings appeared first on Alpine Recovery Lodge.

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One thing we always keep in mind at Alpine Recovery Lodge is that overcoming addiction isn’t something that ends in rehab – it’s something that starts there. As our patients finish our program and return to their lives, it’s important to give them the tools they need to avoid relapsing into their old, addictive behavior.

Every person who rehabilitates with us is unique, but each of them has triggers that may make it difficult to stay on the track of recovery. A trigger may be physical, emotional, or even situational.

If someone you love is in recovery, it’s important to learn to recognize some of the most common triggers. It’s not your responsibility to prevent your loved one from relapsing, but it may be helpful to be aware of their triggers so you can be there to offer love and support if they need it.

With that in mind, let’s review some of the most common relapse triggers.

Locational Triggers

When a recovering addict visits a place where they commonly used drugs, it can be challenging not to revert to their old behavior.

In some cases, this may necessitate moving to a new home or apartment. In others, it may mean avoiding the sites of past drug use, including friends’ homes, bars, or other places they frequented in the past.

As the loved one of a recovering addict, your job is not to keep them away from locational triggers. However, you should try to be aware of them – and be sensitive to them whenever you can.

While locational triggers will inevitably vary from person to person, keep in mind that they may include any or all the following:

  • Home
  • School
  • Work
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Bathrooms
  • Concerts
  • Neighborhoods

The more the addict is aware of the places that trigger them, the easier it will be for them to avoid them.

Interpersonal Triggers

It’s very common for addicts in recovery to have a difficult time staying away from people who might trigger them into a relapse. Most such people fall into three categories:

  1. People who were directly involved in their drug use, including friends, drug dealers, and fellow addicts
  2. People who enabled their drug habit in some way, including family members and loved ones
  3. Toxic people who may make the addict feel ashamed, scared, or sad

Of these categories, the first may be the easiest one to avoid. Staying away from the people who both love and enable you is a real challenge.

When your loved one enters rehab, it’s helpful to explore your relationship with them to see if you have been enabling their drug use in any way. You can’t control whether they relapse, but you can certainly control your behavior and how you interact with them.

The person in recovery must pay attention to how they react to the people in their lives. Someone who offers lectures or shame and scolds them about their addiction may have a negative impact on their ability to stay clean. By contrast, a friend who offers unconditional love and understanding can help them resist triggers and stay on track.

Object Triggers

Not all triggers are complex. Some are very simple, and these include physical objects that may remind the recovering addict of their old behavior and life.

For example, the site of a spoon or syringe could be triggering to someone who used heroin. A prescription pill bottle might trigger a person who’s working to overcome an addiction to opioids.

The same may be true of experiential objects like music and movies. A drug addict who was in the habit of listening to music while they used drugs might find it painful or even impossible to listen to the same music post-rehab. Music has a powerful impact on the psyche and the reaction to hearing songs associated with addictive behavior may be overwhelming.

We do our best to prepare the people we treat for triggering events, but as their loved one, you can be cautious about recommending things or about using specific objects in front of them. A recovering alcoholic might be able to resist drinking when they’re not in the presence of alcohol, but struggle if they see your refrigerator is full of beer.

Situational Triggers

Sometimes, a high-stress situation – even if it’s not linked to the recovering addict’s life before rehab – can be enough of a trigger to put an addict at risk of a relapse.

Some situational triggers to be aware of include:

  • Big life events like weddings, funerals, childbirth, and graduations
  • Significant life changes such as starting a new job or moving
  • Anniversaries, birthdays, and other milestone dates
  • Parties and holidays

The tricky thing about this type of trigger is that these events seem like they should be a cause for celebration. It may be tempting to wave away the recovering addicts concerns, but doing so puts them in real danger of a relapse. The most important thing is to be sensitive to their needs and to offer support as needed.

Emotional Triggers

Emotional triggers are some of the most difficult to avoid because they can come from inside or outside. Some emotions, such as shame, guilt, and regret, originate within the addict’s brain and can be very tricky to combat.

External emotional triggers can also be hard to avoid. Sometimes, the most seemingly innocuous comment – even if delivered with nothing but the best of intentions – can send a recovering addict spiraling toward a relapse.

Navigating this kind of emotional trigger is tricky. We don’t want addicts’ families to feel that they must walk on eggshells around them; however, what we do recommend is being mindful of your words.

Of course, it’s also up to the addict to be aware of their thoughts and feelings and work not to have a knee-jerk reaction to the things that might lead them toward a relapse. This work may include some of the following:

  • Therapy sessions
  • 12-step meetings
  • One-on-one work with a sponsor
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Reading

Your best course of action is to make sure that the person you love knows that you support their efforts to heal and that you’ll do the best you can to be an ally and not an enabler.

Effort Triggers

The final type of trigger I want to mention here is related to the effort a recovering addict makes to reclaim their life after rehab.

You might think that such activities are always positive, but it’s important to keep two things in mind:

  1. Trying to get back to the way things were before addiction may be a really misguided effort to repeat the events that got the addict into trouble in the first place; and
  2. It’s easy for recovering addicts to get overwhelmed if they try to do too much at once.

A healthier approach to rehabilitation is to think of your life as something new that you can build from scratch. The addict’s life after rehab may contain some of the same people, places, and activities that it did while they were using, but it’s important to keep only those things that aid in their recovery.

Once again, your job is to provide support and love. You can’t rebuild the recovering addict’s life for them, but you can make sure they know that you care and that you’re there to provide help and assistance where it’s appropriate to do so.

Alpine Recovery Lodge is here to help. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, click here to learn about our treatment options.

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The post Common Relapse Triggers That Could Send Your Loved One into a Downward Spiral appeared first on Alpine Recovery Lodge.

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