If you’ve ever suffered from any kind of addiction, then you know what it is like to have cravings. It’s an overwhelming feeling of need that feels like it can only be satisfied by going back to your addiction. If you do go back, you’ve relapsed. Becoming aware of cravings and learning how to manage them is one of the biggest elements in relapse prevention.
Having cravings in recovery is normal. You can expect to have fairly intense cravings for your drug of choice as you get started in your recovery process. Up until the point when you stop using, drugs or alcohol are your way of coping with anxiety, stress, and all of life’s demands. It’s only natural that you will feel the need to have a coping mechanism when you get clean. However, in order to avoid relapse, you have to learn how to deal with cravings without going back to using. The goal isn’t to eliminate the cravings, instead it is to recognize when the craving cycle begins and intervene before you pick up drugs or alcohol to cope.
The Craving Cycle
The types of cravings and how intense they are depend upon the person, but there are some common patterns that most people in recovery share. Typically, the craving cycle progresses in this manner:
Trigger response- Something – a thought, person, event or thing – triggers an emotion or thought that makes you want to cope in your old addictive way. It could be a sound, smell, music that you listened to while using, or something as simple as driving by a bar you used to frequent. This sets the cycle in motion.
Obsessive thinking- Once you have become in touch with your old pattern of addictive behavior, your thoughts will lock onto the familiar habits. It becomes exceedingly difficult to get away from those thoughts. You may start to rationalize using again in your head, or start weighing the pros and cons. The more you consider it, the stronger the urge to use becomes.
Intense craving- This is when the full-blown craving feeling occurs. It’s often both emotional and physical. You feel a compulsive need to use or drink and can’t think of anything else. In a physical sense, you may start feeling a stress response like a pounding heart, sweating, and shortness of breath. When you get to this point, the pull toward using is extremely strong and it’s very hard to resist using.
Though the craving cycle can be very powerful, it isn’t out of your control. While you can’t always control a craving from happening, you do have the power to not act on it. The important thing to learn is that you need to identify when you are in the trigger phase of the craving cycle. Once you learn to do that, you will be able to avoid progression in the cycle and prevent relapse. When you successfully intervene on cravings, you will feel more in control, and you will continue to grow and heal in your recovery.
Ways to Resist Cravings
The following are five suggestions that may help you resist cravings and avoid relapse:
Use healthy distractions– Distraction can be a negative coping mechanism when it’s used to avoid dealing with emotions or situations. However, when used right, distraction can help you redirect your attention to more positive thoughts and actions. Some healthy distractions that may help you let go of cravings are:
Change of scenery – Go outside for a walk, jog, bike ride, or car drive. The goal of this is to get you away from whatever was in your environment that triggered you.
Talk to someone supportive – Call a friend, family member, or sponsor who understands and supports your recovery. They will likely be able to help you feel more grounded and reassure you that you can make it in recovery.
Do something fun – Play a video game, watch your favorite television show, read a book, or start a project you have been putting off. The key is to do something that you enjoy and that will replace your craving feelings.
Play the tape until the end- Once you are triggered, you are probably romanticizing or glamorizing using again, imaging how it will feel and how it will make things better. Now is the time to remember your last, dark days of using or drinking. Consider what the outcome of having a drink or using a drug will be, by remembering where it got you in the past. Perhaps you were arrested while using or fought with friends and family. Maybe you injured yourself or someone else. Wherever your addiction took you before, it will likely take you again – and worse. When you remember drinking or using honestly, it will help to alleviate the desire to act on it again.
Get physically active- When you exercise or do a physical activity, your brain produces natural feel-good chemicals that improve your mood, reduce stress, and ward off depression. You don’t have to work out intensely, a brisk walk, pulling weeds or other gardening, or even putting on music and dancing can help.
Meditate or pray- For some people in recovery, relaxation, meditation, or prayer work well in alleviating triggered responses. Taking deep breaths and relaxing, repeating a mantra or affirmation, or doing some gentle yoga, can calm you down and help you release the craving feelings. If you are religious, prayer can offer you the same type of comfort.
Don’t believe your first thoughts– When you are triggered, you may automatically have thoughts that arise that may seem indisputable. For example, you may run into an old drinking buddy who suggest that you go get a drink. Without even thinking about it, your mind may start rehearsing scenarios where it would be fun to hang out with that friend again. You have to tell yourself the truth about what would happen and resist the urge to fall back into old behaviors.
Cravings can be intense, and they can pop up when you least expect them, but when you have the tools to deal with them, you can intervene and continue on the path of recovery. The good news is the intensity of craving does lessen over time. While it may never go away completely for some people in recovery, it does get better. At Serenity At Summit, we can help you learn to cope with cravings effectively to help you avoid relapse. If you are struggling with addiction or chronic relapse, contact us today and get the help you need.
Once a person has made the decision that he or she needs to seek treatment for addiction, one of his or her main concerns is how to pay for it. The good news is that there are some insurance options for them to choose from to help with the cost of addiction treatment. Both public and private health insurance typically covers at least a portion of the expenses for inpatient and outpatient treatment for all types of addiction.
As addiction awareness has increased over the last several years, insurance companies have come to a better understanding that addiction is, in fact, a medical condition that is very treatable. They recognize that covering the cost of addiction treatment can be far less costly than covering the costs of all the negative medical effects of substance abuse, including psychological or psychiatric care that often accompanies both substance addictions and behavioral addictions throughout an addict’s lifetime. So now, insurance providers view addiction treatment programs as a precautionary medical concern.
Health insurance companies do not make a profit unless their customers lead healthy and productive lifestyles. Thus, they typically make it a point to offer coverage, or partial coverage, of addiction treatment to individual policy-holders as well as employers who offer employees health insurance.
If you need help determining if you have access to benefits for addiction treatment, whether it is partial or complete coverage, and which facilities are covered by your policy, you can contact your health insurance provider to find out. Knowing what is available to you is important because the cost of treatment can be a major expense.
For those individuals whose insurance doesn’t include behavioral health coverage or substance abuse treatment programs, they may be able to obtain public insurance to make inpatient treatment affordable. Some treatment facilities are partially or completely subsidized by the government, so they accept federal or state medical insurance for full or partial payment for their services. Those facilities often have specific guidelines, like income requirements, so you would have to contact them to see how to determine whether you qualify for their programs.
In situations where inpatient treatment isn’t feasible or available, you may find nonprofit organizations that provide addiction treatment programs that accept monthly installment payments using a sliding scale based on income to determine the cost. While payments may continue long after the addiction treatment program is completed, using one of these types of facilities may allow you to get the help you need while keeping monthly payments as low as possible.
If you are thinking about addiction treatment, you should evaluate your insurance plan with your agent, insurance provider, or your employer’s benefits department to find out exactly what they will cover and what you will be responsible for.
Obtaining private insurance may cost you more than public insurance, but typically the healthcare choices you receive is more comprehensive than what is provided by government-supported plans. These benefits are especially helpful when you realize that you or someone in your family needs addiction or substance abuse treatment.
Private insurance is any healthcare insurance that is provided by an employer or that is obtained and paid for by an individual. People who have private insurance are able to avail themselves to a wide selection of benefits, including:
A bigger selection. With private insurance plans, you will find that there are a large number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and programs to choose from.
Price. You will likely not have a lot of out-of-pocket expense for addiction treatment if you have private insurance. Of course, that depends upon your deductibles, but it’s typically a lot less expensive than if you had public insurance.
Inpatient drug or alcohol rehab.Residential treatment, where the patients live for a period of time, is often the best solution for early recovery. With private insurance, you are more likely to be able to afford residential care.
High-end drug and alcohol rehab. Your private insurance may even allow you to attend more exclusive rehabs. They usually offer more luxurious amenities than regular residential treatment, like gourmet food, private rooms, and fitness instruction.
Holistic rehab facilities and programs. These types of programs include traditional addiction treatment in conjunction with holistic approaches to recovery like acupuncture, meditation, and yoga.
Before You Decide Which Treatment is Best for You
It’s important that before you enter into treatment for drug or alcohol abuse or addiction, you understand exactly what your insurance benefits will and will not cover. You don’t want to find yourself in the vulnerable state of early recovery having to deal with shouldering the whole expense of your treatment.
Sometimes people who are seeking treatment for addiction don’t want their employers to find out about their addiction. Unfortunately, it’s usually necessary to consult with employers and their benefits departments in order to get the information necessary to attend treatment. If you have to take a leave of absence from work, know that there are laws and regulations that your employer has to follow regarding keeping your position with the company secure. The Family Medical Leave Act is something you should look into, as well as any short-term disability benefits your employer may be able to provide. If your employer offers it and you qualify, you may be able to continue to receive a paycheck even while you are in treatment.
Don’t assume that because you don’t have spectacular health insurance that you can’t go to rehab. At Serenity at Summit, we can help you explore what your insurance covers, and how you can attend treatment without financial hardship.
Entering a detox facility for addiction treatment is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your family. Addiction is a progressive condition that only gets worse when left untreated, so going to detox may just be a life-saving endeavor. In detox, you are monitored by medical professionals around the clock, so that your withdrawal symptoms are managed, and you are made as comfortable as possible. You will also get the support and encouragement that you need during your detox.
Unfortunately, even with the many benefits of receiving the help that detox offers, many people still relapse during or right after detox. But there are some mistakes that you can do your best to avoid during detox that will help you lay the foundation for long-lasting recovery.
Don’t Think That Detox is Enough
The purpose of detox is to safely rid your system of the substance to which you are addicted. It is to help you get started being sober, but there will still be a lot more for you to do. In reality, stopping your drug or alcohol use is the easy part, it’s staying stopped that is challenging. There are likely many reasons that you became addicted in the first place, and those reasons will likely still be there when you stop. That is why it will not be beneficial to you to go into detox believing that it alone will provide you with long-lasting recovery. You should follow up with additional treatment, like inpatient rehab to obtain the best results.
Don’t Be Overly Concerned with Withdrawal Symptoms
Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol fear the withdrawal symptoms that they will have when they stop using. In fact, many people who try to detox from substances on their own fail because they want to feel better, so they use again. But the truth is, most people who stop using drugs or alcohol don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms that are any worse than having a case of the flu. Of course, the symptoms will feel worse when you are overly attentive to them. One of the benefits of attending an addiction treatment facility and detoxing there is that there are things to keep you distracted. Detox doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience, if you choose to participate in the activities and interact with other patients, you may even have a good experience despite some physical aches and pains.
Don’t Have a Bad Attitude
There is something to be said for the old expression, “the power of positive thinking.” If you go into detox thinking that it is going to be terrible, then chances are good that your experience will be just that. The expectations that you have going in can color the experience that you actually have. That means that if you approach detox as a positive thing, an opportunity to change the way your life is going and to finally be able to rid your body of drugs and alcohol, then the chances of the experience being positive for you greatly increase.
It may be easy for you to separate yourself from others while in detox – especially if you are an introvert by nature. That, combined with the fact that isolating is a common trait of individuals who have an addiction, may make you feel like you just want to be by yourself. Try to avoid that as much as you can. When you are able to interact with others in detox, you will get the support and camaraderie you need. That can make all the difference in your experience and the outcome of your stay in detox.
Don’t Dismiss Things Immediately
In detox and rehab, you will encounter a lot of suggestions from the staff, therapists, and doctors that you may be hesitant to try. For example, you may want to isolate while the staff suggests that you participate in activities. You will get much more out of detox when you are open-minded and willing to take suggestions instead of dismissing them right away.
Don’t Be Complacent
It’s quite possible that you will find that detox is easier than you thought it would be. It will likely go smoothly, which may make you think that staying sober will be easy as well. Thinking this way may put you at risk because it may lead to you not being willing to do the things you need to do to remain sober – like continuing with treatment after detox. Be mindful that recovery is a process and you are only in the very beginning stages while you’re in detox. Complacency at this stage doesn’t bode well for your long-term recovery.
Don’t Give Up
You can’t give up, no matter what. Deciding to go to detox in the first place was a huge step in the right direction. The time you spend in treatment, even if you go to residential rehab after detox, is a very small amount of time in the grand scheme of things. You can make it through the treatment, and you will find that with a clear mind and a head full of addiction recovery education and coping skills, you will have a great chance at recovery.
The above are just a few things to remember as you embark on your journey toward recovery by starting out in detox. If you keep these things in mind as you make your way through the detox process, you will have a much easier time and you will gain the knowledge that you need to stay sober. AT Serenity at Summit we can offer you the support you need as you go through detox and begin your new life in recovery.
There is a definite link between substance abuse and mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues. Sometimes it is the mental illness that causes the substance abuse as people attempt to self-medicate the symptoms, and other times it is the substance abuse that brings on the symptoms of mental illness. For the purposes of this article, the focus will be on the latter – specifically, how the abuse of some substances can result in the individual suffering anxiety and panic attacks.
Some substances can cause a person to be more likely to suffer the adverse symptoms of an anxiety disorder, one of the worst is panic attacks. The good news is that substance use disorders and addiction are completely treatable, and panic attacks that result from them often go away on their own when the individual gets into recovery and stops using the substance.
What Are Anxiety and Panic Attacks?
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, which is completely normal in some situations – the first day of a new job, giving a speech in front of a large audience, or hearing a loud noise in the middle of the night. But a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder may have the sudden feeling of fear in situations that don’t warrant it or even for extended amounts of time. Panic attacks are episodes in which the sudden feeling of fear becomes debilitating and lasts for ten minutes or more. Panic attacks can be terrifying events for the person who is suffering from them as they commonly have a number of the following symptoms:
Pain or discomfort in the chest
Feeling faint or dizzy
Fear they are dying
Intense feeling of impending doom
Fear of losing control
Sick to the stomach
Numbness of the feet, hands, or face
Increased heart rate, or pounding heart
Shortness of breath, or hyperventilating
Sweating, hot flashes, or chills
Shaking or trembling
Substances That May Cause Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Not every substance has the propensity to cause anxiety or panic attacks in the user. However, there are a number of substances where it does happen. Even substances like caffeine, nicotine, and sugar, when consumed in more than moderate amounts, may cause a person to feel some of the symptoms of anxiety. Generally speaking, if one of the effects that the substance being used has on the body is increasing the heart rate, then it’s possible that the user could suffer anxious feelings or a panic attack when they are using the drug.
Let’s take a look at how abusing specific substances can lead to anxiety or panic attacks.
Alcohol Abuse and Panic Attacks
While abusing alcohol can cause a person to do things that they normally wouldn’t do (like having severe mood swings, outbursts of anger or sadness, or rages), it is typically the withdrawal from alcohol that causes anxiety and panic attacks in some users. Additionally, some people who already suffer from anxiety attempt to use alcohol to manage it, making the symptoms much worse when they stop drinking.
Cocaine or Methamphetamine Abuse and Panic Attacks
Cocaine and methamphetamines are both stimulants that can be snorted, smoked, or injected. They tend to give users a false sense of power and energy which can quickly lead to negative behaviors like being paranoid, violent, or promiscuous. These types of stimulants are especially dangerous for the heart, as they increase heart rates quickly and drastically. Anytime the heart speeds up in that manner, the user can feel the symptoms of anxiety or go into a full-blown panic attack.
Marijuana Abuse and Panic Attacks
Marijuana can be smoked, consumed, or “dabbed” – which is a sort of vaporizing of cannabis extracts that have the highest levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) of all the forms of marijuana. Abuse of marijuana can cause mood swings, lack of motivation, anxiety, and panic attacks. In fact, it has been shown that lifetime marijuana users are significantly associated with lifetime panic disorder sufferers. Even those who have only used marijuana regularly for a short period of time (less than a year), have a much higher risk of being diagnosed with an anxiety or panic disorder than those who do not use marijuana.
Opioid Drug Abuse and Panic Attacks
Opioids include prescription painkillers as well as the illicit street drug heroin. They are used in a variety of ways including ingesting pills, snorting, smoking, injecting, or dermal patches depending on which opiate is being used. Opioids are characterized by short periods of pleasurable and euphoric feelings. However, abusing these drugs can lead to feelings of severe depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Additionally, the withdrawal from opioids is often extremely uncomfortable for a day or more, with some symptoms (like anxiety and panic attacks) lingering for weeks.
Treatment for Substance Abuse Related Anxiety
If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety or panic attacks that are related to substance abuse, the symptoms will likely go away if you stop using the substance. However, if you are dependent upon or addicted to the substance, you probably won’t be able to stop using it on your own. Seeking help for a substance abuse problem is often a difficult decision to make, but it may be one of the best you can make for yourself and your family.
If you need help for a substance abuse problem, you may choose to attend a medically-supervised detoxification which will help you to stop using drugs or alcohol more comfortably and without the severe withdrawal symptoms, you may suffer if you try to detox at home. There are medications and therapies that can help you make it through the withdrawal period without (or to a lesser degree) anxiety and panic attacks. Detox followed up by outpatient or inpatient addiction treatment, like that offered at Serenity at Summit, will get you on the road to recovery from both drug or alcohol addiction and panic attacks.
There are many people – especially children – who are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the U.S. every year. These patients are often prescribed medication to help them manage the symptoms of the disorder. While the medications can be very effective for the treatment of ADHD, they can also pose the risk of addiction when they are not used properly.
One way that ADHD medications are used improperly, which is considered abuse, is when people who do not have the disorder use the medications as a way to increase concentration or focus. More and more students are using ADHD medications to enhance their study time and to help give them an edge academically. Unfortunately, this can lead to addiction.
What are ADHD Medications?
The medication that is most commonly prescribed for the treatment of ADHD is a stimulant, typically a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It is used to increase attention, concentration, and focus, and to control behavior by balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain. It is considered effective for the treatment of ADHD and many people suffering from the disorder are helped greatly with this type of medication.
However, ADHD medication is often abused. In fact, studies show that the number of people for whom it is prescribed for the treatment of ADHD is smaller than the number of people who take it for its effects. Abuse is highest amongst students who take the drug to focus and increase productivity while studying. It is also sometimes abused as a way to lose weight or as a party drug due to its stimulant effects – it allows an individual to drink more alcohol without becoming tired.
ADHD medication can be habit-forming, and a person can become physically dependent on the drug. Physical dependence is a precursor to addiction, which is a difficult thing to overcome no matter what the addictive substance is.
What is Considered Abuse?
Anytime that a person takes prescription medication outside of the prescribed instructions it is considered abuse. Obtaining or administering ADHD medication (or any other medication) in any of the following ways is abuse:
Taking higher doses than prescribed
Taking doses more frequently than prescribed
Taking medication in ways other than prescribed (crushing, chewing, or snorting)
Taking medication for reasons other than what it was prescribed or (to stay awake, to be more alert, to lose weight, etc.)
Taking medication that was not prescribed for you
Taking medication that you have bought from someone for recreational use
Many high school and college students don’t feel that experimenting with ADHD medication is abuse. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you use ADHD medication to enhance your performance, lose weight, or to get high, it is in fact, abuse. Additionally, when you obtain or take a controlled substance without a valid prescription (of your own), it is illegal, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and can lead to legal problems as well as addiction problems.
There truly is no safe way to abuse ADHD medication. While the medication may produce the feelings you are looking for, it can be at the risk of your physical and mental health.
Signs and Symptoms of ADHD Medication Abuse and Addiction
If you or someone you know is using ADHD medication in ways other than prescribed, there are some signs and symptoms that you can look for to determine if the abuse has crossed the line to addiction.
Physical Signs of ADHD Medication Addiction
Nausea, diarrhea, or constipation
Loss of appetite and weight loss
Shaking of hands or feet
Fidgeting or being unable to stop moving
Psychological Signs of ADHD Medication Addiction
Angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Nervousness or paranoia
Being more secretive than usual
If you identify some of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, don’t ignore them. It may mean that your ADHD medication use has become a problem. The sooner you get help, the better your odds are of getting clean and avoiding the long-term effects of ADHD medication abuse and addiction.
Effects of ADHD Medication Addiction
The continued use of ADHD medication in non-prescribed ways can lead to serious side effects – both physical and otherwise.
Physical Effects of ADHD Medication Addiction
Anger or hostility
Dangerous weight loss
Injury to nasal cavity (if snorted)
Other Life-Changing Effects
Co-occurring abuse or addiction of other drugs or alcohol
Damaged interpersonal relationships with family and friends
Problems at school or work
Treatment for ADHD Medication Addiction
As with any drug addiction, there is good news – treatment for ADHD medication abuse and addiction is available. If you believe that you or a loved one is addicted to an ADHD medication, you may need the care that is provided in a drug addiction treatment facility. The first step is detoxification. While the detox from ADHD medication is not typically life-threatening, it is not pleasurable. Attending a medical detox facility can make it much less uncomfortable. You will be medically supervised, may receive medication to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, and receive the support you need to get clean.
It may be recommended that you attend further treatment after you have detoxed, in either an inpatient or outpatient program. The important thing to remember about ADHD medication use is that while it may seem like a harmless solution to issues with studying or weight loss, it can quickly turn into abuse or addiction. Not even beginning to abuse the drug is, of course, the best way to prevent addiction. But if you find yourself already there, you can find help and healing from ADHD medication addiction at Serenity at Summit addiction treatment center. We offer detox, outpatient, and inpatient treatment for teens and adults who are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Contact us today for help.
Trying to pin down how many people suffer from substance abuse in the U.S. is something of a moving target, because different surveys use different collection methods. However, respected organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believe that analyzing drug overdose deaths is a more valuable means of obtaining information about the prevalence of substance abuse.
According to the CDC, there were more than 64,000 overdose fatalities from illegal drugs and prescription painkillers in the U.S. in 2016, and the sharpest spike in those deaths occurred among people who took synthetic opioids. In fact, 20,000 of the 64,000 deaths were attributed to people who overdosed on synthetic opioids, and the total number of drug overdose fatalities was double the number from just 10 years ago. (1)
Even more disturbing, the number of deaths involving opioid drugs has been steadily rising from 2002 when there were 10,000 deaths to 2015, when there were more than 30,000 deaths.
Clearly there is a problem with opioid drugs, and an even bigger problem with synthetic opioids. Let’s take a look at what these opioids are, where they’re coming from and how law enforcement is tackling this issue.
What Are Synthetic Opioids?
Unlike opiates that are naturally derived from things like opium poppy plants (used to make cocaine, morphine and heroin), synthetic opioids are made in labs throughout the world, and they are many times more potent than naturally derived opiates.
In fact, the average synthetic opioid on the streets of a big city is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. The irony is that some synthetic opioids were first manufactured for use in hospitals to treat chronic and severe pain.
But over the past five years, drug dealers have begun to lace normal heroin supplies with synthetic opioids, which boosts its potency and makes it more likely that addicts will want to buy even more of the super-charged heroin.
The challenge for both addicts and law enforcement officials is that it’s difficult to know whether heroin has been laced with something synthetic until after a user tries the drug and feels its powerful effects.
And it’s not just illegal drugs that are being impacted, because drug dealers are also selling painkillers in tablet form that are laced with synthetic opioids. According to a Supervisory Chemist of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) who tests drug samples seized in raids throughout the country, her team identified 20 new types of synthetic opioids in 2017. (2)
These synthetic opioids were made not just to boost the potency of drugs like heroin, but also to keep police confused about the new types of opioids hitting the streets.
The potency of synthetic opioids makes it challenging for healthcare workers and police officers to save the lives of people who have overdosed.
Addicts who inject, snort or swallow drugs laced with synthetic opioids can suffer an overdose within a few seconds. Typically, the first sign of distress is that the overdose victim stops breathing because the heart goes into arrest.
That’s why several cities have established safe injection sites such as the Supporting Place for Observation and Treatment (SPOT) Clinic at Boston’s Health Care for the Homeless.
After using drugs, addicts can enter SPOT and ride out the high under the careful supervision of healthcare professionals who monitor their breathing, blood pressure and pulse rate.
The federal government doesn’t allow addicts to inject, or otherwise consume illegal drugs at these clinics, which is why SPOT only admits addicts after they have already used their drugs.
But many other cities are defying the government and allowing addicts to use within safe injection sites, so that they can act quickly if an overdose begins within seconds of drug use.
Who Makes Synthetic Opioids?
Probably the question most people ask when it comes to this crisis is who makes synthetic opioids and why haven’t U.S. officials stopped them from doing it.
The first question is easiest to answer and that is the vast majority of the ingredients necessary to make synthetic opioids come from China.
China is the world’s largest supplier of synthetic opioids, and once the opioids are made, they are sent to Mexico, where they are processed for distribution to drug dealers working in the U.S.
The U.S. government has had discussions with Chinese officials about curbing the manufacture of synthetic opioids, but with so much money to be made, those talks haven’t done much to stop the massive quantities that enter the U.S.
The Chinese and the DEA have established joint task forces to bust up synthetic opioid labs in China, but for every lab that gets raided, ten more underground labs are started.
More problematic, addicts can also order synthetic opioids through direct mail from operators in China who ship the drugs in plain packages that often escape the detection of postal inspectors.
That’s why many healthcare experts believe that stopping the distribution of synthetic opioids is only a small part of the solution.
They believe that providing innovative solutions to help opioid addicts cope with these drugs so they don’t overdose and die is the best way to fight this problem. Because once addicts are inside safe injection sites, they are more willing to listen to addiction treatment options that can help them start their journey to recovery.
Thanks to the worsening opioid crisis in the U.S., substance abuse is the new hot topic, and that’s a good thing, because anything that helps to make us more aware of this problem, and triggers more solutions is welcome.
From the White House to local legislators, lawmakers are trying to implement measures that will help fund more addiction treatment, while also stemming the number of illicit drugs that are flooding the streets.
We’ve heard sad and startling overdose statistics, and we’ve lamented the shortfall in treatment facilities that is keeping addicts on long waitlists.
But what we haven’t heard as much about is the economic consequences of the opioid crisis. In other words, what kind of money are we spending to fund treatment, put more law enforcement officers on the streets, and to jail people who are found guilty of opioid-related crimes?
Let’s take a look at some of the obvious and not-so-obvious costs of the opioid crisis and learn why these costs could have a long-lasting impact.
Explaining the Roots of the Opioid Crisis
Before we dive into the economic impact of opioid abuse, we should try explaining the roots of the opioid crisis, and why it’s become such a major issue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that about 115 people in the U.S. die of an opioid overdose every day. When we talk about ‘opioids,’ we’re not just talking about prescription painkillers, we are also talking about illegal opiates like heroin, and synthetic opioids, which are many times more potent. (1)
The question many of you are probably asking is why opioid abuse became so bad so quickly, and why many healthcare experts didn’t see this coming. The answer isn’t simple, because the opioid crisis is the result of a combination of factors that created a perfect storm.
Twenty years ago, big pharmaceutical companies began manufacturing new brands of prescription pain relievers that they advertised as effective and non-addictive. Doctors throughout the U.S. were sold on these promises, and they began prescribing opioids to patients in record numbers.
Unfortunately, patients quickly discovered that as these pills controlled their pain, they also released powerful chemicals in their brains that created a high. Even after their pain was under control, these patients would crave the pleasurable feelings produced by opioids, and within a short period of time, they became addicted to painkillers.
Over the next decade, the rate of opioid overdoses began to skyrocket even as doctors began to cut back on prescribing these medications.
The problem was that patients who couldn’t get prescriptions for painkillers would often move on to the next best thing, illegal drugs like heroin that produced the exact same effects.
In 2015, 33,000 people died from an opioid overdose, and those opioids included prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids. That doesn’t tell the full story, because two million people also admitted to a substance abuse disorder involving prescription opioids in 2015, and more than 500,000 people admitted to struggling with heroin abuse.
Studies have also found that in addition to prescription pill abuse, the opioid crisis is also driven by other factors, including:
Low-Income – Studies have found that the opioid crisis has impacted poorer communities to a greater degree than middle-class and upper-class communities. Some of the reasons include lack of access to counseling and to healthcare.
People On Medicaid – People on Medicaid are more likely to suffer from substance abuse related to opioids. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said this is because people on Medicaid are more likely to be prescribed opioids, at higher doses, and for longer durations, increasing their risk for addiction and its associated consequences. (2)
Economic Downturn – the 2008 economic downturn forced many companies to lay off workers, and many of them were middle-aged workers in industrial jobs that required less formal education. Some of these laid-off workers were unable to find new jobs, and the stress from their circumstance lead some of them to fall into drug use and addiction.
The Costs of the Opioid Crisis
As an increasing number of people fall prey to fatal opioid-related overdoses, the costs of the opioid crisis in human terms continue to grow more expensive.
But in real dollars and cents, there are some staggering numbers to consider, including: (3)
$1 Trillion – The total estimated toll of the opioid crisis on the U.S. economy from 2001 to 2017.
$500 Billion – The total estimated amount of money that heroin addiction and prescription opioid abuse will cost the U.S. from 2018 to 2020.
$217.5 Billion – The total estimated healthcare costs of the opioid crisis from 2001 to 2017.
62,000 – The number of estimated people who suffered from a fatal opioid-related overdose in 2017. If this number holds, it will double the name of fatalities from just two years ago.
The bulk of the economic costs are related to lost wages due to people missing work because of opioid abuse, and lost productivity.
That also impacts tax revenue that state and local governments can collect, because missing workers can’t produce profits for companies, and those profits can’t be taxed, because they don’t exist.
Other economic costs include money spent on funding treatment facilities, social services and education, and costs related to prosecuting and defending drug-related charges.
In February, President Trump’s budget proposal included $17 billion to fight opioid abuse, including increasing healthcare services for treatment and recovery, and for mental health.
The Role of Treatment Facilities
Some suffering from addiction believe that they can overcome substance abuse on their own, but that rarely works, and every failure highlights the important role of treatment facilities. Serenity at Summit New Jersey Addiction Treatment Centers in Union are only 40 minutes from New York City, and offer a full range of services, including detox and rehab. Call us today at 609-422-5788 to learn all your treatment options.
You may realize that things in your life have gotten unmanageable but wonder if they are really bad enough that you need to seek inpatient treatment for addiction. It’s a decision that many people who have substance abuse problems struggle with. How bad is bad enough to need treatment? The reality is, in the U.S. there are nearly 23 million people who need treatment for alcohol and drug dependency and addiction, yet only about one percent actually receive it.
When you are considering inpatient treatment for your substance abuse issues, it’s likely that simply wondering about it means that you would benefit from treatment. If you think that you may have a problem, you likely do. Keep in mind that drug abuse and addiction affect each individual differently, you don’t have to be a 24/7 user to be an addict. If your drug or alcohol use is causing negative consequences in your life and the lives of your family and friends, it’s time to take a hard look at it.
To help you with your decision, here are some undeniable signs that you shouldn’t wait any longer for treatment.
You Drink or Use and Drive
It never seems like a big deal at the time, but driving while intoxicated is a real danger to yourself, your passengers, and everyone on the road near you. When you begin taking chances with your life and the lives of others because you cannot manage your behavior when using, it’s time to seek help.
Your Loved Ones Have Expressed Concern
It’s often difficult to see the negative changes that drug or alcohol use causes in ourselves – we’re too close to fully notice. However, those that are close to you don’t have such a hard time recognizing those changes. If your friends or family have expressed concern about your drinking or using, or asked you to stop, you should heed their concern.
You Have Drug or Alcohol Related Health Issues
Drug and alcohol abuse is harmful to the body when used for any extended amount of time. Alcoholism can cause extensive, and sometimes irreversible, damage to the heart, liver and brain. Opiate use can slow your respiratory system so much that you can suffer from permanent brain damage. Some stimulants can cause serious cardiovascular problems when used repeatedly. If you use drugs intravenously, you run the risk of contracting hepatitis C or HIV.
People who drink responsibly don’t feel the need to lie about it. If you find that you are lying or minimizing your drug or alcohol use to your friends and family, there is cause for concern. You may think that it is simply none of their business, but the truth is, people lie because they have something to hide.
You Have Withdrawal Symptoms When You Stop Using
When you use drugs or alcohol regularly, your body gets used to having them in your system – in fact, it becomes dependent on them. When you stop using, even for a short period of time, you may suffer headaches, nausea, trembling, cramps, insomnia, irritability and other withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms of withdrawal are uncomfortable and sometimes painful and they are one of the leading causes of continued use. If you suffer withdrawal symptoms when you stop using for a short period of time, you need to seek medically-supervised detox and an inpatient treatment program.
You’ve Tried to Stop on Your Own and Can’t
Maybe you are able to stop using for a day or two, or even a week. But you always begin using or drinking again. If you have tried to stop on your own, but haven’t been able to do it for an extended amount of time, you probably need professional help to do so. Inpatient rehab offers support, therapy, coping skills, relapse prevention and addiction education. You need those things to successfully stop using or drinking.
You Have Injured Yourself or Others While Using
Some drugs can cause anxiety, depression and even mental illness. If you have had suicidal thoughts or thoughts about hurting yourself or others, you need to seek inpatient treatment sooner rather than later. Sometimes, underlying psychological or psychiatric issues are exacerbated when drugs or alcohol are added into the equation. This can cause anger and rage and cause you to lash out physically at others. If you have done that, or are concerned that you might, treatment is right for you.
Your Freedom Has Been Threatened
If you have made choices while using that have resulted in the possibility of jail time, or you are on probation or parole, drug or alcohol use can endanger your freedom. Will spending time behind bars be better than a 30-day stay in rehab? Not likely.
You Have Lost Jobs or Schooling Due to Your Use
You probably started out by missing work or school occasionally due to your drug or alcohol use – not such a big deal. But if it has escalated to being disciplined at work or school, or if you have already lost a job or been kicked out of school, you need to take a close look at your drug or alcohol use.
You Want to Stop Using, But Don’t Know How
If you are worn out by your drug or alcohol use and want to stop but you don’t know how, it’s time to enlist the help of professionals. Addiction is a disease which means that it’s very hard for people to stop using on their own. Needing professional help is not a sign of weakness or failure. Get Help Now!
If you relate to any of the above signs, you should get help now. Addiction is a treatable medical disorder and the sooner you get help, the sooner you will stop suffering negative consequences and start living the life you want. At Summit Behavioral Health, we can help you make the best decision about how to get started with your recovery, and which treatment program is the most appropriate for your circumstances. Call us today for more information.
Addiction is a disease that affects millions of people every year – either directly or indirectly. There is a lot of information to be found about different types of addiction, the negative legal and relational consequences associated with addiction, and the effects it has on the brain of the users. However, one area that is often neglected when addiction is talked about is the effect that it has on an individual’s immune system.
Different substances affect the immune system in different ways, but most weaken it – especially when drugs or alcohol are used over a long period of time. This means that individuals who are using or abusing substances are putting themselves at a higher risk of contracting diseases, infection and weakening organs, which is the body’s filtering system to fight the effects of drugs or alcohol.
How Does the Immune System Work?
The immune system is the body’s protection system. It is made up of cells, organs, and proteins which assist in preventing disease and infection. The immune system’s job is to filter everything that enters the body. Aside from the central nervous system, the immune system is the most complex body system. It functions by:
Neutralizing germs (pathogens), like viruses and bacteria, and ridding the body of them
Identifying and neutralizing damaging substances in the body
Fighting its own cells that have changed negatively, like cancer cells
Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Immune System
The immune system, when not disrupted with damaging or harmful pathogens, keeps the body functioning smoothly. However, when pathogens are introduced to the body, it can drastically weaken the immune system. When this happens, the individual can become ill with infections or disease.
The risk to the immune system is not directly related to the drugs or alcohol themselves, but rather to the toll that those substances take on the body. Many drugs, especially alcohol, cause dehydration, physical and mental fatigue, lack of sleep, and unhealthy eating or lack of food, which can cause a weakened immune system. Whenever the immune system is in a weakened state, the body is at a higher risk for the invasion of infection and disease.
Alcohol and the Immune System
Drinking alcohol excessively can quickly lead to an immune deficiency, which can result in an individual being susceptible to certain diseases. Over time, alcohol abuse can result in trouble with the digestive system, damaging the cells that are responsible for secreting enzymes that the body needs for proper digestion. Long-term alcohol abuse or addiction can also lead to liver damage or failure. The liver is where the body stores vitamins, so its role is essential. Alcohol abuse may also affect a person’s ability to store sufficient amounts of protein.
Overall, alcoholism can result in autoimmunity, which is when the body begins to attack its own tissues. Maybe the most dangerous effect of alcohol abuse is associated with white blood cells in the body. White blood cells are responsible for getting rid of killer white blo0d cells. When they are not working in that manner, the individual is at a much higher risk of developing life-threatening diseases, like cancer.
Other Substances and the Immune System
Heroin abuse, as with other opioid drugs, can lead to addiction. Once a person is addicted to heroin, their thoughts and actions are consumed with getting and using the drug. This typically leads to neglect with personal health, like eating and sleeping regularly, which weakens the immune system. Just like with alcohol, heroin addiction can result in the digestive system not functioning properly, which in turn, results in the body not getting the proper nutrition and the individual having a weakened system overall.
Cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine users are much more likely than nonusers to contract hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and other infections due to the effect that the drugs have on the immune system. These stimulants disrupt the proper function of a key protein system component. When this protein is not functioning, the body cannot fight off diseases and infection as it normally would.
Prescription opioids work by suppressing the immune system through a brain-to-body pathway. They begin a chain reaction which eventually leads to the suppression of three kinds of white blood cells. This suppression of blood cells weakens the user’s immune system, putting them at a heightened risk of infection and illness. That, along with the risk of addiction, makes prescribing and taking opioid painkillers dangerous.
Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Finding and taking part in drug or alcohol addiction treatment, like that offered at Summit Behavioral Health, is the best way to help those struggling with addiction. If you or a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you may consider inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation to help you. If you choose inpatient treatment, you will receive medical care that takes into account the toll that your substance abuse has taken on your body. You will likely receive vitamins and supplements along with a balanced diet, to help you in your physical recovery. If you attend outpatient treatment, you may have to seek help from your primary care physician to discuss your need for vitamins and supplements.
When you stop abusing substances, get the treatment you need for your addiction, and start taking better care of your physical health, your immune system will become stronger again, and often, body organs that have suffered damage are able to heal and become healthy again.
Teenagers are more likely to try experimenting with substances than adults are, and the consequences of doing so can be long-lasting. In fact, studies show that people who begin using substances at a young age are much more likely to become addicted later in life. Preventing teens from using drugs or alcohol is essential because it is such a vulnerable time in their lives. Because brain development continues until a person’s mid-twenties, teens don’t yet have the capacity to weigh decisions the way adults do. So, using drugs or alcohol can be especially dangerous for teenagers.
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
Broken relationships with family members and friends
Disciplinary issues at school
Poor academic performance
Injuries due to accidents, physical and sexual assault
Teenagers Who May Be at Risk of Substance Abuse
While substance abuse and addiction can affect anyone, from any walk of life, there are some adolescents who may be at a higher risk of developing problems with drugs or alcohol. Some of the common risk factors are:
Teens in transitional periods of life. This may seem like the total of teenage years, as there is much changing that goes on for adolescents. But for teens who are moving from middle school to high school or changing schools for other reasons, or who are going through a life-changing event such as moving to a new city, parents divorcing or remarrying, or a loss of a friend or family member to death, it can be a particularly vulnerable time. This is a time that parents should pay close attention to their teens.
Teens who have mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other mental conditions all put teens at a higher risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Parents must ensure that their teens are being properly treated for any mental health issues.
Teens who don’t have positive role models. Teens who live in broken or abusive homes are some of the most likely people to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. It’s essential that parents or other adult family members step in and help these teens to navigate the difficult situations they are in.
Substance Abuse Prevention Methods for Teens
Communities, government agencies, schools, and parents are always looking for new ways to prevent teenage drug use and drinking. While it is still a huge problem nationwide, the rates of substance abuse and addiction have decreased over the last several years. This can only be seen as the result of the preventative measures that are currently being used. It may not be eliminating the problem of teenage substance abuse, but it is reducing it. The two biggest factors in substance abuse prevention for teens are education and parental involvement.
Education as Substance Abuse Prevention
As stated earlier, the human brain is not finished developing until a person is about 25 years old. That means that the teenage brain is still in a stage of development and that can lead to unpredictable behavior and poor decision-making. Providing teens with education about drug and alcohol addiction and the risks associated with drug use and underage drinking can help them to make better decisions about their physical and emotional health and their future.
Family Involvement as Substance Abuse Prevention
Perhaps the biggest impact on teenage drug and alcohol use is parental influence and involvement. Teenagers who have grown up with parents or adult role models who have talked with them about the risks of drug use and underage drinking are far less susceptible to drug abuse and addiction. Some of the methods parents can use to instill strong anti-drug use values in their children include:
Setting the right example. Parents are the biggest influencers on children. By showing them responsible drinking and abstinence from drugs, they are able to lead their kids by example. That means not driving after drinking, abstaining from drugs, and showing an overall responsibility when it comes to alcohol.
Debunking Misconceptions. It’s essential that parents debunk misconceptions like “everybody drinks” or “one time won’t hurt” with their teens.
Opening the lines of communication. Parents must work diligently to make sure that the lines of communication with their teens stay open. That means that being judgmental and condescending must be avoided. It also means that parents should be honest about their own experiences with drugs and alcohol and not try to avoid any discussions about substance abuse.
Dispelling the media that glamorizes and romanticizes drug and alcohol use. Movies and television often make it seem exciting and glamorous to drink alcohol or use drugs. While parents may be able to minimize their kids’ exposure to things like that, it’s impossible to avoid them completely. That means that it’s important for parents to engage their teens in conversation about what they see on-screen and let them know the truth – that drugs and alcohol are not as harmless as they make it seem.