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.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone from anywhere with any type of background, family life, race, gender, or ethnicity – including pregnant women. When a woman who is addicted to drugs or alcohol becomes pregnant, it is usually not a time of joy and excitement as it is for other mothers-to-be. The dangers of addiction increase dramatically because the unborn baby is now affected as well. Serious complications and birth defects, up to and including death for baby and mother, can occur when pregnancy and addiction happen at the same time.
Dangers of Substance Abuse During Pregnancy
The risks of drug or alcohol use on the mother and baby during pregnancy can vary depending on the substance used. However, there are some common birth defects and complications including:
Miscarriage and Stillbirth – The death of an unborn baby before the 24th week of pregnancy is considered a miscarriage, and after the 24th week is considered a stillbirth. Both types of fatalities can be caused by drug or alcohol use during pregnancy.
Placental Abruption – This occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before the mother goes into labor. It is commonly caused by smoking, drinking alcohol, or abusing drugs during pregnancy. Placental abruption is not usually fatal, but it can cause developmental problems in the child.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome – This causes physical and mental abnormalities in the unborn child when the mother drinks alcohol during pregnancy. The effects of fetal alcohol syndrome can include cognitive impairment, developmental delays, learning disabilities, poor motor skills and coordination, and facial abnormalities. These effects can last a lifetime.
Low Birth Weight – A baby that weighs less than five and a half pounds at birth is considered to have a low birth weight. Some low birth weight babies have serious complications such as respiratory issues, heart problems, digestive tract issues, vision problems, and brain bleeds. Additionally, low birth weight can lead to future problems for the child including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity.
Brain Damage – Babies with mothers who abused substances during pregnancy may be born with brain damage that is irreparable.
Developmental Problems – Drug or alcohol use during pregnancy can affect an unborn baby’s central nervous system, which can lead to developmental delays and poor academic performance later in life.
Premature Birth – If a baby is born before the 37th week of pregnancy, it is considered a premature birth. Drug or alcohol addiction can cause premature birth and lead to respiratory issues, trouble maintaining a stable body temperature, and trouble eating and drinking. Sometimes the baby’s internal organs are underdeveloped and he or she will require ongoing medical care for an extended period of time.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) refers to several complications that affect babies born to mothers who used opioids while pregnant. The drugs are passed to the unborn baby through the placenta and the baby becomes dependent on them. When the baby no longer receives the drugs after birth, it will suffer withdrawal symptoms that include:
Diarrhea and vomiting
Babies that are born with NAS are often premature, with a low birth weight and smaller than normal body size. They must be detoxed from the opioids gradually and using medication.
Microcephaly – This refers to a small head circumference, and it usually means that the baby’s brain is not developing correctly.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – SIDS is the unexpected and sudden death of a child that is less than a year old. While autopsies do not show an explainable cause of death, babies who are born to mothers who abused drugs or alcohol during pregnancy have a higher rate of death due to SIDS than those born to women who did not use drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
Treatment for Women Who Are Addicted and Pregnant
Because of the multitude of serious risks for baby and mother, it is very important that women who are expecting and also suffering from addiction tell their doctors as soon as possible so they can receive treatment. However, many pregnant women are hesitant to talk about their drug or alcohol use with doctors because they fear judgment or punishment including having their baby taken from them when it is born. But the sooner she speaks up about her problem with addiction and gets treatment, the better her chances are of minimizing the negative effects of drug abuse and having a healthy baby.
It would seem that being pregnant and responsible for another human being’s health and well-being would be enough of an incentive to stop using drugs or drinking alcohol. But unfortunately, the strength of addiction often outweighs the most negative of consequences. Most people who suffer from addiction, pregnant women included, need professional help to get clean and sober. Seeking professional medical treatment, like inpatient treatment at Summit Behavioral Health, sooner rather than later is essential for pregnant women. This is especially true for expecting mothers who are addicted to opioids, as abruptly stopping them can cause preterm labor, fetal distress, or a fetal fatality.
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and is pregnant, now is the time to get help. Doing so is the only chance that you have to give birth to a healthy child who doesn’t have long-term negative effects of drug or alcohol addiction. Getting help could not only save your life, but also the life of your unborn baby.
The opioid epidemic in the U.S. is in full swing. In 2016 there were more deaths from drug overdoses than any other year previously, and almost two-thirds of those deaths involved opioids. Every day, there are over 100 American lives claimed by opioid overdose. In 2016, there were approximately 13,500 deaths related to heroin use, and in the four years prior, heroin-related deaths more than tripled.
What can be done about this epidemic that is sweeping across the country, affecting every demographic including all socioeconomic backgrounds? Some think that increasing access to the drug naloxone is necessary to combat the ever-rising wave of opioid overdoses.
What is Naloxone?
Naloxone is an opiate antidote. Opioids are a class of drug that includes both illegal and legal prescription drugs. Heroin and many prescription painkillers are all considered opiates. If a person is overdosing on an opioid, their breathing will slow way down, and it is very hard to arouse them from unconsciousness. Naloxone is a medication that blocks the effects of opioids and can reverse an opioid overdose.
Naloxone is not a controlled substance, and cannot be used to get high. In fact, if it is given to a person who has not had any opioids, it will have no effect on them.
How Does Naloxone Work?
If a person has opioids in their system and is given naloxone, the opioids are struck out of the brain receptors. This antidote can work even if the person has taken opioids along with other drugs or alcohol. Once a dose of naloxone is administered, the person’s breathing should begin to return to normal, and they will be reusable. Because brain damage can occur within just a few minutes of an overdose due to lack of oxygen, it is crucial that the person is given naloxone as soon as possible when overdosing. Naloxone can potentially save lives if given quickly, giving the person extra time until first responders arrive.
Naloxone is administered by intramuscular injection – in the larger muscles of the arm, thigh, or buttocks – or, more recently, by a nasal spray. Injection is the most common, but more and more U.S. cities are beginning to use the nasal spray as well. The medication typically works within the first five minutes, however, an additional dose may be needed if the person is still showing signs of overdose. About 30 minutes after the administration of naloxone, it begins to wear off and is mostly out of the patient’s system within 90 minutes. This gives the body enough time to process the opioid to the point where the patient isn’t as likely to stop breathing again.
Using naloxone will cause a person to immediately go into opioid withdrawal, which is often extremely uncomfortable, and should be monitored by medical professionals.
What is Naloxone Access Laws?
For many years, only emergency medical professionals (emergency medical technicians (EMT) and emergency room doctors and nurses) had access to naloxone. Naloxone Access Laws changed that, making it legal for anyone to have naloxone in their possession and providing legal civil and criminal amnesty for any unintended consequences when someone administers naloxone in good faith. Because naloxone has no street value and is nearly 100% harmless to healthy people, it would seem that Naloxone Access Laws would be widely accepted and enacted.
Before Naloxone Access Laws started to be enacted (only some states currently have them), some harm reduction groups circulated naloxone in at-risk areas even though it was illegal. Their common belief was that it is necessary to resort to illegal means if it was to save lives.
Should Naloxone Be Made More Available?
At first glance, increased access to naloxone seems only positive. After all, it can reverse the effects of opioid overdose quickly, it has no risks of addiction itself, and it is not dangerous if used on someone who has not ingested heroin or other opioid medications. It is undoubtedly one of the strongest tools for fighting overdose.
Even with that said, there are some concerns that have arisen regarding making naloxone access more relaxed. One of the biggest concerns is that non-medical personnel don’t have the necessary training to administer it properly. Naloxone induces immediate opioid withdrawal, and that can include serious side effects such as tachycardia (increased heart rate), vomiting, hypertension, and even hallucinations. It is thought that these side effects could be harmful to both the addict and any bystanders. Additionally, if it is given in a non-medical setting, it could lead to further complications.
Another concern shared by some medical professional and public safety officials is that the increased access and availability of naloxone may provide drug users with a false sense of security, leading to increasing opioid use and abuse and fewer people seeking treatment for opioid addiction. Despite the positive effects of naloxone – that it greatly increases chances of survival in the event of overdose – it isn’t completely foolproof. Opioid use is extremely dangerous and should not be underestimated.
Increased education about naloxone is needed. If it is to become more widely accessible, friends and family of those at risk of opioid overdose need proper training on how to administer it and the possible side effects. Users need to understand that it is not 100% guaranteed that they will be unscathed from an overdose just because they receive naloxone. It must be seen as a last-resort means to save lives, and not as something that enables further opioid abuse.
If you or a loved one is addicted to opioid drugs, your best course of action is to seek treatment for the addiction. Naloxone should not be a loophole that removes the necessity of proper treatment. If you or your loved one needs help, please contact Summit Behavioral Health. We can assist you with medical detox and addiction treatment.
There is a wealth of benefits that you experience from getting clean and sober and living a life of recovery from addiction. Just one of those benefits is that you get to know and experience new things and new passions. When you are in active addiction, it’s unlikely that you spend any time at all thinking about the possibilities you have in life – you’re too busy using, thinking about using, or planning how to use. When you get sober and begin your recovery, you will see that there is an endless amount of new adventures to embark upon.
Some people in recovery find that they love to travel, and that not only is it enjoyable, but that it can also enhance their program of recovery. Here are some of the ways that hitting the road, or jumping on a plane, can help your recovery.
It Helps You Keep an Open Mind
A big part of recovery is having an open mind. You have to be willing to look at things differently and learn new, sometimes awkward-feeling, ways of coping with things. You are encouraged to view things without preconceived notions and to try things that feel foreign to you. In early recovery, you have to begin to become more self-aware and introspective in order to be able to make the positive changes that are necessary to stay sober.
Traveling to new, exciting places can be like that. You don’t know what to expect, but you are filled with the excitement to find out. Your mind is open to the possibilities. Isn’t that just what it was like when you decided you could no longer live a life of addiction? You were able to see that there were possibilities beyond what you knew at the time.
It Gives You a New Perspective
When you are facing challenges, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself – for those who are in recovery and those who are not – is change your perspective. That is certainly something that you learn in recovery. What used to seem impossible, like quitting using, may actually be possible after all. Your addiction didn’t change, your perspective did.
When you travel, your perspective is constantly changing, figuratively and literally. You are able to see new places with open eyes or recognize new things about your favorite destinations that you return to over and over. Being able to see the same things differently is a wonderful skill to have, in your travels and in your recovery.
It Provides You with New Discoveries
You started a journey of discovery when you began recovery. You had to discover who you really were and then get to know that person. Chances are, the person you have gotten to know in recovery is much different than the person you were in active addiction. What an amazing discovery that is!
Taking trips, whether for a day or for a month, offers you a world of discoveries too. With your newfound open-mindedness and positive perspective, you never know what incredible things you might discover in your travels.
It Takes You Out of Your Comfort Zone
Your comfort zone may feel like a safe place, but you have to keep in mind that your comfort zone is where you lived when you were using. Mustering up the courage to make a change and seek treatment were you getting WAY outside of your comfort zone. And look at the benefits of doing that!
Traveling to somewhere that you have never been may feel like you are stepping outside of your comfort zone, and that’s great! You know how to do it, you’ve done it before, so why not see what awaits you?
It’s All About the Journey, Not the Destination
Traveling can be a wonderful way to augment your recovery. It has the potential to benefit your mind, body, and spirit, just the way that recovery does. Step outside your comfort zone and give it a try. You will likely find that the destination isn’t so important, it’s how you get there that is.
If you have not yet made it to recovery, but want to change the course of your life, seek treatment for your addiction and get yourself heading in the right direction. Contact us at Summit Behavioral Health and we can help you find the path to recovery.
Anger is a universal feeling that everyone has from time to time. People typically feel it when they perceive that they have been wronged or mistreated in some way. There are times, of course, that anger is justified, but more often it is a function of fear that the individual is feeling. Excessive anger can be a dangerous thing because it can lead a person to suffer negative consequences physically, emotionally, and socially, especially when it leads to aggressive or passive-aggressive behaviors. For people in recovery from addiction, anger can be significantly destructive, and can eventually lead to relapse.
What is Anger?
Anger is an emotion that varies in degree from person to person and by the situation. Anger can arise in many different contexts and it can range from mild irritation to furious rage. While anger is a natural emotion that everyone feels sometimes, it is always a good idea to learn ways to deal with it in constructive ways. This is especially important for people who are in recovery because when they are triggered toward anger they are at risk of using drugs or alcohol again.
While it’s certain that you know what it feels like to be angry, it may come as a surprise that anger is usually a secondary emotion. That means that there is some other emotion underlying that is causing the anger, like fear or sadness. Because people are uncomfortable expressing fear and sadness, they often turn to anger because it provides a sense of control and energy rather than feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.
The Risks of Anger
Too much anger, or anger that is not expressed, can lead a person to negative consequences including the following:
Destroying personal relationships
Alienating friends and loved ones
Loss of jobs
Physical and medical issues like insomnia, fatigue, hypertension, and heart problems
Violence toward others, as well as becoming a victim
Becoming more likely to commit criminal acts
Becoming more likely to abuse substances
Feelings of remorse and guilt
Anger in Recovery
People who are in recovery often struggle with anger, especially in early sobriety. The first year of sobriety can be a very emotional time in a person’s life – with many highs and lows. Because they are used to avoiding both positive and negative emotions by drinking or using drugs, this overflowing emotion can be difficult to deal with, and can easily cause anger.
Typically, people with substance abuse problems used drugs or drank alcohol to avoid feelings of anger. So when they become sober and are no longer able to use their drug of choice to deal with angry feelings, they have to learn new ways of coping Unfortunately, anger is one of the most reported excuses for relapse after becoming sober. If a person doesn’t have the coping skills to deal with anger, then it will build up over time, ultimately resulting in the person exploding. They can’t think rationally when that happens, and they often return to using drugs or alcohol.
How to Deal with Anger in Recovery
You can see why it is so important to learn how to deal with anger when you are in recovery. Not knowing how to deal with anger while in recovery can be a huge risk for relapse. Here are a few ways that may help you deal with your anger effectively.
Therapy or Anger Management The goal here is to talk to someone. Whether that’s a therapist or counselor or by taking an anger management class it’s up to you, but someone who is a professional will be able to offer you support and advice on how to handle your anger when it arises. Sometimes it’s also helpful to discuss the people or things that are triggering your anger with a close friend or sponsor. Just getting the feeling out of your head and out where someone else can hear it is often helpful in alleviating much of it.
Distraction This strategy you have to use with caution. You certainly don’t want to regress into avoiding your feelings or trying to stuff them down. However, if your anger is at a boiling point distracting yourself for a little while may be helpful. Doing something that you enjoy may help you calm down and allow you to see the situation form a more peaceful perspective. The key thing to remember is that you do have to return to the situation and deal with it after.
Physical Activity or Exercise Burning off some calories is a good, constructive and healthy way to release some of the physical aspects of anger. Whether that means taking a walk around the block, working out with weights, or going for a run, it will work off some of the negative energy and also release “feel-good” endorphins, which will improve your mood. Once you are relaxed and in a calmer state of mind you will be able to focus on the issue at hand and deal with it more appropriately
Mindfulness and Relaxation Deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness are helpful when you feel your anger start to bubble up.Once you are relaxed and in a calmer state of mind you will be able to focus on the issue at hand and deal with it more appropriately
Anger is something that comes up for everyone, and it’s important that you learn to deal with it in a healthy way – especially if you are in recovery. It could mean the difference between continuing on a path of recovery or starting on the path to relapse.
Are you concerned about your anger? Or are you considering getting inpatient treatment for your substance abuse? If so, Summit Behavioral Health can help you. Contact us today and we will help you begin your recovery.
The outpatient facility provides personalized addiction treatment in a welcoming environment
Summit Behavioral Health is proud to announce its relocation to a new outpatient facility at 83 Hanover Road, Suite 160, Florham Park, New Jersey. The new facility will continue to offer Summit’s unique brand of personalized addiction treatment programs for people suffering from substance abuse disorders and alcohol dependency.
“We’re happy to announce the relocation to our new home,” stated Tricia Kostin, Clinical Director of Florham Park. “Although we’re just a few miles down the road from our old location, we feel as if this is an expansion in many ways of what has made our facilities so well-equipped to help people on the road to recovery.”
The Florham Park facility provides intensive outpatient services catered to each client’s individual needs with our flexible scheduling, adult and adolescent programming and family support. Patients in the outpatient program have access to professional counseling and group therapy sessions that provide them with the skills necessary to progress on the road to recovery.
“Our outpatient addiction treatment programs include educational sessions, ongoing support, family counseling, and access to behavioral counselors in times of need,” Bethany Kassar, Executive Director of Outpatient Services. “We offer both adolescent and adult programs and conduct assessments to ensure that the team designs unique treatment programs based on each patient’s needs. Summit views addiction as a family disease and holistically treats the entire system by having a client’s family actively involved in the recovery process.
Patients who choose outpatient treatment can maintain their daily lifestyle and pursue education and career goals while also having the assurance of anonymity and privacy that some patients need because of the possible consequences that discovery of their addiction might cause professionally and personally. Summit’s treatment programs have multiple levels of intensity based on a patient’s clinical history and existing struggle with addiction.
Summit Behavioral Health programs are based on the fundamental belief that no single treatment philosophy or approach is best for everyone. Our experienced staff collaboratively creates each client’s treatment plan to reflect their unique needs and empower them to succeed. We partner with the individual to begin a transformational journey from hope to healing and beyond. Summit Behavioral Health operate addiction treatment centers that offers different treatment programs that include: drug and alcohol medical detox, inpatient treatment in a residential facility, and intensive and non-intensive outpatient treatment.
Detoxification, or riding your body of drugs or alcohol, is the first crucial step of the recovery process. It’s so significant that you really cannot start moving forward in recovery without first having accomplished detox. Attempting to begin therapy, counseling, and psychiatric care while you still have drugs or alcohol in your system, isn’t just inefficient, it can also be a set up for relapse.
If you are thinking about beginning recovery, or you have a loved one who is, you probably have questions or concerns about what detox entails and how it will affect you. Here are some facts about the detox process and what you might expect from it.
Detox Must Come First
Detox has to be completed before drug or alcohol rehab can begin. Most inpatient drug rehabs include detox as the first part of their recovery programs. That means patients don’t have to attempt to detox on their own, rather they begin their treatment with the first few days to a week or more in detox before moving on to residential addiction treatment. It’s important that your body is completely rid of drugs and alcohol prior to starting residential treatment.
Detox Must Only Be the Beginning
Detox isn’t sufficient treatment for addicts to have long-term sobriety. In order to have the best chances for long-lasting recovery, you have to have an established program of recovery that starts with detox and continues with inpatient treatment. During detox, the goal is to rid your body of drugs or alcohol while being made as comfortable as possible until withdrawal symptoms subside. True recovery requires additional education, therapy, psychiatric care, learning coping and life skills, and relapse prevention – the things that you receive in residential treatment.
Detox Should Be Medically-Supervised
Your comfort during detox is a concern, but even more so is your safety. Depending on the types of substances you have used and in what amounts, detoxing without medical supervision can be dangerous. Stopping drinking alcohol “cold turkey” can cause severe withdrawal symptoms that can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. Abruptly quitting other drugs like benzodiazepines and opioids can also have very serious withdrawal symptoms that must be monitored by medical professionals. You may be given small doses of benzodiazepines to aid with the symptoms and then weaned off them prior to entering residential treatment.
Detox Isn’t Easy
Even though your detox will be medically-supervised and you may receive some relief from medication while you get past the withdrawal phase, detox is not easy. You will likely have to deal with overwhelming cravings and urges to use or drink. Craving your drug of choice can lead to you wanting to terminate your detox early and using again. It’s important that if that happens you talk to the detox staff and let them know what is going on. They will be able to offer you additional support and encouragement and try to make your detox as tolerable as possible.
Detox Takes Time
Just how long it takes to complete detox varies by the individual. There are factors that contribute to how long it will take such as the types of drugs used, amounts and frequency used, patient’s age, and his or her overall health. Generally speaking, detox takes anywhere from 2-3 days to a week, but there is no hard and fast rule.
Detox Programs Protect Your Privacy
When you go through detox (and further addiction treatment), your privacy is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. That means that your detox records are protected in the same manner that any of your other medical records are.
Sometimes Once Isn’t Enough
For some people with addiction, it takes more than one attempt to make it through the detox process. Not everyone is able to stick it out and make it through the first time. If you are one of these people, don’t’ despair! If you have made a commitment to changing your life, you have to keep trying until you make it and are able to go on to the next steps in the recovery process.
If You Use Again After Detox
It is important to keep in mind that if you do go back to using after you have gone through detox, your tolerance and your dependence will likely pick up just where you left off. Ridding your body of drugs and alcohol isn’t “starting over.” You may even have increased tolerance and greater dependence if you start drinking or using again.
Substance addiction is a very complex disorder with many factors at play, making it difficult for doctors to always know what the best method of treatment is for each of their patients. One area that is particularly challenging is medication-assisted treatment for addiction. Each individual has the potential to respond differently to medications that are prescribed to help aid recovery from drugs or alcohol, making it hard for prescribing physicians to know what will work and what might not.
Pharmacogenetic testing may make that easier for doctors working in addiction treatment. It will allow them to understand how an individual metabolizes specific prescription medications, making it much easier to find successful treatments.
Most of the medications currently on the market are essentially one-size-fits-all, but they don’t cause the same results for everyone. Right now, it is hard for medical professionals to predict which patients will benefit from a specific drug, which patients will not respond, and which patients will have adverse drug reactions. These negative side effects cause a significant amount of hospitalizations and deaths each year. With the knowledge that medical professionals are able to gain from learning about how medications will interact with an individual’s genetic composition, they will be able to predict how the individual will react to the medication and help prevent adverse drug reactions.
While the field of pharmacogenetic testing is still in its infancy, it is hoped that it will greatly advance the effectiveness of drugs, when tailored to the individual, in the treatment of a range of health issues including cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, psychiatric conditions, and addiction.
How Can Pharmacogenetic Testing Benefit Addiction Treatment?
Two people who seem to be very similar – same age, gender, socioeconomic background, and marital status – may also both be addicted to alcohol. However, the underlying genetic reasons that caused each of them to become alcoholics may be quite different. One may have a condition that reduces the release of dopamine, so that individual consumes alcohol for its dopamine-releasing powers. The other person may have a condition that inhibits their dopamine receptors and causes spikes in dopamine, so they drink to raise dopamine tone a different way.
Each of those two patients needs individualized treatment to address the unique genetic issues that caused his alcoholism. Knowing what exactly the underlying issues are, and which medications will be effective will help doctors to treat each patient individually based on their genetic needs, thus improving the outcomes of addiction treatment.
Benefits of Pharmacogenetic Testing
There are many benefits of pharmacogenetic testing. Not only will they allow doctors to treat each individual with a tailored treatment, they will also:
Predict increased risks of developing disease later in life
Identify genetic changes that may be passed on to children
Screen children for conditions that require treatment as early as possible
Genetic testing is becoming more important in healthcare of all arenas as there is a shift toward higher-quality, evidence-based treatment. Research has shown that pharmacogenetic testing provides patients with up to 70% better effectiveness of treatment. Patients are more responsive to their customized treatments and appreciate the personalized genetic data. Being more informed and responsive to treatment often translates to a higher confidence level in the medical care they receive, which in turn, makes them more likely to experience success in the healing process.
From the Lab to Clinical Practice
Now the question becomes when will using pharmacogenetic research to aid addiction treatment to be translated into clinical applications? And will the average patient be able to afford it?
Unfortunately, the type of tailored medical treatments that researchers are working on for addiction is still in progress. Experts in the field believe that some pharmacogenetic treatments for addiction (including nicotine and alcohol) may result in the next five to ten years. The approach is likely to be embraced, perhaps slowly, by medical professionals and patients alike.
The cost of genetic testing will continue to decrease as it becomes more ubiquitous. Patients were required to pay for genotype tests that identify one or few relevant mutations will no longer apply. It’s predicted that in the not too distant future, patients will see their doctor, have their entire genome sequenced, and have the information readily available for future medical issues.
How that information is interpreted and used to create specialized addiction treatments may be another story. We may be looking at that piece being 10 to 15 years away, but it’s clear that’s the direction addiction treatment is headed.
Traditional Addiction Treatment in the Meantime
Using pharmacogenetics to develop treatment plans for addicts will not replace traditional treatment options, like those used at Summit Behavioral Health’s addiction treatment facilities. It’s believed that greater success will be achieved when both pharmacogenetics and traditional addiction treatments are used together. The knowledge that is learned through traditional treatment – rehabilitation, 12-step programs, relapse prevention, addiction education, and therapy will continue to be vital pieces in addiction recovery. Psychiatric care though will likely be greatly enhanced by pharmacogenetic testing which will increase the success of treatment overall.
Ask anyone in recovery and they will likely tell you that getting clean and sober was the hardest, yet best thing they have ever done. Very few people with an addiction to drugs or alcohol actually stay sober after their first attempt at recovery. It sometimes takes repeated efforts to achieve long-lasting sobriety – that is more the rule than the exception. For some people, it’s even harder than that though. They are chronic relapsers and while they may be able to collect longer periods of sobriety, they continually end up drinking or using again.
What is Chronic Relapsing?
Chronic relapse is a repeating cycle in which a person wants to become sober, does in fact stop using or drinking, but then once again picks up and restarts active addiction. Chronic relapsers typically have completed addiction treatment multiple times, have had some long periods of recovery, have been educated about the disease, are well-versed in addiction lingo and are especially familiar with recovery tools, yet they still cannot remain clean and sober.
Why Do People Relapse?
Chronic relapse refers to old behaviors that have come back, including drinking or using, that cause the user to once again need treatment. The rate of relapse of addiction is very high, and addiction experts are finding that there are many reasons for it. Among them are the following:
Not changing one’s social environment after treatment
Underlying psychological or psychiatric issues that were not discovered or resolved while in treatment
Insufficient length of time spent in treatment
Varying degrees of stress, depending on the individual
Major life changes like marriage, divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, etc.
The biggest contributor to chronic relapse, though, is thought to be the belief that upon completion of treatment that one is cured, no longer needing to be concerned about a return to addiction. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Addiction recovery and relapse prevention requires using every recovery resource that an addict has, that cannot be maintained on one’s own. Depending on the person, that may mean continued individual or group therapy, consistent attendance at 12-step meetings, regular contact with a sponsor, psychiatric care, family support, or any combination of these and other tools.
Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Relapse
The following are a few of the most common signs and symptoms related to chronic relapse:
Multiple unsuccessful attempts at remaining sober Many substance abusers have lived a life of drug and alcohol abuse without ever attempting to get sober. Chronic relapsers are different, in that they have tried over and over to stop using.
Unable to remain clean despite having all of the knowledge and being familiar with the tools of addiction and recovery Most people who chronically relapse are familiar with the ins and outs of recovery, but continue to relapse despite that.
Feeling hopeless Chronic relapsers often feel hopeless about finding long-lasting sobriety.
Many treatment options tried People who chronically relapse are likely to have tried several recovery options including detox, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, psychiatric care, sober living housing, support groups, and 12-step programs.
Exaggerated personality traits It’s often found that chronic relapsers have varied, but exaggerated, personality traits like charm, manipulation, deceit, intelligence, or passion. Some suffer from borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder.
Medical management An addicted person’s chances of achieving long-term sobriety are improved when his or her mental and physical health are monitored by a medical professional.
Remove distractions It’s crucial that chronic relapsers remove anything that distracts them from seeing the truth about themselves, that they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Emphasize mental and spiritual nature of addiction It’s essential that chronic relapsers understand that they have a disease that affects their mind, body, and spirit.
Help for the family Often times, the families of chronic relapsers are dysfunctional and help and support are needed for family members as well as the addicted person.
Use leverage Chronic relapsers need to understand that they will not receive help, financial or otherwise, from loved ones if they relapse. This is not bribing someone to stay sober, it is simply not enabling an addict’s addiction.
Accountability Treatment for chronic relapsers must include relentless accountability, responsibility, and consistency.
Hope for the Chronic Relapser
While the statistics for chronic relapsers is not favorable, there is hope for sustained recovery. It has to be recognized that the person is resistant to treatment and options that challenge that resistance must be employed. Often, a long-term residential treatment program that is specifically designed for the treatment resistant addict is critical to breaking the cycle of chronic relapse.
If you or your loved one is a chronic relapser, seek help sooner rather than later. At Summit Behavioral Health, we have experience in dealing with individuals who have been unsuccessful at remaining sober in the past. Contact us for help and guidance in your recovery.
During a time when teens are meant to be attending school dances, enjoying summer vacation, and graduating from high school, they are often instead participating in underage drinking. Teenage drinking can have some serious short-term effects including making the young person sick, making poor choices, accidents and injuries, and engaging in risky sexual behaviors. However, what many young people don’t consider are the long-term effects of underage drinking that often have lasting consequences.
The Dangers of Underage Drinking
The consequences of teenage drinking are shocking in their magnitude and they affect not only teens, but the people around them and society as a whole. The teenage years are the time of life considered to be the most physically healthy with the lowest occurrence of disease. However, due to the rise in alcohol consumption by minors, the mortality rates now increase 200 percent between the beginning and the end of the teenage years.
Alcohol playing a part in teenagers’ lives causes severe and adverse outcomes and tragedies by increasing risk-taking behavior. According to the Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, Facing Addiction in America, the following are just some of the more prominent consequences of underage alcohol use:
Annually, about 5,000 people under age 21 die from alcohol-related injuries involving underage drinking. Approximately:
1,900 of the 5,000 deaths involve vehicle accidents,
1,600 result from homicides, and
300 result from suicides
Additionally, underage drinking:
Plays a significant role in risky sexual behavior, including unwanted, unintended, and unprotected sexual activity, and sex with multiple partners. Such behavior increases the risk for unplanned pregnancy and for contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Increases the risk of physical and sexual assault.
Is associated with academic failure.
Is associated with illicit drug use.
Is associated with tobacco use.
Can cause a range of physical consequences, from hangovers to death from alcohol poisoning.
Can cause alterations in the structure and function of the developing brain, which continues to mature into the mid- to late twenties, and may have consequences reaching far beyond adolescence.
Creates secondhand effects that can put others at risk. Loud and unruly behavior, property destruction, unintentional injuries, violence, and even death because of underage alcohol use can afflict innocent parties. For example, about 45 percent of people who die in crashes involving a drinking driver under the age of 21 are people other than the driver. Such secondhand effects often strike at random, making underage alcohol use truly everybody’s problem.
In conjunction with pregnancy, underage drinking may result in fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, including fetal alcohol syndrome, which remains a leading cause of mental retardation.
Long-Term Effects of Underage Drinking
Understanding the long-term effects of teenage drinking is important whether you are a teen or the parent of a teen. In addition to the above listed consequences, there are some effects that have consequences that can last a lifetime.
Teens usually feel like nothing bad can happen when they drink, but many bad choices are made when they do. Their poor decisions while drinking can result in getting arrested for disorderly conduct, assault, driving drunk, and other offenses. These negative legal consequences can cause problems for a long time to come. They may follow teens as they apply for college, scholarships and jobs.
Chronic Medical Conditions
Teens who begin drinking at a young age and continue into their adulthood run the risk of suffering from the accumulated effects of alcohol use on their health. Chronic illnesses such as cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, hepatitis, hypertension, anemia, and nutritional deficiencies can result. Alcohol use at a young age can also interfere with the development of bone density, causing osteoporosis.
Because the brain continues to develop into a person’s mid-twenties, teens who consume alcohol run the risk of cognitive problems that can continue far into adulthood. It can cause memory problems and actually cause brain damage. The hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory, is seen to be much smaller in those people who frequently used or abused alcohol during their teen years. Other areas that are affected include the attention span, the ability to think spatially and to plan.
Injuries or Death
As seen in the statistics above drinking can result in various types of accidents and injuries from falling to drowning to vehicle accidents. While some of these accidents have serious short-term consequences, they can also impact a teen for a lifetime. When an accident takes a teen’s life, it is gone forever. But for the underage drinker who caused someone else’s life to be cut short, the guilt and other psychological effects can be a lifelong burden. Serious, permanent injury can also cause a teen to suffer for a lifetime.
Teenage drinking can seriously impact a young person’s relationships with family and friends. The negative consequences of teen drinking (legal issues, health problems, accidents, etc.) all affect the family dynamic. Some of these consequences can cause crisis in the family that causes suffering for everyone for a long time.
Becoming addicted to alcohol is one of the worst risks of underage drinking. Anyone who drinks, including teenagers, runs the risk of becoming an alcoholic. But for teens who drink, even if it is not to excess, there is the added risk of developing addiction later in life. Research has shown that people who began drinking alcohol at a young age have a higher propensity of addiction in adulthood. Addiction is a disease that often requires professional addiction treatment and a lifetime of work to overcome.
There are so many negative consequences and risks involved with underage drinking, yet it is still a huge problem in this and other countries. Everyone who has ever had too much to drink knows just how easy it is for bad things to happen while drinking. What most people, of all ages, fail to consider is the long-term effects that their actions while drinking can have. Brain damage, lifelong guilt, chronic health problems, and the hell that is addiction, are all possible outcomes of teenage drinking.