Anaheim Lighthouse is a drug and alcohol treatment facility that offers detox, residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient and sober living to men and women. Our team of experts provide compassionate care in a clean, safe and structure environment. We also offer additional group and individual sessions in emotional trauma recovery and pain management.
If you suspect your loved one may be addicted to a substance, you’re not alone. More than 24.5 million Americans abuse substances like alcohol and opioids, and many more experience unhealthy relationships with these substances. If you’re trying to determine if your loved one is using or has gone beyond occasional use to full addiction, there are signs and symptoms you can look for. However, the signs and symptoms of drug use and addiction vary a great deal from person to person, but you can spot identifying behaviors which are common in all addicted persons.
In some cases, users will show very few signs, may act and function normally, and may even work or perform at school to a high level. High-functioning addiction is common and while it doesn’t visibly affect users as much, is still detrimental to physical and mental health over time. If your loved one is addicted to a substance, it is crucial that you get them into treatment before repercussions including health problems, legal trouble, deteriorating psychological health, and deteriorating finances impact their lives in ways that cannot be undone.
People use substances to cope with stress, reduce pain, or even to feel normal. Drugs like Vicodin, OxyContin, Xanax, and Ambien are as much abused as heroin and methamphetamine, and equally as dangerous. Recognizing the signs and reacting at the right time can not only help you get your loved one back, it can save lives.
The most common signs of drug use and addiction include:
1. High Levels of Stress or Paranoia
Substance abuse often changes personalities by affecting chemical and neurotransmitter levels in the brain. In most cases, drugs affect the GABA, Dopamine, Serotonin, or Opioid receptors – resulting in a rush of synthetic endorphins stimulating those receptors in the brain. During the ‘high’, the body is relaxed or energized because of a massive increase in chemicals that make the body feel good, awake, or even happy. Over time, the brain adjusts, producing less of these substances naturally in order to balance out the brain. This results in increasing changes to the person when not high, with anxiety, anger, paranoia, and stress being the most common results. For example, when the body produces less dopamine and serotonin, natural stress-relieving drugs, the body is significantly more stressed when not high. People who always suffer mood swings or anxiety may have a mental disorder or problem contributing, but if it is new behavior and not resulting from trauma, it is a potential sign of drug use and addiction.
2. Visible Changes in Behavior
Drugs cause users to change how they feel and often how they act. For example, most opioids have a sedative effect. Users will appear lethargic, half asleep, or even unable to respond. Other drugs create massive episodes of near-mania, where users cannot stop moving, act and behave in completely new ways, or display visually higher levels of energy than normal. While these signs can be contributed to other problems like bipolar disorder, they are a sign of drug use and addiction, especially when in combination with other symptoms.
3. Constant Cold and Flu Symptoms
A long-occurring cold and flu can be the result of a sinus infection or other problem, but it may also relate to drug use, especially opioids and methamphetamine. Long-term injection results in puffy eyes, runny nose, and in some cases, a cough – all of which can mimic a long-running cold. If users are constantly sick and tired with no explanation from a doctor or refusal to go to the doctor, drug use may be contributing.
4. Manipulative Behavior for Money or Stealing
While behavior can change significantly depending on the position the user is in, many people frequently run out of money and then lie or steal or manipulate to get more. For example, a person with frequent unexplained accidents or unexplained lack of money might use stories and half-truths to attempt to illicit money from others. Large borrowers, people who frequently ask for money, or those who manipulate to get money or valuables may be using it for substances.
5. Unexplained Disappearances or Time
Substance abuse requires a significant time investment, and many users will not feel comfortable using around family and loved ones. Instead, they will seek out new places to use, disappearing for hours or even days at a time. People who frequently disappear but who are unable to explain those disappearances or who are lying may be covering up substance abuse. For example, teens who vanish after school but aren’t at a friend’s house as stated may be using the time to go to a secluded area to use.
6. Drug Paraphernalia
Physical evidence of drug use is often easy to find in heavy users, who eventually lapse and fail to properly hide drug use. Paraphernalia can vary a great deal depending on the drug, but pill containers, baggies, small pipes, burnt tinfoil and spoons, pipes, and rolling papers are highly suggestive of drug use.
7. Guilt or Lying About Drug Use
This sign is especially prevalent in users who either use casually and admit to it or those who have prescription medication but who abuse it. For example, a parent who always has pills in their wallet or bag ‘just in case’, or who hides using them is showing suspect behavior. Similarly, a person who frequently goes off into a bathroom or hides drinking or legal drugs probably feels guilty about using them, and is therefore more likely to be abusing them.
8. Very Frequent Drug Use
The single most frequent trait among substance abusers is frequent and uncontrolled drug use. Persons who use frequently will build a tolerance and will become substance dependent, unless using substances which are not addicting. The more frequently a person uses, the higher their chances of being addicted. Many frequent users also begin to show similar traits, such as saying things like “I can quit any time I want” or using excuses to validate how often they are using. This should be a red flag, because non-addicted users will simply put the drug down if they think their usage is getting too high.
Millions of Americans are addicted to substances, and none of them planned it that way. Addiction and substance use disorders are as complex and as multifaceted as the people who are addicted. People become addicted for different reasons, with genetics, raising, emotional behavior, intelligence, environment, stress, trauma, and psychological and psychiatric disorders all playing a role in how and why people become addicted. However, no matter what the root cause of addiction, there is help.
If your loved one is using, their substance abuse is harming their body through liver and gastrointestinal damage, causing poor choices that contribute to malnutrition, increased risk of legal and money problems, and put themselves in danger. While substances vary in danger, your loved one needs help if they are going to recover.
Today’s treatment facilities recognize the multi-faceted nature of addiction, following initial drug detox periods with complex assessments to determine how and why individuals use. Many offer special programs to tackle cooccurring disorders including anxiety and depression. With cognitive behavioral therapy to learn coping skills and unlearn behaviors contributing to substance abuse, as well as family therapy to rebuild relationships and emotional skills, many treatment centers are less about training people not to use and more about building life skills so that addicts can be happy without substances.
Memorial Day weekend always brought back memories of the good old days, the days I could no longer fully enjoy. Between the barbeques and bonfires, fireworks and pool parties, there was booze everywhere. I tried not attending any of these events, but then I felt left out and lonely. I tried going and abstaining, but I still felt left out and lonely.
I resented every minute of it.
TAKING OFF THE ROSE-COLORED GLASSES
I was over at my sister’s house lounging with her by the pool one Saturday afternoon when the subject of the 4th of July came up. She was hosting the annual family reunion/barbeque, pool party. Just the thought of it made me want to puke, and I told her so.
“So,” she asked, “what are you saying? You can’t enjoy our company without getting smashed?”
“Why can’t you hang out together without drinking? It’s really the same thing, you know”, I shot back.
“No, it’s not the same thing. We can handle our liquor.”
“Yeah, I remember how well Derrick handled it last year when he threw up in your calla lillies.”
Okay, so maybe the old days weren’t that great. But how was I going to make the rest of my days better?
I called my sponsor, told her how I was struggling, and she gave me what seemed like an odd assignment at the time. She told me to remember all the bad times. And not just remember them, but to write them down. She told me to document every single bad experience I had while I was drinking that I could remember.
The paper filled up quickly, however, and as I read back over it, I began to understand the object of the lesson. I didn’t want a repeat performance of any of these incidents:
In addition to no longer going through all of the above, staying sober also affords me the opportunity to:
Truly enjoy time spent with loved ones
Create wonderful memories
Have enough energy to participate in more fun activities
Learn healthy coping skills
Have no regrets
HOW TO STAY SOBER WHILE BEING SOCIAL
I had to accept the fact that the world is not going to stop turning every summer just to make things easier for me, nor should I feel like I should hide away. I came to understand that the key to staying sober is to develop those healthy coping skills, such as:
Socialize in metered doses –I don’t have to show up for every gathering, nor do I have to stay for the duration. When I find myself craving a drink, I thank my host and say goodbye.
Bring a sober friend with me –Not only does having someone sober with me make me feel less alone, it also helps keep me in check.
Take part in all of the activities – Keeping busy keeps me sober. It’s a lot easier to man the grill, play games, or take a swim without a drink in my hand.
Knowing how to intercept my triggers – It’s a lot easier to avoid temptation when I am prepared for it. When I see danger approaching, I already have a plan of action.
As I continue to grow in my determination to stay sober, I am able to enjoy summer again. And the longer I stay sober, the more important it becomes to stay that way.
Whether you’re recently out of rehab or have been clean or sober for some time, you will likely spend a considerable amount of time struggling with your self-esteem. Substance use and abuse is often detrimental to your sense of identity and self, while social pressure and stigma can make you feel bad or like a failure for having been addicted.
While the process of going into recovery should include cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling to help you recover your self-esteem, you may need additional help. These tips to help improve your self-esteem after rehab will put you on the right track. However, the most important thing to remember is that if you are in recovery, you are actively working to improve yourself, you have a reason to not only be proud of yourself but also to respect the decisions you are making to make your life better.
How Substance use Affects Self Esteem
Substance abuse affects men and women differently. You will also likely have a different experience depending on how you became addicted, the circumstances of your addiction, the reactions of your friends and family, and even your own choices while under the influence of substance dependence.
For example, women with families often allow addiction to replace the sense of self, depleting the ego to the point where they no longer respect or stand up for themselves. Men often allow substance abuse to inflate the ego, which then becomes deflated and problematic by recovery.
You may also be affected by the strong sense of social stigma surrounding substance abuse. Feeling shame about substance abuse, especially that forced on you by friends and family, will make you feel dehumanized, weak, and will often greatly decrease your own opinion of yourself. In some cases, others in your life may also treat you in this way. If this is the case, it’s important to work to cut them out of your life, simply because it is harmful and hurtful to your own mental health.
While some people attempt to encourage having problems with self-esteem because they are afraid that overconfidence will result in a relapse (it can), a healthy amount of self-esteem is crucial to long-term success. For example, low self-esteem can make you feel helpless, which may drive you to a relapse. Why? If you don’t believe that you are capable of fixing, improving, or handling anything, you don’t believe you’re capable of staying clean or sober, and therefore you won’t.
While it’s well understood that substance abuse can and does negatively affect the ego and self-esteem, you can work to get it back. You can also it as a way to boost your recovery and improve your long-term recovery
1. Continue to Seek Out Help from Others
While it can be tempting to go out on your own after rehab, only you know how ready you are. In addition, continuing to seek out help and connecting with others will give you both social motivation and accountability. For example, going to 12-step groups like AA or an alternative like SMART Recovery will help you to stay accountable by giving you someone to share with.
Taking steps to consistently get help and make sure you’re on the right track, whether from a counselor, a halfway house, or weekly + meetings with a recovery group will consistently remind you you’re making the right choices, will help you keep track of your progress, and will help you to build your self-esteem over time by keeping you on track of how much you’re doing to improve.
2. Take Care of Your Health
Taking care of your mental and physical health will do two things that boost your self-esteem. First, it will improve your mental and physical health and therefore your general energy and happiness. Second, it will stabilize and boost natural serotonin and dopamine production in the brain, which can be badly damaged by long-term substance abuse of any kind.
Working out and eating well also require a great deal of dedication and discipline, which will allow you to build habits that help you to be proud of yourself. In fact, exercise actively works to boost your self-esteem and happiness, reducing depression and anxiety and even reducing suicidal ideation. This is especially true when sports and exercise initiatives include social interaction and teamwork, which can greatly help you to build self-esteem and happiness when done in a healthy environment. Similarly, eating well and making good food choices will boost your overall happiness and fight depression, tying into low self-esteem, while reinforcing the idea that you are doing the right thing and working to improve your own health.
Volunteering and working to help other people is one of the easiest ways to give yourself a mental boost. Multiple studies have linked the act of volunteering and consciously working to help others to positive self-esteem, increases in happiness, and even increases in overall well-being. While your own mental and physical health come first, and you obviously shouldn’t spend time volunteering if you still have to put a lot of work into your own health, you may find that even giving back in small ways is greatly beneficial to how you feel about yourself.
What counts? Nearly any instance of volunteering, even in animal shelters, will help a lot. However, you should beware of volunteering in a capacity to help current addicts into recovery, largely because you are likely still in a vulnerable stage yourself. If you do want to volunteer in a counseling or helping role, consider talking to your own counselor and with your AA or self-help group before doing so.
4. Learn to Cope with Stress and Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes, accidents happen, and everyone has ‘flaws’. Coping with them is part of living, it doesn’t necessarily say you’re worse at things or flawed yourself. Unfortunately, long-term substance abuse can greatly decrease the self-esteem so that many people feel that even normal problems are something to be ashamed of.
Learning to cope with stress and with mistakes is one important way to boost your self-esteem so that you can start to heal. This generally starts in cognitive behavioral therapy at rehab, but you can follow up with tools like learning mindfulness and meditation. For example, research suggests that mindfulness works to decrease self-esteem issues by helping you to avoid comparison with others, helping you to accept things as they are, and working proactively rather than worrying.
It will also help you to stop focusing on the negatives, because practicing it requires that you focus on the here and now rather than on problems or concerns.
5. Consistently Work to Achieve Your Goals
You can’t always be perfect, but you can ensure that you always try. If you’re in recovery and have gone to rehab, you are already in that state. You formed a goal to get clean or sober and followed through on it, no matter what the external or internal motivation for that decision was.
Consistently working to create and follow through on goals will help you to improve your self-esteem by allowing you to succeed, to achieve, and to grow your skills and knowledge. However, it’s important that you don’t overwhelm yourself. You can’t do everything at once and you can’t try. Instead, set reasonable and achievable goals where you can do something small every day to add towards your goal. For example, saving 20% of your income every day to pay off a debt, going for a run every day, spending an hour a day learning a new hobby or studying, etc.
While the goal is up to you, it’s the process of dedicating yourself to achieving it and consistently working to get there that will help you. Over time, you will achieve a lot, and you will change and be prouder of yourself as you go.
Self-esteem is often heavily related to our mental pictures of ourselves. Going to rehab and working on your sobriety is the first step to improving yours but taking steps to do things that make you feel as though you are positively impacting yourself and your environment will help as well. If you need further help, your rehabilitation facility will likely offer additional behavioral therapy and counseling to help you on your way.
If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today and feel free to talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.
The truth hurts. While not a 12-step cliche, it was my introduction to them. All of those trite, so-called words of wisdom emanating from the lips of the old-timers felt like someone was jamming bamboo sticks under my fingernails.
Most annoying was that everyone who was dropping these lines had been sober for years. These pithy little expressions worked for them, but they all sounded too simple to work for me.
A CHANGE OF HEART
And then it happened; I actually found myself using one of them. I was having a horrendous day and feeling very overwhelmed by all of these random thoughts. Guilt from something that had happened yesterday and fear of the repercussions I was likely to have to face tomorrow, I began thinking seriously about I had perceived as silly little expressions and how to actually apply them.
STEP BY STEP
Once my eyes were opened, I realized that having a basic understanding of these truths wasn’t enough. I had to learn how to apply them to my particular daily struggles.
1. One Day at a Time – Perhaps the most vilified, but also the most useful, this golden piece of advice is universal, which makes it the perfect place to start. While I initially felt like it was an oversimplified piece of fluff, I came to understand what it really meant, and that the beauty of it is its simplicity. By staying in the present, I am no longer regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.
2. First Things First – All I could think of when I first heard this was, “Well, duh!” What this really means, though, is that I must put my sobriety first. It is the foundation of the positive, new life I am continually building, and that requires learning to listen before speaking and establishing trust with other people.
3. Fake It Until You Make It – My initial reaction to this was, “Really? I have spent most of my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t. I thought getting sober was about truth and honesty.” I had to learn what this really meant. It wasn’t about faking my feelings. It was learning to work the program, not giving up in the process, and waking up one day and realizing it was working.
4. Pain is the Touchstone of Spiritual Growth – Hadn’t I had enough pain while I was drinking? Not to mention the long list of casualties I had left in my wake. Now I have to go through more pain? I was vehemently opposed to this idea until I realized it was the only way I would grow in my sobriety.
5. You’re only as Sick as Your Secrets – The thought of having to confess any of my deepest, darkest secrets to anyone was simply horrifying. I came to realize, however, it isn’t about what anyone else thinks of my confessions. It’s about putting it out in front of me so I could examine it.
A WORK IN PROGRESS
A wise person once said to me, “You never stop learning, no matter how old you are.” Learning is a natural part of life, because everything around us is always evolving. Often times, it’s so slow or subtle that we don’t even see it. But no one is exempt from it.
Once I realized that everyone is taking this journey, mine didn’t seem so overwhelming anymore. Nor did it matter that mine was shaped by addiction, because we are all fighting our way through something. It was then that I knew I really could take one day at a time.
Sleeping pills, also known as hypnotics or soporific drugs are one of the most common forms of prescription medication in the United States. With over 5% of women and 3.5% of men using prescription sleeping aids, and many more abusing sleeping pills outside of a prescription, sleeping pill use is at an all-time high in the United States. At the same time, more than 42,000 people are hospitalized due to sleeping pill abuse or use each year and many more are addicted, compulsively using more and more of the drug to feel good, to sleep at all, or even to feel normal.
While sleeping pills encompass several drug classes, and many are increasingly regulated by doctors and government following abuse, even prescription use can result in addiction. That’s also nothing new, as sleeping pills have a long and controversial history in the United States and the rest of the world.
History of Sleeping Pills
The use of substances as a sleeping aid dates back to ancient times, with records of using anything from alcohol to plants and herbs to facilitate sleep dating back to the earliest origins of records. The birth of the modern sleeping aids dates back to the mid-1800s, when chloral hydrate was first used as a sleeping aid. While the drug had limited sedative properties, chloral hydrate was rapidly adopted and often prescribed for sleeping issues. By the 1900s, barbiturates began to replace chloral hydrate as a stronger and more effective solution. However, with a strong risk of overdose, dependence, and addiction, popularity declined in medical circles until, in the 1970s, quinazolinones and benzodiazepines were introduced as newer, safer alternatives. These drugs, along with newer nonbenzodiazepines, make up the majority of sleeping pills on the market today.
Many other drugs are used off-label as sleeping aids. For example, mirtazapine, clonidine, and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are all commonly prescribed as a short-term sleeping aid.
Common Usage of Sleeping Pills
Today, an estimated 4% of the American population uses a sleeping aid of some kind, including a benzodiazepine, quinazolinone, or hypnotic alternative. These drugs are intended to combat chronic sleep problems, primarily insomnia, where the user’s mental health is affected by their inability to sleep. At the same time, use and abuse of both are rising. With over 9 million prescriptions written for the popular sleeping pill Ambien between 2010 and 2013, and a more than doubling of hospitalizations relating to sleeping pills in the same period
While widely regarded as safer and less addicting or overdose inducing than their predecessor, barbiturates, both drugs have been questioned for safety and efficacy. For example, benzodiazepines have been linked to disturbing sleep architecture, or the body’s ability to sleep naturally. Despite that, many psychiatrists and doctors commonly prescribe short and long-term benzodiazepines for sleep problems and insomnia.
While there are dozens of sleeping pills available, some of the most common include Zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), Escopiclone (Lunesta), and Triazolam.
Effects of Sleeping Pills
Hypnotic and sedative drugs are typically muscle relaxers (benzodiazepines, barbiturates) or similar drugs. This means that they relax the body, causing drowsiness, relaxation, and typically a ‘feel-good’ high, where the user experiences a light form of euphoria. Stronger sleeping pills like Ambien can cause euphoria and strong hallucinogenic effects if the user remains awake. Most users feel a reduction in anxiety, are able to sleep without dreams, and may have a lack of coordination and dizziness if they remain awake.
Sleeping Pill Abuse
Sleeping pills are abused both as a recreational drug and by users who accidentally become addicted or dependent on the drug.
Recreational – Recreational users typically use Ambien and other sleeping pills to reduce stress or to feel a ‘high’. Some also combine it with alcohol or other drugs to increase the high. Here, users will often steal pills from family and friends with a valid prescription, or buy them on the street, where people often sell them for $4-$15 per pill and sometimes more depending on the strength and brand of the drug.
While recreational sleeping pill abuse is common, many users accidentally become ‘hooked’ through normal usage. This is especially prevalent when prescription users begin taking sleeping pills every night, or every time they have a stressful day or difficulty sleeping. The brain quickly adjusts to Ambien in the system, making it difficult to impossible to sleep without taking a dose. Over time, even the best-intentioned user can find themselves physically dependent and unable to sleep without the drug.
Many users also develop tolerance, where the recommended dose ceases to have the same effect. Persons who avoid going back to their doctor to discuss the problem, often out of fear of having the sleeping aid removed, typically begin taking a higher dose to get the same effect, resulting in increased tolerance and addiction.
Today, most sleeping pills are prescribed for short-term use in combination with therapy or behavioral therapy to attempt to correct the sleep problem. However, some studies estimate that it can take just 1-2 weeks to become physically dependent on the drug with daily use. In some studies, Ambien and other sleeping pills showed a higher potential for abuse, even among non-abusers, than most other drugs.
Sleeping pills were also very commonly prescribed for the long term in the past. It’s still not unusual for someone to have had an Ambien or other sleeping pill prescription extending back years or even decades. While many doctors are increasingly aware of the negative and addictive effects of prescription sleeping pills, the process of helping patients through withdrawal and therapy is often too great.
Sleeping Pill Withdrawal
While the exact symptoms of withdrawal from a sleeping pill will heavily depend on the pill, its strength, and the duration and volume of use withdrawal symptoms often follow the same pattern. You can primarily expect rebound insomnia, possibly worse than you were originally treated for, general malaise, and cold or flu symptoms.
In most cases, sleeping pill withdrawal begins within 48 hours of the final dose, resulting in enhanced anxiety, mood swings, irritability or anger, cravings, sweating, tremors or shaking, nausea and vomiting, depression, panic attacks, flushing, delirium, abdominal cramping, rapid respiration, rapid heart rate and palpitations, and in less than 1% of cases, seizures.
Getting Help for a Sleeping Pill Addiction
If you or someone you love is addicted to sleeping pills, there is help available. Simply going ‘cold turkey’ and quitting the drug often isn’t enough to get clean or to recover from a sleeping pill addiction, simply because the drug affects your brain, behavior patterns, and thoughts. A person who is addicted is stuck in a cycle of behavior and thoughts leading them to keep using the drug to cope with stress, to sleep, or to relax and have fun.
Getting help will break this cycle by first taking the user through substance abuse detox to safely remove the drug from their system. Detox typically lasts 1-2 weeks, with some users experiencing more severe symptoms. Rebound insomnia generally lasts weeks or even months after your final dose of the drug. After detox, a treatment center will take you through the process of behavioral therapy and counseling, where you begin to identify the factors behind your addiction and work to learn new behaviors and stress management that will allow you to be happy without substance abuse.
While no one plans to become addicted to a substance, especially not one intended to help a problem, sleeping pills are extremely addictive. Anyone and everyone is susceptible to substance dependence, and eventually to addiction. If you or your loved one needs help, a rehab center can give you the fresh start you need to rebuild and start over without sleeping pills.
If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today and feel free to talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.
People who have never experienced an addiction sometimes think they’ve got it all figured out. Arm-chair quarterbacks sitting there passing judgments on those of us who made the wrong play. I’ve gotten to the point when people spout off to look at their feet and ask them, “Are those my shoes on your feet? No? I didn’t think so.”
Judgemental people are like weeds, though. You no sooner pull one out and another one pops up in its place. So, it’s time to dispel the myths.
Here are some facts about addiction that I think everyone should know:
1. Addiction Causes Physical Changes in the Brain
Studies have shown that the pleasure center in the brain is altered by addiction. A new normal is created, which means that the brain requires a gradually increasing supply of the drug just for an addict to feel normal. It isn’t even about getting high anymore. It’s to avoid going through the ravaging sickness of withdrawal.
2. Compassion Works Better than Punishment
Put yourself in the addict’s place. Imagine waking up every single day knowing that if you don’t find a way to get enough of a certain drug for that day, that you are facing a debilitating illness in a matter of hours. I did it for eight years, and I can tell you it is a very hard life.
3. Detox Should Be Medically Supervised
Getting off drugs on their own is risky business. Serious medical complications can develop when an addict doesn’t receive the medical intervention necessary to safely wean off of any given substance. Many people who try to detox on their own will get so far and then the withdrawal process gets so unbearable that they break down and start using again.
4. Relapse Can Be Part Of Recovery
There may be a plethora of treatment programs out there, but not every program is right for everybody. It’s one thing to stay sober and begin thriving in a controlled environment. It’s quite another thing altogether to return to the real world full of emotional triggers you are struggling to deal with. Relapse is not necessarily a failure; it can be a powerful learning experience. An addict in early recovery is bombarded with emotional triggers that they have to learn how to deal with while staying sober. Finding the right aftercare program is critical to success. Most times, an addict has to try on several programs until they find the right fit.
5. Hitting Rock Bottom is Not a Requirement
The relapse myth leads to the rock bottom myth. When people don’t understand what the role of relapse plays in sobriety, they often assume that an addict simply doesn’t want to stop using until they lose everything and feel like they can’t go on anymore. However, the opposite is actually much more accurate. The sooner the intervention the better, because the longer an addict continues to use, the harder it is to commit to the major change of getting sober. The longer someone is in active addiction, the harder it is on the addict and those who love them.
Remember, recovery takes time. Some people describe it as a marathon. In many ways, a person is beginning their life all over again. Those of us in recovery spend months just getting the basics down, such as developing healthy coping skills, avoiding the people, places, and things that link us to our addiction, and finding new, healthy hobbies to fill our free time.
Building a new life is a lot like building a house; you need a firm foundation to put it on.
If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today and feel free to talk to us about addiction treatment programs at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs. The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.
Millions of Americans suffer from addiction and substance dependence. While, traditionally, addiction has been heavily stigmatized and often criminalized, research is more and more showing that it is influenced by numerous mental and psychological problems, including trauma. Over the past 20 years, addiction treatment has become significantly more complex and nuanced, working to identify and treat underlying causes such as trauma, anxiety, depression, and many other disorders.
Understanding the link between trauma and addiction can help you understand not only how someone can become addicted, but also how to get treatment to cure not just temporary substance dependence but also the underlying causes behind relapse and continued substance use.
Does Trauma Really Affect Addiction?
Data dating back to the 1990s shows that trauma is heavily linked to addiction and susceptibility to addiction. The most notable studies show that as many as 40% of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder patients suffer from some form of substance use disorder. This number drops to between 20 and 25% for car-crash and murder survivors not suffering from PTSD – who still often use substances to cope with high levels of stress and emotional pain after traumatic events.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study also directly links early childhood trauma to increased susceptibility to addiction. The ACE scale directly correlates more instances of trauma with an increased risk, based on a study of 17,000+ patients and continuing studies. Trauma, including neglect, abuse, addicted parents, mental illness, car accidents, deaths in the family, domestic violence, and other forms of trauma and negative experiences all increased the chance the child would become an addict.
Trauma and the Brain
Trauma can permanently or semi-permanently impact the brain and how it functions depending on age, how long the trauma goes untreated, and the extent of post-traumatic-stress. This is especially true for children, where long-term exposure to trauma can actually change the physical makeup of the brain.
For most, trauma results in an increased stress response, creating increased anxiety, decreased concentration, panic or paranoia, and problems with emotional regulation. This can result in moderate symptoms of anxiety or extreme problems with panic attacks, mood swings, and even rage. Children, especially those exposed to trauma before the age of 13, are as much as 50% likely to develop a mental disorder or substance use disorder after a traumatic event.
Trauma Patients Use Substances to Cope
Anyone experiencing anxiety, depression, or pain from trauma is likely to seek out coping mechanisms, and drugs and alcohol are very common choices. Many people use alcohol, prescription drugs, and even illicit drugs to seek stress relief or temporary relaxation and even sleep. Substance abuse can temporarily relieve even painful traumatic emotions and memories – but with tolerance, will cease to create the same effects. Users who are drinking or using to relieve stress quickly become hooked, chasing that same feeling of relief. This same process also leads to emotional blunting and worsened trauma and anxiety symptoms, causing further reliance on substances. Because this process is often slow, building up over many months or even years, most people never notice the effects until they are completely ‘hooked’ on the drug.
Prescription Pills – While many trauma patients are eventually prescribed medication to help them process and deal with trauma, it can be highly addictive. Common medications for short-term anxiety and panic include medications like Valium and Xanax, both of which are highly addictive. Sleeping aids like Ambien and Lunesta are also commonly prescribed to help patients with insomnia as a result of trauma but are just as easily abused without careful monitoring. Patients who are left to self-manage or who are not closely monitored may find that medication doesn’t ease symptoms, it only temporarily covers them up. As tolerance grows, they are forced to take more and more of the drug to get the same effect, quickly leading to dependence and potentially substance addiction. While more and more doctors are closely monitoring patients using addictive prescription medication, this is still a risk, even for new prescriptions.
Trauma patients often try to use substances to feel better, to feel normal, or even to function normally in social settings when their trauma causes social anxiety.
Three Factors to Addiction
Most psychologists use what is known as the three-factor model when diagnosing and treating addiction. This model operates under the theory that three basic factors contribute to most addictions; genetics, nurture, and exposure. What does this mean?
Genetics have been shown to increase the risk of susceptibility to addiction by as much as 40-60%. With over 400 genes contributing to susceptibility to addiction, inheriting genes from drug users and those susceptible to addiction can dramatically increase susceptibility to addiction.
Similarly, nurture or the factors and behavior that you have been exposed to over the course of a lifetime can significantly increase susceptibility to addiction. Those raised or exposed to traumatic environments, anyone in a highly stressful environment, and those who are raised without coping skills are more susceptible to addiction. This is why persons who survive car accidents, domestic abuse, high levels of traumatic stress, or attempted murder or robbery or significantly more likely to abuse substances.
However, none of these factors are a guarantee of addiction without the final factor, repeated exposure. Also known as experience-dependent neural plasticity, repeated exposure is the concept that no one becomes addicted to a substance without repeatedly using it – in effect training their brain to need it. No one is inherently addicted to substances, but if they choose to continue using, susceptibility can result in addiction. While there are a number of factors at play in choosing to continue using, such as seeking stress relief, low inhibition, reckless behavior caused by trauma, etc., actually using it is the key factor.
What this means is that trauma doesn’t necessarily cause addiction, it only influences it. However, for those who are addicted, this is positive. It means that trauma doesn’t mean you have to stay addicted, you can seek out treatment, and while you will never be completely trauma-free, you can be substance-free.
Dual Diagnosis and Addiction
Dual diagnosis or comorbidity means that a person has been diagnosed with both addiction and a co-occurring disorder. Here, it is important to recognize the comorbid disorder, because it is often a cause, and not a result, of the addiction. Users drink or do drugs because they are stressed and anxious, and while stress and anxiety worsen with substance abuse, they cannot correct the behaviors and thought patterns leading to addiction without first approaching and treating trauma and PTSD. In order to be properly treated for addiction, PTSD survivors have to be diagnosed and treated for trauma.
Today, many rehabilitation centers recognize this strong need for more customized and inclusive care, and many offer personalized treatment with support for dual diagnosis. Patients are given individual evaluations with psychologists, who attempt to determine not only if they are addicted, but also if they suffer from trauma, depression, anxiety, or other comorbid disorders. This allows the psychologist to work to create a recovery plan specific to that person’s needs.
Here, most treatment facilities use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or DBT, which focus on treating the worst symptoms first. So, an addicted person might be brought through detox and then given treatment for panic attacks and other trauma symptoms. With a focus on learning healthy coping mechanisms for their trauma – patients are removed from the need to use substances to live with trauma.
Seeking out a rehabilitation center with the tools and medical staff to provide personal care, therapy based around your specific needs, skills development, behavioral therapy, and stress management will help you or your loved one to recover from addiction.
When I first heard the word, Suboxone, I thought my addiction issues were over. Instead, I learned that Suboxone comes with its own set of challenges.
How It Works
Suboxone is a form of an opioid, so it made my detox much more tolerable. It also has this amazing ceiling effect that prevents overdosing. Who wants to do more of something if it’s not getting you higher, right? However, while Suboxone is less addictive than hardcore opioid, like heroin, it still affects your brain receptors in the same way that those other opioid do.
How To Use It Effectively
My doctor prescribed Suboxone, because I couldn’t afford to go to rehab or the time off I would need from work in order to go. I didn’t understand that it wasn’t like other medication that you take for a prescribed period of time, and then you’re cured.
Once I realized that was not the case, I got scared and depressed and wondered what the point of it all was. It felt like I had substituted one addiction for another, and even reached a point where I was thinking about using again.
Fortunately, I found another doctor who specializes in rehab therapy. Finally, a ray of hope! I learned that with proper tapering, I could actually get off Suboxone without experiencing the severe withdrawal symptoms associated with heroin. Now that sounded worthwhile.
I also learned that there are a variety of Suboxone tapering programs that can be done at home or in a professional setting. It was a huge relief to know that I could take part in what’s called a rapid tapering program at home.
How To Taper Off Successfully
The active ingredient in Suboxone, buprenorphine, is not as strong as opioids like Oxycontin or heroin, because it is only a partial opioid agonist. The withdrawal process was easier for me, because the cravings for heroin were not as intense. It was still work, but it was not intolerable.
Step By Step
Your Suboxone detoxing cannot begin until your original addiction is under control. The best way to do this is to know your triggers and maintain a stress-free environment. This, in itself, can take some time. I worked on those changes for several weeks. Once I had myself in that place, I was ready to take the rest of the steps:
Keep your Addiction Specialist in the Loop – Remember, you will still have withdrawal symptoms, so it is very important to have the guidance and support that a professional can provide.
Know What to Expect – While the most intense symptoms occur during the first 72 hours, other symptoms will develop over about a four-week period. After the first three days, my mantra was: “I got through the worst; I can get through the rest.”
Start with a Test Dose – A 1-2 mg dose will help you find your baseline. This can be adjusted accordingly.
Less is More – Use the least amount of Suboxone that you can to get through your day.
Ride it Out – Take your dose once every 24 hours, and do not take an extra dose to manage those subtle symptoms.
Listen to Your Body – It will tell you when you are ready to taper down to the next dose.
You Can Take a Break – You can do this by taking a slightly higher dose for one day if you are really struggling.
It’s all about brain chemistry. Being mindful of your emotions, maintaining good nutrition, and balancing sleep with exercise are going to bring everything in line. Life can be good again!
As technology advances, recovery treatment has been doing so as well. New technology, ranging from medical devices to communication facilitation helps people to seek treatment, stay in touch, and get the help they really need when they need it. While modern rehab facilities have come a long way to bridging the gap to provide personalized care, around the clock support, and full follow-up treatment with behavioral therapy and group therapy, many people still need further support, especially when they seek outpatient treatment. New technologies fill these gaps, helping recovering patients to find motivation, accountability, and support, no matter where they are.
Most people know apps as games, social media accounts, and possibly financial solutions like banking apps, but an increasing number of apps center around supporting addiction recovery. While no app is enough to help a person with a substance use disorder to recover on their own, they do offer motivation, help users to track their substance intake and free days, to call for help or support, and to get safety and health information when using and when abstaining.
For example, most Alcoholics Anonymous attendees can now seek Big Book and other AA information on apps like AA Big Book (Free), 24 Hours a Day, 12 Step AA, and Came to Believe in Sobriety. These apps are either based directly on AA teachings or the books and goals of AA. Some, like Came to Believe, function as a sober journal, with daily check-ins, reminders, and sharing goals with your AA group or sponsor.
Other group therapies, like SMART Recovery, also have apps. The Smart Recovery Cost-Benefit Analysis functions to help you approach addictive behaviors logically by examining the cost and benefit of any action you choose to examine.
Many apps are also free of affiliation. WeConnect allows you to check into group therapy, create reminders, set routines, offers journaling, and an SOS button in case you need live support or to talk to a member of your group. SoberTool is another free app offering motivation and reminders, as well as milestones and rewards. Unlike many other tools, SoberTool offers in-application programs designed to help you work through triggers. Sober Grid and Squirrel recovery were among the first options on the market, and both are free.
Importantly, not all apps helping substance abusers to recover from addiction are built solely for that purpose. Meditation and mindfulness apps like Headspace and Simple Habit are increasingly popular, as are various nutrition and health apps aimed at those who want to improve their general health.
Video Meetings and Counseling
While video meetings and counseling often tie into apps, many counselors, recovery centers, and sobriety groups now use video and VOIP software to offer video meetings. Users can log on at any time to participate in group therapy from their home.
Similarly, some counselors and therapists will offer counseling sessions via Skype or a similar web-based program. More often, they will utilize a more secure platform to avoid potential HIPAA violations.
In either case, this gives recovering patients more access to counselors and therapists. In some cases, this also includes emergency calls and meetings to help early recovery patients and outpatients to get immediate help when facing triggers or cravings. However, availability and accessibility will vary a great deal depending on the therapy you’ve chosen, your rehab facility, and your access to quality WIFI or mobile internet.
Medical Assistance Programs
Some recovery programs have integrated computer programs including self-reporting and computer-assisted behavioral therapy programs since 2013. While still not common, studies show that they can be greatly beneficial in increasing the quality of reported data, creating continuity in treatment even after rehab programs are over, and reducing total costs for recovering patients, who can check in, report, and interact with therapists and psychologists without the huge cost of doing so in person.
In other cases, these programs are being taken a step further, beyond offering self-check-in and monitoring with training to actual monitoring. New biosensors and technology allow programs to monitor blood glucose, track total activity, and track proper nutrition for recovery.
In some instances, fitness wristbands can help counselors to track recovery through food, activity periods, and average blood pressure. Existing sensors like the ETG sensor work to detect ethyl excretion, a sign that the wearer has been drinking. PALA-Linq is a wristband that connects wearers to their group support and therapy, so they can get instant help when facing cravings or triggers.
Other technologies that are not yet fully realized actively detect drug injection by factors such as reduced movement, increased or decreased temperature, and changed in heart rate or blood pressure. This is just one of several similar devices in testing, as the University of Massachusetts is working on the E4 Empatica, the National Institute on Drug Abuse is working on the AutoSense, and the Zephyr Bodysensor wraps around the chest to monitor the heart rate for signs of changes related to drug use. Others include implants like the Probuphine, which passed stage 3 of FDA testing in 2016 and, if approved for commercial use, would implant like a birth control chip, using slow-controlled doses of buprenorphine to reduce cravings and lower the risk of relapse.
While virtual reality is a relatively new commercial technology, it is already being tested in multiple medical applications including recovery and addiction treatment.
For example, at the University of Houston, researchers are testing the feasibility of using VR to walk recovering addicts through realistic scenarios that would expose them to triggers to work on training proper responses and building resistance. A similar study in 2016 proved successful in South Korea.
Today, technology is moving faster than ever. Even in traditional therapy, you can now make use of wearable heart-rate sensors and other biomonitors to track your health and ensure immediate support in case detox becomes dangerous. Video and chat tools give many people immediate access to support and help, either from a group or a counselor. And new technologies provide more accountability and more motivation to stay clean and sober, during treatment and after.
If you or a loved one is addicted to a substance, help is available. Even without technologies like apps and sensors, addiction treatment works. Drug and alcohol detox will help you to withdraw from a substance without putting your body at risk and may involve prescription medication to ease withdrawal symptoms, so you can move on quickly and safely. Modern therapy often focuses on not just addiction as a problem, but addiction as a symptom, helping you to recognize and solve the mental health and behavioral problems behind susceptibility to alcohol or drug abuse. And, follow up support and counseling including through apps and social media gives you the support and regular motivation and feedback to stay clean and sober.
Technology helps many to take new approaches to making recovery more efficient and effective than ever before. If you’re seeking help, it’s important that you choose a facility that can offer modern and science-based programs. But, the most important thing is that you seek help so you can recover and get your life back. Please feel free to contact Anaheim Lighthouse today, a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California.
From the moment I decided to get sober, it seemed like everybody was telling me what to do. I welcomed the advice at first, especially while I was in rehab, because I didn’t know what I was doing. No attempt I ever made to get sober on my own was successful, so I kept my mouth shut and my ears open.
I wasn’t quite sure if all of the advice was right for me, though. For example, my counselor strongly recommended that I attend a 12-step meeting every single day for the first 90 days I was out. Really? And then what happens on the 91st day? Am I miraculously cured? It just seemed a little obsessive to me. What if I get dependent on the meetings? How was I going to learn to stand up on my own two sober feet?
Meanwhile, I was much more interested in meeting someone sober whom I could build a healthy relationship with, and I really didn’t fully understand why everyone was so against it. My rationale was that if we were both working toward a common goal of maintaining our sobriety, we would be good for each other. Besides, I wasn’t used to being alone. I started dating at 14, and when one relationship ended, another one was right around the corner. At 34, I didn’t know how to be single.
Time For Reflection
My sponsor explained that sobriety is an ongoing process and that in the early months we need to take some time to get to know our sober selves first, because without that knowledge, how could we ever find someone we could be compatible with?
So I took my mind on a trip back to when I met my very first boyfriend and asked myself what attracted me to him. I continued to ask myself that question about every other guy I got involved with, and a pattern soon emerged.
I was dating rebels with a cause, and that cause was protecting me.
As a victim of years of relentless bullying and a fear of standing up for myself due to a heart defect, I found myself being drawn to guys that made their own rules. Unfortunately, most of them abused alcohol and drugs, and an addict can’t live up to the ideals of Prince Charming.
While my insecurities, sadness, and loneliness led to my covering up those feelings with drugs and alcohol, those emotions also led me to become psychologically dependent on the men I dated. I started to understand that being dependent on relationships in order to be happy was just another addiction, and that addiction was just as dangerous as my addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Solid Sober Time
I realized I had to take enough time to develop strength through my sobriety, and that strength had to come from within me. Making someone else responsible for my happiness or self-esteem isn’t fair to anyone. This is how I gave myself that time:
My Sobriety Comes First – If you have any experience with the military, you know that it always comes first, even before your relationships. It’s the same with sobriety.
No Familiar Places – Meeting someone through work or meetings can threaten your sobriety if things don’t work out.
Be Honest – Your sobriety is who you are. Don’t try to hide it.
Don’t Make Your Partner Your Therapist – It is not their responsibility.
So take your time so you don’t replace one addiction with another. Remember, a healthy relationship is meant to enhance your life, not save it.