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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Physical Dependence and Addiction: Is There a Difference?

The phrases “physical dependence” and “addiction” are sometimes used interchangeably in conversation. They refer to different conditions, both of which can exist without the other. It’s important to be precise when talking about addiction, since this is one of the keys to getting people who need treatment the help they need.

Definition of Physical Dependence
Physical dependence on a drug is a state in which withdrawal symptoms occur with either a rapid reduction of dose or abrupt stoppage of use. (Please note that alcohol is considered a drug.)
How Physical Dependence Develops
When someone is ingesting a substance regularly, their brain becomes used to having a certain level of that particular chemical in their system. Physical dependence can occur with alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription medications, and a number of other substances. The brain doesn’t differentiate between what type of substance it has become used to when it initiates the withdrawal symptoms; it is only reacting to the change in chemical levels.

It’s entirely possible for someone to develop a physical dependency without an addiction. One good example is chronic pain patients, who take opioid medications (often for several years) as prescribed but don’t develop cravings or compulsions to increase their dosage.

Prescription Medications and Withdrawal. Several types of prescription medications produce a physical dependence if taken over an extended time, such as antidepressants, beta blockers, benzodiazepines, corticosteroids and anti-seizure medications. These medications should not be stopped all at once; instead, their dosage should be tapered off slowly. The patient’s doctor should carefully monitor the process to avoid any withdrawal symptoms.

Opioid Pain Medication and Withdrawal. Patients who take opioid pain medications regularly (OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Vicodin, Dilaudid, etc.) as directed by a doctor can develop a physical dependence on their medication. If they were to stop taking it suddenly, they may develop withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to discuss with the doctor whether the amount being taken requires a slow tapering-off period.

Other Substances and Physical Dependence. Nicotine, sugar and caffeine are examples of substances that create physical dependence when ingested regularly. People who try to give up any of them may notice some withdrawal symptoms relatively quickly. Headaches, insomnia, body aches, lack of energy, and irritability are quite common during this time.

Definition of Addiction
Addiction is a chronic disease with several factors (genetics, environmental, psychological and social) influencing its development. It leads to a number of behaviors, such as compulsive use, lack of control over whether to use, cravings, and continued use despite negative consequences.

Addiction and the Brain
Many experts describe addiction as a brain disease. It is caused by changes in brain chemistry due to repeated exposure to chemicals that alter the brain’s function. Some people, due to various factors, are more likely to use mind-altering chemicals. Of these, a certain percentage is more likely than the rest to become addicted.

Certain types of addictions, such as those to cocaine or methamphetamine, don’t have a physical component to them. These drugs don’t produce much in the way of withdrawal symptoms. Still, they have damaged many lives due to their addictive properties.

Addiction and the Urge to Use
People who are living with an addiction have an uncontrollable urge to use their drug of choice. Even though an addict may claim, “I can stop anytime I want to,” this is not the case. They are experiencing cravings that they aren’t able to control.

These cravings are not the same thing as withdrawal symptoms, which are a physical by-product of not using the drug. The cravings are the result of altered brain biology caused by the substance, which is another reason why addiction is considered a brain disease.

Addiction recovery is an ongoing process that involves learning how to replace the urge to use with healthier, more positive behaviors. English Mountain Recovery helps clients using a holistic approach to heal the mind, body and spirit.

By Jodee Redmond


Thursday, August 31, 2017

How to Avoid Common Relapse Triggers

Rehab is behind you. You’re facing the world with a renewed sense of self-worth and well-being. You have a positive outlook and are looking forward to living a healthy and happy life. During your time in a residential center, you built the foundation of your recovery. You learned coping skills and gained the tools you need to stay free of substance abuse.

You also learned about relapses. You know you must always be aware of the triggers that could send you back into the world of addiction.  

What is Relapse?
When a person is drug or alcohol free for a length of time and then returns to substance abuse, it's called a relapse. A relapse can be a one time occurrence or a return to total addictive behavior. Substance abuse addiction is a chronic brain disease and like many other diseases, there is a risk of relapse. Being aware of the causes, symptoms, and signs of relapse helps to minimize the chances of experiencing one.

Relapse Triggers
Although relapse triggers differ from one person to another, all triggers cause strong emotional memories of past times related to taking the drug. It reminds a person of the mental state and experiences they had while using the drug and makes them want to have the experience again.

The acronym HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. These are the four triggers that are most common causes of relapse. These are feelings and mental states that, in the past, you may have handled with drug or alcohol use. If you experience a very strong craving, stop and think HALT. You may find out that you are actually hungry, angry, lonely or tired, rather than feeling the urge to use.

There are steps you can take to avoid certain triggers that include:

  • Creating a routine that includes frequent meal breaks
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Making time for things you enjoy along with social interactions
  • Carrying healthy snacks when you are away from home
  • Calling a good friend when you feel lonely
  • Distracting yourself from anger by thinking of a punchline or joke that always makes you laugh

2. Stress
In the past, you may have used drugs or alcohol as a way to temporarily escape from the stress you were experiencing in life. If you are having financial difficulties, worrying about your job or experiencing problems in your relationship, finding an outlet to relieve your stress is essential.

Some things to consider doing include:

  • Taking a walk or go for a jog
  • Exercising
  • Listening to relaxing, soothing music
  • Meditating
  • Practicing yoga
  • Writing down your feelings
  • Praying
  • Telling a friend what is bothering you

3. Overconfidence
Becoming overly confident about your recovery is dangerous. Some people believe they have mastered all the principles of being sober and put themselves above others in that respect. They analyze the behavior of others and find it far inferior to their own. From their pedestal, they preach about what everyone needs to do to become clean while they neglect their own recovery. This cockiness often leads to a big fall. The feeling of being so accomplished at recovery often reaches a point where the overly confident person believes they can use drugs again, just once, and not relapse. Unfortunately, this is never the case.

4. Peer Pressure
There are going to be people in your life who do not understand your addiction problem. Friends that you had while you were addicted may still want to go to places that you went while you were using, triggering memories of past addictive behaviors and substance abuse. It is important to surround yourself with people who support and encourage you in your recovery.  

Some things to consider include:
  • Distance yourself from friends who are using drugs
  • Avoid going to bars or clubs where alcohol or drugs are present
  • Don’t go to parties where people are using drugs or drinking
  • Avoid people and places that remind you of using

5. Boredom
A common trigger for many recovering addicts is boredom. In the past, their main way of having fun and socializing included drugs or alcohol. Finding things you enjoy doing is essential to avoid slipping back into old harmful habits.

Here are some ideas to keep busy and avoid boredom:
  • Take up a new hobby or rekindle your love of an old one
  • Invite friends over for game night or to watch a new movie
  • Explore new places
  • Find your artistic side
  • Learn something new
  • Volunteer
  • Spend time in nature

Other Common Relapse Triggers
  • Complacency
  • Frustration
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Uncertainty
  • Irritability

If Relapse Occurs
If you do relapse, it doesn't mean that your treatment program was unsuccessful. Remember that the recovery process is a journey. A relapse means that therapy must be adjusted or reinstated. Never think of a relapse as a personal failure.

Avoiding a Relapse
If you feel you are struggling to stay clean don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to your loved ones about the problems you are having. Call the professionals at English Mountain Recovery Center. They will help you acquire the coping skills you need to maintain your sobriety by connecting you to the correct resources.

By Terry Hurley

Thursday, August 17, 2017

How to Know If Your Loved One Has an Addiction

Have you been wondering whether your loved one has an addiction problem? Are you noticing certain behaviors that seem out of character? Perhaps you just have a feeling that something is not right. Knowing the signs of addiction will help you determine if your loved one has a drug or alcohol problem. Making that determination is the first step toward getting the help your loved one needs to become free of their addiction and start their journey toward recovery.

What Is Addiction?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “addiction” is defined as the “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance.” The definition goes on to state that the substance is known by the user to be harmful.

Many people who are struggling with an addiction try very hard to hide their problem from their families. Some are in denial that they even have a problem. But every person suffering from substance abuse has one thing in common--they are each a member of the rapidly increasing number of people battling an addiction.

Identifying an Addiction
Addiction is often very difficult to identify. For some people, the use of prescription drugs leads to their addiction. For many others, substance abuse begins with the recreational use of alcohol or drugs. Your loved one may drink or use drugs in social settings or to relax at the end of a day.

Addiction occurs over time as the need for the substance increases and the craving for it becomes stronger. Your loved one wants the feeling of the euphoria, or the “high,” they feel. Once addicted, it is very difficult to stop regardless of how badly your loved one wants to.

Warning signs of addiction can be physical, behavioral, or emotional. Some people with substance use issues may display only a few signs of substance dependence while others may show many.

Physical Warning Signs
  • Trembling hands
  • Shaking
  • Sweaty, cold palms
  • A sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Bloodshot, glassy or red eyes
  • Excessive sniffling or a runny nose
  • Slurred speech
  • Strange or unusual breath or body odors
  • Needle marks on the leg, lower arm or bottom of feet
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Being uncoordinated
  • Bruises or marks that cannot be explained
  • Decrease in energy or an excessive increase in energy

Behavioral Warning Signs
  • Denial of substance abuse
  • Using drugs or alcohol at times that are not appropriate, such as at school, work or while driving
  • Increased use of the substance
  • Loss of motivation
  • Not caring about work or school or having excessive absences  
  • Separation from old friends and family
  • Change or loss of sex drive
  • Being withdrawn
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Secretive behaviors such as unexplained phone calls or covering the computer screen
  • Unexplained sudden increase in spending
  • Stealing or borrowing money
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and favorite pastimes
  • Hanging out at new places with new friends
  • Taking risks

Emotional Warning Signs
  • Mood changes or swings
  • Being aggressive or anxious
  • Having feelings of depression
  • Sudden outbursts of anger
  • Becoming irritated quickly
  • Memory loss or blackouts
  • Periods of confusion
  • Excessive hyperactivity
  • Excessive talkativeness or giddiness

What To Do Next
Once you determine your loved one is suffering from an addiction, it's time to open the line of communication.Talk to your loved one about your concerns in a caring, nonjudgmental way. It is not unusual for an addict to become defensive and deny their addiction exists.

Keep in mind that addiction is a disease and an addicted person will lie to be able to keep satisfying their addiction. Be prepared if this should be the case. Have the information ready about treatment facilities that focus on recovery of your loved one’s specific situation. For example, the English Mountain Recovery Center has treatment programs for men and women suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. All aspects of recovery are addressed through therapy, educational groups, advanced holistic therapies, exercise, and nutrition. The team of caring professionals combined with the supportive and structured environment at English Mountain will provide your loved one with the tools needed to rebuild their life while working on their emotional, social and physical issues.

Renewed feelings of self-respect and well-being will help guide your loved one through the journey back to a sober, healthier life.

By Terry Hurley

Friday, August 4, 2017

How to Tell Your Family That You Have an Addiction

Have there been times when you have tried to tell your family about your addiction? You gather up your courage and try to tell them, but, before you start, fear and uncertainty take hold. Maybe it’s not the right time. Maybe they really won’t understand. Will they stop loving me? As these kinds of thoughts race through your mind, you decide to keep hiding your secret longer. You might even try to convince yourself that you really don’t have an addiction problem at all.

General Warning Signs of Addiction
There are many warning signs of addiction. These signs can be behavioral, physical or emotional. General warning signs of addiction include:  
  • Needing more drugs or alcohol to become satisfied
  • Using more frequently
  • Having symptoms of withdrawal
  • Isolating yourself from family and friends
  • Becoming withdrawn or unreliable
  • Experiencing mood swings
  • Having feelings of depression, anxiety or aggression
  • Not caring about work or school
  • Inattention to personal hygiene and physical appearance  
  • Weight loss
  • Face, leg or arm sores
  • Bloodshot, red or glassy eyes

Taking the First Step
Chances are, your family members already know that you have an addiction problem. It is difficult to keep hiding the truth and the longer you try, the harder it becomes. Taking the step and telling your loved ones that you have an addiction to drugs or alcohol takes courage. Saying the words, “I am an addict” to your family is hard, but once the truth is out in the open you will feel better. Admitting the truth will help you begin your journey to overcoming your addiction with the support of those that love you.
Have a Plan
When you make the choice to tell your family about your addiction, it is important to have a plan.
  • Know what you are going to tell them and be prepared for their reactions and questions.
  • Let them know that you want to overcome your addiction and need their support.
  • Show them you are serious about making positive changes in your life by having the information on recovery centers.
  • Tell them if you have made other positive changes, such as joining a support group or dropping friends that helped you with your addiction.
By showing your loved ones that you are committed and prepared to make the necessary changes for your recovery, it will be easier for them to offer their support and assistance.
Choosing a Time and Place  
The best time to talk to your family is when everyone is calm. Choose a location that is comfortable and quiet. Do not bring up the subject when there is a lot of noise and commotion. Sporting events, busy restaurants, or big family gatherings are not good choices. You want your loved ones’ full attention during this important conversation, so choose a time and place where everyone is relaxed and ready to talk.
Stay Calm
When telling your loved ones about your addiction, it’s important to remain calm. Whether you decide to tell one person at a time or your entire family at once, be ready for any reaction. Some may react calmly and supportive right away. Others may cry or raise their voice. It is important that you remain calm and stay positive.
Be Honest
Being honest with your family members is crucial to regaining any trusts that may have been broken. Tell them you know that you have been unreliable. Let them know that you are aware that your addiction has cost you their trust. If you caused anyone hurt or disappointment, apologize to them and make amends. Be open and honest about the cause of your addiction. Whether it resulted from pressure from your friends, being unable to manage the stress in your life or any other reason, tell them the truth. Let them know that you want to make positive changes in your life and you want their help as you go down the road to recovery. Show them your strong commitment and determination to become free of your addiction.
The Road to Recovery
Telling your family about your addiction is often the first step to becoming free of your addiction. Let them help you now that they are aware of your problem. Even if you have done research on a recovery facility, let them do more. They love you and want to support you on your journey to recovery. They want to find the best addiction treatment program for you and make sure it provides you with all the services you need. The professionals at the treatment center, along with your support system of family and friends, will guide you on your journey toward complete recovery.

By Terry Hurley