Isolation can Lead to Addiction

Addiction is a complex condition that can rarely be attributed to a single cause. One’s environment, genetics, mental health, and past experiences all influence the development of addiction. Studies also point out isolation as a vulnerability to drug addiction.  

Social isolation isn’t necessarily bad: we all crave some alone time, at least occasionally. Being alone can be rejuvenating, meditative, and relaxing. But when the solitude is unwanted or unhealthy, it can become problematic. Isolation has become a growing concern for the health care system.

People who are socially isolated may lack friends, family, or close workmates. So, they tend to feel lonely and depressed. As a result, they may suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues, as you’ll notice in this article.

What is social isolation?

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put it, social isolation is the lack of social connections that can lead to loneliness in some people. Those in unhealthy isolation are likely to:

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In some cases, the isolation can include emotional isolation where one is unwilling or unable to share their feelings with others. When this happens, the person can become emotionally numb.

What causes social isolation?

Isolation can be a result of many factors, including:

The effects of isolation

Many studies have shown a connection between isolation and physical health issues. Isolation is a risk factor for issues like heart disease, increased inflammation and stress hormones, diabetes 2, and even disability. An analysis of 70 studies and 3.4 million people pointed out that isolated individuals had a 30% higher risk of dying in the next seven years.

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But the effects of isolation aren’t just physical. They can be mental as well. In fact, numerous studies show a close link between isolation and mental disorders like low self-esteem, depression, social anxiety, dementia, or other mental health concern.

Again, isolation and mental issues tend to feed off of each other. Meaning, an individual might develop anxiety because of isolation, then feel more isolated because of their anxiety, and vice versa.

How isolation leads to addiction

Connecting with other people is an important part of well-being. Humans are social creatures, and not getting enough social interaction can impact health. Isolation can increase the amount of stress hormone cortisol in the body, causing a range of physical health concerns.

Prolonged isolation can lead to mental health issues or worsen the existing ones. When feelings of loneliness go unresolved, it could lead to a range of mental illnesses.

Many studies show a strong connection between mental health disorders and substance use disorders. In fact, as the National Institute on Drug Use puts it, many people who develop mental illnesses are also diagnosed with substance use disorder. Data show high rates of SUD and mental disorders like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and antisocial personality disorders, all of which are common among those who self-isolate. NIDA also points out that people with personality, substance use, and mental disorders were more likely to use non-medical prescription opioids

Isolation may also cause loneliness. When a person is lonely, they may turn to drugs to pass the time or shut down the critical inner voices that tend to multiply in isolation. Speaking of voices, too much isolation leads to fluctuations in thinking, causing one to perceive the world around them negatively. In some cases, the loneliness can make them a little vulnerable, causing them to start looking for reasons people aren’t hanging out with them.

At this point, self-disgust sets in to offer a handy scapegoat. When one fixates on these beliefs and thoughts, they might act in ways to reinforce their actions. They may also abuse substances to cope with their situation or avoid reality. Prolonged use might lead to addiction, driving one further into isolation.

Note that both drugs and social interaction can stimulate one’s dopamine response. Emotional and physical connectedness triggers the production of good feelings, and when that system doesn’t change, one may seek to self-medicate. So they’ll turn to illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or alcohol. For those struggling with addiction, this can make for a deadly mix under the wrong circumstances.

Unfortunately, at this point, any attempt to stop using ends in withdrawal symptoms. So, one is likely to struggle alone, with no end in sight.

How to overcome isolation

Going out more and making new friends might seem like an obvious thing to do in this case. However, isolation can have an underlying cause that needs to be addressed to build more fulfilling connections. Treatment programs exist to help individuals gain control of their lives. But one can also try out the following:

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How to prevent relapse in isolation

Those who go through substance abuse treatment need physical, emotional, and financial support from their loved ones to regain full control of their lives. Otherwise, they risk relapsing. Finding support in groups like Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can help prevent relapse.

Getting help for social isolation and addiction

The risks of drug addiction are higher among those suffering from isolation. But the good news is that there are facilities that provide medically-reviewed addiction treatment and therapies to help one reopen communication lines and feel less isolated.

Things You Can Do When You Beat Addiction & Get Sober

When you beat addiction and get sober, you may wonder what’s next? In sobriety, you have lots of time and what seems like a long journey ahead.

Most people assume that when you get sober, your social life, or life in general is ruined and that you would never have fun again. However, this is not the case. Your life will not be one big adrenaline rush, but you can still have fun and be productive when sober.

If you are at a loss on what to do when you beat addiction and get sober, this article is for you. Here are a few things you should consider doing after you get sober. 

Travel

Traveling when sober can keep you busy and entertained. However, you need to ensure that you stay sober throughout your travel. To do this, you first have to set your intentions for your journey. Research the place you are traveling to and note down all the fun things you intend to do during the trip. Then, focus on the fun activities instead of worrying about how you will stay sober. It would help if you had a list of fun activities and commit to doing them even before you travel. Then, use your vacation to relax, recharge, and spoil yourself.

Note that when traveling, you might have triggering experiences. This ranges from the mini nips of alcohol on the plane to party invitations you’ll get at the resort you will stay at. Therefore, it is important that you be over-prepared to deal with these potential relapse triggers

It would be best if you also stayed in touch with your support system, the people who ensure you stay on track.

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Go back to school

If you had to drop out of school to beat addiction, you might want to go back to school when you get sober.

The first thing you need to do is overcome the fear of going back to school. As a recovering addict, you need to realize that this is a fresh start, and nothing has to be the way it was when you were an addict. You can talk to people in your support network who have gone back to school after getting sober and learn from their achievements and mistakes. This way, you can easily avoid temptation and develop healthy study habits.

Once you overcome the fear and go back to school, take things slowly. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, especially when it comes to how long you will take to finish school. Instead, be involved in school activities and keep yourself busy.

Find new friends

In sobriety, most people tend to focus on themselves and their recovery rather than those around them. Friends are important, but finding new like-minded friends can prove difficult, especially when following a strict routine. 

If you’re looking for new friends, consider attending non-alcoholic events, joining a networking group, volunteering at organizations, joining a book club, going to sober bars, or even joining social media groups of sober people that can relate to your lifestyle. You can also make new friends when you start a new hobby to pass the time, e.g., painting or hiking.

Find love

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Finding love in recovery is something you may want to consider, especially if you took a sabbatical to deal with your addiction. However, you first need to feel confident in your relationship with yourself before venturing into the dating world to find love.

You can try online dating, but consider using dating sites that are tailor-made for sober people. Note that most people on regular dating sites take alcohol regularly and would even suggest meeting up for drinks on your first date.

If you meet someone you like, choose a neutral venue for your first date. A park, coffee shop, or restaurant would be ideal.

Be self-sufficient

Once you get sober, you need to practice self-care. It may be scary at first, but you will eventually get used to it. Loving and taking care of yourself plays a significant role in ensuring you stay sober.

Setting healthy boundaries with people who previously encouraged your addiction also requires you to be self-sufficient. For example, you may have to buy a new car to get around easily on your own. If you lived with a roommate who encouraged your addiction, you also have to move out to have a fresh start.

Go to church

If you are a Christian in addiction recovery, you should consider going to church. When you go to church, you can find strength in your faith and connect with God. In addition, most churches have a community of support. People from different backgrounds and walks of life are united by their faith in God. Recovery tends to be difficult for most addicts, so you will need all the support you need.

Other than church, you can keep yourself busy by getting involved in church activities. The various sober activities will help you overcome your drug cravings.

Research has shown that going to church regularly improves one’s mental health. Since drug addiction tends to affect your mental health, going to church during recovery may improve your mental health.

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Become a drug counselor

If you want to help others struggling with drug addiction, you should consider studying to become a drug counselor. Helping others will motivate you to stay sober and make you more accountable to yourself and others. It can also help you feel accomplished.

As a drug counselor, you will be the support system for those recovering from drug addiction. Additionally, you can help them manage their recovery.

Find a new career

To stay sober, you may decide to transition to living in a sober community for a new start. One requirement that you have to meet is finding a job. Although most people prefer going back to their old careers, this may be your chance to find a new career altogether. Choose a career that will not put your sobriety at risk. Additionally, you should do something you love so that your new job does not stress you out. Maybe even try to start a hobby that makes money!

Should I Be Afraid of Rehab?

Addiction affects almost every part of your life. Admitting that you have an addiction problem is the first step toward recovery. Denial is a large part of addiction, and breaking through self-deception is very difficult. So, if you’ve reached a point where you accept that drugs and alcohol are a serious problem in your life, then you’ve probably dealt with the hardest part. Rehabilitation is only a small part of it, yet many can be afraid of rehab. It's a huge life-changer and it can be difficult, but that shouldn't discourage you.

Addiction is a chronic disease that changes the way the brain functions. You may no longer have control of how you feel or act. But you should know that this isn’t about willpower or morals – it’s about acknowledging that you need help and accepting it.

It’s normal to have fears about rehab. Millions of others also fear joining rehabs for various reasons. So much so that only 10% of 20.4 million people with substance use disorders sought out addiction treatment in 2019. But fears only get in the way of sober living. Joining an addiction treatment center is going to be your best shot at addiction recovery.

But still, no one wants to join drug addiction treatment programs – at least not at first. Rehab is a scary thought for many families and people who struggle with addiction. The word itself comes with a huge stigma, and the idea of joining a facility for residential treatment can be equally overwhelming.

Also, joining rehab means letting go of substances, leaving the comforts of your home, and starting a new life. It means giving up control and embracing change. But as they say, change is as good as rest.

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Common fears about rehab

Fear of detox and withdrawal

The thought of detox or withdrawal symptoms can be intimidating, especially if you’ve experienced them before or have heard stories. While withdrawal isn’t going to be your cup of tea, there are many ways to make it comfortable and tolerable. Treatment programs offer full-time help and access to medications and therapies to ensure you are pain-free. You’ll also be monitored by trained medical staff throughout your entire detox process.

Fear of leaving behind your life

Walking away from your comfort zone – your family, home, job, friends, or even substances can be scary. After all, you are leaving behind your life as you’ve known it and heading towards the unknown. But while this thought can be overwhelming, treatment is way less damaging than staying and continuing with your using habits. If the people you’re scared to leave behind care about you, they will be happy to see you get help.

Just ensure that everything is in order so that your only concern is to sober up. Arrange care for your elderly parents, children, or pets. Apply for the 12 weeks of family and medical leave to protect your work and sign up for automatic bill payments. The goal is to leave bills, jobs, and drama outside so you can focus more on getting better.

Fear of missing out (FOMO)

FOMO is one of the most common fears many people who struggle with addiction deal with before going to rehab. The illusion that drugs and alcohol go hand in hand with fun can make you skeptical about getting help. You may feel as though you’ll miss out on weekends, or after work, and so on. There’s also the aspect of friends; how they’ll hang out without you and how boring your life will get without them.

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All these can be overwhelming, making you afraid of rehab and what happens afterwards. But substance abuse only leads to addiction, legal issues, financial troubles, broken relationships, etc. Unless you break free, you really won’t have a clear perspective of what fun means. Once you go through rehab, you’ll make new friends, learn new things, take up a hobby, travel, and even spend more time with loved ones. You’ll also identify fun activities that aren’t harmful to your health and relations.

Fear of not knowing how to cope with anxiety and stress

If you fall into the 50% category of those who experience substance use disorder due to mental health issues, you may fear that you won’t know how to cope once you stop using. But the good news is that treatment facilities often offer 12-step programs to help you resolve most of the underlying issues. They also offer holistic treatments to address mind, body, and soul. On top of that, they point you to support groups to serve as your sounding board, so there's no need to be afraid of rehab.  

Fear of dealing with past trauma, neglect, or abuse

Many aspects – including childhood neglect, abuse, and trauma – might have contributed to your substance use disorder. Perhaps you’ve been suppressing the difficult past, but now you’re dealing with the prospect of facing it as part of the healing process.

It is scary to face the ghost of the past, but you won’t do it alone. Treatment centers have counselors who will hold your hand throughout the process. You’ll also have access to group therapy and other treatment options to help you process thoughts, emotions, and beliefs linked to the past trauma. In the end, the past won’t have a grasp on you.

Fear of starting a new life

Without drugs or alcohol, you may have no idea what you are, and that’s a scary place to be. But this is only temporary. During treatment and early recovery, you’ll be able to step out of your comfort zone and try new stuff. You’ll also hang out with sober friends and family and create new experiences. This might be a great time to try out new hobbies and interests.

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Fear of failure

One of the main reasons most people are afraid of rehab is the fear of failure. The thought of going through a treatment plan but ending up with a relapse is devastating. But failing to try because you fear failing is denying yourself an opportunity to lead a clean life. In fact, you may be shocked by how well you respond to treatment.

And even if you relapse, it is still a step in the right direction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that 40-60% of people with addiction relapse after treatment. Should you relapse, it’s vital to point out the triggers and find a way to avoid placing yourself in similar situations again.

Fear of success

Perhaps you’ve done things in the past that you aren’t proud of and feel like you have to punish yourself or be unhappy forever. Or maybe you suffered in the hands of someone who said you didn’t deserve happiness or that you wouldn’t amount to anything, and you believed them. So you’re always self-sabotaging to avoid success.

But everyone deserves a shot at happiness. Embrace your fears and not run away from them. Treatment centers have experts who will reinforce positive mental health and help you overcome any trauma that may have affected you. There is no need to be afraid of rehab. Depending on the rehab, the treatment plan may also include a faith-based approach to help you connect with your higher power to overcome addiction.

The Link Between Music and Drugs

A good number of musicians have used drugs to augment their creativity. Their fans, on the other hand, may use drugs to intensify the pleasure they get from music. This has been the norm for centuries, leading to intensive research on the link between music and drugs.

On the surface, music and drugs are like two different worlds. However, the two have a lot in common; including the way they affect the human brain. Drugs and music trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin.

These are the same feel-good hormones that saturate your brain when you have sex, eat junk food, or do something you love. Dopamine and serotonin make you feel happy and contented. They also boost your energy levels and sharpen your sensory perception.

When you combine drugs and music, your brain’s function and the surrounding culture merge to give you a unique and euphoric experience. That’s because the two augment each other to make the experience even better. It’s a good reason why clubs and substances go hand-in-hand. People go to the club to listen to music, use drugs or do both. 

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But the similarity between drugs and music doesn’t stop there. 

Music and drugs – a mutual relationship

As mentioned earlier, drugs and music thrive off each other. But not all music pairs with all drugs. As it turns out, some genres work with some types of drugs. For example, hard rock does well with LSD, while reggae does well with weed.

That’s because of the response this music triggers. When people use weed, they feel relaxed and want to dance to slow jams, like reggae. LSD is quite the opposite – it makes them want to shake vigorously, which explains why they prefer EDM music.

How music matches the effects of drugs

Music can mimic the specific effects of drugs. For example, fast and repetitive music matches amphetamine because users can dance quickly due to the stimulation. Ecstasy gives one a feeling of pleasure through dance and body movement; hence, it matches repetitive music.

The link between music and drugs is a complex relationship. However, there is a rich drug representation in popular music. Studies have shown that listeners of specific music genres abuse drugs more than listeners of other genres. 

Musicians, fans, and drug use

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It is not uncommon for musicians and songwriters to compose lyrics that reflect their relationship with drugs. Others even go all out to promote illicit and prescription drug use. The Acid Queen, by Tina Turner and The Who for example, talks about how LSD makes one more alive. To quote the lyrics:

If your child ain't all he should be now

 This girl will put him right

 I'll show him what he could be now

 Just give me one night

I'm the gypsy, the acid queen

 Pay me before I start

 I'm the gypsy and I'm guaranteed

 To mend his aching heart

Give us a room, close the door

 Leave us for a while

 You won't be a boy no more

 Young, but not a child

I'm the gypsy, the acid queen

 Pay me before I start

 I'm the gypsy, I'm guaranteed

 To tear your soul apart

Gather your wits and hold them fast

 Your mind must learn to roam

 Just as the gypsy queen must do

 You're gonna hit the road

My work's been done, now look at him

 He's never been more alive

 His head it shakes, his fingers clutch

 Watch his body writhe

With such lyrics, it’s easy to see why fans may want to try out this acid, especially it comes from their favorite artists. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, the high availability of molly and ecstasy made house music appealing to the then generation. The same thing happened with LSD and acid rock. Artists performing would take an addictive substance or chemical substances before going on stage for live performances. If you have gone to live music events, music shows, or concerts, you may have seen artists under the influence performing on stage. 

Listening to music while under the influence

Music tends to enhance the “high” effects of drugs. Research has shown that drugs can alter one’s experience of music. For instance, clinical trials that administered LSD to volunteers revealed LSD elevates music-induced emotion, with participants reporting feelings of tenderness, power, wonder, and superiority. Other studies found that LSD modulates music-evoked imagery through changes in parahippocampal connectivity.

Social bonds

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Both music and drugs are tools that strengthen social bonds. They give listeners and drug users a sense of identity. Simply put, music and drugs make people connect, be it socially or politically. 

Most people form peer groups with people they share cultural preferences with. Therefore, it is easy to see why they interlink music with drugs of their choice. Even though people easily associate certain drugs with specific music genres, it is evident that drugs are a minor element of a much broader identity. The drugs distinguish one group from the other.

Does music promote drug abuse?

There is a link between music and drugs. However, you mustn’t assume music leads to drug abuse or drug addiction. 

Lyrics of various songs occasionally refer to drugs and have a drug use culture surrounding them. This raised concerns about the long-term effects music glorifying drug use has on young listeners. 

One study showed that the youth positively associate music with illicit drug use and alcohol abuse. However, the study could not determine whether the listener’s behavior influenced their music preferences or whether their music preferences influenced their behavior.

There is a slight chance that drug use could influence a person’s music choice and vice versa. Whichever way the influence goes, it may lead to drug addiction. Drug addiction can lead to several disorders, including mental disorders and high blood pressure.

If someone you know is battling drug abuse, help them seek medical advice on dealing with the issue. Addiction is a chronic disease, but there are several treatment options available.

Treatment options for drug addiction

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Treatment for drug addiction should help the individual stop using drugs, remain drug-free, and be a productive member of society.

As mentioned, there are several treatment options for drug addiction. They include:

For drug addiction treatment to be successful, one needs to have a tailored treatment program with follow-up options. The patient's follow-up care can be family-based or community-based.

Conclusion

There is a link between music and drugs, but you mustn’t assume that listening to a specific music genre would influence you to take drugs. Those who get addicted to drug use should seek help for them to be rehabilitated.

TV Shows About Drug Addiction (And What They Show Us)

Society views addiction as a choice or weakness. So, when someone gets caught up in an addiction, they tend to see themselves as falling short of the standard. They feel guilty of their perceived shortcomings and end up with a negative mindset. The public stigma around the “failings” of those with addiction doesn’t encourage anyone to seek addiction treatment. It also makes it hard for those struggling with addiction to speak about their habits and get immediate help. Luckily, some TV shows about drug addiction are helping to fight the negative stigma.

And since addiction is a chronic disease, it can be challenging for individuals to pull themselves out of it without help. Some try but slip back as soon as the withdrawal symptoms set in. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a person’s ability to not indulge in addictive behavior becomes compromised. Unless they get quick access to medically reviewed treatment, addictions, whether to substance use disorder or behavior, can lead to death.

All these may seem like “usual” words until you experience the struggles of addicts and the damage that addiction does. With that in mind, here are some TV shows about drug addiction to give you a glimpse into how it works and its effects.

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Intervention on A&E

Intervention is an American series that profiles one or two people who struggle with addiction. The addicts in this Emmy-winning series believe they’re being filmed for a documentary until their family and friends stage a dramatic intervention. Launched in 2005 on A&E, Intervention is among the first series that highlights the lifestyle of those who suffer from substance or behavioral addictions. It also captures what these addictions can do to families and teaches the various reasons behind the addiction.

Tackling everything from the opioid crisis to alcoholism to eating disorders, Intervention follows addicts whose loved ones have submitted a request for help in getting them into treatment. The series has some disturbing images that depict the realism of addiction that may make you afraid, but that’s the point. Intervention partners with different addiction treatment centers in the US and provides resources for each individual profiled in the show.

As its name suggests, the series sheds light on addiction and its ugly effects on addicts and their loved ones and takes action to improve the situation. According to Screenrant, 70-75% of addicts who appeared on the show are still sober.

Mom on CBS

Set in Napa, California, Mom follows a dysfunctional mother-daughter duo. The two - Bonnie and Christy Plunkett - had been estranged for years due to addiction. Christy, a single mother of two, Violet and Roscoe, encounters a series of challenges.

Her young daughter, Violet, gets pregnant and decides to put her baby up for adoption. She later gets engaged to an older guy and moves out. Roscoe opts to stay with his dad, even though he’s a drug dealer and deadbeat. Despite all that, Christy strives to maintain her newfound sobriety. She moves to Napa, and works as a waitress, and also attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.

But her wayward mother, Bonnie, reenters the picture and criticizes her life. Bonnie is also a recovering alcohol and drug addict attending AA meetings. The CBS series has been applauded for addressing themes of real-life issues like substance abuse disorders, gambling, teen pregnancy, cancer, domestic violence, homelessness, rape, palsy, overdose, stroke, ADHD, etc. It has been praised for striking a perfect balance between the humorous and dark aspects of these issues.

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This Is Us on NBC

This Is Us is an emotional and heartwarming story about a unique set of triplets, struggles, and caring parents. While not the central theme, this NBC series shines a light on different types of addiction, including addiction to food, alcohol, and pain pills. Kevin, the first-born Pearson, got hooked on alcohol and painkillers. He struggles with depression and finds it hard to understand that Jack, his dad, had an addiction. Rebecca, his mother, never mentioned it because of shame and fear of stigma.

Sophie, Kevin’s sister, is a nurse but can’t connect his erratic behavior to addiction. That’s to be expected since loved ones usually have no reason to suspect substance abuse disorder. Earlier on, Jack confesses to Rebecca that he didn’t quit drinking when he said he had. But after another attempt to quit, he was successful.

He attends AA meetings and leads a clean life. Kate, Kevin’s sister, also can’t get over binge eating. She attends an eating support group where she meets Madison, who struggles with not eating enough. 

This Is Us shows us that genetics is one of the risk factors for addiction and that sometimes, loved ones won’t realize there’s a problem. It also uncovers the aspect of shame about addiction and that skinny people struggle with eating problems too. Lastly, it shows us that relapse can be a part of recovery.

Addicted on TLC

Addicted is another one of the American reality TV shows about drug addiction that follows the lives of addicts through intervention, detox, and rehab and behavioral therapies. Kristina Wandzilak, a recovered alcoholic, prostitute, and drug user turned family interventionist, guides the addicts and their loved ones through the process as a sponsor and advocate. It’s incredibly raw and shows those struggling with addiction getting drunk and high in close-up detail. Due to its graphic nature, warnings pop up at every commercial break to prepare you for what is coming.

In the show, you see people consuming large amounts of alcohol, injecting drugs into arms, and getting high. You also see the tricks they use to acquire substances. Kristina intervenes and gets them to rehab; some refuse, some get themselves kicked out of rehab, and some successfully go through it. The show also depicts the pain that addiction inflicts on family. You’ll see the anger, anxiety, and other emotions that families experience dealing with a loved one who struggles with addiction.

Celerity Rehab on VH1

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Celerity Rehab revolves around a group of famous individuals as they undergo substance abuse treatment with Dr. Drew Pinsky and his team at the Pasadena Recovery Center in California. The reality TV show premiered in 2008 on the cable network VH1 and was later renamed Rehab with Dr. Drew, which focused on non-celebrities.

It shines a spotlight on celebrity and their substance abuse or behavioral addiction problems and their journey through rehab. Pinsky, a board-certified physician and addiction expert, adds an air of credibility and makes the show more educational.

If you’d like to see more on celebrity addiction, you can stream Too Young to Die on Pluto TV or Prime Video. It bases its stories on celebrities whose lives were cut short due to addiction and overdose. The episodes of Too Young to Die cover American stars like John Belushi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kurt Cobain, who died from drug abuse. The documentary series shows how serious the drug addiction problem is and how it can be too late to help someone.

Reference to a diagnostic and statistical manual can produce more insight into this problem. As well, various treatment approaches exist to help those struggling with short- and long-term addiction. So, if someone close to you is struggling with any form of addiction, it can be a good idea to help them get treatment immediately.

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Alcoholism is Getting Bad Thanks to the Pandemic

Alcohol slows down the central nervous system, creating feelings of relaxation. It also lowers inhibitions, memory, and judgment. Because of these qualities, many people turn to alcohol to distance themselves from the challenges or stressors they’re facing due to COVID-19. The pandemic is associated with negative economic and health impacts, loss, grief, isolation, prolonged uncertainty and stress.

Recent studies show that people are binge drinking to cope with the negative impacts COVID-19 pandemic. One study found that American adults have sharply increased their alcohol consumption, drinking on more days per week.

The study released by RAND Corporation compared the drinking habits of adults between spring 2019 and spring 2020. Reviewing over 1500 adults across America, participants were asked about their change in alcohol use between 2019 and 2020 during the first peak of the virus.

The study found a 14% increase in alcohol use among adults, compared to the same time last year. This was a 19% increase among all adults ages 30-59. Women, in particular, showed a 41% increase in alcohol use.

Experts warn that the pandemic’s stress could be could be prodding some people to drink alcohol. In the previous years, surges in alcohol use were noted following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 2003 SARS, and September 11th terrorist attacks. Such traumatic events and their resulting stressors tend to lead to increased post-disaster alcohol use and abuse.

Why are people drinking during the pandemic?

People are consuming alcohol as a way to manage emotional stress. The pandemic has created collective grief and loss of security and safety with incredible uncertainty. Before the pandemic, alcohol use was already a significant public health concern. The pandemic seems to be fueling this even further with its vast effects, like:

Before the outbreak of the coronavirus, people would go out and blow off some steam. They’d go to the gym for a workout or the movies to calm down. But with the lockdown and less social contact rules, that’s not an option anymore. People can’t hang out with their friends and loved ones as they used to. They can no longer engage in activities that help them reduce stress and enhance well-being. But they can access alcohol because liquor stores were deemed essential businesses and stayed open.

When you combine anxiety and stress with the ability to order alcohol through an app and have it delivered to your doorstep within an hour, you get a perfect pathway towards excessive drinking and abuse.

The effects of alcohol on the body

These studies show that many people could be turning to alcohol to cope with pressures created by COVID-19. Drinking alcohol to cope with life situations like boredom or stress can become a habit that leads to substance abuse disorder. When a person self-medicates with alcohol to cope with stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues, they can develop co-occurring substance use disorder.

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Alcohol is a depressant and sedative that affects the central nervous system. At first, drinking alcohol can reduce fears and take the mind of troubles. It can help an individual feel less anxious, boost mood and make them generally relaxed.

In fact, the effects of alcohol can be the same as those of anti-anxiety medications. That’s because alcohol slows activity in the amygdala, a brain part that prepares the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress.

Repeated use decreases the amygdala’s dampening effect. It also causes tolerance and dependence. So a person has to drink more alcohol to achieve a similar level of high. At this point, they can’t stop drinking because of withdrawal symptoms, like tremors, nausea, anxiety, headache, confusion, and insomnia.

Mild alcohol withdrawal can be treated at home. But severe cases need supervised care in a hospital setting to avoid potentially dangerous complications like seizures.

Who is more vulnerable to increased alcohol use during the COVID-19 outbreak?

The measures to curb the spread of coronavirus have been hard on everyone. So, everyone is susceptible and may end up with problems with alcohol. However, studies show that some groups are more vulnerable than others.

Younger people

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol use has led to at least four deaths on college campuses since spring 2021. Young adults face unprecedented stressors: loss of income, the uncertainty of the future, and social isolation, resulting in conditions like loneliness, depression, and anxiety which can increase the risk of heavy drinking.

Women

The psychological stress associated with the pandemic was also linked to greater drinking for women. A study by RAND Corporation and supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism shows that heavy drinking among women has soared. In the survey, 1 in 5 women had heavily consumed alcohol at least one additional day per month compared with the previous year.

Physicians

A survey of 12,000 physicians found that over 40% of physicians experienced burnout, which was amplified mainly by COVID-19. Of these physicians, more than a quarter were drinking to cope with the burnout and resulting stress.

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More studies point to the increase in alcohol use thanks to the pandemic

BlueCross BlueShield survey dubbed “Behavioral health by the numbers: a closer look at the impact of COVID-19” reveals a 23% increase in alcohol consumption since the outbreak began.

Another survey on 1,000 American adults 18 years and older by The Recovery Village found that 55% of the participant had an increase in past-month alcohol consumption, with 18% reporting a significant increase.

How to cope with the negative impacts of COVID-19 without alcohol

Healthy coping involves taking part in activities that directly reduce stress or improve wellbeing. This includes exercising, getting enough sleep, following creative pursuits, eating nutritious food, and staying hydrated. It is also a good idea for people to reach out for help and get support to make healthier life choices.

Those recovering from alcohol can take part in online Alcoholic Anonymous meetings. Such support groups can serve as a pillar to help avoid relapse.

What Is A Dual Diagnosis?

Unfortunately, addiction or substance use disorders are very common in our country. Nearly 21 million Americans struggle with this disease every day. Sadly, out of those 21 million people, only around 10% of them will ever receive treatment for their addiction or substance use disorder. For those who are able to receive treatment, they know that it can sometimes be a bumpy road to recovery. But ultimately, they know that recovery is also very rewarding, especially once they are able to get to a point where they can manage their addiction and achieve meaningful sobriety. This can be especially difficult in the case of a dual diagnosis, where an underlying mental health problem is compounding their own personal struggle with addiction.

What is a dual diagnosis, exactly?

For those who are new to recovery, or for those who have never received professional help for their addiction or substance abuse, they may be unaware of these underlying mental health problems that only serve to amplify their issues with their alcohol or drug addiction. This is commonly referred to as a dual-diagnosis. Many who are new to recovery often have this very same question, what exactly is a dual diagnosis? Put simply, a dual diagnosis is when someone has both a substance use disorder and an underlying mental health disorder at the same time.

The combination of a substance use disorder and mental illness can become a vicious cycle. Mental health issues, especially if a person is unaware that they are suffering from one, can often drive people to self-medicate, which leads them to abuse drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the symptoms of their mental health disorder. The same goes for people who abuse drugs and alcohol. Substance use disorders can lead to mental health issues even if they weren’t there before that person began using drugs or alcohol. If someone has been diagnosed as having a dual diagnosis, usually the best course of action is to treat them at the same time, as they often play into each other.

What is treatment for a dual diagnosis like?

If you have recently been told that you have a dual diagnosis, or if you have a loved one or family member who has recently been diagnosed with a mental health issue as well as a substance abuse disorder, then please know that you are not alone. A dual diagnosis is very common. A 2019 study found that among adults 18 and onlder, approximately 9.5 million people who had any mental illness (AMI), also suffered from a substance use disorder (SUD). Other studies show that nearly half of all people with a mental health issue will also have a substance use disorder as well. This is perhaps in part due to the related risk factors of both mental health issues and substance use disorders, such as things like genetics, stress, environment, and current or past trauma.

How can doctors tell if someone has a dual diagnosis?

Keep in mind that the majority of health professionals will only be able to accurately diagnose a mental health disorder once the person is clean and sober with no drugs left in their system. This is because many drugs are known to cause side effects that can manifest as mental health issues. However, there are many different mental health disorders that can lead a person down the slippery slope of addiction--many end up trying to self-medicate, either when they are unaware they have a problem, or if they simply are not getting the proper care. However, here are a few mental health disorders that are very common to those who also suffer from substance use disorders:

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Of course, there are many other mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, that if left untreated can cause someone to begin abusing drugs or alcohol.

As mentioned earlier, treatment planning for someone with a dual diagnosis works best when it is specialized to the individual.  While it may seem impossible, we can assure you that it is not. For the best dual diagnosis treatment possible in the Texas area, More Than Rehab can show you the ropes to a successful sobriety while also being able to manage your mental health problems at the same time. There is hope for recovery, and we understand that we could all use a little help, especially in times like these! Call us today. We are open 24/7.

888-249-2191

Fun Things to Keep Busy & Off Drugs for the Holidays

For a lot of people, winter marks a great time of the year. They look forward to fun things like spending time with family, eating great food and celebrating the holidays. What some people don't know though, is how difficult this time of year can be for a recovering alcoholic or drug addict. For someone who is in recovery from a substance abuse problem, the holiday season can be especially troubling. Most of the time before getting sober, holidays used to be about getting drunk or high and using their drug of choice. Holidays were often an excuse to abuse drugs or alcohol, even if that meant hiding it from their friends and family.

When someone is newly sober, or sometimes even long into recovery, celebrating holidays can often become a relapse trigger and make them want to abuse drugs or alcohol again. Not to mention the limited outdoor activity, reduced sunlight, and less social contact that often comes with winter and colder temperatures. This can dramatically increase the risk of relapse for many addicts, especially those who also struggle with their mental health. If you or a loved one struggle with maintaining sobriety during the holidays, then you can probably relate.

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Here are a few fun things you can try to help keep you busy & off drugs this holiday season:

  1. Exercise

Though initially exercise may not sound like fun for everyone, it never hurts to try. Many who exercise regularly report feeling happier and less stressed when compared to those who don’t. Try signing up for a free membership at your local gym or start small by doing workout videos at home and cranking up the music. You can even download a video game like Just Dance to help get your heart rate going. If you can make it a regular habit, exercise is proven to increase things like self-confidence and reduce stress.

  1. Volunteer

Another great way to help keep you busy during the holidays is to volunteer your time to a great cause! You can start by working at your local soup kitchen or reach out to a local organization whose efforts you would like to support such as the Humane society. Research has consistently proven that those who give back to others, often feel better than those who only take care of themselves. Simply giving even just one hour of your time each week can make a world of difference for more than just yourself.

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  1. Fix Up Your Space

Is there a new design idea you have always been wanting to try? Or perhaps a cool new chair for your man cave? Try sprucing up a room in your house, one bit a time and on a budget that you can afford. Paint the walls a new color. Do whatever creatively comes to mind. This is a great way to expel some of your pent up mental energy. You can also spend time cleaning out places like the garage or the attic. All of these are great examples of things that will keep you busy and help you feel better at the same time.

  1. Get A Plant

Getting a plant can actually be very rewarding. If you have ever had the chance to speak with a gardener, they will likely tell you how mentally and spiritually fulfilling it can be. The same thing goes with getting a house plant. Attending to the needs of something as simple as a plant can help you stay busy and feel better about yourself. It can also help give you something to look forward to, which helps you further avoid a relapse, as getting drunk or high would likely mean its end. Getting a plant is also a great way of fixing up your space on a tight budget. Try visiting your local plant store and speaking with someone to help figure out the right type of plant for you.

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  1. Go Ice Skating or Play Hockey

Even though you may not be able to go outside as easily as you can in the summer, there are still plenty of activities that you can do during the colder months. There are many places to go ice skating, usually both indoors and out. You can also try to find a local hockey league in your city if you want to get a little physical on the ice. Perhaps even try getting together a group of sober friends or people from your local AA or NA support groups so that you can all lace up together and hit the puck around the ice. This is a great way to combine physical activity with your social support network while doing some fun things.

  1. Take Naps

With reduced sunlight and the related chemical changes that can happen in the brain with shorter days, it may be no surprise that you are tired halfway through the day more often than you used to be. Don't be afraid to take a nap every once in a while, maybe even once every day. Taking a nap is a great way to pass the day and has many proven benefits, such as improved cognitive abilities and heightened mood. Just as long as you don't start sleeping too much, as that can have its own set of problems.

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  1. Do Puzzles

Puzzles are a great way to get the creative juices flowing in the brain and release some mental tension. They also take up quite a bit of time to finish, which is great for the wintertime and holidays. Plus, once they are done it's a very celebratory and rewarding moment. Go to your local supermarket and take a peek at their puzzle section, you are sure to find one that you would like to complete. The great thing about puzzles is that you can do them alone, or with loved ones or friends.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on how to have fun and avoid any potential drug cravings during the holidays. We wish you the best during this time of year but if you do find that you need some additional support with your sobriety, then we are always here to help. Reach out to us at More Than Rehab any time of day!

(888) 249-2191

What Happens to Your Brain When You Get Blackout Drunk?

If there is one thing that we can all agree on, it is that 2020 has been a stressful year. Along with the nation battling the surge of cases in the COVID-19 pandemic, is the increased rates of alcohol consumption sweeping across the country. No one could argue against ending a long stressful day with a relaxing alcoholic beverage, but there is such a thing as drinking too much. Even in the face of adversity, if you are getting “blackout drunk,” there might be a problem.

Most experts agree that drinking moderation is perfectly fine, and while that may look different depending on the individual, in general, consuming more than four alcoholic drinks per day for men and three alcoholic drinks for women is considered to be too much.

Another important thing to consider if you are beginning to wonder if you or a loved one are consuming too much alcohol is whether or not memory lapses have been experienced after a night of drinking. Drinking too much alcohol in a short amount of time, especially on an empty stomach, can lead to what is known as an alcohol-related blackout. If you have ever experienced a time when you got blackout drunk, you might have had that “uh-oh” feeling the next day as you begin texting your friends, trying to piece together what happened the night before. Unfortunately, though commonly experienced, blackouts are a tell-tale sign that way too much alcohol has been consumed.

What is it like to get blackout drunk?

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For those who have ever experienced a blackout, it can often be a scary experience. Not only are you left wondering what happened the night before, you may also begin to wonder what exactly happens to your brain when you get blackout drunk? Why does it make it impossible to remember what happened, say, after the fourth shot of tequila? Well, even though we can’t exactly tell you whether or not you really danced on the pool table in front of your boss, we can try to help explain why drinking too much may cause memory lapses or blackouts.

What happens to your brain when you get blackout drunk?

When you hear the term blacking out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is unconscious. In fact, it may even be hard to tell that a person is experiencing a blackout when they have had too much to drink within a short amount of time. Blackouts typically occur when a person's BAC (blood alcohol content) reaches twice the legal limit, that is around .15%. Also commonly referred to as alcohol-induced amnesia, blackouts happen when enough alcohol has been consumed that it inhibits the brain's ability to process and store short-term memories into long term memories. Interestingly, it's also not so much about how much you drink but how quickly you drink. Someone who slams three drinks in a row is much more likely to experience a blackout when compared to someone who elevates their blood alcohol content over twice the legal limit, slowly over a longer span of time.

When you rapidly consume a large amount of alcohol, a roadblock essentially goes up between the immediate and short term memory, affecting the brain's ability to store memories and recall them later. The main ingredient behind alcohol’s potent effects is a substance known as ethanol. When consumed, ethanol has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. This can then allow the ethanol, or alcohol, to target receptors located in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for controlling functions like emotions, memory, and recollection. During a blackout, you may be able to recall things in between the 30, 60, and 90 second time-span but anything beyond that is all but forgotten.

Additionally, depending on how much alcohol is consumed, and how many of these receptors are targeted, a blackout can either be partial or complete. A partial blackout is commonly referred to scientifically as “fragmentary”, and they are sometimes referred to as “brown-outs”. Partial blackouts are where bits or pieces of information may be easily recalled, but there are still gaps in time where nothing can be remembered. Visual or verbal cues may be helpful in putting together what may have happened the night before. Or, these cues could help someone recall more bits of information if a partial blackout is the kind experienced.

Drinking too much alcohol can cause temporary amnesia.

Complete blackouts, however, are when the person experiences complete and total amnesia up until a certain point in time where they ultimately consumed too much alcohol. Complete blackouts are sometimes referred to scientifically as “en bloc” or as “that never happened”. It is also highly possible that even though you may have experienced a complete black out, you weren’t a total mess. Sometimes the blackout is triggered before enough alcohol has been consumed to affect your cognitive abilities and motor functions. This sometimes happens when someone was consuming too much alcohol on an empty stomach. This can make it difficult to detect, as there may not be any signs beyond normal slurring of speech and the appearance of minimal impairment.

If you have a friend or loved one who has a tendency to go a little overboard while at the bar, it might be helpful to ask them if they remember what happened 15 minutes ago. If they do not, it is highly likely they have had too much to drink and are experiencing a blackout. If you’re a good friend, then you should maybe at least try to keep them from making poor decisions they might regret later. Although one isolated incident of drinking to the point where you experience a blackout may not initially be a sign that an alcohol abuse problem is present, if it is something that continues to happen on a regular basis that is a huge sign that there is an alcohol problem. It may be a great enough problem that it might require some professional help from a reputable addiction treatment program.

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If you believe you, a friend, or another loved one may be experiencing an alcohol addiction or substance abuse problem of any kind, then we are here to help. At More Than Rehab, we are a team of trained professionals who are also a family, not just with the staff but with our clients as well. We understand what it takes to live a life of sobriety and we would love the opportunity to share the tools we have learned with you. Reach out to us today and join the family at More Than Rehab. We’re here for you 24/7:

888-249-2191

PTSD & Drug Use: Military, Police, Fire & Healthcare Workers

Many have heard the term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but what does that really mean? Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychiatric condition in which the person suffering has either experienced or witnessed a terrifying or traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident such as a car crash, combat in war, rape, or some other type of violent personal assault. The symptoms of PTSD are often grouped into four categories; intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking or mood, and changes in physical or emotional reactions.

What are the four categories of symptoms with PTSD?

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include recurrent and unwanted memories of the event that cause or trigger distress, flashbacks or reliving the traumatic event(s) as if it were currently happening. Terrifying dreams or nightmares related to the incident may occur, along with severe emotional distress or physical reactions to things that remind you of the traumatic event.

Symptoms of avoidance usually include trying to avoid thinking or talking about the event and avoiding people, places, or things that may remind you of the event.

Negative changes in thinking or mood may include symptoms such as; negative thoughts about yourself, people, or the world in general, hopelessness about the future, memory issues, and difficulty maintaining healthy relationships.

Lastly, symptoms of changes in physical or emotional reactions are being easily startled or frightened, always being on guard for danger, trouble sleeping or trouble concentrating, and overwhelming guilt or shame.

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, and have also experienced a traumatic event, you may have what is known as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no shame in asking for help and you may want to consider reaching out to a mental health professional so that they can help you better manage the symptoms.

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Call us today for help with your drug or alcohol addiction. We offer the best evidence-based treatment program in the Houston, Texas area.

PTSD and drug use is very common among people in the United States

It is estimated that one in eleven people will be diagnosed with PTSD at one point in their lives. Though, this may be true, there are certain jobs within the community that put people at a higher risk to experience a traumatic event. People in the military, both men and women, people on the police force, first responders such as fire fighters, border patrol agents and people in the healthcare industry all have jobs that are more likely to expose them to traumatic experiences that can affect mental health.

There has long been a link between drug use and PTSD, as sufferers likely turn to drugs or alcohol in order to cope with the devastating symptoms they experience because of the traumatic events they have gone through. For instance, people who suffer from PTSD are 14 times more likely to develop substance use problems of some kind. Research also has found that people with PTSD are much more likely to abuse alcohol over other illicit drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine. That is not to say, though, that some sufferers of PTSD do not abuse other drugs as well, because they commonly do.

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It is no secret that our military members engage in, or witness, acts of war or combat. In recent times, between the years of 1995 and 2012, there has been a 52% increase in the amount of veterans receiving treatment for a substance abuse disorder, this is most likely because of the recent “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is estimated that 27% of veterans who suffer from PTSD also develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

National Institutes of Health

The reintegration of our veterans is often difficult, as they are forced to adjust quickly and without much guidance or supervision. This often leads them to trying to self-medicate their symptoms. Unfortunately, many are afraid to ask for help, due to the negative stigma surrounding addiction.

For the men and women in our police forces, they are often the first line of defense, causing them to witness and experience some traumatic events. It is estimated that around 7-19% of police officers suffer from PTSD at any given time; compared to the 3.5% of the average population, or one in eleven people. A recent study showed that roughly 25% of people who serve on the police force also suffer from a substance abuse disorder, with the majority of them turning to alcohol-- though some say that number is inflated, and that the actual percentage is closer to 16. Either way, the studies concluded that many turn to alcohol in order to help them sleep and ward off any nightmares they may be experiencing.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder in police and fire departments

Those who serve in the fire department also are often the first responders on the scene of many traumatic events, ultimately leading to PTSD. Studies have shown that the number of firefighters who suffer from this condition ranges anywhere from 7-37% at any given time, a rate that is similar to those who serve in the armed forces. According to a report done by the US Firefighters Association, nearly 10% of people in the fire service also struggle with a substance use disorder, with them being twice as likely to abuse alcohol than other substances, a number that is also double that of the general population. Many do not discuss their mental health issues in the firehouse, which likely leads them to self-medication.

Healthcare workers are not immune from PTSD and drug use

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Those in the healthcare field also encounter many situations that are considered to be traumatic, even more so today with the current pandemic that is sweeping across the globe. Consequences of the coronavirus only heighten the concern that healthcare workers may begin to experience post-traumatic stress. A study conducted several years before the coronavirus outbreak suggested that 22% of healthcare workers exhibit symptoms and that 18% met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD.

PTSD aside, doctors and nurses have one of the highest rates for addiction and substance abuse disorder, the reasons for that are ample: easier access to drugs, abusing substances to cope with long hours, or self-medicating to alleviate symptoms of an underlying mental health condition, such as PTSD.

It is good to recognize that people in these positions put their lives on the line every day, and they should not have to suffer in silence. Post-traumatic stress disorder is something that can be managed, but more people need to speak out about this condition so that more people feel comfortable discussing. If you, or a loved one, are suffering from an addiction to alcohol or drugs, or need help coping with symptoms of PTSD, please reach out to us for help, we are available 24/7!

888-249-2191