East Texas Has an Opioid Problem, From Prescription

If you think that the drug abuse trend in the great state of Texas has anything to do with its closeness to the Mexican border, you are right. Texas shares a 1,254-mile border with Mexico, which is a big factor in the state's drug problem, especially with the illegal drug heroin.

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Texas Drug Threat Assessment, this border area is widely used by the cartels to smuggle illicit substances to the United States. That’s because most of is open, including state parks and this makes it difficult to constantly be monitored by enforcement agencies.

Large quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and meth are trafficked to the country through the border. Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) research shows that the amount of drugs seized by officers in the state – most confiscated near or at the US-Mexico border – consistently surpasses that of any other region in the United States

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But despite the law enforcement effort, cartels still find creative ways of ferrying the drugs across the border, whether it’s through roads, air, rail, water, or underground tunnels. And while smuggling happens anywhere across the border, commercial smuggling is prevalent in the Gulf of Mexico and the Rio Grande River.

Prescription opioids in East Texas

Illicit substances aren’t the only drug problem in Texas. The seemingly safe prescription medicines are also frequently abused and can cause serious issues, like overdose and death. In 2018, there were 14,975 deaths involving prescription opioids in Texas, according to the National Institute on Drug Use. Although the national prescription opioid-involved death rates decreased by nearly 7% from 2018 to 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that more than 70% of the 70,630 deaths in 2019 involved opioids.

Prescription drugs produce feelings of calmness and euphoria when taken in large doses. And while they aren’t meant to be taken this way, people may become tolerant over time and begin taking larger doses to feel the effect. This is part of the reason Texas law limits opioid prescriptions for acute pain to 10 days – with no refills allowed. A separate law also mandates physicians to check a state database to track whether patients with moderate to severe pain have already gotten the drugs elsewhere.

The regional needs assessment showed that the lifetime use rates for codeine syrup, Adderall, and benzodiazepines in the south- and northeast Texas were 15.5%, 4.4%, and 4.1%, respectively. Additionally, there were 7 prescriptions per 10 people in northeast Texas compared to 5.2 per 10 people statewide, according to the assessment.

Examples of commonly abused prescription drugs in East Texas include:

Misuse of prescription medicines is widespread, especially among adults and teens. Xanax is particularly prevalent for teens. Houston, which lies in Southeast Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston, is a source city for bulk quantities of pain medicines. Most of the supply comes from diverse activities at Houston’s many illegal pill mills, organized pharmacy theft, and prescription fraud.

Counterfeit pill production

The rise of counterfeit pill production makes the prescription drug situation even worse. Fake Xanax and hydrocodone pills containing fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are increasingly being seized. These impure drugs can have severe side effects and lead to overdose and death in worse cases. In fact, reports show that misused opioids accounted for more deaths than any other drugs save for cocaine.

According to the DEA, fentanyl-laced counterfeit pills remain a leading cause of overdose deaths in East Texas and across the country. As cheap, potent fentanyl infiltrates the heroin markets, the drug will augment and supplant white powder heroin in different markets.

Texas is in the top five states for a total number of opioid-related deaths. It also has the second-highest opioid abuse-related health care costs, amounting to over $1.9 billion, according to the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District’s overview. Hundreds of people die of overdose every day, and deaths involving schedule II drugs have outpaced those of heroin and cocaine combined since 2002. The crisis has led several East Texas counties, like Upshur, Titus, and Bowie, to hold drug manufacturers like Pfizer Inc., Purdue Pharma, and Johnson & Johnson responsible for the economic burden of opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction

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Opioids such as fentanyl, heroin, and pain medications are highly addictive because they activate powerful reward centers in the brain. These drugs activate opioid receptors on cells situated in many areas of the spinal cord, brain, and other body organs, particularly those involved in feelings of pleasure and pain. When they attach to these receptors, they block pain signals and flood the body with dopamine. This effect can reinforce the act of using the drug, making one want to repeat the experience.

Long-term use of opioids can cause some people to develop tolerance. In this case, they’ll need higher and more frequent doses to achieve the desired effect. But this causes neurons to adapt so that they only work normally when the drug is present. The absence of the drug causes withdrawal symptoms, some of which are life-threatening. At this point, one is likely to rely on the drug to keep these symptoms at bay.

Treating opioid addiction

Chronic pain patients who develop opioid addiction need medical support to quit using the drugs. There are many inpatient and outpatient facilities in Trinity, Newton, Polk, Port Arthur, Tyler, Texas, etc., dedicated to treating people with addiction. Other programs, like the Deep East Texas Opioid Response Program, can also help with addiction care. Many of these programs use medications like buprenorphine or methadone to help individuals get off of opioids. In cases of opioid overdose, patients are given Naltrexone to flush out receptors to reverse the overdose.

Take advantage of the many resources available in the region to ensure you or your loved one is free from opioid addiction. The East Texas Council on Addiction and Drug Abuse is one such resource that acts as the first step for those seeking help. But you can also contact us today to learn how we can help you get off drugs and lead a clean, healthy life.

What is the 27 Club?

The 27 Club is a term that was coined after it became apparent that many famous people were dying at the young age of 27. These untimely deaths have, over the years, become a cultural phenomenon. In turn, there are lots of theories and cult-related stories thrown around as people try to find a link between these occurrences.

But is the famous 27 Club nothing but stories about high-ranking superstars who mysteriously died at 27, an age when so much was ahead of them?

Well, it cannot be a coincidence that some of the biggest names in art and music die at 27, or is it?

We look at the famous superstars who are members of the 27 Club and find the defining link of what has led to these early deaths.

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Famous Members of the 27 Club

While the 27 Club is an unofficial club as members do not have a common plan or register at an early date, it has brought together a remarkable team of superstars. Every member of this club is a legend, as they managed to attract so much attention and following while still alive. Even in death, they have continued to influence the masses as they were remarkable in their artistry and music.

Still, they all died in remarkably tragic coincidences that can no longer be ignored. Here are some of the top names in the 27 Club and an overview of what resulted in their deaths:

1.       Kurt Cobain

Rock n’ Roll has had its fair share of superstars who commanded a movement, and Kurt Cobain ranks with the greatest. Born on 20th February 1967, Kurt Cobain was the leader of the rock band Nirvana. He was responsible for writing the songs that made them a huge success. However, this success seemed to be the fading star that led Cobain to become more involved with drugs, a behavior he had picked up as a teenager.

A highlight that things were getting out of hand was when he was investigated alongside his wife, Courtney Love, for heroin abuse. Unfortunately, this was not the last of it, as Kurt Cobain was also struggling with depression. When he could no longer take it, he attempted suicide on March 4th, 1994 but survived. A month later, on April 5th, 1994, at the age of 27, Kurt Cobain successfully committed suicide after getting high on heroin.

It is after the death of Kurt Cobain that officially the term 27 Club came to be with his mother reportedly saying, “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club.”

2.       Kristen Pfaff

The death of Kurt Cobain was supposed to mark a turning point for artists and musicians who died early from drugs, but this was never to be. Just two months after the death of Kurt Cobain, Kristen Pfaff, a member of Hole (Courtney Love’s band), died of a heroin overdose. She was only 27 and was among the mourners at Kurt Cobain’s Seattle memorial.

3.       Brian Jones

The official cause of death for Brian Jones at the age of 27 was reported as drowning in a swimming pool. Nevertheless, this does not sum up what contributed to such a young and talented leader of the Rolling Stones to such a tragic death. A behind-the-scenes evaluation reveals that Brian Jones had used a mix of alcohol and drugs before diving into his swimming pool.

4.       Jim Morrison

Born on July 3rd, 1971, Jim Morrison was a true talent who will forever be remembered as the frontman of the rock band, The Doors. While there was no question about how talented Morrison was, he had a serious alcohol and drug abuse problem.

It became such a big problem that he would show up for shows late, and his onstage performance became raucous. All this led to another tragedy for the Rock n’ Roll fraternity as in July 1971, Jim Morrison died of a drug-induced heart failure caused by a heroin overdose.

5.       Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin got famous by taking over the San Francisco music scene with her bluesy vocals during the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Sadly, even as her career rocketed and she blessed the music world with one hit after another, she needed some love. For Janis Joplin, her place of solace was in heroin and alcohol, a behavior that led to her addiction problem.

One lonely night while in her hotel room, she decided to inject herself with some heroin before going to the lobby for a pack of cigarettes. Janis Joplin would not live to use her packet as she hit her face on the table and fell to the floor.

This was another case of a heroin overdose to break down such great talent at the age of 27. For Janis, her failure to show up for a recording session is what led to questions on her whereabouts, only to be found dead on a hotel floor.

6.       Jimi Hendrix

Tragedy always seems to follow tragedy, and just three weeks before the death of Janis Joplin, the Rock n’ Roll world lost Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was rightfully described as one of the greatest instrumentalists in rock music, and he defied odds to become a superstar. Since he was left-handed, he learned to play the guitar upside down and, because of his outstanding talent, was the highest-paid musician at Woodstock.

Tragically, Jimi Hendrix, like many others before him, died early from drugs. As a superstar who had gotten used to taking drugs indiscriminately, it was only a matter of time before he messed up. On the 18th of September 1970, while at his girlfriend’s place, he took nine Vesparax sleeping pills. This was 18 times the recommended dose, and while his girlfriend found him unconscious, the paramedic could not save him.

7.       Rudy Lewis

Another sad day for the music fraternity was on May 20, 1964, when the world lost Rudy Lewis, the R&B singer for the drifters. At the peak of 27, Rudy Lewis, known for his mellow voice, was found dead in his Harlem hotel room. The cause of death was a suspected drug overdose leaving his fans “On Broadway,” just like his hit title.

8.       Ronald McKernan

Ronald McKernan, popularly known as ‘Pigpen,’ was among the founders of the Grateful Dead. Just like his bandmates, Ron did not escape from the allure of drugs and alcohol. While his mates preferred psychedelic drugs, he was a heavy drinker who first picked a bottle at the age of 12.

By 1970, Ronald McKernan was battling liver cirrhosis, and this escalated to a point he could no longer tour by 1972. In March 1973, he died of an internal hemorrhage and was found two days later by his landlady.

9.       Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat is popular as a graphic artist who defied the rules to create his own and thrive. The self-taught had a way of creating colorful art often juxtaposed with words. As a neo-expressionist artist, Basquiat attracted quite a following and became a celebrity whose every move was closely monitored.

Unfortunately, this bright star shining was cut short by being a temperamental artist and the excessive use of drugs. At one time he even claimed that he could use up to 100 bags of heroin in a day. The end was tragic for Jean-Michel as he died of a heroin overdose in August 1988 at his Manhattan studio.

10.  Amy Winehouse

Finally, a list of members of the 27 Club would be incomplete without the mention of Amy Winehouse. The British singer was a darling to many, thanks to her powerful voice and unique style of singing. The only hurdle to this extraordinary story was that the more she became popular, the more she got deeper into drug and alcohol addiction.

In July 2011, Amy Winehouse was found dead at her apartment, and the cause of death was alcohol poisoning. This was the closing curtain for the singer who had even had short stints at rehabs trying to quit alcohol and drugs. A total of three empty bottles were found at her apartment, and this marked yet another entry into the 27 Club.

Why so young?

Fame has always been known to overwhelm people. The sudden shift from a regular lifestyle into one where your actions are of interest to hundreds of thousands can easily become burdening. This has been the reason why many young people who get famous tend to pick up reckless behavior. The worst of these behaviors, alcohol and drug abuse among celebrities, has led to the tragic 27 Club.

A study released by the British Medical Journal in 2011 sought to understand whether 27 is a dangerous age for celebrities/musicians. This was in the hindsight of so much talk about the 27 Club, with many people concluding that it is the high-risk age when superstars give in to the negative aspects of their fame.

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But, the study did not prove this theory, as it found out that there was no peak in the risk of death for musicians at the age of 27. This means that the musicians who died were only affected by attributes affecting their lifestyle, in this case, alcohol and drug abuse.

The 27 Club is not a coincidence or a conspiracy.

For most superstars who are in the 27 Club, it is always evident that they died early from drugs and alcohol. These are not just numbers that affect those who are in art and music, but a concern of public health that needs instant attention. Overly, as more teenagers and young people get more access to drugs and become addicted, living past 27 becomes too challenging as opioid-involved overdose deaths become a reality.

Luckily, all these tragic stories can be made to stop by taking the right action today. Whether you are a celebrity or a young person still working on becoming a superstar, you can live a drug-free life. More Than Rehab is here to help you have a purposeful life, regardless of the form of addiction you are battling. Give us a call and let us help you walk a path free from the bondage of drugs and alcohol addiction.

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How Chronic Pain Can Lead to Drug Abuse

Pain is a normal part of life. It is our body’s reaction to illness or injury – a warning that something is wrong. Usually, pain lessens as soon as the body recovers. The hurting stops and things go back to normal. But this doesn’t happen all the time. Not when it’s chronic pain.

Chronic pain is a persistent pain that’s ongoing and lasts longer than three months. It lingers on even after the illness or injury has gone away. Chronic pain can limit mobility and reduce strength, endurance, and flexibility. This may make it hard to get through daily activities and tasks.

Chronic pain may last for months or even years. It may feel dull or sharp, causing an aching or burning sensation in affected areas. The pain may be intermittent, steady, or on and off. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 20.4% of adults in the US had chronic pain in 2019.

Currently, it’s the leading cause of long-term disability in the country, affecting about 100 million Americans. Studies show 1 in 4 people with chronic pain will develop chronic pain syndrome (CPS). This occurs when they experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression, on top of the pain.

Chronic pain symptoms

Chronic pain, like other long-term health issues, leads to complications beyond the physical symptoms. It causes depression, feelings of guilt, poor sleep, loss of interest in sex, suicidal thoughts, exhaustion, stress, and anxiety. The consistent pain makes it hard for one to manage tasks, keep up with work or attend a social gathering. This leads to problems with relationships and work. Some studies suggest that the severity of these issues is directly proportional to the pain.

How chronic pain leads to addiction:

Chronic pain intensifies mental health issues that cause addiction

Many studies show a strong link between chronic pain and mental health issues. In one of these studies 10-87% of chronic patients had depressive and anxiety symptoms. Personality disorders are also common among these types of patients. Chronic pain and mental health disorders are linked because they both share neural pathways, making it hard for the brain to distinguish them.

In addition, chronic pain has some profound social and behavioral effects that feed into a mental health condition. Prolonged chronic pain causes social isolation that intensifies issues like anxiety and depression. That’s where addiction comes in.

Experts are learning more and more about the strong link between mental health issues and addiction. According to NIDA, people who develop mental disorders are also diagnosed with substance use disorders. Another report by the National Bureau of Economic Research says that mental issues are responsible for the consumption of the following: 40% of cigarettes, 44% of cocaine, and 38% of alcohol.

Self-medication is by far the most common culprit behind most dual diagnoses. For example, a chronic pain patient with low energy takes crystal meth to increase their drive to get things done. Meth addiction can happen the first time it’s used. To make things worse, the drug can cause horrible side effects on the body. Meth mouth is one of the most common physical side effects of meth use.

Treatment involves prescription opioids that can be highly addictive

Prescription opioids are one of the common drugs that doctors prescribe for chronic pain issues. Since the early 1990s, doctors have been prescribing opioid painkillers like morphine, hydrocodone, codeine, and oxycodone for pain problems. These medicines manage pain well and can improve quality of life when used correctly. But unfortunately, anyone who uses opioids is at risk of developing an addiction.

Short-term use of opioid pain relievers rarely causes addiction. However, when a patient takes them for a long time (or incorrectly), they are likely to abuse the drug, develop tolerance and end up with addiction.

Opioids are highly addictive. They make the body and brain believe that the drug is necessary for survival. So the chronic pain patient will want to keep taking the medication. But as they develop a tolerance to the prescribed dose, they may find that they need even more medication to relieve the pain. This may lead to dependence.

This is why patients have to adhere to their doctor’s recommendations at all times. Opioids are not only addictive but also potentially life-threatening. On average, opioid overdoses account for 90 deaths in America every day.  According to WHO, 70% of drug use deaths are opioid-related – with over 30% of these deaths arising from an overdose.

Withdrawal symptoms cause patients to continue using drugs

Many chronic pain patients become dependent on prescription opioids to avoid pain. But when one takes the medication for a long time, they become tolerant. Over time, the body needs more drugs to achieve the same effect. Extended use alters the way neural pathways work in the brain. And these neurons start depending on the drug to function.

As a result, the patient becomes physically sick when they stop using opioid medication. So, they use more drugs to avoid pain and withdrawal symptoms.

Patients try out alternative drugs to relieve pain

Prescription opioids are hard to obtain. Some patients may opt for alternative drugs that are cheaper and easily accessible – like morphine and heroin. Research suggests that misuse of opioid pain medicines like Vicodin and OxyContin may open the door for heroin use.

According to NIH, about 4-6% of those who misuse opioid medicines switch to heroin. But a staggering 80% of those who use heroin, begin by misusing prescription opioids.

Managing chronic pain

Prescription opioids are often the last resort for chronic pain management among non-cancer patients. Most patients benefit from psychological treatments, exercises, physical therapy, lifestyle changes, and NSAIDs. But in cases where opioid medications have to be prescribed, it is crucial that they work closely with their doctor to prevent it leading to drug abuse.

Patients who end up with drug use issues will benefit from addiction treatment. Treatment centers have qualified health care professionals who help address behavioral addictions.  The best ones adhere to the guidance of the American Society of Addiction Medicine when treating co-occurring addiction and chronic pain issues.

How To Spot A Possible Heroin User

Heroin is an extremely dangerous and addictive illicit drug. It can come in many forms and goes by many different names but it often comes in a fine white, brown, or black powder. Another popular form of heroin is black tar heroin, and as the name implies, it looks like black tar and is sticky and gooey. Heroin is an opioid that was originally derived from the seeds of the poppy plant. It has been used by millions across the globe for some time now but it has recently grown in popularity in America, particularly in the last decade. According to data collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 170,000 began using heroin for the first time in 2016, a number that had doubled since 2006. Even worse, data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2018 shows that 128 people die in the United States every day from an overdose on opioids.

A possible heroin user will likely have an addiction that is difficult to treat

An addiction to heroin can be particularly difficult to overcome, especially considering it often leads to death via unwanted overdoses. A lot of times heroin on the street is cut with harmful chemicals, including substances like fentanyl. Unfortunately, fentanyl has become a favorite among dealers as it is particularly powerful, around 100 times stronger than morphine, and it’s also cheap. This is part of the reason as to why there are so many overdoses associated with heroin and the use of other opioids. That is why it is extremely important to get help for your loved one if you believe they might be suffering from a heroin addiction or other type of substance use disorder. If you are unsure whether or not they are a possible heroin user, then here are some tell-tale signs that they are using heroin.

How to spot a possible heroin user:

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Of course, these are just a few of the signs that someone you know may be a potential heroin user. They may also display things like slurred speech, memory problems and a reduced sense of pain. Their pupils may appear constricted and they may also have a constant runny nose or nose sores if they are prone to snorting the substance. If you are still unsure, then please reach out to us for help! We have many trained professionals with years of experience on treating, managing, and helping people cope with heroin use and other addictions. We have the tools necessary to help begin a successful road to a lifetime of healthy sobriety. We hope that your loved one gets the help that they need and we hope to hear from you soon!

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Do Drug Implants Like Naltrexone Really Work?

Drug and alcohol addiction has been around for centuries and it has increasingly become a major issue in the United States. At first, people who suffered from substance abuse problems were considered degenerates and were often blamed for not having enough self-control to get sober and stop abusing drugs or alcohol. Today, thanks to medical science and research, our understanding of substance abuse problems and drug addiction is much farther advanced. We have developed evidence based treatments for addiction such as drug implants, like Naltrexone and others that greatly increase the chances of a successful recovery.

The majority of respected health professionals agree that addiction is a disease that is often characterized by the inability to stop using drugs or alcohol despite having suffered negative consequences in the past. To those who do not know, there is more to addiction than originally meets the eye.

Addiction is a treatable disease

For decades, there are those who have understood that addiction is a disease. Eventually, this understanding is what led to the creation of 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). As more and more people gained knowledge about the disease of addiction, other more intense forms of treatment such as inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs began to develop.

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While drug addiction and substance abuse problems have been around for quite some time now, there is a growing concern for the treatment of the current opioid epidemic in our country. For many diseases, there is no one-size fits all treatment, the same can be said with drug and alcohol addiction. What works for some, may not work for others. That is why they continue to develop new methods of treatment for this life-changing disease.

How drug implants like Naltrexone help people recover from addiction

It is estimated that nearly 128 people die each day from an opioid addiction and nearly 15 million adults suffer from alcoholism in the United States alone. For many, the chance to recover is slim. One example of how researchers and medical professionals are trying to provide more effective treatment for the addiction to opioid drugs such as morphine and heroin, as well as for the use of alcohol, are drug implants like the commonly used Naltrexone implant. Naltrexone is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids and alcohol at the receptor level, which helps to prevent abuse, curb relapse, and sustain recovery from an opioid addiction and alcoholism.

Over time, repeated use of addictive substances will change the structure and function of the brain. Most drugs target an area of the brain known as the reward center, releasing chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters that illicit a feel-good response. This is to help ensure that desired actions, usually necessary for survival, get repeated again, such as eating good food or having sex. After each use, the brain adapts. Eventually, the brain needs more and more of the substance in order to feel the same effects. Not only will they begin to need more and more of the same drug, but the excess release of these chemical messengers will essentially trick the brain into believing that it needs this substance in order to survive. It will also associate people, places, or things with this action that it believes is necessary for survival, which can trigger cravings for the drug, even months or years after they have gotten sober. All of these reasons combined is why it is extremely difficult for some people to get and stay sober.

For opioid related drugs specifically, they target and bind to pain receptors, blocking any sensation someone might feel from pain. Opioid antagonists, as mentioned earlier, block the effects of opioids at the receptor level. The effects of alcohol are also blocked at the opioid receptor sites, helping to reduce the liking and craving of both substances. There are several other treatment methods that are predecessors to Naltrexone implants. Those are drugs such as oral Naltrexone, or methadone, both of which are effective for the treatment of opioid addiction and alcoholism. However, part of the problem with oral opioid antagonists is maintaining consistency among users who need to take it every day, or as prescribed.

In 1984, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drugs like Naltrexone for the treatment of opioid addiction and later in 1994 for alcoholism. While proven to be extremely effective, for patients who are recovering from opioid addiction or alcoholism, taking their daily medication, medication adherence or compliance, is a real struggle and can be a huge setback to recovery. To help solve this problem, scientists and medical professionals have begun using and developing drug implants. For instance, there are several widely regarded studies that show the effectiveness of Naltrexone implants and thousands of treatment facilities have begun utilizing it as a treatment method.

What are Naltrexone implants? How do they work?

Naltrexone implants are typically small medication pellets that get planted beneath the skin, slowly releasing medication usually lasting anywhere between 2-6 months. Thus, eliminating the need to take a daily medication. This has significantly increased the effectiveness of daily medication treatment methods for opioid addiction and

alcoholism.  For instance, one study found that Naltrexone implants reduced the risk of opioid related death by nearly 50%. Additionally, when Naltrexone implant treatment is combined with other modes of treatment such as psychotherapy, it has been shown to be far more effective than just one mode of treatment alone.

The Naltrexone implant may be right for you if you have struggled with cravings, have had relapses in the past, or have had any difficulty with taking medication every day. Naltrexone has been proven to be an effective treatment for opioid addiction and alcoholism for many years, and the implant helps eliminate the need to take medication daily. This has saved many patients from having to remember to take their medication every day, or from having to find the time to get to the clinic every day in order to receive treatment.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to opioids or alcohol, let our family of staff at More Than Rehab help you get treatment today! We understand what it’s like to suffer from an addiction and we wish nothing more than to help show you the tools to lead a healthy and sober life! Please, reach out to us today.

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What is the Difference Between Norco, Heroin, and Fentanyl?

Drug and alcohol addiction is a very serious problem in our country today, even more so with the current pandemic that has struck the world. It is estimated that nearly 21 million Americans struggle with a substance abuse problem of some kind. The current Covid-19 pandemic has recently caused a lot of issues with substance use, including devastating impacts to sobriety and recovery for many people. However, what many may not know is that there is an epidemic that has been hitting our country pretty hard for several years and that is the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis, also known as the opioid epidemic, is in part to the overprescribing of addictive painkillers, like Norco that eventually lead to people buying drugs on the street, such as heroin, fentanyl, or even other prescription drugs. This is especially true if they are no longer able to obtain them through legal channels, like a prescription from their doctor.

Opioids are a class of drugs that are naturally found in the opium poppy plant and target the opioid receptors in the brain to produce effects very similar to morphine. Many opioid medications work by blocking pain signals to the brain. Even though there are many different opioids, Norcos, heroin, and fentanyl are some of the most popular substances that are commonly abused by people who suffer from an addiction or substance abuse problem. With so many different opioid drugs on the market, it is easy to be confused about the differences between them, so here is a brief explanation of Norcos, heroin, and fentanyl.

Norco prescription painkillers are very addictive

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Norco is a prescription painkiller used to treat moderate to severe pain but can also become very addictive. Norcos are made with a combination of acetaminophen (over the counter pain reliever) and hydrocodone (a synthetic opioid). Like many opioid painkillers, this drug works by altering the perception of pain by targeting certain opioid receptors in the brain. Norcos are also very similar to another prescription painkiller known as Vicodin, the only difference between them is the ratio of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Both of these prescription painkillers are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and are considered a Schedule II drug.

The danger with Norco or Vicodin is the potential to become addictive if there is chronic or persistent pain involved. Over time, people are likely to develop a tolerance and physical dependence to the drug, needing to take more and more each time to feel the same effects. A lot of time this leads people to trying “harder” drugs in order to achieve the desired effects, or even to avoid the painful withdrawal symptoms. Some common side effects of Norco are:

Heroin addiction can result from a dependence on prescription painkillers

Heroin is a highly dangerous and illicit substance. It is derived from morphine, which is made from the naturally occurring opioid poppy plant. Heroin can come in many different forms, the most common are in the form of white powder, brown powder, or a sticky black substance known as black tar heroin. The danger with heroin is that it is made illegally with no real way to test the strength of the product, unlike Norcos which come highly regulated. This has the potential to cause a lot more overdoses and a higher chance of addiction as most of the time the substance is a lot stronger than prescription painkillers.

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Some people eventually turn to abusing heroin after their dependence to painkillers has grown strong enough to the point where they need something else in order to feel the desired effect. Heroin is also classified as a schedule I drug, meaning that there is no valid medical purpose for the substance. A lot of times this drug is cut or mixed with other dangerous and cheaper chemicals in order to maximize profits and cut costs for the dealer. Some common side effects of heroin include:

The dangers of Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a powerful, dangerous, and highly addictive opioid painkiller. It is very similar to morphine but is estimated to be anywhere around 50-100 times stronger, making this one of the most powerful opioid substances on the market. The effects of fentanyl are activated at a much lower level than other opioids, making this an extreme danger to those who are not aware of its strength. When people use this drug nonmedically, they are at a very high risk of overdose because it can be anywhere from 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Unfortunately, many dealers dilute their heroin with fentanyl in order to increase their drug’s potency and their own profits. This is because it takes very little to produce the same effects as other drugs. The problem with that is unsuspecting users may ingest more fentanyl than intended because they are not expecting to ingest this dangerous chemical. Dealers have even been known to use fentanyl in MDMA, cocaine, and methamphetamine, causing a lot of unfortunate and unintended overdoses that would not have happened if it weren't for fentanyl unknowingly being there. Some common side effects of this dangerous chemical are:

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All of these drugs listed above are very dangerous and addictive. They can all destroy your life if you let it. We know that there are times when you need to take painkillers, but that doesn't mean you have to end up addicted to the high for the rest of your life.

If you or a loved one are struggling with any sort of opioid addiction, or an addiction to any other drugs or alcohol, then we are here to help! We know how difficult that getting off of drugs can be, but your comfort is our main concern. We are medically-equipped to take care of all of your needs during and after detox. We want to help show you the way to a happy, healthy life without drugs or alcohol.

Call us today at More Than Rehab so we can start a personalized plan just for you:

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What Drugs Cause Scabs or Lesions on the Skin?

Are you concerned that a loved one may be abusing drugs because you have seen what appear to be lesions or scabs on the skin? These types of skin sores just never really seem to go away, or sometimes they even seem to get worse. Unfortunately, with drug and alcohol abuse, scabs and lesions on the skin can be quite common.

Sometimes this is a telltale sign that they are in fact struggling with a substance abuse disorder, especially if it is combined with other out of the ordinary or uncharacteristic behaviors. Scabs or lesions on the skin related to drug use are often caused by a number of factors depending on the different drugs being abused. Several drugs can cause these skin lesions, sores, or scabs. Let’s look at the most common drugs that cause visible skin problems for the addict.

Methamphetamines

Meth, crystal meth, or methamphetamine is perhaps the most well-known drug on the list for causing some very serious issues with the skin. Also commonly referred to as meth sores, the open sores caused from regular meth use are often the result of a number of different psychological and physical side effects that come from regularly using this highly dangerous drug.

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Poor personal hygiene, sweating out toxins, a weakened immune system, and compulsive skin picking usually caused by “meth mites” (common hallucinations about insects or bugs that are either crawling on or in the skin) are all great examples of how using meth causes skin lesions or scabs. Using meth also constricts the blood vessels, which leads to the skin healing at a much slower pace. Meth sores can appear anywhere on the body, even inside of the mouth, a condition also known as meth mouth.

Cocaine

Cocaine is a highly addictive substance that has been known to cause lesions or scabs on the skin, typically depending on how the drug was ingested, like being snorted, injected, or smoked. Here are some of the most common skin related issues from regular cocaine or crack usage:

These are just a few of the most common skin reactions that can occur with cocaine use. Much like other drugs, cocaine is highly toxic and it is often cut, or combined with other dangerous and harmful chemicals.

Heroin

Other drugs that have been known to cause lesions, skin sores, or scabs are heroin, black tar heroin, or other types of opioid substances. All of these drugs are highly dangerous and addictive. Like many other dangerous and harmful substances, opiates cause health issues that are not just related to the skin. However, the most commonly seen effects of heroin on the skin are from users who inject the drug on a regular or somewhat regular basis.

The repeated penetration of the skin while seeking a vein can cause a condition known as venous sclerosis. Venous Sclerosis can lead to permanent scarring, something also known as “track marks”. It can also cause a range of other issues, such as skin infections, cellulitis (a potentially life threatening bacterial skin infection), and skin abscesses. Skin abscesses are commonly seen on people who inject heroin regularly, and, like cellulitis, it can become very serious if left untreated.

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Another cause for concern among heroin users is the process often referred to on the streets as “skin popping”. This is where the drug is directly injected under the skin, or subcutaneously, and sometimes even intramuscularly, instead of into the vein itself. Necrotizing skin lesions commonly occur with this popular practice as finding a vein becomes more difficult. Unfortunately, heroin users are also prone to obsessively picking at their skin, causing the chance of infection to become even greater. As with many others who suffer from addiction, heroin users often stop caring about their personal hygiene. All of these factors combined make the chance of having skin lesions and scabs much higher when using this drug.

Prescription Drugs

Additionally, some prescription medicines, especially when abused, are known to cause skin lesions or rashes. For example, prescription stimulants, like those commonly prescribed for ADD/ADHD, can cause hives, rashes, and hypersensitivity. In most cases, these reactions are considered to be allergic, so not everyone will experience these types of side effects. Other symptoms often associated with an allergic reaction to prescription stimulants are fluid filled pustules that can rupture and scab over, burning, blistering, and peeling. If you have recently taken any prescription stimulants and are experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out to a medical health professional and get help as soon as possible before the condition worsens.

While these drugs can cause scabs or lesions on the skin, there are plenty of other health risks associated with addiction.

All of these symptoms are potentially very dangerous, so it is always suggested you seek medical care in order to get the help you need. No drug is worth the permanent damage that may be caused to your body or mind from prolonged and consistent drug use. Drug abuse is the cause of a number of other, very serious health risks.

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If you are wanting to get sober but are worried about the detox, then we are here to help. Here At More Than Rehab, we know just how difficult that getting sober can be, as many of us have been there before, and all we want to do is help to make that process easier.

We believe that everybody deserves the chance to have a healthy, sober, and fulfilling life, so we have many different types of treatment programs that are designed to fit your needs. We truly care about the health and well-being of both you and your family. Call us any time of day, 24/7, 365 days of the year and we will be here to answer your call. We would like nothing more than to give you the tools for recovery and put you on the right path!

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Can I Get COVID-19 From Drug Use?

The coronavirus, also commonly known as COVID-19, has rapidly swept across the globe, ultimately causing worldwide economic shut downs in the hopes of flattening the curve to potentially save millions of lives that are at risk of death from this dangerous virus. The problem with COVID-19 is that the virus can last on surfaces for days and can survive in the air for a matter of hours, leading to high rates of infection. Not only does the coronavirus spread rapidly, but it can lie dormant in the host for up to two weeks without showing any signs or symptoms of infection. Long story short, the coronavirus is very dangerous and has the potential to kill a lot of our loved ones, regardless of where they are from.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic start?

The coronavirus is believed to have started in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province in the later part of 2019. It is thought to have jumped from another species (most likely bats) to another, infecting the first humans in the local surrounding area. Spreading like wildfire in China (as around 80,000 humans were infected), it slowly made its way around the globe, eventually reaching America and hitting places like New York and California very hard. All of this led to drastic measures being taken like closures of non-essential businesses and self-isolation or quarantine.

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The full medical name for COVID-19 is SARS-CoV-2, meaning Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, and it is closely related to the virus responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003. While a lot of research still needs to be conducted in order to fully understand how this deadly virus operates, researchers have discovered a wide array of important information, even in the short time period that it has been around. Primarily, coronavirus attacks the lungs. While the exact fatality rate is still unclear, it has a higher chance of death than the flu, and even a higher fatality rate in those with a co-occurring disorder such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), asthma and people with compromised immune systems, as they are unable to properly fight the virus off.

So, what does the coronavirus pandemic mean for people who use drugs and alcohol?

Well, for starters, unfortunately, people who use drugs or alcohol are usually in a higher risk category for a variety of physical and mental health issues. Additionally, they have a higher chance of contracting the virus for several different reasons, including things like high rates of homelessness and incarceration.

Not to mention, as we previously stated, Covid-19 attacks the lungs, this is said to worsen with certain patients who have some form of substance use disorder. For people with alcohol use disorder, or people who smoke any substance, including cigarettes, vapes, crystal meth, heroin or other opioids, are all at higher risk of mortality if they happen to contract this deadly virus. Especially, for those who smoke or vape, because these activities weaken the respiratory system at an alarming rate.

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Interestingly enough, alcohol sales have reported to spike, increasing over 55% following orders of quarantine, social-distancing and isolation. What people do not know is that this poses a serious risk, as alcohol consumption can greatly compromise the human immunoresponse system.

People who frequently abuse alcohol are also at a higher risk of infection and mortality because of their compromised immune systems, making people more vulnerable to respiratory diseases like the coronavirus. It is even more important to refrain from drinking this time if you are a person in the high-risk categories, generally meaning people over the age of 65, or those with other serious health conditions.

The dangers of smoking and vaping during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Although it may seem like people who use cigarettes or vape are not serious drug users, these substances still pose a serious danger to one’s health, especially during this time. Cigarettes have been known to cause things like cancer, diabetes and many other major health issues. Smoking causes serious impairment to lung function making it difficult to fight off deadly viruses like COVID-19. A recent study released by WHO (World Health Organization) found that smokers are more likely to develop serious complications when infected with the coronavirus. The same can be said for someone who uses vapes, or electronic cigarettes; they are inhaling dangerous chemicals that strongly affect the functionality of their lungs.

Heroin itself is a very dangerous and deadly drug. It is normally seen as black, sticky substance and commonly referred to as “black tar”. Heroin has been known to be highly addictive, and has recently risen in popularity. One of the main problems with heroin is the illegal manufacturing process, as it has been known to be “cut” with other substances, helping to increase the risk of overdose. People who use heroin are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 because of the pulmonary effects the drug has on the body. Heroin acts on the brain stem, slowing bodily systems down and decreasing oxygen supply to the blood supply as it slows a person's breathing. This can cause major complications, even more so when a person contracts the deadly coronavirus.

People who use methamphetamine are also at higher risk when it comes to Covid-19. Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, is another very dangerous and addictive drug. Like heroin, it can be used in a number of different ways, such as being smoked, snorted, or injected. Aside from high rates of overdose and health issues, people with a history of methamphetamine use are at a higher risk of pulmonary damage and pulmonary disease. This is because meth restricts the blood flow causing hypertension.

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Alcohol and drug abuse greatly increases your chances of contracting COVID-19.

It is never too safe to be sorry, and all research suggests that excessive drug and alcohol use put you at a higher risk of contracting the virus. The added health complications of people who struggle with substance abuse, along with a lack of basic personal hygiene can increase the likelihood of fatality and develop the serious symptoms of Covid-19. If you, or a loved one, are suffering from an addiction then do not hesitate to ask for help. We are still offering a wide selection of treatment options to best suit your needs. Take control of your health and begin leading a better life today, you do not have to go through this alone!

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How Do Drug Cartels Affect Drug Flow Into The US?

Mexican transnational organized crime groups, often referred to as cartels, have spent several decades establishing intricate, complex routes and connections to smuggle illegal drugs across the United States and Mexico border. Border Patrol, and other governing agencies such as the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), have been waging war against these drug trafficking organizations for as long as these cartels have been in operation.

The problem with these cartels is that even when one drug smuggling avenue or connection is shut down, they quickly find a new way to continue bringing these illegal, harmful substances across the American-Mexican border. So much so that a new wall has been approved by the US government in hopes to decrease illegal immigration and drug smuggling efforts. While this is a major problem for many states such as New Mexico and California, Texas is another state that is primarily affected by the operation of these Mexican drug cartels.

The History of Drug Cartels Influence in the United States

The Mexican drug war began in 2007 and was led by the American government. Mexican officials made an effort to decrease drug-related violence in association with the drug flow into the United States. Although Mexican drug cartels have been around for a while, their influence only grew in size with the demise of Columbian Cali and Medellin cartels in the 1990’s. Since then, it has been estimated that these Mexican drug cartels are responsible for more than 90% of the cocaine that is currently being smuggled into the United States.

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How Texas is Affected by the Influence of Mexican Drug Cartels

Unfortunately, Texas has become a primary hotspot for Mexican cartels to smuggle these drugs across the border. South Texas has become the primary point of entry for cocaine that is being smuggled across the Mexican border into the United States. More cocaine and heroin have been seized in Texas than any other state along the Mexican border (Arizona, California, and New Mexico).

Significant amounts of methamphetamine have also been seized in the Texas area, consistently topping the charts in comparison to other border states. Texas has what is known as the South Texas HIDTA region, this stands for high intensity drug trafficking area. Texas and Mexico share 1254 miles of common border, and there are at least 28 different ways to cross the border between them; including bridges, border crossings, and other crossings that allow personal or commercial travel between them.

The border of South Texas begins in the Western portion of Val Verde County and extends to both Willacy and Cameron counties along the Gulf of Mexico. This area of Texas is largely populated in three areas; the Del Rio or Eagle Pass, Laredo, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The rest of the South Texas HIDTA region remains largely unpopulated with big stretches of rural or uninhabited land. Drug cartels take advantage of this widespread and massive area to smuggle drugs across the Texas and Mexican border. Interestingly enough, Texas shares the title for the state with the highest rates of drug seizure, coming in alongside Arizona with a total of over 7 million pounds of illegal drugs being seized between a recent four year span.

It is not uncommon for these pieces of land to also serve as a sort of temporary storage facility for drug shipments before sending them to larger cities and towns within the border area. They use places like ranches, local residences, or warehouses and trailers to conceal these illegal substances before sending them off to different parts of the country.

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San Antonio, Texas serves as one of the largest Mexican cartel transnational shipment centers, shipping a wide variety of illicit drugs, such as; heroin, marijuana, and crystal meth. To transport these drugs, Mexican cartels often exploit the transportation infrastructure that is already in place for transporting legal goods across the border, as Texas has become Mexico's number one trading partner. Mexican drug cartels also use things like personal vehicles and tractor trailers as well as commercial vehicles.

Located in the South Texas HIDTA region is an area commonly referred to as the Nuevo Laredo Plaza. This has become the most lucrative drug smuggling corridor along the Mexican and Texas border. It is located directly across the Rio Grande River from Laredo at the Laredo Point of Entry. The Laredo Point of Entry has become the busiest commercial Point of Entry in North America; as a result, it has been the focal point for many violent conflicts between competing Mexican drug cartels. This has become a centralized location where they are able to take advantage of the existing transportation to smuggle drugs across the border.  Additionally, over 55% of all rail traffic from Mexico to the US enter the United States through Laredo.

Human Trafficking is Commonly Associated With Drug Smuggling

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Another way that these Mexican drug cartels are able to smuggle drugs across the border is through the horrendous act of human trafficking. It is estimated that out of all the foreigners being trafficked into the country, more than a quarter, or one fourth, of them enter the country through the Mexican border. Many of these people are forced, or coerced, into smuggling drugs into the United States by violent Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Sadly, nearly one third of all the calls received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline are made from inside the state of Texas.

The war on drugs has been occurring for decades and these Mexican cartels are constantly finding new ways to complete their illegal activities. Despite the efforts of law enforcement they have been able to thrive, but there may be a solution in sight. We hope that with continued efforts we will finally be able to get a better handle on the drug trade occurring in Texas along the Mexican border.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please do not hesitate to reach out to the proper authorities. There is always someone who will understand your situation and someone who will be willing to help! Help is only a phone call away.

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What are Tiny Spoons Used for in the Drug World?

Tiny spoons often prove to be a curious find for parents, friends or family members who stumble upon their loved one’s “secret stash” of drug paraphernalia. The internet is littered with questions like: what are these tiny spoons with a bunch of white powder? Or why are the bottoms of all of my spoons black? The simple answer here is drug culture in the United States.

The short answer to these questions is that very small spoons can be placed under the nose for easy, sometimes discreet snorting of drugs through the nasal cavity. Typically, larger, bent metal spoons with burn marks on the bottom is clear evidence that someone has used the spoon to inject drugs via intravenous (IV) needles. We’ll go into more depth on the different types of drug paraphernalia that are commonly used in the culture of the drug world.

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Tiny spoons can be used for snorting a variety of drugs.

Tiny spoons can be used for drugs that can be snorted, like cocaine, meth, ecstasy or even heroin. Come to think of it, even prescription drugs like Xanax, opioids like oxycontin or Adderall can be crushed up and then snorted through the sinuses. People who use drugs often like snorting these substances because the psychoactive effects will begin much faster than when these drugs are ingested in pill form.

While the high might come on quicker from snorting drugs, this usually means the effects will also wear-off sooner. In the case of highly addictive drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine, this could compel the user to immediately seek out more of the substance, creating a vicious cycle which can effectively jump-start a mental or physical addiction to the chemical.

The history of an unlikely piece of drug paraphernalia: The McSpoon

If you really want to find out how old your coke dealer is, ask them if they know what a “McSpoon” is. This item was a staple of McDonald’s restaurants throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s. The long plastic stick with a small scoop on one end and the infamous golden arches on the top was used to stir cream and sugar into your coffee. But quickly people in the drug culture figured out this small plastic spoon was a good way to snort cocaine. It was an easy way to measure cocaine as well. It reportedly held exactly 100 milligrams of cocaine. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s the term “McSpoon” was used by dealers as a slang term for 100mg of cocaine.

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In the 1970’s, it is estimated that a whopping 11 percent of the adult population in the United States was using cocaine regularly. In 1971 President Richard M. Nixon began the war on drugs with his declaration that drug use was “public enemy number one”. In 1979, the DEA unveiled its Model Drug Paraphernalia Act to help end the sale of common drug utensils, like pipes, rolling papers and coke spoons. Many critics thought these drug paraphernalia definitions were vague and could include just about anything, given the right circumstances.

Smoke shops and various other vendors in the US were opposed to these laws and one member mocked the vague, broad overreach of the law. As a mockery he said: “This is the best cocaine spoon in town and it’s free with every cup of coffee at McDonald’s”.  One person took this joke completely the wrong way. The president for the National Federation of Parent’s for Drug-Free Youth actually got the president of McDonald’s to agree to remove the spoon from all of their over 4,500 restaurants.

Spoons of all sizes can be used for injecting drugs with needles.

Another baffling find for someone who is unaware are their spoons being burnt black on the bottom, or simply their spoons will begin disappearing from the kitchen utensil drawer. Where did they go? If you happen to find black, burnt marks on your metal spoons, they have likely been used to mix a concoction of heroin, meth or other types of illicit or prescription drugs that can be injected with a hypodermic needle.

Once the crystal form of the drug is mixed with water and heated up, the liquid will be injected directly into the bloodstream with an IV needle. You may happen to find cotton balls, or Q-Tips, which are used to filter the concoction before injecting. Often a belt, or rubber hosing could be found along with needles and spoons.

Injecting drugs is incredibly detrimental to a person’s health and safety. Using needles to do drugs is arguably the most dangerous method of using drugs. Hypodermic needles can also lead to a full-fledged addiction at a rapid pace. Since the drug is injected directly into the bloodstream, the effects of the drug kick-in nearly instantaneously. This instant high could lead to a physical dependence and a psychological addiction to the substance before the user even realizes it. Often they won’t notice the addiction until they stop or try to quit using.

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Withdrawal symptoms for all of the drugs people use with tiny spoons are extreme and could be dangerous. Meth, cocaine, heroin and all of the other drugs discussed in this article are highly addictive and in many cases they can be deadly.

If you suspect a loved one is using drugs and ultimately risking their lives for a substance you might want to seek help, before you confront them on the issue. If you feel that the time to confront them about their drug use is right away, please help them understand that help is available.

Addiction does not automatically mean that someone is a bad person.

For many family members, co-workers or close friends, it may difficult to fully understand what they are going through. Attaching a negative stigma or personal judgement on someone who is struggling with substance abuse can ultimately discourage their willingness to change. Many addicts do not seek help for their substance use because they fear the negative judgement from their family, friends or the authorities.

Please call us today if you, or someone you love needs help. We are available 24/7 to take your private, confidential call.

We’re here for you:

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