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.

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 Can Relapse Be a Part of Drug Recovery?

There’s a lot to feel good about when your loved one goes through an arduous recovery journey and then comes out clean and sober. Sadly, even after rehab though, your loved one may relapse at some point. Relapse doesn’t happen to everyone in recovery, but it does happen to many people. That’s why newer schools of thought on addiction feel that the painful occurrence of relapse is actually a very important part of the sobriety journey. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40-60% of those recovering from substance use disorders will relapse during their path to recovery. This should help put the struggle of your loved one doing illegal drugs into perspective, that they aren’t alone.

Addiction is a chronic disease or mental illness whose nature is a barrier to sobriety. Your loved one, like other patients, faces a consistently high risk of relapse because addiction alters the brain’s function and structure. Alcohol and drug use trigger dopamine production in the brain’s reward pathway. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s pleasure and reward centers and emotional responses. These changes influence the way the brain prioritizes what’s important.

The brain of a patient who has developed an addiction recognizes substance use as important – even more than survival. That’s partly why those struggling with addiction take risks to continue abusing substances. Addiction also affects the prefrontal cortex – a part of the brain that identifies issues and plans solutions. So when a person relapses, it’s not because they are weak or lack morals, but because of something that’s way beyond their control. And even after treatment, some of these changes might persist.

What is relapse? 

Relapse is when someone goes back to using drugs or alcohol after a period of sobriety. The person may “slip up” and have a drink (or use a drug) and then stop again. Slips are hardly seen as relapses, but they can trigger stronger cravings for harder drug use or more alcohol. On the other hand, full relapse is when the person in recovery intentionally seeks drugs or alcohol and no longer cares for their treatment.

Is addiction an incurable disease?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States indicates that people in addiction recovery have a 40 to 60% chance of relapse. This puts addiction relapse at the same level as other chronic conditions like hypertension and asthma, which have a 50 to 70% relapse rate.

According to NIDA, addiction has no cure. But it can be managed successfully. Like other chronic illnesses, there’s medication to address the problem. However, the patient may need to go through lifestyle changes, routine maintenance, and checkups to prevent relapse. They also have to learn new ways of thinking. All in all, relapse is not failure. It only shows that it’s time to reinstate, adjust or try out a new treatment.

Relapse as part of the recovery process

Addiction is a chronic brain disease with biological, behavioral, emotional, physical, and social aspects. It is characterized by an inability to control drug or alcohol use. The chronic nature of addiction makes relapse part of the healing process as opposed to failure. As mentioned earlier, drug addiction disrupts brain circuitry and causes dependency. At this point, one is bound to experience side effects like drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. Unless they use their substance of choice, they may not feel “normal.” Relapse may seem like an excellent way to get back to “normalcy,” combat intense cravings, and relieve withdrawal symptoms. That’s why relapse can be a form of self-medication.

Drug relapse is a common part of the recovery process. When it happens and is handled correctly, it can strengthen one’s commitment to long-term sobriety. Recovery is the journey of maintaining long-term sobriety, reaching new goals, and facing life with new, healthier strategies. A hitch on the road doesn’t mean that all is lost. Yes, it might feel overwhelming – but with the right help, your loved one can get back on the right track.

Strategies to avoid relapse or mitigate its effects

More than half of the people in recovery relapse. But the fact that it is common doesn’t mean that you should not try to prevent it. An addiction relapse not only undoes the hard work, but it’s also potentially life-threatening. Relapsing can result in binging that can even lead to overdose. Here are some strategies to help prevent relapse or mitigate its effects.

Reaching out for help

People in recovery often feel humiliated and devastated when they slip or relapse. So, the last thing you want to do is reprimand them or come out as judgmental. You also don’t want to leave them to their own fate. Instead, try to encourage them to go back to their support network or treatment. It doesn’t matter how many times one relapses. In fact, experts agree that one is likely to have a successful long-term addiction recovery when there is more repetition of positive reinforcing habits.

Attending long-term treatment programs

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction is not a quick fix. A single medication or a month of therapy may not guarantee a clean life. Often, one may need to engage in intensive long-term treatment, accompanied by continual support for a better outcome. A study with 1000+ addiction patients discovered that relapse rates reduced for every nine weeks a person spent in treatment. Sustained recovery also increased in the study for participants who had ongoing treatment with aftercare.

Identifying and managing triggers

Treatment programs integrate therapies that teach patients how to cope with internal and external stressors that may trigger a relapse. Mental health issues like anxiety, stress, depression, and mood changes tend to co-occur with substance abuse. When someone in recovery gets anxious or stressed, they may crave, think about, and eventually use substances. Triggers can be specific – like certain places or people, or very general – like hanging around people who are using. Evidence-based therapies help those in recovery recognize their personal relapse triggers and even train them to cope.

Lifestyle changes

Managing triggers is a great relapse prevention strategy. But you also want to encourage your loved one to make positive changes over the long term to build a healthier life. They can learn and use healthy coping mechanisms for negative emotions: recognize and manage mental issues: and develop positive activities like meditation, exercise, or art.

More Than Rehab is here to help. We have decades of experience in treating addiction, from the root-causes, to the after effects people experience once they become sober. If you, or a loved one needs help with their addiction, please don’t hesitate to call us! We are available 24/7.

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5 Ways to Conquer Drug Cravings

When you have a substance use disorder or an addiction, one of the hardest things to do in life is quit using drugs and alcohol. One of the main reasons for this is that you will begin craving the drugs or alcohol, almost immediately after you decide to quit. So, what are some good ways to conquer drug cravings, while you’re in recovery from your addiction? To start, understanding your addiction and the reasons why people begin using drugs and alcohol is a great start.

Unfortunately, millions of Americans struggle with addiction to drugs or alcohol. It is estimated that more than 21 million people in our country suffer from an addiction or substance abuse problem every year. To make matters even worse, out of those 21 million people, only about 10 percent of them will ever receive any help or treatment for their disorder. Furthermore, nearly 1 in 8 adults in the United States is considered an alcoholic.

Additionally, drug and alcohol addiction may be of even more concern today than it has been in the past  because of the Coronavirus. The Coronavirus has not only caused issues like the forced shutdown of many major businesses, closures of public school, and mask mandates, but also an increase in things like alcohol sales, recreational drug use and even relapse rates. This was particularly an issue when the pandemic first hit because those in addiction recovery were left without a lot of their support system when AA meetings and NA meetings stopped, and counseling services shut down, along with being laid off or sent home from work.

Hopefully though, now that we are all a bit more used to what daily life looks like while living during a pandemic, we are able to better adjust. Today, there are things like online virtual counseling sessions and social distancing that allow us to still get access to the fundamental building blocks of a support system. All of these things are extremely crucial to a successful recovery from addiction. Even without the Coronavirus, relapse among those with a drug or alcohol problem is very common, with around a 40-60% relapse rate. This is in part due to the drug cravings, relapse triggers and withdrawal symptoms that are often experienced while recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction.

To help with this, we have put together this list of 5 ways to help conquer your drug cravings, so that you are at a lower risk of relapse.

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1. Understand What Cravings Are

First, it is important to understand that your cravings are an entirely normal experience. Just about everyone in drug and alcohol recovery will get them at least one time or another throughout their sobriety. Cravings are classified as an intense urge to use drugs or alcohol. While they are a completely normal experience, (especially in the early stages of recovery), it does not mean they will last forever. Not only will they eventually go away with enough time in sobriety, but the typical craving will likely only last around 10-15 minutes. In the event that you have delayed the craving for some time and you’re still feeling it, then it is likely you are still around the stimulus that triggered the craving. Relapse triggers are identified as the stimulus (person, place, thing, feeling, etc) that triggered the craving in the first place. Cravings and triggers are a result of altered brain functioning and chemistry that occurred because of the drug or alcohol addiction. Over time, your brain will learn to stop associating these triggers with drugs or alcohol making your recovery and sobriety much easier.

2. Identify What Your Triggers Are

As mentioned earlier, a trigger is a stimulus that causes a craving for drugs or alcohol. So, being able to identify exactly what it is in the first place that made you crave drugs or alcohol will be extremely helpful. While a trigger can be anything for anyone, they usually fall into a few different categories. Pattern triggers are places or things that you associate with past drug or alcohol abuse, such as your favorite bar or even something seemingly innocent, like seeing a spoon. Social triggers are people or even groups of people that bring back memories of past substance abuse issues. There are also emotional triggers, such as a cause for celebration or the pain of losing a loved one. Withdrawal can even be considered a type of trigger, as this process usually results in the body feeling like it needs these substances in order to survive.

3. Avoid Relapse Triggers, or Find Ways to Deal With Them

Once you have identified your triggers, it is best to come up with a plan to try and avoid them. If you feel triggered every time you drive by the street your old hangout used to be, then simply try taking a different route instead. Stop hanging out with friends that you used to do drugs or drink with, especially if they aren’t supportive of your recovery. Of course, not all triggers can be avoided, like spoons. When it comes to triggers that you have no way of avoiding, come up with an action plan that you can easily use to help fight off the craving, remember they only last around 10-15 minutes once you have gotten away from the stimulus.

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4. Take a Walk or Exercise

If you do feel that you are about to get a craving, try going out for a breath of fresh air and taking a light walk. Almost any form of exercise will help you fight the craving, but many agree that walking takes the cake when it comes to beating drug cravings. Getting out in the fresh air and taking in the world without a real sense of where you are going can be a huge relief for people experiencing drug cravings. Just remember to try and avoid any places that might trigger you even further. If you are unable to exercise or walk, just getting out in the sun and breathing some fresh air can definitely help.

5. Reach Out To Others

Part of a successful recovery is having a strong support system. Trying attending an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) support group and reach out to some peers who know a lot about how you are feeling. Chances are they know exactly what you are going through and will offer advice that can help. If you have a sponsor or a counselor from a treatment group, then reach out to them. There is almost nothing worse than trying to go through life on your own, especially when you are learning to do it without the use of drugs or alcohol.

If you or a loved one are struggling with relapse, drug cravings, or need help getting sober, please reach out to our family of highly trained addiction specialists at More Than Rehab. You are certainly not alone, and we are here to help 24/7.

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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.

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Why Do People Get High?

In today’s crazy world it may seem like more and more people are reaching for drugs and alcohol to get high, in order to help them cope with the struggles of our "new normal". Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic that our country is still facing, alcoholism and relapse rates are once again on the rise. Unfortunately, this is due to a multitude of different reasons like self-quarantine, isolation, boredom, change in routine and schedule, closures of local AA or NA support groups, and even having kids home full time, or being around your partner 24/7. All of these are stressful situations which could lead even the strongest willed person to have their long-lasting sobriety to come to an end.

Though COVID-19 has certainly caused a surge in relapse rates, alcoholism, and drug use, that certainly doesn’t mean that substance abuse problems weren’t a problem before 2020. In fact, it is estimated that every year, nearly 21 million Americans will suffer from a substance abuse problem of some kind. With so many people affected, it may be easy to wonder why do people get high in the first place? Well, for someone who has ever struggled with an addiction firsthand, they may know that sometimes the answer to that question is simple… But sometimes, the answer to that question is much more complicated. While we certainly cannot find one or two primary reasons people choose to get high, we can isolate some of the more common reasons people turn to drugs or alcohol.

Here are some of the most popular reasons why people, especially teens and young adults, get high:

Boredom

We are all pretty familiar with being bored, perhaps today even more so than ever before with practically everything moving online and becoming virtual. Sometimes, when a person is left to one’s own devices, it can be pretty easy to see the temptation in trying drugs or alcohol just for the sake of having something to do. That is why drugs and alcohol are so dangerous around young teens and adults because they are particularly susceptible to boredom.

Curiosity

We have all probably heard the saying, “Curiosity killed the cat” -- and while trying drugs and alcohol likely won't kill you the first time, it still most certainly could. With dangerous drugs like fentanyl being laced in some common street drugs, a drug overdose death is more likely now, than ever.

Beginning with something as simple as wanting to know what it feels like to be high or get drunk, can end up leading someone down that path of a lifetime of hurt caused by an addiction to drugs or alcohol. If curiosity ever strikes, it is best to remember that there is no way to tell who will become addicted to drugs or alcohol and that even one time could lead to an addiction.

The Desire to Belong

As humans, we all have an innate desire to fit in or belong. For teens and young adults, this is even more important. According to a recent survey, nearly 29% of teens said they had tried drugs or alcohol because their friends were also doing it. It seems that friends can play a huge role in determining whether or not a teen or young adult will eventually try drugs or alcohol for the first time. The same can be said for adults as well, something as simple as changing jobs and getting asked to go out for drinks with your new coworkers and agreeing, even though you have been sober for a year, could potentially be a huge relapse trigger for anyone.

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Peer Pressure in Social Situations

Along the same lines as the desire to belong is peer and social pressure. A lot of times people, especially teens and young adults, try drugs or alcohol for the first time because of pressure from their peers. Even though someone may initially say no to using drugs and alcohol, pressure from friends can eventually make them give in for fear of being ostracized or outcast. In turn, they may continue using drugs or alcohol even if they don't want to, simply out of the fear of rejection.

Trauma or Abuse

Any past or current trauma and/or abuse, such as a sexual assault, a car accident, childhood neglect, or emotional abuse, can lead anyone to trying drugs or alcohol. Traumatic events can imprint on the memory, making it very difficult to get past the experience. Oftentimes, people get high in an attempt to escape having to deal with the painful emotions associated with the experience.

Career Pressure

Teens and young adults are not the only age group that can fall victim to addiction from environmental pressures. For instance, career pressure can drive someone of any age to get high on drugs or alcohol. A lot of times, people tie their self-worth into their career and if they feel as though they are not living up to their potential or are struggling to meet demands they may turn to drugs and alcohol in order to make themselves feel better.

Dealing With Grief

Losing a loved one is a devastating feeling and grief is an especially painful experience. Living through a loved one’s death is an especially difficult time for people and no two people grieve the same. Unfortunately, many people who are undergoing grief may want to get high, in an attempt to forget about the loved one’s passing. However, while this is normally just a short term coping mechanism it can turn into a life-long problem for those who are not careful.

There are many other reasons why someone may want to get high from drugs or alcohol.

Usually, the reasons are psychological, mental, or physical. Some people use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate some sort of mental illness like depression or insomnia. There is also no way to tell who will become addicted to drugs or alcohol, so it is best to try and steer clear of all illicit substances when possible.

If you, or a loved one, are having difficulty with a substance abuse disorder, then we are here to help. Reach out to us today and let our family at More Than Rehab help take care of you, or your loved one who is struggling. We have years of experience and knowledge when it comes to treating substance abuse disorders and many of our staff have been where you are before, so we know what it takes to lead a healthy and fulfilling life of sobriety! Call us anytime. We are available 24/7 and we hope to hear from you soon!

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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:

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