Tag Archives: Alcohol Addiction

Stages of Addiction

Stages of Addiction - Fight Addiction Now

Stages of Addiction

In 2017, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 1 in 12 American adults suffer from a Substance Use Disorder (SUD). So what are SUDs and how does someone go from experimental use to a full blown addiction? While everyone may have a different story, the causes and stages of addiction can be generally categorized into a few recognizable steps. Being able to identify the steps can be crucial in preventing SUDs.

What is a Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

Drug addiction or medically known as SUD, is a disease where an individual is unable to control their desire to use legal or illegal drugs. Drugs are anything that has a physiological effect when introduced to the body (such as snorting, drinking, smoking, etc). Some common drugs include alcohol, nicotine and marijuana.

Stage 1: Experimentation

Most addictions start with experimentation. It is not unusual to see experimentation occur early on in someone’s life. While it may not directly lead to an addiction, it does open the door for future use. According to a 2013 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 3.841 million people tried alcohol for the first time between the ages of 12-20 years old. Experimentation may occur for a variety of reasons such as:

  • Peer pressure
  • Pure curiosity
  • Availability of drugs (opportunity)
  • Mental health issues

Most people who experiment with drugs are looking for the social benefits they have heard about, whether it is because a friend recommended it or media and culture presents it as a positive experience. For example, alcohol is prevalent in media and most cultures around the world. People usually view it as a fun substance that takes the edge off in social situations. Many teens and young adults likely see no harm in trying a few drinks. A lot of media depicts alcohol use while rarely showing consequences. You could even binge drink and still technically not move past the experimentation phase as college students and party goers will typically binge drink at parties and social atmospheres. 

Fight Addiction Now - Stages of Addiction

At this stage, there are no cravings and the desire to continue use may not even appear with some drugs. However, the possibility remains that further experimentation with other drugs occur. With certain substances, like alcohol impairing judgment, people are more open to risk. This is likely why a great number of people are open to trying other various substances. That is not to say alcohol use alone absolutely leads to experimentation or addiction to other substances. Simply it is a potential factor.

Stages of Addiction - Fight Addiction Now

Stage 2: Regular Use

At this stage, individuals will incorporate a drug into their daily routine whether they are aware of it or not. Everyday use may not occur but there is a pattern to your use. Even if it becomes a weekend-use drug or it is purely circumstantial (ex. you use it when you’re stressed or bored), it is still considered regular use. 

You may not be fully addicted at this point but it is possible for regular use to lead to addiction. 

Stage 3: Problem/Risky Use

With risky use, the drug has now become a negative influence in your life. It is possible this is because you are missing school or work or engaging in dangerous behavior such as driving under the influence. Your relationships begin to deteriorate and your behavior begins to change for the worse.

Stages of Addiction - Fight Addiction Now

Stage 4: Substance Use Disorder/Addiction

SUD is a chronic disease which means it is slow to develop and may be hard to notice at first. You begin to have desires and crave the drug and feel as if you cannot function without it. Depending on the drug, you will develop a tolerance which means you will not be able to use the same amount every time as the ‘high’ you experience decrease. This will cause you to use higher doses in order to achieve the desired feeling. Unfortunately, the risk of overdosing increases once you develop a tolerance because you will be chasing that first high experience. 

Psychological dependence will fully develop at this stage because you feel as if you cannot function or be happy unless you take the drug. Physical dependence will also develop at this stage in the form of withdrawals.

Criteria for SUDs

The American Psychological Association (APA) recently updated its manual on SUD diagnosis (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- DSM-5) to help better understand what is medically considered as an addiction. It is divided into 3 categories with a list of traits which determine which category an individual would be considered under. 

Those who meet:

  • 2-3 criteria are considered to have a mild disorder
  • 4-5 criteria are considered to have a moderate disorder
  • 6+ criteria are considered to have a severe disorder

Some of the criteria includes:

  1. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.
  3. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance, occurs.
  4. Continual use of substance results in issues with significant obligations in work, school or home
  5. Use of the substance continues despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.

More information is available in the APA DSM-5 guide. Knowing the criteria and the stages of addiction are helpful in recognizing one’s own problems or their loved one’s potential issues.

What causes addiction?

Addiction is often confusing at first glance because it is hard to wrap your mind around why you have desires to do things that you know are not good for you. It comes down to the chemistry of your brain. Our brain contains a chemical known as dopamine. Dopamine is known as the ‘feel good’ chemical. It releases in our body when we do things that are pleasurable such as eating, drinking or having sex. In our primitive days, it is what would motivate us to hunt, gather and produce offspring.

Drugs such as alcohol promote the release of dopamine in the body. Dopamine is responsible for a feeling of euphoria commonly associated with drug use. Our desire to feel a sense of euphoria or feel good in general will cause us to replicate or continue those actions which produce it- such as drinking alcohol. As our bodies develop a tolerance to a drug, our desire to chase that dopamine high will encourage the use of higher doses.

Treatment

The stages of addiction are not universal, nor are they complete for every individual’s experience. Nonetheless, knowing the stages of addiction is helpful for many people to be wary of substance use and abuse. Treatment for SUDs can be challenging but it is most certainly possible. The very nature of addiction means that relapse is not only possible, but likely. It is important for treatment to include a plan to prevent and manage relapse.

Completely curing an addiction takes time and dedication as well as a very fundamental change in the behavior of the individual. Addiction to multiple substances does make treatment more challenging. That is why it is more important than anything to find a competent treatment center equipped to handle all of your needs. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today.

 

Resources:

The National Council – SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health

SAMHSA – 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

National Institute on Drug Abuse – The Science of Drug Use and Addiction

LSD and Alcohol

LSD and Alcohol

LSD and Alcohol

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD or Acid) is a hallucinogenic drug which is derived from the Ergot fungus. Acid is listed as a schedule 1 controlled substance by the DEA which means it has no medically accepted uses and has a high potential for abuse. Acid is available on the street in various forms. It comes in a liquid state, which makes it easy to dissolve into other substances such as sugar cubes or papers where the user would just have to place the lsd-soaked item in their mouth and wait for it to kick in. 

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. Despite this categorization, it does have stimulating effects. Alcohol’s stimulating effects are why most people drink. For some, drinking helps them ‘loosen up’ or calm down which can be a highly desirable effect. In high quantities, alcohol exhibits stronger depressive effects such as slowed breathing, slowed brain function and impaired decision making. 

While a lot of research is still needed on what happens when you mix lsd and alcohol, we can better understand the risks by looking at how the drugs work independently.

What is LSD and what does it do to you?

LSD is an extremely potent hallucinogenic drug. The effects of LSD, commonly referred to as a ‘trip’, vary from person to person but generally, users can expect to experience some of the following:

  • Visual effects: vivid colors, distorted shapes, hallucinations
  • Psychological effects: mood swings, anxiety, confusion, dreaminess, euphoria, bliss

LSD and Alcohol

LSD distorts your perception of reality which is the main reason people use LSD. Some believe that it helps them see the real world around them or see things in a different way. However, some users have experienced a ‘bad trip’ where they would experience very negative and sometimes frightening episodes. LSD is a very individualized experience but it’s possible for anyone to experience a bad trip – even regular users. Bad trips can also lead to Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) where a user never really comes out of a trip. This is not the same thing as having acid flashbacks, rather it is a more persistent disturbance. HPPD causes the user to only experience the visual hallucinations of a previous trip and not the other effects.

LSD and Alcohol

How long does LSD last?

Typically, you will experience the effects 20 to 90 minutes after ingesting the drug and the trip will likely last no more than 12 hours- however some users have reported trips lasting nearly a day. This also varies depending on your physical composition and dosage taken. LSD molecules bind to serotonin receptors in the brain harder than the serotonin itself. This is what causes the lengthened experience.

How long does LSD stay in your system?

LSD has a relatively short half-life, which is the amount of time it takes for the drug to reduce to half its ingested concentration in the body. While body composition and usage habits play a role in the duration of effects, you can generally expect LSD to be detectable in

  • Urine for up to 8 hours after ingestion
  • Blood for up to 6-12 hours after ingestion
  • Hair for up to 3 months

The chemicals in LSD may not last very long in the body, but the psychological effects can be long term and can even last years.

Is LSD addictive?

There is a lack of definitive research. Some sources cites it as addictive and others do not. However, some users of LSD may develop a psychological dependence. Also, the effect of the drug lasts longer than most others which reduces the need to purchase as frequently and your LSD tolerance develops after the first use which can diminish the effects of the drug during repeated use. t’s possible someone will increase dosage because of this, which increases the potential for risky behavior. That includes increased consumption of other substances that might be addictive.

Can you overdose on LSD?

There have been no reports of overdosing on the chemical LSD. However, with higher doses comes stronger trips. At a certain point, LSD can cause you to lose touch with reality and essentially feel as if nothing is real. This can lead to extremely dangerous behavior such as self-harm or suicide. While some deaths occur due to behavioral effects from LSD, the substance itself is not known to cause overdose. Further, with impaired judgment the potential for consumption of other dangerous substances is possible. These substances can cause overdose or might be cut with a more dangerous substance like fentanyl.

What happens when you mix LSD and alcohol?

As we mentioned, LSD is a highly individualized experience which makes it even more difficult to predict what would happen when throwing alcohol into the mix. Some studies suggest that alcohol will enhance the effects of LSD but there is no definitive evidence to suggest that. Given that LSD can cause you to lose touch with reality which can lead to dangerous behavior, mixing alcohol (another substance which is known for impairing judgement) should be avoided. With increased dosages, the risk of each substance increases substantially.

Alcohol is a CNS depressant and with enough consumption this results in suppressed breathing that is also known as respiratory depression. Someone consuming LSD might likely fail to recognize when they have consumed too much alcohol. They likely will also fail to recognize serious symptoms like respiratory depression. This often leads to the appearance that someone is sleeping. Often it’s then missed that they are possibly falling into a coma, overdosing or potentially dying. 

Mixing substances heightens the negative affects. With LSD, it’s possible to eventually experience confusion, a fast or irregular heartbeat, or vomiting among other negative side effects. Alcohol often causes similar effects. Mixing LSD and alcohol might heighten these effects leading to a number of negative health effects or irrational or unsafe behavior.

Treatment

LSD does have the potential to be psychologically addictive but recovery is possible with the right help. Alcohol is highly addictive and one of the few substances where withdrawal can be fatal. Even without addiction, abuse of LSD and alcohol is potentially incredibly dangerous. If you or a loved one is struggling with abuse or addiction to LSD or alcohol, please contact us today.

Resources:

DEA – Drug Scheduling

NIH – Hallucinogen-persisting perception disorder

Psycho-pharmacology – Gross behavioural changes in monkeys following administration of LSD-25, and development of tolerance to LSD-25

NIH – My Friend Said it was Good LSD

 

Xanax and Alcohol

Xanax-and-Alcohol

With Xanax (a brand name for Alprazolam) one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., it’s understandable that it’s mixed with other substances.  Some people do so without knowing how substances interact, while others are hoping to intensify effects or offset certain side effects. For example, Alcohol depresses the Central Nervous System (CNS), and while it can provide an initial buzz it also eventually causes drowsiness. Subsequently, people will mix it with stimulants, like cocaine to offset feeling sleepy. Polysubstance abuse is the abuse of 3 or more substances, often involving alcohol. It’s common for people to mix Xanax, alcohol and a third substance if not more. Neither substance is necessarily a bad thing, but they are both frequently misused and together can cause negative effects.

Alcohol is a popular drink around the world. The general acceptance of alcohol use, and heavy alcohol consumption, makes it difficult for a lot of people to recognize when use has turned to abuse, dependence, and addiction. As not everyone fully understands the negative effects of alcohol, they might not realize how dangerous it can be to mix Xanax and alcohol.

What is Alcohol?

The type of alcohol that humans drink is ethyl alcohol.The history of human’s interactions with alcohol is long and complicated. While the way it’s made and how it affects people has changed, it’s something that’s been around for thousands of years. Over time, as people learned more about the dangers of alcohol, there have been periods where it was banned, like Prohibition in the U.S. Some countries ban the use of it entirely or specific groups within countries ban the use. In a lot of countries today alcohol use is widespread and socially acceptable. Many recognize the dangers, but few realize how little it takes to experience dangerous effects or for it to turn to abuse. 

A lot of people know that it’s possible to have an addiction to alcohol. Still, they tend to have the image of the stereotypical drunk in mind: someone unable to do simple tasks, falling over in public, and generally incoherent. Furthermore, a lot of young people tend to engage in binge drinking with the assumption that they’re just young and doing what young people do. The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), defines men’s binge drinking as five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. For women, it’s considered four or more drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days. Taking those numbers into consideration, the study also found, “In 2017, about 1 in 4 people aged 12 or older were current binge alcohol users.”

Effects of Alcohol Use

Many people know that alcohol is a depressant, which they understand to mean it causes depression. That is a possible side effect, but it is also a central nervous system depressant. 

This can include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired cognitive function and coordination 
  • Lowered inhibition
  • Respiratory Depression
  • Coma 
  • Death

Xanax-and-Alcohol

Given the pervasiveness of alcohol consumption, and risky drinking in particular, it’s unfortunate that a lot of people don’t fully understand how it can negatively affect them. The National Cancer Institute cites strong scientific consensus showing clear evidence between alcohol consumption and various types of cancer. Furthermore, it’s possible for drinking excessively to lead to a weakened immune system leaving someone vulnerable to diseases. In addition to impairing cognitive function, the ability to think clearly and use coordination, it also causes issues with the heart, liver, and pancreas. 

In moderation, alcohol is not going to cause these symptoms and some believe there are benefits to occasional consumption. However, a lot of people, particularly starting in their youth, consume more than they should. Alcohol impairs decision making, which likely contributes to people’s decisions to mix substances. Others possibly consciously choose to mix substances in an attempt to enhance the experience of each substance.

Xanax Recreational Use

Xanax is a legal prescription drug for short-term use under medical supervision. It often treats anxiety and insomnia. Many providers consider it to have a high risk of misuse, due largely in part to dependence and addiction setting in quickly for a number of people. Xanax works by calming down an over-excited CNS and increasing dopamine in the brain. This provides a “Xanax High”, or a euphoric feeling that people desire when misusing Xanax. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) found that Xanax is one of the top three prescription drugs diverted to the illegal/illicit market. Most people using Xanax recreationally likely do not realize the serious long term effects of Xanax use. 

With Xanax, the brain adjusts and finds it difficult to adjust without it. Someone misusing Xanax is more likely to end up taking increased doses. They do so to continue to feel the same effects and to feel the euphoria or Xanax High they are chasing. Suddenly stopping often results in severe withdrawal symptoms, making it difficult to quit without professional help. It’s possible for withdrawal symptoms to last for months after ceasing use, making relapse more likely. Xanax depresses the CNS, often causing drowsiness, impairing motor and cognitive function, and slowed breathing. This is incredibly dangerous if mixed with other depressants.

Mixing Xanax and Alcohol

Mixing Xanax and alcohol isn’t going to result in overdose or death every time. Still, it’s a risk that isn’t worth it. Both can cause serious side effects apart from overdose or death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analyzed data from 2010 showing alcohol was involved in 27.2% of emergency department visits related to benzodiazepine (benzo) abuse. Further, of 1,512 benzo-related deaths that year, 324 also involved alcohol. Any death is clearly one too many.

Xanax-and-Alcohol-FAN

Both Xanax and alcohol are CNS depressants, which makes them dangerous when mixed. Some use Xanax and alcohol for sleep separately, but also try using them together. They both cause respiratory depression, or slowed breathing, which significantly increases the risk of overdose and death. Many people use alcohol as a means to help calm anxiety. It also can provide a euphoric high, or even simply an overall feeling of peace and happiness. A number of people will likely want to enhance the effects of Xanax and alcohol. They’re looking to feel something of a “Xanax and alcohol high”. Increasing consumption of both substances increases the risk of permanent damage, or of overdose or death. Adding any other substances further increases this risk. It’s unfortunately common for people to take opioids with benzos. This is a dangerous mix on its own and made even more dangerous with alcohol.

Treatment

For anyone using Xanax and alcohol, they likely need professional help. Xanax withdrawal is potentially severe and too difficult to do without proper help. Depending on severity of abuse and addiction, alcohol withdrawal is one of the few types of substances where withdrawal can result in severe complications or death. Anyone with a dependence or addiction to either substance, or especially both, should seek professional help. Reach out today for resources, support, and any help you might need.

Why Getting Off Your Ass Can Help Prevent Addiction Relapse

Why Getting Off Your Ass Can Help Prevent Addiction Relapse

Physical activity is an essential part of any healthy living plan, but exercise holds distinct benefits for people recovering from substance abuse. In some cases, physical activity is necessary to rehabilitate the body after severe drug abuse, but the benefits are clear and measurable for any patient. Getting off your ass is one of the best things you can do for yourself in recovery.

Exercise For A Healthier Future

Substance abuse takes a tremendous toll in the body and mind, and repairing that damage is a long and complex process. Physical activity improves the health of the body, which in turn improves the health of the mind. Learning new ways to exercise and stay fit can also provide the foundation for building better habits in recovery. Exposure to past triggers, stressors, and bad influences are the leading causes of relapse. Physical activity can not only provide a constructive outlet for handling cravings, but also limit the risk of exposure to potentially dangerous elements of one’s environment.

Exercise And Physical Therapy In Rehab

Prevent Addiction Relapse Many drug-addiction recovery centers offer a range of physical therapies and holistic treatments that offer relief from the physical effects of addiction, such as yoga, massage, and acupuncture. Exercise therapy is another way to combat the symptoms of withdrawal and empower a person throughout the recovery experience. Some addiction treatment programs include regular workouts to help their patients recover more fully, and these experiences can also influence life after rehab.

Exercise influences behavior in that it causes dopamine release*. Dopamine is the brain’s naturally occurring “reward” neurotransmitter that causes pleasurable feelings after meeting a need or performing a satisfying action. People inherently seek out behaviors that trigger dopamine releases.

Dopamine release is a major factor in addiction because using illicit drugs or alcohol can trigger a dopamine release, but the person will require more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effects over time. This dependency creates a pattern of addictive behavior that ultimately leads to full-blown addiction. If a person in recovery starts experiencing a craving to relapse, he or she may be able to offset this by exercising and triggering a natural dopamine release that satisfies the craving.

Exercise is a healthier alternative because it not only fosters a more natural and healthy dopamine cycle in the brain, but also requires the person to work for it. Achieving goals and building a structured life is a major facet of sober living after rehab. Exercise and physical activity should play a role in any person’s life after completing rehab, and there are countless possible ways to work physical activity into a regular routine.

Physical Activity After Rehab

The average person will likely experience several types of physical therapies and exercise-based treatments during rehab. Some people may find value in running or walking, while others discover they enjoy lifting weights or playing team-based sports. Carrying these experiences into life after rehab can be beneficial in more ways than just improved physical health.

A few ways a person fresh out of rehab can incorporate physical activity into everyday life in recovery include:

  • Exploring activities learned in rehab to a deeper level. For example, if you enjoyed yoga sessions in rehab, consider joining a weekly yoga class.
  • Learning a new skill. If you have ever considered learning a new skill such as a martial art, archery, or rock climbing, making time to enjoy these activities on a weekly basis provides structure, goals, and a sense of achievement, along with physical benefits.
  • Daily exercise. Some people may not be physically able to go to the gym every day or run for miles on end, but there are many ways to incorporate exercise into a daily routine. Walking or jogging for as little as 20 or 30 minutes a day can help a person feel balanced for work and other obligations throughout the day.
  • Team sports. Joining a local team or sports club can offer structure and group support in recovery. You’ll get regular physical exercise, while also achieving goals and participating in healthy competition.

Building Better Habits While Living Sober

Nutrition and diet play major roles in the rehab process, but they are also important considerations for life after rehab. Fast foods, processed foods, and sugary foods can all cause physiological changes that can trigger an addiction relapse. For example, many addiction recovery programs recommend avoiding caffeine and all refined sugars because these substances can have habit-forming qualities and cause a “crash” that triggers withdrawal symptoms in a person recovering from substance abuse.

Healthy foods are more accessible than many people think. Shopping, buying, and preparing fresh foods may seem like more work, but this is ultimately a good thing for a person who just finished rehab. Prior to recovery, he or she may have simply eaten fast food or only eaten when absolutely necessary while in the grips of a severe drug addiction. Creating a new routine of procuring healthy foods and eating better in general offers much-needed structure in recovery. Building a physical activity routine around a better diet offers even more opportunities to make healthier choices and stay on track with sobriety.

Preventing Relapses

It is not realistic to expect to return to your life exactly how it was before rehab and avoid a relapse. Stress can easily trigger an alcohol relapse. Visiting familiar friends and places may tempt a drug relapse. There are countless possible variables in your old environment that could trigger a relapse, and it’s essential to remove dangerous influences from your life and develop a new routine that encourages sobriety.

Learning Healthy New Coping Strategies

A major part of relapse prevention is stress management, and everyone has different coping strategies to manage periods of acute stress. In recovery, these stressors are even more dangerous than usual. Rehab can teach a person new coping methods, but it is ultimately up to him or her to put them into practice. This is much easier with a healthy body. Fatigue, blood pressure changes, sleep problems, and many other factors can cause cravings to relapse. These issues are far less frequent when you make exercise and physical activity a part of your regular routine.

If you are concerned about the expense of joining a gym or fitness club, there are many low-cost options for physical activity. Look for a safe running route near your home or develop a callisthenic routine you can do each morning. Eventually, you will find new opportunities to enjoy regular physical activity.

Join The Conversation With Fight Addiction Now

Fight Addiction Now is a wide network of other people struggling with addiction, people living sober for months or years, substance abuse treatment professionals, advocates, and loved ones of people who have struggled with addiction. We invite our readers to take part in conversations about relapse prevention and share their stories and advice with others.

Preventing Relapses With Community Support

The Fight Addiction Now community can offer advice for adding workouts to your daily or weekly routine and provide support and encouragement after rehab. Returning to “the real world” after rehab is incredibly stressful without support, and some people may not have anyone nearby to depend on when cravings strike or relapse triggers appear. Some people may relocate after rehab to avoid bad environments and bad influences.

The Fight Addiction Now community offers support to anyone who needs it regardless of where they live. Visit us online to learn more about relapse prevention after rehab and think of ways you can join the conversation.

The Risks of Gabapentin During Addiction Recovery May Compromise Sobriety

Gabapentin Risk during Recovery - Fight Addiction Now

Gabapentin* is a widely-prescribed anticonvulsant medication that carries a risk of causing dependency. Any potentially addictive substance is dangerous for people recovering from substance abuse, so it is essential to acknowledge the real dangers of this often-overlooked prescription drug. Some people may receive prescriptions for gabapentin for various legitimate medical issues, but prescribing doctors need to take patients’ past struggles with substance abuse into account before prescribing gabapentin medication.

What Is Gabapentin?

What is gabapentin used for with a typical prescription? The medication exists in several forms. Fast-acting versions can help treat seizure disorders and manage the symptoms of post-herpetic neuralgia, a condition commonly resulting from shingles infections that causes skin and nerve pain. Long-acting gabapentin can help treat restless leg syndrome. Despite the fact that gabapentin does not have a controlled substance scheduling, there is still a significant risk of a legitimate prescription leading to gabapentin abuse.

Risk For Dependency

How is gabapentin addictive if it is just an anticonvulsant? Doctors who prescribe gabapentin typically recommend increasing dosages over time, which can lead to tolerance and in turn, dependency. When combined with opioids like hydrocodone, gabapentin can produce an intense feeling of euphoria. Research shows that 15 to 22% of opioid users also abuse gabapentin**. Is gabapentin an opioid? Not exactly, but many doctors prescribe it as an opioid alternative. It can produce powerful effects when taken with opioids.

How Can Gabapentin Interfere With Substance Abuse Treatment?

It can be relatively easy for a person to abuse a gabapentin prescription by taking the medication with an illegal drug, like heroin. It’s also possible for a person who finished rehab to receive a gabapentin prescription for restless leg syndrome or a seizure disorder and start experiencing withdrawal symptoms, potentially triggering relapse. Anyone who completes rehab must be extremely careful with any medications he or she takes in the future; any medications that have habit-forming qualities require careful scrutiny. There are almost always alternatives that won’t encourage habitual use or won’t interfere with past substance abuse treatments.

Unique Problems With Gabapentin

Gabapentin Risk during Recovery

Gabapentin side effects range in severity. Taking gabapentin with other substances like opioids or alcohol can intensify these effects. Some of the most commonly reported side effects of gabapentin use include:

  • Depression
  • Angry outbursts or fits of rage
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Reclusiveness and lack of interest in social activity
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Memory problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Manic episodes
  • Eye twitching
  • Dizziness

These are just a few of the commonly reported gabapentin effects that can be uncomfortable or upsetting. It is important to remember that gabapentin may not produce habit-forming effects when taken by itself, but the risk of addictive effects increases dramatically when people take gabapentin with alcohol or other drugs. Combining gabapentin and alcohol can not only amplify the side effects of gabapentin, but also increase the risk of respiratory complications.

Another unique aspect of gabapentin that may complicate substance abuse recovery is the fact that gabapentin will not appear on a drug screening. A person who finishes rehab for another substance abuse issue may start abusing gabapentin and it would be impossible to confirm the problem with a screening. Additionally, gabapentin is relatively cheap compared to most other addictive drugs.

Off-Label Uses

Aside from gabapentin’s typical uses, the manufacturer also extolls several off-label uses for the drug. Some people use gabapentin for bipolar disorder, diabetic neuropathy, migraines, and other psychological and neuropathic conditions. In 2017, gabapentin was the fifth-most prescribed medication in the United States, but more than 80% of prescriptions were for off-label uses***. Some substance abuse treatment centers actually use gabapentin to help stop the seizures that often result from alcohol cessation.

Medically-Assisted Detox And Addiction Treatment

Gabapentin - Fight Addiction Now

Medically-assisted treatment is essential for substance abuse recovery. The standard of care for addiction in the U.S. typically requires a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. For example, a person who suffered from opioid addiction may take methadone during the post-acute withdrawal phase to keep withdrawal symptoms manageable. He or she will also undergo psychiatric counseling to address co-occurring disorders and receive medical treatment for preexisting conditions and the other effects of addiction.

Some substance abuse treatment centers may think gabapentin is safe as an anti-seizure countermeasure, but it is essential to review each patient’s risk for dependency on an individual basis before prescribing this medication. Once a person recovering from substance abuse experiences a high from gabapentin it can easily open the door to dependency or relapse.

Finding Support During Addiction And Recovery

It’s important to seek substance abuse treatment as soon as possible once you recognize the problem, and arming yourself with knowledge in advance is a great way to eliminate a lot of the uncertainty that typically surrounds detox and rehab. Recovery is not a single life event; it is an ongoing process with many phases that all require a strong commitment to getting clean.

Share Your Experiences With The Fight Addiction Now Community

The Fight Addiction Now community is a large network of advocates, professionals, researchers, survivors, and friends and family of people who have experienced the worst of addiction firsthand. If you or a loved one are uncertain about the idea of entering detox or rehab or simply want to learn more about gabapentin and other types of substance abuse, we invite you to join our community and take part in our discussions.

Fight Addiction Now aims to connect people struggling with substance abuse to valuable support services and resources for rebuilding life after rehab. Exchange your own stories with other members and find common ground with people all over the country who have experiences similar to your own. Addiction can feel isolating and alienating, and having access to a knowledge and support base like Fight Addiction Now can be tremendously beneficial to your recovery effort.

What Does Alcohol Withdrawal Feel Like? Real Alcohol Withdrawal Stories

What Does Alcohol Withdrawal Feel Like? Real Alcohol Withdrawal Stories

Fear of alcohol withdrawals is what keeps many from stopping drinking, and this fear often keeps alcoholics and those with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) from recovering from alcohol dependence. Why does this fear keep people from quitting alcohol, even when they realize that alcohol brings them nothing but heartache and want to quit?

To answer this, you need to understand what alcohol withdrawals feel like.

What Alcohol Withdrawal Nausea Feels Like

If you have ever had a bad hangover that causes you to throw up and feel nauseous, you know that it is similar to the feeling you get with a bad case of the flu or mild food poisoning, and yet is very different. The nauseous feeling you get with alcohol withdrawal seems to come from your spine, rather than your stomach, and is accompanied by an acidic feeling that spreads down the spine and seems to tickle the nerves in your extremities.

While most cases of nausea in alcohol withdrawals are usually fairly mild, some alcoholics – especially those that have underlying medical conditions or have damaged their gastrointestinal tract – suffer from severe and constant nausea during withdrawal.

What Alcohol Withdrawal Hallucinations Feels Like

Alcohol withdrawal hallucinations are a sign that you are suffering from more than acute withdrawal, and could be entering the delirium tremens (DTs) phase of withdrawal. If you are suffering from DTs, it is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. At this point, medical detox needs to intervene and treat the conditions medically to decrease the hallucinations and risk for seizures.

Those that do suffer from alcohol withdrawal hallucinations will find that it is not the type of hallucinations caused by hallucinogenic drugs, rather it is more tactile and auditory (feeling and hearing). You have heard the stories of people with alcohol withdrawal feeling bugs crawling on their skin – actually, this is just the mind trying to come up with an explanation for why it is feeling itching, pain and numbness, and pins and needles across the skin. While there are not bugs crawling on your skin, the brain makes you believe this because it is the easiest answer to process at a time when confusion is causing the brain and body to go haywire.

This is what hallucinations feel like from alcohol withdrawal. Confusion. Auditory hallucinations are more common than sensory or auditory hallucinations, and these hallucinations are more of your mind trying to make sense of your racing thoughts. The brain – in its state of confusion – can disembody the voice in your head, and make it feel like this “voice” is being heard, rather than thought of. Again, this is just confusion. There really aren’t voices, your brain is just incorrectly processing your interior monologue and actual sounds you hear.

What Alcohol Withdrawal Headaches Feels Like

A very bad and persistent headache, almost bordering on a migraine, is the best way to describe alcohol withdrawal headaches. These headaches usually aren’t severe, in the sense that the pain is unbearable, but it is the fact that they continue for long periods of time that make them so unbearable. The fact that these headaches are happening at the worst possible time – when you are already feeling anxiety and other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal – makes you perceive the headaches as being even worse.

These headaches can be centered anywhere, behind the eyes, at the base of the neck, near the sinuses, or the frontal lobe. They can feel like stress or tension headaches, and are almost indiscernible from regular everyday headaches. Again, the persistence of these headaches is what really make this symptom bad, with headaches lasting days or weeks in some people.

Others find that the headaches come in waves, building in intensity for a few days before subsiding for weeks. It is not uncommon for headaches to accompany post-acute withdrawal syndrome, and can resurface 6 months or a year after quitting. Eventually, these headaches will go away completely.

Acute Alcohol Withdrawal: Paroxysmal Sweats

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat? Maybe it happened after drinking way too much earlier that night? Imagine getting a sudden attack of cold sweats, where you feel a chill throughout your body, but sweat begins pouring profusely across your skin. Called, “paroxysmal sweats,” sudden attacks of alternating cold and hot sweats are common in acute alcohol withdrawal.

You’ll know them when they hit, and they usually wash over you in waves – much like what happens when you have the flu. It is common to feel paroxysmal sweats in conjunction with waves of tremors – also an indicative sign of acute alcohol withdrawal.

Real Alcohol Withdrawal Stories

Communication between peers is a powerful way that people can help each other with even the most challenging of life’s responsibilities. Peer support groups have long been used in alcohol recovery, because it is one thing to go through the struggle of fighting addiction by yourself, but hearing another person’s stories of how they went through a similar situation can brighten your outlook on your own situation.

With alcohol addiction and withdrawal, hearing another recovering alcoholic’s stories of recovery can help you to make sense of your own struggle. We asked several people recovering from alcohol use disorders about their experiences with alcohol various withdrawal symptoms:

Alcohol Withdrawal Shakes

Alcohol Poisoning Deaths Per Age Group Infographic“My hands had been shaky for years, and it got worse the longer I drank. I thought that is what people meant when the talked about ‘alcohol shakes.’ It wasn’t until I tried quitting alcohol completely on my own that I found out what they [alcohol shakes] really were. My neck felt like it couldn’t support my neck, and kept dropping. My muscles would shake and twitch just trying to hold the weight of my own head. If I tried to stand up, the rest of the muscles in my body would twitch the same way. So, I just laid there on the couch for hours.”

“I don’t know why I thought soup would help me with the horrendous hangover I had. I microwaved myself some soup and tried to sip the broth, but my hand wouldn’t work. I couldn’t even hold a spoon. I always drank way too much in a single night, sometimes 12-16 beers in just a few hours. I guess I was a binge drinker, but never really considered myself an alcoholic or even that I had a drinking problem, because I could easily go a week or more without drinking. Seeing my hand shake and spill orange beef broth down my chin was the first time I considered that I might have done some real neurological damage to myself.”

Alcohol Withdrawal Anxiety

“The anxiety you get with alcohol withdrawals isn’t like any other type of anxiety I have ever felt. What I used to call a high anxiety day, can’t even compare to the level of anxiety I felt during alcohol withdrawal. It was like my body reached a point of anxiety way above what I thought was possible. I am 2 years sober now. I don’t want to ever feel anxiety that bad again.”

“I had been drinking at least one beer a day for over 10 years, but more like 8-10. I was actually able to taper down myself, without alcohol detox. It took me over a month to get down to 1 beer per day, and I was feeling so good, I figured I was ready to just stop drinking and go to zero drinks. I was ok for about a week and a half; what I would say was 6 on a 1-10 scale of anxiety. I knew that alcohol withdrawals usually are over with after 3 days, so I figured I was through the worst of it. Then, bam I felt my heart quiver and I got dizzy and felt like I was going to black out. My wife called the ambulance, because I told her I thought I was having a heart attack. It wasn’t a heart attack, it was a panic attack and heart palpitations from alcohol withdrawal.”

Alcohol Withdrawal Nightmares

“I actually didn’t go through a lot of withdrawal symptoms. Sure, I had some anxiety and didn’t feel great for about 2 weeks, but I got through alcohol detox easily, thanks to the medications they gave me. About a week after I finished detox, I wasn’t sleeping too well. It would take me forever to fall asleep, and when I finally did fall asleep, it would only last a few hours before I would snap back awake, full of energy. One of the times, I was having a dream about having to do something very difficult over and over again. I can’t remember the exact details of the dream, I just remember that the thought of doing something over and over again terrified me. I snapped back away after this dream, and it felt like something in me had popped, and I felt my body relax. After that, my sleep problems weren’t as bad and I started being able to fall asleep easier.”

Share Your Alcohol Withdrawal Stories

Human beings have the amazing power to make others feel better simply by talking and sharing stories, communicating, and understanding. When it comes to alcohol withdrawal, we know it is not going to be fun, but if you truly want to be free from alcohol controlling your life, you have to dig in and get through the first and most difficult part, detoxing from alcohol.

Those that have already gone through alcohol detox, and have followed through with their recover, can help others that are just beginning their journey into sobriety, offering your own insights into alcohol withdrawal. Share your story with others, and let them know that quitting is the right choice, alcohol detox can help to make the withdrawal symptoms easier to get through, and that a better life is waiting for them, after they get through the first and roughest patch.

Add Your Story on the Fight Addiction Now Forum:

Alcohol Withdrawal Stories

Controversies Surrounding Drugs, Alcohol, Addiction and Recovery

Controversies Surrounding Drugs, Alcohol, Addiction and Recovery

The controversies surrounding drugs, alcohol, addiction and recovery abound. In our community of those struggling with addiction and those of us in recovery, opinions differ greatly on what’s right and wrong.

Is recovery comprised of behaviors that avoid all drugs and medications, or does staying clean only pertain to the substance we experienced problems with?

These kinds of questions arouse our sensibilities as recovering alcoholics and addicts. There are so many important questions, and so many issues that need fixing. The answers are worth debating. Everyone’s unique experience is valuable, and every voice matters. Let’s delve into these controversies together.

The Great Marijuana ‘Detox’ Debate

Many rehab facilities still offer treatment for marijuana addiction, while some individuals are turning to pot to ease their detox symptoms or using the drug as a substitute for opioids or more potent drugs.

Is it OK to smoke marijuana? Is it OK if you’re using it to get off harsher drugs like heroin? What about if you are smoking weed as a permanent substitution for stronger street drugs or prescription drug abuse?

We know marijuana is addictive, at least psychologically. It probably won’t kill you; however, if you’ve ever been in the home of a heavy pot smoker, you realize it can certainly make your life unmanageable.

Our country is undergoing a major debate and law reformation regarding a natural plant that has been used since pre-modern times. Here are the facts, as of the publishing of this article:

  • Marijuana is legal for recreational use in nine states plus D.C.
  • Marijuana is decriminalized in an additional 13 states plus the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Cannabis is legal for medical use in 30 states plus D.C., as well as in the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.
  • The federal government is considering a proposal to join Canada in decriminalizing marijuana nationwide.

Is It Cheating to Use Drugs Like Suboxone and Methadone?

Suboxone, Subutex and methadone are commonly used for detox purposes and even pain management. Research shows these medications are often more addictive than the drugs patients quit.

Some people are using “Subs” and methadone, while others claim these individuals are cheating in their addiction recovery and short-changing themselves, as well.

Complicating matters further, unscrupulous clinics seem to intentionally dispense high doses of Suboxone and methadone to get a daily customer for life. There is no difference between drug dealers and these clinics.

Substituting one drug for another isn’t getting clean. Is replacement therapy helpful and life-saving, or merely a poor attempt to cheat addiction?

Heroin Users Blaming Others for Their Addiction

Another controversy is people addicted to heroin who are placing the blame on someone else for their addiction. Whether it’s the pharmaceutical companies, doctors or other people in their lives that have caused stress or left them emotionally broken, they put the responsibility for their addiction elsewhere.

In American culture, we revere doctors and trust their professional judgment above our own. Besides, they are paid the big bucks and studied at a university for eight years. They must know more than us, right? Yet heroin addiction often starts with prescribed opioid medications.

Some argue personal responsibility trumps all. But opioid use is at phenomenal levels. The death toll from opioids surpasses loss of life in any U.S.-involved war. Personal responsibility pales in the face of such horrific numbers. Handing out painkillers like candy does patients no favors either.

We know pharmaceuticals are big business. For-profit companies are most concerned with their bottom line and their shareholders. They are not in business to put patients’ best interest first. But is it a cop-out to place all of the blame for opioid and heroin addictions on Big Pharma and doctors?

Antidepressants: Beneficial or Detrimental?

Antidepressants are another class of medications that are handed out as freely as after-dinner mints. It makes us wonder if everyone in the world is depressed. For the number of antidepressant prescriptions written, you’d think so.

These brain-altering chemicals are very expensive. Pharmaceutical reps frequently show up at doctors’ offices pedaling their wares like gypsies of old. Free samples fly from attractive, well-dressed salesmen and saleswomen.

Some individuals can’t handle the side effects brought on by antidepressants. Others are non-compliant or erratic with their medication. Yet another group of people says the drugs help.

Additionally, getting on antidepressants can carry the risk of not being able to get off them or causing severe withdrawal when you do quit them.

Are antidepressants over-prescribed? Are they helpful or hurtful? Or are they necessary only in extreme cases?

The Business of Rehab

Ooh, now we’ve hit a sensitive nerve, haven’t we?

Those among us who have spent time in rehab can’t help but wonder if it’s all about money. Sure, the clinicians want to see people get better; therapists don’t do their jobs solely for their measly paychecks. The staff – well, some of them – are vested in helping people, while some have trouble finding other work. Tattoo-clad addicts in recovery with a record aren’t at the top of headhunters’ lists, let’s be honest.

Our rehab-experienced friends tell us they are threatened with leaving against medical advice (AMA) if they wish to leave treatment before their insurance benefits are maxed out. Yikes!

Rehab centers claim everyone needs to stay in treatment as long as possible, and there is some truth to that. Statistically, people are more successful in beating addiction the longer the treatment program is. And, alarming numbers of people trying to escape the grasp of addiction are relapsing.

Nowadays, it is more common than not for someone to enter rehab more than once. Sitting around sharing your feelings starts with your self-intro of:

  • Your name
  • Why you’re in treatment
  • Whether this is your first rehab trip

Really? Relapse and repeated rehabilitation is so abundant that clinicians have to ask everyone how many times they’ve previously been in rehab?

The First Time Is Not the Charm

Something’s wrong with a system when we – through our insurance companies – are paying tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a treatment that may or may not take the first time around. Damn. That does sound like it’s about money.

Treatment centers have become big business, big money makers and big salesmen. Some people say when they call a treatment facility, the promises given and the depictions of the facility are in stark contrast to the reality they see upon arrival.

Some patients are moved quickly through the typical stages of rehab:

  • Detox
  • Residential
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP)
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP)
  • Aftercare

And other patients are kept longer in each stage. The therapists say it has to do with clinical decisions in conjunction with the patient’s insurance. Those with better insurance are held back longer while their peers move on. This can be discouraging and make clients wonder if they are not progressing as fast as they should be.

Your Two Cents

We’ve presented a number of questions and controversial material to ponder. We want to hear from everyone. All of our voices matter, and we need each other. AA teaches the principle that our brains are diseased by our addictions, and only in sharing and getting feedback do we come to good conclusions.

Leave a comment below and/or head over to our online forum or our Facebook page to let us know how you feel. The controversies are out there. How will we address them as a community and as a society at large?

Insomnia and Alcohol: How Sleep Disorders are worsened by Drinking

Insomnia and Alcohol: How Sleep Disorders are worsened by Drinking

It’s common for people to abuse alcohol as a way to help themselves go to sleep. After a night of drinking, it might feel like as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’re sound asleep.

However, if you think that just because you are unconscious you’re getting a good night’s rest, you’re sorely mistaken.

How Alcohol Affects Your Sleep

Drinking alcohol before bed has been shown to create serious problems with almost every aspect of sleep quality. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that alcohol hurts your ability to wake up feeling refreshed and well rested.

Alcohol Interferes with Your Circadian Rhythm

While it’s true that after a night of bar-hopping, you will fall asleep fairly quickly, you are way more likely to wake up at some point in the night.

One of the reasons why drinkers wake up in the middle of the night is due to alcohol’s effect on your circadian rhythm. After drinking, your body increases its production of the sleep-inducing chemical adenosine.

When adenosine levels are high enough, you can pass out at the drop of a hat. However, once you stop drinking, adenosine levels plummet so low that you’ll wake up well before your brain and body are ready.

Alcohol Blocks REM Sleep

Drinking alcohol before bed also impairs your brain’s ability to enter into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The REM stage of sleep is widely considered to be the most important stage of sleep. If you don’t enter the REM stage, it won’t matter if you get a full eight hours of sleep: You’ll still wake up feeling unfocused and groggy.

Alcohol Leads to Late-Night Bathroom Trips

Alcohol acts as a strong diuretic, which means more trips to the bathroom. If you drink alcohol too close to your bedtime, you’ll likely wake up in the middle of the night with a full bladder.

Interrupting your sleep to go to the bathroom throws the natural sleep cycle out of whack. And good luck falling back asleep once your hangover sets in.

The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Sleep

Chronic alcohol use can negatively affect your sleep even after getting sober. After you make the decision to give up booze, your body is likely to go into a state of withdrawal. Because withdrawal produces a number of unpleasant side effects, many recovering alcoholics experience insomnia from alcohol withdrawal.

When an alcoholic goes into withdrawal, he or she experiences a number of changes in quality of sleep, including:

  • Frequently interrupted sleep
  • Difficulty falling and staying asleep
  • Sleeping for longer than normally required
  • Entering into REM sleep more frequently, but for shorter durations

It may take a year or longer for recovering alcoholics to re-establish healthy sleeping patterns. This is because years of alcohol abuse have resulted in serious changes in brain structure.

Alcohol, Sleep Problems and Relapse

Withdrawing from alcohol and insomnia go hand in hand. A common cause of alcohol relapse is an inability to manage the sleep issues associated with one’s newfound sobriety. Too many alcoholics think that they need to drink in order to fall asleep. When they try to get sober and start dealing with issues like insomnia, they use that to justify drinking alcohol as a sleep aid.

Obviously, this logic is ridiculous. In all likelihood, they weren’t actually sleeping well when they drank, it just appeared that way. Drinking alcohol while in withdrawal will quickly make the unpleasant symptoms of alcohol detox go away, so of course they’ll have an easier time falling asleep. This relief is only temporary, however. They will quickly run into the same problems with sleep that they had before.

The reason many alcoholics claim to drink just to sleep better is simple: They’re in denial. After all, telling your friends and family that you get buzzed every night because it helps you sleep sounds a lot better than telling them it’s because you have a serious chemical dependency.

Once you accept the fact your alcoholism is about much more than just helping you sleep, you can then start addressing the true sources of your drinking problem.

The Link Between Alcohol and Sleep Apnea

Although it’s estimated that roughly 20 percent of Americans suffer from at least one form of sleep apnea, only 10 percent have received a formal diagnosis. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by a person’s airway becoming blocked to such an extent that he or she cannot breathe normally. If the airway remains blocked for too long, the individual will wake up, at least momentarily, to correct the problem.

Research has shown that sleep apnea caused by alcohol consumption is incredibly common in moderate and heavy drinkers. One study found that men who regularly consumed more than one alcoholic drink per day were more likely to display the signs of sleep apnea than men who don’t drink at all. Each additional daily drink raised the odds of showing signs of sleep apnea by 25 percent.

Sleep Apnea from Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is especially dangerous because a person can experience sleep apnea while being too intoxicated to wake up in time to correct their breathing. In extreme cases, alcohol-induced sleep apnea can cause a person’s blood oxygen levels to drop drastically, a condition known as oxygen desaturation. It can also increase the levels of carbon monoxide in the body to potentially fatal levels.

Whether drinking causes a person to develop sleep apnea or makes one’s existing sleep apnea worse, it’s important to realize that alcohol’s effect on sleep is potentially deadly.

Quit Drinking and Sleep Better!

What’s your take on alcohol and sleep health? Is alcohol really helping your insomnia if you have to drink every night just to fall asleep?
Do you think that those using alcohol as a sleep aid are in denial about their addiction, or do you think that, for some people, drinking every night is the right choice?

Join the conversation now by answering these questions in the comment section below or by clicking over to our forum to let us know what you think!

See Our Alcohol Addiction Fact Sheet

Meditation over Medication: How Meditation can Help Addiction, Self-Medication, and the Need for Prescription Drugs

Meditation over Medication: How Meditation can Help Addiction, Self-Medication, and the Need for Prescription Drugs

From the beginning of time, humans have dealt with physical and mental ailments. It’s part of being human. The body, the mind and the spirit inevitably break down. But there are things we can do to take care of ourselves and minimize the damage. One impactful way we can take care of ourselves is through meditation.

If you think about it, for centuries humanity did not use synthetic medications. Humans and animals have not even always had access to plants and herbs for medicinal use. Meditation, on the other hand, has likely been around since the dawn of civilization.

Can we really fix things with medication?

Certainly, there are some conditions to make us grateful for the advances in modern medicine. But we are not talking about flushing your beta blockers down the toilet; we are talking about managing your life without potent meds when other options are available – options that may even lead to a better result.

Managing addiction recovery without having to resort to any type of drugs, including prescriptions, is a worthy cause. Who likes antidepressants and the side effects, anyway?

What Is Meditation and Mindfulness?

We know all ailments are not solved with drugs, and in recovery, we are trying to avoid taking any drugs again. We have found a better way of life without substances, and many of us seek to extend that better way of avoiding prescription medications that may or may not work.

In an effort to achieve a healthier body, mind, and spirit, people around the world have adopted the Eastern practice of meditation and mindfulness.

A relatively new concept for Westerners, meditation refers to looking inward to improve ourselves. It is about changing our world through changing ourselves.

Mindfulness is the embodiment of reflection and contemplation. Clearing the mind of ruminations and focusing on the five senses is grounding. It shows us what is real – the feel of the earth beneath our feet, the smell of the open air, the view of a tree, the taste of a sweet piece of candy, the sound of relaxing music, etc.

What is not real is living in our heads. Overthinking, letting our thoughts race, is not reality. It’s an imagined world inside, and most of the accompanying worries will never come to pass.

Mindfulness Treatment via Daily Meditations for Recovering Addicts

In the still, quiet moments does a man (or woman) come to know their own heart. It is about self-discovery and rediscovery. Continually knowing ourselves keeps us grounded in our core issues, which keeps us healthy in recovery.

Being mindful means letting unhelpful thoughts flow in and right out, allowing ourselves to be conscious of our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad…but as merely thoughts and feelings.

Mindfulness as a form of therapy has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of many conditions. Here are a few diagnoses that mindfulness improves:

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Eating disorders
  • Other mental health conditions

Mindfulness for Mental Health

Besides the cost and side effects, many people don’t want to go on antidepressants. Psych patients are notoriously uncompliant with taking their meds for various reasons, chief among them being the side effects.

Meditation teaches us to feel, think and be OK with it. As ironic as surrendering to a higher power is empowering, permitting ourselves negative thoughts and feelings – without judgment – allows us to face and release them.

Meditation for ADHD

Research suggests mindful meditation can help ease the symptoms of ADHD. The ability to focus one’s attention and concentrate are two advantages that come from mindfulness training. A lack of focus and concentration are chief complaints in ADHD patients, so it follows that meditation can be beneficial to those with an ADHD diagnosis.

Self-regulation is a typical problem for people with ADHD. Mindfulness improves that too.

Meditation for Anxiety

Anxiety disorder culled is stress and worry. The natural response to anxious thoughts and feelings is avoidance. It’s uncomfortable. We don’t want to feel it. And ultimately, not feeling got us into a hot mess.

Researchers have evaluated the effects of mindfulness meditation for patients’ biological reactions to stress. Blood tests and studies show definitive results that mindfulness training reduces stress hormones, which effect anxiety.

Mindfulness for Spirituality

“A higher power of our own understanding” is a fluid and flexible concept that can be as definitive as the God of the Bible and as abstract as a force of nature. A higher power can be as simple as a 12-step group itself. God, spirituality, a higher power, religion or anti-religion, mindful meditation fits into each person’s lifestyle.

Some people who have traditional values are afraid this alternative philosophy will be at odds with their religious beliefs, but it’s simply not true. Meditation complements any concept of spirituality, not just Buddhism. Meditation opens your spirit to receive exactly what you need in that moment, regardless of what beliefs you may possess.

Meditation for Physical Ailments

Did you know that there are serious meditation gurus that have perfected the art of meditation so completely they are able to control autonomic nervous system functions like heartbeat and digestion?

We know that people living with high levels of stress are more apt to getting infections, colds and flu, and more illnesses in general. Reducing stress via meditation, therefore, improves general physical health. Add to that the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system that deep-belly breathing produces, and it’s not hard to see how pain reduction can happen by meditating.

Inflammation

A 2013 study funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health indicated that eight weeks of mindfulness training can reduce stress-induced inflammation better than a health program that includes physical activity, diet education, and music therapy! That’s quite the testament to the healing power of mindfulness.

Make note that inflammation is the culprit for many problems in the body:

  • Arthritis
  • Idiopathic pain
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Injuries
  • Infections
  • Transplant rejection

Chronic Pain

Regular mindfulness practice decreases pain. It reduces stress hormones, inflammatory markers and the patient’s perception of pain more than narcotics.

Addiction Issues Treated Without Medication

It takes a great deal of strength to stare down addiction and live to tell the tale. Death follows so many that have struggled with addiction. Many of us who are in recovery have known people that did not – and those that have not yet – found the strength to slay the beast of addiction. Any help along the way is valuable, including mindfulness.

In addition to scientific evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness for clinical diagnoses, some other aspects of life that meditation improves include:

  • Spirituality
  • Focus and attention span
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Smoking cessation
  • Empathetic abilities
  • Quality of life
  • Stress reduction
  • Mood stability
  • Self-esteem
  • Fatigue
  • Menopausal symptoms
  • Inflammation

Summoning the power to live in recovery begs a new skill set, one that includes serenity, courage and wisdom. Developing and exercising this new skill set keeps us healthy and focused on recovery.

If we are to stay clean and avoid relapse, our recovery has to be – and stay – the No. 1 priority in our lives.

Otherwise, no other priorities will matter. Our lives will become ugly and unmanageable again.

Meditation for addiction helps us practice the tenets of the serenity prayer that we need to stay sober. While some people have a spiritual awakening within a particular religion or church, many are finding another way. Non-traditional forms of spirituality are appealing, as they can transcend a specific faith.

Meditation vs. Medication

Peace and understanding come from meditation. This beneficial habit is now evident in brain scans, advances in the understanding of neuroplasticity, blood work and physiological results. Science and spirituality have aligned at last.

Whether we need meditation for depression, addiction recovery or something else, it is a more favorable option than medication. Even if we decide to use medication too, mindful meditation done right is life changing.

Let’s give ourselves permission to just be. To live in the present moment. And to experience the profound healing power of meditation.

See More Stress-Management Tips

I don’t Have a Problem: Substance Abuse, Addiction and Denial

I don't Have a Problem: Substance Abuse, Addiction and Denial

“They try to make me go to rehab, but I don’t have 30 days to be on punishment. My mom thinks I’m fine. And there’s nothing wrong with me. Everybody uses a little sumpin’ sumpin’.”

Hmm…

Addiction Denial

Denial is the biggest hump keeping people from enrolling in a treatment program and improving their life.

Addiction woos us like an obsessive lover, slowly taking over our time, money and every aspect of our lives. Willingly, we succumb to our lusts, unaware of the power of addiction. They say love is blind.

What everyone else can see eludes the addict, who is blinded by substances. This individual becomes emotionally compromised, judgment impaired and unable to ascertain his or her own reflection.

Signs of an Addict in Denial

Lying to themselves and rationalizing their drug or alcohol problems, people try to ignore the disease that has become their one and only love.

If you are the friend or family member of someone struggling, you can help by recognizing the signs of denial and addiction:

Touting the Ability to Stop Whenever They Want

We’ve all heard addicts who say, “I can quit anytime I want,” yet apparently fail to ever want to. The bottle never gets put down, the pills keep going into the mouth or the needle still enters the vein.

In reality, the opposite is true: People can’t stop an addiction anytime they want. They need support and treatment.

Anger

We have all heard the phrase “dry drunk”, referring to someone who is sober but has not addressed their core issues and alcoholic-type behaviors. Dry drunks and active users are often angry.

Anger can cover up deeper emotions, and it often stems from guilt. Addicts are not stupid people.

Subconsciously, we know when we have a problem, but we learn to rationalize it, ignore it and hide it. Even through the dirty lens of a mental disorder, we can sense when something is amiss, but we put up defenses to push away a reality too painful to face.

Excuses and Rationalizations

Instead of pondering and evaluating evidence of their problem, people often make excuses and rationalizations for their behavior. We can always find a reason to use substances.

People rationalizing their behavior is normal; everyone does it to some extent. We say we will quit when we get a good job, find a loving partner, or some other malarkey that you and I know won’t change a thing.

Refusing Help

A tell-tale sign of denial is an adamant refusal of help. Somewhere deep within our souls, we know the truth when we hear it. Truth can be painful and difficult to confront. So we hide from it, run away.

Asking someone to get help for an addiction is difficult. The request is usually met with a refusal. Think about it: If someone confronts you with a problem, though your initial reaction may be defensiveness, you are able to consider the legitimacy of your loved one’s words. Not so with denial and addiction.

Addiction Is Serious

Addiction will kill you; it is a life-threatening illness. Untreated, substance-related and addictive disorders have no other end points than jail, insanity or death.

The DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Vol. 5, reports that substance-related disorders and gambling disorder cause changes in the brain that distort thinking, behavior and bodily functions. These pathological changes can last long after the intoxication from the drug of choice fades.

Mental disorders, by nature, skew thinking. There is a neurobiological factor and cerebral dysfunction that makes it very difficult for individuals in active addiction to admit they have a problem.

Beginning to Recover

The first step toward healing is acceptance. Until a person accepts the truth and admits the dream world they pretend to live in is, in fact, a dream world, they will not have the motivation necessary for successful treatment and recovery.

Only about 11 percent of those suffering from addiction actually enter a treatment program. Denial is very common. Admitting there is a problem and seeking help and treatment takes strength.

Lies, Victim Mentality and Self-Centeredness

Those abusing drugs and alcohol (and pathological gambling) have honed lying to a master level. To feed their compulsion, they beg, borrow, steal…and lie. It’s a survival tactic; one cannot maintain a serious addiction for any length of time and remain honest.

Eventually, people start lying to themselves. People stuck in addiction know they are not bad people, yet they experience cognitive dissonance – uncomfortable, irreconcilable thoughts – because their behavior contradicts their values. Telling themselves lies and rationalizations only worsen the disease.

Along with the lies, we tell ourselves, demonstrating a victim mentality and acting in self-centered ways are signs of addiction. Being a sympathy seeker feeds our need for rationalizing our addictive behavior. “I can’t help it; my life is so hard” Statements are meant to draw sympathy and an excuse to drink or use.

There is something narcissistic about being an addict. Here again, it’s not intentionally done; it evolves as a product of the illness. Over time, the person puts their desire for their addictive behavior above all else, including people. They unwittingly become selfish.

Promises and Blame

Failed promises go hand in hand with compulsive behaviors. We mean well. We just can’t follow through.

Someone going through stages of addiction denial will inevitably make promises of cutting back or controlling their behavior. What they haven’t learned yet is there is no controlling addiction.

Blaming other people and circumstances for drug and alcohol abuse is another common characteristic of denial. Some common excuses addicts use to transfer responsibility are:

  • Parent(s) used or were abusive
  • Critical or difficult mate
  • Stressful job
  • Difficult children
  • Loneliness, depression, anxiety or other mood disorder

Reminding your loved one what they were like before substance use can help them see that drugs have had an effect. Those of us dealing with addiction know firsthand that goals, dreams, work and relationships fall to the wayside when we’re using. Being reminded of who we used to be when we were sober can be jarring.

How to Help an Addict in Denial

Living with an addict in denial practically requires sainthood. However, there are ways you can help your loved one see that they do have a problem. People in denial need a wake-up call.

Here are some things you can do to wake up your loved one in denial:

  • Keep a written record of dates and events that show a pattern of abuse and the behavior of someone intoxicated.
  • Hold an intervention.
  • Use love.

Compassion, kindness and acceptance make incredible differences in the lives of all people. Instead of approaching someone out of frustration with verbal attacks and anger, why not go to them softly and say, “Honey, I love you. I value you (or this relationship). How can we work this out?”

They still may not listen, but don’t give up on them. Taking an empathetic approach allows you to keep your dignity and feel good about yourself.

Continued efforts can make a difference. Keep talking to your loved one when:

  • They are sober.
  • You can remain calm and caring.
  • You can talk without judgment.

Many people in recovery attribute their awakening to a family member or friend not giving up on them.

Weighing In

To those of you who are in recovery, we are curious how long it took you to realize you were in denial. Most people have to be clean and sober for a time before they recognize that they were in denial about addiction and other issues in their lives. How long did it take you?

If you could give one piece of advice to your former self about denial, what would it be?

Join our community discussion about denial and addiction. Answer the questions immediately above in the comment section below, or head to our online forum to discuss these important issues. You might just help someone else in denial!

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