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MDA vs MDMA

MDA vs MDMA

MDA vs MDMA

Molly (MDMA) and Sally (MDA) both fall under the amphetamines (stimulants) and phenethylamine (psychedelic) class of drugs. They are both considered a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance by the DEA, which means they have no approved medical use and present a high risk for abuse. While there are similarities between MDA and MDMA, their effects are at times vastly different and therefore present different risks. As the majority of MDA or MDMA use is illegal, this compounds the risk of other substances being present. Naturally, the risks from other substances will vary based on the substances and the amount present.

Over time, use is increasing and particularly in younger groups.

MDA vs MDMA

What is MDA?

MDA was first synthesized in 1910, roughly 2 years before MDMA was synthesized. Doctors at the time hoped that MDA could help cure those with Parkinson’s disease and depression. However, ultimately in 1970, MDA and other psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin were criminalized and listed as a Schedule 1 drug.

MDA vs MDMA

3,4-Methylene​dioxy​amphetamine (MDA, Sally, Sassafras drug) is a psychedelic drug of the amphetamine family which is derived from the sassafras plant. MDA has a profound effect on the chemical activity in the brain and is responsible for feelings of intense elevations of mood and empathy, euphoria and hallucinations. Many refer to is a “love drug”. MDA’s emotional effects come from its role as a potent serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine releasing agent (SNDRA). SNDRA’s promote the release of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine into the body each of which produces different physiological effects on the body. 

What does MDA do?

Dopamine is considered the “feel good” chemical as it is linked to the brain’s reward center. Accordingly, it is usually releases in the body when we do something pleasurable such as drinking, eating or having sex.

Serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite, digestion, sleep, memory and various other bodily functions. MDA increases the amount of serotonin released into the brain and in turn causes effects such as decreased appetite.

Norepinephrine is a stress hormone which is somewhat similar to adrenaline. It increases your heart rate and blood pressure.

Generally, MDA is rarely sought after recreationally and most people prefer it’s better known counterpart, MDMA. However, MDA is a primary metabolite of MDMA. MDA is known to be much more potent than MDMA. While the general effects may be the same between the two drugs, MDA is known for being more stimulant and hallucinogenic.

The short-term effects of MDA last around 6 hours since the last dose. However, the long-term effects can last up to a week after using.

Side effects of MDA use

Short-term side effects may include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Jaw clenching and teeth grinding
  • Hyperactivity and restlessness
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Muscle stiffness and pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Depression (especially common during the end of the high)
  • Lack of focus
  • Recklessness

Long-term side effects may include:

  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Anxiety
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Liver damage

What is MDMA?

MDMA was first synthesized in 1912 by Merck, a German pharmaceutical company. At the time, it was being researched as a psychotherapy drug but eventually made its way to the street around the 1970’s. 

3,4-Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA, E, Ecstasy or Molly) is quite similar to MDA, though most resources consider it to have weaker effects. Similarly, It still affects a person’s perception and can cause hallucinations. MDMA is also a SNDRA and produces similar effects on the chemical composition of the brain as MDA.

MDMA’s effects typically last 3-6 hours. Nevertheless, it is possible to prolong with additional doses. Some other short-term effects include:

  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches or cramping
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased body temperature

Other long-term effects may last up to a week and include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Problems with memory and focus
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Decreased appetit

Increasingly, producers mix Molly with other addictive substances in order to be more profitable. This includes meth, ketamine, cocaine or bath salts. As a result, these drugs mixed with Molly cause other unknown side effects and can be dangerous.

How long does Molly stay in your system?

Depending on the dosage, Molly will be detectable in your body via:

  • Urine for 1-3 days after ingestion
  • Blood for 1-2 days after ingestion
  • Saliva for 1-2 days
  • Hair for around 3 months

Other bodily functions will affect drug metabolism such as:

  • Age
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Kidney Function
  • Liver Function
  • Genetics

Molly has a half-life of around 8 hours which means it will take 8 hours for half of the ingested chemical dose to leave your body. Therefore, it takes about 40 hours for the chemical to fully leave your body. Given that MDA is a metabolite of MDMA, MDA may be detected in the body much longer than MDMA although there is not much research on exact figures.

Molly - MDA vs MDMA

MDA vs. MDMA

Both drugs share commonalities but MDMA is much more popular in the US. They both produce similar effects. However, many consider MDA more potent as it causes more powerful and longer-lasting effects. Molly and Sally are both available in capsule or tablet form. Subsequently, they are often crushed or snorted. Research has not been conclusive on whether MDMA or MDA is addictive, however, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “it affects many of the same neurotransmitter systems in the brain that are targeted by other addictive drugs.”

Still, you can also develop a tolerance to both of the drugs. A tolerance will cause you to take higher doses to feel the same effects. The NIH also states that “…additional doses of MDMA can produce unexpectedly high blood levels, which could worsen the toxic effects of this drug.” This increases the risk for adverse health effects and the possibility of overdose. Higher doses increase the risk of overdose. 

Treatment

It is possible for MDMA or MDA addiction to cause serious long term effects on the body. MDMA sometimes stresses the heart, thereby increasing the heart rate and blood pressure, and can damage kidneys. Some users snort either MDA or MDMA, and snorting any substance is bad for anyone.

Further, it’s possible your reliance on MDMA stems from an underlying addiction to other substances present. Effective treatment plans include cognitive behavioral therapy which helps assess and modify one’s way of thinking and behavior. It also helps patients learn to manage triggers or stress that leads to drug use or abuse in the first place. An effective treatment center will work with patients to find the right treatment plan for them. This likely involves a combination of various forms of treatment.

 

If you or a loved one are struggling with abuse or addiction, please contact us today.

 

*Resources:

DEA – List of Controlled Substances

NIDA – MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse

NIH – Is MDMA Addictive?

Cedars Sinai – Is Snortable Chocolate Safe?

 

 

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

Adderall and Weed

Adderall-and-Weed

Adderall

Adderall is the brand name for a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It’s use is to commonly treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. As a central nervous system stimulant, Adderall increases energy, blood pressure, heart rate and improves attention and alertness- which is why most people use the drug. Adderall use is pretty common in college and academic culture for its ability to boost attentiveness and focus. A study conducted at the University of Kentucky found that 30 percent of its student population had abused a stimulant such as Adderall in order to enhance their studying. Adderall is a schedule II drug as categorized by the DEA which indicates that the drug has certain medical uses but has a high potential for abuse. 

 Adderall boosts the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. Dopamine is commonly referred to as the ‘feel good’ chemical. It occurs in the body when we do something pleasurable, such as eating, drinking or having sex. It is also released synthetically by drugs such as Adderall. Some people experience this also from smoking weed, which is why they might combine Adderall and weed. Norepinephrine is a stress hormone which is typically released in the body whenever we encounter a fight or flight situation. Therefore it is no surprise that the drug boosts attentiveness and alertness. 

Adderall Abuse and Addiction

Adderall abuse is different than addiction. Abuse is generally considered any use of drugs outside of a prescription which includes taking more than the recommended dosage. Whereas addiction is a chronic disease where users experience compulsive desires to take drugs. Adderall abuse is pretty common with college students. They see it as a helpful tool for cramming before exams. 

Adderall-and-Weed

So is Adderall addictive? It can be. Typically the addiction stems from a previous history of abuse. If the abuse is to achieve a recreational high, the body will build a tolerance to the drug which will require the user to up their dosage. At a certain point, their body will begin to crave the amphetamine. Without the drug, people who are addicted may feel like they lack focus or attentiveness at which point could be characterized as an addiction.

How long does Adderall stay in your system?

Adderall has a half life of 9 to 14 hours. This means that it takes around 9 to 14 hours for the drug to reduce to half of the initially ingested dosage. Generally, Adderall will clear out of your system completely in 3 days; however, traces of the drug can last well past that. Certain drug tests can discover Adderall use such as:

  • Saliva tests can detect Adderall from 20 minutes to 48 hours after ingestion
  • Blood tests can detect Adderall from 12 to 24 hours after ingestion
  • Urine tests can detect Adderall from 4 to 7 days after ingestion
  • Hair follicle tests can detect Adderall from a week to 90 days after ingestion

What is marijuana?

Marijuana- also known as weed- is derived from the dried flowers of the cannabis plant. It contains hundreds of chemicals, some of which have psychoactive mind-altering properties such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and other non-psychoactive chemicals such as cannabidiol (CBD). Marijuana is one of the most abused illicit drugs in the world, but it can be used to treat some medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, appetite loss, cancer, and mental health issues such as PTSD or schizophrenia to name a few. Marijuana is a very popular recreational drug as it can relieve anxiety and reduce pain depending on the strain taken.

There is a lot of debate over whether marijuana is harmful, and how harmful if so, and whether it is even addictive. Research is limited as marijuana is illicit in most countries, until a few countries and states within the U.S. legalized use in recent years. While marijuana use it not going to lead to addiction that looks like meth or heroin addiction, there is always the potential for someone to abuse it just as with any other substance. Certain studies have shown possible negative effects from chronic, long-term use, though those may also be tied to users smoking tobacco which is known to be very harmful. Further, it’s possible for illicitly obtained marijuana to be laced with other substances which is where significant danger can come in.

Why do people use marijuana?

Many perceive marijuana as a ‘safe’ drug with no harmful impact on the body. While it is much less harmful than most other schedule I drugs, it still has some negative side effects and is illegal in some jurisdictions even for medical purposes. So why do people smoke marijuana? Well, surveys show that “relaxation” is the biggest reasons people smoke weed. Further a study reported that “cannabis significantly reduced ratings of depression, anxiety and stress.”

How long does marijuana stay in your system?

It is hard to pinpoint exactly how long traces of weed will stay in your system as that is largely circumstantial. In general, weed will show up in a drug test via:

  • Saliva up to 48 hours after use
  • Urine up to 21 days after use 
  • Blood up to 36 hours after use
  • Hair up to 90 days after use

This varies by individual factors and length of use.

Mixing adderall and weed

Adderall is a stimulant. However, weed’s properties and varying effects on individuals makes it harder to characterize. For example, some people may feel more relaxed and calm after smoking which presents more depressant effects. However, others may experience paranoia, increased heart rate or anxiety after smoking. Weed can also be characterized as a hallucinogen given the altered state of mind one will experience. While many characterize it as such, some people do not experience such effects. The effects of marijuana use vary widely and this also varies by method of consumption (e.g., smoking a joint, using a pipe, using a bong, eating edibles, etc.).

Adderall-and-Weed

So what would happen if you mixed Adderall and weed? It’s hard to say for the reasons listed above. Some users will mix the drugs in hopes that the Adderall will negate the depressive effects of the marijuana. It’s best to avoid the mixture. Effects can produce harmful outcomes such as shallow breathing and increased heart rate. Further, the mixture of a stimulant and marijuana can alter your state of mind which could encourage users to take risks or express behaviors which could be dangerous. Overdose is unlikely unless the Adderall dosage is high enough or other substances are mixed that interact dangerously with Adderall.

Treatment for Adderall and Weed Abuse and Addiction:

Treatment for Adderall or weed  abuse addiction can be tricky to tackle individually. Both drugs have different effects on the body and mind. Further, both are abused for different reasons and there is no one-size fits all treatment plan. Therefore we recommend contacting us for professional help and treatment if you or a loved one are dealing with abuse or addiction.

Resources:

CNN – College students take ADHD drugs for better grades

The Washington Post – 11 Charts that show marijuana has truly gone mainstream

Journal of Affective Disorders – A naturalistic examination of the perceived effects of cannabis

 

What You Didn’t Know: Suicide Is a Bigger Threat to Your Loved One than Homicide

Suicide Warning Signs

Deaths by gun violence garner a lot of media attention, as do homicides by other means. Because of this, many don’t realize the risk of suicide happening to someone you love is much higher than the possibility they would die from homicide.

In fact, deaths by suicide are twice as common as ones by homicide, and many Americans don’t even realize this truth. Part of that is likely due to the portrayal of deaths in popular media; we hear about or see homicides all the time in the news and in movies, but the realistic portrayal of suicide is much lower by comparison.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the reported cause of death for nearly 45,000 Americans in 2016. It was the 10th-leading cause of death overall that year, as well as the second-leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 34. For Americans aged 35 to 54, suicide was the fourth-highest cause of death.

Suicide vs. Homicide

Warning Signs Of Suicide

While both are tragic causes of death, suicide and homicide differ greatly in prevalence. The aforementioned CDC report said that the number of suicides in 2016 was more than double the number of homicides (19,362) that year. Among all age groups, homicide consistently accounted for fewer deaths than suicide.

Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death between ages 10 and 44, and it’s the third biggest cause of death across all age groups. Heart disease accounts for the most deaths, while malignant neoplasms (cancerous tumors) are a close second. Despite these numbers, people continue to think of homicide as one of the leading causes of death, even though it isn’t.

While not everyone thinks the same way, assuming one is at a high risk of death by homicide can lead to individuals purchasing firearms for protection. However, there are more deaths by suicide involving firearms than there are homicides and accidental firearm injuries, according to the CDC.

As you might expect, people who attempt suicide by firearm are much more likely to die than those who use alternative methods, such as poisoning or suffocation. These numbers can help explain why more men die via suicide than women, as men are more likely to use firearms.

Recognizing Warning Signs of Suicide

While many people who are struggling with thoughts of suicide don’t speak openly about their feelings, it’s still possible to recognize risk factors for suicide. Doing so can be the key to helping someone receive the care they need. If you’re concerned about a loved one, pay attention to these symptoms:

Suicidal Ideation

Suicidal ideation involves a person experiencing thoughts about death, dying, wishing for death, or imagining death by suicide. While not always present, such reoccurring thoughts can be the first sign of potential risk.

Most signs of suicidal ideation remain internal, but you should pay attention to any threats, comments or even jokes that someone makes about killing him- or herself. Even harmless thoughts like, “I wish I could disappear,” have the potential to become more dangerous over time. Though not all people who experience suicidal ideation will attempt suicide, it’s better to recognize it and respond early, rather than letting it drag on.

Looking for Ways to Commit Suicide

This won’t be as obvious as it sounds. It may be your loved one laughing about the least painful ways to die or seeking out movies that have suicide as a theme.

If you are uncomfortable with such discussions and are concerned, check out his or her browser history – if it’s legal and accessible. Parents or romantic partners, for instance, may consider this option. Online searches for weapons or suicide how-tos may indicate a serious issue.

Increased Alcohol and Drug Use

Many people who struggle with mental illness are at a high risk of suicide. Mental illness can also correlate with dangerous levels of alcohol and drug use, especially if someone regularly uses a substance to try to escape their symptoms.

People who are considering suicide may engage in substance use for similar reasons, which can lower their inhabitations and reduce the hesitation to follow through on impulsive thoughts or plans.

Sudden Changes of Mood

Someone who is considering suicide may be under extreme stress, which can cause drastic changes in mood. This can involve feeling hopeless, going through agitation and anxiety, and experiencing episodes of rage and anger, to name a few.

Don’t assume a change from sudden sadness to peace means safety. One of the biggest warning signs to watch out for is if someone’s mood shifts from despair to a sudden calm, which can indicate that the person has decided to act on their suicidal thoughts.

Who’s At Risk?

Almost anyone can be at risk for suicide, regardless of their age, gender, outward appearance or social status. Many people who appear happy may be masking their true thoughts. Women have thoughts of suicide more often than men, but suicide numbers for men are 3.5 times higher than for women.

Many other factors can increase someone’s risk of suicide, such as:

  • Family history
  • Substance abuse
  • Access to firearms
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Age
  • Severe, chronic physical and mental illnesses
  • Prolonged exposure to stress

Common Myths About Suicide

While suicide awareness has increased over the past years, there are still several myths about suicide in our culture. Here are a few of them:

  • Successful or Famous People Have No Reason to Commit Suicide. No matter how successful someone is, there may still be a risk for developing suicidal thoughts.
  • There’s No Way to Stop Someone from Committing Suicide. No matter how determined someone may feel about taking their life, it is possible for them to respond to proper treatment. People who experience suicidal thoughts due to mental illness can often improve through treatment for their disorder.
  • Talking to Someone About Their Suicidal Thoughts Will Make Them Worse. Contrary to popular belief, it can help to talk to someone who is feeling suicidal because it can make them feel like someone cares and that they should seek help. Similarly, asking a non-suicidal person if they are having thoughts of suicide will not suddenly cause suicidal behavior.

Reasons Why People with Mental Illness May Commit Suicide

Mental Illness May Commit SuicideSuicide and mental illness are intimately related, and those struggling with mental illness are often at high risk for suicide. While the reasons for considering taking one’s life will differ from person to person, many are trying to escape the symptoms of a physical or mental illness. To some, death may appear to be the only reprieve from the symptoms of mental illness.

For others, suicide may happen not because of a desire to die, but instead from a misunderstanding that the actions they plan to take may actually result in their death. Sometimes, a person may only be “crying for help” or planning to hurt themselves, rather than trying to instantly die.

Suicide can also happen as an overreaction to extreme stress. Such stressors can be enough to cause someone with mental illness to have an intense reaction, which, in turn, can make suicide seem like an appropriate solution, even if it truly isn’t.

Avoiding Suicide, Beating Addiction

If you’re thinking about seeking help for a suicidal family member, it’s better to seek appropriate care when you sense something is wrong, rather than waiting until it’s too late. It is possible for those struggling with suicidal thoughts to improve their outlook on life.

And for those dealing with suicidal behavior along with a drug or alcohol problem, Fight Addiction Now can help steer their search for the most appropriate dual diagnosis treatment to facilitate recovery and healing.

Learn About Dual Diagnosis Care

 

Can You Really Get Addicted to Kratom?

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Can You Really Get Addicted to Kratom?

The Fight Addiction Now community has been engaging in some very interesting conversations about kratom lately, discussing whether or not it can be used as a substitute for opioids safely, debates on its legality, and stories from people who have found success with kratom. We wanted to continue the conversation on this hot topic, and we feel we need to start by covering some of the most basic, yet pressing questions.

What is Kratom?

Kratom is an herb that is derived from the mitragyna speciosa plant, which is native to Southeast Asia and grows freely in Thailand, Myanmar, New Guinea, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It has gained popularity recently – in the wake of the opioid epidemic – for its opioid and stimulant effects similar to opioids like morphine.

The herb has been used in traditional medicine in Southeast Asia for centuries, with the earliest reported use as an opium substitute coming in 1836.

What Are the Active Ingredients in Kratom?

The alkaloids in kratom are what most consider to be the “active” ingredients, as they are the ingredients that produce the effects that most people ingest kratom for. Kratom contains over 40 different alkaloids that could be considered active ingredients, but “Mitragynine” is what we will focus on, as this alkaloid is responsible for the “desired effects.”

Mitragynine and 7-OH Mitragynine

Alkaloids mitragynine and 7-OH Mitragynine, found in kratom, are opioid-receptor agonists. This means that – much like opioid medications like Vicodin and OxyContin – mitragynine binds to the Mu receptors and causes analgesia and sedation. Chemically, there is nothing different between using an opioid drug like morphine or heroin to bind to receptors and using kratom for the same effect.

Is Kratom Addictive?

If we want to be exact about it, there are two different types of addiction: chemical dependence and psychological addiction. Anything can be addictive including gambling, shopping, compulsive behaviors, and even – as of recently – video games. So, in this sense, yes you can become addicted to the use of kratom.

Can you become chemically dependent on kratom? Yes; chemical dependence is very possible with kratom, as it works exactly like opioid-based drugs – which we know are not only addictive, but one of the most addictive types of drugs.

I am Addicted to Heroin, and Substitute Kratom for Opioids. Do I have to worry about Kratom Addiction?

Many people who have started using kratom recently do so because they are already addicted to dangerous opioid drugs like heroin, morphine, oxycontin, or even opioid replacement drugs like suboxone and methadone. They use kratom because they don’t want to use opioid drugs, but are chemically dependent on them.

Kratom works as a substitute for heroin and opioids because it acts on the Mu opioid receptor in the brain, just like opioid drugs. When you are addicted (chemically dependent) to an opioid, your body has actually just become so used to a certain balance of opioid agonists on these receptors that when the balance is interrupted, the body reacts by producing the opioid withdrawal symptoms. So in this sense, an opioid addict is chemically dependent on all drugs or chemicals that produce this effect in the brain.

Learn More About Opioid Agonists

Since kratom works on the opioid receptors in the brain in the same way that heroin and other opioids do, an opioid addict is essentially already addicted to alkaloids in kratom, even if they have never ingested it. This works the same with other drugs as well, and is why drugs like buprenorphine and methadone can be used to replace heroin or prescription painkillers in opioid replacement therapy.

Is Kratom Dangerous for Opioid Addicts?

This is hard to give a definite answer on. Much of the dangers that opioid addicts face are attributed to dangerous behaviors and self harm – like accidental overdose. Some opioid addicts choose to replace their heroin addiction with kratom, because of worries that their heroin supply may be tainted or laced with synthetic opioids. These addicts feel that the risk of accidental overdose is lower with kratom, and kratom dosage is easier to monitor than heroin.

Can you Overdose on Kratom?

Technically, yes you can overdose on the opioid agonist alkaloid mitragynine that is found in kratom. This is because opioid overdose happens when too many opioid agonists attach to the opioid receptors. However, kratom and the mitragyna speciose also produce opioid antagonists, which knock excess opioid agonists off the receptors. Much like how suboxone contains an opioid antagonist (Naloxone) alongside an opioid agonist (buprenorphine). The mixture of the two types of chemicals work as a sort of overdose deterrent.

Many manufacturers of kratom products sold in stores and online refine their kratom for strength. This means that they may remove chemicals that act as opioid antagonists, while increasing the amount of agonist chemicals. This creates stronger kratom, but also increases the risk of too many agonists binding to receptors and causing an overdose. However, it is difficult to overdose on kratom. In fact, according to a study done on “Subchronic exposure to mitragynine, the principal alkaloid of Mitragyna speciosa, in rats” , LD-50, or a lethal dosage of the active ingredient mitragynine could not be found in the increased levels of the drug. Once again, this does not mean a lethal dose is not possible, it is just very difficult to get a lethal dose.

The Dangers of Mixing Kratom with Opioids and Other Drugs

Mixing drugs is always a bad idea. When you mix drugs, you are opening yourself up to so many dangers. Mixing kratom with alcohol, mixing kratom with Adderall, mixing kratom with meth or cocaine, all of these are bad ideas that could lead to a host of mental and physical problems. Mixing kratom with other opioid drugs? An even worse idea.

When opioids are incredibly dangerous and addictive drugs, and can cause overdose and death on their own. The danger of mixing opioids with kratom compounds the dangers of opioids, and you will be at increased risk of accidental overdose. There simply is not enough research to say for sure what the dangers of kratom are when mixed with specific drugs.

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Kratom VS. Suboxone

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?

Nicotine, Caffeine, and Adderall: Mixing Multiple Stimulant Addictions

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Nicotine, Caffeine, and Adderall: Mixing Multiple Stimulant Addictions

Thanks to a long history of evolving federal policies and a new health crisis in the form of the nationwide opioid epidemic, more Americans are wary of the dangers of drug abuse than they have been in decades. Despite this increased awareness, however, many have taken for granted that their homes are stocked full of dangerous, addictive chemicals.

This problem is particularly deceptive when it revolves around stimulant drugs. While stimulants like cocaine are highly regulated and difficult to obtain, many legal stimulant drugs, like caffeine, are widely available to the average American. Take a closer look at the data:

  • More than 40 million Americans smoke cigarettes, a regular source of nicotine.
  • More than 80 percent of Americans consume caffeine daily, and many of those individuals report that caffeine improves their mood.
  • Over 1 million Americans are currently abusing prescription stimulant drugs, such as those prescribed for ADHD.

These are just a small sample of the alarming statistics that point toward another potential epidemic of drug use. Yet, this one revolves around legal, yet addictive, stimulants that many people assume are mostly harmless.

Even worse, those who are addicted to these substances don’t have a space to be open about their addiction. If no one acknowledges that these problems exist, those dealing with them won’t feel empowered to seek treatment.

What’s the best way to avoid another national health crisis and help friends and families in need? Getting informed about the reality of legal stimulant abuse and how to treat it is a great first step. This comprehensive resource acts as a helpful starting point for your research.

Prescription Stimulant Addiction on the Rise

Nicotine, Caffeine, and Adderall: Mixing Multiple Stimulant AddictionsA number of clinically tested stimulants approved by the FDA are prescribed to patients as medication. More often than not, these drugs are prescribed to treat types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or given to patients dealing with chronic sleeping problems.

When taken as prescribed by a doctor, stimulant drugs can be extremely effective. However, these drugs also contain “feel good” chemicals like dopamine, which means they have a high potential for becoming addictive.

The most commonly prescribed (and abused) stimulants include:

  • Adderall (dextroamphetamine/amphetamine)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)

Misinformation is part of why ADHD medication and addiction so often go hand in hand. These drugs are prescribed by a doctor, leading to many people not being fully aware there is any potential to becoming addicted.

As a result, patients are more likely to take more than they are prescribed, allow friends to borrow or try their prescription, or become lax about keeping their medication out of the hands of family members.

The severe symptoms and signs of prescription stimulant abuse include:

  • Panic
  • Hallucinations
  • Aggression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Heart attack
  • Nerve damage
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps

Prescription Stimulant Abuse Starts Young

Parents and family members who are prescribed stimulant drugs must be diligent about keeping an eye on their prescriptions. Among the most common ways a person starts to abuse and become addicted to stimulant drugs is by stealing them from their own home.

A closer look at stimulant abuse statistics reveals just how serious the problem has already become:

  • According a survey by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, 1 in 7 young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 abuses stimulant drugs to stay awake, either to study or for recreation.
  • Research contained in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that those between the ages of 16 to 19 are the most likely to start abusing stimulant drugs.
  • Adderall abuse is the most common in young men, while young women tend to abuse prescription diet pills.

Caffeine Addiction Is Real

Though not as immediately addictive or potentially dangerous as abusing ADHD medication, caffeine is another stimulant that is more widely abused than many people might believe. Caffeine abuse is particularly nefarious because the drug is so easy to consume, especially in our food, and most assume that there is no such thing as “too much” caffeine.

These assumptions are incorrect. Most people can consume up to 300 milligrams (about three cups of coffee) per day without developing negative side effects. Those who consume more on a regular basis are more likely to develop physical symptoms and a psychological need for caffeine.

As daily caffeine intake begins to rise and become habitual, so too does an individual’s risk of developing any of the following health problems:

  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Chronic exhaustion
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Additional withdrawal symptoms

The Dangers of Nicotine Addiction

Many recognize the lung and heart dangers of cigarettes and chew while overlooking the threat posed by the stimulant properties in tobacco products. Chief among these is nicotine. In addition to being incredibly addictive, nicotine’s properties as a stimulant make the drug exceptionally threatening in terms of long-term health problems.

Nicotine is particularly dangerous because of the carcinogenic and other organ-damaging effects of using tobacco products. When someone stops smoking, it’s the nicotine, not the toxic additives and chemicals, that draws the smoker back to their vice of choice. That’s why nicotine’s nature as an addictive legal stimulant must be recognized.

Notably, the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting tobacco products are generally associated with nicotine addiction. These symptoms include:

  • Cognitive problems
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular appetite
  • Debilitating cravings
  • Irritability

These withdrawal symptoms begin almost immediately after the last cigarette smoked, reflecting the powerful and dangerous properties of nicotine. Nicotine withdrawal also makes a person more likely to abuse other addictive drugs.

Real Solutions for Stimulant Abuse

Fighting off the dangers posed by stimulant drugs means calling out an addiction when it happens. It can be hard to admit that you or a family member has a problem with dependence. It can even feel silly to look at something you feel is harmless, like caffeine, as an addictive substance.

However, Americans face critical health problems caused by nicotine, caffeine and prescription stimulants every day. Turning around this downward spiral around will take patience and willingness to confront the issue head-on.

Before you leave, we’d like to hear your thoughts on a couple of questions we have:

  • Which of the substances listed in this article should someone quit first? Or should they quit them all at once?
  • If you’ve used all three of these types of stimulant substances before, which was/would be the hardest to quit?

Please answer these questions in the comment section below, or head to our forum to discuss stimulant abuse further.

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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.

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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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How to Survive the First 90 Days of Recovery from Addiction

How to Survive the First 90 Days of Recovery from Addiction

When you have been addicted to any substance, drugs or alcohol, you know that early recovery is going to be a challenge, and the first 90 days will be especially difficult. Fear and anxiety of those early days and weeks of recovery are probably what kept you from quitting in the first place. Regardless of what made you want to quit and get sober, or how you decided to quit, jumping into early recovery is a lot like jumping into cold water – you just have to do it.

Once you have committed to your choice of getting sober, you will face a lot of challenges in the first few months of early sobriety and addiction recovery. How do you face those challenges and continue to hold to the promise to yourself that you will change your life for the better, and not succumb to stressors, urges, withdrawals, and relapse?

We will give you a wealth of ideas to help you stay sober in the early months of drug and alcohol addiction recovery. Some of these ideas work better for one person than the next, and none of these are ideas are the perfect solution, but will help you to create your own path through early sobriety.

Tips for Early Addiction Recovery

The biggest risk factor for your early recovery is YOU. Your thoughts, emotions and even your body will work against you in early recovery. What you need to remember is that all this is only temporary – it really does get easier as time goes by, but you need to hold to your conviction to stay sober, and not let yourself sabotage your recovery efforts.

“I Am Sober and I Feel Like I am Going Crazy” 

The withdrawal symptoms of drugs like oxycontin, prescription painkillers, meth, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and other substances will play a lot of tricks on your mind within the first few days of quitting. Anxiety and depression – especially when it is caused by drug and alcohol withdrawal – manifest themselves in some pretty weird ways. You will think that you are having a heart attack, you will feel like you are slowly dying, and you will probably even feel like you are going crazy.

These feelings are all very normal, even though they can be very scary. You just need to get through each day and keep adding days to your count of the days you have stayed sober. The best way to keep yourself from going crazy is to have someone to talk to about the storm of feelings and emotions you have running through you. Drug and alcohol rehab programs usually assign you a counselor to talk you through these feelings and reassure you that you are going to be okay, you just need to stick to sobriety until things start to feel better.

If you are not already in a rehab or addiction treatment program, you need to find a counselor or outpatient treatment program that can give you access to speak to someone during early recovery – this is one of the most important things to keep you from giving up on early recovery.

Rehab programs also engage you with a group of other individuals in early recovery. You will find that the more you talk to someone else about your symptoms, thoughts, and feelings, the easier it is to deal with them. This is one aspect that is usually missing when you try and get sober by yourself, and lack of social interaction, group contact, and having someone to relay your feelings-to presents one of the biggest pitfalls of trying to quit on your own.

Finding Things to do to Stay Sober

Again, the racing thoughts you have when you first quit drugs and alcohol are relentless. In your mind, you will go over the same thoughts again and again, and it will feel like you are on a spinning wheel that never stops. Even though you can’t recognize it, that wheel is slowing every day you stay sober. What you need to find is something that will occupy your mind until the spinning slows enough for you to relax your white-knuckle grip. Some of the most beneficial ways to keep yourself occupied while staying sober can include:

Keep a Sober Journal 

Don’t let the word “journal” discount this tactic! Grab a fresh notebook and pen and use it however you need to. Maybe you will just scribble or doodle a drawing for 15 minutes – but, that is another 15 minutes down and more time added to your progress. There is no goal for your journal – other than to eat up time.

Just as speaking to someone else about what you are going through can relieve the symptoms of withdrawal, getting those feelings out of your head and onto paper will bring instant relief. Another common thought process for those recovering from addiction is reliving past events. You can expect that some of those racing thoughts will be about your life, what you have done in the past, what you wish you would have done, and what you can do in the future. Get them out of your head and onto paper.

On paper, you can make for yourself a world of your own. You can make your plans for the future, or plans on bettering yourself, or whatever you want to. Your notebook is your sober journal and your blank slate for creating whatever you want. Remember that the only real goal at this point is to get through the hours of the day, so feel free to devote as many of those hours in the day as you can to your personal time with your journal.

Using Exercise as a Recovery Tool to Stay Sober

It may sound counterintuitive to run when your heart is pounding, you feel anxious, and post-acute withdrawals are making you feel bad. However, as long as you are medically stable (be sure to have medical supervision during acute withdrawal and detox phase), exercise will only do you good.

Think of it this way, is it better to just sit in your driveway with the engine revving high, or is it better to warm the engine and get the systems running with a moderate drive around your neighborhood? Exercises such as walking or jogging will help to get out the nervous energy you have, as well as complement the processes your body is going through. Additionally, many find that healthy exercise helps to naturally reduce insomnia and trouble sleeping that also accompanies early sobriety. It also sets you up to create healthy habits and routines in your day, and every 15 minutes of exercise you do is 15 more minutes you have stayed sober.

Music Can Be Your Best Friend in Recovery 

Music is – at its core – a diversion from everyday life. When you are recovering from an addiction to drugs or alcohol, music can not only help to divert your attention from the negative thoughts and feelings you have but listening to it can be a form of mental and emotional exercise. Listening to music has been proven to release serotonin and other behavior-affecting chemicals in your brain.

Read Books and Watch Movies in Recovery from Addiction

Music is not the only mental exercise choice you have, reading and engaging story and watching movies have a great effect on your mental health in early recovery. What you read and watch can also be triggered as well, so be sure to keep the subject matter light and positive – if you can. Remember that staying sober as you are passing the time is the ultimate goal here, and these are two great options for keeping your attention.

Organizing, Cleaning, and Repairing to Stay Sober 

Just as having a sober journal gives you a place to organize your thoughts and emotions, and gives you a blank slate to create your own world, you can also start organizing your life in the real world. This is often better-suited for those that have made it past the 30-day sobriety mark when you are ready to take your plans and ideas from your journal and start making the change in your reality but can also be beneficial to some in earlier stages.

Having hope for the future, and seeing the future as an opportunity, for you is one of the most positive views one can have in recovery. It is so important to hold on to that hope and not let it get stale. Too many people become complacent in their recovery, and lose touch with the fact that they have a do-over in their life. Sometimes, in order to keep your passion for sobriety and recovering from your addiction, you will need to “clean house.”

Maybe for you, cleaning your home is the best way to “clean house.” For others, it might be organizing your everyday processes and schedules. For some, repairing things around the house works best at keeping recovery fresh and important. The big thing to remember is that if your environment becomes stale, and you can no longer see continued sobriety working in your environment, change the environment – not your commitment to sobriety.

Help Staying Sober

How do you stay sober? You simply don’t drink alcohol or take drugs. That is the simple answer that is much more difficult to put into practice, but the idea itself is very simple. If you can find positive ways to use your time, keep your mind occupied, and stay committed to your sobriety, what more do you need?

If you can’t figure out how to use your time, occupy your mind, and stay committed to sobriety by yourself, you just need a more guided approach. Rehab programs for drugs and alcohol are great options for how to find the solution in yourself. Sometimes you need help to get yourself up and into the walking position, and rehab is the best solution to help pick you up off the ground and get you moving again. Once moving, it is up to you to keep moving forward.

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