Tag Archives: Science

Can Substance Abuse Lead to Hormonal Imbalance – and Vice Versa?

Hormones And Addiction Hormonal Imbalance - Fight Addiction Now

Any form of substance abuse can have profound effects on the human body. While some may recover from the effects of an addiction completely, others may contend with long-term issues or permanent damage.

One of the most overlooked consequences of drug addiction is hormonal imbalance. The human body’s hormonal (endocrine) system regulates many physical and psychological functions, and it is crucial to address the relationship between hormones and addiction in recovery.

How Substance Abuse Causes Hormonal Changes

Homeostasis is a term referring to the state of balance and stability in the human body. The many hormones in the human body all strive to keep the body in homeostasis. Different types of stimuli produce various hormones to achieve this.

The body essentially responds to changes in the environment and a person’s actions. For example, high-stress work environments may lead to higher-than-usual levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Meanwhile, a warm embrace with a loved one may cause a surge of oxytocin, the body’s natural “happiness” hormone.

When a person has an addiction, his or her substance of choice will interfere with the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis. Symptoms directly related to medical conditions and diseases are common indicators of a body that has fallen out of homeostasis.

The body must adapt to changing circumstances and foreign substances, sometimes producing unpleasant effects. Substance abuse enhances this problem and interferes with the body’s natural ability to maintain homeostasis.

Eventually, addiction will progress to the point where the person must have the drug in his or her system to feel balanced. This is untenable and invariably leads to severe physical and psychological damage.

Which Substances Are Most Dangerous?

Different forms of substance abuse will affect the body’s hormonal system in unique ways. Hormones and addiction also vary from user to user, so it is difficult to predict exactly how a person will experience the hormonal effects of an addiction.

Drugs that Affect Serotonin

Some substances affect the body’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is the “pleasure” hormone that creates pleasant feelings in response to certain stimuli. When a person artificially produces a serotonin surge by using hallucinogens or antidepressants, the body starts to lose the ability to manage serotonin levels on its own.

Drugs that Affect Dopamine

Many drugs interfere with the body’s dopamine levels, as well. Dopamine creates “reward” sensations, and many people struggling with addiction come to depend on the dopamine surge they feel after dosing.

Cocaine and heroin cause an intense surge of dopamine, and this naturally encourages addiction because of the surge of the “reward” hormone; the individual will seek out more doses to continue feeling the flood of dopamine. Eventually, they will start to only feel dopamine surges after using drugs, because the body grows accustomed to this cycle over time and starts to expect it.

Drugs that Affect Epinephrine

Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is the “fight or flight” hormone that floods the bloodstream in response to dangerous or extreme situations. Many people enjoy thrill-seeking activities like bungee jumping and skydiving to experience adrenaline rushes, but some illicit drugs can also cause a surge of adrenaline.

Eventually, an individual with an addiction may start to rely on regular epinephrine doses for a boost, while feeling drained without it. This ultimately interferes with the body’s ability to naturally regulate fight-or-flight feelings.

Dangers of Substance Abuse-Fueled Hormonal Imbalance

Drugs affect hormones in many significant ways, and it’s essential to acknowledge the risks of hormonal imbalance from addiction.

Some of the most significant symptoms of hormonal balance include:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Moreover, these symptoms may cause an individual to delve deeper into addiction or explore “harder” substances for a bigger boost.

Hormonal imbalance can also lead to low sex drive, fatigue, sleep problems and problems digesting food. Over time, a hormonal imbalance will only worsen until the individual seeks substance abuse treatment.

There are many techniques that substance abuse recovery professionals can use to track at-risk patients and limit the risk of relapse. Additionally, substance abuse treatment is the time to address issues like co-occurring mental health disorders that may contribute to addictive behavior.

How Hormonal Imbalance Can Lead to Substance Abuse

While hormonal imbalance is a common symptom of substance abuse, it is also possible for a hormonal imbalance to lead to addiction. Some individuals struggle with hormonal disorders or may experience symptoms from required prescription medications.

Unless they address these hormonal issues, they may try to cope with illegal drugs or alcohol. For example, people who suffer from depression are at a generally higher risk of abusing drugs that boost dopamine and serotonin levels. An individual with depression may also self-medicate with alcohol to quell unpleasant feelings and to enjoy brief stints of artificial happiness while drunk.

Hormones and Relapse

Many people who struggle with addiction contend with the long-term health effects of substance abuse for several years after recovery. In some cases, hormonal imbalance also increases the risk of relapse.

An individual who recovers from addiction may need to stabilize his or her hormone levels with prescription medication or simply by avoiding illegal drugs and/or alcohol. A sudden change may cause hormone levels to go into flux, and the unpleasant side effects of this may be enough to encourage a relapse into substance abuse.

Treatment for Imbalanced Hormones and Addiction

During substance abuse recovery, a patient should not only receive treatment for his or her addiction, but also the physical and psychological effects of that addiction. This may include nutritional support, family counseling, holistic physical therapies and a host of other treatment methods.

Addressing a hormonal imbalance may be as simple as prescribing a hormonal replacement for some patients. Ultimately, the goal of any substance abuse treatment plan should be to address the patient as an individual and develop a long-term plan that limits the chances of relapse.

Fight Addiction Now is a community of people who have experienced substance abuse firsthand and want to share their stories and experiences with others who are going through similar challenges. Visit our online forum to connect with these individuals and see how you can contribute to the discussions. If you’d like to read more about keeping relapse at bay, click below.

See Our Relapse Prevention Tip Sheet

Need-to-Know Facts About Benzodiazepines

Need-to-Know Facts About Benzodiazepines Fight Addiction Now

Most people have at least heard of some of the brand names of prescription benzodiazepine drugs – perhaps Valium or Ativan. Far fewer are familiar with the challenges of benzodiazepine addiction and withdrawal. In fact, abuse of these drugs is on the rise, leading to a greater need for benzodiazepine detox and rehab.

This helpful summary of the top need-to-know facts about benzodiazepine drugs can help you familiarize yourself with this class of powerful sedatives.

The History of Benzodiazepine Drugs

Understanding this class of drugs means knowing why they were invented, who made them and how they impacted the culture once prescribed. This overview touches on the most important moments in benzodiazepine history.

Americans and Sedatives

Before the invention of benzodiazepine drugs, there was a substantial demand for drugs that could act as anti-anxiety medication. The cultural phenomenon was immortalized by the Rolling Stones song, “Mama’s Little Helper.”

Previously, middle-class Americans had been treated with opiates and barbiturate drugs to manage stress, but these highly addictive prescriptions did more harm than good.

Benzodiazepines Invented in the ‘50s

The godfather of benzodiazepine drugs is Leo Sternbach, a Polish research chemist who experimented with dozens of ineffective benzodiazepines compounds in the 1950s. As an employee at Hoffman-La Roche, as Swedish healthcare firm, he eventually invented an entire class of non-addictive sedatives, many of which are still prescribed today.

Benzodiazepines Get FDA Approval in the ‘60s

The first benzodiazepine drug approved by the FDA was Librium (chlordiazepoxide), earning its stamp of approval in 1960. The second, more widely known benzodiazepine the FDA approved was Valium (diazepam). The FDA deemed it safe for prescribing in 1963.

British Scientist Catches Disturbing Trend

Another scientist, Malcolm Lader of London, began observing the effects of long-term benzodiazepine use in the 1970s. First, he began to recognize widespread abuse of the drug. Second, he found that patients who had developed an unhealthy relationship with the drug did so without changing their prescription dosage.

Risks of Benzodiazepine Addiction Known

Continuing his research into the next decade, Lader eventually published a comprehensive study on the long-term risks of using benzodiazepine drugs as anxiety medication.

Benzodiazepine Rehab History Fact - Fight Addiction Now

What Are Benzodiazepines and How Do They Work?

The following helpful pieces of information outline the chemistry behind benzodiazepine drugs and explain how they interact with the human body. This section also offers an exhaustive list of the benzodiazepine drugs currently being prescribed by doctors.

Benzodiazepines Act on Neurotransmitters

Benzodiazepines affect one’s mood by changing how neurotransmitters work in the brain. The body produces these chemical signals naturally as a way of communicating with itself. Benzodiazepines can greatly change how a person is feeling by influencing those chemical signals directly.

Benzodiazepines Produce Calming Effects

Benzodiazepines drugs typically targets the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (also known as GABA). This chemical signal has inhibitory functions that assist in calming the brain down from an agitated state. Benzodiazepines encourage the brain to boost its production of GABA neurotransmitters, resulting in the sedative effects associated with these medications.

Are Benzodiazepines Still Prescribed in the U.S.?

Yes. In fact, there are more than two dozen types of benzodiazepine drugs prescribed in the United States. They vary in length of effect, but all are used as powerful sedatives.
 
The benzodiazepine drugs currently available in prescription form in the United States include:

  • Alprazolam
  • Bentazepam
  • Bromazepam
  • Brotizolam
  • Camazepam
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Clobazam
  • Clonazepam
  • Clonazolam
  • Clorazepate
  • Clotiazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flumazenil
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Flurazepam
  • Halazepam
  • Loprazolam
  • Lorazepam
  • Medazepam
  • Mexazolam
  • Midazolam
  • Oxazepam
  • Prazepam
  • Quazepam
  • Temazepam
  • Triazolam
  • Zaleplon
  • Zolpidem

Statistics and Need-to-Know Facts About Benzodiazepines

Want to know how many people are affected by benzodiazepines? Interested in how dangerous the drugs have become over the past decade? The following benzodiazepine statistics offer a helpful summary of the most telling data trends.

Doctors Prescribe Benzodiazepines for All Ages

Benzodiazepine use isn’t limited to a single age group. According to a recent article in Psychology Today, new research shows that roughly 5 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 80 have an active benzodiazepine prescription. This number reflects both widespread use of these drugs to treat anxiety in patients as well as equally widespread exposure to abuse and addiction.

Benzodiazepine Prescriptions Have Increased

Benzodiazepine use isn’t just nationwide, it’s also on the rise. Research performed at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine showed that over a 17-year period ending in 2013, the number of adults prescribed benzodiazepines increased from 8.1 million to 13.5 million.
 
Not surprisingly, over the same period, the number of deaths related to benzodiazepine use increased as well.

Overdose Deaths Related to Benzodiazepines Are Rising Too

Data collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed a disturbing trend between 2002 and 2015. During this 13-year period, the number of deaths related to benzodiazepine overdose noticeably increased:

  • There were 4.3 times as many overdose deaths in 2015 than there were in 2002.
  • Contributing to these deaths were instances where patients used alcohol or abused other drugs while taking benzodiazepines.

Finding Benzodiazepine Help

If you or a close loved one is struggling with benzodiazepine addiction, there is a way out of its potentially deadly grip. Contact us for help with finding a treatment center that will provide benzodiazepine detox and subsequent benzodiazepine rehab through personalized, long-term care.

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How Beer Fits into Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Beer And Alcoholism True Stories Of Alcoholics - Fight Addiction Now

The most common type of alcoholism is not a sensational, docudrama-worthy lifestyle. It is the average beer-drinking Joe who dulls his psychological pain one can at a time, functioning but eroding.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the cases of severe alcohol abuse and alcoholism do not involve hard liquor or spirits of high alcohol content. Instead, it’s beer. In fact, alcohol abuse is more common with beer than with any other form of alcohol.

True Stories of Alcoholics

Older than the year on his birth certificate, alcohol had robbed the gray-haired man of time. Before he slept in the alley, he had a job, a family, a life. His penchant for mixed drinks graduated to straight liquor right out of the bottle. Now with sallow cheeks and a few missing teeth, the gray-haired man doesn’t think about that life or life at all. All he thinks about is getting more sauce.

Is that the picture you have of an alcoholic? It is the way many people view alcoholism. But this gray-haired man is one of the least common types of alcoholics.

The alcohol in hard liquor is no more intoxicating than that of wine or beer. A standard size drink contains half an ounce of ethanol no matter the type of liquor.

Why Beer Is the Most Abused Drink

Dating back to ancient Egyptian times, beer has been brewed and shared throughout civilizations. It’s an inexpensive form of alcohol and promoted everywhere from sports stadiums to tourist activities. Brewery tours, beer festivals, restaurants, gas stations and poker nights all tout the stout.

Beer Has Fewer Side Effects than Other Beverages

The alternatives – wine and hard liquor – have harsh side effects such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritation to the gums, stomach, intestines, liver and throat

Comparably, beer has relatively mild side effects. When an alcoholic wants to keep the alcohol levels in their body comfortable, the side effects from wine and hard liquor can be a nuisance. For heavy drinkers, this can be especially disconcerting.

Beer Is Easy to Drink

The carbonation in beer is appealing in the way people enjoy soda. Drinking beer can be a pleasurable experience. It goes down easier with fewer irritants and settles the stomach from the negative repercussions of alcohol. The pleasurable feelings and enjoyable taste of the average ale or lager makes drinking for long periods easy to most.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2013 showed the flavor of beer alone increased the production of dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in the brain. The taste of beer significantly increased the all-male study participants’ desire to drink.

Beer Is Habit Forming and Contains a Lot of Liquid

Contrasted with wine and shots, beer contains more liquid and can be consumed for lengthy periods without getting as drunk as fast. We’ve all seen people who can sit around and nurse can after can slowly and maintain whatever level of intoxication they desire. Beer is the closest beverage you can find to straight water and alcohol.

Compared to 1.5 ounces of vodka or 5 ounces of Merlot, the equivalent serving size of 12 ounces of a lager dilutes the same amount of alcohol content. For someone with a dependence on alcohol, beer feels weaker and makes it easier to control intoxication levels, maintaining an equilibrium of drunkenness when necessary.

However, beer affects the neurotransmitters in your brain, hence why you lose your balance, slur words and have impaired judgment.

Like other alcoholic beverages, a pilsner or ale would be poisonous to the body if the liver didn’t break it down to useable substances. The liver contains an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, which does this job. Women are reputed to have less of this enzyme. Additionally, women have less muscle tissue than men. Therefore, they get drunk faster on less alcohol than it takes for men.

Sipping Away to Insobriety

Drinking And Driving United States Statistic - Fight Addiction NowAlcohol abuse is more common with beer than any other beverage. This process usually starts off innocently enough. Beer can be brewed in different ways, but on average it is comprised of 95 percent water and an alcohol content of 5 percent.

Because beer has a relatively mild ratio of alcohol to water and is easily consumable, it is easy to fall into a habit of frequently drinking your favorite brew. Even before the dependency on alcohol develops, the taste of beer can influence people to keep a can or bottle around to sip on all evening.

According to happiness guru Gretchen Rubin, a bad habit can develop in as short as two occurrences, while good habits can take daily effort for 66 days. So, very quickly can people develop a beer habit and spend their evenings nursing the bottle.

As is the way with addictive substances, a tolerance ensues and the individual is drinking more and more to achieve their first feelings of pleasure. Dependency is not far behind.

And when left unchecked, addiction and loss of sobriety become a way of life.

Recovery from Beer Addiction

Through many addiction recovery stories, we have learned that the psychological addiction to beer often lingers long after the chemical dependency is halted. Recovering alcoholics don’t usually have a hard time in sobriety going without shots of hard liquor or mixed drinks. Even cravings for the taste of wine are not as significant as those for beer, recovering addicts say.

In contrast, those who become addicted to beer struggle longer with significant psychological withdrawal. For people addicted to drinking beer, the habit has become second nature like drinking water.

Alcoholics learn in rehab to replace their former alcohol habit with drinking Gatorade or mineral water. However, for former beer drinkers, replacing that beer they always had in hand is much harder to do. The need to have something to drink always at one’s side is a much stronger urge.

Avoiding Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium

An addiction to beer can sneak up on you. Additionally, many people view beer as something different from alcohol, causing heavy beer drinkers to insist they are addicted to beer and not alcohol.

However, addiction to beer is just as dangerous as other types of alcohol addiction. In some ways, it can be more dangerous because of its subtle nature and attributed societal paradigms. Heavy beer drinkers can suffer from alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD), a condition causing severe side effects when beer use is abruptly stopped.

To avoid the serious symptoms of AWD, hospitals and surgeons often administer beer to their patients before the patient undergoes surgery or other medical procedures. Many hospitals keep beer on hand to stabilize the alcoholic patient and to prevent tremors and stave off major withdrawal symptoms of AWD.

Doctors sometimes choose to administer beer for the same reasons those dependent on alcohol drink it:

  • It’s easy to monitor and control the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • Beer is best for setting tapering schedules.
  • It does not cause many of the negative side effects of other alcohols.
  • It is as close to water plus alcohol as can be found in a drink.

Although it is dangerous for heavy drinkers to do on their own, there are many ways to taper off alcohol addiction using beer. Medical supervision is recommended since alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal.

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Do you have addiction stories to share about beer and dependence? How have you or a family member broken the habit? Want to read or share true stories of drug addicts or alcoholics? We invite you to head over to our forum to discuss these and similar topics now.

See Our Alcohol Addiction Fact Sheet

What Are the Best Therapies for Treating Addiction?

What Are the Best Therapies for Treating Addiction - Fight Addiction Now

Scientifically Backed Methods for Successfully Treating Addiction

Searching for effective therapy for drug and alcohol addictions can be daunting. When you begin the search for yourself or a loved one, look for a program that features evidence-based addiction treatment practices. These types of behavioral therapies are based on scientific evidence and have the highest success rates for addiction recovery.

Behavioral Therapies for Addiction

Let’s take a look at the most common behavioral therapies that should be strongly considered for a successful recovery:

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR has been shown in studies to combat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a common disorder found in those facing addiction. Many people who have struggled with addictions also have a history of trauma and abuse, which can make EMDR an even more effective option.

EMDR treatment includes desensitization of past traumatic events and the changing of associations for current emotional triggers. The desensitizing process takes the form of talk therapy along with a series of therapist-led eye movements. After the completion of eight phases, patients typically report significant improvement in their thought processing and subsequent behaviors.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Negative thought patterns are commonplace in those struggling with addiction, which is why CBT is a prime treatment option. This type of therapy is shown to be effective in treating addiction, eating disorders and depression.

CBT is conversationally based with a therapist or in a group setting. In conjunction with a therapist, the client will explore his or her thought processes, identify destructive behaviors and then gradually work to create healthier strategies for living. This requires therapy session work, but the patient must also commit to following new strategies in day-to-day life outside of the therapist’s office.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT was created to combat suicidal thoughts. The method has since been found to effectively treat borderline personality disorder and other serious psychological disorders. Suicidal patients are notoriously difficult to treat due to their passive, often defensive, behaviors in therapy.

The DBT model includes group therapies, activities based on the above-mentioned CBT practices, but it also offers immediate phone consultations with therapists. Patients keep their therapist on speed dial, calling them as situations are unfolding in their lives. This is a useful tool for those struggling with addiction when a patient is tempted to fall back into old habits.

The therapy addresses issues in order of their impact on the client’s life, according to American Addiction Centers. Issues involving suicidal tendencies are first priority, followed by therapist-guided activities to reach personal goals.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

So far, this type of behavioral therapy has been successful in treating alcohol, marijuana and nicotine addictions. MET is based on CBT methodology, but typically moves at a faster pace.

Traditional CBT therapy is a slower, step-by-step process, whereas MET can incite internally motivated change within the first two sessions. With regular sessions, the therapist monitors change and helps the patient set incremental goals in his or her life.

Effective Therapies Used in Conjunction with Evidence-Based Practices

In addition to behavioral therapies, many patients credit supportive therapies as being helpful during and after rehab participation. When used in combination with behavioral therapies, these supportive therapies create well-rounded and enjoyable treatment plans.

Learn about various supplemental therapies by browsing through the items below:

Wilderness Adventure Therapy (WAT)

You don’t need a national park near you utilize this method! WAT can be experienced in rural or urban settings. The idea is just to get patients outside, moving and learning new skills. This is a very active form of therapy, intended to engage all of the senses.

Acupuncture Therapy for Addiction

Eastern medicine has found a way into all aspects of the West, including addiction treatment. Those who have undergone acupuncture therapy have reported physical and emotional pain relief, as well as help with withdrawal symptoms.

No one knows exactly how this method works, but thousands of years’ worth of success makes it a viable option. And don’t worry: Clients say it doesn’t hurt.

Equine-Assisted Therapy

Equine-assisted therapy is exactly what it sounds like. It allows patients to interact with horses on a regular basis, build trust with them and then be rewarded with a nonjudgmental equine friend. It is a wonderful learning experience with the potential to become a full-time hobby or possible career.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT)

This method is based on Gary Craig’s EFT Handbook (1993), employing alternative medicine practices that don’t require patients to leave their homes. The practice involves verbalizing a personal affirmation statement while tapping one’s finger in a specific pattern over the body.

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease featured a 2016 study that showed significant decreases in anxiety after patients performed this ritual.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

MBCT is a system that includes group meditation and breathing exercises led by a therapist trained in the technique. It has been shown to reduce depression, anxiety and also help with some physical conditions. In addition to meditative practices, the therapist guides patients through techniques to improve positive thinking.

Art Therapy for Addiction

This type of therapy is a wonderful option for both creative and noncreative people. Painting, drawing, sculpting and dancing are just some of the activities that qualify as art therapy.

The idea behind this method is not to create a masterpiece, but to express feelings. This is a group-based therapy, but the method offers a popular nonverbal opportunity to express emotions that may not come easily through the spoken word.

Biofeedback/Neurofeedback for Addiction

Science fiction always finds its way into real life. This method involves sensors placed on a patient’s body. The sensors then track bodily functions such as:

  • Breathing
  • Heart rate
  • Temperature
  • Blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Muscle contractions

The therapist then sets the patient up to hear pulsing sounds, images or a series of light patterns that follow heart rate. Ultimately, the combination helps the patient visualize his or her stress level and create effective relaxation methods.

Psychodrama Therapy in Addiction Treatment

This is an opportunity for patients to become actors, but also express a lifetime of pent-up emotions. Psychodrama is simply acting out details or emotions about one’s past.

The therapist will set the scene and encourage patients to act out the emotions involved. Psychodrama can feature just the patient and therapist present, but it can also be effective in a group setting.

The Best Therapies for Treating Addiction Depend on the Person

All of these therapies have proved to be successful to varying degrees, but it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all model for therapy or addiction recovery. The best therapies for addiction treatment are the ones in which individual patients show the most noticeable progress.

It may take some shopping around to find the right type of therapy or combination of therapies that work best. Without a doubt, there is a program out there for every person struggling with addiction.

What experiences have you had with these therapy types? What other options are available that we may have missed? Comment below or in our forum, and then explore the different levels of care available in addiction treatment centers by clicking below.

Explore Levels of Care