Tag Archives: Signs And Symptoms

How to Tell the Difference Between Depression and Short-Term Sadness

Differences Depression vs short-term sadness

Many people mistakenly assume that “depression” simply means a period of intense sadness. However, there is a distinct difference between clinical depression, a diagnosable medical condition, and short-term sadness. The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, but the reality is that feelings of sadness are only a small part of the effects of this condition.

Understanding True Depression

A person with clinical depression or a depressive disorder generally has trouble managing very basic tasks due to feelings of worthlessness, anxiety about the possibility of failure, and general lethargy. So what is clinical depression exactly? It is a long-term mental health disorder, typically a chronic one that has drastic effects on a person’s physical, mental, social, and emotional health. It can interfere with daily tasks, make work feel impossible, and may limit a person’s opportunities for social interaction. Many people mistakenly attribute periods of sadness as signs of depression.

Symptoms Of Clinical Depression

Differences Depression vs short-term sadness - fightaddictionnowSymptoms of clinical depression can persist for years and increase in severity over time without proper treatment. Some of the most common symptoms reported include:

  • Persistent feelings of intense sadness
  • Poor self-image and low self-esteem
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty with sleeping
  • Eating problems — over-eating or having very little appetite most days
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Deep feelings of guilt without a tangible reason for those feelings to exist
  • Persistent feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or wishing for death.
  • Persistent feeling of being a burden to others, or that others would be better off if the depressed person wasn’t around
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed hobbies or activities
  • Social disengagement, cancelling plans, or avoiding social interaction
  • Suicide attempts

Many people experience sadness of everyday life events or traumatic experiences and may suffer with some of these symptoms for a while, but this is not indicative of clinical depression.

Seasonal Depression

Some people suffer from a seasonal depression disorder that causes adverse symptoms at certain times of the year. For example, many people with seasonal depression report that the winter months cause them the most trouble. They may feel daunted at the upcoming stress of holiday parties, family gatherings, gift-giving, or holiday travel. Shorter days also mean less sun exposure, and vitamin D deficiency can easily contribute to seasonal depression symptoms.

Occasional Bouts Of Sadness

Sadness can arise from countless possible situations. The loss of a job, the death of a loved one, an injury, an argument with a spouse, and countless other possibilities may create occasional fits of sadness. This does not mean the person experiencing these feelings has clinical depression. Overcoming typical sadness simply takes time and self-care; the process is different for everyone. A person with actual depression cannot simply distract him or herself away from symptoms and hope they go away over time. Clinical depression occurs from a natural chemical imbalance in the brain that requires medication or intense therapy to manage.

Sadness vs. Depression

The average person has coping mechanisms for dealing with sadness. A person may try to distract him or herself with hobbies, social activity, sex, good food, or a number of other possibilities. For a person with clinical depression, most of these ideas aren’t even an option. It’s common for people with clinical depression to struggle to find the motivation to even complete basic tasks. Making a cup of coffee in the morning can feel like an insurmountable challenge. A person struggling with temporary sadness will still be able to find motivation to carry on with daily life.

This is part of the reason why substance abuse is such a major risk for people with clinical depression. Without appropriate treatment, a person with depression will invariably turn toward self-medication with alcohol or illicit drugs to overcome their negative feelings or simply to be able to function day to day.

Are You Depressed Or Just Sad For Now?

Clinical depression treatments generally involve psychotherapy and medication. Many antidepressant medications carry a significant risk of abuse, however. Additionally, some people may not want to use medication as they believe it simply creates “artificial happiness” and does nothing to address their root issues. However, proper application of antidepressants may help a person overcome the symptoms keeping them from honest self-reflection and may provide enough motivation to make serious changes in his or her outlook on life.

Finding Support And Avoiding Substance Abuse

People suffering from depression often feel as though they cannot voice their concerns to others because it simply makes them feel worse than they already feel. Coming out to friends and family about depression can trigger even greater feelings of failure and worthlessness, but this is a necessary step on the road to recovery. Additionally, talking about the symptoms of clinical depression can help people avoid substance abuse. One of the major driving factors behind addiction is isolation; a person who feels as though he or she has no one to turn to for support will cope however he or she can, most often involving drug use.

Join The Conversation And Find The Support You Need

Fight Addiction Now is a community of people who have experienced substance abuse firsthand. Many of our members have dealt with mental illnesses like depression and know how these conditions influence addiction treatment. Our community includes substance abuse treatment professionals and researchers, survivors, and the friends and family members who have seen addiction firsthand.

Reaching out for help is an incredibly difficult but crucial step in finding relief. Take our online quiz to see if you have any of the symptoms of clinical depression and think of ways you could contribute to the discussions in the Fight Addiction Now community.

Stimulant Abuse: When Users Take Bath Salts Instead of Cocaine or Meth

Bath Salts Addiction Stimulant Abuse - Fight Addiction Now

The United States has witnessed the rise of several “designer drugs” in recent years – synthetic compounds used to create specific effects. One of the most dangerous of these is bath salts, a crystalline substance that resembles large salt crystals. They can contain several different chemicals, including mephedrone and other synthetic cathinone substances. Bath salts can produce profound symptoms, and cause a host of severe medical problems.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has identified many of the active ingredients in bath salts and banned their sale in the United States to help curb the number of bath salts-manufacturing operations in the country.

What Are Bath Salts?

The term “bath salts” applies to any of the synthetic stimulant drugs containing cathinone, a stimulant compound commonly found in khat plants – which grow in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Yemen, etc.). Bath salts are structurally similar to other mainstream stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine and can cause similar effects. They can also produce hallucinogenic effects like ecstasy does.

A bath salts user may:

  • Ingest these drugs orally,
  • Inhale them in a manner similar to snorting cocaine, or
  • Melt the crystals down into a liquid and inject them into the bloodstream (for a fast-acting, concentrated effect).

Brief History of Bath Salt Use in the U.S.

Drug dealers sell bath salts under several street names, including (but not limited to):

  • Drone
  • Meow
  • White Lightning
  • Bliss
  • Super Coke
  • Zoom

The United States poison control centers received 304 calls about bath salts in 2010. In just the first four months of 2011, they received more than 1,700 calls and more than 6,000 by the end of 2011.

This jump indicates the spike in popularity of these drugs between 2010 and 2011. In fact, bath salts were the sixth-most used drug in the U.S in 2011. Most of the calls to poison control centers originated from southern states (Florida, Louisiana, and Kentucky, primarily), but now at least 33 states have been affected.

Several major news stories about the disturbing effects of bath salts abuse may have helped quell the sudden surge of interest in them. Poison control centers in the U.S. saw a noticeable drop in the number of bath salts-related calls in recent years. In 2012, there were 2,691 calls, and then “only” 996 in 2013.

Bath Salts Side Effects and Overdose Symptoms

Bath Salts Side Effects Overdose Symptoms - Fight Addiction NowLike any stimulant, bath salts are profoundly addictive. A person who uses a stimulant will generally feel a rush of positive feelings, including increased energy, higher alertness, improved mood, and euphoria.

However, most stimulants are fast acting, but not long lasting, and the user will experience a severe crash once the effects of a dose start to fade.

Symptoms of bath salts use generally include:

  • Sexual stimulation
  • Feeling of increased focus
  • Hyper-alertness
  • A few hours of increased energy

Depending on how a person ingests bath salts, he or she may experience severe medical complications. For example, inhaling the drug produces a more intense “high,” but it also affects the body more acutely in a shorter time.

Some of the most dangerous side effects of bath salt stimulants use can occur after inhaling or injecting the drug. Side effects typically include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Agitation
  • Fever

However, these side effects may increase dramatically or evolve into worse symptoms such as seizures, cardiac arrest, brain swelling, liver failure, and intense hallucinations.

‘Replacing’ Cocaine or Meth with Bath Salts

Some people mistakenly believe that bath salts are a safer alternative to cocaine and methamphetamine with similar effects. Some drug users choose bath salts because they believe they are essentially the same thing as other, more expensive stimulants such as cocaine and meth. However, this is not the case, and although they may produce similar effects, bath salt stimulants are not safer than any other drug. In many ways, bath salts are far more dangerous than the more recognizable illegal stimulant drugs.

Similarities Between Cocaine and Bath Salts

When it comes to bath salts vs. cocaine, both drugs pose serious risks. As with any illegal drug purchase, there is no way for a person who buys these drugs to know the quality or purity of what they are buying.

Some illegal drugs pick up harmful substances like mold during trafficking, and some dealers may add other substances to their drugs to make them more potent and addictive. Since there are several cathinone compounds used in bath salts production, there is simply no way to tell what exactly a dose contains.

Similarities Between Meth and Bath Salts

The question of bath salts vs. methamphetamine is a similar issue. Meth can produce intense effects very quickly that result in a crash after a few hours. Bath salts also result in a crash and can produce psychological symptoms often observed in individuals struggling with meth addiction.

One major similarity between meth and bath salts is their ability to produce intense hallucinations. There have several documented incidents of people under the influence of bath salt stimulants engaging in extreme violence against others, self-harm and even cannibalism during their delirium.

Understanding Stimulant Abuse

Any type of addiction is destructive, but stimulant abuse often causes the most destruction in the shortest amount of time. A person with a stimulant addiction may have begun their use by looking for a boost to get through a stressful day or to overcome fatigue. As this type of use becomes a habit, the person will start relying on the stimulant more and more until the body starts craving it just for normal functioning.

What started as an occasional habit can easily escalate into full-blown addiction in a very short time.

The destruction stimulants can cause on the human body also happens very quickly. With some addictions, an individual can recover from most of the effects over time. However, stimulant abuse can lead to serious injuries that may entail permanent damage. Bath salts addiction also causes profound psychological damage, which may lead to long-term mental health difficulties.

Learn More About Bath Salts Abuse

Long-term stimulant abuse of any kind can cause serious deteriorating effects on the mind and body. For example, a person who experiences bath salts addiction may suffer organ failure and deep psychological stress under the influence of these dangerous drugs. There is also a very high risk of overdose. Bath salts are powerful synthetic drugs, and users who choose to inhale or inject these drugs are at a very high risk of fatally overdosing.

One of the biggest dangers of designer drugs in America is the perception that they are somehow safer than cocaine, ecstasy or meth. It’s crucial for everyone to know the risks of stimulant abuse and the dangerous effects these drugs can have.

Are You Addicted?

Fight Addiction Now is a community of people with firsthand experience with addiction. Some members have been living sober for years, while others are still early in their path to recovery. Others have seen friends and family battle through addiction and recovery and want to offer support to others in similar circumstances. Their paths all cross in our online forum.

One of the most important elements of bath salts treatment is identifying the problem in the first place. If you think you or someone you know is struggling with bath salts addiction or any other type of drug abuse, try our free quiz to see if seeking treatment is the best next step to take.

See If You’re Actually Addicted

What Are the Signs of Enabling a Loved One’s Addictive Behavior?

Signs Of Enabling Addiction - Fight Addiction Now

Any family that experiences addiction in any capacity will undoubtedly fall victim to enabling behaviors. It’s vital to know how to identify these behaviors and why they can be so destructive to people struggling with addiction.

Family members and loved ones of a person struggling with addiction will often look for any way to help. Unfortunately, these good intentions tend to lead to dangerous patterns of enabling that can prolong their loved one’s addiction, rather than ending it. You can prevent this within your family by knowing the signs of enabling and addressing them swiftly.

What Is Enabling?

“Enabling” in the substance abuse world a very broad term that can apply to any behavior that prolongs an addiction. A person struggling with addiction may enable is or her own habit with negative behaviors, such as:

  • Selling personal property to pay for alcohol or drugs
  • Neglecting financial obligations like bills and rent
  • Committing crimes like burglary or theft

Ultimately, a person with an addiction will do whatever he or she feels is necessary to support the addiction. Family members, friends and other loved ones of an addict engage in enabling when they prevent their struggling loved one from experiencing the full consequences of the addiction.

What Are Some Common Signs of Enabling?

What Is Enabling Addiction - Fight Addiction NowThese are a few of the top signs of enabling the addicted person and shielding them from the consequences of their actions:

1. Ignoring unacceptable behavior. This can extend all the way from overlooking negative attitudes and actions to denying that there is a problem at all.

2. Feeling resentful of the responsibilities one has taken on. The enabler begins to feel angry with the addicted person while continuing to enable them.

3. Consistently putting the needs of the addict ahead of one’s own.

4. Having trouble expressing emotions honestly. Enablers are often unsure what kind of reaction they will get if they express their feelings openly – to the addict or acquaintances – and are afraid it will be negative.

5. Being fearful that something one does will start a big fight or make the addict threaten to leave. An enabler will do everything possible to avoid these frightening situations.

6. Lying to cover for their mistakes. The enabler will lie to keep the peace, rather than becoming confrontational.

7. Blaming other people for the addict or one’s own problems. Enablers know who is really responsible to protect the addicted person from consequences (the addict himself or herself).

8. Continuing to offer help when it is never acknowledged or appreciated.

Enabling entails several possible long-term complications as well, and these typically revolve around an addicted person’s one-on-one relationships with his or her loved ones.

When Enabling Evolves to Codependency

Patterns of enabling behavior may eventually evolve into codependency, a relationship in which both parties feed off one another for their emotional needs in an unhealthy way. A person struggling with addiction may manipulate or threaten a loved one into helping maintain the addiction, sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

The other person in a codependent relationship feels compelled to help out of fear of losing the relationship. The longer a codependent relationship exists, the more difficult it is to fix.

Why Is Enabling Destructive?

Ignoring negative or potentially dangerous behavior or allowing it to continue puts everyone involved at risk. When enabling relationships to develop, it’s essential for everyone involved to recognize their negative contributions to these cycles and work to change things.

Breaking Down Family Barriers and Bad Habits

Enabling typically occurs within families or intimate relationships. An enabler could be a spouse, romantic partner, sibling, parent or even the grown child of a person with an addiction.

When people who are enabling addiction acknowledge their contributions to these destructive cycles, change can happen in the family dynamics and the interpersonal relationships with the addicted loved one.

Stopping enabling behaviors often requires reflection over short- and long-term pain. While it may be painful to stop enabling a loved one’s addiction in the short term, doing so could potentially save his or her life and prevent other tragedies in the future.

The Importance of Interventions

An intervention is one of the most crucial parts of a recovery experience because it can set the tone for healing and rebuilding within a family or circle of loved ones. During an intervention, the people closest to an individual with addiction will let him or her know how the addiction has affected them.

It’s also an opportunity to encourage a struggling relative to enter rehab and show him or her that the family cares about what happens next. The best interventions provide opportunities to discuss and overcome patterns of enabling behavior within the family. If the enabling continues when the loved one returns home from rehab, the recovery is likely to fail.

Identifying and Avoiding Enabling Behaviors

During an intervention, the family and friends of a person struggling with addiction can address their enabling behaviors and explain how they will no longer continue. For example, if a parent has been covering an adult child’s rent because the child has spent all of his or her savings on alcohol, the intervention would be a good time to tell him or her that this financial support is over. This can come as a shock, but it must happen for him or her to recover.

We encourage you to explore our intervention resource page to learn more about how an intervention could help with your family’s situation. Addressing enabling behaviors is a crucial step in recovery, and an intervention is a perfect time for this to happen.

Learn More About Interventions

Alcohol Detox Side Effects: Am I Really Going to Die If I Detox Alone?

Alcohol Detox Side Effects Can You Die From Alcohol Detox - Fight Addiction Now

Alcoholics know that if they go too long without having a drink, they’ll be hit with some seriously unpleasant side effects. However, far fewer realize that if their dependence on alcohol is strong enough, trying to quit cold turkey can be deadly.

The risk of death during alcohol withdrawal is very real. In fact, withdrawal is more dangerous with alcohol than any other drug of abuse, including both heroin and methamphetamine. So, if you’re asking the question, “Can you die from alcohol detox?” know that the answer is an emphatic yes.

Going through alcohol detox at home without medical support greatly increases the risk of potentially lethal complications and long-term health issues. By entering a medically assisted alcohol detox program, patients can get the help they need in a safe and controlled environment.

What Is Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is the process of purging all of the toxins from the body that have accumulated through the abuse of alcohol. The symptoms of alcohol detoxification can range from mild to severe, depending on variables like age, medical history and level of alcohol dependence.

Individuals with a history of prolonged and heavy alcohol abuse are at the greatest risk for serious complications and should seek help at a certificated detox facility.

The Importance of Medically Assisted Detox

Although many people assume that the only goal of medically assisted alcohol detox is to provide patients with rapid treatment of their physical withdrawal symptoms, there are actually a number of important reasons to consider medically supervised alcohol detox.

The benefits of medically assisted detox include:

Stable Environment

Patients entering a substance abuse detox facility are usually in a state of both emotional and physical turmoil. Before the process of detoxification begins, patients need to feel as calm and comfortable as possible. The stable environment of a medical detox facility can help put the patient’s mind at ease, which is crucial for completing detox successfully.

Around-the-Clock Medical Supervision

It’s important that patients have medical help close at hand during the detoxification process. At a medically assisted detox center, physicians can intervene immediately to treat any unwelcome side effects of withdrawal.

Doctors can also screen patients for preexisting medical conditions. If left untreated, co-occurring medical issues can lead to severe complications during detox.

Effective When Combined with Psychological Treatment

The top priority of any alcohol detox program is managing a patient’s physical health, but it’s important to address the patient’s mental health as well. Emotional counseling during detox greatly reduces the risk of relapse and helps to set the stage for a lifetime of sobriety.

Medications that May Be Used During Detox

Depending on a patient’s level of alcohol dependence, physicians may prescribe medications to combat alcohol withdrawal symptoms while detoxing. Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax are commonly used during withdrawal to ease symptoms and prevent withdrawal-induced seizures.

However, those medications are becoming less and less popular for treating alcohol withdrawal, as they are highly addictive in their own right. Doctors are instead turning to non-addictive anti-seizure drugs, such as Dilantin, Tegretol and Neurontin.

Other drugs a doctor might prescribe to prevent relapse during alcohol detox include:


Sold under the brand name Vivitrol, naltrexone can block the effects of alcohol on the brain. It’s much easier to fight the urge to drink when alcohol no longer provides a pleasurable buzz, which is why naltrexone works so well for maintaining long-term sobriety.


The medication disulfiram is essentially the opposite of an addictive drug: If a patient drinks alcohol while taking disulfiram, they will experience an instant hangover, as their body won’t be able to break down the acetaldehyde in their blood.


Marketed under the brand name Campral, acamprosate helps to treat the chemical imbalances in the brain that result from alcoholism, allowing patients to work toward sobriety with a clearer mind.

The Stages of Alcohol Detox

There are three stages of detoxification from alcohol, with the first withdrawal symptoms appearing anywhere between six and 24 hours after having the last drink. Click on any of the following stages to learn more:

Stage 1 Detox

The first stage of alcohol detox side effects usually begins around eight hours after the last drink. Symptoms of stage one alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tremors
  • Vomiting

This is usually how a severe alcoholic feels after waking up in the morning. Their relief only comes after downing the first drink of the day. Patients at an alcohol detox facility, however, move on to the second stage of detox.

Stage 2 Detox

In addition to many of the same symptoms one might experience during the first stage of alcohol withdrawal, the symptoms of stage two withdrawal include:

  • Increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • Mental confusion
  • Quick or shallow breathing
  • Anxiety and irritability

Stage two symptoms set in around 24 hours after the last drink. Depending on the patient’s level of alcohol dependence, the symptoms can last from anywhere from one to three days.

Stage 3 Detox

This stage of alcohol detox is the most dangerous time for patients, with potential symptoms including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Severe trembling
  • Delirium tremens

If you’re going through this stage of alcohol detox, hopefully you’re receiving medical supervision as it happens. Why? Delirium tremens can be deadly if left untreated. These symptoms are much too severe to try to face on one’s own at home.

Alcohol Detox Side Effects: Delirium Tremens

Delirium tremens (the DTs) is the reason why the alcohol detox death rate is so high. In fact, an estimated 5 percent of people who get the DTs die as a result. If left untreated, the DTs can also lead to the persistent alcohol withdrawal syndrome known as “PAWS.” This is a condition involving recurrent alcohol withdrawal symptoms years after the person has finished detoxing.

Not everyone who goes through alcohol withdrawal will experience the DTs. The National Institutes of Health has reported that delirium tremens are most common in long-term, heavy drinkers. This group is defined as those who drink on average at least eight drinks a day over a period of several years.

The symptoms of delirium tremens typically develop two to three days after a person’s last drink and reach peak intensity by day five. In some cases, however, more than a week may pass before symptoms develop.

Symptoms of delirium tremens include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Fever
  • Vivid nightmares
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations

One particularly disturbing side effect of delirium tremens is the sensation of having small insects crawling either across or just under one’s skin. This condition is known as formication and has been known to trigger long-term psychological problems.

Never underestimate the risk of developing delirium tremens during withdrawal. For severe alcoholics, medically assisted detox is the only way to safely make it through the process of acute withdrawal.

Is Medically Assisted Detox Right for You?

Alcohol Detox Death Rate Seizure Delirium Tremens Stat - Fight Addiction NowIf you feel that your drinking has gotten out of control, or if you experience any of the withdrawal symptoms discussed in this article, it’s best to seek professional help before beginning the process of alcohol detoxification.

Overcoming an addiction to alcohol is not just a matter of mustering up the willpower to go cold turkey. Alcohol withdrawal is serious business, and trying to go it alone can be deadly.

Even if you have a less-severe case of alcoholism, you should still look for a medically supervised detox program. Serious complications can arise at any time, and it’s possible for the stress of withdrawal to trigger an undiagnosed co-occurring disorder. And for many, the intense alcohol cravings and various physical discomforts experienced during detox are simply too much to handle alone.

Beating an addiction to alcohol is hard enough, as is trying to be your own doctor at the same time. If you’re serious about achieving a life of sobriety, there’s no safer way to begin your journey than with medically assisted detox. See our alcohol addiction fact sheet, or take an online quiz to gauge if you’re actually addicted to alcohol.

Take the ‘Am I Addicted’ Quiz

Cocaine Detox: Do I Really Need to Go to Detox for Cocaine?

Cocaine Detox Process Do I Need Detox for Cocaine - Fight Addiction Now

Detox for Cocaine?

Yes, is the short answer. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are not as severe or life threatening as can in the case of alcohol, benzodiazepines and opioids. However, while cocaine detox is typically not life threatening, if a patient has underlying medical issues, it can be fatal. For example, patients may not know they have a heart condition until withdrawal symptoms begin and result in cardiac arrest.

If you are a healthy adult, chances are good that cocaine withdrawal will be safe and non-life threatening. Still, there are other reasons to seek inpatient detox when going through cocaine withdrawal.

Cocaine Withdrawal

Withdrawal from cocaine is awful, physically and mentally. It has been likened to the worst hangover of your life, times 10. For this reason alone, many people choose to detox in a medical setting.

Detox centers can provide patients with medication for anxiety and other miserable side effects of withdrawal. These medications can make the process more tolerable for the patient. Typically, cocaine withdrawal is not dangerous, but for the best chance of recovery, most medical experts recommend inpatient treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Cocaine Detox Process

We’re just getting starting on the complex topic of cocaine detox. Continue learning more about it by reading our responses to several of the most frequently asked questions:

What are the symptoms of cocaine withdrawal?

Cocaine produces an extreme sense of euphoria during use. When a person stops using the drug, there will be a crash. Negative feelings become extremely strong, and cravings for the drug begins.

Most of the withdrawal effects are psychological. Once the body begins to withdraw, the following symptoms will occur:

  • Severe fatigue
  • Increased appetite
  • Difficulty feeling pleasure
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Severe restlessness
  • Paranoia
  • General sad feelings
  • Depression or thoughts of hurting yourself

How bad is cocaine withdrawal?

It will depend on the duration, frequency and amount of cocaine your body is used to. The psychological effects of withdrawal are always more prominent than physical effects during cocaine detox. So, it may only be slightly physically uncomfortable, but extremely difficult mentally.

How long do symptoms of withdrawal last? 

Cocaine stays in your body for about 72 hours. During this time, the drug is dwindling throughout your system and withdrawal symptoms will begin. For patients who were habitual heavy users, the withdrawal period can last from one to three weeks.

If someone has used cocaine heavily for many years, withdrawal symptoms can last weeks or months. Once withdrawal symptoms have ceased, cocaine will still be found in urine for up to 12 weeks.

What are the stages of cocaine withdrawal?

  • Days One Through Three: The body will begin withdrawal. Mood will drop, and remorse or depression begins. During this stage, hunger and restlessness are common. As symptoms begin, many users must fight using the drug to make their symptoms go away.
  • Days Four Through Seven: Psychological symptoms worsen during this period. Cravings for the drug will increase and many patients begin to sleep longer periods of time. Strong withdrawal symptoms during these days include severe anxiety, apathy, paranoia, depression and irritability.
  • Days Eight Through 14: Around day eight, patients begin to feel better mentally, and physically if there were physical symptoms. The general mood can be misleading, as negative psychological symptoms come in waves. One minute, the individual will feel as though he or she can conquer the world. The next minute, he or she may feel as low as ever. Cravings for cocaine will occur randomly.
  • Days 15 Through 21: During week two of withdrawal, symptoms remain steady. Psychologically, patients have mood swings and can be unstable. Physically, patients often still experience strong hunger. Cravings for the drug will still vary.
  • Day 22 And Onward: If may take months for psychological effects to go away completely, but they level off around this time. Patients may still have cravings for cocaine, and sometimes give into temptation.

How dangerous is cocaine withdrawal?

If you do not have any underlying medical conditions, cocaine withdrawal is non-life threatening. Many patients still obtain medical care during this time to receive help with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. A formal detox environment can also help prevent relapse.

Can I withdraw from cocaine at home?

It’s possible, but most professionals and recovering patients recommend finding professional care to help ease psychological symptoms. Especially morose and helpless moods can lead to relapse or failure to withdraw. 

Are there any methods to make cocaine withdrawal easier?

While there are no drugs specific to treating cocaine withdrawal, detox centers can prescribe medications to help treat the psychological effects of the process. Anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants may be administered to help control mood swings.

What are the signs of cocaine overdose?

Cocaine overdoses are a medical emergency and can easily be fatal. If you suspect someone has overdosed on cocaine, do not take any risks, and call 911 immediately.

Symptoms of cocaine overdose include:

  • Extremely high energy levels (more than typical of the person while on cocaine)
  • Talking incessantly
  • Paranoia
  • Aggressiveness
  • Chest pain
  • Seizures
  • Involuntary limb tremors or twitches

Are there any long-term effects of cocaine use?

Cocaine has been called the “heart attack drug,” as heart attack is the No. 1 cause of death in those who abuse cocaine. Cardiac problems can occur immediately after use while the user is high, but also occur after long-term use. The heart is severely damaged over time and can suffer cardiac arrest down the road. If you have a known heart condition, stop using cocaine immediately.

Other symptoms of long-term cocaine use include:

  • Respiratory problems leading to decreased oxygen flow
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Brain shrinkage
  • Neurotransmitter deficiencies
  • Gastrointestinal damage
  • Infectious diseases from poor decision making
  • Chronic nosebleeds
  • Constant headaches

What happens after detox?

Cocaine has a high abuse potential and can result in long-term addiction. Thus, we advise continuing with a reputable substance abuse program after detox.

Inpatient, outpatient and support groups can all help a patient cope with their addiction. Detox is not enough to stop addiction, as you will need long-term support and treatment to be successful and avoid relapse. 

How is cocaine addiction treated?

Cocaine addiction is treated differently for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all method for treatment. Depending on the patient, the length of addiction and previous relapse, treatment types and lengths will vary. Some patients seek intensive inpatient therapy, while others choose outpatient and group support therapies.

Importance of Professional Cocaine Detox

Choosing to detox from cocaine in a treatment facility can significantly ease the process of withdrawal. Although cocaine withdrawal is typically not physically dangerous, patients need psychological support and treatment during the process. If you or a loved one is suffering from cocaine addiction, consider an inpatient detox program for treatment.

Learn More About Detox Programs

Minimizing the Risk of Developing Process Addictions in Recovery

Prevent Process Addictions Replacing One Addiction With Another - Fight Addiction Now

Overcoming substance use disorder is only one step in the process of addiction recovery. When a recovering addict can’t get their fix through the use of drugs and alcohol, they’ll often turn to pleasurable yet destructive behaviors to satisfy their addictive urges, leading to bad habits in sobriety. When done in excess, these behaviors and activities can become what are known as process addictions.

Let’s take a closer look at the unique dangers that recovering addicts face when it comes to developing process addictions, as well as strategies for minimizing the risks and ensuring complete addiction recovery.

What Is a Process Addiction?

Process addiction – also known as behavioral addiction – refers to a class of mental health disorders in which a person compulsively engages in certain activities or behaviors, regardless of the negative consequences.

Unlike an alcoholic or drug addict, a person with a process addiction doesn’t rely on a substance to get high. However, this doesn’t mean that breaking a process addiction is easy. In fact, process addictions can be just as strong as any other type of addiction.

What Are Some Common Process Addictions?

Almost any activity or behavior that causes the brain to release dopamine can become the source of addiction. Some of the most common process addictions include:

  • Gambling addiction
  • Sex addiction
  • Food addiction
  • Video game addiction
  • Shopping addiction
  • Kleptomania
  • Pornography addiction
  • Internet addiction

What Are the Causes of Process Addiction?

You’ve probably heard many people describe themselves as having an “addictive personality,” but what exactly do they mean? Why are some people able to keep their gambling habit limited to a monthly game of poker, while others pour money into slot machines until their bank account is completely empty?

Three of the biggest factors associated with the development of process addictions are personality type, genetics and history of substance abuse.

Personality Type

Behavioral addictions are more commonly seen in people with specific personality traits. For example, people who score high on tests for impulsiveness often engage in harmful addictive behaviors because they don’t stop to think about the consequences. People high in the personality trait neuroticism will often turn to addictive behaviors to soothe their frequent feelings of fear, anxiety, guilt and depression.

These personality traits can pose problems even in sobriety. People high in the personality trait sensation seeking, for instance, are at risk of developing sex addiction in recovery to satisfy the rush drugs once provided.


If you have a parent or sibling who struggles with a behavioral addiction, then you are at an increased risk of developing one yourself. In fact, research performed on both identical and fraternal twins has shown that a person’s genetics account for between 12 and 20 percent of the risk of developing an addiction to gambling.

It’s also been shown that genetics account for more than 60 percent of the risk of developing a dual addiction to both alcohol and gambling.

Substance Abuse

There is strong evidence that substance abuse and process addiction often go hand in hand. For example, a recent study found that 71 percent of male sex addicts also suffer from substance use disorder. Gambling addicts are also almost 4 times as likely to abuse alcohol.

It’s hard to tell whether drug and alcohol abuse leads to process addictions, or if certain people are drawn to addictions of all kinds. Regardless, understanding that these two types of addiction are strongly linked is important when trying to achieve recovery.

The Risk of Replacing One Addiction with Another

Fight Addiction Now Addiction Is A Disease QuoteIndividuals who are recovering from substance use disorder frequently end up channeling their addictive urges into other activities. These can either be healthy activates like personal hobbies and exercise, or they can be destructive activities like binge eating and gambling.

When you think about it, has someone really recovered if they jump right into an unhealthy sugar addiction after drug and alcohol addiction, for example? Even though a process addiction may look like a healthier alternative to drug and alcohol use, addiction of any kind can have the same disastrous consequences.

Some signs that a recovering addict has developed a behavioral addiction include:

  • Giving up sleep in favor of the new activity
  • Damaged relationships caused by the activity
  • Prioritizing the activity over financial and social obligations
  • Stress or anger when they can’t engage in the activity
  • The inability to think about anything other than the activity

Healthier Ways to Replace Addiction

After overcoming the initial pain of quitting drugs and alcohol, recovering addicts are frequently hit with the terrifying question, “What do I do now?” Drugs and alcohol had consumed so much of the addict’s time and energy that their absence leaves a massive void.

In the first few months or years of recovery, it’s very easy to fall back on old, addictive habits and pick up a sex, food or gambling addiction when sober. However, there is a better path.

Remember What Your Passions Are

Think back to a time before addiction. What hobbies and activities did you abandon to make time for drugs and alcohol? What were you passionate about? What brought you joy?

Perhaps you used to love dancing, writing or painting. Recognize that your struggles with addiction do not define you, and that those things that used to bring you happiness likely still can.

Discover a New Hobby

It’s possible that as you’ve grown and changed throughout your life, so too have your interests and passions. Making a fresh start in your life is the perfect time to find out what you really care about. This process can seem daunting, but you can start by asking yourself a few questions.

Do you love art? Consider taking a few classes, or just buy some supplies to blow off steam at the end of the day.

Does helping others make you feel fulfilled? If that’s the case, there are likely plenty of volunteer opportunities in your community.

Go Forth

Remember, you are not alone in the struggle to achieve addiction recovery. Others have been there before and can help you on your journey. If you would like to share your experiences with addiction replacement or a process addiction, come and join us on our forum here at Fight Addiction Now!

Read Our Process Addiction Fact Sheet and Then Find Treatment

Process Addiction Treatment Resource

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline, Symptoms and Detox

Heroin Withdrawal Timeline Symptoms And Detox - Fight Addiction Now

What to Expect from Heroin Withdrawals and Detox

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least 15,000 people died of overdoses related to heroin in 2016. In the United States, there are 467,000 people who are regular users of heroin, and an estimated 600,000-plus people need treatment for addiction to heroin.

During a one-year period (2014-15) the overdose death rate from heroin use rose by more than 20 period from the previous cycle. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, it’s crucial that you get help. Here is what to expect in a withdrawal timeline from heroin.

What Is Withdrawal?

Although no two people will have identical experiences on their journey to sobriety, knowing that what you are going through is a normal part of the process can help you get through it and to the other side.

Addiction happens when the body and the brain become so accustomed to the presence of a substance that they rely on the substance to feel normal. There are physical and psychological reactions to the removal of something that the body believes it needs for survival.

Withdrawal refers to the symptoms experienced when the body is deprived of something that it has come to depend on. Each experience with heroin withdrawal symptoms is as unique as the person experiencing it. However, there are some general similarities and feelings you can expect when you go through the process.

What to Expect from Heroin Withdrawal

Heroin affects the central nervous system. It suppresses certain functions related to heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and the regulation of the body’s temperature. It also causes the brain to increase the production of chemicals that allow people to experience pleasure.

When the drug that is responsible for the body and brain behaving in a certain way is removed, it can have a devastating impact on the body. The severity of the symptoms experienced depends on how long the person has been using the drug, how much they have been using and their body’s unique reaction to the cessation of use.

Common symptoms of heroin withdrawal may initially include:

  • Mood swings, irritability, and/or aggression
  • Restlessness and insomnia
  • Uncontrollable yawning
  • Excessive sweating
  • A runny nose or excessive tears
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle spasms, aches and/or chills
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Abdominal pain

Beyond the initial detoxification of the body, there are long-term symptoms that people may experience as they are going through their recovery process. These may include anxiety, depression, paranoia, high blood pressure, hyperactivity and cravings.

Some people feel that this period of time is the most difficult part of the recovery process. It’s important to keep in mind that the symptoms of withdrawal are temporary.

The Average Heroin Withdrawal Timeline

Break The Silence Get Help Quote - FANHow long is heroin withdrawal? How long does heroin withdrawal last? These are common questions from the people addicted and those who love them.

The process of withdrawal is a gradual progression of detoxification. It won’t start all at once or stop all at once. When the drug use is first stopped, symptoms may begin within a few hours or, for some people, it may take as long as 24 hours for the withdrawal symptoms to begin.

During the first few days, the most acute symptoms begin to subside and decrease gradually through the second half of the week.

Because heroin is a short-acting opioid, effects are brought on quickly when the drug is used. This also means that it rids itself from the bloodstream rapidly.

This is good news. It means that, for most people, the worst of the withdrawal symptoms during recovery from heroin addiction last approximately a week. Some people may get through the worst of it more quickly, and some people may take a bit longer.

An average heroin withdrawal timeline may include the onset of symptoms within six to 12 hours of the final dose of heroin, with symptoms peaking in the first three days and subsiding by the end of the first week.

The Detoxification Process

When someone stops using the drug all at once, sometimes referred to as “going cold turkey,” the withdrawal symptoms will be the most severe. This can actually be dangerous, because the brain and nervous system have become dependent on the drug.

Stopping it all at once can cause the body to go into shock. Some people experience:

  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Dehydration

With such severe withdrawal symptoms, the risk of relapse is very high. It’s common to overdose when relapsing because people often relapse by using the same amount of the drug they used before stopping.

How to Ensure Safe Detoxification

The safest way to detoxify the body from heroin addiction is in a facility that specializes in drug rehabilitation. Not only is it safer in the short term as the body goes through the most severe symptoms of detoxification, but research has shown that detoxification that’s medically assisted has the highest rate of success.

Medically assisted detoxification addresses the physical aspects of safe withdrawal along with the behavioral and psychological issues related to detoxification. A worthwhile program will also include therapies to address the issues that may have been a factor in the initial addiction.

A detoxification process that’s medically assisted can lessen the pain by using sedation and supervision while the body is going through the cleansing process. There are medications approved to use for heroin addiction withdrawal:

  • Naltrexone
  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine (Suboxone/Subutex)

These are commonly used to curb the discomfort of removing heroin from the system.

Throughout the detoxification process, the treatment team will medically monitor the patient. This means the staff will monitor their heart rate and blood pressure along with their body temperature and respiration. This allows for any medical interventions necessary before a situation becomes life threatening.

Long-Term Success

Medical detoxification offers the best chance for long-term recovery from heroin addiction because it addresses the physical, psychological and behavioral components of the addiction.

At Fight Addiction Now, we want you to know that recovery is possible, and we can guide you there. Overcoming heroin addiction without medical supervision is dangerous, and it’s not realistic to try to do it on your own. Arm yourself with the right tools and the right support system, and you will be well on your way to a new life.

See Our Heroin Addiction Fact Sheet

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.

Connect with Our Online Community

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

Alcohol Withdrawal Timelines: PAWS & Protracted Withdrawal Lengths Are Unique to Individuals

What Is the Average Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline - Fight Addiction Now

Alcohol Withdrawal Signs, Symptoms and Warnings

Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a body’s natural detoxification process eliminates alcohol from the system. If a person is an extremely heavy drinker, as soon as his or her body begins to sense a lack of alcohol, physical symptoms will begin.

Acute alcohol withdrawal is the first stage in the detoxification process and involves mostly physical symptoms. Common signs and symptoms of acute alcohol detox include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irritability, anxiety, restlessness and confusion
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Seizures
  • Fever and sweating

It is important to note that alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and produce severe symptoms. When going through alcohol withdrawal, it is best to be under some sort of professional addiction recovery support, because it is impossible to tell how severe withdrawal symptoms might become.

When a person’s symptoms become severe, withdrawal is referred to as delirium tremens and can cause:

  • Altered mental functions, disorientation
  • Deep sleep
  • Extreme fear or excitement
  • Sudden mood changes

These types of symptoms are much more dangerous than the effects listed previously. If a person goes through withdrawal too quickly, it can be extremely detrimental, which is why it is advisable to be under the care of a licensed physician or rehabilitation facility.

How Long Does Alcohol Withdrawal Last?

The alcohol withdrawal timeline varies from five days to many months. The acute phase typically lasts five to seven days. Once those symptoms have run their course, different symptoms can appear at any time. The range is dependent on many different factors, including length and amount of alcohol use, medical history and addiction history.

The Physiological Aspects of Withdrawal

Excessive alcohol use interferes with brain function by disrupting neurotransmitters. One neurotransmitter in particular, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), helps produce endorphins. When you drink alcohol in excess, it causes a GABA imbalance.

Dopamine, the “feel good” chemical, stops its production when a heavy drinker suddenly stops drinking. These imbalances cause physiological differences in your system, which in turn give you unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal can also induce anhedonia, a term for the brain’s lack of production of feel-good chemicals. Once the brain has stopped producing these chemicals, it takes a while for production to begin again. The brain works to fix the imbalance, but in the meantime, anhedonia will cause a severe lack of interest in most aspects of the person’s life. This can cause deeper depression and emotional issues.

In many instances, withdrawal symptoms only last five to seven days. Other times, people experience alcohol withdrawal months after they stop drinking. These long-lasting withdrawal syndromes are known as protracted or post-acute withdrawal.

Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline for Protracted/Post-Acute Withdrawal

Once the initial effects of acute withdrawal wear off, a person may experience post-acute or protracted withdrawal symptoms, typically two months or more after alcohol cessation. Other names for this withdrawal stage include chronic withdrawal, extended withdrawal, late withdrawal and long-term withdrawal. PAWS is a common acronym for post-acute withdrawal syndrome.
In contrast to acute withdrawal’s physical symptoms, these symptoms involve mood-altering episodes such as:

  • Depression
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Emotional overreactions (crying, laughing, anger)
  • Generalized anxiety, panic disorders
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Alcohol cravings

Depression is common during the post-acute withdrawal period and many times causes a person to relapse. Symptoms in this stage can last several weeks or months. Without help from a therapist, group support or ongoing rehabilitation, this period can be exceptionally difficult to manage successfully.

How to Actively Manage Protracted/Post-Acute Syndrome

Unconditional support is needed from others during the first few months of recovery. It is important to find guidance from group therapies, rehabilitation facilities and individual therapy and counseling.
Many people struggle during this stage of the process, and understandably so. A heavy drinker has typically become accustomed to feeling numb and not having to deal with his or her feelings. Once the person is clean, the feelings come flooding back. These feelings, coupled with the lack of feel-good chemicals being produced in the brain, are a dangerous combination.
Recovery is difficult, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The first few months of recovery are the most challenging and will need to be actively managed. With help from friends, family and professionals, your recovery can be a success. If you feel depressed, listless, suicidal or hopeless, seek the help of a licensed professional.

Discuss Alcohol Recovery

What have your experiences been with recovery, detox, withdrawal or alcohol abuse? Do you have valuable advice or insight that would be helpful to others? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment section below, or head on over to on our community forum to discuss alcoholism recovery.

See Our Alcohol Addiction Fact Sheet

Agonist vs. Antagonist Opioids: How Painkillers, Heroin and Opiate Medications Work in the Brain

Agonist vs. Antagonist Opioids Painkillers Heroin Opiate Medications Work in Brain - FAN

Even if you live under a rock, you have probably heard that we have a nationwide opioid crisis in America. The death toll from opioid misuse, abuse and overdose are staggering.

Use of prescription opioids – such as Vicodin, OxyContin and morphine – as well as the street opioid heroin is skyrocketing. In fact, the epidemic is so bad that a half a million people are expected to die from opioid use within the next decade.

What Are Opioids?

Originating from the poppy plant, current opioids are natural, partially synthetic or synthetic drugs. From Victorian opium lounges to the Wild West surgeon’s table, variations of these drugs have been around for a long time.

Opioids are very good at controlling pain. They are also very good at addicting people.

Opioids are addictive because of the way the drug attaches to receptors in the brain. Our brains have opioid-specific receptors, and when those are activated, we feel pleasure as well as relief from pain. This feeling is desirable and motivates our brains to seek it out again once experienced.

Agonist vs. Antagonist Opioids

An agonist in biochemistry is a substance that mimics another substance and activates a physiological response when combined with a receptor (cells that receive stimuli).

A full agonist activates a full-action response, resulting in a full effect of the substance being mimicked. A partial agonist activates the receptors to action, but to a much lesser degree.

An antagonist is a substance that inhibits and blocks or dampens a physiological action. An antagonist, also termed a blocker or a blocking agent, binds to and blocks a receptor, preventing a substance of similar structure from attaching to the receptor.

How Opioid Addiction Starts

So, as it pertains to how opioids affect the brain, an agonist is a drug that activates the opioid receptors in the brain, causing that euphoric feeling people get when taking drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone or heroin. A full agonist response elicits a rush of dopamine to the brain’s reward system. For most people, this creates a high level of pleasure or excitement.

The brain is made to repeat rewarding activities, so once you take opioids, your brain wants to repeat that pleasure – and that’s how addiction begins.

Treatment with Opioid Antagonists

An opioid antagonist binds to the opioid receptor and forms something like a seal to cover the entry point where the drug hits the brain. By preventing opioids from crossing the blood-brain barrier, even if people use opioids at the same time, an antagonist will reverse the effects (like euphoria and slow breathing).

Naloxone and naltrexone are opioid antagonists that block the effects of opioid binding. The nasal spray version of naloxone, Narcan, is a fast-acting emergency treatment for someone who has stopped breathing because of opioid overdose. It has saved numerous lives.

Naloxone reverses respiratory depression as a result of too much heroin, OxyContin or other opioid drugs. Both naloxone and naltrexone are also used to treat other conditions, such as drug and alcohol addiction and chronic pain.

What Is Buprenorphine?

Buprenorphine is a mild or partial agonist in that it is an opioid, but it acts as both an agonist and an antagonist. Buprenorphine activates the opioid receptors in the brain, but to a much lesser degree than full agonists like Vicodin or fentanyl. At the same time, buprenorphine blocks other opioids from attaching to the brain’s opioid receptors.

This makes buprenorphine unique and a good choice for addiction treatment. It gives the person addicted to drugs or alcohol a little bit of the pleasure of opioid feelings, which quiets the cravings and suppresses withdrawal symptoms. Buprenorphine is also prescribed for chronic pain. It has much less potential for addiction than full agonist opioids do.

How Heroin Affects the Brain

Everyone has opioids in their brains. They are a naturally occurring substance meant to calm the body and manage the reward and pleasure circuitry in the brain.

Studies have shown that even after taking prescription painkillers for only a few weeks, the changes in the brain’s structure are evident in MRIs. Patients taking pain meds have a reduction in the gray matter responsible for the regulation of pain, cravings and emotions.

What are the implications of a reduction of gray matter that regulate emotions? People taking painkillers over a long time can have a harder time controlling their emotions. Additionally, painkillers reduce your body’s ability to control pain, making you more sensitive to it.

Other effects of the binding of synthetic opioids to the brain’s opioid receptors:

  • Slows down the central nervous system
  • Depresses respiration and slows breathing

A depressed respiratory function is what puts opioid users at serious risk of death. It is easy to overdose on opioids and stop breathing. Heroin, one of the strongest opioids, which is partially why it is illegal, affects the brain deeply and can take years to reverse.

What Happens to the Brain After Someone Stops Using Opioids?

Even after someone has stopped using opioids, their brain still shows effects of the drug. It can take a long time for the brain to restabilize – many months or years. The longer a person uses prescription drugs, the more ingrained brain changes are, resulting in a longer recovery period. Use of stronger drugs, such as heroin or fentanyl, also result in a longer amount of time for the brain to adjust back.

The physical dependence on the opioid can be reduced by gradually tapering off. During this time, the patient can make behavioral changes that will rewire the brain. Cognitive therapy also helps to deal with cravings and negative behaviors.

Post-acute opioid withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Increased pain
  • Cravings
  • Low energy and enthusiasm, fatigue

The long-term effects of opioids on the brain are substantial. For a long time after opioid use ceases, the individual may experience learning issues, memory problems and other cognitive impairments. The recovery process will be a lengthy one, and it is common to experience many challenges during the process.

Is There a Difference Between Addiction and Dependence?

Yes. People with chronic pain that take painkillers over time develop a dependence on their medication. If they suddenly stop taking their medication, they will go through physical withdrawal symptoms due to the changes the body undergoes when on painkillers.

Physical acute withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Cramps
  • Weakness
  • Possible suicidal thoughts

Addiction is an abnormal condition, which is classified as a disease. Furthermore, it may or may not come with a physical dependency. Addiction is characterized by compulsive behavior, uncontrollable cravings and participation in drug use (or the addictive behavior of choice) despite harmful life consequences to oneself or others.

Your Turn

Nearly everyone in America knows someone who has been affected by the opioid crisis.

Has someone in your family experienced heroin/opioid use or overdose? Do you have personal experience with medically assisted therapy? Discuss opioids and share your experiences on related topics with other members in our online forum who have traveled paths similar to yours.

See Our Heroin Addiction Fact Sheet