Tag Archives: Stats And Facts

The Heroin Epidemic Has Spread to Middle-Class Women

Female Heroin Use Middle Class Women - Fight Addiction Now

Women are dying from painkillers now more than any time in America’s history. Real people, true stories, harrowing destruction.

Charlotte’s Story

Charlotte* still has the track marks crawling up her arms. Her face has broken out with red bumps, and her bleach-blonde hair has grown the roots halfway out. She sits on a bench at a rehab facility in Arizona, picking at her bitten fingernails, unaware of the stares she’s getting from the seasoned patients.

Charlotte comes from a middle-class family, replete with a minivan, loving parents and a comfortable suburban lifestyle.

What has brought her to this state of fallen grace?

Charlotte’s boyfriend started selling Oxy in high school because the profits were so much higher than working in fast food restaurants like his peers. Over time, the boyfriend started using his own product, and so did his girlfriend.

The addiction took hold of Charlotte in less than a week, and the ecstasy and relief from the stress and insecurities felt by your average teenage girl was amazing. She felt like she needed more drugs around her menstrual cycles.

Dependence grew to tolerance, and tolerance grew to seeking more and more and stronger and stronger drugs. Before she knew it, our girl was shooting heroin with her boy behind the bleachers.

Now, in her late 20s, Charlotte awoke in her own vomit and soon found herself on an Arizona bench.

Charlotte survived, but more women than ever before in American history do not.

As women, we have an increased biological vulnerability to drugs. We get addicted much faster than our male counterparts, and we are affected by our hormones and a half dozen other factors. It’s not fair; it’s biology.

Mandi’s Story

A Californian mom of two beautiful teenage girls, Mandi* was rear ended by a drunk driver and sustained a shattered kneecap. The outrage and pain Mandi endures is still unbearable, years later.

“I was in so much anguish and anger, I couldn’t see straight,” she says.

Though Mandi went to counseling and was prescribed Percocet, her pain never completely went away. After only a few weeks of round-the-clock medicine, she was getting less relief with more pills. When Mandi had to quit her job due to the knee injury, she lost her health insurance.

Still suffering, Mandi had to find an alternative numbing product. What she found was that prescription drugs sold on the street are expensive and she couldn’t afford her habit.

The first time Mandi snorted the comparatively inexpensive drug heroin, she felt better than if she were smoking a fat joint or drinking cranberry vodkas. Snorting quickly turned to heroin injecting, which brought on shame and guilt. How could a woman with teenage daughters be shooting up?

Mandi was fearful of talking to her doctor about her heroin use. Like many of us moms who might find ourselves in similar circumstances, she worried she would be ostracized by others – or worse, that her children might be taken away by Child Protective Services.

The stigma around illicit drug abuse causes isolation, depression and creates a cycle of more drug use.

We can’t scream it loud enough: Women addicted to heroin are only human, regular people, no less worthy than other men and women who don’t have to suffer with the insidious disease of addiction.

Pill Mills Make It Too Easy

Pill mills are places that:

  • Take cash only.
  • Use their own pharmacy.
  • Let patients pick their own medicine, no questions asked.
  • Are illegal.

A recent study conducted by the U.S. Justice Department’s Drug Enforcement Division found that narcotics are the second-most abused drug (just behind marijuana). These opioids rank above meth, cocaine, heroin and crack.

Controlled prescription drugs are accountable for tens of thousands more deaths due to poisoning than illicit drugs are. Many come from pill mills.

Female Heroin Use

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2004 and 2013, heroin and opioid use among women has increased at a rate twice that of men.

By 2013, a new type of female opioid user had emerged: a woman in college, a suburban mom, a working professional pulling in more than $60,000.

Women bear a heftier burden of emotional sensitivities and mental health issues like depression, trauma-related disorders and anxiety. Our brains are just wired differently.

This emotional make-up means women are more likely to be prescribed benzodiazepines and opioids.

Additionally, one in three women have experienced domestic violence. This type of trauma predisposes us to mental health issues and drug and alcohol abuse. Being hurt by the one you trust and love creates emotional scarring and scathing brain changes that endure long after the physical scarring dissipates.

Palliative Ponderings

Female Heroin Users - Fight Addiction NowIt is truly startling that this epidemic has crossed all demographic lines and spread its wrath among every income and social bracket.

If these stories and facts shock you, maybe they shouldn’t. Out of all of the heroin-addicted, middle-class suburban women, more than 75 percent of this group started with legal prescription opioids, reports the acclaimed JAMA Psychiatry journal.

Even though we are becoming more aware since the Trump-proclaimed national health emergency, it is hard to resist a drug that takes away your pain, physical and emotional. Sometimes, for women, the line between what is physical pain and what is emotional pain is blurry.

Women are particularly vulnerable to diseases like fibromyalgia, a disabling illness which causes both physical and emotional pain, including a host of other symptoms.

What Is Your Picture of a Heroin User?

Before our culture understood that addicts are just people, and that we’re all in this world and this predicament together, we might’ve assumed a woman that uses heroin lives on the street. Maybe she turned to sex work to afford her heroin habit, or maybe she had to take heroin to endure selling her body.

Did you picture her as uneducated, unemployed or on government assistance?

Well, maybe that was true…40 years ago!

Who Is Immune?

The heroin epidemic is so widespread it makes us wonder if there is a demographic that’s immune to opioids.

Painkillers are, in essence, heroin packaged in pharmacy vials.

This gives us a false sense of security about taking them. In America, we hold our doctors in high esteem and leave them to decide what’s best for our health. They’re the experts, right?

But when the doctor says, “Enough. Your surgery was three months ago,” it’s too late: We’re hooked. And once the addiction has taken hold, it is normal to feel there is no way out.

So, who can truly be immune to the opioid epidemic?

Hooked on Heroin

Once the addiction has hooked us, it is then that women often turn to finding that same drug in new places rather than experiencing the dramatic rise in pain and sickening withdrawal systems? Who can cast blame? We’re only human.

By now, the effects of the painkiller are not as good as they once were, anyway; a tolerance has set in. We have become physically dependent.

Women go to pill mills, multiple doctors or, embarrassingly, the black market. After paying $20 or more per pill, we hear about heroin. For $10 a bag, you can get even more pain relief, your suburban neighbor says.

It is humiliating for a mom to admit she has a heroin addiction, so the secrets and lies begin. And the relief felt with heroin is sooo much better than pills; the first dose is orgasmic.

Pain Alternatives for Women

What can we do to deal with chronic or intense pain? The medical community is working harder than ever to come up with alternative treatments for women suffering from pain.

Some options to consider for physical pain include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Nerve block treatment
  • Anesthesia via IV or injection

Emotional Pain Alternatives for Women

For women suffering from emotional pain, which is often tied to physical pain, some non-pharmaceutical treatments to try are:

  • Massage therapy
  • Counseling
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Electrical muscle stimulation

Reach Out If You’re Affected

If you are a woman dealing with a heroin problem, we really hope you’ll give us the chance to help you find solutions difficult time. There is a better way.

Women suffer from unique challenges in life. If someone you care about is struggling with heroin addiction – or you fear they’re heading down that road – don’t let her become another statistic. We implore you to reach out to us for help in finding treatment. Call or send us a note now.

Learn More About Heroin Addiction

*Real names withheld

 

Too Little Too Late? OxyContin Maker Purdue Stops Marketing Drugs to Doctors

OxyContin Rehab Purdue Pharma Stops Marketing Drugs to Doctors - Fight Addiction Now

After years of criticism and hundreds of lawsuits, Purdue Pharma LP has announced that it will no longer market OxyContin directly to doctors. Representatives for Purdue claim that their decision reflected an effort to combat the growing American opioid epidemic, but for the millions of Americans struggling with opioid addiction, this move is too little, too late.

In early February 2018, Purdue Pharma issued a statement to employees informing them that the company would be cutting their sales force by more than half. They also announced that salespeople will no longer meet with doctors to talk about the company’s opioid painkillers.

While these are indeed positive steps in combating the over-prescription of OxyContin, it’s important to remember that Purdue is widely credited with developing these hyper-aggressive marketing tactics in the first place.

Oxycontin and the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

The root cause of the opioid epidemic can be traced back to 1996, the year OxyContin first emerged on the U.S market. Beginning in the late 1990s, the number of fatal drug overdoses begin to climb at a shocking rate. A large percentage of these deaths were caused by prescription opioid abuse.

In 2016, more than 60,000 people died from a drug overdose. Of these deaths, roughly 20,000 involved synthetic opioid drugs. That’s a nearly sevenfold increase from 2013, a year where synthetic opioids claimed the lives of some 3,105 individuals, according to the CDC.

Economic and Life Expectancy Impact

A White House Council of Economic Advisers report estimated that in 2015 alone, the opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy some $504 billion. That’s 2.8 percent of the country’s entire gross domestic product.
 
The opioid epidemic also played a major role in the average life expectancy of Americans dropping two years in a row in 2015 and 2016. This is the first time we’ve seen such a dramatic decline in life expectancy since the early 1960s! And while more and more addicts are taking advantage of various Oxycontin treatment options, research shows that this trend is likely to continue.

Purdue’s Use of Misleading Marketing

Purdue’s decision to stop marketing opioid painkillers stems from a number of lawsuits claiming that the drug manufacturer knowingly misled the public about how dangerous OxyContin really is.

Between 1996 and 2002, Purdue bankrolled more than 20,000 educational programs designed to encourage the use of OxyContin as a way to treat long-term chronic pain. This marketing campaign targeted groups such as the American Pain Society, the Federation of State Medical Boards, the American Academy of Pain Medicine as well as numerous pain patient groups.

As a result, these organizations all began to advocate the aggressive use of opioids to treat chronic pain.

In spite of the claims made by drug manufacturers, there is no scientific evidence that drugs like OxyContin are effective in managing chronic pain over a period of years. Tolerance to the effects of opioid drugs develops rapidly, and once patients begin upping their doses, dependence and addiction follow close behind.

How Long Do OxyContin’s Effects Really Last?

The makers of OxyContin even lied about the duration of the drug’s effects. For years, Purdue claimed that OxyContin’s extended-release formula would provide patents with 12 hours of pain relief. The facts on the ground paint a different picture, however.
 
Independent research, along with both patient and doctor testimonials, shows that many patients don’t get anywhere near 12 hours of pain relief from OxyContin. Purdue chose to ignore these claims, arguing instead that if patients are not receiving adequate pain relief, then it’s the doctors’ fault for prescribing too low of a dose.

Purdue Problems from the Top Down

If anyone still believes that Purdue suppressed these findings for reasons other than increasing their profits, remember that in 1996 a Purdue sales manager issued a memo to her staff urging them to recommend that doctors increase their patients’ doses of OxyContin. That memo was brazenly titled “$$$$$$$$$$$$$ It’s Bonus Time in the Neighborhood!”
 
It’s pretty clear that as long as Purdue’s profits continued to rise, treatment for opioid addiction was the last thing on the company’s mind.

Too Little, Too Late

Purdue’s decision to stop marketing OxyContin in 2018 is similar to an arsonist deciding to stop throwing gasoline on a house that’s already burned to the ground. The damage has been done.

Over the last few years, OxyContin has become less and less profitable. This is due in large part to stricter prescription guidelines, as well as growing public awareness of the drug’s dangerous potential.

However, recent research has shown that around 1 million Americans have used OxyContin at least once in their lifetime, and thousands enter OxyContin rehab programs every year. Given these numbers, it’s hard to imagine that additional marketing can make the problem much worse than it already is.

While public health experts and activist groups may celebrate Purdue’s decision to pull back their opioid marketing efforts, it’s pretty obvious that the drug maker is simply trying to rebuild its public image.

Possible Damages Could Fund More OxyContin Rehab and Treatment

Thankfully, Purdue Pharma is currently facing numerous lawsuits filed by different state and local governments. These lawsuits are aimed at raising money to fund various Oxycontin addiction treatment programs, including drug-avoidance classes in schools and government-funded opioid rehab programs.
 
These pending lawsuits also help to explain why Purdue would choose to stop marketing OxyContin. By taking action before the government forces the company to, it may appear more responsible and forward-thinking to the courts. Clearly, Purdue’s actions are not determined by what is right, but rather what is most profitable.

What’s Your Take?

What are your thoughts on Purdue Pharma’s decision to scale back on OxyContin marketing? If you’d like to join the conversation about these recent developments, or if you want to learn how to help someone with Oxycontin addiction, Fight Addiction Now has the resources and platforms for you to do just that. Weigh in on the comments below, or click to view our Prescription Drug Addiction Resource:

Prescription Drug Fact Sheet

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

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

When Sadness and Depression Show Up in Sober Life

When Sadness and Depression Show Up in Sober Life

Tackling Depression After Becoming Sober

“Depression” is a word you may hear often during addiction recovery. Depression and addiction often go hand in hand, in a cycle that can feel impossible to break.

Feelings of depression and sadness are common during drug and alcohol abuse recovery, especially seeming to appear at the six-months sober milestone. If you’re one of many people who relate to feeling depressed in sober life, there are ways to tackle the depression demon without disrupting your progress.

Breaking the Stigma Surrounding Depression in Recovery

Addiction Recovery Meme Fight Addiction NowStigmas plague the world of addiction and recovery. There are numerous stigmas surrounding depression after becoming sober. Thanks to public figures like Demi Lovato, Kristen Bell and members of the Royal Family, the stigmas around mental health are slowly starting to dissipate.

Several major roadblocks, however, still exist. It can be difficult for a person in recovery to know how to cope with depression in a healthy, substance-free way. Education about depression in recovery is key.

Depression after becoming sober is completely normal. This may come as a surprise since the assumption is often, “If I get clean, I’ll feel better.” While this is true in many ways, it doesn’t necessarily mean saying goodbye to depression forever.

Some people live with depression their entire lives. There is not something wrong with you if you feel sad after achieving sobriety. Depression and addiction are often a dual diagnosis. You’ve dealt with your addiction, but have you addressed your underlying issues?

The Connection Between Addiction and Depression

Recovering alcoholics and depression will unfortunately always have some kind of relationship. People who develop substance dependencies often already have underlying mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety or trauma. People turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of depression – only to end up with addiction.

During recovery, the underlying issues will remain with you and rear their ugly heads every so often…unless you address them properly. This is why it’s so important to work with a professional detox and rehabilitation facility in the first few weeks of sobriety.

Clinical depression is a mental disability. It is not just a feeling, or only in your head. It is a real condition with real treatment needed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one in 20 Americans report feeling depressed in the past two weeks. These are just the people who willingly admit to feeling depressed; the actual number is likely much greater.

Substance abuse is common among people with depression. Many believe drugs and alcohol will help them escape depression. In reality, nervous system depressants like alcohol often exacerbate feelings of sadness. To tackle your depression after recovery, you may need therapy, medication or a combination of treatments.

Take Action Against Depression

The secret to conquering sadness and depression is to take action. It can be irritating to hear people tell you to “just change your mood.” If you have depression, you know it’s not that easy.

Yet this piece of advice does hold some truth. It is up to you to recognize the signs of depression and to take action against it – before it consumes you. Over time, recognizing triggers and learning healthy coping mechanisms can eventually enable you to prevent depression before it even occurs.

Getting sober does not mean banishing your depression. It simply means that you’re sober. Healing the issues that sparked your addiction in the first place takes rehabilitation, therapy and learning healthy coping techniques. These “answers” will look different to everyone.

Explore different ideas and see what works for you. You may find that a practice such as yoga or meditation provides a peaceful, relaxing solution when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Or perhaps a tough workout is what you need to work through your feelings.

Turn to art, leisure, sports, hobbies, games, exercise, therapy or time with a pet or loved one to actively try to combat depression in recovery. Remember that you are not alone. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last, person in recovery to experience depression. Simply accept your feelings for what they are, and take steps to feel better – without substance use.

Do You Struggle with Sadness and Depression in Recovery?

Forums are excellent outlets for people struggling with sadness and depression in recovery. Getting these topics out there, shining a light on depression and talking about our unique experiences all facilitate true healing.

Have you dealt with depression during your recovery journey? You might answer “yes” if you’ve experienced:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Feelings of low self-worth or self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Change in weight or appetite
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Feeling like you have no energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts

Feel free to share your ideas on how to tackle depression in sober life. Are you feeling depressed right now? Help is available through hotlines, professional therapy and simply talking about your feelings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with depression; a brighter future could be just a conversation away.

Click on “Start Chat Now” or Visit Our Online Discussion Forum

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Is Smartphone and Social Media Addiction the New Face of Dependence?

Is Smartphone and Social Media Addiction New Face of Dependence - Fight Addiction Now

Neurochemically, Smartphone Addiction Is Real –
Now What?

We’ve all seen it: crowds of people walking with their heads bent, thumbs frantically scrolling, eyes glazed. Smartphones and social media take up hours of time in the average person’s day.

Now, scientists have found a connection between smartphone use and neurochemical imbalances in the brain. Explore the possibility of smart device addiction, and whether it could affect you or someone close to you.

The Staggering Statistics on Smartphone Use

A recent Pew Research study found that 77 percent of U.S. adults own a smartphone – up from 35 percent in 2011. More than half of young adults live in households with three or more smartphones.

When surveyed, the majority of respondents said it was “generally OK” to use a cellphone while walking down the street, on public transportation and while waiting in line. Almost half (46 percent) of smartphone owners say they couldn’t live without their phones.

Another powerful wakeup call about how much society relies on and uses smartphones comes from Apple data. According to Apple, the average smartphone user compulsively checks in around 80 times per day. A different report from Kleiner Perkins estimated the number at 150 times per day. In such a strong digital age, is it really so surprising that smart device addiction is making headlines?

For years, scientists and researchers have warned about the possible negative effects of staring at screens for too many hours a day. From the very first video games to the latest virtual reality experiences, every new piece of technology has come with pundits questioning their safety.

Yet, no smart device has sparked the word “addiction” more than the smartphone. Many recent articles state that smartphone and social media addiction isn’t just real, but that it’s commonplace.

Is Smartphone and Social Media Addiction Really a Thing?

Is Cell Phone Addiction a Real Thing?

According to a pioneer study presented at the 103rd Scientific Assembly, smartphone addiction has a correlation with neurochemical imbalances in the brain. Hyung Suk Seo, professor at Korea University in Seoul, led the study. Researchers used a special type of MRI to measure the brain’s chemical composition, and they conducted a survey to determine how often the test subject uses a smartphone.

The results found that smartphone-addicted individuals had significantly higher levels of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Impulsivity
  • Insomnia.

The ratio of GABA to Glx neurotransmitters was also significantly higher in smartphone-addicted individuals. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that slows down brain signaling. Glx (glutamate-glutamine) is the neurotransmitter that makes neurons more electrically stimulated.

Professor Seo speculated that increases in GABA related to smartphone and internet addiction “may cause function loss of integration and regulation of processing in the cognitive and emotional neural networks.” Too much GABA can lead to side effects, ranging from insomnia to anxiety, as the brain’s signals reduce in speed.

On a positive note, Seo noted that GABA-to-Glx ratios in smartphone-addicted individuals normalized or improved after cognitive behavioral therapy. It appears, therefore, that reversal is possible.

Possible Ramifications of Smart Device Addiction

Smartphone, social media, internet and gaming addictions could be the new faces of dependency. While Seo’s soon-to-be-published study needs other extensive studies to refute or confirm the correlation between smartphone addiction and neurochemical changes in the brain, it does give food for thought. If smartphone addiction is real and can cause changes in the brain, it means a brand new category of addictive behavior.

You could be one of many people who suffer from smartphone addiction…or perhaps you have a particularly phone-obsessed family member. Signs that you could have a cellphone addiction include:

  • You feel uncomfortable without your phone.
  • It makes you nervous or irritated not to be able to use your phone.
  • The thought of a dead battery scares you.
  • You spend a lot of time thinking about social media.
  • You use social media and the internet to escape personal problems.
  • Cutting down on your smartphone or social media use feels impossible.
  • Your smart device use is so great that it’s negatively impacted your job or relationships.

Smartphone addiction can disrupt relationships, lead to job termination, present financial difficulties and harbor many of the same adverse effects as a drug, alcohol or other addiction. Spending too much time on a smart device could be damaging to mental health. This is especially true if it causes sleep disturbances and depression, as studies seem to indicate.

Smartphone Addiction: Do You Believe the Hype?

Smartphone addiction is a developing theory that could have some basis in scientific evidence. The more data that becomes available about smartphone use, brain activity and addictive behaviors, the more the world will know about this alleged problem. If smartphone addiction can affect the brain’s neurotransmitters, is it therefore comparable to drug or alcohol addictions that do the same?

Do you believe the hype about smart device/social media addiction?
Is there someone in your life who you believe could have this issue?
Or do you believe these “addictions” are unfounded, and simply speculation with little supporting science?
Could smartphone addiction be a developing problem for the younger generations, who have had access to these devices for a longer portion of their lives than adults have? Please give your thoughts on any or all of these questions in the comments below, or get the discussion started in our online forum.

Reversing the Trends of Substance Abuse, Drinking, Drug Use and Smoking

Reversing Trends of Substance Abuse Drinking Drug Use Smoking - Fight Addiction Now

The Tide of Addiction May Be Turning

Here’s some good news about addiction to encourage you to keep up the fight.

For decades, we’ve seen an increase in substance abuse involving illicit drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. Young people especially usually contribute to higher percentages of experimentation with new drugs and abuse of so-called gateway drugs.

However, over the last several years, it seems this may be changing.

Decline Stretching Back a Decade

If there was a short-term drop in substance abuse, it might be dismissed as merely a blip on the radar. However, this positive trend stretches back all the way to the early 2000s, with a pronounced drop stretching all the way back to 2003.

A recently concluded survey of more than 200,000 teens showed a steady decline in substance abuse, with numbers among 12- to 17-year-olds declining by 49 percent in a 12-year period. The survey concluded that around 2 million fewer adolescents were abusing nicotine, drugs and alcohol over the period.

Cigarettes Are a Gateway Drug

An important fact amid these numbers is the significant decline in cigarette use among 12- to 17-year-olds. Even in the heyday of cigarette use, there was a certain stigma attached to young people smoking. The stigma of cigarette smoking has only grown over the last 20 years.

We know cigarettes are addictive and set the stage for moving on to other substances that are equally harmful. When a young person crosses the psychological boundary of cigarette smoking, pushing further into abusing other substances may be less of a leap.

Why This Matters to People Struggling with Substance Abuse

If you are fighting addiction yourself or fighting to stay clean after having kicked a habit, you may be asking why this matters to you. There are many ways your battle has inspired this decrease and benefited from it.

There’s no doubt that greater awareness and education have played a role in helping bring about the decline in substance abuse over the last decade. But while education programs and television ads are helpful, the impact of seeing someone you know struggling with addiction paints an even more vivid picture.

Where such issues were once kept hidden from view, this open sharing of struggles with addictive substances is now played out in the open. Beyond looking for an elusive silver lining, this is an actual example of good coming from even the darkest circumstances.

Those struggling with addiction currently benefit from this trend. As demand dries up, supply tends to follow. When the substance of your choice is readily available, staying clean is undeniably harder. As society starts to turn away from abusing harmful substances, availability becomes scarce.

Sure, you can always find a way to get that next cigarette, that next drink, that next fix, but if you must go looking for it, there’s an opportunity to find your way out instead. This trend can only benefit you as well.

What Is Causing This Decline?

Researchers are still speculating on what is causing this decline. With only a decade of results to explore, the reasons are not yet clear. We do know some movements have contributed to the decline, however:

Campaign Against Cigarettes

As mentioned earlier, cigarettes are a gateway into the world of substance abuse. During the last 20 years, much progress has been made in the campaign against cigarette addiction.

First, expensive taxes were put in place, and the monies from those taxes were used to fund public education programs that helped combat cigarette addiction, in addition to other benefits. As the cost of cigarettes increased, access for young people was restricted.

In addition, laws were enacted that made it tougher for young people to gain access to cigarettes in the first place. Overall, this led to a dramatic reduction in those addicted to nicotine products and likely paved the way for a decline in substance abuse across the board.

Greater Education

Those cigarette taxes helped fund education programs and commercials aimed at young people to warn them of the dangers of substance abuse. Celebrities and athletes increasingly joined in helping change the perception of addictive substances from cool to harmful, and young people listened.

These programs were influential in changing the culture of America’s youth and shaping a new generation with the idea that substance abuse was not only not cool, but not even worth trying.

Growing Risk Aversion

For reasons still unclear to researchers, young people in this time have a greater aversion to engaging in risky behavior than ever. Not only are young people not using addictive substances, but there is a sharp decline in teenage pregnancies and unprotected sex. Young people even use their seat belts when riding in a car more often than older generations.

This shying away from risky behavior has played a part in the decline of substance abuse, but it is still not clear what brought about that risk aversion.

Still More Work to Do

While this decline is a good start, there remains a great deal more to be done, possibly in the following areas:

  • More than 37 percent of high school seniors say they have been drunk at least once.
  • Marijuana legalization may be contributing to the slowing rate of cigarette smoking, as more forms of cannabis are readily accessible.
  • E-cigarette use remains at around 12 percent and is still seen as cool among young people.
  • Prescription drug abuse also remains a significant source of concern.

A dichotomy exists within the abuse of every kind of substance, though. Cigarette smoking, for example, is down across almost every demographic. In certain geographic areas, however, cigarette use has not declined and has even gained popularity.

While illicit drugs such as heroin are seeing a marked decrease in use over time, those who do use such drugs appear to be doing so more frequently, and are overdosing at frightening rates. In short, while substance abuse is down overall, where it does occur, the abuse appears to be worse than ever.

Cellphones: The New Drug?

Some researchers are pointing at the correlation between the advent of smartphones and the decline in substance abuse as being more than a coincidence. Indeed, there are reasons to believe that, in many ways, mobile phone usage and the constant access to social networks has in many ways filled the craving for excitement and novelty that drives people to use addictive substances in the first place.

If so, people in general, and young people in particular, may be trading one addiction for another. As anyone who has battled addiction knows, this can be a recipe for disaster and create an endless cycle of dependence.

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Statistics on Alcohol Use, Alcoholism and Alcohol-Related Health Issues

Statistics Alcohol Use Alcoholism and Alcohol Related Health Issues - Fight Addiction Now

Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed and dangerous substances in the United States. One of the most important facets of fighting alcoholism and alcohol-related health issues is identifying those most at risk and encouraging them to seek treatment sooner rather than later.

Alcohol-fueled deaths in America are one unfortunate result of a culture built around drinking, one which extends through all demographics. Additionally, alcohol-related health issues are the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Understanding the Culture Behind Excessive Drinking

Unlike most other dangerous and addictive substances that are causing problems in the U.S., alcohol is legal to purchase, own and consume for adults of age 21 or older. Every state has unique laws when it comes to the purchase, transportation and distribution of alcohol.  All states have unique issues when it comes to alcohol, based on the demographics, industries and cultural scenes in each respective state.

For example, states with many colleges and universities often contend with “college town” problems like underage drinking, loud college parties and drunk driving. States with large manufacturing and industrial markets may see a prevalence of alcohol-related illnesses in workers who get in the habit of “unwinding” by drinking after a hard day’s work.

How Prevalent Is Alcohol Use?

Statistics of Men Vs Women Alcohol Poisoning Deaths - Fight Addiction Now

According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 86 percent of respondents over the age of 18 reported drinking at some point in their lifetime.

More than 70 percent reported drinking within the past year, and 56 reported some amount of drinking within the past month.

This indicates that more than half of all American adults consume alcohol at least once per month, but the reality is that most consume alcohol far more than that.

The survey also reported that nearly 27 percent of all respondents over the age of 18 engaged in binge drinking within the past month, which generally refers to consuming five or more drinks in a single drinking session. Only 7 percent reported heavy alcohol use within the past month, but the term “heavy alcohol use” likely means different things to different people.

How Does the U.S. Compare at the Global Level?

Compared to alcohol-influenced deaths in other countries, the United States has one of the highest alcohol-related death rates in the world: The U.S. ranks 39th out of 172 countries for alcohol deaths per 100,000 residents.

Many factors influence this ranking, including society’s perceptions of alcohol, the glorification of alcohol in media and advertising, and social norms that dictate alcohol as a “social lubricant,” allowing people to more easily relax and socialize during their leisure time. The U.S. also has many thriving high-stress industries such as finance, technology, marketing, sales, education and others that often lead employees in these fields to seek stress relief in unhealthy ways.

Drug and alcohol abuse is very common in the tech industry, where professionals work long hours and face stiff competition while facing an enormous demand to innovate and stay ahead of competitors.

Alcohol Statistics by State

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly release reports covering alcohol statistics by state. While mostly rural states report some of the highest alcohol-related death rates, it’s important to bear in mind that these states have lower populations than others.

Therefore, fewer deaths in a low population state can equate to a higher death rate compared to many deaths in a high population state. People living in rural areas may also face additional difficulty with alcohol-related illnesses and addiction due to a lack of access to reliable treatment programs.

Deaths Per State

The states with the highest alcohol-related death rates from cirrhosis and liver disease in 2015 include:

  • New Mexico: 566 deaths (24.8 deaths per 100,000 residents)
  • Wyoming: 118 deaths (18.9 per 100,000 residents)
  • South Dakota: 139 deaths (16.1 rate)
  • Montana: 179 deaths (15.7 rate)
  • Alaska: 114 deaths (15.4 rate)

California (5,425), Texas (3,844) and Florida (3,084) reported the highest numbers of alcohol-related deaths in 2015, but these states are also some of the most densely populated in the country, so they only showed up in the middle of the rankings.

Which Behaviors Lead to Alcohol-Related Deaths?

“Alcohol-related deaths” is a blanket term that covers any type of death influenced by or expedited by alcohol. This can include:

  • Fatal alcohol poisoning from excessive drinking
  • Motor vehicle deaths from drunk driving
  • Fatal long-term health complications such as liver disease

The rates of these kinds of deaths coincide with alcohol consumption rates.

For example, states with high drinking rates often report high drunk driving accident and death rates as well as a higher number of deaths caused by alcohol-related illnesses such as cirrhosis and liver disease.

North Dakota appears toward the middle of the rankings for cirrhosis and liver disease-related deaths, but it has the highest drunk driving death rate at about 11.3 per 100,000, according to 2012 data from the CDC. Montana ranks fourth in the country for cirrhosis and liver disease-related deaths, while it comes in second for drunk driving-related deaths at 9.4 per 100,000.

Join the Fight Against Alcohol-Related Deaths

These alcohol statistics paint a picture of a country that may not fully recognize the dangers of alcohol. One of the most effective weapons in the fight against alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths is advocacy, and you may wonder what you can do at the personal level to curb these unfortunate alcohol statistics.

Fight Addiction Now is a grassroots community of individuals who understands the importance of education and advocacy in American communities. We invite anyone to share their insight, stories and advice to the other members of the Fight Addiction Now community to spread the word to Americans who have witnessed the tragic effects of alcoholism and alcohol-related health issues.

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