6 Tips for Navigating 4th of July Parties While Sober

4th of July Sober Party Tips

 

The 4th of July is synonymous with drinking and partying. For people in sobriety, it can be difficult to navigate the holiday. However, if you feel strongly that you want to have the 4th of July experience while staying true to your recovery, these sober party tips can help. 

 

1. Make Sure You’re Ready

Ask yourself, am I able to go to a place where alcohol will be served and not feel triggered? How often do I feel cravings? Do I have a support network I can call upon if I feel triggered? If you can’t say with confidence that your sobriety would be safe in a situation where people are drinking, don’t risk it. 

 

2. Host a Party of Your Own 

If you are worried about attending a party where you may be triggered, why not host your own sober celebration? Plenty of people will be happy to spend the 4th of July sober. Get the barbecue going, play some games, and spend the day outside enjoying the great weather. Plus one of the perks of hosting is you stay busy. 

 

3. Have a Friend to Lean On

Maybe you could bring a sober friend with you for support, or arrange with your sponsor ahead of time that you may need to call them on the day. Or maybe you could ask someone to check in on you via text during the party. Come up with a strategy that feels right to you. Putting some plans into place for coping with triggers will go a long way in protecting your sobriety. 

 

4. Keep a List of Coping Strategies on Your Phone

Speaking of coping with triggers, keep a list of portable coping skills on your phone. It could be going for a walk around the block, doing some deep breathing in the bathroom, or as Amanda Gist suggests “applying lavender essential oil to your neck and wrists to activate your parasympathetic nervous system.” Keeping a list will help you remember these strategies in the event you feel triggered. 

 

5. Come Prepared with Non-Alcoholic Options

Bringing your own drinks gives you more control over the situation. If you’re offered a drink you can say, “thanks but I brought my own.” It also avoids that awkward feeling of wanting something to hold whilst mingling. 

 

6. Be Your Own Exit Strategy

Carpooling is great for the environment but skip it today. Drive yourself to the party. That way if things start to feel unsafe for you, you can leave immediately. It might even be good to have a place in mind, where you can go and feel safe. 

And if you find yourself struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Contact us anytime, we are here to help.

Understanding Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder

To feel “low” from time to time is to be human, but what happens when it takes over your life? Major Depressive Disorder, or clinical depression, is a mood disorder that affects how you think, feel, and behave. It can manifest in physical symptoms like extreme fatigue and can affect normal day-to-day functioning. In some cases it can be so severe that sufferers feel that there is no reason to live and can become suicidal. 

Contrary to popular belief it is not something you can just “snap out of.” Major Depressive Disorder is a clinical issue that typically requires medical attention and intervention. Depression can affect people at any age or stage of life, including children and teens. 

 

Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder

Major Depressive Disorder symptoms can vary from person to person. Not everyone with clinical depression will experience all of these symptoms. However, in general symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder can include: 

  • Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or despair
  • Lack of motivation
  • Personality changes
  • Loss of interest or joy in activities previously enjoyed such as hobbies
  • Tiredness, extreme fatigue or lack of energy to even accomplish small tasks
  • Weight fluctuation, either reduced appetite resulting in weight loss, or increased food cravings resulting in weight gain
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling irritable, having angry outbursts, or feeling frustrated by even small things
  • Sleep changes, either in the form of insomnia or oversleeping
  • Trouble with concentration, feeling foggy, difficulty with decision making, and forgetfulness
  • Slowed speech, thought, and movement
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide

 

Depression and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is common among people experiencing Major Depressive Disorder. Often people use substances like drugs and alcohol to self-medicate and attempt to ease the pain they are feeling. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol do not solve the problem and come with issues of their own. For example, alcohol can actually trigger depressive symptoms. Thus, substance abuse and depression can actually fuel each other and make things far worse. 

For this reason, Major Depressive Disorder and Substance Use Disorder are often seen together, called Co-occurring Disorders. 

 

Treatment

Currently the best course of treatment for Major Depressive Disorder is a combination of medication and therapy. Usually doctors prescribe serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) first. These medications are often better known by their brand names and include Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, and Celexa. Antidepressants such as these typically take anywhere from two to six weeks to be effective and it might take a few attempts to find the best medication fit and dosage. 

Furthermore, therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help patients recognize negative thought patterns early on, teach coping skills and strategies for controlling symptoms. 

In cases where Major Depressive Disorder co-occurs with substance abuse, comprehensive treatment is necessary. Facilities which specialize in treatment of Substance Use Disorder, addiction, and co-occurring disorders such as clinical depression will be able to treat all aspects of the problem. 

When only one side of a co-occurring disorder receives treatment, the untreated condition can continue to wreak havoc. Thus if a patient is treated only for alcohol abuse but not depression, the depression can drive them to use to deal with difficult symptoms. If the depression is treated without addressing the alcohol abuse, a person’s drinking could trigger the depression again. 

 

Getting Help 

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, addiction, or co-occurring disorders, contact us today. Harmony Recovery Group specializes in treating co-occurring disorders and getting to the root cause in order to give you the best chance at long-term recovery. Call us today and find out how we can help.

What is Nitrous Oxide? This Risky Inhalant Poses Health Concerns

Nitrous Oxide Inhalant Drug

Nitrous oxide, also known as Laughing Gas or Whip-its, is a colorless, odorless gas which works as an inhalant. It has been provided in clinical settings for over a century to relax patients for procedures. Reusable whipped cream canisters, like the ones for professional chef use, use Nitrous Oxide as a propellant. This is how it is more commonly acquired for recreational use. 

 

Clinical Use

In a clinical setting, Nitrous Oxide is often combined with oxygen and administered through a mask. The oxygen is helpful because high doses without additional oxygen can cause hypoxia (oxygen deficiency). If there is not oxygen alongside the nitrous, often the doctor will give the patient oxygen for several minutes after the Nitrous is discontinued. This helps clear any remaining gas from the body.  

In this way, the substance is very safe. It can relieve pain and act as a mild sedative, making it particularly useful in minor dental procedures where patients are fearful or would be uncomfortable. It is also often provided during childbirth as a mild pain reliever and relaxant. However, the effects wear off very quickly. 

 

Effects of Nitrous Oxide

When inhaled, Nitrous Oxide creates a high that lasts around 20 seconds causing feelings of euphoria and relaxation. Users may also experience laughing fits, hence the name Laughing Gas. 

It can also cause strong hallucinations in larger amounts. Steve-O, of Jackass fame and now 11 years sober, says Nitrous Oxide is one of the most frequent and darkest drugs he ever did. His hallucinations were so strong that he was constantly chasing that feeling again, ingesting larger and larger amounts with dangerous implications. 

Other effects of the drug include dizziness and difficulty thinking straight, impairments which can become dangerous. In Australia, an 18 year-old boy fell from a balcony and died after using Nitrous Oxide. Friends say he likely fell due to the dizzying effects of the drug. 

While overdoses are rare, they have been reported in both the UK and US. As previously mentioned, when the substance is used in large amounts without added oxygen, it can cause hypoxia, low blood pressure, and fainting. 

 

Side Effects of Nitrous Oxide

Short-term side effects can include:

  • Shivering
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucinations
  • Sound distortion
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting

There are also reports of allergic reactions to the drug. Signs to look out for are fever, wheezing, difficulty breathing, chills, and hives. These symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Long-term effects typically only occur from long-term abuse. Because Nitrous Oxide blocks B-12 uptake, those who use the gas regularly may develop deficiency which can lead to Anemia, nerve damage, and neurological complications. 

 

Getting Help 

Nitrous Oxide is one of many substances people take to escape their reality or as a party drug. But what happens when things get out of control? If you or a loved one are struggling with any type of substance abuse or addiction, we can help. 

Call us today, we’re here to talk and we’re here to listen. 

 

Women’s Healthcare Month: How Addiction Affects Women Differently

Women's Healthcare and Addiction

In the past, men reported higher rates of addiction and substance use disorder than women, but the past few decades women have swiftly closed the gender gap. Today, men and women experience roughly equal rates of these issues. However, women’s rates of progression, experiences, reasons for use, and stigmas can vary greatly from their male counterparts. 

 

Addiction Progression in Women 

Scientific studies have found that women progress in addiction faster than men due to their physiology. This is particularly true with alcohol, which female bodies process differently. Because women have less of a particular stomach enzyme which helps break down alcohol, it remains in their system longer and leads to higher blood alcohol levels. One drink for a woman can have twice the physical impact of one drink for a man. When a woman is drinking often, this higher saturation of alcohol leads to dependence more quickly. It also leads to brain and organ damage more quickly than for men. 

 

Co-occurring Disorders in Women

Studies show that women are two times as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as men. Self-medicating is a common theme with co-occurring disorders to manage uncomfortable feelings and often leads to abuse, dependence and addiction. Women are also more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and attempts than men. 

Furthermore, domestic and sexual trauma in women can lead to co-occurring disorders. Roughly one in three women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime, a stat which is higher for women than it is for men. Women are more vulnerable to physical attacks and are more likely to experience child sexual abuse, incest, neglect in childhood, and domestic violence. A history of violent trauma is more common among women with drug addiction, often as a result of PTSD. In fact, one study found that as many as 6 in 10 women with addiction also have PTSD. 

 

Women’s Pain and Addiction

Women’s pain is less likely to be taken seriously by medical professionals than men’s pain, called Pain Bias. According to Harvard Health, women’s pain is more likely to be considered psychological rather than physical. One study found that women in emergency rooms in acute pain were less likely to receive painkillers than males in similar condition. 

Conversely, women are found to suffer more frequently and more intensely from pain and often require more medication to mitigate the effects. One study found that women needed twice the amount of morphine as males to receive comparable pain relief. Women are also more likely to have chronic and painful inflammatory and/or auto-immune conditions than men. Further, women’s reproductive health conditions can lead to significant pain such as Endometriosis which affects 1 in 10 women worldwide.

The lack of adequate pain management can lead women to seek pain relief elsewhere in the form of illicit substances or illegally-sold prescription medications on the street. 

 

Social Stigmas and Pressures for Addiction in Women

Women with children in particular experience social stigmas around addiction. They have been found to be less likely to admit they have a problem, to analyze their own alcohol or substance use habits. They are also less likely to speak to a friend or professional about their problem for fear of judgement.

Further, women with addiction who are pregnant are less likely to seek support. One study found that 25% of opioid addicted pregnant women went untreated. Researchers believe that shame and stigma play a role in their barrier to receiving help. 

 

Getting Help 

Women need and deserve proper support in treatment of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and Addiction. Seeking help in a supportive, nurturing environment that also specializes in treating Co-occurring Disorders can help to make the changes needed to overcome addiction. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with drugs or alcohol, contact us today. We are here to listen and we are here to help.

 

Sources

https://www.jneurosci.org/content/37/12/3202

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5845507/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9398925/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3688835/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/addiction-in-women

https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression/art-20047725

Substance Abuse Rates Are Higher in the LGBTQ Community

LGBTQ Substance Abuse Rates

June is LGBTQ Pride Month, where we celebrate our LGBTQ community and increase visibility and discussions around equality. We’d like to take this moment to discuss how Substance Abuse affects the LGBTQ community at disproportionately higher rates and what we can do to support them. 

People who identify as LGBTQ are at a higher risk for Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and addiction. For example, according to the Center for American Progress, 20-30% of people who identify as LGBTQ use drugs and alcohol compared with about 9% of the general population. Furthermore, a 2015 study found that people who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual are twice as likely to have used an illicit drug in the past year. LGBT identifying individuals are also found to binge drink in a higher percentage than heterosexual individuals.

 

Discrimination Can Lead to Substance Abuse

Although great strides have been made towards equality, dignity, acceptance, and fairness for the LGBTQ community, we still have a very long way to go. LGBTQ people face high levels of stress every day, often called Minority Stress, simply by being themselves. 

Many LGBTQ individuals have experienced social prejudice in the form of discriminatory laws and practices around areas such as housing, employment, relationship recognition, and healthcare.  Furthermore, social stigma from friends and even family members adds to the challenges.

Issues like these can range from difficult and upsetting to dangerous and severely traumatic. LGBTQ individuals suffer higher incidences of stressful childhood experiences, school victimization, neighborhood hate crimes, and family conflict than heterosexual and cisgender individuals.

For instance, traumatic experiences for LGBTQ can include: 

  • Disownment from their family based on their sexual orientation
  • Violence based on sexual orientation or gender identification (hate crimes)
  • Rejection from their religious community
  • Physical abuse by family members
  • Bullying or peer ridicule for LGBTQ youth
  • Public discrimination in the form of job loss or child custody loss

Furthermore, LGBTQ community members who are also of a minority race, religion or gender face further societal pressures and prejudices.

Moreover, these societal pressures can lead to feelings of self-loathing, shame, or negative self-view which correlates to higher substance abuse, self-harm, and suicide rates among LGBTQ. 

As a result, each of these factors and stressors lead to significant stress and anxiety around everyday choices and lifestyle. Feelings of isolation, anger, fear, and depression lead to a higher likelihood of substance abuse to escape these problems. 

 

Social Component

Party subcultures in LGBTQ communities can also promote substance abuse. A UK study found that the most widely used drugs among LGBTQ people were party drugs such as poppers, cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine and amphetamines. LGBTQ individuals were 10 times more likely to have used cocaine in the previous month than the general population. 

 

Higher Rates of Co-occurring Disorders

Trauma and stress can exacerbate mental illness, driving people to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. As a result, this is one of the reasons LGBTQ individuals are more likely to have Co-occurring Disorders. According to the SAMHSA, people who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, PTSD and mental other health disorders. Additionally, they are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and attempts. 

Transgender individuals are twice as likely to have a mental disorder as cisgender individuals. In adolescence, transgender youth have higher rates of self-harm, depression, suicide, and eating disorders than cisgender youth. 

This is why it is vital that LGBTQ individuals in substance abuse treatment also be screened and treated for co-occurring psychiatric disorders. 

 

How Can Non-LGBTQ Help? 

Firstly, change starts at the individual level. For example, try educating yourself on LGBTQ issues. Be conscious not to reinforce stereotypes and stigmas that lead to the feelings of isolation which lead LGBTQ to use. Support laws and policies that lead to equality for all LGBTQ members of society. Likewise, be an advocate and speak up for injustice. In short, if society is causing the problem, we need to change our way of behaving. 

Secondly, support your LGBTQ friends and family. If you feel they have a problem, talk to them. Be a listening ear, tell them your concerns, and if it feels right, discuss treatment options. Addiction thrives in the dark so bringing it to light can help, just remember to do so gently. 

 

Getting Help 

However you identify, if you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, help is available. Call us today to find out how we can support you through this difficult time. We’re here to listen. 

 

Sources

Connolly MD, Zervos MJ, Barone CJ, Johnson CC, Joseph CLM. The Mental Health of Transgender Youth: Advances in Understanding. J Adolesc Health Off Publ Soc Adolesc Med. 2016;59(5):489-495. doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2016.06.012.

Duncan, D. T., Hatzenbuehler, M. L., & Johnson, R. M. (2014). Neighborhood-level LGBT hate crimes and current illicit drug use among sexual minority youth. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 135, 65–70.

Huebner, D. M., Thoma, B. C., & Neilands, T. B. (2015). School victimization and substance abuse among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents. Prevention Science, 16, 734–743.

Patricia E. Penn , Denali Brooke , Chad M. Mosher , Sandra Gallagher , Audrey J. Brooks & Rebecca Richey (2013) LGBTQ Persons with Co-occurring Conditions: Perspectives on Treatment, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 31:4, 466-483, DOI: 10.1080/07347324.2013.831637. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07347324.2013.831637

Schneeberger, A. R., Dietl, M. F., Muenzenmaier, K. H., Huber, C. G., & Lang, U. E. (2014). Stressful childhood experiences and health outcomes in sexual minority populations: A systematic review. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 49, 1427–1445.

7 Sober Tips for Memorial Day From People Who’ve Been There

Sober Memorial Day: 7 Tips

Navigating Memorial Day Sober

We Asked People In Recovery For Their Strategies

 

Memorial Day is coming up fast and while many are looking forward to the long weekend, holidays like this one can create some anxiety for those of us in recovery. It might be a little easier than usual, since we’re still technically in the time of social distancing, but we asked some of our sober friends for their tips for navigating Memorial Day.

1. Start Some Self Reflection

Check in and ask yourself some questions such as, where am I at in my recovery? Am I capable of going to a place where alcohol will be served and not being triggered to use? Have I built a support network I can call upon if I do have these feelings?  Be honest with yourself, know your limits, and stick to them. If you can’t say with confidence that your sobriety would be safe in a situation where people are drinking, don’t go. 

2. Have Portable Coping Skills

Amanda Gist, public speaker and writer on mental health and addiction, suggests that when a trigger arises it’s good to have some go-to coping skills in your back pocket. For example, these can be “excusing yourself for a ten minute walk, doing some deep breathing in the bathroom, or applying lavender essential oil to your neck and wrists to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Another option would be to have a friend you can reach out to via text with the agreement that they’ll help you untangle the thoughts you’re struggling with in the moment of the trigger.” 

3. Do Something Different This Year

This one might be easier due to lockdown but going to the same party you went to last year when you were using isn’t a good idea. As Joanne Ketch of Chrysalis Counseling says, “Don’t do the ‘same old thing.’ Try a new way to celebrate. For instance, you could go to a different home, grill something new, go to the park, even change the music. Changes will help your brain not associate the day with drinking or using.” 

4. Going to a Party? Mentally Prepare Yourself for Questions (and Prepare Answers, Too)

If you’re going to a gathering, barbecue or party, another suggestion from Amanda is to have some verbal responses planned in case you are offered a drink. “This way, you know you won’t be stumbling around for words if you are offered a drink. No swinging between telling your life story and just running away. Have a few reliable one-liners, like the simple but effective ‘No thanks, I don’t drink.’ Or the grateful but stern ‘I appreciate the offer, that’s so thoughtful of you but I’m not drinking.’ Or there’s the offer-them-an-alternative: ‘I don’t drink alcohol but I’d love a lemonade if you have one!’

5. Find a Substitute

Do you feel awkward at a party without something in your hand? Megan Kioulafofski, founder of Sol and Spirit, suggests coming prepared with a substitute. “It avoids those ‘you’re not drinking?’ conversations and makes me feel like I’m not missing out on anything,” she says. For example, Megan’s favorite substitute is to mix Kombucha with soda water, “it has a nice bite to it.” 

*Additionally, just make sure your alcohol-free drink isn’t made with anything you used to use in your drink of choice to avoid triggers. For example, if you used to drink Rum and Coke, it’s not a good idea to drink plain coke at a party. 

6. Have Your “Outs” Ready

“… And be willing to use them,” says Joanne. Planning an escape or distraction strategy ahead of time will be helpful in the event you feel that the situation is no longer safe for your sobriety. “The out can be physically leaving the event. But, it can also be a smaller ‘out’ such as a text, phone call, FaceTime or Skype with someone. They can support you and talk you through it.”

7. Replace FOMO with JOMO and Skip it Altogether

Mike, founder of “I Will Not Drink With You Today,” suggests a different approach altogether. “If you feel that going anywhere will trigger you, ask yourself ‘What’s more important: this party or my sobriety?’ Holidays come and go, there’s no reason you can’t sit this one out.  Camp at home with some TV or a book and watch how nothing is different afterward.” 

 

We hope these tips were able to help you stay sober this Memorial Day. If you find yourself or a loved one needing additional support reach out to us we are here for you.

 

Foster Care Awareness Month: Rebuilding Families After Addiction

Foster Care Awareness Month: Rebuilding Families in the Aftermath of Addiction

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month.

One in three children in foster care are there due to parental Addiction. Foster care and substance abuse are intimately linked and can cause long-term problems for afflicted families. Today we’re talking about starting to heal the trauma that addiction can cause in a family with children, and how to re-build. 

First things first, opening the paths of communication is key.

How far the conversation goes depends on the age of the children but be sure to apologize for anything they may have experienced directly (i.e. an outburst) or indirectly (your absence, etc.). This doesn’t need to be an exhaustive list but anything that stands out can be noted. Tell them they are you here for them now and are doing your best to recover from your problem. You children may not have much to say but if they do, put your listening hat on. Hear them out, validate their feelings, tell them that you love them. All strong relationships are built on communication and child-parent relationships are no different. 

Once you’ve cleared the air it’s important to establish a “new normal.”

This is where you will be speaking with actions rather than words, showing up and being there for them. Create routines, spend time with them, and maybe even start a new tradition like Spaghetti Night or a Sunday morning bike ride. Even something as small as watching their favorite movie with them can mean the world. For most kids, your presence is enough. 

The truth is, this process can take time.

Even if you are feeling miles ahead in terms of recovery and rebuilding, they might not be. Or if you are having hard days, be kind to yourself. The recovery process is different for everyone and having the family rebuild process in the mix is additionally challenging. Just remember why you’re doing this, your children need your sobriety as much as you do. They need their parent. You don’t have to be perfect, just keep showing up for them.

 

Every scenario looks different. The ultimate goal is to heal, and let go of resentments and the shame. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and their children have been placed in foster care our case managers might be able to help. Contact us below or click here.

4 Common Co-Occurring Disorders Accompanying Addiction

Dual Diagnosis occurring disorders

Mental health conditions can run hand-in-hand with drug and alcohol addiction. In a clinical setting, the terms co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis describe a person who is struggling with substance use disorder and a mental health condition. 

It is estimated that 17.5 million Americans are struggling with a mental health disorder, and of those people, one in four are actively abusing substances or developed an addiction. Sadly, only half of those with co-occurring disorders actually receive treatment for their dual diagnosis. 

Research has shown that 34% of co-occurring disorder patients received mental health treatment without receiving addiction treatment. 2% received care for only an addiction. Meanwhile, only 12% actually received treatment that supported all their issues and disorders.

In other words, it can be a vicious cycle. Substance abuse is fueled by a mental health condition, or an underlying mental health condition is exacerbated by substance abuse. 

The most common mental health conditions seen with addiction are: 
  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety Disorders
  3. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  4. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

However, these are not the only mental health disorders that occur with addiction. Overall, comprehensive treatment has the best outcome for dual diagnosis patients with co-occurring disorders. Only treating one, and not the other creates a roundabout effect. A patient who receives mental health treatment but not addiction treatment continues to use, which aggravates their mental health condition. A patient who receives addiction treatment but not mental health, struggles to remain sober. Therefore, this person, without proper care, is also more likely to relapse due to the effects of their mental health condition.

At Harmony Recovery Group, we help patients recover from addiction and co-occurring disorders through evidence-based treatment in a warm and supportive environment. If you or a loved one are struggling with cooccurring disorders or addiction in general, please do not hesitate to contact our admission specialists at 844-746-8836. We are here to help and support you. 

Read more about the relationships between mental health and addiction.

What Is Opiate Detox and Withdrawal?

Opiate Detox and Withdrawal | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Opiates, also sometimes referred to as opioids, painkillers, or narcotics, consist of a variety of substances. They include both prescription drugs such as morphine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone, as well as illicit street drugs like heroin. People who use these drugs repeatedly are at risk for developing dependence and addiction. For purposes of this article, the terms opioid and opiate will be used interchangeably.

A person who becomes chemically dependent on opioids will experience a need to continue using the drugs to function normally. If they quit taking the drug abruptly or “cold turkey,” they will encounter a variety of unpleasant and sometimes painful symptoms as the body tries to adapt to life without the substance. Moreover, withdrawal symptoms will onset, and physical effects will persist for several days.

Opiate Withdrawal

The symptoms and severity of withdrawal depend on several factors, including the type of drug being abused, the person’s level of dependence, the duration of the addiction, whether they also abuse other substances, and their mental health and medical history. Most symptoms of withdrawal are flu-like and may include chills, sweating, vomiting, and body aches and pains.

Although withdrawal symptoms are not usually life-threatening, they can still produce great physical and psychological distress for the person suffering. Because of the magnitude of withdrawal symptoms, people who are trying to discontinue their drug use on their own may return to using again to avoid the withdrawal process altogether. However, the endless cycle of stopping and returning to drug use can make it more challenging to quit later on.

Attempting to stop using opiates abruptly can be arduous and risky to do alone. For this reason, persons in this situation are generally advised to seek the help of medical detox professionals and addiction specialists to overcome opioid abuse safely and effectively.

Medical detox programs take place in structured and safe clinical environments designed to help patients through the withdrawal process by treating symptoms and reducing cravings. Doctors can also help patients relieve symptoms by gradually tapering them off the addictive substance(s) until they are no longer chemically dependent on it. In many instances, doctors can prescribe certain medications to reduce the number of symptoms and their intensity and curb cravings.

After an individual completes a detox program, their treatment team will likely encourage them to seek therapy and counseling at a rehab center. This is a critical step toward fostering long-term sobriety and preventing relapse. Many detox programs, such as those offered by Recovery in Tune, are located inside rehab centers so that patients are provided with a smooth transition into more comprehensive addiction treatment.

Opiate Withdrawal Symptoms

Opiate Detox and Withdrawal | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

The symptoms of opiate detox can be relatively mild, moderate, or very severe. Symptoms are typically the worst in patients who suffer from intense drug addiction. Consuming excessive amounts of a drug or doing so for a very long period is most likely to result in the severest of symptoms.

As noted, there are many other factors that also play a part in the development of withdrawal symptoms and the length of time they persist. These factors include all aspects of a person’s current health and emotional well-being, any co-occurring mental health disorders, and how they administered the drug (e.g., orally, by smoking, or injecting).

Within about one day after the last dose, a person will usually begin to encounter a combination of the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle spasms, aches or pains
  • Runny nose
  • Sweating or cold chills
  • Stomach cramps and aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Fluctuating blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors

How Long Does Opiate Withdrawal Last?

There are four stages of withdrawal from opioids. They are anticipatoryearly acutefully-developed acute, and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

Depending on the various factors aforementioned, acute withdrawal will typically onset within a few hours of a person’s last dose. The acute withdrawal stage involves flu-like symptoms that are associated with opiate withdrawal, also known as being “dope sick.” After acute withdrawal is over, the protracted abstinence period occurs and can last up to six months—during which time people in recovery are most vulnerable to stress and triggers that can compel them to relapse.

Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

The anticipatory stage begins within 3-4 hours after the last dose and is hallmarked by increased anxiety or dread related to upcoming symptoms of withdrawal. Cravings and often obsessive drug-seeking behavior also characterize this stage.

The early acute stage begins 8-10 hours after the last dose, and anxiety and restlessness will likely continue to ramp up during this time. An individual may begin to experience flu-like symptoms such as vomiting, sweating, and stomach aches. Unless they receive appropriate medical treatment, cravings and drug-seeking behavior will usually persist.

The fully-developed acute stage will start between 1-3 days after the last dose, and here symptoms will peak. They may include body tremors, diarrhea, muscle spasms, and very intense cravings for more opioids.

The post-acute withdrawal stage (PAWS) can persist for months or years—there is no definite timeline. Acute physical symptoms are no longer present, but the person will still have to endure the emotional fallout from the disease. Without proper treatment, they may have depression, anxiety, mood swings, insomnia, and impaired ability to concentrate. During this stage, as with all stages, there is still the potential for relapse, so ongoing long-term care and support is vital for many to avoid it.

Medications Administered in Opiate Detox

Opiate Detox and Withdrawal | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Doctors frequently prescribe medications during the detox process. These medications help address the long-term problems associated with opiate withdrawal, such as cravings. Over time, a doctor can gradually taper down the dosage of such medications until the patient recovers fully from acute withdrawal symptoms. Medication may continue to be prescribed while the person is undergoing various levels of treatment, and in some cases, indefinitely.

Methadone

Historically, methadone was the go-to answer for withdrawal in clinical environments but has been replaced by buprenorphine and Suboxone. Methadone is itself an opioid, thus it also has the potential for abuse. Still, it is often prescribed to help patients ease off the opioids they originally became dependent upon, such as heroin. And as a long-acting opioid, methadone can be effective as a long-term treatment measure for people who struggle with severe, chronic opiate addiction.

Buprenorphine and Suboxone

Buprenorphine is a commonly used medication that is considered to be a highly effective treatment for opiate withdrawal. As a partial opioid agonist, buprenorphine does not mimic the full, euphoric effects of stronger opiates. It does, however, help to relieve symptoms of withdrawal and cravings, which helps patients stay focused and motivated in treatment. Suboxone is a combination drug that includes buprenorphine and naloxone, the latter being added to decrease the drug’s potential for abuse further.

Get Help for an Opiate Addiction

Detox alone cannot help a person obtain freedom from opiate addiction. After completing an opiate detox program, individuals are urged to undergo further treatment at a treatment center such as Recovery in Tune. We offer outpatient detox services and programs in partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, and regular outpatient formats.

Our programs are based on a comprehensive approach and are equipped with the resources, and support clients need to understand the root causes of addiction. Services include cognitive behavioral therapy, group support, individual and family counseling sessions, and activities such as adventure, art, and music therapy. The services that our center offers, combined with consistent and thoroughgoing care, will help you remain focused and motivated during the withdrawal and treatment processes and beyond.

We are available around-the-clock to help you or someone you love to find a treatment program that fulfills your needs. It only takes one call and the desire to get better to start a new, more satisfying life in recovery! If you are ready to reclaim your life, free from the use of drugs or alcohol, contact us today!

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The Dangers of Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl Addiction Dangers | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Fentanyl addiction can occur when a person repeatedly abuses fentanyl, and this can happen after being prescribed by a physician or after having obtained it illicitly on the street. Fentanyl abuse and addiction can lead to severe emotional, physical, and social consequences, and can rapidly result in an overdose.

What Is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that works exceptionally well as a painkiller or anesthetic. For medical purposes, it is often administered to patients for severe pain related to an injury or following surgery. Fentanyl works rapidly to eliminate pain, but the effects are not particularly longlasting. For this reason, it also has a very high potential for abuse and addiction. Fentanyl’s effects are similar to those of heroin and other opioids but may be more intense due to the fact that its many times more potent.

Fentanyl users typically experience a state of profound well-being and extreme relaxation or drowsiness and may abuse it in an attempt to experience these feelings repeatedly. There are several methods to administer fentanyl. These include the following by prescription or as a product of drug diversion:

  • Patches
  • Lollipops and dissolvable tongue film
  • Pills that dissolve in the cheek

Illicitly, fentanyl is usually found as a powder, similar to heroin, and can, therefore, be smoked, snorted, or injected. Fentanyl is sometimes mixed with heroin, meth, or cocaine to amplify its effects. Combining these drugs is extremely dangerous, however, and produces a drug cocktail that is far more unpredictable than either drug is alone.

Because fentanyl is often found in a clinical setting as a tool for general anesthesia, people with easy access to the drug, such as physicians or nurses, may abuse it or sell it to others on the black market. Others may begin using fentanyl as prescribed but soon discover that they have become dependent on it.

Many prescription forms of fentanyl, such as lollipops and transdermal patches, have been designed to release the drug gradually over time for safety purposes. However, like many drugs, users have found creative ways to manipulate and abuse fentanyl to produce its effects more rapidly. Unfortunately, doing so is incredibly dangerous because it circumvents the slow-release mechanism and can lead to a lethal overdose.

Short-Term Symptoms of Fentanyl Abuse or Addiction

There are many common warning signs and symptoms that a person is abusing fentanyl. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Confusion and slurred speech
  • Depression
  • Weakness and difficulty walking
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Slowed/altered heart rate
  • Labored breathing
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting
  • Shakiness
  • Sleepiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Itching and scratching

Fentanyl Addiction Dangers | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Due to its potency, the abuse of fentanyl can also easily result in unconsciousness, coma, and death.

Effects of Fentanyl Abuse and Addiction

When a person has a chronic fentanyl abuse problem, he or she will likely experience a myriad of adverse effects. There are severe mental, emotional, and physical side effects related to long-term fentanyl use, in addition to the aforementioned acute symptoms. These include the following:

Physical Effects

  • Severe gastrointestinal problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Difficult or labored breathing
  • Seizures

Mental Effects

  • Paranoia
  • Social withdrawal
  • Lack of motivation
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Personality changes

Overdose

A fentanyl overdose can rapidly lead to death, and many of the side effects mentioned above can be signs of an overdose. If you or someone you know is suffering from the following signs or symptoms, please call 911 immediately:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Weak muscles
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Perilously slow heartbeat
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Slow or stopped breathing
  • Bluish nails and lips (cyanosis)

A fentanyl overdose is a medical emergency, and first responders will most likely administer Narcan (naloxone). This drug is an opioid antidote that rapidly and effectively reverses the life-threatening effects of an overdose, including central nervous system depression.

If you or someone you know is abusing heroin or fentanyl, you should obtain Narcan and have it readily available in case of an overdose. It is now available at most major drugstore chains for around $20 without a prescription.

The effects that an overdose of fentanyl has on a user’s heart rate and respiration present the highest risk of death or severe, long-lasting health complications. Even if a person survives a fentanyl overdose, these effects may leave a profound and enduring impact on his or her body. Severe respiratory depression, for instance, can lead to hypoxia, a condition that results in irreversible brain damage.

Lethal Combinations

When combined with other street drugs that suppress the central nervous system, the risk of encountering the following symptoms increases exponentially:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Death

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids (except methadone), which include drugs such as fentanyl, rose steadily between 1999-2017 from 0.3 to 9.0 per 100,000. The rate increased by 8% per year on average between 1999-2013 and by a staggering 71% per year from 2013 through 2017.

Many fatal overdoses attributed to fentanyl have occurred because the person who used it or was exposed to it was not aware that the drug they were coming into contact with contained fentanyl. It is often used as an adulterant of heroin or and other drugs, or substituted for them outright. It’s inexpensive to produce and can be highly profitable for dealers because a tiny amount can have very powerful effects.

Fentanyl Addiction Dangers | Recovery in Tune Addiction Treatment

Treatment for Fentanyl Addiction

Fentanyl abuse and addiction can occur in a number of ways. Individuals who are prescribed fentanyl can become dependent on it and begin abusing it. Others obtain fentanyl on the street or Internet, looking for an even more powerful high than that which can be achieved through heroin use.

Regardless of whether dependence developed related to a prescription or in an Illegally obtained form, fentanyl addiction is extremely dangerous and frequently deadly. Treatment should begin with a medical detox overseen by health professionals who specialize in addiction.

Detox

Due to fentanyl’s high potential for addiction, a person who becomes dependent will encounter multiple withdrawal symptoms after discontinuing its use, which can include the following:

  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Overall weakness
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Lack of appetite
  • Shakiness and tremors
  • Stomach pain

Due to the severity of possible withdrawal symptoms, it’s imperative that those who are attempting to recover work with a qualified medical professional to minimize withdrawal effects and detox safely. Detoxing under the supervision of a medical professional can significantly reduce the risk that the person will relapse and undermine his or her recovery in an attempt to relieve withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment Options

There is a wide variety of treatment options for individuals seeking recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. These include the following:

  • Inpatient/residential treatment programs that typically last anywhere from 30-90 days, sometimes longer
  • Outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment programs
  • 12-step recovery and support programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous
  • Other recovery programs, such as SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training)

Following detox, patients are urged to participate in long-term substance abuse treatment, which includes comprehensive, evidence-based approaches, such as behavioral therapy, counseling, and group support.

Our center employs medical and mental health professionals who specialize in addiction and provide clients with the supports and tools they need to achieve a full recovery and sustain long-lasting sobriety.

Support groups are offered at our center in addition to research-based therapies, and these groups can provide a lifetime of support for addicts who are motivated to maintain sobriety.

You can reclaim your life, free from drugs and alcohol! Contact us today to discover how we can help!