Can Having an Emotional Support Animal Help with Recovery?

emotional support animal

emotional support animal

 

There are so many different things that can help you stay grounded and on track in your recovery, but perhaps none is better than a pet. Pets can be considered emotional support animals when they help someone in recovery, and they can also be part of recovery and treatment itself.

 

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a pet that is recommended by a therapist to help with emotional issues. This differs from a Service Animal, as service animals are professionally trained to help with specific issues. 

An ESA isn’t trained to do anything in particular, however, having pets or the company of animals is scientifically proven to help with many mental and physical symptoms; such as anxiety, blood pressure, depression, and more.

 

What is Animal-Assisted Therapy in Treatment?

When you go to an addiction treatment program, whether inpatient or outpatient, it’s typical for many different types of therapy to be used; for example, you may do cognitive-behavioral therapy or a different kind of talk therapy (one-on-one with a counselor or in a group.) You might also do yoga, art therapy, music therapy, or other holistic therapies.

Animal-assisted therapy can fall into the larger category of holistic therapy during addiction treatment.

Medical professionals don’t just use emotional support animals for substance abuse treatment. Animal-assisted therapy benefits people with other mental health disorders/illnesses, like Alzheimer’s, and even incarcerated people. Animal-assisted therapy is also being looked at for its potentially valuable role in helping children with an autism spectrum disorder.

Animal-assisted therapy has been shown in research to help reduce depression and anxiety as well as aggression. It can help participants feel calmer and overall better. There’s even research that has found dog visits can reduce physical pain and related symptoms.

Specifically, research has found benefits of animal-assisted therapy that include the following:

  • When humans interact with animals, it can promote hormones like oxytocin, serotonin, and prolactin. Those hormones play a role in improving mood, and they can create a relaxation response. 
  • Animal interaction can help improve mental stimulation. 
  • Using animals as part of therapy can reduce anxiety, increase relaxation, and provide comfort and reduce loneliness. 
  • There’s some evidence that animal therapy can help reduce initial resistance to treatment, including substance abuse treatment. 
  • Researchers have found that animals as part of therapy can lower blood pressure and improve heart health. 
  • In substance abuse treatment, animal therapy helps people with trauma hesitate to talk about their situation. 
  • Another specific benefit of animal therapy and the use of an emotional support dog in addiction treatment is that animals can distract from triggers or cravings.

Generally, in an addiction treatment program, there is either canine-assisted therapy or equine therapy. Canine assistance therapy using an emotional support dog can help open up lines of communication. Specifically, studies have found that when a dog is in a rehab facility, the clinicians can gain more insight into their patients, which can help them provide better treatment.

With equine therapy, not only do you do horseback riding, but you may also provide care for the horse, such as feeding, cleaning, and grooming. That gives a sense of responsibility to patients who are recovering from addiction.

Equine therapy can also be beneficial because horses are so powerful and gradually develop trust with the humans around them; this creates a bonding opportunity for people in recovery.

Equine therapy can also help with recovery as addicts learn how to control their emotions because being overly emotional or having an outburst around a horse will diminish the sense of trust.

 

 

How Can an Emotional Support Animal Help Your Recovery After Treatment?

While it’s increasingly common for animals to be part of rehab programs, having a pet when you leave treatment can be beneficial too. For example, many people find that having a dog is a tremendous part of helping them stay sober.

  • If you’re ready for the commitment and have the resources and stability for a pet, it can help you keep negative emotions such as depression or anxiety under control. 
  • Since pets do trigger positive emotions, this is an excellent way to avoid relapse triggers. 
  • When you’re around a dog, for example, it lowers cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone. Stress and anxiety are big triggers for relapse, so anything you can do to combat those feelings is suitable for your recovery. 
  • Having a pet creates a sense of unconditional support and love which is key to maintaining sobriety. When you leave treatment, you may still be working on rebuilding your relationships with humans, but a pet offers a non-judgmental relationship. There’s comfort in the relationship with pets. 
  • Even beyond creating positive feelings and reducing stress and loneliness, something beneficial about pet ownership in recovery forces you to have a routine and be responsible for something aside from yourself. You have to schedule times to feed and walk your pet, take him to the vet, plan ahead if you’re going out of town, and more. These are life skills that are rewarding for you to learn. 
  • Having a pet can help you get out and about more, so you aren’t sitting inside all the time. You have to walk your dog, so you’re going to get off the couch and get fresh air, even when you don’t want to. 
  • Getting an ESA is a good shift for your perspective if you’re feeling a bit stuck, and you’ll also be active. When you’re engaged, it helps you stay sober and promotes better mental and physical health.

Finally, when you have a pet, especially a dog, it may encourage you to socialize. Dog owners often bond with one another at the dog park or around the neighborhood. You can meet new people who will be a positive force in your life thanks to your dog.

 

Are You Ready for a Pet in Recovery?

If you’re considering an emotional support animal, you need to make sure you’re ready for the responsibility.

You’ll have to learn more about pet ownership first to make sure you understand the full responsibility. A few other things to consider before you get a pet in recovery include:

  • Are you financially ready? A pet will have costs, even if you’re adopting. Think about how things like food, vet visits, and other supplies will impact your budget.
  • Do you have enough space? If you live in a smaller home or apartment, you may still be able to get a pet, but you will have to limit your options based on the space you have available.
  • Do you have the time to dedicate to a pet? If you’re going to get a dog, you will have to commit to going on daily walks and spending time caring for your pet.

Many people find that having an emotional support animal in treatment or as a pet after treatment is one of the most important and rewarding parts of their recovery. There are genuine, studied benefits of pets in recovery, and they can help you make progress in so many areas of your life, as long as you’re ready for the responsibility. 

Having an emotional support animal is an option that goes well with other treatment options for addiction recovery. Anchored Tides Recovery ​can help assist you and your furry friend with your long-term goals of recovery. Contact one of our care coordinators today for a free consultation.

Breaking Down the 12 Step Program

12 step program

12 step program

 

You may frequently hear about the 12 Step program from Alcoholics Anonymous, as it relates to drug and alcohol addiction. The 12 Step program is a plan to overcome drug addiction and other defects of character through a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps. The idea of the model is that people can support one another to help each other work through substance abuse, but surrendering to a higher power is also critical.  

The program began in the 1930s with Bill Wilson’s decision to turn his experience with alcoholism into a message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in addition to prayer and meditation to improve lives. His message was an attempt to give other addicts the ability to remove all these defects and give the power to carry this message to others who are ready to have God. He talked in his writings about how positive it could be when people dealing with an addiction to alcohol shared their stories. Wilson went on to write his program in what eventually became known as the Big Book. The original form of the steps focused on spirituality and came from a Christian philosophy of ultimate authority. Since it was written, the Big Book has become a key tenant of many treatment programs and self-help groups.

 

Breaking Down The 12 Steps of AA

The original Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group has also led to Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA), and Heroin Anonymous (HA), among others. A few principles of the 12 Step program include:

  • People can help each other maintain abstinence from behaviors or substances they’re addicted to.
  • Requiring complete abstinence from substances.
  • You can use the model to develop new patterns as you move forward in your life.
  • You’re letting go of the ego through a spiritual process as you surrender to a higher power.
  • Meetings are considered a mutual support group that is the fellowship component of the program.
  • While there is a spiritual foundation of the twelve-step program, many participants find that they can interpret the concept of God in their own way and according to their own beliefs.

With that in mind, below, we begin breaking down the 12 step program of AA and what each entails.

 

Step One: Honesty

“We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”

In this step, you admit that you are powerless over alcohol or your addiction. During this time, you also admit to yourself and others that your life is no longer manageable. Addiction is often defined by denial, and one of the most important steps in your personal recovery process, at least when you’re breaking down the 12 step program of AA, is that you’re no longer in denial. This may be a time that you not only admit you have an addiction, but perhaps your friends and family stop being in denial about it as well.

 

Step Two: Faith

“Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

Step two is when you work to believe that there is a Higher Power that is greater than you who can bring you back to a thriving life. The idea here is that before a higher power can help you heal, you have to have a belief that’s possible.

 

Step Three: Surrender

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

In step three of the program, you decide that you’re going to give your will and your life to the care of God as you understand him. You recognize your ability to change your self-destructive decisions, but also that you can’t do it on your own. You have to rely on help from your Higher Power to make this change.

 

Step Four: Soul-Searching

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.”

In this step of the 12 step program, when breaking down the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, you’re starting to take a moral inventory of yourself. This requires an honest assessment and identification of your problems. This is also a time where you begin to take inventory of how your behaviors have affected not just you but the people around you.

 

Step Five: Flaws 

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”

Once you’ve done step four, and you’ve taken a moral inventory of yourself, you can admit not only to God but to yourself and to others the specific nature of your wrongs. During Step 5, you can begin to grow as a person.

 

Step Six: Acceptance

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.”

During this phase, you accept your character flaws and yourself as you are, and then you let it go and ask God to remove them.

 

 

Step Seven: Humility

“Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.”

During this part of the process, you should submit to the fact that there are things you can’t do on your own, and you need to ask a Higher Power to help you. You’re asking your Higher Power to remove your failings or shortcomings.

 

Step Eight: Willingness

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.”

This is where you begin to work toward healing broken relationships. During this step, you should create a list of everyone you caused harm to before your recovery. The willingness part of this step means that you are willing to make amends to the people you identified as having harmed in any way.

 

Step Nine: Amends

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

After you’ve inventoried those you may have hurt, the next step requires directly making amends to them. This can be challenging, but it’s an important part of healing broken relationships. That tends to be a big struggle for people in recovery, and the fact that it’s included as part of the steps is often helpful.

 

Step Ten: Maintenance

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”

Step ten focuses on continuing to take a personal inventory, and then if you find that you’ve been wrong in something, you admit it as hard as it can be. By continuing to take inventory of yourself and your actions, the idea is that you can grow spiritually and make progress in your recovery.

 

Step Eleven: Making Contact

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

During Step 11, you want to discover more about the plan your Higher Power has for your life.

 

Step Twelve: Service

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Finally, the last step focuses on service to others. When you’re in recovery, it’s beneficial for your journey if you help others to learn more about the program. You should also aim to keep the program as part of your everyday life.

 

Why Does the 12 Step Approach Work?

There’s a reason that so many people rely on the 12 Steps for their recovery from addiction. It does tend to work because the idea is that you’re looking deep within yourself in a critical way that we often don’t. You’re then deconstructing your ego so that you can rebuild it, piece by piece or step-by-step. You’re learning how to make positive changes in your life through honesty and humility, as well as forgiveness and self-discipline.

 

Alternatives to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous

Of course, the 12 Steps don’t work for everyone, and that’s okay too. There are alternatives, such as SMART Recovery. SMART Recovery helps you change your behavior, but it doesn’t have the spiritual element of a 12-Step program. SMART Recovery stands for self-management and recovery training. This program emphasizes building self-confidence and developing the tools you need to overcome addiction. There are facets of cognitive-behavioral therapy that are central to SMART Recovery.

That’s just one example of a 12-Step alternative, but there are others, many of which are secular. Most of the other options focus on self-reliance, empowerment, and control rather than submitting to a Higher Power.

 

Taking the First Step

The first step is usually the hardest because this requires a person to admit they have a problem and accept help. If you, or someone you love, are ready to take that first step, we invite you to come to take it with us at Anchored Tides Recovery. 

Our gender-specific female facility is a place where women can heal together. Many of our clients are successful in their recovery using the 12 step program, and we’re happy to help you be one of our following successful clients. Call us today and speak with one of our care coordinators about taking back control and starting your program. 

Moderation in Drugs: A Dangerous Road or Logical Harm Reduction?

moderation in drugs

moderation in drugs

 

Is moderation in drugs or alcohol even feasible if you have an addiction? It’s controversial, and the topic leaves people sharply divided. Most drug addiction treatment programs subscribe to the modality of total abstinence, meaning they abstain from all use of drugs and alcohol. The belief is that if you have addiction in your genes you are powerless against it, and unless you remain completely sober, you will eventually succumb to your addictive behavior. 

Total abstinence may be the best chance to prevent relapses for a person with a history of drug abuse, or alcohol abuse, but some people don’t like to subscribe to the idea that they are powerless. You may feel like a slave to your addiction, or like you will always be “an addict” if you can’t control yourself to have a drink occasionally in appropriate circumstances; some of these people may try to exercise restraint and practice moderation.

Moderation in drugs is a skill that involves great discipline, knowing when it’s okay to use, and knowing when to stop. Most people who struggle with addiction lack these skills, and for this reason, substance abuse treatment centers generally avoid this thinking and tell you to focus on long-term sobriety. 

 

Understanding Addiction Recovery

Before you can delve into moderation in drugs when someone is technically in addiction recovery, it’s important to understand how addiction works.

  • Addiction is a disease affecting the brain, body, and behavior. When someone first uses a substance, that’s ultimately a choice. Then, their brain develops a tolerance to the drug, affecting their brain’s reward centers.
  • When your brain feels like something is creating positive or pleasurable effects, it may compel you to keep seeking it out. That compulsion can develop into an addiction. Compulsive substance use of addiction is characterized by continued use, even when there are harmful consequences.
  • There are changes in the brain structure that cause intense cravings, changes in personality, alterations in movement, and other effects. Researchers have done brain imaging studies and found that the parts of the brain related to decision-making, learning, judgment, memory, and behavioral control are all affected by substance use.
  • The complexity of addiction as a psychological and medical condition highlights some of the reasons why it can be dangerous to consider moderation in drugs or alcohol if you’re in addiction recovery.
  • The majority of people who use drugs or alcohol don’t become addicted. However, some people are predisposed to addiction for one or more reasons, or their brain responds to the stimuli of drugs and alcohol differently. Someone with an actual addiction can have a triggered brain response, even when they think they’re using moderation or when that’s the plan.  

Some of the same symptoms medical professionals use to diagnose addiction address this topic. For example, one of the symptoms of addiction is using more of a substance than intended or being unable to stop using drugs or alcohol even when you try or want to. That lack of control and compulsive substance use makes moderation difficult if not impossible for many people with a substance use disorder.

 

Comparing Moderation in Drugs and Abstinence

  • Abstinence is a concept in addiction recovery where you avoid all substances. There is no gray area.

  • Moderation requires self-discipline and control, and you theoretically could practice moderation in drugs or drinking, meaning that you limit yourself.

There’s a term called Moderation Management or MM that may be interesting to some people. Moderation management is an approach that offers an alternative to the abstinence of 12-Step programs. Moderation management teaches problem drinkers more responsible habits so that their drinking doesn’t become compulsive. Moderation can work, possibly, but not for everyone. It typically won’t work for someone with a full-blown addiction. Instead, it might be a good option for someone whose use of drugs or alcohol is problematic and who wants to make a change without being abstinent.

Demi Lovato recently coined a phrase that garnered a lot of attention— “California sober.” After a nearly fatal overdose, many were surprised to hear her refer to herself with this term because there’s a pretty common opinion that sobriety has to be all or nothing. California sober can mean different things to different people, but the general idea is that someone in recovery might still drink occasionally or only use “soft drugs” like marijuana.

In some cases, controlled drinking or moderation in drugs is utilized to get to complete abstinence. This controlled drinking or drug use can be beneficial for someone resistant to the idea of treatment initially.

What About Using a Substance to Treat An Addiction To Another?

Sometimes, in addiction recovery, one substance is used to treat another substance addiction. 

  • For example, opioid addiction often uses prescription medications, that are explicitly approved to treat opioid use disorder (such as methadone, naloxone, and buprenorphine) to ease the dependence off of the opioid addiction 
  • With alcohol, someone might use naltrexone or disulfiram to treat withdrawal symptoms 
  • Nicotine addiction uses drugs like bupropion that can help with cravings

These medications can help reduce cravings and restore normal brain function. Some medication-assisted treatments also block the effects of substances on the brain and body.

This area of addiction treatment is controversial; the idea is somewhat in line with harm reduction principles. The ultimate goal of using medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is typically to help the person get off all substances, although it might be gradual.

 

Are There Benefits to Moderation?

For some people, there are genuine benefits to a moderation approach. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to stop drinking or using drugs suddenly; moderation may make quitting seem more manageable. Also, going back to the idea of harm reduction, any steps that a person can take to lower the risks and harms associated with substance use is a positive thing.

We’re learning more about the fact that not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol has an addiction, and there are many types of problems that exist on a spectrum. For some, that can mean that full-fledged abstinence isn’t needed.

 

Moderation vs. “True Addiction”

Recognizing the differences in problem substance use and addiction is very important when discussing the concept of moderation. Someone with a less severe problem may shy away from taking steps to help themselves because they fear abstinence. On the other hand, moderation is probably not a viable option for someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, and it may be dangerous.

There is something that tends to happen when someone completes treatment. They may begin to think they can exercise moderation in drugs or alcohol, leading to relapse. There’s a false sense of security or comfort, and that slippery slope quickly appears. With that in mind, someone who is most likely to benefit from moderation or be successful at a moderation approach could include:

  • A person with a shorter history of substance use
  • Someone without physical dependence on substances
  • An individual not experiencing severe life problems as a result of substances
  • A person without co-occurring medical or psychiatric problems

On the other hand, abstinence is likely a better choice if:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with a substance use disorder
  • You lose control when you use substances
  • You become violent or aggressive
  • There have been legal issues resulting from substance use
  • You have a mental health disorder made worse by drinking

The benefits of abstinence over moderation include:

  • Abstinence is the safest option. There’s no safe level of drug or alcohol use that eliminates all harm.
  • You can take on a new perspective with abstinence and see the actual effects of substances on your life and what it’s like to live without them.
  • You can learn how to control your emotions and process them without relying on substances.
  • You may discover voids in your life that you were filling with drugs or alcohol.

So, with all that being said, is moderation in drugs or alcohol an option in addiction recovery? For people who have a genuine, diagnosable addiction, moderation is probably not an option. For someone like Demi Lovato, who experienced a near-death overdose, the concept of “California sober” may be a hazardous one.

Whether you’re completely sober or plan on practicing moderation Anchored Tides Recovery can help equip you with the aftercare resources you need to be successful in your recovery goals, contact us today for more information. 

Benefits of Having a Social Worker in Your Support Group

Social Worker

Social Worker

 

Your support group is one of the most important resources you have in recovery; you will have a better chance at maintaining long-term sobriety if your group is strong. Most people on your team will be friends, family, or even other people in recovery who understand your struggles, but don’t you agree it would be good to have someone on your side that can help with issues beyond cravings. One professional who can play a valuable role as you’re navigating recovery is a social worker.

Social workers are trained to help you solve and cope with problems in your everyday life. The benefit of a social worker being in your support group is that they can also serve as a resource for you to rebuild your life and to thrive.

Anchored Tides Recovery Center has social workers on our staff to help with issues beyond the basic addiction troubles. Situations like career-related issues, custody, living arrangements, and more. These are the sorts of services that help us stand out from all of the other treatment centers, in a good way. 

 

What Does a Social Worker Do?

A social worker has a degree in social work and is trained to work with individuals to solve, and cope with, problems that arise in their daily lives. A clinical social worker can also diagnose and treat behavioral, emotional, and mental health issues. In general, some of the specific things a licensed social worker might do includes:

  • Determining the needs and strengths of individuals then help them develop goals
  • Assisting clients to adjust to challenges that exist in their lives, including addiction recovery
  • Referrals to community resources like healthcare and childcare services
  • Crisis response during mental health emergencies
  • Continual follow-up with clients to check in and see if they’re meeting their goals and their lives are improving
  • Providing therapy services

Within the larger category of social workers are other areas of specialty. For example, bachelor’s social workers (BSW) and (MSW) will work with community organizations and policymakers to create programs that benefit the community on a more significant level. Both have degrees in social work education, a BSW has a bachelor’s degree and a MSW has a master’s degree; once an MSW has a certain amount of hours of clinical experience they can become a (CSW) and a (LCSW). 

A clinical social worker (CSW) or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW)  require a master’s degree and can provide individual or group therapy. They can work with clients and other health care professionals to create customized treatment plans. Some social workers specifically help people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders; they can help their clients find support groups and other programs and rebuild their lives.

 

 

The Consequences of Addiction on Daily Life

Social workers are multifaceted as far as their services and the benefits they can provide to clients. This is important when discussing a substance use disorder because of how far-reaching the effects are on every aspect of a person’s life. Once you go to treatment, you may find that there is a lot of work to do to get your life back on track the way that you envision it.

Some of the ways that addiction can affect your life include:

  • You may be facing legal problems; if you’re charged with a crime because of your substance use disorder, you may have to go through the court system and pay fines or face other punishments.
  • You might have family-related legal matters; for example, you could have lost custody of your child, or you may be going through a divorce. 
  • You may have financial problems or have lost your job as well.
  • Your relationships may have been deeply affected by addiction; Your loved ones may be hurt by what happened during your active addiction, and they might have lost faith in you or trust. 
  • You could be dealing with chronic health issues resulting in, and you may need regular medical care and treatment.
  • You may have ongoing mental and emotional side effects from your addiction, even if you’re sober. Many people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health disorder.

 

Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders

It’s worth talking about co-occurring mental health disorders and substance use disorders on their own because this highlights the benefits of a social worker. A co-occurring disorder is when someone has two or more either mental or physical health disorders. Substance use disorders are strongly correlated with mental health disorders. Around half of the people with substance use disorder will develop at least one mental health disorder in their lifetime, and vice versa. There are three reasons that doctors and researchers believe this might be true.

  1. The risk factors for substance use disorders and mental health conditions often overlap with one another: For example, trauma exposure, abuse, and genetics play a role in substance use disorders and mental health disorders. 
  2. Self-medicating: Someone with a mental illness might use substances to deal with their symptoms. 
  3. Changes in the brain stemming from substances: The parts of the brain most affected by the use of substances are associated with the areas that relate to mental health disorders.

 

The Benefits of a Social Worker in Addiction Treatment and Recovery

The above factors highlight the benefits of a social worker in treatment and recovery from substance use disorders. Social workers are educated in mental health, and they can also specialize in helping clients with substance use disorders. An addiction social worker understands psychology and psychiatry, biology, and physical health. They are also connected with the safety net of social services in the community where they work. A trained social worker knows a balance and connection between mental health, behavior, and physical health. They can also oversee the different services included in an addiction treatment plan like counseling and medication.

Specific benefits of a social worker in addiction include:

  • Assessment: Before a social worker begins treatment, they will conduct a complete evaluation that will help them understand each of the factors that contributed to someone’s addiction and its effects. This allows them to create a very tailored treatment plan.
  • Treatment plans: Social workers can oversee treatment plans that last for months or even years. Social workers collaborate with other providers in the delivery of treatment plans.
  • Coping skills: Working with a social worker can help someone in addiction recovery learn new coping skills, such as stress management and conflict resolution.
  • Resource connections: Social workers are well-versed in the various resources and systems available. They work within the system to help with bureaucratic or legal issues you might face; they can even connect clients with employers who are hiring. 

Social workers can be beneficial and empowering if you are dealing with addiction or you’re in recovery. They are part of a continuous aftercare plan for many people following treatment, and they can help you set and meet your goals.

 

Seeking Help

Long-term sobriety is a marathon, not a sprint; the process of getting sober and staying sober can sometimes last a lifetime. The quality of the skills and resources you develop on your road to recovery directly relates to your chances of maintaining sobriety. Anchored Tides Recovery has the aftercare and resources, like social workers and group therapy, that will help you at any stage of recovery. Call us today for a consultation and take the first steps towards long-term happiness. 

Screen Addiction and Substance Abuse

screen addiction

screen addiction

 

Screen addiction and substance abuse are two things that are growing increasingly prevalent independently of one another. Sometimes, they also develop together, or one might come before the other. Many of the underlying factors that contribute to screen addiction also play a role in substance abuse.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in both screen addiction cases and substance abuse as well, highlighting the importance of discussing both right now.

 

What is Screen Addiction?

Screen addiction isn’t an addiction to the screen itself. Instead, it’s usually an addiction to social media, certain apps, video games, or mobile device dependence. Younger people, including children, are especially susceptible to screen addiction, which research shows can lead to changes in the structure of their brains. Screen addiction can impact long term neural development, which is one risk factor for a screen dependency disorder.

Some of the signs of screen addiction, especially in kids and teens, can include:

  • There’s no control over screen use. You may notice this in your child, your partner, or even yourself. You or your child or loved one might try to stop using a device and find that they’re not able to stop for an extended period.
  • With a screen addiction, there may be a loss of interest in other activities. For example, someone could stop spending time with friends to use their device instead or play a game.
  • Thoughts are preoccupied with a game, social media, or a smartphone, even when it’s not being used.
  • Screen use contributes to problems in relationships and conflict.

 

How Does Screen Time Change the Brain?

There was a study done by the National Institutes of Health in 2018 that found that children younger than 11 who spent more than two hours a day on screen activities scored lower on thinking and language tests. Children who had more than seven hours of time in front of a screen day had thinning in the frontal cortex of their brain. This is the part of the brain related to reasoning and critical thinking.

While more research needs to be done, this could show that the effects of screen time can change the brain in pretty profound ways by narrowing the focus.

Children can develop tunnel vision rather than experiencing a varied environment and different experiences, which impedes their development. Children who spend a lot of time on screens may have slow social and language development, and they may develop problems with attention and focus.

 

Understanding Behavioral Addictions

Screen addiction can fall into the larger category of behavioral addictions. Behavioral addiction is also called process addiction.

  • A process addiction can include video games and screen time, sex, exercise, eating, gambling or shopping.

  • There is debate as to whether or not “process addiction” should be classified in the same way as substance addiction, although we are increasingly finding similarities.
  • With both process and substance addictions, a person continues to engage in harmful or damaging activities, even with the negative consequences they create.
  • Studies have shown changes in the neural pathway of the reward system in the brain that are similar to behavioral and substance addictions. For example, if someone is addicted to social media and gets likes or comments, they might have a rush of dopamine that is the same as what someone addicted to drugs gets.
  • When the behavior becomes an addiction, the person is entirely focused on getting that dopamine rush again and again by doing the same activities. Once something reaches this point, it’s often destructive to relationships and every area of the person’s life.

Researchers have looked specifically at social media. For example, a study by Harvard University found that self-disclosure on social media platforms can light up the same parts of the brain that are affected by taking an addictive substance.

When you get a dopamine rush because of social media, your brain starts to be rewired due to positive reinforcement. You’re getting attention for very minimal work on your part.

Researchers have also found that our brain reward centers are most active when we talk about ourselves. When you’re on social media, and you’re sharing something about yourself or posting a picture of yourself, then your brain is again stimulated to release dopamine.

 

 

Does Screen Addiction Affect Substance Abuse?

There can be direct and indirect relationships between screen addiction and substance abuse.

For example, if the brain is wired to want easy dopamine spikes from screens, then that could make you more susceptible to chase the same high from substances. It could also be that the changes in your brain that occur because of screens make you more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Someone who’s absorbed with screens may have impaired relationships with other people, leading them to rely on substances because of loneliness.

Another possible link between screen addiction and substance abuse is that if someone is regularly overstimulated, they might want to keep up that high level of stimulation throughout their life. That can then contribute to a substance use disorder. There are a lot of ways screen addiction and substance use can interact with one another.

 

Getting Substance Abuse Treatment Without Screens

Interestingly, if someone is going for substance abuse treatment in an inpatient facility, they are often not allowed to use their phone and usually any other device. While all centers have their own rules, the idea is that cell phones and devices can distract people from their recovery during substance abuse treatment.

There’s also the fact that having screens and devices while you’re in substance abuse treatment can bring stress into your life so that you cannot fully put all of your attention into your recovery. Treatment centers for so long have been mainly against bringing devices to rehab. It may be that they were onto something, now that we see the negative ramifications of screen addiction. It’s also possible that some people dealing with their screen addiction could become part of their substance abuse treatment. 

What it’s Like Being a Late Bloomer in Alcoholism

late bloomer in alcoholism

late bloomer in alcoholism

 

Are you an early bloomer or a late bloomer when it comes to alcoholism? You’ll know if you are a late bloomer because, after your early adulthood, you’ll start to have periods of heavy drinking.

 

What is a Late Bloomer?

A late bloomer in alcoholism is a person who drinks regularly but does not become an alcoholic until later in life (usually after the age of 30). The term “late bloomer” is commonly used to describe an individual who starts drinking at a later age than most of their peers. The reasoning is that the individual may have been abusing another substance, such as prescription drugs, and started drinking to cancel out their withdrawal symptoms. While it’s impossible to say whether or not somebody will become dependent on drugs as a late bloomer, there are definite risks associated with drinking for the first time in your 30s, 40s, and beyond.

The people who become alcoholics after their early adult years tend to experience more complications than younger drinkers. This disorder is becoming increasingly common. Approximately 60% of people with Substance Use Disorder develop their drinking problems after turning 30. 

 

Late bloomers in the United States

The latest report by National Institute on Alcohol shows that the most severe cases of late bloomers in alcoholism in the United States were diagnosed between the ages of 35-39. The most prevalent form in males, with 46 cases identified during 2011, followed by females with 18 cases reported. Although very common globally, alcohol dependence has increased among late bloomers in alcoholism in the United States by 25%. As many people know, addiction is a progressive disease; that means that as the disease worsens and one continues to drink, more and more problems will occur.

The body of a late bloomer progresses through a series of stages that sometimes resemble those of the people who are addicted to liquor. Once an alcoholic has reached this point, significant physical, mental, and emotional changes occur, and as they progress, the person may not be able to recall these changes. This is due to the dilapidation of brain cells resulting in loss of memory, anxiety, depression, and other problems.

 

Risk Factors for Late Blooming Alcoholism

You are more likely to be a late bloomer if there is a genetic link (the risk of binge drinking increases the risk by 50% if there is a family history). You are more likely to be a late bloomer if you have a social environment that promotes heavy drinking. You’ll know if you are a late bloomer because you will have periods of heavy drinking that occur after your early adulthood. While genetics play a key role in problem drinking, environmental and social influences can also trigger alcoholism.

A few causes that result in being a late bloomer in alcoholism include:

  1. Losing a friend or closed one due to death, health problems, or moving away
  2. Loneliness due to Empty Nest Syndrome as the kids grow up and move away
  3. Poor health conditions
  4. Major life traumas, such as a close friend or spouse’s illness or death
  5. Experiencing boredom or lack of socialization after retiring from work
  6. Sadness due to a significant financial loss

 

 

Signs and symptoms of late bloomers

The late bloomer in alcoholism does not follow a distinct pattern of behavior; instead, the circumstances that lead to abuse and heavily consuming alcohol vary from person to person. A few common symptoms of alcoholism in the elderly include:

  1. Hiding the truth about the exact number of drinks consumed
  2. Drinking excessively to forget a loss or cope with anxiety
  3. Consuming with prescriptions and lying about medications
  4.  Increased level of irritability over unimportant matters
  5. Stashing or hiding liquor bottles so nobody can find them
  6. Having slurred speech

Alcoholism can happen to anyone, and sometimes the earliest indicators may be missed or dismissed. Too often, people begin drinking alcohol too early or start drinking heavily when they’re very young. However, late bloomers start drinking after high school and college. While it’s sometimes harder than you realize to admit you have problems with alcohol and drugs, late bloomers need help from treatment facilities just like everyone else with addiction. If you think you are an alcoholic or suffer from any other substance abuse problems, contact one of our treatment counselors today.

Anchored Tides Recovery Center is specifically designed for women. Our goal is to provide every woman with the addiction treatment she requires for recovering from alcohol. There are several important components to our alcohol abuse and alcoholism treatment program. Call us today at 1-866-753-5865.

Don’t Be Intimidated by the People Who Will Save You

people who go to rehab

people who go to rehab

 

When you struggle with substance use disorder, you may realize that you need drug addiction treatment, but you can still be afraid or resistant to the idea of going to a drug rehab center. People who go to rehab initially say they were resistant for a wide variety of reasons, but by the end, they find their long term support groups in the very people they were intimidated by at first and admit it was the best thing they’ve ever done. 

Intimidation of people who go to rehab is especially true when it comes to women-only treatment facilities. 

These reasons can include:

  • Denial: This is a big reason for people to be resistant to treatment. They don’t believe they have a problem, or they might not think it’s severe enough to require treatment. Often someone with an addiction to drugs or alcohol may feel like they’re in control of their substance use despite the reality.

  • Loss of control: A fear for so many people is that they don’t control their own lives and behavior. When you go to rehab, you’re admitting you can’t control your substance use, and you need help, and that’s overwhelming.

  • Fear: One of the primary reasons people who go to rehab are resistant at first is fear. It takes a lot of courage to go to treatment because it will mean a significant lifestyle change.

  • Intimidation: Finally, another reason for treatment resistance is the intimidation factor. Women tend to feel that intimidation factor even more than men in some cases, and they may be nervous about being around other women in a location eliciting such vulnerability. This can go hand-in-hand with overall fear, but we tend to underestimate how intimidating it is to go to treatment and be around all new people in a new setting.

By identifying resistance factors, we are able to pinpoint any issues creating resistance and help encourage the idea of a drug treatment rehab program. In particular, we’re going to focus on women being intimidated by other women.

Why Are Women Hard on Other Women?

There are a few main reasons that psychologists believe women display toxic behaviors to other women. It could be a projection of issues someone doesn’t like about themself. For example, if you’ve experienced unkind treatment by women in the past, it could have been that person’s own insecurities that they were projecting onto you. Another reason is that it can be challenging to recognize or change behaviors. People who go to rehab are likely already dealing with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and perhaps even co-occurring conditions such as eating disorders.

Your insecurities may have you worrying about the way you will be treated by other clients when entering an all-women treatment center, but the reality behind the unity of the women in these support groups is refreshing and overwhelmingly positive.

Why Are People Intimidated By Me?

Along with being intimidated by other women, you may find yourself asking, “why are people intimidated by me?” As a young adult being considered intimidating means that you could find it hard to make friends with other women. Many times the reason people are intimidated by you is because of the manifestation of your own insecurities. You may think, “there’s a group of people I’d like to be friends with, but I doubt they would want to be friends with me” and that thought may keep you from talking to them, which in turn could make you appear intimidating or aloof.

Suppose you think people are intimidated by you because of negative behaviors. In that case, addiction treatment can be a time to assess your behaviors and relationships with other people and start making changes. Aim to be a strong person who welcomes people seeing your strength.  

 

The Importance of Social Support in Treatment and Recovery

Even if you’re fearful of going to treatment because you’re intimidated, people who go to rehab rarely regret the decision. One of the best things you take away from experience is a support network of people who share similar struggles and who will be there for you well after treatment. Social support is arguably one of the most critical factors in treatment and recovery.

As you go through treatment, you may have to let go of some of the unhealthy or toxic relationships that were part of your life in active addiction. There may be people who trigger you or who could take you off your path of sobriety. So, if you don’t replace those negative relationships with a positive support system, you may be at a greater risk of relapse. When you’re in treatment, you’ll undoubtedly face challenges, such as learning how to communicate openly with other people and trust them. You’ll also have to learn how to overcome shame and guilt, and the other people who are in treatment will be working through these same things so you can support one another. The great thing about the relationships you form in rehab is that they’re intentional, healthy relationships that will support your recovery goals and help you stay accountable through every phase of your journey.

Other benefits of social support from people who to go rehab with you include:

  • Having solid relationships that you form with people in treatment will give you something to lose. You may have entered treatment at a rock bottom point in your life where you didn’t feel like you had anything to lose, so nothing mattered. With the new friendships you build, you have something to live for and strive to maintain and cultivate.

  • Having a good support system in treatment from other people who go to rehab with you will help you manage your stress and cope in positive ways. You can also lean on your peer support system after treatment to deal with daily stresses in your life.

  • Having a peer support system of other women can help provide you with a sense of hope. If you’re having a down day or feeling discouraged, the other women you meet in your treatment program can help uplift you, and you can do the same for them in turn.

  • You may find motivation from other women you meet in treatment, as well as encouragement when you need it. If you see them doing well, it will positively reinforce you in your recovery.

  • When you’re isolated, you’re at a much greater risk of relapsing, according to research. Staying connected reduces the risk of isolation.

 

All Women Addiction Recovery

There are so many fears you might have about the thought of getting treatment for an addiction to drugs or alcohol. This is something that almost all people who go to rehab feel. One of the reasons you may be fearful is because of how you’ll interact with the other women in your treatment program. You may worry they’ll judge you or not accept you.

What ends up happening is that those women you’re in treatment with basically become family members and your number one support system. Those relationships that you may have initially been afraid of will become one of the things you look at being integral to your recovery. 

Anchored Tides Recovery is an environment where women can heal from their traumas. We have heard time and time again at the beginning of enrollment that our girls have felt intimidated by the other girls in the program, but by the end made some of their new best friends. We lift each other up in every aspect of our lives, and it’s amazing what women can accomplish when they work together, including sobriety. Call us today to learn more about our program.