Stigmas of Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

Mental Health and Addiction

 

The stigmas of mental health and addiction are entirely unwarranted, based on what we know scientifically about both. There was a time when we knew little about mental health disorders or addiction. Due to that lack of knowledge, there was often a misconception that you were weak or lacked morals if you were experiencing these conditions.

Unfortunately, those concepts were also associated with many mental health conditions and addiction. These misconceptions stopped society’s progress in understanding these are diseases. As with other chronic diseases, mental health disorders require evidence-based treatment.

When you learn more about substance use disorder, it can help you break down the stigmas you may personally feel still exist. Breaking down stigmas on an individual level can help you realize it’s okay to seek help. 

If you aren’t personally struggling with addiction or behavior disorders. Still, your loved one is, you can be a more effective support system for them when you learn more about the disease of addiction or a mental illness.

 

Why Do Stigmas Exist?

Chemical dependency or an addiction to substances is a chronic brain disease. When you have a substance abuse disorder, your brain compels you to seek out and use a substance.

  • From the early 1800s, we know there was a harmful view taken on substance abuse and mental illness, although it likely started well before then. We have more records of how people with these disorders were described in places like medical literature from later periods.
  • For example, by the early 1900s, people with alcohol addictions were described as moral inferiors. Their children were called born criminals, who couldn’t determine right from wrong.
  • In 1914, there was the passage of legislation called the Harrison Anti-Narcotic Act. Addiction was criminalized, as were physicians who worked to treat substance use disorders.
  • Even in more modern times, the stigma of addiction and mental health has been reinforced. For example, in the 1970s the so-called War on Drugs started. There wasn’t a focus on treatment or rehabilitation, nor was addiction viewed as a disease. Instead, the war on drugs led to furthering criminalization of addiction. The results weren’t favorable, with the number of people going to jail for drug-related crimes have gone up enormously in the past few decades.

Recognizing these stigmas exist is one part of moving forward and away from these damaging viewpoints.

 

The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on the Brain

When you use drugs or alcohol, dopamine floods your brain. That dopamine hijacks your reward system. Because of the effects on your reward system, you want to continue seeking out the substance that initially made you feel good.  You may know there are negative consequences or that it’s not healthy, but you can’t stop.

  • Your brain adjusts to the use of the substance through the development of tolerance.
  • When your tolerance rises, you need larger doses of the substance to feel the same way.
  • Your brain’s function and structure can be profoundly affected. 
  • You’re also eventually unable to experience pleasure from healthy, everyday activities.

There are decades of research work that demonstrate the reality of substance use. When you’re addicted to drugs or have an alcohol addiction, it’s not because you’re morally weak, lack willpower, or don’t want to stop.

Many people use recreational drugs or alcohol and never become addicted. Most people don’t. When you first use a substance, you don’t think you will develop an addiction. No one does.

Researchers have identified some of the key area’s addiction effects in the brain.

  • Dopamine-containing pathways are the ones we know are most significantly affected.
  • Short-term drug or alcohol use may cause minor effects in the brain.
  • Long-term use causes significant brain changes that reinforce an alcohol or drug habit, like strengthening memory circuits associated with drug-taking. 
  • For years after someone stops taking drugs or alcohol, the brain changes can continue. That continuation is why addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease.

That doesn’t mean you’ll absolutely relapse with drug addiction or alcohol use disorders, but it does mean addiction requires treatment with relapse prevention in mind.

 

Understanding the Reasons for Stigma

Mental disorders and addiction often go hand-in-hand. These are co-occurring disorders.

People with mental illness are unlikely to get help for their condition, just like people with substance use disorders. Not getting help is very often due to the stigma or discrimination they worry they’ll experience.

There are different types of stigma that can affect you.

  • Public stigma involves other people’s negative attitudes about mental illness or addiction. 
  • Then, there’s self-stigma, which is internalized shame you may feel.
  • Institutional stigma is systemic and may mean you have limited opportunities because of your addiction or mental health issue. For example, there may be fewer treatment options for physical health conditions or less access to treatment. Even health insurance companies reinforce this stigma. Health insurance issuers can make accessing mental health benefits and addiction disorder services harder. 
  • Stigma can affect someone personally dealing with addiction or a mental illness. Stigma can also affect their families and loved ones.
  • Culturally, stigma may be a significant issue too. For example, there’s an even greater stigma about accessing addiction or mental health treatment or seeing mental health counselors in some cultures. There can also be distrust in treatment systems, including mental health & addiction services. 

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The Consequences of Stigma

In mental health and addiction, arguably the most significant consequence of stigma is barriers to substance use treatment. Addiction is a treatable disease. 

With successful treatment programs, you can manage symptoms and start your life in recovery.

You can retain your sense of control and live a self-directed life. Unfortunately, if you’re embarrassed or feel shame about your situation, you’re much less likely to seek help at treatment facilities or a mental health facility. 

  • You may worry about what people think about you, but addiction is a chronic, progressive disease. 
  • A progressive illness worsens over time, and more complications can develop.
  • Other mental health disorders like anxiety and depression can also progress without treatment. This worsening of addiction and mental health disorders can contribute to a behavioral health crisis. 
  • The effects of stigma include low self-esteem, more difficulties at school or work, and a reduced sense of hope.

Stigma can lead to social isolation, bullying or violence, or the belief that you can’t do anything to improve your situation, reinforcing the idea that you shouldn’t get behavioral health care. 

 

Addiction Treatment

We want to emphasize again that addiction is a disease and a treatable one. However, it’s nearly impossible to overcome a substance use disorder simply by deciding you want to stop. Treatment often includes a combination of therapy and medication.

Treatment and recovery have challenges, but you’ll find it’s worth it.

The opioid crisis has brought to our attention the effects of stigma in addiction services and mental health care more than ever. Tens of thousands of people are needlessly dying annually, in large part due to stigma. 

Our goal is always to reduce these effects. Anchored Tides Recovery helps people with addictions and their loved ones learn more about substance use and overcome it. To learn more about mental health and addiction services, please call 866-600-7709. We can provide you with information about the addiction recovery process for a substance use disorder. 

How Drug Addiction Ruined My Life

 

We often hear from women who feel their alcohol or drug addiction has ruined their lives. While it can feel this way, and undoubtedly addiction affects your life in many ways, there is always hope. 

Addiction is a disease affecting your brain and physical health. When you have a substance use disorder to alcohol or illegal drugs, it also affects everything else in your life. These effects can extend to your family and children, your career, and your finances.

Those effects can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, guilt and shame then perpetuate the cycle of addiction. 

If you can break that cycle with practical, evidence-based treatment. In that case, you can begin to repair the other areas of your life you feel your relationship with addictive substances has damaged. 

Hope is never lost. During a rehab program, we address not just ways you can stop using drugs or alcohol. We also work on relapse prevention and coping strategies and help you prepare to re-enter your life and thrive.

Before you can get on a path to recovery, you need to take steps to get treatment, which will be the most challenging part of the situation. Recognizing the impact and harmful consequences of your addiction can be painful. That recognition is necessary, however, to move forward.

 

What Is Addiction?

Understanding the biological elements of addiction can help you eliminate some of the shame you might feel. Addiction is a chronic dysfunction of your brain. 

  • The disease affects the parts of your brain controlling motivation, memory, and primarily, reward. 
  • When you’re struggling with addiction, you won’t be able to stop using the substance often without professional treatment.
  • You may have no self-control. Your desire to keep using drugs or alcohol outweighs everything else because your brain is compelling you to keep using.
  • Even when you realize the adverse effects of your addiction, you can’t stop. When you have a substance use disorder, you may try to cut down or stop, but you can’t.

 

What is the Most Addictive Drug?

The most addictive drugs include:

  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nicotine
  • Heroin
  • Prescription drugs like oxycontin and other opioid pain relievers

 

Is Drug Addiction a Disease?

Addiction to both drugs and alcohol is a brain disease. 

  • When you use addictive drugs, they create a euphoric high. 
  • The high is pleasurable and is due mainly to effects on dopamine levels.
  •  There are physical and psychological elements to the euphoria that comes with extraordinarily high levels of dopamine. 
  • For some people, once that pleasure occurs, the reward pathways in the brain are activated. 
  • While initially using the drug may have been your choice, eventually, your brain adjusts itself to the presence of the substance.

There is also a physical element which is dependence. When you have physical dependence and psychological dependence on any type of drug, if you stop suddenly, it will cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop suddenly. 

Some people can use substances and never become addicted. Then others might use drugs or alcohol for a short period of time and develop an addiction. 

  • Some of whether or not you develop a substance use disorder depend on the frontal lobes of your brain. 
  • Your frontal lobes ordinarily help you to delay gratification or reward. 
  • If you have a malfunction in your frontal lobes, gratification is immediate, potentially triggering an addiction.
  • Other parts of your brain play a role in addiction too. For example, the nucleus accumbens controls sensations of pleasure. This part of your brain can increase your response when there’s exposure to substances or even behaviors that can be addictive.
  • Chemical imbalances and co-occurring mental illness can also put you at a higher risk of alcohol addiction or addiction to recreational drugs. 
  • When you have an addicted brain, it affects your decision-making, learning and memory, behavioral control, and judgment.

These effects are why you’ll often see someone who was once a high achiever, for example, losing everything before seeking substance abuse treatment. 

 

 

Addiction is a Chronic Disease

Along with being a disease, more specifically, alcohol or drug addiction is a chronic illness. Chronic disease can be treated and managed, although not necessarily cured. 

Addiction is not a moral failing. 

Long-term recovery is when you’re in remission from the disease of addiction. For people in recovery, it’s essential to focus on continuing your treatment plan and making healthy lifestyle decisions to avoid addictive behaviors. 

Risk factors increasing your risk of developing a substance abuse disorder include genetic factors and family history, environmental factors, and the use of drugs or alcohol in your developmental years. Having a mental health issue or a medical condition like chronic pain can also raise the risk of addiction. 

 

How Addiction Affects the Family

The devastating effects of addiction impact families, including spouses, children, and parents, significantly.

If you have a young child, seeing you suffer from addiction can create emotional pain and distress for them. When a child faces exposure to drugs or alcohol, it can affect their emotional and mental health and stability.

Again, a key symptom of addiction is that the substance takes priority over everything else, wreaking havoc on all parts of your life.

Even though an addicted person may recognize the negative consequences of their addiction to alcohol or drugs, they can’t stop. 

Other effects of substance use disorders include:

  • Declines in work performance
  • Job loss
  • Breakdowns in romantic relationships, such as a marriage
  • Health issues
  • Changes in mood or behavior such as a lack of energy, being socially withdrawn, or neglecting hygiene and appearance
  • Significant financial problems

 

How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction

Maybe you aren’t the person struggling with addiction, but you have a loved one who is. What can you do? There are certain things out of your control and some steps you can take.

  • Learn as much as you can about substance abuse and addiction treatment. When you understand that dealing with substance use disorders isn’t a choice and is a disease, it can help you come from a place of empathy rather than judgment. There are good resources like the Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse to connect with information. 
  • Often people with a substance use disorder have an untreated co-occurring mental health disorder. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. You can take the time to educate yourself on mental health disorders and their effects. You might even reach out to a therapist or mental health provider on behalf of your loved one.
  • Don’t wait for your loved one to hit rock bottom before saying something about their drug misuse. The longer they go with untreated addiction, the more significant and devastating the effects. Speak out as soon as you can.
  • Be honest about your concerns. Offer particular examples of the effects of addiction-related destructive behavior. Be honest about your feelings as well.
  • Listen to what the person is saying. Don’t try to argue with them. Instead, let them feel heard, so they can understand you’re a positive support system.
  • Offer information about how the person can deal with their addiction to drugs or alcohol, such as contacting a rehab center.
  • Don’t try to bribe, threaten or lecture the person. Emotional appeals tend to bring about more feelings of guilt. Again, guilt fuels addiction, which is counterproductive when interacting with people with substance use disorders. 
  • Know that one conversation is unlikely to encourage the person to change. It takes time, and recovery is a process.
  • Consider staging an intervention.
  • If your loved one agrees to treatment, realize that every person is unique, and so is their recovery. Be patient, and manage your expectations.

Drug addiction can and often does ruin your life. That doesn’t mean that your life isn’t salvageable, though. Whether you’re personally in the midst of active addiction or you have a loved one who is, help exists.

Treatment for drug addiction, including alcohol or opioid addiction, requires behavioral therapies and in some cases medication-assisted treatment. It’s also important any underlying mental health conditions receive treatment before the recovery process can begin. 

The first step to facilitate a sense of hope is treatment. Call 866-600-7709 and reach out to the Anchored Tides Recovery team to learn more.

What is Addiction?

what is addiction

what is addiction

 

Addiction is widely misunderstood, even though it touches so many of us, whether it be directly or indirectly. When you have an addiction, your brain experiences a chronic dysfunction in reward, motivation, and memory systems. 

Your body begins to crave a specific substance or even a behavior because of these brain changes. Despite the harmful consequences, you continue to use addictive drugs. 

As much as understanding what addiction is can be helpful, it’s also important to know what it’s not. For example, addiction isn’t a choice, nor is it a moral failure.

 

An Overview of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disorder that affects someone’s brain and behavior. When you have an addiction, you can’t stop using a substance such as drugs or alcohol or engaging in behavior like gambling, even though it’s causing harm in your life.

According to The American Society of Addiction Medicine, it’s a chronic medical disease involving complex interactions between your brain, genetics, your environment, and your life experiences. While addictive disorders are a chronic condition that doesn’t necessarily have a “cure,” it is treatable. You can manage the symptoms.

If you have a chronic disease like diabetes, the concept is similar. You may not be able to cure the underlying condition, but it’s manageable with different therapies, medications, and lifestyle changes. When your symptoms are under control from a chronic illness, it’s known as being in remission.

When you have a substance use disorder that’s well-managed and not active, you’re in recovery.  

Some of the most addictive substances and illicit drugs include:

  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nicotine

 

Symptoms of Addiction

Addiction tends to create symptoms that fall into one of three broader categories. There are cravings, loss of control, and continuing to use the substance despite adverse consequences.

Physical signs of addiction can vary depending on the substance used but may include:

  • Being under- or overactive
  • Repetitive or unusual speech patterns
  • Dilated pupils
  • Red eyes
  • Pale skin
  • Sniffly or runny nose
  • Clothes aren’t fitting the same
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Lack of personal hygiene

Behavioral addiction signs can include:

  • Irritability or defensiveness
  • Problems coping with stress
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Changes in social groups or social withdrawal
  • Confused easily
  • Justification for behavior
  • Minimization
  • Blaming other people or events for substance use or effects
  • Diversion, meaning often changing the subject to avoid talking about substance use
  • Missing school or work
  • Declining performance at school or work
  • Isolation or being secretive
  • Legal or financial problems
  • Relationship problems

 

What Causes Addiction?

We’ve learned so much since the 1930s when researchers first started looking at the causes of addictive behavior. Before this research, the old way of thinking was that if you had an addiction, you didn’t have the willpower, or you were morally flawed. That incorrect thinking led to ineffective treatment approaches to dealing with addiction.

For example, punishment or trying to force someone to break their habits were common strategies.

Now, scientific advancements help us understand again, addiction is a chronic disease altering the brain, one of our most important organs. Like cardiovascular disease affects your heart, addiction takes over your brain.

Research guides addiction treatment programs and mental health treatment for co-occurring disorders in practical ways. 

Some of the steps that can occur in the development of addiction include:

  • Your brain registers pleasure as something it wants to seek out and continue to experience. Pleasure can come from natural sources, such as sex or having a great meal. Pleasure can also stem from the effects of psychoactive drugs and alcohol.
  • When you experience something pleasurable, your brain releases a neurotransmitter—dopamine. Dopamine floods into your brain’s pleasure and reward center—the nucleus accumbens.
  • Since the use of drugs or alcohol can be a dopamine-triggering event, there’s a compulsion for your brain to want to continue it.
  • It’s not only the pleasure element that can lead to addiction. Dopamine is one part of the process, but so are learning and memory. Learning and memory play pivotal roles in moving from thinking something is appealing to developing an addiction.
  • Repeated exposure to an addictive substance causes nerve cells in not only your nucleus accumbens but also the prefrontal cortex to communicate in a way that makes you want to continue it. You have a sense of motivation to keep seeking out pleasurable stimuli.
  • Eventually, compulsion will take over. The pleasure you associate with an addictive substance goes away, but you still have the memory of the desired effect. You keep wanting to recreate it. Compulsion leads to out control cravings but is drug addiction a moral failing?

Certain factors such as a family history of addiction can make you more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Mental health issues can also raise the risk of drug misuse and substance abuse issues. 

 

 

Are There Treatments for Addiction?

Substance abuse treatment is available, although it’s not always straightforward. The goals of any treatment for drug or alcohol addiction are to help you stop using drugs, remain drug-free, and be productive in your family, at your job, and in society.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, evidence-based addiction treatment should include the following:

  • Addiction is managed as a complex although treatable disease affecting behavior and brain function
  • There’s no single treatment that’s right for everyone
  • You need easy and timely access to treatment 
  • Effective treatment addresses all of your needs as a whole person, and not just your drug or alcohol use
  • You must stay in treatment for long enough
  • Behavioral therapy and counseling are the most commonly used types of treatment
  • Medications can be an essential part of treatment, particularly combined with behavioral therapy
  • A counselor should regularly review your kind of treatment plan and, if necessary, change to fit your evolving needs
  • Effective addiction treatment should address other co-occurring mental disorders you may have
  • Medically-assisted detoxification isn’t treatment in and of itself—it’s the first stage of treatment
  • Your drug addiction treatment doesn’t have to be voluntary for it to be effective
  • Effective alcohol rehab or drug treatment should address criminal behavior, infectious disease, or other related situations. 

Treatment can take place in different formats and settings for a substance use disorder. For example, there are inpatient and outpatient programs available at treatment facilities. An inpatient program is more intensive and requires a residential stay. Outpatient treatment can be a lower level of care after inpatient rehab. You might also begin your treatment there. 

 

Does Health Insurance Cover Addiction Treatment?

Since a substance use disorder is a medical condition, in many cases, your health insurance company will cover some or all of the costs of addiction treatment, including medication-assisted treatment. In 2010 with the passing of the Affordable Care Act (2010), a mandate required that insurance companies and insurance plans cover the same level of coverage for addiction treatment and mental health disorders as they do for other medical conditions.

If you aren’t sure what your insurance will cover as far as addiction treatment providers and essential health benefits, the best thing you can do is contact them directly. They can let you know your health coverage and the treatment options available to you. The team at our treatment center can also help you with insurance-related questions as they specifically apply to our center.

The big takeaway that you should remember is that addiction is a chronic and also progressive disease. Untreated, it will get worse and cause more severe side effects. Effective treatments are available, however, and are accessible to you. Insurance policies will often cover the cost of treatment, including inpatient rehab. To learn more about the women-only outpatient treatment program at Anchored Tides Recovery, call 866-600-7709 today!

Is Drug Addiction a Moral Failing?

drug addiction

drug addiction

 

Is drug addiction a moral failing? Researchers have been looking at addiction and the underlying causes since the 1930s. In that time, we have learned so much about what addiction is and what it isn’t.

First and foremost, no, addiction is not a moral failing. Shame is often so much intertwined with addiction, and you may have low self-esteem, guilt, and a sense of low self-worth. These feelings can all contribute to the ongoing cycle of addiction, making it harder to break.

By recognizing the reality that drug addiction is not a moral failing and is a disease, you can begin to see that you deserve treatment for your illness.

Addiction, also known as a substance use disorder, is an illness as characterized by The American Health Association, The National Institutes of Health, and the World Health Organization.

Evidence-based treatment also tends to be highly effective in treating substance use disorders based on your unique needs.

 

The Physical Effects of Addiction

Addiction relates a lot to your brain chemistry. Genetics and other underlying biological elements also raise your risk of developing an addiction. These differences are part of why addiction is a disease. The differences are also why someone might use recreational drugs and never become addicted, while others become addicted after using a substance only a few times.

  • When you use certain substances, they create big, artificially driven dopamine surges.
  • Those dopamine surges teach your brain to keep seeking out the experience making them, such as drugs or alcohol. 
  • Your brain compels you to seek out the substance at the expense of other things in your life.
  • When you consistently use drugs or even alcohol, it impacts your ability to feel pleasure.
  • The reason is that your brain releases smaller amounts of dopamine on its own, without the drugs.
  • Your brain center is less receptive to healthy rewarding activities like exercise or a good meal. Your brain is wholly altered at this point.

Because of the brain changes, you develop a tolerance. You need more of whatever the substance is just to keep yourself operating at a new “normal” baseline.

 

Brain Changes Cause Behavioral Changes

Researchers in past decades have begun looking at brain imaging studies of people with addictions. They find that areas of the brain affected by addiction include decision-making, learning and memory, judgment, and behavioral control.

The changes in these parts of the brain can alter the functionality of your brain, contributing to destructive, compulsive behavior.

Addiction creates cravings and physical symptoms as well, known as dependence.

 

Addiction As a Chronic Disease

Science tells us addiction is not just a disease but a chronic one. We can, in many ways, compare it to heart disease or diabetes.

The similarities between addiction and other chronic illnesses include:

  • Both conditions affect the functionality of critical organs. For addiction, it’s the brain, whereas it’s the heart in cardiovascular disease.
  • Chronic illnesses decrease quality of life and can, without proper treatment, shorten your life.
  • While both are diseases, there are preventable elements. For example, most chronic illnesses have contributing risk factors such as eating certain foods or not getting enough exercise. With addiction, the risk factor is initially using an addictive substance.
  • Chronic illnesses and addiction aren’t necessarily curable but are highly treatable. By getting treatment as early on as possible, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms.
  • You can also prevent further damage because chronic disorders and addiction are both progressive. 
  • The longer your addiction goes without treatment, the more significant the effects and consequences will be.

While drug addiction begins with an initial decision, we also know that people don’t willingly want to deal with the destruction addiction ultimately creates. If addiction were as easy as deciding to stop or having willpower, there wouldn’t be many overdose deaths each year or relapses.

  • Some of a person’s inability to stop using drugs or alcohol is because of problems in the function of the prefrontal cortex in the brain. 
  • The prefrontal cortex controls executive function. Executive functions include monitoring your behavior and delaying reward. 
  • People with substance use disorders often have an overly adverse reaction to stress because of deficits in their prefrontal cortex, putting them at risk for addiction.
  • When there’s an issue in the prefrontal cortex, a person often has a high threshold for regular types of pleasure. They need something “more” to cause them to feel joy, such as drugs or alcohol.

 

 

Substance Use Disorder Risk Factors

There isn’t one specific cause for developing a substance use disorder. Multiple factors often converge.

  • Around 40-60% of the risk of becoming addicted to a substance comes from biological factors. Biological factors include genes, gender, and ethnicity.
  • The developmental stage is also relevant. The younger you are when you start using addictive substances, the more likely you are to develop an addiction in adulthood.
  • The environment can be a risk factor. Environmental factors include family dynamics and relationships, your home environment, and your social group.

Specific addiction risk factors include a family history of addiction and mental illness, a history of abuse, and a chaotic home environment.

 

What Does This Mean for Overcoming a Substance Use Disorder?

When you have a substance use disorder, first, you need to let go of the shame and the guilt. Those are things you can begin to work through in treatment. When you learn more about the underlying contributors to addiction and the fact that it is a disease, it’ll help you with these feelings.

You also have to realize that you aren’t weak because you can’t simply stop using substances.

As is the case with other illnesses, you need the proper treatment plan to address all of your addiction’s complex components.

For example, talk therapy is a way to recognize your negative thought patterns leading to harmful behaviors.  You can learn more about triggers in your life and start to build pathways in your brain that will help you deal with those in a healthy way. We can rewire our brains with time and patience.

Your drug addiction treatment plan might also include medication, and it should integrate aftercare planning.

Everyone is unique, and their treatment plan has to reflect that. People relapse after treatment because their counselor didn’t tailor their program to their needs. 

Whether you’ve tried rehab before and relapsed, or you’re considering it for the first time, the only thing to know is that what you’re going through isn’t a personal or moral failure. You should also know that you’re making the best first step when you admit that you have a problem and seek help for it. Reach out to the team at Anchored Tides Recovery by calling 866-600-7709 to learn more. 

Mothers with a Prescription Drug Addiction

prescription drug addiction

prescription drug addiction

 

Prescription drug addiction is relatively common but also devastating. Being addicted to prescriptions is destructive to individuals, families, and communities. Others who have an addiction to prescription substances, whether they have older children or are currently pregnant, may avoid getting the help they need and deserve. There’s an unfortunate stigma.

In treatment, it’s so important to find a program that speaks to your needs as a woman and mother or mother-to-be, breaking down those walls you may feel about getting help.

Below, we delve into what to know about prescription drug addiction in general and the health effects for babies born to mothers addicted to these substances. 

Before doing so, we want to emphasize the message to any mother or soon-to-be mother that no matter where you are in your life, it’s never too late to get help in a drug addiction treatment program. 

 

Understanding Prescription Drug Abuse 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2015, nearly 19 million Americans over the age of 12 reported prescription drug abuse over the previous year. That number is likely higher now in the United States. 

There’s often an unfortunate misconception that it’s safe because something is available by prescription or a doctor gives it to you. However, many of these drugs, and opioids, in particular, are more deadly than illegal drugs or street drugs

  • Addictive drugs of any kind, including prescriptions, affect your brain’s reward system. These effects can trigger an addictive response. 
  • While you might start taking a prescription drug as prescribed initially for a medical condition, a substance use disorder can develop over time.
  • Then, the use of the drug is no longer in your control. Developing physical dependence is also common with the use of an addictive drug. 

The most commonly abused prescription medications are central nervous system depressants. Central nervous system depressants include benzodiazepines like Xanax and opioid pain medications.

Taking a prescription or illicit opioid can slow your central nervous system down so much that you experience a drug overdose. Breathing and heart rate can slow to a dangerous or deadly level for drug users who take doses more than their bodies can handle. 

 

Opioid Addiction and Abuse 

While other prescriptions can lead to a substance use disorder, opioid painkillers are the most significant in terms of addiction and abuse. The use of opioids led to an epidemic in America, with hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths and other adverse effects.

  • Opioid prescription medicines are for severe pain, including chronic pain. 
  • Symptoms of use may also include euphoria and relaxation. 
  • Other adverse effects of opioid use are confusion, lethargy, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
  • Oxycodone is one example of a prescription drug with high abuse potential. Available under the brand name OxyContin, oxycodone changes how the central nervous system responds to pain.
  • Codeine, fentanyl, and Demerol are also opioids with high abuse and addiction rates, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • Opioid medications act on the brain and body the same way as heroin, which is also an opioid, although it’s not legal.

Opioid dependence can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can be challenging to deal with. When you’re physically dependent and go through opioid withdrawal, you can experience anxiety, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and other problematic symptoms.

 

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)

If you’re pregnant and addicted to prescriptions or have an opioid use disorder, we encourage you to contact us to learn about treatment programs geared specifically to your needs. Again, it’s never too late in your pregnancy or even your child’s life to get help.

  • An issue called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, can occur when a baby is exposed to drugs in the womb before birth. 
  • The drug that most often leads to NAS is a prescription opioid or illicit drugs like heroin. 
  • NAS is a set of conditions that occur when a baby withdraws from drug exposure in the womb. 
  • Along with opioids, benzodiazepines and antidepressants can cause symptoms of NAS.
  • Medications can pass through the placenta, creating problems for babies born to mothers addicted to prescription drugs.
  • Most of the symptoms of NAS happen within a few hours after birth, but some may not appear for a few weeks. 
  • These symptoms can last up to six months after delivery.

NAS signs and severe withdrawal symptoms in a baby include

  • Body shakes and tremors
  • Seizures and convulsions
  • Twitching and overactive reflexes
  • Tight muscle tone
  • Excessive crying or fussiness
  • A high-pitched cry
  • Slow weight gain or poor sucking
  • Breathing problems
  • Fever or sweating
  • Yawning or sleep problems
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing

NAS’s particular signs and risk factors depend on how much of a drug you used and how long you took it. Individual factors play a role, like how your body metabolizes the substance and whether you have underlying conditions such as chronic pain requiring treatment. 

Babies born with NAS may need specialized medical care in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) after birth as they experience withdrawal symptoms. Harmful effects and complications of NAS, especially from opioid medications, may include:

  • Low birth weight or premature birth, meaning the baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces
  • Jaundice leads a baby’s skin and eyes to look yellow and is the result of liver issues
  • Seizures
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Long-term effects that can occur because of prescription drug misuse, including opioid abuse, during pregnancy include:

  • Delays in development milestones, such as walking, talking and sitting
  • Motor problems, which affect muscles and movements
  • Behavioral and learning issues
  • Difficulties with speech and language
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Ear infections
  • Vision problems

 

Prescription Drug Addiction Treatment

Whether you’re currently pregnant or already a mother, your treatment plan will probably begin with supervised detox if you have a drug addiction. 

  • Supervised detox means a medical team will help you lower your dose of the substance in a safe and controlled way while managing any physical health conditions. 
  • From there, you can begin treatment for your addiction to opioids or prescriptions, including behavioral therapy, and work with counselors.
  • If you’re pregnant or already a mother, looking for a treatment center specialized for women with children can be a valuable resource to minimize any potential risks and help you feel comfortable. 
  • Along with the treatment for the addiction itself, a program geared toward women and mothers can provide parenting and pregnancy education, individual therapy and family therapy, and help with steps you may need after treatment, such as finding housing and childcare.
  • When you choose a substance use disorder treatment center that works with a female population, in particular, they’re going to help alleviate the anxiety you might be feeling.
  • They’re going to understand what it’s like to provide care for you and your unborn child and help you become the mother you want to be and improve neonatal outcomes.

 

What Can You Do If You’re Struggling with Substance Abuse?

If you are pregnant and dealing with prescription drug abuse, including an opioid use disorder, you can talk to a health care provider right away.

Tell your doctor about what you use, but don’t stop any substance without telling them. There are some prescriptions, including opioids, that can cause dangerous signs of withdrawal.

If you try to stop cold turkey when you have opioid dependence on prescription painkillers, your baby could die. Instead, it’s best to get professional, guided prescription drug addiction treatment so you can wean off of the substances safely and correctly, especially with long-term opioid use. 

Medication-assisted treatment might help, such as buprenorphine and methadone for opioid addiction. 

You shouldn’t take any medicine, including prescription pain relievers, without first talking to your doctor about your pregnancy. If you’d like to learn more about addiction treatment for women and mothers, call the Anchored Tides Recovery team at 866-600-7709; we’re available to provide you with information.

Legal Drugs are Still Drugs – A Hard Pill to Swallow

legal drugs

legal drugs

 

The term “drug” creates imagery in our heads of illegal, illicit activities. For example, when we think about drugs, the first things that might come to mind are illicit substances like heroin and cocaine. While illicit drugs are addictive, dangerous, and often deadly, they aren’t alone in that. The three deadliest drugs in the U.S. are considered legal drugs. This brings about a lot of questions as far as drug legalization and how we look at addiction. It’s important to understand that just because something is legal doesn’t make it safe or healthy.

 

Drug Legalization

The United States right now is in the midst of a transformation regarding how it views legal recreational drugs or “soft drugs.” We are quickly joining countries with more relaxed drug law views, like Portugal. This is in sharp contrast to the ongoing war on drugs waged somewhat unsuccessfully in the U.S. decades ago.

Many states in the U.S. have moved toward the drug legalization of marijuana, although it remains illegal federally. Along with legalizing certain drugs, there are also moves to decriminalize their use and possession.

Glass of alcohol, girl making cross with fingers in front of it

This is similar to what’s happened in many European Union countries where drugs are legal, technically legal recreational drugs that law enforcement won’t throw you in jail for possessing, but still make significant investments made in harm reduction programs.

While there are countries like Switzerland that are managing legal recreational drugs reasonably well, the U.S. isn’t there yet.

In the United States, as was mentioned, the three deadliest drugs are all legal. These are tobacco, alcohol, and opioids. Heroin and cocaine, two illegal drugs, come in third and fourth respectively when it comes to the deaths attributed to their use.

 

The Risks of Legal Drugs

While the fear of criminal penalties is not present, the potential for addiction, accidental death, and long-term health problems are all risks of legal drugs. These risks are highlighted more below.

 

Tobacco Use

Tobacco is a legal drug if you’re 18 and older. It’s also the deadliest in America.

  • On average, smokers die ten years earlier than people who’ve never smoked.

  • The use of tobacco is the top preventable cause of death in this country.

  • Tobacco use accounts for around 1 in 5 deaths annually.

tobacco leaves

  • Smoking is linked to around 20% of all cancers in the U.S. and 30% of cancer deaths.

  • Along with cancer, tobacco damages your lungs and increases the chances of developing long-term lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

  • Tobacco products can also affect your heart and blood vessels, reproductive system, and immune system.

  • Nicotine is the primary addictive chemical found in tobacco. As is the case with illegal drugs, when you’re exposed to that nicotine, it creates an adrenaline rush and an increase in dopamine. Dopamine activates your brain’s reward and pleasure centers, leading to addiction.  

 

Alcohol’s Dangers

Among legal drugs, the effects of alcohol can be the scariest in many ways. When you drink alcohol, it doesn’t take years for adverse side effects to occur. They can become almost immediately apparent.

  • When you include all causes of death associated with alcohol, such as homicides and drunk driving, this legal drug is responsible for nearly 90,000 deaths a year.

  • The number of alcohol-related deaths has also been increasing in recent years.

  • According to drug experts, when looking at damage to the person using the substance, socioeconomic effects, and the impact on crime, alcohol is the single most dangerous drug.

  • Over the long term, alcohol increases your risk of developing most types of cancer including head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer, and liver cancer. Breast cancer and colorectal cancer risks are also increased with excessive alcohol use.

  • Alcohol is highly addictive, and you can develop a physical dependence on it as well. Withdrawal, when you’re dependent on alcohol, is among the most dangerous you can go through, compared to all other substances.

 

Prescription Drugs

The opioid epidemic was fueled initially not by heroin but prescription pain medicines. The Purdue Pharma company was one of the drug manufacturers in the 1990s that pushed their products through aggressive marketing.

  • Doctors were encouraged to prescribe huge amounts of prescription opioids. Over the years, it became apparent that these prescription drugs were fueling addictions and overdose deaths.

  • According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Since 1990, more than 840,000 people have died from a drug overdose, and the vast majority of those involve an opioid.

  • Many people who have been prescribed opioids legitimately for pain issues become addicted and then move on to other types of illegal opioids like heroin, which can be cheaper and easier to get.

While opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone are among the most talked-about addictive and dangerous prescription medicines, they aren’t the only ones.

  • Benzodiazepines have a high potential for abuse and addiction also. Benzodiazepines are prescribed to help with sleep and panic disorders and include drugs like Xanax.

  • Benzodiazepines slow down the central nervous system and can lead to impaired memory and confusion.

  • When combined with alcohol or other depressants like opioids, there is a risk of overdosing.

Another category of legal drugs that are addictive and have a high rate of misuse are stimulants.

  • Amphetamine is one such stimulant. Amphetamine is the ingredient in prescription medicines like Adderall.

  • These cause drug users to feel focused, energized, and have a sense of well-being.

  • These are also addictive and can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, increased heart rate, heart attack, seizures, or stroke.

 

Marijuana

While drug legalization proponents are pushing for marijuana to be legalized on a national level, that doesn’t mean that it’s not without its risks. In 2018, nearly 12 million young people said they’d used marijuana in the past year.

  • In the short term, the effects of marijuana can include impaired memory and thinking, hallucinations, and delusions. Psychosis is also possible.

  • Over the long term, marijuana use affects the development of the brain.

hands cutting a cigarette with scissors

  • When someone uses marijuana from a young age, it can impact how their brain connections are formed. Some researchers believe these changes could be permanent. For example, a study found that teen marijuana users, aged 12 to 38, lost an average of 8 IQ points per year; even after quitting, their mental abilities didn’t fully return.

  • Marijuana can affect the quality of life too. For example, a number of people who are considered frequent marijuana users often report poorer physical and mental health, more relationship problems, and a lower level of satisfaction with their lives.

 

Other Addictive Substances

Beyond alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and marijuana, things we might use daily aren’t always harmless. For example, we are learning more about the potential for sugar addiction to develop. Sugar affects your brain and your reward centers in the same way as alcohol and drugs. Like alcohol and other substances, sugar also has serious adverse effects on your health.

Another addictive substance is caffeine, the commonly used drug throughout the world. While it’s relatively rare, caffeine overuse can affect your life negatively and can be dangerous to your health.

 

Just Because It’s Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Safe.

There are a few key takeaways. First, legal drugs are not necessarily safe drugs. This is something that, as a society and as individuals, we have to realize. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean that it couldn’t cause harm. We tend to look at things that society views Supposevorably as not being as bad as something illegal, but that’s just not the case.

Suppose you are struggling with any substance, including legal drugs. In that case, it’s important to realize that this can still be an addiction, and you may benefit from participation in a treatment program.  

Helping a Loved One in Recovery: Struggling with Addiction

helping-a-loved-one-in-recovery

helping-a-loved-one-in-recovery

 

Anyone can fall into the trap of addiction. When someone develops a drug habit, family members and friends are also often directly impacted by the addiction. When you’re one of the family members or friends who is being affected by a loved one’s addiction it could be confusing what to do, or hard to empathize with. While many people struggle with addiction, every situation is unique. Helping a loved one in recovery can feel like navigating a minefield. It’s a delicate situation and if you take the wrong step you can make everything worse. This article will help you navigate the minefield that is addiction. 

According to the latest statistics from National Institute on Drug Abuse and Alcoholism, in 2018, about 5.8 percent of American adults were dependent on alcohol or had difficulties relating to alcohol abuse, and more than 11.7 percent of Americans aged 12 or older reported using an illicit drug in the prior month. These statistics represent that millions of people around the US struggle with substance abuse and addiction daily, and almost all of these people have family members and friends supporting their life in recovery. 

 

Is Addiction a Family Disease?

Drug and alcohol addiction is often called a “family disease” because the disease’s impact extends to the entire family, the addict is not the only one affected by this disease. Children, parents, siblings, friends, and even colleagues can have difficulty with the addict’s behavior. Your loved ones are being put in a state of heightened stress and anxiety; Worrying, being lied to, being stolen from, embarrassed, and just all-around concerned. These emotions are enough for family and friends to want to get involved and be sucked into a cycle of trying to “fix” the addict, and then feeling resentful when their efforts don’t work or are not appreciated.

 

How do families play a role in substance use disorders?

Families play a prominent role in the overall recovery process of addiction. They may be triggers for stress, resentment, or feelings of inadequacy which may leave some people looking to self-medicate. 

Sometimes family dynamics are difficult to manage, but it’s important to understand when you’re involved in a toxic relationship so you can take measures to not make situations worse. Family counseling, or understanding the importance of space and distance is helpful when your family dynamic seems to be out of control. Treatment facilities and drug rehab programs offer family therapy sessions that will prioritize relationships and mental health.

Additionally, family members will often be enablers of drug abuse. For instance, someone with a cocaine addiction faces a few obstacles. The effects of cocaine do not last long, and the cost is high, so a common obstacle for cocaine users is money. If you’re noticing the symptoms of cocaine addiction in a family member, giving them money or allowance may be enabling their habit.

While families are often contributors to the reasoning for drug use, inversely families are often a source of strength and guidance for helping a loved one in recovery. It is helpful for spouses, siblings, parents, children, friends, and others to understand addiction and help and protect their loved ones from a relapse. This will help you provide the love and support the addicted person needs to heal completely and not feel isolated or misunderstood. 

Here are a few steps to take for helping a loved one in recovery:

 

Educate Yourself About Addiction

Addiction is complex, and it’s completely okay if you don’t know everything immediately. However, doing your research will help you to understand their struggles and support them in this journey to recovery. Read up on the symptoms, causes, and treatments for depression on your own.

 

Offer Your Support

People with an addiction problem don’t always understand how much family and friends love them. Talk to your loved ones about your concerns, and don’t wait for them to hit rock bottom to speak up about their problems. Try talking them through this phase and instill hope that they can fight this illness. 

 

Encourage Them to Get Help

Seeking professional medical help for getting rid of an addiction is often considered taboo in our society. Help break this cycle by actively pushing and encouraging your friend or loved ones to make that first appointment. Be persistent about how important it is to get treatment for their addiction, but avoid making them feel guilty or ashamed in the process of recovery. Listening to their concerns about the treatment or medications and help address those concerns.

 

Support Recovery as an Ongoing Process

Once your loved one decides to opt for treatment, you must remain involved. Helping a loved one in recovery could be as easy as letting them know that you care and are always available to help. Continuing to be a supportive presence in your loved one’s life can make all the difference.

 

How Can You Support a Person in Your Family Struggling with Addiction?

Conflict in close-knit family relationships can be disturbing for everyone. In such situations, people with drug and alcohol addiction history need to be taken special care of to contribute to a relapse. Social support can help reduce stress and facilitate coping.

You can reduce tension in the household and try to be supportive by

  • Encouraging good communication and providing constructive support
  • Being flexible and resourceful at times of trouble
  • Expressing your love and care for each other
  • Spending quality time together with family and friends

 

Can Drug Addiction Be Cured or Prevented?

Drug addiction is considered a chronic “relapsing” disease, which means that people recovering from an addiction will be at risk for relapse even after years of not taking the drug. However, addiction is treatable, can be managed and treated successfully at a rehab center with specialized treatment options. 

Detox for withdrawal symptoms, short and long-term residential treatment, outpatient treatment programs, support groups, medication-assisted therapy, are just some of the drug addiction treatment options offered at treatment centers across the United States. Treatment plans are tailored to each patient’s drug use patterns and any co-occurring medical, mental, and social problems. Drug addiction can be quit with the help of professionals and the support of family/ friends.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and ready to take the steps towards a happier and healthier life, contact us at Anchored Tides Recovery. A gender-specific treatment facility and a place for women to heal.