Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic

woman standing outside with her arms in the air during COVID-19 pandemic

A New Reality

It’s like the world ended. And in many ways, it did. You can’t go to work. Can’t attend school. Can’t meet up for lunch with friends. News footage shows barren streets. There weren’t any holidays, really. For the first time in its existence, the NYC NYE ball drop had virtually no one present. The entire world feels like a ghost town. When things finally did open back up, we’ve all had to wear masks. We’ve had to relearn how to wash our hands. We’ve been sterilizing door knobs and handles. Many places even installed footplates to prevent us from having to open doors with our hands. Toilet paper disappeared from shelves. Story after story, post after post. Everywhere, people were getting sick. Hospitals were so full, they turned people away.

What Is “Normal” Anyway?

You didn’t know which way was up. Truth and falsehood were stitched so closely together, you couldn’t even trust your own thoughts. Let alone anyone else’s. We became so afraid. We were overwrought with anxiety. We feared for our health. We feared food shortages. We suffered a collective trauma. Not as individuals, or families, or even countries. But the whole planet. And we’ve been living in that state for over a year. We’ve been carrying on as best we could. But we’ve had no release. No relief. We’ve waited for “normal” to come back. For things to go back to the way they were before. We’re in a new reality now. That new reality has placed demands and responsibilities on us that the old one did not.

Isolation And Alcohol

Quarantine isolates us from the world. The intention, of course, is to protect our health. But the advantage of quarantine (not getting sick) can turn into its biggest downside. Isolation might indeed keep us from contracting COVID-19. No one will dispute that. But what about our mental health? If we cut ourselves off from the most meaningful relationships in our lives, we’re asking for trouble. To cope with the isolation, you might begin (or resume) drinking. And it might make you feel better. It might ease you into sleep at night. But drinking has repercussions. And not just for your mind. Along with your judgment, alcohol impairs your immune system. It causes inflammation in your gut, killing off bacteria that keep you healthy. An unhealthy immune system increases your risk of getting sick – with something like COVID-19. Moreover, alcohol will not make a fit substitute for authentic social interaction.

Depression And Alcohol

New research from the University of Arizona indicates an astronomical increase in alcohol abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic. This isn’t a surprise given the restrictive quarantines and lockdowns. If your cornerstone relationships are compromised, you essentially have no support system. But alcohol cannot replace your family. It can’t interact with you at work. It can’t encourage you, talk to you, or be intimate with you. It can’t give you the feedback you need to become a more whole person. Alcohol and depression often co-occur. Suffering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) doubles your risk of developing major depression (MD). The reverse can also be true. An affliction of major depression often precedes alcohol abuse.

Online Recovery Meetings

No one denies the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Likewise, no one denies the importance of meaningful relationships for our health and growth. But what do we do when we can’t convene in public? How do we participate in recovery during this time? Fortunately, our age of technology presents some tangible solutions. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Refuge Recovery, and a number of other 12-step programs offer Zoom meetings. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation set up an online community called The Daily Pledge. Unity Recovery, WEconnect, SOS Recovery, and Alano Club offer Zoom meetings. Participants can choose whether or not to use their cameras and can mute their audio. No one is required to share. For more recovery resources, check out this list from SAMHSA.

Individual Therapy

Appointments with your therapist represent a critical part of your recovery. Especially during this time of quarantine. If you have a regular therapist, ask about digital sessions. If you don’t, look for a provider that allows for telehealth meetings. These might happen via Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or other platforms. If you don’t have access to a computer, many services like these have apps you can download on your phone. Use technology to your advantage! Keep your individual appointments with your therapist and/or counselor. Doing so maintains your prescriptions. It will help you decompress from anxiety and depression. Staying committed to your appointments helps you remain focused on your recovery process.

Proper Nutrition

GrubHub, DoorDash, Uber Eats and their ilk help out a lot, don’t they? With restaurants operating at limited capacity, your favorite foods are a few taps away. Nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence. But chances are, you’ve learned how proper nutrition affects your recovery. If you were in treatment prior to the pandemic, refresh your memory about diet. Keep your macronutrients in mind: protein, fat, carbohydrates. Do your best to eat foods with one ingredient. Bored of making the same meals over and over? Try a cookbook! Prefer to watch videos or take a course? Sites like Skillshare have a TON of cooking classes for you to look through.

Get Outside!

We’ve been told not to gather in groups. But no one’s told us that we must stay indoors for 24 hours a day. Just 10-30 minutes of sunshine a day makes a tremendous difference in your health. The sun is the human body’s main source of Vitamin D. A sufficient amount of vitamin D helps keep our bones healthy. Sunlight reduces inflammation, balances our calcium, and supports the immune system. But those aren’t the only benefits of sunlight. Adequate time in the sun also improves your mood; it reduces both anxiety and depression. You needn’t do anything strenuous to reap these benefits. Grab a book or some headphones and go sit in your backyard for a bit. That’s hardly the worst way to spend your quarantine.

If you’d like more information about how Midwood Addiction Treatment can help your recovery during quarantine, call us now at 888-MAT-1110.

How to Deal with Shyness and Low Self-Esteem in Recovery

shy woman covering her eyes

Terror And Fear

You’re terrified of treatment. You’re afraid to get help. Maybe it’s the fear of judgment. You’re already crushed by guilt. You’re like Giles Corey, being flattened by many accusers. Your thoughts accuse you. They point at you and condemn you. Call you a failure. A loser. An addict. They tell you that you don’t measure up to any standard. They say that you’ve ruined your life beyond repair. But perhaps you think even worse thoughts than those. Perhaps you think you don’t deserve to be alive. That maybe the people around you would be better off if you weren’t here. If you feel anything like this, begin by breathing deeply. Inhale. Suck in so much air that it hurts. Then exhale. If you’ve done that, then you’ve committed to at least one more breath. That’s a good thing. It’s good that you’re sticking around. If you’re breathing, you have a purpose. Even if that purpose is just to take one more breath. If your blood is flowing, you have a chance. If there’s a pulse, there’s a way forward. It might feel painful. And most likely, it will involve very difficult choices. But you must be around to make those choices. Because no one else can.

Considering Treatment? You’re Ahead!

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb you may have heard. It goes like this, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” History attributes that advice to Lao Tzu. Just the thought of considering treatment seems too great a feat. You hold that thought in your mind and you feel hot. Your temples throb and your palms sweat. If you’re considering treatment, then that’s something to feel good about! If you’re thinking of treatment as a legitimate possibility, that means that you believe you’re ready to start over. You’re done spiralling downward. You’re done with lack of control. You’re ready to put in work to change your life. You’re already doing well. Tell yourself that. Let yourself really believe that you’re making a good choice to even consider treatment. On some level, you have to believe you need treatment before you’ll actively look for it.

Group Meetings 101

Different treatment programs suit different people in different seasons of their lives. Each program varies in its restriction of your personal autonomy. But one thing all programs have in common: group meetings. You’ll be in a room with other people in different levels of treatment. The exact structure of the group meeting may vary. But they all follow a similar blueprint. Group meetings all have a facilitator (a counselor, social worker, therapist, etc.). At the beginning of the meeting, the facilitator will begin by suggesting a topic. They might choose a topic on their own. Or, the topic might be something another group member mentioned in a previous meeting. The facilitator will then shift to the participants. A participant may voice their observations, opinions, and feelings about the given topic. They may speak about what they have learned. They may offer wisdom or insight they have gained. Once that person finishes speaking, the facilitator will ask for further speakers. If no one volunteers, the facilitator may call on a member of the group by name. Note: you will never be required to speak. But think of group meetings like an investment: you get out what you put in.

All Eyes On You

When first attending, feel free to remain silent. If you don’t want to make eye contact, find an inanimate object to look at. Find a unique pattern on the floor. Or a piece of art hanging on the wall. Pretend to be invisible. Imagine that you’re hidden; that no one can see you. Focus intently on your own breath. Forgetting yourself like this will help you become more attentive to the conversations around you. And that’s your mission for your first group meeting. Listen. Internalize what other members are saying. Think deeply about it. Reflect on it and learn from it.

Group Etiquette

To help you ease into the group, here are a few ground rules. Knowing what to expect will help you grow more comfortable with the setting. Group therapy conversations work differently than real-world conversations. Never interrupt when someone speaks. The facilitator should prohibit cross-talking, i.e. addressing your comments to a specific group member. You speak to the group, rather than to a particular person. Likewise, the facilitator should not allow group members to question other group members. If the facilitator thinks certain comments need clarifying, they may ask the speaker a question. But group members do not interrogate other group members. No matter how difficult the conversations become, remain seated. Stay in the room for the entire duration of the meeting. Group meetings typically last about an hour. The facilitator will dismiss the group when the time ends.

Speak The Truth

Speaking in front of a group is scary. The eyes on you. The judgmental thoughts. The criticisms. What must they be thinking of you? Focus on what you’re talking about. Keep yourself resolute. Speaking is just breathing with form. It has more sound. A different purpose. With your thoughts trained on your words, talk slowly about what you have to say. Tell the truth. Don’t sugarcoat. There’s no need for profanity, but be honest about your feelings, opinions, and observations. You’re not here for other people’s negativity. You’re here to transform yourself.

Your Words Might Help

You don’t know how your story might help someone. What you’ve been through – your failures, your choices, your experiences – can make a difference in other peoples’ lives. Speaking openly and honestly about your life can provide wisdom to those listening. Just as you can gain understanding from listening to others. If you don’t speak, you may wonder, “what if?” Who might you have helped if you spoke up? If you spoke your truth about your experience with addiction? Granted, no one may approach you and say out loud, “Hey, what you said really helped me.” But rest assured, if you remain silent you will help no one. And yourself least of all.

Is Speed as Addictive as Meth?

black and white image of smoke coming from man's mouth

At first glance, it’s not difficult to see why people confuse amphetamine and methamphetamine. They both produce a stimulant chemical high that can rapidly lead to dependence. Both are also highly addictive. They even have a similar chemical makeup, which helps to create even more confusion.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, both drugs have the same short-term effects, namely a quick onset of intense euphoria, a burst of energy, and appetite suppression. These three effects largely contribute to their popularity as recreational drugs. But what are the differences between the two drugs, and would taking one be more harmful than the other?

Difference Between Amphetamine and Methamphetamine

Since both drugs are used recreationally, you would often hear their “street names” used when referring to them. Amphetamines are known as “speed”, while meth goes by a range of names, with “ice” or “crystal meth” being the most widely known. The latter’s wide recognition may be attributed to the popular series Breaking Bad.

Let’s take a closer look at each substance.

Amphetamines

Amphetamines are drugs that stimulate the central nervous system. After taking amphetamines, the user will experience a greater ability to focus on tasks, as well as an increased sense of productiveness.

Doctors prescribe amphetamines to people with ADHD to help with focus and concentration, and you may be familiar with one of the most well-known brands of the drug: Adderall.

When prescribed, amphetamines come in either pill or tablet form. For street use, however, “speed” looks like a loose powder that is snorted, smoked, or injected.

Methamphetamine

Since methamphetamine (meth) is very similar to amphetamines (speed) in terms of their chemical make-up, they also have similar effects. There is one key difference, however, and this difference goes a long way toward explaining why meth tends to be much more addictive than ‘regular’ speed.

In short, methamphetamine crosses the blood-brain barrier more rapidly and in greater amounts than amphetamines. The result of this is an almost immediate and incredibly intense euphoric high.

Why Meth is Highly Addictive

While both substances are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the DEA, doctors are warier to prescribe meth because of the extreme reaction triggered by the drug. Since meth is more fast-acting, people are more prone to getting addicted to the effects and going on binges to “chase” the high, which can lead to addiction much faster.

Another reason why people are more prone to getting addicted to meth is the method of consumption. Smoking or injecting meth results in the drug getting into the bloodstream much quicker compared to ingesting a pill or snorting powder.

Are There Harmful Long-Term Effects?

Yes, there are harmful long-term effects for both speed and meth if they are taken for recreational use, rather than under a strict and controlled prescription. These effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Psychosis
  • Weakened immune system
  • Heart damage
  • Permanent brain damage

Is Speed as Addictive as Meth?

In a nutshell: no, speed is not as addictive as meth because of the speed at which meth crosses the blood-brain barrier and becomes active in the body’s metabolism. However, this does not mean that speed is safe to take without a doctor’s prescription. As with any prescribed drug, the only way to safely take amphetamines is to follow the prescribed amount and schedule. Though experimentation with speed is very common, recreational use of it nearly always leads to negatives outcomes.

Can Addiction Stunt Your Emotional Growth?

group of friends on a mountain hike

The Obvious

It’s not a secret that substance addiction is harmful. You’re smart, you’re aware of that. You know what you’re doing. As far back as you can remember, that’s been preached to you. “Drugs are bad.” That’s all you hear. If you smoke marijuana once, you’ll be using heroin by the end of the week. You’ll quit eating and your family will kick you out of the house. You’ll end up living in an alley. No one will love you and you’ll never amount to anything. So goes the story.

Is There More To It?

Let’s face it. Sometimes life can be a struggle. No way around it. People get sick, plans fall through, mistakes get made. Tragedy strikes when we least expect it. Some people seem to live only to hurt those around them. All of those are legitimate problems. And they can lead to negative coping mechanisms. We all have to deal with the negative part of life. One way we might deal with it is to use a particular substance. Beyond the physical effects and, what kinds of effects can those substances have on our emotions?

What Is Alexithymia?

In our emotional development, psychology recognizes a concept called alexithymia. It refers to an inability to articulate our emotions into words. If you’ve ever had a therapist say, “tell me how you feel,” then you know it isn’t always that easy. Alexithymia is hard to measure, but it has 2 basic components: a cognitive component and an affective component. Most simply, that means that it’s hard to know and say out loud, what you’re feeling and why. Think about it. It’s hard to say, “I am feeling _______ because of _______ and ________.”

I Can’t Say What I Feel. So What?

Alexithymia highly correlates with substance abuse. This is especially true in young people, whose emotional development is currently evolving. In his book In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Dr. Gabor Maté illustrates the link between unresolved emotional stress and addiction. If we can’t adequately identify and express what we feel, addiction will make that problem worse. We’re not only postponing, but likely deepening our emotional disturbances. Trauma, especially adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), contribute significantly to abuse of alcohol and opiates.

Young People And Binge Drinking

Most young people like to party and have fun. We know this. But partying doesn’t just disturb their livers. It disturbs their minds and emotions as well. Female binge drinkers, even when sober, have a bias toward negative emotions. Also, binge drinking made it harder for them to recall positive memories. Young men who engage in heavy episodic drinking (HED) were found to have poor impulse control. Consequently, they were found to have a higher instance of committing violence against intimate partners. Students who reported difficulty regulating their own emotions were more likely to drink in social situations. On the other hand, students who could self-regulate were less likely to be influenced to drink by peers.

What Do I Do About It?

The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was reported to have used the saying “know thyself.” Good advice, but knowing yourself is quite complicated. That’s why therapy is important. The word therapy itself has a Greek root. It means “healing, ministering, treating medically.” Therapy involves more than just kicking an addiction. Its purpose is wholeness. Healing open wounds, dealing with unrealized pain, and moving forward from anguish.

If you’d like more information about Midwood Addiction Treatment’s therapy options, call us now at 888-MAT-1110.


Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Man sitting with therapist during CBT

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular method of psychotherapy used by mental health professionals. It is a form of talk therapy that is designed to help people adjust their behavior by changing unhealthy associations between their thoughts, feelings, and actions.

CBT is executed in a highly structured format. Typically, a certified mental health professional (usually a therapist or psychotherapist) will engage in a limited number of timed sessions with the patient. The goal of these sessions is to identify destructive thought patterns that result in a direct negative influence on emotions, actions, and behavior.

Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Work?

Now that we have a general idea of what CBT is, it’s time to discuss the most important question about it– how well does it work, especially for clients with a substance abuse disorder? The short answer is yes. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has proven highly effective in treating a number of different mental health disorders, including people who present as having a substance abuse disorder.

Obviously, it doesn’t just work by magic. To be effective, CBT must be collaborative; the counselor and the patient must work together. In time, the patient learns to become their own therapist in identifying and modifying negative thought patterns.

CBT is a useful and effective tool in treating mental health disorders, particularly addiction. This is because CBT helps people learn how to cope with and manage stressful life situations, and addiction is often the result of unhealthy coping mechanisms or a response to traumatic experiences.

Various Approaches to CBT

CBT involves a range of different techniques that are designed to help individuals address their negative emotions and behaviors. CBT is most effective when tailored to an individual’s needs, personality, and thought processes. Thus, it is incumbent upon the counselor to identify which technique is best suited for each case.

Here are some of the approaches used in CBT:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – this method also identifies negative thought patterns and responses. It also uses strategies like mindfulness and emotional regulation as a way to change these negative behaviors.
  • Multimodal therapy – this approach treats negative psychological issues by addressing their distinct sources.
  • Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) – this approach identifies illogical beliefs, and seeks to challenge these beliefs through therapeutic intervention.

CBT and Addiction

CBT is effective in treating addiction because it helps individuals identify the nearly automatic negative thoughts that run through their mind when faced with stressful situations. Once identified, these thoughts can be modulated in a way that they become progressively less influential on the individual’s behavior.
This self-defeating type of thinking can arise from a number of different internal and external circumstances. In turn, these thoughts often lead to uncomfortable emotions and destructive behaviors.

Without help, most people with a substance abuse disorder will attempt to escape from this discomfort by returning their familiar using habits or ‘self-medicating.’ If this continues for too long, it can very quickly lead to mental and physical dependence.

Why is CBT So Effective in Treating Substance Abuse Disorders?

There are three ways that CBT can help individuals struggling with addiction:

1. Identify and dismiss insecurities and irrational thoughts that lead to addiction;
2. Practicing and refining effective communication skills to help with better self-expression;
3. Creating effective self-help methods to regulate thoughts, moods, and behavior.

In short, CBT eventually teaches the client to identify and intervene in the thought processes and behaviors that maintain the substance disorder.

What to Expect in IOP Treatment

What Is Intensive Outpatient Treatment?

An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) is a recovery treatment option that allows people to get the help they need without compromising their personal responsibilities. The term “intensive” means that the program requires a significant time commitment. However, IOP is nonresidential. “Outpatient” means that a person on this program can still live in their own home.

Who Does IOP Help?

IOP is intended for two groups of people: those stepping down from inpatient or partial hospitalization programs, as well as those who do not require 24-hour care. Someone needing medical attention or detox would be better served by an inpatient program than an IOP. For a person transitioning from an inpatient setting, IOP can help provide a framework that will allow recovery to continue. But what if you don’t have the necessity for inpatient treatment? What if your life obligations (career, family, education) would be negatively impacted by enrollment in an inpatient program? IOP would give you an optimal path to recovery while affording you the freedom to maintain your responsibilities.

What Does IOP Look Like?

If you have a home life that is conducive to your recovery, then IOP is likely the best option for you. Depending on the facility, IOPs may look slightly different. The American Society of Medicine (ASAM) has five levels of care (1). IOP is a level 2 treatment. If you enroll, you should expect about 10-12 hours of either group and individual therapy. Your therapist or doctor will have a designated site for these meetings. To make access to IOP even easier (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic), some sessions may even be completed online. You’ll meet 3-4 times per week, typically in 3-hour blocks. Precise times will vary, but the therapy blocks may occur in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Group Therapy

A cornerstone of IOP is the group therapy session. These sessions can be much more helpful for recovery than individual sessions alone. The sessions will include numerous participants, each in different stages of treatment. Each session will be guided by a therapist or counselor. In the beginning, the therapist/counselor will ask for a volunteer to share their personal experience. Participants may speak openly, sharing as much (or as little) as they desire. No one is required to share, but you will be expected to participate to some degree. Speaking directly to another person, or asking them questions (usually referred to as “cross-talking”) is most often prohibited. Once a person finishes speaking, others may have a turn. Group settings like these provide transparency and freedom from judgment. They can also help us to improve our communication skills, practice empathy, and evaluate ourselves honestly.

Individual Therapy and Medication

Though group therapy is integral to any IOP, it doesn’t work alone. In IOP, you’ll also keep appointments with a doctor. Most often, it will be with a psychiatrist. In individual therapy sessions, you may wish to share details that are too personal for group therapy. Also, your psychiatrist will help you customize proper medications and doses to aid in your recovery.

What Now?

If you’d like more information about Midwood Addiction Treatment’s intensive outpatient program, call us now at 888-628-1110.



When to Seek Help for Alcoholism

woman sitting on a chair contemplating alcoholism

“It’s just one more.” “I only drink at home.” “I can make it home, I only live around the corner.”

What’s The Big Deal?

You may have heard something like this before. If you’re honest, you may even have said something like this. A single drink every once in a while; only on special occasions. That’s how it can start. And then, before you know it, that “once in a while” is a few times a week. Or perhaps every single day. Some people can actually have a single drink and not think anything else about it. But for the rest of us, that just isn’t the case.

How Much Is Too Much?

About 95,000 people die each year from consuming too much alcohol. Each day, that’s around 260 people (1). When collecting data, the CDC differentiates between binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking constitutes 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men and 4 or more drinks for women. Heavy drinking counts drinks by the week; 15 or more for men, and 8 or more for women (2). If you find yourself pushing the envelope against numbers like these, it’s time to seek help.

Leave Anger At The Door

You know that angry feeling you get when someone cuts you off in traffic? If not that, maybe you get a little miffed when the restaurant gets your order wrong. Or when your boss asks you to stay late. Well, have you ever felt the same way when you can’t drink? If you ever feel angry about not being able to drink when you want, that indicates that you have a problem. Ask yourself if you’ve ever felt gypped, frustrated, or cheated where drinking was concerned. If someone cuts you off and you feel angry, that means it’s time to look for treatment.

Routine, Routine, Routine

You need a routine to make your life work. You might slave away in a cubicle from 8 am until 5 pm. Or you might be a shift worker, trying to cram in some extra sleep in your car. Whatever your regular life rhythm is, it might be best not to make alcohol a part of it. To find out if this is you, have an honest conversation with yourself about your routine. Could you remove alcohol from your daily grind today, right now, and still function optimally? If you think so, then do it. If you try and find that you can’t function optimally without alcohol, then you ought to seek treatment.

Rest Is What’s Best

Alcohol makes us feel relaxed and drowsy. It might even help us fall asleep. But alcohol consumption disrupts healthy sleep patterns (3). It impairs our ability to dream and decreases how long we stay asleep. People who struggle with alcoholism frequently experience insomnia. This is especially true for binge drinkers (3). Moreover, alcohol can cause us to experience sleep apnea, which means we stop breathing while asleep. Binge drinking can increase sleep apnea by about 25% (4). Alcohol is not an effective, long-term sleep aid. If drinking is part of your nightly routine to get ready for bed, then you ought to get treatment.

What Should I Do?

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to alcohol, call Midwood Addiction Treatment now at 888-MAT-1110.

Sources

(1) https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/94305
(2) https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/data-stats.htm
(3) https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/alcohol-and-sleep
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5840512/

Methamphetamine Effects on the Body

woman struggling from meth addiction sitting uncomfortably

What Is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine (or “meth” for short) was discovered in 1893. During World War II, combatants on both sides of the Atlantic used methamphetamine to stay alert (1). Methamphetamine belongs to a class of drugs called amphetamines. They work by speeding up the functions of the brain. As prescribed by a doctor, amphetamines can be used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, and obesity. Some research also indicates that therapeutic doses of amphetamine can improve focus, concentration, and memory (2). Methamphetamine may resemble shards of glass or crystal. For this reason, it may be referred to as “crystal,” “glass,” or “ice” on the street. Other names for it include “tweak,” “speed,” and “tina.” Meth can be consumed by smoking, snorting, swallowing, or injecting.

How Does Meth Affect The Brain?

Meth is a stimulant. It mainly affects the brain’s central nervous system (CNS). This part of the brain that assists in regulating our emotions and behavior. The nerves in this part of your brain are called neurons. As a stimulant, meth makes the natural processes of the neurons work faster. When consuming meth, you experience a heightened sense of energy. Your heart rate increases and your breath quickens. Your blood pressure and body temperature escalate. Your appetite will be suppressed so you won’t feel hungry. Meth also deteriorates the glial cells of the prefrontal cortex. These cells are responsible for judgment, abstract thought, and attention (3). Glial cells are likewise responsible for protecting the body against infection.

Effects of Prolonged Use

Methamphetamine is inexpensive to produce, and it is also incredibly potent. As a result, it is highly addictive. Since its production involves toxic chemicals, making meth can be just as dangerous (if not more so) than consuming it. Labs are known to combust, killing or injuring those nearby. Prolonged use of meth can lead to severe weight loss and malnourishment, memory loss, and repetitive scratching. You are likely also familiar with “meth mouth” via images of users with rotten teeth and gums. Those who inject methamphetamine put themselves at risk for hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. Living with a constant elevated sense of awareness leads users into paranoia. Combined with a lack of sleep (often for days at a time), hallucinations result. Meth’s hold on the brain is so strong, that users can even experience psychosis during withdrawal or detox. Symptoms of meth psychosis can include stronger hallucinations, delusions, agitation, and violence (4). Between 2011 and 2018, the number of methamphetamine-related deaths increased five-fold (5).

Is Recovery Possible?

Definitely! Recovery is always possible, even from a substance as noxious as methamphetamine. A recent study (6) indicated that a combination of an oral medication (bupropion) and an injection (naltrexone) might aid in treating meth addiction. At present, there are no medication-assisted therapies for recovery. That makes this study a first of its kind. Current treatments for meth addiction include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational incentives (7).

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to methamphetamine, take heart. Treatment is available, and recovery is possible. Call Midwood Addiction Treatment now at 888-628-1110.


Sources

(1) https://www.history.com/topics/crime/history-of-meth
(2) https://rdw.rowan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1056&context=som_facpub
(3) https://americanaddictioncenters.org/meth-treatment/effects-on-the-brain-and-cns
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5027896/
(5) https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2021/01/methamphetamine-overdose-deaths-rise-sharply-nationwide
(6) https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2020214
(7) https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine

Should I Quit Drinking on my Own?

man struggling with alcohol addiction sitting outside

In the United States, an estimated 5.6 percent of people over the age of 18 have Alcohol Use Disorder, known as AUD (1), formerly called alcohol addiction or alcoholism. This means that more than 18.5 million people domestically have difficulty stopping or controlling their alcohol consumption. A further 26 percent of the same age group report having engaged in binge drinking in the past month, and 6.3 percent saying they’ve used alcohol to a heavy or excessive degree.

If you or someone you know is one of these millions, or are merely considering the choice to quit drinking, it can be one of the healthiest choices a person can make. It can also be fatally dangerous.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal

For those who drink heavily or frequently, suddenly stopping alcohol consumption leads to a condition referred to as acute alcohol withdrawal, or AW (2). AW is a disruption to the central nervous system that results from stopping drinking after using on a regular basis for months or years.

Risks of Alcohol Withdrawal

The dangers of AW (3) vary widely from person to person and are frequently unpredictable. It is worth noting that alcohol is one of the few drugs which can be fatal to withdrawal from, the only others being barbiturates and benzodiazepines.

Common symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Alterations in mood – agitation, hypervigilance, irritability
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite

These symptoms will usually abate within a few hours to a few days after the last drink. While these are generally manageable for anyone quitting drinking on their own, the more serious symptoms are not.

Severe symptoms of Alcohol WIthdrawal include:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Memory loss or memory disturbances
  • Hallucinosis – visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Delirium tremens (DT’s) – disorientation and confusion, tachycardia or rapid heart rate, fever and dangerously elevated blood pressure
  • Seizures
  • Death

Severe symptoms can last for several days after the final drink and can occur at unpredictable times. A person may experience only mild complications, only to have heart failure as the result of DT’s.

How to Stop Drinking Safely

If you intend to stop drinking, it’s best to do so with the aid of a physician due to the unforeseeable hazards. There are numerous treatment choices available:

  • Medical detox – A supervised environment wherein you can be monitored by knowledgeable staff who will be able to provide care should complications arise.
  • Partial Hospitalization (PHP) – Allows the individual to live at home but commute to a care facility during the day to monitor and manage their physical state.
  • Intensive Outpatient (IOP) or Outpatient (OP) – Similar to PHP, the IOP and OP programs allow patients to live at home while going to a care center to assist them in managing their mental and physical health.

For those who do wish to stop drinking on their own, it is suggested that a tapering process be undertaken, in which the amount of alcohol consumed is gradually reduced. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) can also be prescribed by your doctor to help facilitate the process.

Living Alcohol-Free

Though the initial process of quitting drinking is difficult, once the discomfort and danger have passed, most people’s bodies will heal on their own, leaving minimal long-term issues. Greater mental clarity will soon come about, along with enhanced physical health.

Living without alcohol is a lifelong process, but the benefits greatly outweigh the costs and can provide a fuller, richer, more gratifying existence, free from the pain that drinking brings.

Sources

(1) https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
(2) https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/61-66.pdf
(3) https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh22-1/05-12.pdf

How Does Medication Assisted Treatment Work?

Opioid Addiction Treatment | Midwood Addiction Treatment

What is MAT and How Does it Work?

Medication-Assisted Treatment, or MAT in simple terms consists of a combination of counseling and medication in a structured environment. MAT has been around in some form since the 1960s, beginning with methadone programs, but it has evolved a great deal since then. The recent explosive opioid addiction epidemic has seen a rise in the popularity of MAT programs. The reasons for this are simple. MAT is proven to be effective at helping addicts break free of their dependence and put together more sober time. (1)

MAT is proven to help patients stay in treatment longer and complete their care. It has been shown to reduce the chances of arrest and incarceration. It greatly reduces the risk of relapse, which can lead to negative consequences. Considering the danger of opioid addiction, in particular, harm reduction strategies which include MAT are warranted. With the uncertainty of potency in street heroin or the presence of adulterants like fentanyl, the risk of fatal overdose is higher than ever before. We simply do not know how many chances an opioid addict will get at treatment and recovery. It is absolutely crucial that they have every advantage possible in their corner. For many, especially chronic relapsers, this will include some form of MAT.

While MAT is most often associated with addiction treatment for opioid dependence, it is useful for alcohol use disorders and other drugs as well. The primary concept behind MAT is to mitigate cravings and discomfort that might otherwise cause a person to use. MAT usually includes deterrents to abuse as well. In the case of opioid addiction treatment, naloxone, an opioid antagonist, is one example. The presence of naloxone in Suboxone helps to prevent abuse. It helps some to think of MAT as protection in early recovery. It improves the odds of a patient staying on track so they can complete treatment. It improves their chances of remaining gainfully employed or staying in school after treatment.

Medications Used With MAT

For opioid use disorder patients, the most common MAT medication is buprenorphine (usually combined with naloxone). Buprenorphine is a long-acting synthetic opioid with a very long half-life. It lacks the euphoric effects that traditional opioids have and has a high affinity for the brain’s opioid receptors. This means it tends to not only stick and stay in these receptors, but it will even displace other opioids from those receptors. These qualities make it particularly well-suited as a therapeutic MAT agent for opioid addicts.

Patients with alcohol use disorders often receive medications such as Disulfiram or Acamprosate in an MAT setting. Like buprenorphine for opioid addicts, these medications are effective at reducing or eliminating cravings. Other tertiary medications are often used for MAT patients. These may include antidepressants and non-narcotic anti-anxiety medications. The goal of MAT medications such as these, regardless of the patient’s drug of choice, is to reduce cravings and other side-effects that may linger after cessation of substance abuse.

If you have more questions about Medication Assisted Treatment or anything concerning addiction and treatment, please contact us.

Sources
(1) https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/Medication-Assisted-Treatment-Opioid-Use-Disorder-Study.html