Poverty and addictionThe relationship between addiction and poverty is complicated. Lower income people are slightly more likely to struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that poverty causes addiction. In some cases, financial troubles are the result of a substance use disorder.

Poverty Increases Addiction Risk Factors

There are several ways in which financial struggles increase the risk of a person developing a substance use disorder:

  • Poverty increases stress. Stress is well recognized as a risk factor for substance abuse and relapse after treatment. Worrying about how to afford shelter, food, and other basic needs causes a tremendous amount of stress. When you’re struggling to make ends meet, there is a great temptation to turn to drugs or alcohol to temporarily escape from your problems.
  • Poverty increases feelings of hopeless. When meeting daily expenses is difficult, dreams of attending college, buying a home, opening a business, or traveling the world seem impossible. Feeling as though you are powerless over your own future creates a vulnerability to substance abuse.
  • Poverty decreases self-esteem. In a culture that values material possessions and financial success, being poor can feel like a moral failing. This can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and diminished self-worth. According to Psychology Today, people struggling with low self-esteem have an increased vulnerability to developing substance use disorders.
  • Poverty decreases social support. Having the emotional support of friends and family helps people cope with difficult situations in their lives. However, lower income adults are less likely to have strong social support networks simply because they are expending all of their energy on trying to survive from day to day. For example, a UCLA survey found that lower income adults are less likely to be married even though they value marriage just as much as their higher income peers.
  • Poverty decreases access to healthcare. Although the number of uninsured adults has decreased in recent years, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation found that 45 percent of uninsured adults lacked coverage simply because the cost was too high. Despite the fact that most of these individuals had at least one working adult in the family, 1 in 5 admitted to foregoing recommended medical treatment due to cost. Access to preventative health care is also severely limited for members of this group. Untreated mental health conditions or chronic illnesses that are poorly controlled can lead to the use of drugs or alcohol to self-medicate symptoms.

One frequently cited example of how poverty affects addiction risk is the Appalachian opioid epidemic. Stretching from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia, the Appalachian region of the United States has struggled with widespread poverty since the early 1900s. The majority of the available jobs are physically demanding, carrying a high risk of injuries despite their relatively low wages. Residents who begin taking opioids to cope with chronic pain from their employment-related injuries often find themselves spiraling into addiction. The effects of substance abuse make it nearly impossible to keep working, thus perpetuating financial struggles.

Addiction Can Cause People to Slip into Poverty

It’s important to remember that people with substance use disorders don’t necessarily develop an addiction simply because they are poor. Someone who is solidly middle class can easily slip into poverty as the result of an untreated drug or alcohol addiction.

As an addiction develops, it becomes increasingly likely that a person will have problems performing at work. This might include arriving late, missing shifts, failing to meet project deadlines, or getting into arguments with colleagues. Eventually, this can lead to job loss.

Being terminated for performance issues will make it harder to find another job. This increases the overall stress in the person’s life and provides an incentive to engage in criminal activity to fund continued substance abuse.

Middle class individuals can also slip into addiction-related poverty by selling assets or dipping into retirement savings to buy drugs or alcohol. Untreated addiction impairs judgement and critical thinking skills, which can lead someone who is normally very financially responsible to burn through decades of accumulated wealth in just a short time.

Promoting Recovery by Treating the Root Causes of Addiction

No two people with substance use disorders are exactly alike. To promote a lasting recovery, it’s vital that treatment plans address the underlying issues contributing to addiction. This could include providing job skills training, affordable housing resources, or access to community-based assistance programs for low-income individuals in addiction to detox and substance abuse counseling.

By working to heal the mind, body, and spirit, St. Joseph Institute helps clients move towards a future free from the burden of addiction. With personalized care, you can regain control of your life.

 

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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dentist officeDuring your next dental appointment, you may be asked about more than your brushing and flossing habits. A recent survey found that 77 percent of dentists now perform substance abuse screenings as part of routine exams.

Why Are Dentists Are Worried About the Addiction Epidemic?

Dentists may not be considered primary care providers, but dental health plays a key role in your overall physical health. This puts dentists in a unique position to fight substance abuse.

Dentists often see patients who have tooth decay due to substance abuse issues. For example, methamphetamines are a leading cause of tooth decay and tooth loss. Alcohol abuse is a primary risk factor for oral cancer. Tobacco use leads to gingivitis and tooth loss.

Addressing the risk of substance abuse is also important because dentists are the second leading prescriber of prescription opioids. This puts them at risk of inadvertently starting someone on the path towards addiction or feeding the habit of someone who already has a full blown opioid use disorder. Drug interactions could be another potential concern, since prescription opioids given for pain relief after a dental procedure could have dangerous interactions when combined with alcohol or illegal street drugs.

What Do Substance Abuse Screenings Look For?

Substance abuse prevention efforts often start the moment a patient walks into the office. Staff members may be looking for signs of potential problems such as:

  • Poor personal appearance, including bloodshot eyes
  • Slurred words, unsteady movements, or other signs of current intoxication
  • A history of broken appointments
  • Repeated requests for unusual prescriptions based on a self-diagnosis
  • Dramatic complaints of severe pain not in line with the issue the patient is being seen for
  • Someone who arrives near closing time seeking opioid prescriptions with the promise to return for an appointment the following day

In addition to a more informal evaluation, the dental hygienist may ask the following questions:

  • How often do you consume alcoholic beverages in a typical week?
  • Have you used tobacco products such as cigarettes or smokeless tobacco in the past three months? If yes, how much and how often?
  • Have you used marijuana more than five times in your life? If yes, when was the last time you used marijuana?
  • Have you felt you should cut down or otherwise control your drinking or drug use?
  • Do you get angry, upset, or annoyed when people ask you about your alcohol or drug use?
  • Do you feel guilty about your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever needed a drink or used drugs immediately in the morning to calm your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

Female dentists are more likely to believe addiction screenings are part of their professional responsible than their male counterparts, with 61 percent of women and 52 percent of men conducting screenings.

Age is another factor in how dentists perceive the importance of addiction screening, with 62 percent of dentists over the age of 53 and 47 percent of dentists under the age of 53 conducting screenings.

What Happens Next?

Although the rise of addiction screenings at the dental office should be encouraged, screening people at risk of substance use disorders is only a small part of the battle.

A 2013 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association reports that most dentists who screen patients for substance abuse do not provide referrals to counseling or follow up with patients who exhibit warning signs of addiction. Despite their concern for the well-being of their patients, they feel unqualified or not prepared to offer more extensive drug use prevention services.

Providing continuing education opportunities and additional training to help dentists refer at-risk patients to the appropriate resources would be a cost-effective way to tackle the public health concerns associated with substance use disorders. Until then, however, it’s up to each individual to look out for the signs of addiction and urge friends, family, neighbors, colleges, and others in need to the appropriate evidence-based treatment programs.

Based in Port Matilda, Pennsylvania, St. Joseph Institute for Addiction provides detox and counseling to address the issues contributing to substance use disorders. Our faith-based approach views addiction as physical disease in need of treatment for the mind, body, and spirit. This allows for a solid foundation of sobriety, setting the stage for a future free from the burden of addiction.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Open bookThere are thousands of self-help books promising to teach readers the secret to leading a better life, including many dealing with addiction recovery. Although you can’t cure drug or alcohol addiction simply by reading a book, self-help books can increase your understanding of addiction and help you figure out ways to handle cravings, codependent family relationships, and the challenges of mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

6 Addiction and Recovery Self-Help Books to Add to Your Reading List

If you’re in the early stages of recovery, the following titles can help you stay motivated and on the right path to building a successful sober lifestyle.

1. Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction by Maia Szalavitz

Published in 2017, Unbroken Brain is a New York Times bestseller by one of the premier American journalists covering addiction in America. Szalavitz has written for TIME.com, New York Magazine, VICE, Scientific American, Psychology Today, and The Guardian among others. She is also in recovery herself, giving her a personal perspective on this complex issue.

Unbroken Brain reviews recent scientific research to make the argument that addictive behaviors fall on a spectrum, much like autistic behaviors. The author states that instead of suffering from a “broken brain” or being afflicted with an addictive personality, someone abusing drugs or alcohol has a learning disorder that can be addressed with targeted treatment.

2. Sober For Good.: New Solutions for Drinking Problems — Advice from Those Who Have Succeeded by Anne M. Fletcher

Featuring advice from recovering alcoholics of many different backgrounds, Sober for Good shows that recovery is possible for everyone. Sober for Good is often recommended by people who don’t feel that the 12-step approach of AA is the right fit for their needs but aren’t sure what alternatives are available.

Fletcher has been featured on The View, Good Morning America, CNN, and other national media programs. She is an award-winning health and medical writer, speaker, and consultant on the topics of addiction and lifestyle change.

3. Living with Co-Occurring Addiction And Mental Health Disorders: A Handbook for Recovery by Mark McGovern

Co-occurring disorders such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety are common among people seeking treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Although a dual diagnosis can present challenges for recovery, having a co-occurring disorder doesn’t mean that sobriety isn’t a realistic goal.

McGovern explains how co-occurring disorders can affect the recovery process while stressing the importance of working with your treatment team to set achievable goals, create a support network, and make positive changes that support your recovery. A Professor of Psychiatry and of Community and Family Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, his professional career is devoted to research into the needs of persons with co-occurring disorders.

4. Willpower’s Not Enough: Understanding and Overcoming Addiction and Compulsion by Arnold M. Washton

Washton seeks to dispel the oldest and most persistent myth in addiction recovery: No matter how badly someone wants to change, willpower along can’t cure a drug or alcohol addiction. Addiction represents a desire for a change in mood, which means recovery must involve addressing the underlying issues that contributed to unhappiness with one’s current lifestyle.

Willpower Is Not Enough was first published in 1990, but each printing has involved updating the information to reflect contemporary views. The title is regularly recommended by members of 12-step groups as well as people who struggle with process addictions such as gambling addiction and sex addiction.

5. Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, Nicole Kosanke, and Stephanie Higgs

Attempting to shame or punish people with a substance use disorder is a popular approach, but it’s one that never works. Beyond Addiction explains why positive reinforcement and kindness are more effective than “tough love” in promoting a lasting recovery. The book draws on the authors’ 40 collective years of research and clinical experience to promote progressive treatment approaches that make lasting change possible regardless of past struggles.

In addition to offering valuable insight for individuals in recovery by stressing the value of positive affirmations, Beyond Addiction provides a guide for friends and family of recovering substance abusers who wish to learn more about how they can best support their loved one’s sobriety.

6. Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions by Russell Brand

If traditional self-help books are too dry for your tastes, Russell Brand’s humorous and entertaining approach may be just what you need. Part memoir and part self-help guide, Recovery advocates the 12-step approach to sobriety by explaining in great detail how the steps can apply to your life.

An English comedian, actor, and radio host, Brand has been an outspoken recovery advocate due to his own struggles with heroin, alcohol, sex, and food addictions. As part of his activism in the recovery community, he opened a nonprofit coffee house in London operated by people in abstinence-based drug abuse recovery programs.

Understanding the Limits of Self-Help Books for Addiction Treatment

Although self-help books do offer some important benefits in recovery, they should not be used as a replacement for traditional forms of addiction treatment. Detox, counseling, and holistic treatments provide the best foundation for sobriety.

Self-help is only effective when a person can:

  • Clearly identify the problem
  • Approach treatment logically
  • Dedicate the necessary time and energy to achieving the desired results

Someone who is actively abusing drugs or alcohol is suffering from impaired impulse control, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. He or she is likely in deep denial about the extent of the addiction and will continue patterns of substance abuse despite any negative consequences that occur.

If you wish to use self-help books as part of your addiction recovery, they are best incorporated into your aftercare plan for maintaining sobriety following residential treatment.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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