Archive for August, 2017

co-occurring mental disordersCo-occurring disorders are mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, or OCD, that occur in people who are also suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. This is sometimes referred to as a dual diagnosis.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that most mentally ill people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction are men between 18 and 44. However, women and older adults can also have a dual diagnosis.

How Mental Illness Creates a Vulnerability to Addiction

Mental illness makes people more vulnerable to drug and alcohol abuse because there is an impulse to self-medicate symptoms that can have a negative effect on one’s qualify of life. For example:

  • Someone who suffers from severe anxiety in social situations might turn to alcohol to relax and feel more comfortable in a group setting.
  • Stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine are often abused by people who are suffering from depression because they temporarily increase focus, attention, and energy levels.
  • Benzodiazepines or prescription sleep aids may be abused by someone suffering from PTSD as a way to cope with the anxiety and insomnia associated with the condition.

Self-medicating may be done for several different reasons. Some people lack the resources necessary to obtain a proper diagnosis, while others are simply afraid to discuss their symptoms with a healthcare provider due to the societal stigma surrounding mental illness. In the case of severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, self-medicating can also be a response to unpleasant side effects associated with certain prescribed medications.

Self-medicating mental illness with drugs and alcohol is problematic because it’s only effective in the short term. Tolerance quickly develops, requiring higher doses of the abused substance to achieve the same effect. This leads to withdrawal symptoms when the substance is no longer being used and will eventually intensify the symptoms associated with the underlying mental illness.

Other factors that contribute to the high percentage of mental illness in people who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction include:

  • Effects of adolescence: The teen years are the time when signs of mental illness most often begin to appear. This is also the time when peer pressure and societal influences can lead vulnerable young people to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Since the brain is still developing during adolescence, substance abuse during this time can worsen the symptoms of mental illness.
  • Overlapping genetic risk factors: Research is still being done to understand how our genes affect addiction, but there appears to be a significant overlap in the genes linked to higher risks of addiction and those linked to a higher risk of mental illness.
  • Involvement of similar brain regions: Certain parts of the brain are affected by both substance abuse and mental illness. For example, depression, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders are linked to abnormalities in the circuits of the brain that process the neurotransmitter dopamine. Addictive substances flood the brain with dopamine, creating a powerful motivation to continue using.

Mental Illnesses Caused by Addiction

While most people with co-occurring disorders exhibited symptoms of mental illness before developing drug or alcohol addiction, it’s possible for addiction to create symptoms of a mental illness. For example, long term abuse of ecstasy can create changes in the brain that lead to issues with depression and anxiety. There is also some evidence to suggest that substance abuse in the teen years increase the risk of developing a mental illness later on in life, since drugs and alcohol can affect the growth of brain.

Seeking Treatment

When seeking addiction treatment, it’s vital that you choose a program that addresses both substance abuse and the underlying mental illness. If you treat the substance abuse as an independent and unrelated problem, it’s difficult to maintain long-term sobriety because you’re not addressing the underlying issues that led to your addiction in the first place.

A recovery plan for someone suffering from a mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction should include the following:

  • Medically-supervised detox to rid the body of the abused substance while minimizing withdrawal symptoms
  • A complete mental health evaluation and diagnosis
  • A personalized treatment plan to address both mental illness and substance abuse concerns
  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy to encourage connections with others and learn from the experiences of people struggling with similar issues
  • Family therapy to promote a stronger support system
  • A detailed aftercare plan with referrals to resources necessary to maintain sobriety while addressing ongoing mental health concerns

Making the decision to seek addiction treatment can feel a bit overwhelming, but know that is the first step in regaining control of your life and planning for a brighter future.

By Dana Hinders

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

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massage therapyIf you’re interested in a holistic approach to addressing your substance abuse issues, massage therapy may be an option to consider. Although it’s not a commonly used part of addiction treatment, massage therapy offers several benefits to people in recovery. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Promotes Detoxification

The squeezing and pulling motions we associate with a professional massage do more than just feel good. They help flush lactic acid from the muscles and boost blood flow to the limbs. This improvement in vascular function continues for several days after the massage has ended, which is why professional athletes often rely on massage to keep them in competitive shape.

Since massage helps improve circulation, it can aid in the detoxification process by allowing for a more efficient expulsion of toxic waste products away from the body. The invigoration of blood and lymphatic fluid also helps to promote a better utilization of oxygen-rich nutrition into the various organs and tissues.

2. Releases Endorphins

After the detoxification stage of addiction treatment, the body’s neurochemistry requires time to get back in balance. Drug and alcohol abuse prevents the release of natural endorphins, which means someone who is newly sober needs a little extra help convincing the body to manufacture these “feel good” chemicals.

Research has shown massage therapy increases the amount of beta-endorphins in the blood. Manufactured in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, beta-endorphins offer a chemical-free way for those in recovery to feel more like themselves. If you’re engaged in a regular exercise program as well as massage therapy, these benefits are further enhanced.

3. Reduces Chronic Pain

For someone who turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with chronic pain, massage can be a way to heal the body. Regular massage can lower pain levels and promote a more restful sleep—leading to improved mood and energy throughout the day.

If you suffer from opioid addiction related to chronic pain, regular massage therapy sessions can be particularly beneficial. Recovering prescription opioid abusers are often reluctant to use any type of pain medication for fear of relapse, but massage can be combined with alternative treatments such as yoga and acupuncture to naturally increase the body’s serotonin levels.

4. Reduces Stress

Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and create mood disturbances. Massage therapy helps those in recovery feel more relaxed and in control of their newfound sobriety by lowering cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. It increases glucose in the bloodstream and increases the availability of hormones to promote tissue repair, helping the body to be primed for a “fight or flight” situation. Although this is helpful when you’re actually under attack, an excess of cortisol can lead to stress-related problems such as weight gain, digestive problems, headaches, sleep disturbance, and difficulty concentrating.

5. Addresses Co-Occurring Disorders

If you suffer from co-occurring disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD, massage therapy can help by triggering the body’s relaxation response. It’s not a substitute for talk therapy, but massage can help you feel more open and comfortable expressing your emotions. This can enhance the effectiveness of your overall treatment plan, reducing the urge to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.

6. Helps Overcome a Fear of Touch

If you’ve been physically or sexually abused in the past, touch may be associated with negative feelings. Massage therapy encourages the brain to associate physical contact with more positive sensations.

Psychologists who study trauma have stated that being a victim of abuse undermines five of our most basic human needs: safety, trust, control over one’s life, feeling of value, and experiencing closeness with others. The intimacy of massage therapy provides a safe and therapeutic way to meet these needs, thus offering a foundation for healing.  

7. Enhances Self-Awareness

An essential part of addiction recovery involves learning to manage personal addiction triggers. Understanding how feelings of boredom, anger, frustration, or anxiety trigger the urge to use helps you be proactive in managing your sobriety.

Regular massage helps build an awareness of your own body, including where tension exists and patterns that can lead to an increase in negative emotions. This can make it easier to develop productive strategies for controlling cravings and avoiding relapse.

How to Incorporate Massage Therapy into Your Recovery

Massage therapy can’t cure addiction on its own, but the guidance of a qualified massage therapist can offer numerous benefits as part of a broader evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment program. If you’re interested in incorporating massage therapy into your treatment, this issue can be discussed with your counselor as you’re developing your recovery plan.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website or call us at 888-352-3297.

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Opioid abuse remains a serious public health issue throughout the United States. This is, however, an often misunderstood type of addiction, since many people who use opioid pain medication have a valid reason for doing so and abusers often begin due to an appropriately diagnosed medical condition.

About Opioids

Opioids are a type of narcotic pain medication. They’re designed to interact with the opioid receptors on nerve cells in the brainstem, spinal cord, and limbic system to relieve pain.

Commonly prescribed types of opioids and their associated brand names include:

  • Fentanyl: Actiq, Duragesic, and Fentora
  • Hydrocodone: Hysingla ER and Zohydro ER
  • Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen: Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, and Vicodin
  • Hydromorphone: Dilaudid and Exalgo
  • Meperidine: Demerol
  • Morphine: Astramorph, Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, and Oramorph SR
  • Oxycodone: OxyContin, Oxecta, and Roxicodone
  • Oxycodone and Acetaminophen: Percocet, Endocet, and Roxicet
  • Oxycodone and Naloxone: Targiniq ER

Heroin is also a type of opioid. Many people who begin abusing prescription pain medications eventually turn to heroin to get the high associated with opioid pain relievers at a lower cost. In fact, studies have indicated that as many as four out of five new heroin users started using after developing an addiction to prescription opioids.

Opioid Dangers

When used in a supervised medical setting, opioids are generally considered safe. However, the medication has a potential for tolerance, dependence, and abuse. The negative health effects of long term opioid abuse include a depressed immune system, lowered libido, respiratory difficulties, osteoporosis, abnormal heartbeat, hallucinations, delirium, and increased fatigue. Overdoses can lead to fatal oxygen deprivation.

Responsible Opioid Use vs. Signs of Addiction

Recognizing the signs of opioid abuse presents unique challenges because the medication serves an important purpose. Short term use after an injury or surgery helps patients recover with minimal discomfort.  People who suffer from chronic pain can also use opioids in cooperation with other techniques, such as physical therapy to help keep their pain levels in check so they can go about their daily routine. Some of the many conditions treated with opioids include:

  • Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Migraines
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Scoliosis
  • Fibromyalgia

Appropriate opioid use includes the following:

  • Taking medication in the prescribed dose at the correct time
  • Avoiding alcohol or other drugs that could interfere with the effectiveness of the medication
  • Being cautious about driving or operating heavy machinery until you understand how the medication affects your body
  • Keeping medication in a secure location where it’s not accessible by others
  • Refraining from sharing or selling pills
  • Keeping all recommended follow-up appointments with your doctor

Unfortunately, due to the addictive nature of these opioid pain medications, it’s easy to slide from appropriate use into a more serious problem. Signs of potential abuse include:

  • Making excuses to get refills ahead of schedule, such as falsely claiming you lost your medication or had it stolen
  • Seeing multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for several different types of opioid medications
  • Mixing medications with alcohol or other drugs
  • Buying or stealing pills
  • Requiring an increased dosage over time to get the same effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you’re unable to use
  • Lying to friends and family about your use of opioid medication
  • Avoiding hobbies and other activities you previously enjoyed in favor of using
  • Continuing to use despite experiencing negative consequences in your personal or professional relationships

People of all ages, races, and economic classes can develop an opioid addiction. However, women appear to have the highest risk. Research shows that prescription pain reliever overdose deaths among women increased more than 400% from 1999 to 2010, compared to a 237% increase among men during the same time period. In addition to being more likely to seek out prescription pain relievers from a doctor, women are more likely to become physically dependent on the medication due to their smaller size and hormonal makeup.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Naloxone, sold under the brand names Narcan and Evzio, has received extensive media attention for its role in treating opioid overdoses. Paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and public safety workers are being trained to administer the drug in hopes of combating the opioid epidemic. However, the best way to fight opioid addiction is to seek treatment as soon as a pattern of abuse is identified.

Treatment programs for opioid addiction provide medically assisted detox and cognitive behavioral therapy to help substance abusers learn different ways to cope with the underlying issues at the root of their addiction. To learn more about treatment options for yourself or someone you love, contact the experienced staff at St. Joseph Institute today.

By: Dana Hinders