Archive for February, 2018

What is a functioning alcoholic?Alcoholism can take many forms. While some people end up on the streets or incarcerated as a consequence of their addiction, many others continue to lead outwardly successful lives while struggling with their inner demons.

About High Functioning Alcoholism

Someone with high functioning alcoholism is able to hold down a job, socialize with friends, and maintain intimate personal relationships while demonstrating a pattern of dysfunctional drinking behavior. High functioning alcoholics still suffer from an addiction, but it’s harder to see evidence of the problem unless you’re looking very closely.

A functioning alcoholic may be able to hide the signs of a drinking problem by restricting drinking only to certain times or in certain situations. However, many functioning alcoholics are successful in hiding the signs of their addiction because they have someone in their life who is unconsciously encouraging or enabling the addiction by allowing them to avoid the consequences of their behavior. For example, this person may loan them money when they’ve overspent on alcohol or make excuses on their behalf when they’re too hungover to go to work or attend a social engagement.

High functioning alcoholics are more common than you might expect. Studies estimate that nearly 20 percent  of alcoholics meet these criteria. Of these functioning alcoholics, about 1 in 3 have a multigenerational family history of substance abuse.

High functioning alcoholics are often intelligent, hardworking, and educated people who are actively involved in the community. They may be your coworker, your next-door neighbor, or your best friend.

Problems Associated with High Functioning Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Over time, tolerance to alcohol increases. This leads to increased consumption, eventually to the point where a high functioning alcoholic starts to experience the adverse lifestyle consequences we all traditionally associate with alcoholism.

In cases where a high functioning alcoholic works in a professional role responsible for the safety and welfare of others, the consequences of substance abuse could be disastrous. For example:

  • A doctor could make a mistake that harms a patient.
  • A lawyer’s mistake could land his client in jail.
  • A CEO’s poor business decisions could put the entire company in jeopardy.

It’s also worth pointing out that even someone who drinks excessively while maintaining the outward trappings of a successful life is still causing a great deal of physical damage. Some of the many health problems associated with alcoholism include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Mouth, throat, liver, breast, and/or colorectal cancer
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Gout
  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Depression
  • Nerve damage

Signs of a High Functioning Alcoholic

Traditionally, substance abuse disorders are defined by having alcohol-related problems with your personal relationships, career, finances, and/or the law. However, identifying a high functioning alcoholic requires taking a closer look at drinking-related behaviors.

Signs a person may need substance abuse treatment include:

  • Engaging in binge drinking, defined as four or more drinks in a two-hour period for women or five or more drinks in a two-hour period for men
  • Relying on alcohol to feel powerful, confident, and in control
  • Drinking to handle mental health issues such as anxiety and depression
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the mornings
  • Frequently finding yourself drinking more than you intended to
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol
  • Saying things you didn’t mean while you were drinking
  • Having trouble remembering the details of what happens when you were drinking
  • Being secretive or defensive about alcohol use

Dealing with Denial

Denial is the most common challenge associated with getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. These individuals honestly believe their alcohol use is under control. Since they’re not unemployed or in trouble with the law, they don’t feel they meet the same standard as the alcoholics portrayed in popular culture. In many cases, they think only someone who has hit “rock bottom” meets the criteria for alcoholism.

Staging an intervention is one tactic that may be effective in getting a high functioning alcoholic to seek treatment. An intervention is a structured meeting where friends and family present their concerns to the person who is abusing alcohol or drugs, offer treatment options, and state the consequences for refusing treatment. For example, a wife may share that she is worried about her husband’s alcohol-related health problems and concerned that the children have noticed their father is absent from social events when he’s been drinking. As a consequence, she might state that she wants a separation if her husband doesn’t seek treatment.

Interventions are not 100 percent effective, but a well-planned intervention using the services of a licensed counselor, social worker, psychiatrist, or psychologist could be just the push your loved one needs to get help.

By Dana Hinders

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

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Benefits of exercise in recoveryBeing in recovery involves rethinking your entire approach to life, which means the early stages of recovery are the perfect time to begin a regular exercise regimen. Making physical activity a daily part of your life offers multiple benefits for the body, mind, and spirit.

1. Exercise Gives You a Natural High.

It may sound hard to believe if you’ve always been a bit of a couch potato, but exercise has been scientifically proven to give you a natural high. Physical activity increases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. These chemicals help boost your mood, much like the high from using drugs or alcohol.

It doesn’t matter how strenuous your exercise regimen is either. Even a brisk walk after dinner can be helpful, so feel free to start small and gradually increase your physical activity as your strength and stamina improve.

2. Exercise Relieves Stress.

Balancing work, family, friends, and recovery can certainly be stressful at times. Exercise is an excellent natural stress reliever because it’s essentially meditation in motion. If you’re focused on shooting hoops, playing tennis, or mastering new dance moves, you can’t worry about problems in other areas of your life.

After concentrating solely on your body’s movements for 30 minutes to an hour, you’ll have a new perspective on what’s bothering you. The break from your troubles will also keep you from making rash decisions you may regret in the future.

3. Exercise Lets You Manage Anger and Frustration.

When you’re in recovery, it can be challenging to find a way to deal with unpleasant emotions without turning to drugs or alcohol. Exercise can help you work out your frustration and anger in a productive way.

If you’re using exercise to manage anger and frustration, however, it may be best to avoid aggressive team sports such as hockey or football. The natural aggression in the game may exaggerate your emotional response. Try running or lifting weights instead.

4. Exercise Promotes More Restful Slumber.

In today’s fast-paced world, trouble sleeping is very common. Being in recovery can make insomnia worse when the body is struggling to adjust to life without drugs and alcohol. Getting regular exercise will help balance your circadian rhythms and burn off excess energy, both of which will help you sleep better. This will improve your mood as well as promote healing of the damage caused by past substance abuse.

For maximum benefits, aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Ideally, it’s best to exercise five to six hours before you want to go to bed. This is the timeframe when the body’s temperature drops after exercising, which will make it easier to fall asleep. If it’s not possible to exercise at this time, a morning workout is the next best option. Exercising three hours or less before bed can actually overstimulate the heart, brain, and muscles—making it harder to go to sleep.

5. Exercise Helps You Deal with Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders.

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another co-occurring mental disorder, the mood boosting benefits of a regular workout routine may help you feel better. Working out won’t necessarily be a substitute for your medication, but getting moving may help you feel more like yourself again.

Yoga’s mental health benefits are particularly well documented. By teaching participants to focus on their breathing and tune out distractions, yoga promotes focus and relaxation. If you’re hesitant to try yoga because you don’t think you’re flexible enough, look for a certified instructor who can help you modify poses to work with a more limited range of motion.

6. Exercise Fills Up Idle Time.

Boredom is a common trigger for cravings when you’re in the early stages of recovery, so anything that keeps you busy is going to be beneficial. For maximum benefit, consider taking an organized fitness class or scheduling time at the gym as a set part of your daily routine.

7. Exercise Expands Your Social Circle.

Making friends as an adult can be difficult, but you may find that it’s easier to expand your social circle if you’re exercising regularly. Joining a gym or participating in team sports is a great way to meet new people if you’re feeling lonely from no longer associating with friends who encourage unhealthy lifestyle choices.

If you’re worried about approaching someone new, keep it simple and ask for tips on improving your form or advice on healthy eating. Having a common interest to guide your conversation will help break the ice as you get to know each other.  

By Dana Hinders

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

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Medication assisted treatment MATMedication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine. However, MAT is often misunderstood by those in search of effective recovery options.

What Medications Are Used to Treat Opioid Addiction?

The most common medications used to treat opioid addiction are:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine (sold under the brand names Suboxone and Subutex)
  • Extended release naltrexone (sold under the brand name Vivitrol)

Both buprenorphine and methadone are classified as essential medicines by the World Health Organization. Methadone is given as an oral tablet, liquid, or wafer from licensed opioid treatment clinics only. Patients must visit the facility daily to receive treatment. Buprenorphine can be given as a tablet, a film placed under the tongue or against the inside cheek, or an implant inserted in the arm. Only specially credentialed doctors can prescribe buprenorphine.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Constipation and sweating are the most frequently reported side effects of treatment, followed by nausea, back pain, chills, weight gain, insomnia, and decreased libido. Side effects may decrease in severity as your body adjusts to the medication, but you should discuss any concerns about side effects with your healthcare provider.

The medications used to treat opioid addiction could interact with some prescription medications, such as SSRI antidepressants and those used to treat HIV. You will need to tell your healthcare provider about all of the medications you are currently taking to determine if medication assisted treatment is right for you.

Patients who suffer from liver disease require close monitoring white undergoing MAT.

Is MAT Safe for Pregnant Women?

MAT is considered safe for pregnant women, with much less risk to the unborn baby than continuing to abuse heroin or other opioids during pregnancy. Both methadone and buprenorphine will show up in a drug screen after a woman gives birth, but no action will be taken if your healthcare provider verifies that the medications are being used as part of your substance abuse treatment plan.

Since buprenorphine is a newer medication and has been the subject of less research, methadone is considered the standard choice for pregnant women. Buprenorphine is considered a Pregnancy Category C medication, which means the risk of adverse effects has not been ruled out.

After giving birth, women on low doses of methadone may be able to breastfeed. If you wish to breastfeed, this should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

How Long Does Medication Assisted Treatment Last?

The duration of MAT for opioid addiction is decided on a case-by-case basis. In most cases, the goal is to taper off the dosage slowly as you become more comfortable and confident in your sobriety. However, patients with a history of relapse can safely take their medication on a long-term basis if they are properly monitored.

There are three phases of MAT:

  • Induction: A medically monitored beginning of MAT, which occurs when the patient is in the early stages of withdrawal.
  • Stabilization: An adjustment of the dosage until the patient is reporting no cravings and experiencing few, if any, side effects.
  • Maintenance: When the patient is doing well with a steady dose of medication, options for ongoing recovery are discussed. This can include either tapering off the medication altogether or continuing indefinitely to prevent relapse.

Isn’t MAT Simply Substituting One Addiction for Another?

People who’ve struggled with opioid addiction are often leery of medication assisted treatment because they believe that it’s best to get sober without any pills in their system. However, the medications used for treating opioid addiction do not result in getting high. The dosage is intended only to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by balancing the brain circuits affected by addiction. This gives your brain time to heal as you work towards recovery.

Medication assisted treatment does not interfere with cognitive functioning. This means you can work, attend school, care for your children, and enjoy relationships with friends and family while receiving treatment.

Can Medications Cure Opioid Addiction?

Treatment for opioid addiction should combine medications with counseling to address the underlying issues contributing to substance abuse. Medications on their own are not a sufficient treatment for addiction, but using medication assisted treatment has been proven to improve retention rates in counseling programs.

Addiction is a chronic illness, so someone who suffers from opioid addiction will never be fully cured in the traditional sense. However, treatment can help an addict learn to manage cravings to live a full and productive life.

By Dana Hinders