Drug and Alcohol Addiction


Causes of alcoholism

Many of the people who seek alcohol addiction treatment have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings who’ve also struggled with alcohol abuse. However, alcoholism isn’t inherited in the same way you’d inherit blue eyes and blond hair. Addiction develops as the result of a complex interaction between genes and environmental risk factors.

Genes That Affect Alcoholism Risk

There is no single gene responsible for developing alcoholism. However, research does suggest that certain combinations of genes are responsible for increasing the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. For example:

Personality traits: Genes linked to personality traits such as impulsivity and disinhibition are also associated with an increase in substance abuse disorders.

Predisposition to mental health disorders: The same genes that are linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are also associated with an increased risk of alcohol abuse, but this is often attributed to the tendency of people suffering from mental health disorders to try to self-medicate.

Changes in how alcohol affects the body: Some gene combinations create changes in the body’s dopamine reward systems, leaving people to experience greater levels of reinforcement or reward from alcohol use and thus increasing the likelihood of problem drinking.

Race: Genetic variants in people of different races have been linked to an increase in alcoholism, with Native Americans have the highest number of alcohol use severity phenotypes.

Although the average person doesn’t have access to sophisticated genetic testing, you can reasonably determine your genetic risk for alcoholism by counting the number of blood relatives who also suffer from alcohol use disorders.

Environmental Factors That Affect Alcoholism Risk

Certain environmental factors can increase the risk of a child developing an alcohol use problem, even if there are minimal genetic risk factors at work. For example:

Societal acceptance: Regularly seeing television shows, movies, and music that portray drinking as a harmless way to have fun normalize the behavior.

Parental modeling: Seeing parents deal with everyday stress by becoming intoxicated sets this behavior up as normal in child’s mind.

Peer pressure: Friends who encourage regular drinking promote a pattern of overindulgence.
Exposure to outside trauma: Children who are exposed to verbal, physical, or sexual abuse are more likely to experiment with alcohol.

Age at first drink: Multiple studies have shown that the younger you are when you take your first drink, the more difficulty you’ll have regulating your alcohol intake. These studies proved instrumental in setting the legal drinking age to 21.

Genetics Aren’t Destiny

When discussing the causes of alcoholism, it’s important to keep in mind that many diseases are caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. For example, someone with a parent, grandparent, or sibling who suffers from Type 2 diabetes is considered genetically predisposed to the condition. Even with this added risk, a commitment to eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular physical exercise can drastically reduce their risk of becoming diabetic. Lifestyle changes made after a diagnosis can also be beneficial, sometimes creating enough of a change in blood sugar levels to allow diabetics to reduce or discontinue their insulin all together.

Children of alcoholic parents have two to four times the risk of becoming alcoholics as adults. This risk factor remains even in cases where the child is adopted and raised in a family where neither parent has an alcohol use disorder. However, despite this increased genetic risk, less than half of children with an alcoholic parent grow up to abuse alcohol themselves. Some protective environmental factors that can prevent alcohol abuse include:

Receiving education on the negative effects of alcohol use: Having a full understanding of genetic risk factors and the health effects of alcohol abuse is associated with lower levels of problem drinking.

Developing strong social connections to family and friends: Feeling loved and supported by the people around you makes you less likely to want to turn to alcohol for comfort.

Developing positive ways to cope with stress: People who use exercise, meditation, music, art therapy, or other stress-relieving activities to handle everyday pressures are less likely to abuse alcohol.
Seeking help for mental health disorders: Counseling and support from a trained mental health professional reduces the desire to self-medicate with alcohol.

You can’t control your genetic makeup, but genetics alone won’t determine your fate. If you’re ready to break the cycle of addiction, help is available. St. Joseph Institute’s addiction treatment facility can address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues underlying your alcohol abuse and set you on the path to a lasting recovery.

By Dana Hinders

 

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website.

man using computer

Job hunting is never an easy process, but people in recovery face some distinct challenges. From the need for a flexible schedule to explaining a spotty work history, landing a new position while in recovery will require careful planning and preparation.

Daniel Krasner, Summit Behavioral Healthcare’s Assistant Vice President of National Business Development, has a unique perspective on the post-recovery job search. He launched his own successful career after receiving addiction treatment and has helped fill multiple marketing and sales-related positions.

Recently, Krasner volunteered to share some advice for job seekers in recovery.

1. Don’t Share Too Early in the Process
Krasner believes your recovery shouldn’t be mentioned in your resume or cover letter. Employers only need information that’s relevant to your ability to perform specific job duties.

“I look at addiction as a disease, like diabetes,” Krasner said. “Just as you wouldn’t immediately tell a potential employer that you’re a diabetic, you don’t need to mention that you’re in recovery until an offer is on the table. It’s not necessarily something you need to share until it becomes relevant to the job at hand.”

2. Decide How Much You’re Comfortable Disclosing
Seeking addiction treatment is nothing to be ashamed of, but people in recovery have different levels of comfort when discussing their sobriety with others. To a large extent, how much you share is a matter of personal preference.

“Everyone is different as far as their willingness to disclose,” Krasner said. “You can come right out and say you were in recovery or you can simply say you had a medical issue that needed to be addressed. If you’re still in treatment or at a halfway house, you might need to provide more detail than someone with a few years of sobriety simply because you might need to leave early for meetings. If you’ve been sober for several years and it won’t affect your job performance, a full disclosure is less important.”

3. Be Honest
Wanting to protect your privacy is understandable, but it’s vitally important that you tell the truth when asked. Although a potential employer isn’t entitled to know every detail about your addiction treatment, the issue becomes relevant if you have a criminal record from your addiction or were terminated for addiction-related performance issues. Lying about your background will lead to automatic termination for most employers, regardless of whether you’re fudging your educational credentials or omitting the fact that you have a DUI and a possession charge on your record.

Owning up to your past isn’t easy, but Krasner points out that the best way to get a job is to help an employer see that you have the maturity to use past mistakes as an opportunity for growth. “You have to go into the process assuming that they will call your past employer and conduct a background check,” Krasner said. “Be honest about the mistakes that you’ve made, but show that you’ve changed since then.”

If you’re worried that you’ll get tongue-tied when asked about a specific issue on your resume, write up a detailed response beforehand and practice it with a friend or your sponsor. “God didn’t carry you this far to see you fall,” Krasner said. “Lean on your support network and practice your interviewing skills to calm your nerves and boost your confidence.”

4. Be Open to Feedback
Rejection is unfortunately part of the job search. This can be hard for someone in recovery, as it may trigger feelings of being not good enough or unworthy of success. However, successful job seekers are those who can turn rejection into a new opportunity.

“If you’re getting interviews but no job offers, ask for feedback on areas you need to improve,” Krasner said. “You may also want to take a deep hard look at your resume. To be effective, it needs to portray your background honestly but positively and be targeted towards the specific job position.”

5. Be Willing to Start Small
When it comes to your post-recovery career, you can’t expect to land your dream job immediately. Change takes time, so patience is a virtue. Treat your job search like a full-time job, be strategic, and stay confident in the belief that you’ll eventually find a position that’s right for you.

“It’s always easier to get a job if you already have a job,” Krasner said. “You may have to humble yourself somewhat to get your foot in the door, especially if your professional reputation suffered due to your addiction. This is a consequence of the choices you’ve made. Take what you can get, but use the opportunity as a steppingstone to something better.”

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website.

quit smokingAccording to the CDC, about 15 percent of adults in the United States are smokers. However, smoking rates are significantly higher among people who are also struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

If you’re considering seeking treatment, you may find yourself wondering if it’s best to quit smoking while you’re in rehab or if you should concentrate on beating one addiction at a time. The answer to this question depends on several different factors, including your own personal recovery preference.

The Link Between Smoking and Recovery

Long term tobacco use can cause a wide range of health problems, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease. However, the health benefits of quitting smoking can be seen almost immediately. For example, your heart rate and blood pressure will be back to normal within two hours. Within two to three weeks, your blood circulation and lung function should improve enough that exercising or engaging in physically strenuous activity will be noticeably easier.

The traditional thinking was that quitting smoking could threaten sobriety by increasing the intensity of a recovering substance abuser’s cravings for drugs and alcohol. Today, we know this is simply not true. Quitting smoking will not threaten your recovery and may even be beneficial if you’re suffering from alcoholism and strongly associate drinking with smoking cigarettes.

Since nicotine is an addictive substance, the process of quitting smoking is much like conquering alcohol or drug addiction. Use of nicotine replacement therapy via patch, gum, inhaler, or nasal spray can help keep your nicotine cravings under control. The same coping techniques you learn in recovery to handle cravings for drugs or alcohol can also be used to manage nicotine withdrawal.

Stress Relief and Addiction Recovery

For many people, smoking cigarettes is seen as a way to cope with stress. While it’s true that the experience of getting sober can be stressful, this doesn’t mean that you can’t quit smoking if you wish to do so. To some extent, stress will always be a part of your life. Even when you’re sober, you’ll be dealing with stress in your relationships with family, friends, and co-workers or supervisors.

Quitting smoking while in rehab may give you a chance to come up with healthier ways to handle stressful feelings, such as meditation, deep breathing, yoga, listening to music, or writing about your feelings in a journal. This experience will leave you feeling more confident and in control of your sobriety after your time at the treatment center has passed.

Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

Nicotine acts as an appetite suppressant, which is why fear of gaining weight is common among people who are interested in quitting smoking. However, this fear is misguided. The vast majority of people who quit smoking gain no more than five to 10 pounds.

If you’re currently malnourished due to your drug or alcohol addiction, gaining a small amount of weight may be beneficial. If you are already at the right weight for your frame, making a point to exercise regularly and avoid overindulging in sweets or processed foods can help prevent any weight gain related to quitting smoking. Experts agree that fear of weight gain shouldn’t be a deciding factor in whether or not you attempt to quit smoking while in recovery.

Quitting Is a Process

If you’ve tried to quit smoking unsuccessfully in the past, you may think it’s not worth the effort to try again. However, quitting smoking is often a process that requires several attempts to be successful.

A study recently published in BMJ Open suggests that it can take up to 30 attempts for smokers to go for one full year without cigarettes. Often, what works best is when a smoker has a powerful and personal reason to want to quit. Seeking treatment for your alcohol or drug addiction and making the decision to begin a fresh chapter in your life may be the mental “push” you need to kick the habit for good.

Choosing the Approach that Works Best for You

There is no one size fits all treatment approach for addiction. If you desire an opportunity to make a completely fresh start, St. Joseph Institute can help you quit smoking at the same time you address your alcohol or drug addiction. However, if you would prefer to focus on overcoming one addiction at a time, our counselors can help you develop a treatment plan that works for your unique needs.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website.

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