Monthly Archives: September 2013

Drug Addiction and Disorders

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In a dual diagnosis, both the mental health issue and the drug or alcohol addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. To make the situation more complicated, the co-occurring disorders also affect each other and interact. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the substance abuse problem usually gets worse as well. And when alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase too.

Brain Disorders

What comes first: Substance abuse or the mental health problem?

Addiction is common in people with mental health problems. But although substance abuse and mental health disorders like depression and anxiety are closely linked, one does not directly cause the other.

  • Alcohol or drugs are often used to self-medicate the symptoms of depression or anxiety.Unfortunately, substance abuse causes side effects and in the long run worsens the very symptoms they initially numbed or relieved.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse can increase underlying risk for mental disorders. Mental disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other outside factors. If you are at risk for a mental disorder, drug or alcohol abuse may push you over the edge.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse can make symptoms of a mental health problem worse. Substance abuse may sharply increase symptoms of mental illness or trigger new symptoms. Alcohol and drug abuse also interact with medications such as antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers, making them less effective.

Recognizing co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose a substance abuse problem and a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. It takes time to tease out what might be a mental disorder and what might be a drug or alcohol problem.

Complicating the issue is denial. Denial is common in substance abuse. It’s hard to admit how dependent you are on alcohol or drugs or how much they affect your life. Denial frequently occurs in mental disorders as well. The symptoms of depression or anxiety can be frightening, so you may ignore them and hope they go away. Or you may be ashamed or afraid of being viewed as weak if you admit the problem.

Admitting you have a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders

Just remember: substance abuse problems and mental health issues don’t get better when they’re ignored. In fact, they are likely to get much worse. You don’t have to feel this way. Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards conquering your demons and enjoying life again.

  • Consider family history. If people in your family have grappled with either a mental disorder such as depression or alcohol abuse or drug addiction, you have a higher risk of developing these problems yourself.
  • Consider your sensitivity to alcohol or drugs. Are you highly sensitive to the effects of alcohol or drugs? Have you noticed a relationship between your substance use and your mental health? For example, do you get depressed when you drink?
  • Look at symptoms when you’re sober. While some depression or anxiety is normal after you’ve stopped drinking or doing drugs, if the symptoms persist after you’ve achieved sobriety, you may be dealing with a mental health problem.
  • Review your treatment history. Have you been treated before for either your addiction or your mental health problem? Did the substance abuse treatment fail because of complications from your mental health issue or vice versa?

Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse or substance abuse

If you’re wondering whether you have a substance abuse problem, the following questions may help. The more “yes” answers, the more likely your drinking or drug use is a problem.

  • Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you tried to cut back, but couldn’t?
  • Do you ever lie about how much or how often you drink or use drugs?
  • Have your friends or family members expressed concern about your alcohol or drug use?
  • Do you ever felt bad, guilty, or ashamed about your drinking or drug use?
  • On more than one occasion, have you done or said something while drunk or high that you later regretted?
  • Have you ever blacked out from drinking or drug use?
  • Has your alcohol or drug use caused problems in your relationships?
  • Has you alcohol or drug use gotten you into trouble at work or with the law?

Signs and symptoms of common co-occurring disorders

The mental health problems that most commonly co-occur with substance abuse are depression, anxiety disorders, and bipolar disorder.

Common signs and symptoms of depression

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Sleep changes
  • Loss of energy
  • Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Concentration problems
  • Anger, physical pain, and reckless behavior (especially in men)

Common signs and symptoms of mania in bipolar disorder

  • Feelings of euphoria or extreme irritability
  • Unrealistic, grandiose beliefs
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Rapid speech and racing thoughts
  • Impaired judgment and impulsivity
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anger or rage

Common signs and symptoms of anxiety

  • Excessive tension and worry
  • Feeling restless or jumpy
  • Irritability or feeling “on edge”
  • Racing heart or shortness of breath
  • Nausea, trembling, or dizziness
  • Muscle tension, headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Insomnia
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Drug Addiction and Disease

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Drug addiction leads to a host of diseases – particularly chronic conditions that affect the body’s vital organs. However, drug addiction can also increase the risk of certain cancers, strokes or heart attacks. Though some physical conditions associated with drug addiction may be treatable but incurable, vast majority of physical damage incurred by drug-addicted individuals can be healed during the drug rehabilitation process.

“Take a scroll down and see what your fate is if you continue your addiction or what your fortunate to have gotten away with while in recovery.”- Love, Robyn

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Diseases and Conditions Associated With Drug Addiction

Below, you’ll find an overview of some of the most serious conditions and diseases initiated by drug addiction. While not every drug-addicted individual experiences such conditions, chronic drug use will increase the risk of development of serious disease and chronic adverse physical conditions.

Damage from Marijuana Addiction

Marijuana can cause a host of lung problems, particularly chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Marijuana has also been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. Depression and amotivational syndrome can also be counted among the damaging effects of smoking the drug.

Diseases and Conditions Arising from Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction can cause chronic pulmonary conditions that increase the risk of heart attack. Heart disease in itself is common to chronic cocaine users, due to the overexertion of the heart as a result of the drug’s stimulant effects. Cocaine users also experience perforated or deviated septums, strokes and heart attacks (the latter two conditions a result of exceeding high blood pressure and tachycardia overtaxing the heart). Additionally, cocaine can also lead to a heightened risk for cancer and associations have been made between the drug and lung cancer, particularly in freebasing users.

Conditions Associated with Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines — also known as “benzos” — are sedating drugs given mainly for anxiolytic purposes. Chronic users of benzodiazepines can experience abdominal problems and fatal blood clots. Additionally, the reproductive system becomes affected by benzodiazepine addiction, and can lead to loss of sex drive, erectile dysfunction and birth defects in children of addicted and pregnant mothers.

Physical and Mental Illness from Hallucinogen Addiction

Ketamine, a powerful dissociative narcotic, can also lead to physical and psychological damage after long-term use. With chronic abuse, ketamine addiction can cause a condition known as “Olney’s lesions,” where vacuoles begin to form within the brain, affecting cognition, learning and memory. Ecstasy can cause psychological conditions, such as severe depression, dissociative disorders, and Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD), a flashback-producing condition that also occurs with LSD use and can persist long after Ecstasy addiction subsides. PCP can cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), seizures and paralysis with chronic use.

Diseases Resulting from Opiate Addiction

Opiates — a class of potent narcotics spanning from heroin, morphine and codeine to prescription painkillers — can cause a host of long-term physical diseases and conditions. Opiate users, particularly those who inject, are at high risk for hepatitis and HIV transmission from needle-sharing. Collapsed veins can also result from chronic injection of opiates. Heroin use can cause long-term digestive issues, including a form of chronic constipation that is highly dangerous while addiction persists.

Diseases Caused by Amphetamine Addiction

Amphetamines take an unimaginable toll on the body. Common conditions associated with amphetamines addiction include insomnia, anorexia and eyesight degradation. Amphetamine-addicted individuals also can experience stunted growth, hypertension, frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and hyperactivity. Amphetamines can also cause a condition known as dermotasis, the development of skin disease. Liver and heart disease are also associated with amphetamine addiction.

Conditions Caused by Meth Addiction

Methamphetamines can cause a host of physical conditions, ranging from liver damage to lung disease. Meth can irreparably damage the brain’s blood vessels, incite hypertension (high blood pressure), and create an immunocompromised state (making the body more susceptible to diseases, infections and cancers). Methamphetamine abuse can also cause heart disease, stroke occurrence, and severe depression or mania in users.

Diseases and Conditions Arising from Abuse

Inhalant abuse — the inhalant of household and industrial chemicals colloquially known as “huffing” — can also lead to a host of chronic physical conditions. In addition to instantaneous death caused by Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, inhalant abuse can lead to tachycardia, heart disease and an array of damage to the vital organs, including diseases of the liver, kidney and lungs. Chronic bronchitis can arise from inhalant abuse, and some inhalant-addicted individuals also encounter tremors and chronic grand mal seizures.

Source: Axis Residential Treatment

Out of the Room Recovery Chat App

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Whether you’ve been sober a day or a millennium, the app Anonymous Sober Chat by Pitashi is just the app to keep you focused on your recovery! Here you can join an assortment of chat groups specified by topics separated by your addiction (sex versus drugs), your motivations (like the workout and exercise thread), age (like young people in recovery) and living situations (like sober and single). These threads give you an opportunity to find support no matter who you are or where you are! You can vent about your struggles or help someone who is relapsing get to their next meeting. Its a great community full of so much potential to grow the recovering population because the more addicts support each other not only inside but outside the rooms, the less likely there is a chance of feeling isolated and wanting to use.

I started a thread titled Holistic Recovery and I highly recommend anyone who is interested in healing–not only their mind but body and spirit– to join! You can receive live comfort and motivation that will keep you on track for a successful recovery!

“Bellow is the first article I posted on the thread that talks briefly about the physical effects of our addiction to our health and how new lifestyle choices can help aid in our recovery.”- Love, Robyn

All addicts in active use of alcohol and drugs are malnourished.

In order to help people recover, it is important to understand the impact of nutrition. It is astounding to consider that only fat contains more calories per gram than alcohol. As a result, while drinking, addicts experience a sense of fullness having eaten very little or nothing. These “empty calories” lead to poor eating habits and malnutrition. Drug abusers experience a similar affect. Alcohol and drugs actually keep the body from properly absorbing and breaking down nutrients and expelling toxins. This leads to a host of health problems. (see sidebar, “How Drugs & Alcohol Affect the Body”)

Restoring addicts to physical, as well as spiritual, health.

The essence of recovery is changing negative behaviors into positive ones. Good nutrition, relaxation, and exercise all play an important role in successful change. Learning to make healthy food choices is important to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Because they have neglected their diet, addicts experience gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, constipation, an inability to digest foods properly, along with a poor appetite. As a result, they have a special need for foods that are high in nutrients to rebuild damaged tissues, organs and regain appropriate functioning of the various systems including the nervous and gastrointestinal systems.

Nutrition actually impacts cravings for drugs and alcohol.

Every newly recovering addicts struggles with craving to use alcohol and drugs. Research has show that a diet with the right types of high protein and high carbohydrate-rich foods can make a big difference.

Food affects mood. Along with amino acids, deficiency of nutrients like folic acid and the other B-complex vitamins also have a serious and negative impact. Sugar and caffeine can contribute to mood swings, so intake of both should reduced during the early stages of recover.

Alcohol and drug use prevents the body from properly processing two important amino acids, tyrosine and tryptophan. They are responsible for the production of norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin. These compounds are neurotransmitters that are essential for emotional stability, mental clarity, and a general state of well-being. Decreased levels of these neurotransmitters negatively affect mood and behavior.