Author Archives: Reflections Recovery Center

Cocaine Overdose

Cocaine is a stimulant that people often abuse as a recreational “party” drug. While most people incorrectly think it is safer than its close relative, crack cocaine, pure cocaine is just as dangerous and addictive and can cause a fatal overdose.

What is cocaine?

Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, which has been used as a stimulant by South American natives for thousands of years. Processed “pure” cocaine, cocaine hydrochloride, is much more powerful and addictive. Sold illicitly under the names Coke, C, Snow, Powder, or Blow, pure cocaine is usually a white powder. 

Cocaine Overdose

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) categorizes various drugs on a scale based on how addictive and dangerous they are. Cocaine is a Schedule II drug, meaning that while it has highly addictive qualities and a high potential for abuse, it does have potential medicinal uses. Doctors can administer it a local anesthetic in some situations. Other Schedule II drugs include Adderall, Fentanyl and OxyContin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), cocaine was most popular during the 1990’s. However, it is still quite common today and many users see it as a risk-free, fun party drug. In 2014, there were an estimated 1.5 million active cocaine users over the age of 12 in the United States.

Cocaine Overdose

What are Cocaine’s Effects?

Cocaine’s stimulant properties cause a heightened sense of energy and awareness, among other symptoms. While some may find the experience to be pleasurable, it is highly addictive and the side effects can be painful. Other cocaine effects include:

  • Increased energy
  • Euphoric feelings (euphoric high)
  • Elevated mood
  • Elevated self-esteem 

Some of Cocaine’s negative side effects include:

  • Restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Panic
  • Paranoia 
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability 
  • Tremors 
  • Vertigo
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature 
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fatal overdose

What Does a Cocaine Overdose Look Like?

In order to understand how cocaine can kill, it’s helpful to understand what an overdose is. Overdose occurs when someone consumes a  substance in a dose high enough to keep vital organs from functioning.  In some cases, depending on the severity, it leads to death or long-term internal damage.  An overdose is possible with almost any drug but is most prevalent with opioids, such as fentanyl. Given that cocaine is a stimulant, it does not cause an overdose the same way an opioid would. While opioids slow down organ function, cocaine can cause cardiac arrest, stroke, respiratory arrest, and sudden death if the drug’s toxicity is too high. In 2015, more than 5,500 people died from cocaine overdose.

Many people wrongly think that powder cocaine is safe because it is not crack cocaine and therefore “purer”. However, this isn’t necessarily true. It is hard to determine purity levels outside of a lab, and pure cocaine still kills in high doses. Further, many dealers lace cocaine products with other drugs. Some dealers mix fentanyl or other dangerous substances into cocaine. This increases the chances of addiction, which is good for a drug dealer’s business. Fentanyl is deadly in small doses, and users often don’t know when it is in the cocaine they buy. In Flint, Michigan, 2 individuals were found dead in 2020 by overdose from fentanyl laced cocaine with another in critical condition. Sadly, this kind of scenario is not uncommon.

Cocaine Overdose

How long does cocaine stay in your system?

It’s difficult to hard to predict how exactly how long cocaine’s effects will last. This changes from person to person, and usually depends on how someone ingests the drug. If snorted, cocaine can take longer to kick in, but its effects will persist for longer. Smoking cocaine creates a nearly instantaneous high that may last only a few minutes. Regardless of how long the effects last, cocaine can still be detected in the system for several days to weeks after ingestion.

Side Effects

Cocaine’s half-life is about an hour. This is the time it takes for the ingested cocaine to enter the bloodstream. In other words, an hour after someone ingests 10mg of cocaine, the amount left over is about 5mg. Even so, cocaine can be detected via saliva from 12-48 hours after last use and in hair for years after ingestion. Further, urine tests can detect cocaine 2-4 days after last use. 

Cocaine Overdose and Addiction: Getting Help

It’s difficult – but very possible –  to recover from cocaine dependence. The drug is highly addictive and its withdrawal symptoms are often painful. This can encourage people to keep abusing the drug – just to avoid the pain. Getting professional help is the best bet for lifetime sobriety. Without it, going “cold-turkey” – stopping suddenly – is dangerous, since the relapse risk is much higher.  Co-occurring mental health concerns can make quitting even harder. When you seek professional help, you increase your likelihood of staying clean. Trained physicians and counselors are  equipped to help you deal with addiction’s the root causes instead of just managing its symptoms.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today to start the journey to health and sobriety together.

Speedballing

Speedballing is combining heroin and cocaine. For many users, it brings about a longer-lasting, more intense high. However, it comes with a serious risk of experiencing a fatal overdose. 

What is Speedballing?

Speedballing involves mixing heroin, which is an opioid, and cocaine, a stimulant. With strong pain-killing potential, heroin is derived from morphine. Even though some opioids, such as fentanyl and methamphetamine, can have medical uses,  heroin is considered to be too addictive and has too high of a potential for abuse to have any medical use. Most drugs which lack medical use and are considered generally dangerous to an individual’s health are listed as  Schedule I drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 

Speedballing

A common misconception is that the stimulating effects of cocaine and the depressive effects of heroin cancel each other out, causing a risk-free high. However, mixing the two drugs can cause long term health effects and increase the likelihood of experiencing a fatal overdose. 

How does Heroin affect the body?

In order to better understand how mixing the two drugs can increase the overall risk, it can be helpful to better understand how the drugs work independently. Heroin is an opioid. Opioids are powerful painkillers which bind to the opiate receptors in the brain and spinal cord. To put it simply, these opiate receptors help receive nerve impulses that indicate the body is in pain. By binding to these receptors, the body can better suppress physical pain. In addition to its ability to rid feelings of pain, opioids can create a euphoric high in individuals. This is the main driver behind its illicit use.

This euphoric high promotes the body to release dopamine, the “feel good chemical,” in large amounts. Dopamine is the chemical our body releases when it receives a pleasurable input. This dopamine release is what motivated early humans to hunt and reproduce. In modern days, humans get dopamine from various inputs, such as eating, drinking, playing video games, and even being on our phones. This pursuit of pleasure is commonly what drives addiction, especially when coupled with mental health disorders (commonly referred to as  co-occuring disorders or dual diagnoses).

Further, opioids slow down brain and nerve function. This is partly the cause of the euphoric high people experience while taking these drugs. The drug can slow critical organ function such as breathing and heart rate to dangerously low levels. At a certain point, the drug can cause the complete cessation of these functions, causing an overdose. 

Speedballing

How does Cocaine affect the body?

Cocaine is a very powerful stimulant, and like opioids, it causes the release of dopamine into the body – making it a highly addictive drug. Cocaine highs usually come with very intense feelings of energy and alertness. This drug essentially functions as the opposite of opioids. Cocaine overdoses are more rare than opioid overdoses; however, it is still very possible to do so if the levels become too toxic for the body to handle. As with opioids, the body will develop a tolerance to cocaine, making it harder and harder to achieve the same euphoric high feeling after consecutive uses. This leads users to take more of the drug each time, in hopes that it will recreate the same high they first felt. These increasing doses can eventually overwhelm the body and cause an overdose. 

Speedballing Side Effects

The mixture of cocaine and heroin can be ingested either by mixing the two drugs together and injecting or snorting it, or “piggybacked,” where the user injects one drug immediately after the other. Speedballing can cause serious long term effects on the brain, liver, and heart. It can also cause a fatal overdose. Other side effects of speedballing include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Aneurysm
  • Respiratory failure
  • Confusion 
  • Blurry vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Uncontrollable movements
  • Paranoia 
  • Insomnia 

Also, given the depressive and stimulant effects of the drugs, the body will experience a push and pull effect. This means that the effects of one drug will overcome the other momentarily. The heart rate may rapidly increase and decrease, leading to arrhythmias and heart failure. 

In general, mixing two or more drugs (polysubstance abuse) will cause the drugs to enhance each other. This may sound like a more enjoyable experience, but it also enhances the side effects drastically. 

In 2015 alone, there were 4,271 cocaine related deaths which involved any opioid; 3,481 of those directly involved heroin. This consisted of 65.4% of all cocaine-related deaths that year. Therefore, mixing heroin and cocaine can be directly related to an increase in the chance of death.

Getting help for Speedballing

Cocaine and heroin are two very addictive drugs which are extremely hard to quit. Given the complexities of these drugs, always seek professional help when attempting to recover. This is especially important since powerful withdrawal symptoms can occur when quitting either substance. Find a professional who understands your circumstances and can help you cure your addiction rather than just manage symptoms. Recovery is absolutely possible, but you do not need to do it alone. If you have any questions, or you or a loved one needs help beginning the road to recovery, please contact us today.

Most Dangerous Drugs

When looking at a list of the most dangerous drugs in the US, it is important to specify what “dangerous” means. A danger ranking that is is simply taken from death and hospitalization statistics will look very different from one based on lethal dosage or even the likelihood of an overdose.

What are the Most Dangerous Drugs?

It’s a good idea to understand as many different danger factors as possible when it comes to drugs. This list considers substances which have a high potency as well as a high likelihood of causing (or contributing to) death. 

#1 Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is around 50 to 100 times more potent than Morphine. It is a prescription drug for patients dealing with severe pain, such as cancer or post-surgery pain.  Given its high potency, it does not take much fentanyl to trigger an overdose. Illicitly-produced fentanyl poses a serious public health risk, as it’s common to find fentanyl laced with other drugs. Drug dealers and producers will combine fentanyl with substances like cocaine in an effort to boost profit – as it takes less product to create an intense high.

Another form of fentanyl making an appearance in North America is carfentanil.  Typically used as an Elephant tranquilizer, carfentanil is likely one of the most dangerous opioids known to man. 10,000 times as potent as morphine and 100 times stronger than regular fentanyl, it has no approved medical uses or human applications. It is oftentimes too powerful to risk lacing in other drugs and therefore is less common than fentanyl. The lethal dose of carfentanil is unknown; however, fentanyl can be lethal at the 2 milligram range.

Most Dangerous Drugs

Opioids in general have passed automobile accidents in the U.S. as the single largest cause of death. 

#2 Alcohol

When looking at death count alone, alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world. However, it is not alcohol’s potency which presents the biggest risk factor. Most people can enjoy alcoholic beverages in moderation without experiencing any serious negative side effects. Rather, it is the increase in likelihood to engage in dangerous activities, and the difficulty in understanding the body’s physical limit that makes it so dangerous. In the United States alone, drunk driving claims around 10,000 lives every year and that figure has fallen by a third in the past few decades. As a whole, an estimated 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes every year – making it one of the most dangerous drugs in the United States, and potentially the world.

Most Dangerous Drugs

#3 Heroin

Heroin is also a form of opioid similar to fentanyl, but much more prevalent in the United States and Canada. It is one of the driving forces behind the opioid crisis in the U.S. Heroin is an incredibly addictive substance which can be injected, inhaled or even mixed with crack cocaine to form a speedball. It is also one of the hardest drugs to quit, as it can cause painful withdrawals. Heroin is the only substance on this list which is listed as a schedule 1 substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A schedule 1 drug is one which has a very high potential for abuse and has no known medical uses. 

#4 Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine, or meth, is an amphetamine type originally used as a nasal decongestant. Some doctors still prescribe it to their patients, though at a dose much too low to create a euphoric high. However, it is more potent than other amphetamines and therefore poses a higher risk to anyone who uses it. It is listed as a Schedule II drug by the DEA because it is given to patients who suffer from severe ADHD, but still has a high potential for abuse. 

#5 Cigarette Smoking

Smoking causes long term health effects which can lead to a whole host of other health problems. Cigarettes rank lower than other drugs since nicotine and other cigarette ingredients do not cause reckless behavior and aren’t inherently dangerous on their own. However, from a deaths-per-year perspective, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that cigarettes cause more than 480,000 deaths in the U.S every year. Smoking can cause long-term health effects such as cancer and other diseases, and it does harm to essentially every organ in the body. It also causes premature death in most regular smokers.

Most Dangerous Drugs

Smoking can cause:

  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Lung diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Tuberculosis
  • Erectile dysfunction

Most Dangerous Drugs: What to Do During an Overdose

Being able to understand the signs of an overdose can help save lives. Any drug can be dangerous, and overdoses are always a possibility. Some individuals may accidentally take more than their prescribed dose of a medication, which in turn can cause an overdose.

Some signs of an overdose include:

  • Slowed breathing 
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Cessation of breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Dilated pupils
  • Airway obstruction (gurgling sounds)
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

What to Do During an Overdose

If you have opioids in your household, or suspect someone to be experiencing an opioid overdose, using Naloxone (brand name Narcan) can help stop the overdose dead in its tracks. However, keep in mind that this will only stop overdoses caused by opioids. The first step should always be to contact emergency services, even if you are not entirely sure someone is experiencing an overdose. Seconds count when someone is unconscious or struggling to breathe. 

Getting Help for the Most Dangerous Drugs

Addiction can be a very difficult thing to beat. Every substance listed above has a high potential for abuse and addiction. However, sobriety is very much possible and there is always hope. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction or abuse, please contact us today so that we we can help begin the journey to a sober life, together. 

Relapse Prevention Plan

If you or a loved one has gone through the recovery process, then relapse is an all too familiar term.  Unfortunately, relapse is a common occurrence for those struggling with substance abuse.  Too often, people will enter sobriety, work on themselves and their substance issues, only to relapse after days, weeks, months, or even years of sobriety.  This is where a relapse prevention plan comes in handy; by creating and utilizing a relapse prevention plan, individuals can highly increase their chances of not only staying sober, but getting back to healthy habits and sobriety if/when relapse does occur.

What is a Relapse Prevention Plan?

Typically, a relapse prevention plan is a guide to understanding your patterns, and then setting actionable goals around what to do if relapse does occur.  The plan is two-fold: if you can identify triggers, cravings, and potential pitfalls ahead of time, you are more likely to avoid relapse in the first place.  Secondly, you’ll want to have a predetermined plan around exactly what to do, who to call, and where to “restart” if relapse does occur.

Let’s look at the first portion of a relapse prevention plan first, i.e. self-awareness.  A standard relapse prevention plan will want to identify common triggers and cravings.

Relapse Prevention Plan

Triggers

So what exactly are triggers?  They can be essentially anything that causes cravings for a person struggling with substance abuse.  People, places, and things can catalyze powerful sensory recall. Oftentimes, addicts/alcoholics are unaware that these triggers exist until they are already dangerously close to a relapse.  However, because of the way our brains operate, each trigger is going to be highly personal.  Let’s look at some examples of how this might differ from person to person:

People

The most common “people” triggers are those that the individual used drugs/alcohol with.  Certain friend groups, or even family members, can trigger cravings almost immediately if there are memories of drug use associated with the person.  One individual might be triggered by their parents (especially if they are habitual drug/alcohol users). Someone else might find their parents to be the best people that help foster and support a sober lifestyle. 

Places

As far as triggering places go, it is frequent that individuals will experience strong cravings when returning to environments that they previously used drugs/alcohol in.  Households, old neighborhoods, concert venues, hiking trails, vehicles: they can all trigger sensory recall of a time when using substances was still fun, before the addiction took over. 

Cravings

Things

Are you seeing a common thread yet?  That’s right, any ’thing’ that a person has associated with their past drug use can be extremely triggering.  Paraphernalia can be especially triggering. However, even “positive” objects can bring someone back to old times very quickly, and often with negative effects.  Though counterintuitive, sometimes even an old photo of happier times with supportive people can cause a craving immediately.

Identifying people, places, and things that are associated with past substance use can be paramount to a person’s continued, long-term sobriety.  Often, for at least the first year of sobriety, persons will want to actively avoid these triggers to the best of their ability.  

As the old saying from Alcoholics Anonymous goes: “If you hang out in the barbershop long enough, you’re bound to get a haircut”.

Relapse Prevention and Cravings

What exactly are cravings?  By common definition, cravings are physical and mental urges to use drugs and/or alcohol.  Cravings can be extremely powerful, especially in the first year of sobriety.  Many cravings are brought on by triggers, as discussed above.  However, sometimes cravings can happen for no obvious reason, regardless of sensory recall or otherwise.  

There are some general timelines to be aware of, typically described as Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms (PAWS).  Generally, the sobriety milestones of 30, 60, 90, and 180 days are prone to increased PAWS, and thus cravings.  This is because of the dopamine and serotonin disruption that substances cause to the brain, and those receptors will recover over time.  Thankfully, the physical symptoms of cravings only last approximately 10-20 minutes.  Thus, if you can utilize the coping skills you identify in your relapse prevention plan, there is opportunity for success every single time you experience physical cravings.

Relapse Prevention Plan

Mental cravings, however, are different than the physical.  While physical cravings are brief, the mental side can be carried on for hours.  Again, it is paramount that individuals suffering from substance abuse use their coping skills to relieve the mind of the need to use.  In early sobriety, limiting distractions of any sort can be of the utmost importance to getting through cravings.

Coping Skills

Coping skills tie into the second portion of relapse prevention plans. It is essential for someone in recovery to develop a set of actions they can engage in prior to or after a potential relapse.  Prior to relapse, coping skills can be utilized to disengage from triggering situations and intense cravings.  Some examples of these types of coping skills might include:

  • Going for a run
  • Calling a close friend or family member
  • Playing an instrument
  • Cooking a good meal
  • Swimming, biking, playing sports – any type of physical activity can help

If relapse does occur, then alternate coping skills should be put in place as quickly as possible in order to minimize the risk of prolonged drug/alcohol use.  Many people in sobriety use coping skills and plans of action such as:

  • Attending a community support group meeting (such as Alcoholics Anonymous)
  • Calling a sponsor, or other trusted confidant
  • Having an individual therapy session with a therapist

Sobriety and Your Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapse prevention plans will need to be created on an individual basis, as each individual’s struggles and needs are unique.  Developing an understanding of these three core concepts (triggers, cravings, and coping skills) will greatly increase a person’s chances of long-term recovery and sobriety.  Substance abuse is an extremely potent disease, from both physiological and mental perspectives. It is important to take every precaution necessary.

Relapse Prevention PlanIf you need help developing a relapse prevention plan, or need help addressing a loved one’s substance abuse issue, please contact us today.  Our highly-trained addiction specialists will be happy to aid you in the journey of recovery.

Addiction Severity Index

Holistic treatment is one of the most successful approaches to substance abuse disorders. While treating a drug or alcohol problem at face value can have a temporary “band aid” effect, lifetime recovery is difficult or impossible without addressing its root causes. When someone dealing with addiction and their therapist both have a clear view of the problem, they can work together to reach real solutions and prevent relapses. This is where exams like the Addiction Severity Index can help.

addiction severity index

What is the Addiction Severity Index?

The Addiction Severity Index (ASI) is a popular tool that can help provide needed context for people with substance abuse issues. Therapists, medical professionals, and treatment centers use it frequently to understand their patients better. Developed in the 1980’s, it is a 45 minute to 1 hour semi-structured interview that  assesses someone’s need for treatment. Although it can help people with a variety of non-substance abuse problems – from the struggle to keep a job to  chronic family or relationship problems – it is most useful when alcohol or psychoactive drugs are in the picture. 

The ASI can help assess:

  • How seriously an addiction is affecting someone’s life
  • The root causes of substance abuse
  • Key problem areas
  • The type and length of treatment needed
  • Whether a treatment program has been successful
  • How a person can stay sober and avoid relapses after treatment

The index is generally an interview-style conversation. If the therapist asks the questions aloud and in-person, there is a better opportunity to get full and complete answers. They can also spend more time on the most important topics and answer deeper follow-up questions when necessary. The test focuses closely on substance abuse during the past 30 days, and assigns a score based on substance type and use. It also determines how the abuse has affected the person’s life and well-being. The higher the score, the greater the need for treatment.

What Kinds of Questions Does the ASI Ask?

No one’s pathway to addiction looks exactly like anyone else’s. Alcohol and drug abuse can be triggered by genetics, family history, mental health issues, dysfunctional relationships, financial status, and a host of other reasons. Since the Addiction Severity Index is meant to sketch a comprehensive picture, the interviewer asks questions about every aspect of a person’s life. Though it is scored based on the past 30 days, the questions will also cover a person’s childhood, family and relationship history, personal beliefs, and their entire substance abuse timeline. 

The index is also specific about the types of substances a person uses, the amounts, and the frequency of abuse. It’s definitions of intoxication and addiction are fairly flexible. This allows the interviewer to get a personal understanding not only of how much a person consumes, but what their “normal” is and how they understand their own behavior. 

When Do People Take the ASI?

The Addiction Severity Index interview generally takes place at the very beginning of rehabilitation. It helps therapists and patients set down groundwork and understand the best course of action. After this, the interview should be repeated every 30 days until the end of treatment. Answering the same questions on a regular basis is a reliable way to know if someone is making progress. 

Why Does the Addiction Severity Index Matter?

The ASI is helpful in a number of ways. First, it demonstrates a rough idea of how serious an addiction is, the root cause or causes, and the appropriate treatment path. It’s also extremely helpful for therapists and treatment centers. Using one standard interview as the baseline for every case helps make for better treatment. They can make sure programs are strong and single out any areas where they might be lacking.

addiction severity index

At Reflections, the ASI and holistic treatment are an important part of what we do. Our team of medical professionals and counselors conduct full psychiatric and personal evaluations as part of the admissions process. This ensures that each of our clients is in the right program and set on track for a lifetime of health and sobriety. By combining clinical treatment and holistic therapies, we provide our clients with all the tools they need to achieve a life free from addiction. For more information on our process and programs, contact us today

Zoloft and Alcohol

Oftentimes, persons struggling with substance abuse will combine various drugs and alcohol in order to produce heightened effects. What most people are unaware of, however, are the specific interactions from combining substances. One such combination is Zoloft and Alcohol; though commonly taken together, this mix can be dangerous and even fatal. 

What is Zoloft?

Zoloft, also known as Sertraline, is a prescription medication taken orally, belonging to the class of antidepressants known as SSRIs.  Zoloft is frequently a prescription to treat conditions such as:

  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Especially for persons displaying depression symptoms, Zoloft is known to improve mood, energy, and ‘zest for life’. However, there are numerous side effects which can occur, including diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, insomnia, and decreased libido.

In terms of efficacy, Zoloft (and other SSRIs) have been proven advantageous in treating persons suffering from melancholic depression as compared to Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs). This other class of antidepressants, TCAs, is more effective in treating severe depression in inpatient settings.

What is an SSRI?

SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are a category of antidepressants, whose distinguishing characteristic is an increased level of serotonin in the brain. This neurotransmitter, Serotonin, is primarily responsible for feelings of happiness and contentment. The process by which this occurs is scientifically complex, as are all matters relating to neurochemistry. Put simply, serotonin is “held in place” (inhibited) so that is more available for neurons (brain cells). While Zoloft is an SSRI, it is not the only; other SSRIs include Celexa, Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil, and Pexeva. 

How long does Zoloft stay in your system?

In order to understand how long Zoloft stays in your system, it is important to understand the concept of half-life.  In the world of substances, half-life refers to how long it takes for 50% of a drug to be gone from a person’s body.  So, for instance, if a substance’s half-life is one week, then it is 50% out of the system after one week.

For Zoloft, the half-life is approximately 25-26 hours.  Thus, after one day, the levels of Zoloft in a person’s system will be decreased by 50%.  Two days after stopping usage, the levels will be at 25%.  This process continues until Zoloft has completely left the body.  

Is Zoloft Addictive?

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) schedules or categorizes thousands of drugs based on their potential for abuse and medical utility. Zoloft, and by extension, Sertraline, is not included in the Controlled Substance Act, and thus has no scheduling attached.  SSRIs in general are not classified as controlled substances.

Because of this, most do not typically regard Zoloft as addictive or narcotic.  When compared to other prescription medications, such as opiates and benzodiazepines, many feel that Zoloft is not dangerous.  

However, many persons taking Zoloft can become psychologically and physically dependent.  This mostly occurs when individuals attempt to wean themselves off of the drug, and discover that there are in fact withdrawal symptoms.  These symptoms can include aggression, depression, insomnia, anxiety, and paranoia.  

If you are currently prescribed Zoloft and would like to stop taking it, please consult with your doctor first.  Withdrawal symptoms can and do occur if an individual rapidly decreases the level of the medication in their system.  Speaking with your doctor about how to effectively wean off of the medication will save you lots of uncomfortability.

Mixing Zoloft and Alcohol

While Zoloft on its own, following a prescription, is generally safe, the combination of Zoloft with other substances can be dangerous. The most common co-occurring substance people use with Zoloft is alcohol.  

Again, Zoloft is not typically dangerous. When combined with alcohol, there are many side-effects that can occur, because of how the biochemistry behind the two substances interact. Some of the side effects potentially include:

  • Reduced heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Thoughts
  • Drowsiness

Alcohol and Zoloft share these common side effects, and when combined in the system, the side effects tend to be amplified. For this reason, the FDA has recommended not drinking alcohol while prescribed Zoloft.  

One more piece to be aware of is that both alcohol and Zoloft affect levels of serotonin in the brain. Remember, Zoloft is an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor); it actively affects serotonin levels in order to mitigate depression symptoms. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it will commonly exacerbate symptoms of depression.  Mixing the two is not advisable.

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction to Zoloft and alcohol? If you need help, please call us today so that we can provide adequate information and education. Or, keep reading about other drug combinations here!

Why is fentanyl so dangerous?

America has been in the midst of an opioid epidemic since early 2017 and fentanyl has been at the forefront of this public health emergency. The amount of deaths caused by fentanyl begs the question why is fentanyl so dangerous?

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid which is 80-100 times more potent and powerful than morphine. It is a very effective pain reliever initially in use to treat cancer patients. When it was first discovered in the later half of the 20th century, pharmaceutical companies claimed that the drug would not be addictive. However, fast forward to 2016, where 42,000 Americans were killed by the drug. Many understood that the drug posed a major threat to public health and safety.

How does fentanyl work?

Like other opioids such as heroin, fentanyl works by binding to the opioid receptors in the brain. Opioid receptors are primarily responsible for the feelings of pain in the body, hence why it is a very effective pain killer. However, fentanyl also causes the release of dopamine. Dopamine helps encourage the repetition of behavior which we find appealing, such as eating, drinking or in this case, doing drugs. Fentanyl also creates a euphoric high which comes from the immense release of dopamine and pain-killing characteristics of the drug.

Fentanyl can also cause a variety of unpleasant side-effects such as:

  • Drowsiness 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia 
  • Heachaches 
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite

More serious side effects include:

  • Breathing problems (shallow, raspy or no breathing)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Physical dependence and addiction

Fentanyl vs morphine

Fentanyl and morphine are chemically similar and are both opioids with effective pain relief abilities. The difference between the two and between fentanyl and other opioids is the strength of the drug. For example, codeine is a relatively weak opioid in comparison to morphine. Heroin is about two to five times stronger than morphine and fentanyl is approximately 80-100 times stronger than morphine. Not much else is stronger than fentanyl except for carfentanil which is an additional 100 times stronger than fentanyl and is typically an elephant tranquilizer. 

Fentanyl is categorized as a schedule II drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) which means it has some potential for medical use but also has addictive qualities. 

fentanyl

Why is fentanyl so dangerous?

Fentanyl is a highly addictive substance. It can cause extreme physical and psychological dependence which can make it impossible to live without. While most people understand that it is dangerous, they may not understand why or how it is capable of killing. Opioids are central nervous system depressants similar to alcohol. It slows brain and nerve function which in turn can slow down critical organ function such as the heart and lungs. An overdose is the body’s adverse reaction to an overwhelming stimulus such as taking too much of a drug. The most common cause of death with fentanyl is a fatal overdose where the CNS becomes overwhelmed and the individual’s lungs stop functioning correctly. 

During the height of the opioid epidemic, drug dealers were lacing marijuana and cocaine with fentanyl without anyone knowing which caused a massive surge in fatal overdoses. Even a very small quantity of fentanyl laced in marijuana or cocaine can cause someone who has never had the drug before to experience an overdose. This is because our bodies build a tolerance or resistance to drugs and as time and usage increases, so will the dosage. 

fentanyl opioid overdoses

Fentanyl and alcohol

Mixing substance is polysubstance abuse and greatly increases the chance of experiencing a fatal overdose. In most polysubstance use cases, the secondary drug of choice is alcohol. Mixing alcohol and fentanyl can be extremely dangerous as they are both strong central nervous system depressants and the combined enhanced effects of the two drugs can overwhelm the body’s critical organs. The overwhelming depressant effects can cause breathing to completely stop and prevent oxygen from being circulated around the body. Even if the overdose does not become fatal, it can cause permanent brain and organ damage. 

How long does fentanyl stay in your system?

Fentanyl has a half-life of 8-10 hours which means it will take 8-10 hours for the initially ingested amount of fentanyl to reduce by 50%. In other words it will take 8-10 hours for 10mg to effectively reduce to 5mg in your body. While the half-life is only 8-10 hours, fentanyl can be detected in the body via blood, urine and hair tests much longer after that. 

why is fentanyl so dangerous

Treatment

Why is fentanyl so dangerous? It is a highly addictive and powerful drug. Very small amounts are frequently in other drugs now and increase risk of overdose and death. Fentanyl addiction is difficult to overcome alone, if not entirely impossible for most. Withdrawal symptoms are severe and require professional treatement.

Most addiction is the result of mental health issues or vice versa. This is a co-occurring disorder. With co-occurring disorders, it is important that both the addiction and mental health issue be treated. Whether someone is coping with mental health and addiction, or just one, working with a professional will ensure that you receive the proper treatment you deserve. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today.

Gabapentin High


According to GoodRX, gabapentin is the fourth most prescribed drug in the United States. Due to its prevalence and popularity, it has slowly made its way into the realm of drug abuse and addiction.

What is Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a prescription drug used to prevent seizures. An anticonvulsant or antiepileptic drug, it is commonly administered orally via capsule. Along with its seizure preventative properties, it can also help dull nerve pain caused from shingles. Different brand names of gabapentin can have different primary uses. For example, the brand Gralise treats shingles pain, whereas Neurontin primarily targets adult seizure activity. Both medications contain gabapentin; however, they also contain a mixture of other drugs to treat the specific ailment.

Gabapentin for Anxiety

Gabapentin has been proven to be effective against anxiety disorders while being potentially a safer alternative to traditional benzodiazepines such as Xanax. It is considered to be a low risk drug that likely will not cause addiction or promote abuse and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) does not consider it to be a controlled substance. 

Gabapentin Warnings

Gabapentin comes with a long list of medical warnings intended to promote cautious and informed use amongst users. One of these warnings is to not suddenly stop taking the drug. The immediate cessation of gabapentin use, when prescribed for epilepsy and seizures, can cause a condition which is known as status epilepticus. Status epilepticus, a seizure lasting longer than 30 minutes, has a high mortality rate.

Other warnings include avoiding the combined use of the drug with other substances, drowsiness warnings and a depression warning. 

Is Gabapentin Addictive?

Most people don’t consider gabapentin to be an addictive drug. However, most anything can cause an addiction or dependency if abused for a long enough period of time. Many individuals who are currently using stronger opioids may also take it. Furthermore, individuals who are attempting to taper off an opioid addiction may turn to it as an alternative as it does not show up in drug tests.

Gabapentin Abuse

Gabapentin can cause a euphoric high if taken in high enough doses and some users have likened its experience to marijuana. Typically, users will have to take more than 800mg in order to feel the euphoric effects. People who abuse it are also more likely to combine the drug with other substances. With polysubstance abuse, the risk of experiencing an overdose is much greater as your body experiences different effects from multiple drugs which can overwhelm the system. Most of the time, people abuse gabapentin along with opioids or alcohol. 

Gabapentin High

Overdose

Gabapentin overdoses are rare but still well documented. While it is very much possible to overdose, the mortality rate from this is relatively low. In other words, a significantly low number of overdoses are fatal. However, an overdose can still cause permanent damage to your body as it can prevent adequate oxygen from reaching your brain. Unfortunately, unlike opioid overdoses, gabapentin does not have a quick remedy in the case of an overdose. It is possible to inject most patients with Narcan to end a narcotic overdose. There is no such cure for gabapentin.  Therefore, it is important that suspected overdose patients call emergency services immediately. Some signs of an overdose include:

  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Labored breathing
  • Unresponsiveness

Gabapentin Interactions

Gabapentin can interact with other medications such as morphine and stomach acid drugs (aluminum hydroxide and magnesium hydroxide). Further, according to drugs.com, there are a total of 219 drugs known to interact with this medication, 24 of which are major interactions such as methadone, oxycodone, percocet, suboxone, tramadol and alcohol.

Gabapentin High

Gabapentin and Alcohol

Gabapentin can increase the effects of alcohol on the body and can seriously affect cognitive ability. It may cause you to experience enhanced side effects such as dizziness, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating. Further, the decrease in cognitive ability can cause poor decision making, such as making the decision to drink and drive. 

Side Effects

Gabapentin can cause moderate to severe side effects when taken orally as prescribed. Some of the more serious side effects include:

  • Changes in mood and behavior
  • Depression (presence of suicidal thoughts)
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increase in aggressiveness 
  • Allergic reactions
  • Muscle pain
  • Swollen skin
  • Rashes
  • Panic attacks

If you experience any of the above symptoms, it may help to call your medical provider and ask for further guidance.

Withdrawal

Gabapentin is known to cause withdrawal symptoms in long-term users. According to one study, those who frequently take between 400mg to 800mg may be at higher risk of experiencing withdrawals. Gabapentin withdrawals will likely cause similar symptoms experienced by alcohol and benzodiazepine users, as all three drugs target the same GABA receptors in the brain. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin immediately after quitting and can continue for up to a week. Withdrawal severity is dependent on a variety of factors ranging from age to the regular dosage taken by the patient. 

However, quitting is not impossible. Experts recommend that tapering be done in increments of no more than 300mg every 4 days. While a taper may be a safe way to slowly come off a gabapentin dependency, it does not address possible mental health issues which may have created a co-occuring disorder in the patient. Therefore, we always recommend that individuals seek professional help before beginning their journey to recovery.

Gabapentin High

Treatment

Gabapentin addiction may go hand in hand with other drugs, such as opioids or alcohol. It may also result from a co-occurring mental disorder. Whatever the reason, treatment and recovery is possible. If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, please contact us today so that we may begin the journey to life-time sobriety, together. To find out more about drug abuse and treatment, read our blog.

Existential Loneliness

Loneliness is defined as the feeling of being socially and emotionally isolated. You may not have to physically be separated from friends and family in order to feel lonely. However, the impact of feeling empty, alone or unwanted can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. 

What is an existential crisis?

Existential loneliness and having an existential crisis are very similar. Any matter which evolves into an existential one usually involves questions of your existence. In other words, you are often finding yourself wondering what the purpose behind your life is. Your loneliness and feelings of separation can cause you to question your purpose in life. Many times this issue becomes a self-created problem. Most people are familiar with feelings of sadness and loneliness, which seem to worsen other problems. It can begin to snowball from “I feel lonely” to “I don’t have a job because x, y and z” and develop into “everything is bad.”

These feelings sometimes result in nihilistic thinking where you eventually believe that nothing means anything and life is meaningless. In essence, this captures what an existential crisis is. So why would this be important to someone who deals with substance abuse? Well, these feelings of existentialism, loneliness and questioning life can lead to depression. Further, there is proof to show that depression and substance abuse have a bi-directional relationship. Meaning individuals dealing with depression are more likely to suffer from substance abuse and vice-versa.

Existential questions

Pondering existential questions is potentially a healthy activity when the mindset and purpose is to find growth and meaning. However, for some, questions such as “what is the meaning of life” are oftentimes met with no real answers. Having no answer does not mean that there is not one. However, it can seem that way and cause people to believe that if they cannot think of an answer, then surely life is meaningless. Individuals who cannot seem to find meaning to life, may lack tangible long-term goals and settle for short-term satisfaction. This is not to say that people who struggle with these questions will start doing drugs. Nevertheless, it is possible it is harder for someone already struggling with addiction to find help or stop. 

existential loneliness

Existential Crises and Substance Abuse

Individuals who suffer from depression are at a higher risk of experiencing addiction and vice versa. When combined, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. Someone struggling with questions about life might feel an increase in existential loneliness. People suffering from various mental health condition may turn to substances to manage their emotions or symptoms. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2018), 9.2 million American adults experienced both a mental health disorder and substance use disorders at the same time.

existential loneliness

How to treat a co-occuring disorder

Treating a co-occuring disorder requires attention to both issues and their respective causes. You cannot treat just the depression and expect the addiction to stop. Even if the depression may have caused the addiction in the first place. However, drug treatment has proven to significantly reduce drug use and criminal activity. It can make a major impact in someone’s life. Treating a co-occuring disorder usually involves four to six steps depending on the program. Every program will also be tailored and specific to the needs and symptoms of the patient. Though, there are some general steps all patients will need to take.

Detox

For many patients, detox is an important process to help heal the body. This process sometimes involves small doses of medication to safely manage withdrawal symptoms. This process can take about a week or longer depending on how well the patient responds to treatment.

Rehabilitation

 Inpatient rehab will help provide 24/7 support and care for individuals suffering from mental illness and substance abuse. Providing supervision in a dedicated space can help prevent the continued use of illicit drugs.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a major component to treating co-occurring disorders. It focuses on the mental aspect of what may have caused the disorder. One form of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps determine the underlying causes behind the mental illness, rather than just trying to manage its symptoms. It helps patients avoid negative thinking traps such as feelings of existential loneliness.

Support Groups

Support groups allow patients to feel as if they are a part of a larger, collective effort. They do so by engaging in conversation and activities with fellow patients. It helps them realize that they are not alone and that success is possible. 

It is important to realize that addiction is considered to be a chronic illness. Further, it falls under the same category as other chronic illnesses in terms of relapse rates. Diabetes, hypertension and asthma all share similar relapse rates as addiction. While relapse is common, it is also not a guarantee. However, recovery is a life-long process.

existential loneliness

Treatment

Dealing with addiction is never easy, especially in combination with mental health issues. Again, not every person dealing with existential loneliness turns to substances to cope. However, it is a possibility that many will deal with those questions and deal with substance use and abuse. It can be a complicated matter which may require professional help in order to successfully diagnose and treat. We always recommend getting professional help in order to increase your chances of life-long recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today to start the journey to recovery.

Meth Overdose

In late 2019, methamphetamine became the largest contributor of overdose deaths in the United States, slowly passing fentanyl as the center of America’s drug epidemic. In 2017 alone, an estimated 1.6 million people in the United States had reported using meth in the past year and a further 964,000 people had a methamphetamine use disorder. The risk of meth overdose, which can have lasting health effects or even potentially result in death, is serious. Any meth use should be taken seriously as soon as possible.

meth overdose

What is meth?

Methamphetamine is a white crystal-like substance which can be snorted, smoked or injected into the users bloodstream. When taken, the user will experience a powerful euphoric high which can also bring about feelings of confidence, pleasure and make the user feel energized. It’s euphoric properties is one of its more enticing effects which many users begin to crave. Some describe it to be emotionally numbing, therefore allowing them to escape painful emotions and past experiences.

meth overdose

However, meth is also incredibly dangerous due to its high potential for abuse and apparent risk of overdosing. The Drug Enforcement Agency classifies meth as a Schedule II drug which “are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.” Meth users will find that their bodies begin to develop a tolerance to the drug as soon as after their first use. For most, the first use is the most powerful and impactful experience. Subsequent uses of the drug at the same dose begins to feel weaker and weaker over time. Therefore, meth users will continuously increase their dosage in attempts to recreate their first high. However, this often leads to overdoses, as at a certain point your body can no longer handle the high doses.

What causes a meth overdose?

An overdose is the body’s negative reaction to a drug or outside substance. In most cases, this is caused by taking too much of a drug, either on accident or purposefully. Not all overdoses will be fatal, however, all overdoses can become fatal. According to the University of Arizona’s Methamphetamine and other illicit drug education (MethOIDE) journal, the most common cause of death during a meth overdose is multiple organ failure similar to heat stroke. In rare cases, death can also occur from metal poisoning or contamination from illicitly produced, impure meth. Some signs of a meth overdose include:

  • Chest pain
  • Arrhythmias
  • Hypertension or Hypotension
  • Difficult or labored breathing (Dyspnea)
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Rapid or slow heartbeat (tachycardia or bradycardia)
  • Hyperthermia
  • Sweating

While these symptoms are not unique to meth overdoses, sweating profusely is. It is possible to recover from a meth overdose, however, the likelihood of surviving is highly dependent on how soon the individual receives medical attention. If you, someone you know or a stranger is exhibiting the above symptoms, call emergency services immediately. However, even with the proper medical attention, an overdose can cause lifelong health problems.

How long does meth stay in your system?

Meth is mostly unaffected by your body’s metabolism, unlike cocaine. Therefore, its effects can last from 8 to even 24 hours in extreme cases. This does depend on other factors such as how the drug was taken (orally, injected, snorted etc), the overall health of the individual and dosage. Meth has a half-life of around 10-12 hours, which means it takes approximately 10 hours for the initially ingested drug dose to reduce to half its size (i.e. if you took 100mg, 10 hours later, that would effectively be 50mg in your body). However, its detection rates vary depending on the type of test administered and amphetamine, a metabolite of meth may be detectable even longer past the ingestion period.

meth overdose

Meth Withdrawal

Meth withdrawals begin immediately after someone stops using meth and is highly uncomfortable and with the potential to last weeks. The duration and intensity of the withdrawal period does depend on how long the individual has been using the drug. Generally, those with a longer history of meth abuse will experience more intense withdrawals. Avoiding withdrawals is one of the primary reasons individuals will continue to use meth.

There are two distinct phases of meth withdrawal. The first phase occurs during the first 24 hours after last taking the drug and will include symptoms such as fatigue, increased appetite, anxiety and depression. The second phase will usually last 2 to 3 weeks and usually cause intense cravings for the drug and severe depression. In extreme cases, individuals who have an extensive history of abusing the drug may experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS) which can essentially extend the withdrawal symptoms up to 6 months or more.

Treatment

Meth is a highly addictive drug. Even just one use can create an immediate desire for more and spiral out of control. It is one of the most dangerous drugs Americans have ever been faced with. However, recovery is absolutely possible. Given the complex nature of the recovery process and withdrawal symptoms, we recommend that you have a plan in place and work with a professional who can guide you during your path to recovery. If you or a loved one is struggling with meth abuse, please contact us today so that we can begin your road to lifetime recovery, together.