Tag Archives: Addiction Treatment for Men

Synthetic Cocaine

Synthetic Cocaine

In 2014, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported 1.5 million American cocaine users above the age of 12. As alarming as this number is, it only accounts for individuals using pure cocaine or “coke”. In fact, there has been a rise in of individuals using what is known as “synthetic cocaine,” or fake cocaine, in order to achieve cocaine’s effects for cheaper and longer.

What is Synthetic Cocaine?

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant much like any other amphetamine. Derived from the coca leaf, cocaine was originally produced in its pure hydrochloride form. It is rare to find 100% pure cocaine on the market. Instead, cocaine is mostly sold as “crack” or impure coke. Crack cocaine is a mixture of pure cocaine and cutting agents like baking soda. Crack’s immediate effect makes it popular. This effect is short-lived, and users often binge in order to extend the high – a primary reason why cocaine is so addictive.

The term “synthetic cocaine” is essentially a misnomer, since it does not actually contain any cocaine. “Fake cocaine” is a more accurate title, since it is designed to replicate cocaine’s effects. Most of the time, synthetic cocaine refers to synthetic cathinones.

What are synthetic cathinones?

Why do people take synthetic cathinones instead of cocaine? First, it is important to understand what a cathinone is. Benzoylethanamine, ß-keto-amphetamine (cathinone) is a monoamine alkaloid found in the khat plant which can mimic an emphetamine or cocaine high.

Amphetamines are a very powerful group of drugs which include meth and adderall. Some amphetamine effects include:

  • Very high energy
  • Lack of sleep
  • Decreased mental performance
  • Fast talking

Many people take amphetamines and cocaine for the same reason – an intense rush of energy and focus. Some claim that cocaine also increases alertness, strength, and speed, though this has not been medically proven.

Synthetic cathinones contain one or more laboratory-made (synthetic) chemicals that behave like cathinones. These substances can cause a long-lasting cocaine-like rush.

Why is Synthetic Cocaine So Popular?

The biggest factors are price and availability. A common misconception is that crack cocaine is cheaper than pure coke. This is not necessarily true. Crack’s absorption rate is generally the real reason for its popularity. Inhaling it creates an intense, nearly instant high.

However, compared to the synthetic cathinone ‘flakka,’ price can be a factor. Flakka can cost around $5 for one hit and the effects can last nearly 5 hours, whereas cocaine can cost more than $80 for a hit lasting only around 10 minutes.

Synthetic cathinones are also usually more accessible, which increases their popularity. The U.S. explicitly prohibits synthetic cathinone production and sale. However, some manufacturers find shortcuts around this by slightly changing certain ingredients, effectively making their cathinone products more or less legal. This drug type is classified as a “new psychoactive substance” (NPS) which is unregulated by the government, making it much easier to purchase. It can even show up in some convenience stores.

Types of Synthetic Cathinones

There are various types of cathinones, some more notorious than others. All of them are dangerous. The two most popular cathinones are flakka and bath salts.

Flakka

Flakka (also known as the ‘zombie drug’) became famous in Florida for allegedly causing cannibalistic behavior.  In one notorious case, an individual under the influence bit another person’s face. Claims like this are unconfirmed; however, media coverage popularized the drug’s infamous nickname. Flakka is also known to cause hallucinations in some rare cases.

Bath salts

Bath salts are one of the more popular forms of cathinones and very similar to flakkas. They are also called bloom, cloud nine, ivory wave and scarface. Generally sold in brown or white crystalline powders, they visually resemble real bath epsom salts. Generally swallowed or snorted through the nose, bath salts are a cheaper alternative to MDMA and cocaine.

Dangers of Synthetic Cocaine

There is little medical research on cathinones and their addictive potential. Any substance that causes a powerful euphoric high comes with the risk of addiction for certain people – especially those with preexisting mental health issues. Synthetic cathinone side effects can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Confusion
  • In some rare cases, excited delirium and hallucinations
  • Risky behavior

Thankfully, synthetic cathinones are not a very popular drug in the U.S. Poison control calls peaked in 2012 at 2,697 and continue on a downward trend – likely due to negative media coverage. Overdose and death from synthetic cathinones are possible. However, risky behavior under the influence is the most common reason for injury and death.

Treatment for Synthetic Cocaine Abuse

Synthetic cathinone treatment is rare. This is not to say that people who abuse it don’t need help. People with substance abuse problems often have other mental health issues. Rather than just managing the symptoms, it’s important to get help from trained professionals to treat an addiction’s root cause. 

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, contact us today. 

Zombie Drug

The term ‘zombie drug’ is not one which strikes much familiarity with most people. In fact, even Google has very little to offer in terms of answers and the ones you do find online may be very conflicting. However, this so-called ‘zombie drug’ refers to an extremely potent and dangerous drug.

What is the Zombie Drug?

The internet has some conflicting views of what zombie drug refers to. So in order to clear the water, here is what we found:

Zombie drug refers to two different things; Desomorphine, a much more potent version of the opioid morphine or alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone

Desomorphine is eight to ten times more potent than regular morphine. It was used in the 1980’s to treat severe pain. However over time it was phased out due to the negative side effects such as severe respiratory depression and urinary retention, outweighing any of the potential benefits it had. Its illicit production, commonly referred to as ‘krokodil’ is where it got its ‘zombie drug’ moniker from. The impurities found in krokodil often contained deadly substances such as battery acid and gasoline. They often rot the skin around the injection point, thus making it known as the zombie drug.

However, when referring to the zombie drug, it is more commonly associated with alpha-Pyrrolidinopentiophenone, also known as a-PVP or ‘Flakka.’ a-PVP is a synthetic stimulant of cathinone, a drug similar to other amphetamines such as methamphetamine, and can be synthesized into what is commonly known as ‘bath salts.’ 

zombie drug

What is Flakka?

Flakka is the street name for a-PVP and has some dangerous and frightening effects when consumed. It is one of the many ingredients in bath salts and given its close association with amphetamines, it has many of the same effects. There is very little research around its effects, toxicology or physiological impacts adding to its danger. 

When examining case studies or examples of expected behavior, you will encounter some very strange stories. According to Don Maines, a drug treatment counsellor, Flakka “[rewires] the brain chemistry” and those who take it “have no control over their thoughts.” The drug is oddly connected with cannibalistic rages where individuals would run around with no apparent control over their actions, chewing the faces off of random bystanders. Even the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) considers the drug as “meth on steroids” and has it categorized as a Schedule I drug.

zombie drug

The drug is very cheap and usually manufactured and shipped from regions in China, however there have been cases of homemade flakka entering the market in the U.S. The drug’s popularity is rising as it is very cheap and it has similar effects to meth when taken at the appropriate dose. Now, taking flakka does not turn you into a cannibal, even though there have been isolated cases where aggressive cannibalistic behavior has been reported. It does, however, cause very erratic behavior and is very addictive.

What are the effects of Flakka?

Aside from the slight chance you will have cannibalistic tendencies, flakka has similar effects to other amphetamines such as methamphetamine. Some effects of flakka include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusional behavior
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Paranoia 
  • Elevation in heart rate (it is a central nervous system stimulant, just like meth which can help explain the erratic behavior associated with its use)
  • Extreme agitation
  • Jerky muscle movements
  • Hyperstimulation

Flakka can cause overdoses and even death. Even if an individual does not take a lethal dose of flakka, the subsequent behavioral changes can cause them to do things they would not normally do or engage in extremely dangerous behavior. 

Given that there is a lack of scientific evidence of the effects of flakka, it may help to look at amphetamines or even bath salts to provide an insight into the dangers of the zombie drug.

What are amphetamines?

An amphetamine is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant which causes an increase in brain and nerve activity. When taken at the right dose, it can cause powerful feelings of euphoria. People commonly abuse amphetamines drugs and this includes adderall and methamphetamine. The effects of amphetamines includes:

  • Paranoia and anxiety 
  • Visual, auditory and tactile hallucinations
  • Increased heart rate
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia 
  • Low appetite
  • Depression and fatigue 
  • Sleep depression
  • High body temperature
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Involuntary muscle control
zombie drug

The effects one will experience while taking amphetamines can have very similar effects to taking flakkas. However, there still needs to be more research done on the effects it has on the body- one point of consensus is that flakkas is a highly addictive, very dangerous drug. 

Treatment

Given the dangerous nature of flakka, it can be hard to understand why anyone would choose to use the drug. Unfortunately, flakkas are one of the cheapest highs available, with the average ‘hit’ cost at $3-$5, whereas a gram of cocaine is often $80 or more. The duration of the high also lasts longer than most drugs lasting around 5 hours. There are currently no medications to treat flakka addiction, however, mental health approaches are helpful to reduce dependency. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today.

Ambien and Alcohol

Americans are now more distracted than ever. Since the end of the 20th century, more and more screens have been introduced into the average household. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, massive TVs- all contribute to the increase in sleeping disorders. Many people turn to options like Ambien to help. A lot of people in America also drink alcohol, sometimes even with the thought that it helps sleep. Subsequently, the increasing risk of mixing Ambien and alcohol is a real danger.

ambien and alcohol

What is Ambien?

Ambien is the brand name for Zolpidem Tartrate, which is a sedative and falls under the hypnotic class of medication. In general, the purpose is to treat insomnia in patients and is seen as a better alternative to benzodiazepines or barbiturates. Ambien’s design is to provide the same sleep relief as other drugs but without the dangerous side-effects commonly associated with drugs such as Valium. It was approved by the FDA in 1992 during a time where the prevailing sleep-aid, Halcion, was being linked with psychosis, suicide and addiction and was welcomed with open arms. 

ambien and alcohol

Ambien works by binding and activating GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter which is responsible for blocking impulses between nerve cells in the brain. Ambien binds to the same receptors as benzodiazepines. By binding to the receptors, the chemical essentially slows down brain function, making it easier to fall asleep. While Ambien became popular because it was believed to have less of the harmful side effects of other sleep-aids available at the time, it comes with its own risks:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • “Drugged” feeling
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Headache

Some of the serious side effects of Ambien include:

  • Memory loss
  • New or worsening depression
  • Abnormal thoughts
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Agitation
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Anxiety

Ambien Addiction and Abuse

A chemical tolerance is when a higher dose is required to get the same desired results while taking a drug. Essentially, the body gets used to the drug and more of it is required to feel the effects. Unfortunately, Ambien tolerance develops quickly in some patients. Ambien was never designed to be a long-term use drug. However, some patients require their physician to increase the dosage to get the same relief. Increasing the dosage may cause users to develop a dependency to the drug. Some may find that they are unable to fall asleep without it.

ambien and alcohol

In high doses, it is possible for Ambien to provide a euphoric high, which is then be sought after by some. At this point, normal use begins to turn to abuse. According to SAMHSA, Ambien abuse is rare with those who are have a prescription. It is more likely to be with those who acquire it illicitly.

Overdose of Ambien is possible. According to SAMHSA, there were 64,175 Ambien related emergency room visits (ER) and of those 20,793 were related to over-medication. While your risk of overdose will depend on various factors such as body composition, tolerance level and history of use, it is generally considered that taking more than 150mg per kilogram of body weight is lethal. An individual weighing 50 kilograms will need to take 7,500mg of Ambien to experience a fatal overdose. While that may seem like a lot of medication, the 150mg can be greatly reduced when taken with other drugs, especially alcohol. 

How Long Does Ambien Stay in Your System?

Once Ambien enters the body, it takes around 30 minutes for the drug to reach peak potential blood concentration meaning that the full effects are felt around this mark. Compared to other drugs, this is quite fast. However, Ambien has a short half-life of around 1.5 hours. A chemicals half-life is a determination of the time it takes for the chemical to reduce to half of its ingested dose. In other words, after 1.5 hours, the 10mg dose of Ambien is essentially reduces to 5mg. However, it’s possible to feel the effects of the drug for 8 hours and the chemicals will be completely out of the body in about 14 hours. 

It is possible to detect Ambien in the body after the 14 hour mark in various tests:

  • Urine – 72 hours after use
  • Hair – 3 to 5 weeks after use
  • Saliva – 8 hours after use

Drug testing for Ambien is quite rare however circumstances such as traffic incidents may call for testing.

Mixing Ambien and Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant. A CNS depressant will slow brain and nerve function thus having an effect on motor and cognitive function. Ambien has very similar CNS depressant effects by binding to the GABA receptors in the brain. Two depressants or drugs mixed together (also referred to as polysubstance abuse) will amplify the overall effects and can pose serious overdose risks. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), mixing alcohol with other depressants such as Ambien can cause drowsiness, slowed or difficulty breathing, impaired motor skills, and memory problems. With two powerful depressants working, it can cause breathing to slow to a dangerously low level or stop completely. Death can also occur by engaging in dangerous behavior often associated with alcohol use. 

Getting Help

Getting off Ambien may seem difficult. Especially if the user has been using it for an extended period and believes it is necessary for a good night’s sleep. Someone with a problem with ambien and alcohol needs specialized help. However, with the proper attention and guidance, recovery is possible. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please contact us today to see how we can help.

*Resources:
Hypnotic medications and suicide – NIH
Emergency Department Visits – SAMHSA
Harmful Interactions – NIAAA

Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Is Alcoholism a Disease and can it be a Genetic Predisposition?

Language is, of course, one of the most important ways that humans communicate. The words we use are meaningful, especially so when it comes to serious issues like addiction. Over time, language shifts to fit our needs and our understanding of the world around us. With regard to addiction, much of the language has changed from someone being an addict to someone dealing with or suffering from addiction. This is not without reason. The more we understand, it’s apparent that addiction is about more than just personal choices or character defects. Many people wonder, “Is alcoholism a disease?” In modern times, there is the disease theory of alcoholism which theorizes that alcoholism, and other addictions, are a disease of the brain. Some experts disagree with this, though they concede it may still of course have something to do with genetics.

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a government resource, they state, “Relapse rates for addiction resemble those of other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma.”* Other diseases require constant, life-long treatment and someone might see relapse after some time without symptoms. Unfortunately, many people often take addiction relapse as a sign that they themselves or treatment has failed. However, as NIDA states, “This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases.”* Obviously people have different genetics, and how their genes affect their susceptibility to addiction will differ. Mental health is also a big part of genes and can play a part of alcoholism for many people. At Reflections, we take this into account when forming a treatment plan as well as a relapse prevention plan. With the prevalence that alcohol has in society, it is not an easy thing to avoid.

Genetically Predisposed

For various illnesses, diseases, and even character traits, you’ll often hear someone say, “It runs in the family.” There are numerous causes; genetic factors are part of it, as well as societal and historical factors. Trauma, a common element in addiction, is something that can impact multiple generations. Each generation might not go through the same exact trauma. However, it can still affect the next generation and play a part in their issues. Per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Research shows that genes are responsible for about half of the risk of AUD [Alcohol use disorder].”* Genetic predisposition is a factor in many people’s struggle with alcohol, but clearly it is not the only factor. 

At Reflections, we take a look into people’s life up until they have come to us for treatment. We do so through laboratory testing, to understand their genetic history, as well as understanding their family history. This gives us an idea of the social factors that also play a part in contributing to their addiction. If we understand as many factors as possible, we can provide a more thorough and effective treatment. Dr. Lisa Parsons, our Medical Director, is interested in understanding biochemical imbalances. She works to identify any vulnerabilities in someone’s DNA that make them prone to addiction. This allows her to develop the best treatment for each client.

Alcohol and Mental Health

According to NIAAA, It is possible for an AUD to coincide with, add to, cause, or be caused in part by, mental health disorders.* Mental illness does not mean someone will inevitably have an AUD, but it is possible to be a factor behind AUD. It is possible for mental health disorders to be passed through genetic and environmental circumstances. It’s important that treatment providers distinguish the various types of mental health disorders, how they are caused, and what is possibly making them worse. NIAAA notes that mental health is affected differently based on whether someone is currently drinking, intoxicated, going through withdrawal, or sober.* Depending on severity and length of use, it may take longer for someone to recover physically and mentally. Co-occurring disorders develop frequently with addiction. When this happens, it’s essential to treat each disorder fully to give patients the best chance at recovery.

According to NIAAA, it’s also possible for someone to have depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue without it being severe enough to be classified as a “disorder”. If this is the case for anyone, they should not feel that their mental health issues are not as bad and therefore do not deserve the same care. We will work with each patient to treat any issues and to improve their mental health, regardless of classification. It’s necessary to remember that mental health is not a final achievement to reach. It’s something to work on continually. That shouldn’t discourage anyone; even people with seemingly few mental health problems need to put in effort and take care of themselves.

Recovery

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Worldwide, 3 million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol…” This includes health problems from drinking as well as accidents. It’s possible victims of harmful use may not have consumed any alcohol. The best time to seek help is now. Everyone should want to prevent all deaths and any harmful actions that happen as a result of alcohol use. Alcohol use does not have to result in death to destroy lives. It’s not easy to acknowledge that you, or even a loved one, has a problem with alcohol. Once again though, now is the best time to do that. Don’t let alcohol steal anything else from you or your loved one. Call us today.

*Resources:
Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment – NIDA
Genetics of Alcohol Use Disorder – NIAAA
Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders – NIAAA

Painkiller Addiction

What Does Painkiller Addiction Look Like?

There is no clear image or description of what addiction is like. Still, for many people they at least had an idea that it was “hard” and illegal drugs like heroin or meth. It wasn’t something that would be a part of the lives of people with jobs, social circles, or supportive families. It’s also difficult to ever admit that you might be the one with a problem. Prescription drugs, which are widely and successfully marketed in the U.S., are meant to help. Under medical supervision, that should be the case. Because of the above reasons, and more, it is difficult for people to recognize they could have a problem. By the time people, or those around them, realize there is a problem they could be dealing with full-blown addiction. 

All prescription drugs have the potential to be abused. Prescription painkillers carry a significant risk, even when taken under supervision. The most common type of prescription painkiller that people are familiar with is opioids. Some common opioids are Codeine, Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Morphine and Methadone. In part due to the reasons listed above, the opioid crisis seemingly took over the United States overnight. It happened over time, but unfortunately public awareness has been slow to catch up. Many people still lack understanding of just how dangerous prescription painkillers can be. Often people also think they are not susceptible and can control their use. For many, addiction is not obvious until access to the drugs is cut off or restricted. 

Painkiller Addiction in the Male Population

Painkiller addiction is a very real problem for both men and women. A study conducted in 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showed that men’s deaths caused by painkillers has gone up by 265% since 1998.* The gap between men and women is closing, but it is still very much a problem for men. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, cites a study revealing, “Men are more likely than women to use almost all types of illicit drugs, and illicit drug use is more likely to result in emergency department visits or overdose deaths for men…”*

Exactly why men have higher rates is not entirely clear. However, in a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the authors believe it is possible men have more exposure and opportunity.* In our culture, and many others, men are supposed to be strong and able to take care of themselves. It’s possible that this leads to men hiding addiction, refusing to acknowledge problems, and subsequently failing to receive treatment. 

Clearly, with painkillers it is common for someone to begin using them following a serious injury or surgery. In a controlled study, where patients had no pre-existing pain, scientists found that male patients needed higher doses of morphine after medical procedures. While these patients were not addicted, it’s an interesting study regarding different aspects that are important to consider with gender. Morphine overdoses, just like any opioid overdoses, are still a constant reality at a time when public awareness has been slow and ill-equipped to deal with them.

The Risks of Using Painkillers

Men are more likely to use various substances, also known as polysubstance abuse, which is particularly dangerous. This can strengthen the side effects of each substance and significantly increase risk of permanent damage or overdose. 

As with addiction to other substances, painkiller addiction can cause a lot of chaos in the life of the person using the substances as well as the lives of those around them. Someone suffering from addiction will put their relationships, familial and otherwise, at risk. Maintaining employment is difficult the more severe addiction becomes. When a person is addicted to painkillers and is unable to maintain access, they turn to what’s more easily available. Counterfeit pills are available on the street but, as we have seen, they are laced with other substances. They frequently contain fentanyl, which is 80-100x stronger than morphine and even incredibly small amounts result in overdose. Oftentimes people will turn to heroin, which is easier to get, and dangerous on its own. Heroin now frequently contains some amount of fentanyl.

Someone struggling with addiction is unfortunately likely to turn to substances that are cheaper and easier to get, without regard to what they might be laced with. Prescribed, legal opioids can cause health issues even when used under medical supervision. They can cause drowsiness and respiratory depression, which is slow and ineffective breathing. This plays a major part of overdosing on painkillers. As men often combines substances, this can be enhanced and is particularly dangerous with alcohol. Proper education on the the topic is lacking; people don’t realize just how dangerous alcohol and painkillers are when mixed. Alcohol depresses the Central Nervous System. Combined with opioids it can appear that someone is sleeping, without realizing they are not breathing, and it may be too late before anyone realizes.

Overcoming Painkiller Addiction

The good news is that awareness about painkiller addiction is increasing, with more information widely available. The unfortunate reality though, is that many people do not think they will face abuse or addiction with painkillers. It is also difficult for people to acknowledge addiction, because of the shame and stigma surrounding it. This can leave those suffering from painkiller addictions, and even their loved ones, with a sense of hopelessness. Men, in particular, are loathe to admit they have a problem and to admit to something perceived as a weakness. 

As a men’s only rehab, we are able to focus on the unique challenges and needs that men have. Recognizing that there is a problem is an important first step. Admitting to addiction is not easy, but the risks to one’s well-being and the lives of those around them are significant. At Reflections Recovery Center, we work to remove the shame and stigma. Initially, we evaluate clients and their need for detox. Throughout treatment, we will work with clients to understand their life and the different factors that contributed to addiction.

 Our goal is to help clients overcome their addiction through initial sobriety, as well as helping them learn behaviors and skills to maintain sobriety. Recovery is not linear and it is life-long. Relapse is, of course, a part of many people’s recovery. With that in mind, we will work with clients to create a relapse prevention plan to ensure they have the best possible chance at recovery. If you or a loved one needs help with painkillers, please contact us today.

*Resources:
Prescription Painkiller Overdoses – CDC
Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use – NIH
Sex Differences in Drug Abuse – U.S. National Library of Medicine
Influences on Gender Postoperative Morphine Consumption – NIH


Addiction in the LGBTQ Community

Why addressing specific communities is important

Addiction is complex not only because of substances and how they affect bodies, but also because of the people dealing with it. When treating someone, it is important to take into consideration that person as a whole. This includes, but is not limited to, economic background, family history, age, gender, ethnicity, mental illness, and culture. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a government resource, states, “No single treatment is right for everyone. The best treatment addresses a person’s various needs, not just his or her drug abuse.”* People within the LGBTQ community face unique challenges and struggles. If their background is ignored, then treatment will not adequately help them. According to NIDA, those in the LGBTQ community frequently deal with, “…social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges not encountered by people who identify as heterosexual. They also face a greater risk of harassment and violence.”*

Furthermore, NIDA cites surveys that have found, “…sexual minorities have higher rates of substance misuse and substance abuse disorders (SUDs) than people who identify as heterosexual.”* The point of stating all of this, is not to make it seem like some kind of competition over who has it worse. The point is different groups of people deal with a variety of factors. If we treat each client the same, we will fail to help them. People have unique backgrounds and they deserve to have their unique needs met. Addiction is not simply a matter of picking up a substance and becoming addicted. There are many steps that lead to addiction, and it’s important to treat each of those steps. Getting off of a substance is one thing. It’s another to maintain long-term sobriety and be able to recover from relapses if and when they occur.

Substance Abuse in the LGBTQ Community

It is an unfortunate and common truth that many, if not most, people in the LGBTQ community face shame and discrimination throughout their lives. They are also at a high risk of violence, or threat of violence, because of their sexuality. Trauma is a frequent theme in addiction; many LGBTQ people have trauma from treatment because of their sexuality. Until 1973, homosexuality was considered a mental illness.* It was only in 2003, that sexual activity between consenting adults has been legal nationwide, following a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no federal law outlawing discrimination, leaving many people vulnerable. When people are targeted, isolated, and without full legal protection, it’s understandable they deal with trauma and other unique challenges.

For many people, of all backgrounds, substance abuse is a common way to cope with one’s problems. Substances also provide a way for many people to feel at ease socially, and to feel like they fit in. For people in the LGBTQ community that have been made to feel uncomfortable about who they are, substance use can be a way to cope and to feel more comfortable with their sexuality. For many people, including in the United States, sexual orientation discrimination is a very real part of their lives. When society, and even governments, are telling you that who you are is wrong that frequently results in severe damage. In a guide published by SAMHSA, the authors write that the discrimination often causes those in the LGBT community to use mind-altering substances and alcohol to cope with the stress.*

Why Inclusive Environments Matter

Treatment for everyone needs to be comprehensive. This means it should take into consideration their life up to the present. In doing this, providers also need to be sensitive to different aspects of a client’s background. Education is incredibly important; ignorance on the part of staff can lead to client withdrawal and create barriers that result in ineffective treatment. Not all clients will feel comfortable disclosing their sexuality or fully discussing it. With that in mind, counselors and staff should be respectful of what clients are comfortable with discussing. An inclusive environment allows clients to feel comfortable. It also allows them to receive thorough treatment to achieve and maintain sobriety. 

At Reflections, we have therapists who specialize in working with the LGBTQ community. We also have local AA meetings specifically for the community. Every day our staff works to provide a safe and inclusive environment. We want clients to know they’re welcome and that we care about who they are in their entirety. It’s important for any clients in the LGBTQ community to know that any discrimination, violence, threats, or other negative actions they have faced are not their fault. The SAMHSA guide states, “Counselors and clients should recognize that these effects result from prejudice and discrimination and are not a consequence of one’s sexuality.”* It is a lot of prejudice to dismantle, but something we are willing to work on with clients. If you or a loved one are in need of an LGBT friendly rehab or resources, contact us today!

*Resources:
Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What To Ask -NIH
Substance Abuse and SUDs in LGBT Populations – NIH
A Provider’s Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals – SAMHSA

Addiction and Isolation

A Cycle of Addiction and Isolation

Addiction steals from people. It steals time and destroys relationships and communities. Often, people suffering from addiction end up increasingly isolated. This could be due to their own guilt and shame, and they then cut themselves off from those around them. With the stigma around addiction, many communities may also knowingly or unknowingly cause others to become isolated. The many causes and effects of addiction may be rooted in loneliness, isolation and mental health disorders, which are often in turn made worse by addiction. This creates a cruel cycle that continues until someone, or many people, can help break it.

Isolation due to Mental Illness

It is an unfortunate truth that there is a stigma around mental illness. When someone is struggling with their mental health, others may have a hard time relating. Even those with mental health problems may hold a self-stigma around the issue. In an article published by World Psychiatry, the authors wrote that in addition to views held by the general public, “…even well-trained professionals from most mental health disciplines subscribe to stereotypes about mental illness.”* They also found 3 common views regarding people with mental illness:*

  1. People with mental illness are to be feared and kept away
  2. They are dangerous and reckless; need to be controlled
  3. They are like children and cannot make decisions for themselves

Given the information above, it’s understandable that resources are difficult to find or that people are reluctant to seek help. If anyone is dealing with addiction and mental illness, they may be more reluctant to get treatment and their isolation will increase. Without a support system, someone might turn to substances to cope with their problems.

How Technology Isolates Us

Technology has provided humans with a lot of incredible opportunities, particularly when it comes to connecting. There are of course downsides to this and many of the issues can lead to increased isolation. As people give more attention to devices, they take away from time to give to family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. This can be harmful to maintaining strong relationships with those around you. When someone is dealing with addiction and/or mental health problems, a strong community is essential to their health. As technology is still a newer phenomenon in terms of history, a lot still needs to be done in the way of research. Certain studies do show connections between technology and isolation, though the exact cause and effects are not conclusive.

Still, a study reported on by NPR revealed that it is possible social media increases people’s perception of isolation.* Social media allows us to present our lives in any manner we want, and show only the good times. According to the study, some people may feel excluded because they were not there in the moment, or even because their life does not look as good as what they see online.

A feeling of isolation is not going to absolutely result in substance abuse or addiction. However, it is possible that some people will turn to substances to cope with being lonely or socially isolated. Many substances, and especially alcohol, seemingly make it easier to connect with others. Advertising for alcohol is incredibly effective in presenting the idea that alcohol will allow you to be social, and to always have fun when it is consumed. Social media can further this notion with people posting about the fun they are supposedly having, with alcohol being a constant presence.

Rebuilding

Issues with mental health, loneliness, and technology do not mean someone will struggle with substance abuse or addiction. Not everyone who is isolated is going to always struggle with these problems. They are just a few factors that might play a part.

Many different steps can and should be taken to remedy these problems. One is to work on removing the shame and stigma around addiction and mental health disorders. Another action, that everyone can be a part of, is to build strong communities. Someone in recovery is in great need of community to have a better chance at maintaining long-term sobriety. Relapse is a normal part of recovery, but someone with a community around them has a better chance at overcoming any relapses. Addiction is complicated and it is hard to fight. It is something that absolutely requires the effort of multiple people.


Someone might have lost most of their community while they were struggling with addiction. They also might have lost contact at any point in their lives because of mental illness, technology, or any other number of causes. Whether or not someone has a strong community on the outside, Reflections will work with each patient to provide that. We help our clients rebuild a community and provide the tools they need to succeed after treatment. At Reflections, we work with clients to remove the shame from addiction and mental illness. It is important that people know that treatment is possible and that they do not have to be alone. If you or a loved one needs help, please contact us today.

Resources*:
Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness – World Psychiatry
Feeling Lonely? Too Much Time on Social Media May Be Why – NPR


Xanax and Alcohol Mixed

Alcohol and Xanax (also known as Alprazolam) are both substances that are legal. They are also both substances that are widely available and commonly abused. This can make it difficult to recognize any issues. In regard to alcohol and Xanax, mixing the two can be incredibly risky even without a severe addiction to either. In moderation, alcohol does not cause severe damage every time it is consumed. Xanax is a controlled substance, that medical professionals issue to often help with anxiety disorders or panic attacks.

However, it is possible for them to both easily become an abused substance. Alcohol and Xanax can both have negative side effects. Mixing them can magnify what each substance does and cause greater harm. Combined alcohol and Xanax use increases risk for overdose, something many people may not realize.* To understand this better, it can help to know how each substance affects people and what happens they are mixed.

What is Xanax and what does Xanax do?

Xanax is the brand name for Alprazolam, which is a short-acting benzodiazepine often used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, or even nausea from chemotherapy. It is the most commonly prescribed psychiatric drug in the United States and often frequently abused. Like other legal drugs, there are counterfeit pills that can be found on the black market. While they may be similar, they are often cut with other substances and can cause significant harm. From McGill University, “GABA is a chemical messenger that is widely distributed in the brain. GABA’s natural function is to reduce the activity of the neurons to which it binds.”* Neurons can become overexcited, which can lead to anxiety. Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, work to enhance the actions of GABA, which depresses the over-excited central nervous system, and provide a sense of calm.

Clearly, when done legally and under medical supervision, Xanax is meant to be helpful and it has helped people. However, like any medication, it can have adverse side effects. Symptoms will vary for different people and will range in severity. Some common side effects can include: memory or concentration problems, depression, fatigue, suicidal ideation, or trouble breathing. Withdrawal from Xanax can be severe, and should be done under the supervision of a medical professional. Xanax is a short-acting drug that processes quickly and leaves the body quickly. This leaves you at a higher risk for withdrawal, since your body has less time to adapt to working without the drug.* Listing these symptoms is not a scare-tactic, but rather a way to convey issues that can arise. Further, it is helpful to understand the side effects to then understand how mixing alcohol will interact with Xanax.

What is alcohol and how does it affect us?

Simply put, alcohol is an organic compound; it is alcohol ethanol found in alcoholic beverages, which occurs by fermenting sugar with yeast. The alcohol humans drink acts as a suppressant to the central nervous system, similar to Xanax. It can boost one’s mood and increase their inclination to be social, while calming any over-excited nerves that usually make a person anxious. Many people drink for just these reasons. The negative aspects for alcohol, which become worse the more one drinks, are numerous, but the severity will affect individuals differently. Short-term effects might include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anxiety, and fatigue. Alcohol can be addictive, which can lead to dependence and withdrawal. Long-term effects include liver damage, neurological damage, and various forms of cancer. Furthermore, the abuse of and addiction to alcohol can also lead to significant problems in one’s social and professional life.

Despite many of the negative aspects listed above, alcohol is one of the most common recreational substances. It has been around for thousands of years and it’s prevalence makes it widely accepted. In an article from National Geographic, archaeologist Patrick McGovern said, “Alcohol is central to human culture and biology because we were probably drinking fermented beverages from the beginning.” What is more, in modern times alcohol is marketed as a way to more fun and a better life. Even some of the adverse effects of alcohol, primarily concerning behavior during drinking and hangovers, are seen as humorous. This attitude combined with the popularity of alcohol makes it hard to recognize when it becomes a problem. Or that it can even become a problem at all. With that in mind, it is understandable how many people can then miss the dangers of drinking combined with something like Xanax.

Alcohol and Xanax Mixed

Alcohol and Xanax both suppress the central nervous system and mixing the two can intensify the actions of both substances. From an article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), alcohol enhances the effects of Xanax which includes drowsiness, sedation, and impaired motor skills.* As both substances are sedatives, they significantly impair breathing when combined. As more alcohol is consumed, the areas of the brain that regulate “basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.”* Consumption of alcohol and Xanax at any amount can be dangerous, but the risk of overdose becomes even more dangerous the more alcohol is consumed. Alcohol impairs one’s ability to think clearly, which makes recognizing symptoms of overdose even more difficult.

When taking Xanax, there is a warning not to consume alcohol. However, many people may either disregard this or not realize the severity of mixing the two substances. When dealing with addiction, someone might not be in a place to consider or assess the risks at all. What is more, with addiction, it is likely that someone could turn to using unregulated Xanax. This increases the risks with unknown substances added.

Treatment

It is possible, and often likely, that someone dealing with addiction will be facing issues with more than one substance. With alcohol and Xanax, it is tough to recognize that you or a loved one might have a problem.

At Reflections Recovery Center, we offer a detox center with a 5-day program. Withdrawal from alcohol and Xanax can both be dangerous to do alone. Our highly qualified team of medical professionals will work with clients to ensure a safe detox process. We also offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, with many resources available to create a unique and thorough treatment plan. Reflections can also treat co-occurring disorders, providing essential treatment for mental disorders and substance abuse disorders. Our goal is to help each client through every step of the process and to provide tools to maintain sobriety long after treatment. Alcohol and Xanax can be an incredibly dangerous combination. If you or a loved may be struggling with this, contact us today for help.

*Resources:
Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose – NIH
Side Effects of Benziodiazepines – Mind.org
Were Humans Built to Drink Alcohol? – National Geographic
Alcohol and Medication Interactions – NIH

Biochemistry and Addiction

If someone suffers from anxiety, depression, or addiction they could have a biochemical imbalance. A biochemical imbalance is not the sole factor in addiction, but it can play a large part. There are many factors to understanding something as complex as addiction, and biochemistry is only a part of that. With that being said, understanding a person’s biochemistry can provide significant insights into their history and current health. It can also help to determine what treatment will be most helpful for each patient. Additionally, biochemical imbalances can manifest as issues that are more than just mental health issues. Our testing will take a comprehensive look at how biochemical issues might be affecting each patient. At Reflections, we want to completely understand each patient to be able to thoroughly treat and overcome their addiction. Our efforts to look at each person’s biochemical makeup is a part of that process.

Someone might be struggling with addiction and they do in fact have a biochemical imbalance. Their first step does not have to be prescription drugs to try to supplement what their body is lacking. That is not to say that prescription drugs have no value or do not help people, but that there are other solutions. These solutions can work separately from prescription drugs or in tandem as needed. Often when someone is struggling with a biochemical imbalance, they turn to substance abuse hoping to fix the problem. We want to completely understand how it is affecting each patient, whether mentally or physically. At Reflections, our hope is to find long-term solutions which will be essential in preventing relapse.

Heavy Metal Imbalances

Heavy metals are a natural component of the earth’s crust and there are a number of ways that our bodies can absorb them. At certain quantities, the heavy metals become toxic in a way that begins to significantly impact our health. There are many different ways someone can be exposed to heavy metals and some of the most recognizable may be lead, mercury, and arsenic. These are metals that are recognizably dangerous, however not all heavy metals are necessarily bad. Some heavy metals provide essential nutrients, but at certain levels they can become a problem. For example, zinc is a heavy metal that plays an important part in many biological processes “…including growth and development, lipid metabolism, brain and immune function.” (NIH)* Zinc also has a number of positive aspects, but too much can lead to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and lower copper levels over time.

Copper is another essential heavy metal, but again it needs to be balanced. At Reflections, Dr. Lisa Parsons, our Medical Director, looks closely to see if any patients are suffering from a copper/zinc imbalance. For anyone living in the Southwest, where we have a lot of copper and zinc, this can become even more of an issue. Per Dr. Parsons, someone might have a genetic difficulty maintaining a proper balance and they will have too much copper. This becomes an issue with too much free copper, which depletes the dopamine pathway and raises up the norepinephrine. With a lack of dopamine, someone would feel low, have a hard time getting up, they would not look forward to anything, and would feel a lack of joy or motivation. With too much norepinephrine, someone might feel all over the place, tense, anxious, and they might have a hard time focusing.

Testing and Treatment

There are numerous heavy metals that go beyond just copper and zinc. Those are just a few good examples of heavy metals that are needed, but need to be kept in balance. At Reflections, we are want to understand these imbalances because they can clearly have a significant impact on our lives. People will often turn to substance abuse to try to cope with symptoms that are manifested through the imbalance. From a New York Times article, Daniel Goleman wrote, “…addiction becomes a kind of self-medication in which drugs correct the chemical imbalance and bring a sort of relief.”* While a heavy metal imbalance might not be the sole reason for addiction, it can play a significant part. If we can test to identify imbalances and correct them, we can work to help each patient feel better. Addiction is a complicated issue and it takes hard work to understand each step.

The Path to Addiction

With biochemical testing, we hope to understand and treat as many of the steps or causes that we can identify. We want to find out how someone can go from use or experimentation to dependence and then to addiction. Some of the many factors include social and economic environments, personal choices, and genetics.

From the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), the data showed 140.6 million Americans aged 12 or older were current alcohol users. Within that, 66.6 million were binge drinkers in the past month and 16.7 were heavy drinkers within the last month.* At the time of the study, in 2017, 30.5 million people aged 12 or older used an illicit drug in the last 30 days.* As alcohol is widely used and socially accepted, it can be hard to recognize when it becomes a problem. While most illicit drugs are not widely accepted, it can still be difficult to recognize when it becomes abuse and addiction.

Many of the more obvious factors in addiction, may be the social, economic, and familial components. They are all important to identify and understand. However, it can be essential to look for the things that others might not. That is something that we firmly believe in at Reflections. We want to consider the aspects listed above, of course, but we also want to look at what might be overlooked. If we look at genetic testing, biochemical imbalances, and nutrition we can better know how to help each patient.

Moving Forward

Each factor that we can understand and work on will add up to a more complete treatment. Nobody can guarantee that every single issue will be fixed. However, at Reflections we do take care to work on all of the possible causes as we are able. The more we can help and the more tools we can give our patients they better off they will be. With a holistic approach, we look at the entire patient and hope each patient will feel better overall. If someone is feeling better physically that should translate to improved mental health and an improved outlook on life. If you or a loved one needs help, contact us today.

*Resources:
Decreased Zinc and Increased Copper in Individuals with Anxiety – NIH
Scientists Pinpoint Brain Irregularities In Drug Addicts – NY Times
2017 NSDUH Annual National Report SAMHSA

Genetic Testing & Addiction

How Genetic History Impacts Addiction

The science behind genetic testing used as a method to understand addiction may be relatively new. Still, it is making a significant impact. It is not a perfect fix when it comes to resolving or preventing addiction, but it helps in understanding addiction and treatment. If medical professionals fully understand their patient’s history and makeup, they are better equipped to help them. At Reflections, we firmly believe in fully understanding and treating each patient. When we work with genetic testing, we are not going to get a magic book with all of the answers. However, we will better understand each patient. This will help the patient in their recovery and they will have a better chance at maintaining sobriety.

When someone is already suffering from addiction, our goal is to understand their history and how they got there. Is there anything in their history and genetic make-up that made them susceptible to addiction? In a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), they noted, “Addictions are moderately to highly heritable.”* This does not mean that every person with addiction in their heritage will suffer from addiction. The risks are higher but there a lot of factors. The possibility of addiction can greatly depend on the availability of an addictive agent, exposure to the addictive agent, and their choice to take it (NIH)*. Nonetheless, the reality is that there can be a greater risk and this is important to keep in mind. Identifying genes that make a person susceptible to addiction make it easier to then identify tools to help prevent relapse.

Genetic testing is only one piece of a very complex puzzle in resolving the problem of addiction.

-Robert Parkinson, U.S. News

Understanding Addiction with Genetic Testing

At Reflections Recovery Center, Lisa Parsons is the Medical Director. Dr. Parsons is particularly interested in understanding every aspect of the patient’s physical makeup to fully help them. It helps to look at the DNA of patients to understand if they are carrying any vulnerability in their genetics. If so, did something occur in their life that turned that vulnerability on? Someone that is prone to stress and anxiety might be fine until something traumatic happens. Part of their genetics that drive the stress and anxiety can be what then makes them susceptible to substance abuse. The testing our team does, including Dr. Parsons, looks at these factors and check for imbalances. Once an imbalance is identified, we can begin treatment to regain a proper balance again. As with any treatment, nothing is a perfect or a total fix on its own. Nonetheless, regaining balance in any area is hugely important and helpful.

DNA Methylation

One of the genetic structures we look at is DNA methylation. Methylation is a chemical reaction that occurs in every cell and tissue in our bodies.* It is, understandably, an incredibly important part of our health. As methylation is a process that involves DNA, understanding it and our genetic history is so important. Within the brain, there are reuptake proteins which act like vacuum cleaners. They live between brain cells that take away neurotransmitters to create balance. Balance is incredibly important for health in every aspect and especially so when it comes to methylation.

When someone is undermethylated, with too many reuptake proteins, they may feel chronically depressed, tense, and anxious. Some people may feel suicidal or a lack of care for their own life or safety. With too few reuptake proteins (overmethylation) someone might feel fidgety, tense, have a hard time relaxing, or have a hard time sleeping. With either imbalance, this can leave someone susceptible to addiction as they try to cope with these symptoms.  Methylation is a process that significantly impacts our health and lives more than most of us realize.

There are, of course, many other aspects of genetic testing to look at. This is just a brief example of what we will look at to thoroughly help each patient.

Treating Addiction with Genetic Testing

Not everyone suffering from addiction carries the same genes indicating addiction. Likewise, not everyone with vulnerable genetics will suffer from addiction. For those that are vulnerable or carry “addiction genes”, understanding their genetic makeup will help. Genetic testing allows us to determine if a patient is suffering from any number of disorders. We can see what in their genetic makeup may have made them vulnerable to addiction in the first place. It can also help to determine what is the best course of action for treatment. The more precisely we can understand genetics, the better we can tailor treatment to each individual.

In an article for U.S. News, Robert Parkinson writes, “Genetic testing is only one piece of a very complex puzzle in resolving the problem of addiction.”* This is incredibly important for any person, or loved one, dealing with addiction to know. Genetic testing is not going to provide a clear map for curing addiction and ensure there is never a relapse. What it will do is provide clarity and direction in some aspects. Addiction may be a complex puzzle and genetic testing may only be one part of that puzzle, but each piece is still vital. We want each patient to maintain sobriety, not just become sober for a short amount of time. If we are going to meet this goal, then we have to look at everything we can to help them.

*Resources:
NIH – Genes and Addictions
Revolution Health – What is Methylation and Why Should You Care?
U.S. News – Genetic Testing for Addiction