Tag Archives: Addiction Treatment

Genetic Predisposition: Is Addiction a Disease?

Though habitual drug and alcohol abuse has long been perceived as exclusively an issue of moral failing, modern science continues to unravel the truth about the chronic nature of addiction. The way we understand genetic predisposition has a lot to do with this changing perspective. 

The term “chronic” indicates that the condition persists for a long time or is constantly recurring. Addiction is defined as a chronic disease by most medical associations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). While there is no cure, it is, thankfully, treatable. 

Genetic Predisposition and The Nature of Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) all describe addiction similarly. These organizations consider it a long-term and relapsing condition characterized by the individual compulsively seeking and using drugs despite adverse consequences.

Addiction is the result of a distortion of a natural process in the brain’s reward system. Most addictive substances cause the brain to release high levels of dopamine or serotonin. These are the same chemicals that the body produces as natural pleasure or reward.

Dr. Jillian Hardee from the University of Michigan explains:  “The healthy brain releases dopamine in response to natural rewards, such as food or exercise, as a way of saying, ‘that was good.’ But drugs hijack dopamine pathways, teaching the brain that drugs are good, too.”

Image of a man falling into an obstacle: Addiction is considered a long-term and relapsing condition charachterized by the individual compulsively seeking and using drugs despite adverse consequences.

Opioids and prescription drugs–especially if overused–can release an enormous, euphoric rush of dopamine in the brain. This release is significantly higher than the natural rewards release amounts–two to 10 times higher, in fact, depending on the drug. 

The brain is constantly trying to maintain a balanced state. So, when substances like these throw things “out of whack,” the brain tries to re-normalize in one of two ways:

  1. minimizing its reaction to those rewarding chemicals, or
  2. releasing stress hormones

Thus, if the brain is forced to continue processing unnaturally high levels of dopamine,  it produces less–or reduces the number of brain structures that receive–dopamine.

This explains why individuals who chronically abuse drugs or alcohol begin to appear lethargic, unmotivated and depressed. Over time, dopamine has less and less impact on the reward network, which, sadly, diminishes an individual’s ability to experience pleasure even from things they once enjoyed. 

Addiction Risk Factors

Three significant conditions that raise the likelihood of drug addiction: genetic predisposition, environment, and development.

There are three significant conditions in a person’s life that sharply raise the likelihood of drug addiction:   

Genetic Predisposition

If addiction runs in the family, NIDA says you have up to a 60% greater risk of also becoming addicted.

Environment

Similar to the way that growing up with a diet high in sugar plus fried and processed foods increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes, living in a home with observable drug use increases the risk of addiction.

Development

Using drugs during the brain’s formative years (up to age 25) greatly increases your chances of addiction. Additionally, this can cause serious, lasting development damage.

The greater the number or greater the influence power of any of these factors in a person’s life, the more likely they are to struggle with avoiding or managing an addiction.

Addiction Symptoms

Some of the strongest indicators of drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include, among others:

  • An inabilaty to control the use of a particular legal, medical, or illegal substance
  • Expending, time, effort and money into securing more of the substance
  • Needing more of the drug over time to feel the same effects
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Inability to stop using the drug even when it causes harm to the body
  • Failing in attempts to quit using the drug
  • Experiencing uncomfortable or painful withdrawal symptoms without the substance

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or you can recognize them in a loved one, contacting a medical professional may be the first step in a road to lifelong recovery. 

Disorder vs Disease: Breaking Down the Differences

Man walking alone on a road: A disease is a pathophysiological response to internal or external factors. A disorder is a disruption to regular bodily structure and function.

You might’ve heard of someone struggling with an alcohol addiction as having a “substance use disorder” (SUD). You might’ve also heard alcohol addiction referred to as a disease–so which is it? 

A disease is a pathophysiological response to internal or external factors. A disorder is a disruption to regular bodily structure and function. The distinguishing characteristic between the two is the fact that a disorder often results from disease. 

An example of this dynamic might be how an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) is a disorder resulting from heart disease. The symptoms of the disorder are the by-product of a disease, but arrhythmia is not a disease in-and-of itself. 

Other characteristics of disease include the following:

  • It is diagnosed and treated based on abnormalities in systemic/organ functions
  • These systemic interruptions can cause both physical and emotional signs and symptoms
  • They are accompanied by pain, dysfunction, distress, social problems or death
  • They have a potential for genetic predisposition

Drug addiction is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior. The significant changes it makes to the brain leads to an inability to control the use of a drug or medication, whether legal or illegal. A chronic disease is a long-lasting condition that can be managed, but not cured.

Why Consider Addiction a Disease? Isn’t Drug Use a Choice? 

Misunderstanding about the relationship between addiction and choice leads to a great deal of confusion and heartbreak. Similar to the way diabetes is a chronic disease of the pancreas, and heart disease is one of the heart, addiction is a chronic disease of the brain.

Getting Help Today

Addiction shares two important-to-understand characteristics with chronic disease:

  1. There is no cure; but
  2. It is entirely possible to live a meaningful, joy-filled life in remission from disordered habits.

Learning to find pleasure again in community, healthy activities, exercise, and gainful employment can help you manage–or better yet, thrive–in spite of the disease of addiction. 

The empathetic professionals at Reflections Recovery are ready and willing to help you start this process. Reach out to us today to find out how. 

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.

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

Trazodone High

Trazodone is a common antidepressant. It isn’t popular as a recreational drug, and drug tests don’t often check for it. Nevertheless, like any substance the potential for abuse exists. Furthermore, abusing it can still lead to serious dependence and addiction.

What is Trazodone?

Trazodone Addiction

Trazodone is a prescription medication which helps treat patients with depression. Designed to boost the brain’s Serotonin levels and change a person’s mood, the drug prevents serotonin from absorbing back into the brain’s neurons. This creates an abundance of the chemical. Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine) is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain. Commonly referred to as the “happy chemical,” it promotes feelings of well-being and happiness.  Trazodone has proven as an effective antidepressant, as well as a mood and anxiety regulator. 

However, the idea of a drug giving you the “happy chemical” in order to make you feel happy is misleading. Trazodone does not make you feel naturally happy, as you would when seeing a loved one or doing something you enjoy. Instead, it creates a sedative effect to provide relief. Rather than making you feel happy, it works to calm you down. This is not necessarily the same as a euphoric high one might experience with other drugs, such as Marijuana or opioids. Rather, a Trazodone high is similar to a benzodiazepine high, though the effect is not as strong. Even though it is not a commonly abused drug, its calming and sedative effects can still be addictive. 

Addiction

Trazodone is not usually sold illegally. Nor is it considered to be a controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Typically, Trazodone abuse begins when someone takes too much of their prescription – or takes it for too long. Regular Trazodone use will cause the body to develop a tolerance. Therefore, in order to feel the same calming effects, individuals sometimes take progressively higher doses. An individual who can no longer feel the effects may also move on to stronger and more deadly drugs – such as Xanax or opioids – in order to achieve a high.

Some people enjoy  the Trazodone high because it makes them forget their current situation and detach from life. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) found that substance use disorders and mental disorders are co-related and usually go hand in hand. This can be especially important to consider when looking at the kinds of patients who take Trazodone. 

Trazodone High

Trazodone Side Effects

Even when taken for the appropriate reasons and at the prescribed dosage, Trazodone can have negative side effects. These include:

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Digestive problems
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry mouth or eyes
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Constipation
  • Nervousness or confusion
  • Weakness or fatigue

More severe side effects can include:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Seizures 
  • Labored breathing
  • Fainting

How Long Does Trazodone Stay In Your System?

Trazodone’s half-life is between five and nine hours. This means that it takes approximately this amount of time for the original ingested dosage to reduce to half of its size. Therefore, it takes approximately 42 hours before the drug completely leaves your system. This does not mean the effects will last 42 hours.  Nor does it mean that all traces of the drug will be gone. However, Trazodone drug testing is very uncommon.

Trazodone High

Overdose

Trazodone overdose, while not common, is still very possible. Most overdoses occur when individuals simply take too much, thinking that a higher dose will help alleviate their depressed thoughts or anxiety. It can also be dangerous in combination with other central nervous system depressants, such as alcohol. CNS depressants can enhance the drug’s effects and lead to overdose by slowing critical brain and organ functions, such as breathing. 

A lethal dose is unlikely, but not impossible. One medical case study found that fatal arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) can occur during a Trazodone overdose. Therefore, always call emergency medical services if you or someone you know shows overdose symptoms.

Treatment for Trazodone Addiction

Substance use disorders and mental health problems often go hand in hand. This is especially true for Trazodone, since it is prescribed to individuals with depression or anxiety. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, seek professional treatment. A professional will be able to help diagnose the root cause rather than just treating the symptoms. Contact us today for help on your path to recovery.

ETOH Abuse

ETOH is the chemical abbreviation for ethyl alcohol, and is usually synonymous with alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the world. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 86.3% of Americans over the age of 18 have reported consuming alcohol at some point in their life. A further 26.45% of Americans engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Given the popularity of alcohol, it is not surprising how prevalent ETOH abuse is.

What is ETOH?

ETOH, or ethanol, is the main substance found in alcohol. ETOH is responsible for any alcoholic beverage’s intoxicating effects. Ethanol is able to move through your body quickly. It passes through your bloodstream and heart, eventually reaching the brain where it begins to depress the central nervous system. Here, the feel-good chemical dopamine is released and begins to attach to nerve receptors. This is one of the reasons that alcohol can be so addictive. Your body craves things that make you feel good in order to get you to repeat certain behaviors. Dopamine is released during activities such as eating, sex, or taking certain drugs.

The brain slows down when ethanol binds to glutamate, a neurotransmitter responsible for exciting neurons. By binding to the glutamate, it can no longer become active and therefore slows brain function down. Ethanol also activates the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which in turn makes you feel sleepy and calm. 

Some of the most common types of alcoholic beverages include beer, wine, and spirits. The “proof” is the standard for measuring a drink’s strenth. The United States’ preferred measuring system, the proof is double the alcohol by volume (ABV) in a drink. Whiskey, for example, is 50% alcohol by volume, and therefore 100 proof. Some beverages have such a high alcohol content (such as Everclear, which is 95% ABV, or 190 proof) that certain states restrict them.

ETOH Abuse

Why does alcohol make you drunk?

Your liver is primarily responsible for breaking down the ethanol alcohol as it enters the body. However, most livers can only process so much alcohol at a time (around one ounce of liquor per hour). Once it reaches a certain point, the liver cannot process any more alcohol. The alcohol then proceeds into the bloodstream, where it creates an intoxicating effect.

While proof or ABV plays a big role intoxication levels, many other factors can make a difference. These include age, gender, body composition, and drinking history. For example, a person with a low body fat percentage will feel alcohol’s effects more quickly than someone with more body fat. Additionally, an individual with a longer history of drinking can develop a “tolerance.” This means they will feel less than someone who has never had a drink before.

ETOH Abuse

 ETOH abuse

Long-term ETOH abuse can cause severe damage to your organs and take a toll on the body and mind. Some long-term effects of ETOH abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Brain damage
  • Liver failure/disease 
  • Pancreatitis 
  • Hypertension
  • Increased risk for cancer

Another component of alcohol abuse is the increased likelihood of engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior. In the U.S. alone, drunk drivers cause approximately 1 in 3 car accidents in the United States. (These collisions kill 30 people every day.) While moderate drinking is usually safe, binge drinking or long-term dependent drinking can increase your chances of death.

How long does alcohol stay in your system?

ETOH Abuse

Age, gender and body composition all help determine how long alcohol’s effects will last. It can usually be detected in the body for some time after the effects wear off.

Treatment

Another component of alcohol abuse is mental health. Most alcohol treatment groups and centers spend a great deal of time treating mental health issues. Mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety are often a major reason why people start drinking. While the problem is difficult, it is not impossible to overcome. As with many addictions, seeking professional help gives you the best chance of reaching lifetime recovery. Instead of just managing substance abuse symptoms, an addiction specialist will try to diagnose and treat the root cause. It is also important to have close circles of support, such as AA groups, to encourage sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, please contact us today.

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

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

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

Trauma and Recovery

Trauma is often a significant part of life for many people dealing with addiction. This may have occurred before and separate from their addiction, but also may occur during addiction. When trauma precedes addiction, people often begin to abuse substances to numb pain and cope with difficult memories. Treatment after trauma can feel invasive and it is possible to cause harm even with good intentions. Medical professionals or caregivers should be mindful that trauma can possibly be a part of the patient’s history. From an article by Massachusetts General Hospital, Liz Speakman explained, “Good care is approaching every patient with the assumption that at some point in their lives they may have experienced trauma and tailoring their care based on that knowledge.”*

As the patient and professionals work to address trauma, it should be done in a caring and sensitive way. Some patients may need treatment with their traumatic history in mind, but they are not ready to address it head on. If the treatment team addresses trauma without consideration for the patient, they risk re-traumatizing the patient. Some patients will be able to engage in therapy that directly addresses trauma. Others will need the same thorough care and treatment, keeping trauma in mind, but not as direct. For any patient dealing with trauma, treatment should be laid out clearly and each step completely understood. Counselors and caregivers will work with each patient to assess where they are and how best to deal with trauma.

Trauma and Addiction

Trauma can occur in any person’s life and can come from a number of situations. Some people develop trauma from something that happens on a massive scale. Others develop trauma from situations that occur in their personal life and possibly something they go through alone. Each person’s experience is valid and deserves to be properly treated. In a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), they cited previous studies that showed people increased substance use or relapsed after significantly traumatic events.* Moreover, many people also develop substance abuse disorders as a way to cope with emotions they do not feel they can handle.* Not everyone will develop addiction from trauma, but it is very common. If you or a loved one are dealing with this type of situation, there is no shame in seeking help.

From a study done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 1998, they found, “As many as two-thirds of all people in treatment for drug abuse report that they were physically, sexually, or emotionally abused during childhood, research shows.”* While the study is from 1998, the information is still relevant. Addiction is not inevitable after trauma, however past trauma can be a factor in turning to substance abuse to cope with the pain. Still, with these numbers it is important for caretakers to keep the possibility of trauma in mind.

Trauma Therapy

Two types of trauma therapy that Reflections engages in are Exposure Therapy and EMDR Therapy. With Exposure Therapy, the client is carefully exposed to memories and emotions from the trauma. This is helpful in moving on from trauma. With EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), the client does not talk but rather follows hand motions of their therapist. They will work with clients to work through trauma and reprocess it in a way that it will allow the clients to move forward. For both types of therapy, it is important that the client feels safe and in control. If they need to stop or slow the process, they should know they can do that. Both therapies obviously require a qualified professional, which you will find at Reflections.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is another form of therapy that can help with trauma counseling. With CBT, you work to identify and challenge harmful thoughts that you may have because of trauma. CBT helps to change behavior through managing negative thoughts and developing anxiety management techniques. Trauma can clearly leave someone with severe anxiety and depression. This can lead to thoughts that hold you back and you may be more susceptible to relapse. A qualified team of therapists at Reflections will help clients engage in CBT as necessary. CBT is not exclusive to trauma, but it can help those who need it for traumatic experiences.

Patient Focused Care

When the treatment team is working with clients, they do not need to push to find out more about the trauma. If the client is able to address it directly, then they can do so through therapy. However, what is most important is that the client should feel comfortable and in control. As stated above, EMDR is a great therapy to engage in without having to discuss trauma. With trauma-informed care, therapists will work with the clients with the assumption of a traumatic history. This means that our therapists and treatment team will work with sensitivity and care. Any treatment is clearly spelled out for clients and done with their consent. Our hope is that any clients dealing with trauma in recovery will feel safe and empowered. If we can help clients work through trauma, our goal is that they also learn helpful behaviors to prevent relapse.

Finally, there is no shame in seeking help for trauma. Every person deserves support and care in a safe environment. Anyone who has lived through trauma is resilient even just making it to the point where they are at. Addiction does not change or take away from that resiliency. It is possible to overcome trauma and addiction. If you or your loved one needs help, contact us today.

*Resources:
Massachusetts General Hospital – Understanding trauma-informed care
NIH – Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services
National Institute on Drug Abuse – Exploring the Role of Child Abuse in Later Drug Abuse