Tag Archives: Addiction

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

Movies about Addiction

Movies about Addiction and Alcoholism

Some good news is that alcohol consumption is down in the United States, a trend for the past few years.* However, while it is going down, there are still many people who struggle with abuse and addiction. Because alcohol is a widely accepted substance, it’s difficult to know it’s a problem. Further, it is also legal and for many it could never be something as bad as illegal substances. Movies about addiction are not incredibly common, nor are they seen as frequently as other movies.

Media plays a big part in our culture; the way alcohol is presented in media is incredibly important. Our consumption of media has significant influence on how we live and what we perceive to be okay. 
Portrayals of alcohol in television and film is a common occurrence. Frequently, alcohol in film depicts people having a fun time. Many movies, like The Hangover, are about a wild night fueled by alcohol and other substances. There may be some consequences shown, but generally the films are about the humorous effects of drinking too much. While of course not all consumption of alcohol is going to end in disaster, these films give the impression that the negative aspects of binge-drinking and abuse are outweighed by the good. Movies about alcohol addiction are just as important to show what can happen with alcohol abuse and addiction.

The Spectacular Now (2013)

For many young people, and even their families, the possibility of having a serious problem with alcohol seems far-fetched. After all, they’re young and being irresponsible is a part of growing up. While many underage people are exposed to alcohol and are able to eventually drink responsibly, many people also begin to develop alcohol abuse and addiction at an early age. In The Spectacular Now, Sutter is an 18-year-old who is popular and has a seemingly happy life. He’s constantly drinking, and driving as well, but sees this as a normal part of being a teenager. Others around him are drinking though not as heavily and constantly, but he fails to see any difference.

Sutter always idolized his father, despite him being absent. When they reconnect, it’s quickly apparent that his father is an alcoholic. Sutter realizes his father is mostly to blame for his parent’s divorce and for being absent from his life. Despite this, he doesn’t recognize how alcohol is similarly ruining his own life. Sutter’s abuse of alcohol leads him to fail his senior year of high school, quit his job because he cannot remain sober, and ruin romantic relationships.

He does eventually begin to see that he is using alcohol to mask his fear of failure and of an uncertain future. The Spectacular Now is a great film for anyone, but especially for young people and families to watch. It depicts how teen drinking is often normalized making it difficult to recognize it as a problem, but also how it can ruin a life even if the person is young.

Smashed (2012)

In Smashed, Kate is an elementary school teacher in her 20s. Throughout the film, we see her struggling with how alcohol is affecting her life through work and relationships. In the beginning, she drinks all night and then continues to drink in the morning before she goes to work. She throws up in front of the kids she teaches, which she covers by saying she is pregnant. This is followed by a series of embarrassing situations which prompt her to accept her coworker’s invitation to attend AA. In trying to justify her drinking, she says, “I’ve always drank a lot. Everyone I know drinks a lot. So I never really thought it was a problem.” Her husband is an alcoholic, her mother is, and her father was until he left her mother after getting sober.

When Kate is sober for the first time, she begins to have problems with those around her. Her mother thinks AA is evil and what ruined her marriage. Kate’s husband also begins to resent her for attending AA, saying she is brainwashed because of it. She wants to take responsibility for her actions, including at work which causes her to lose her job. Kate does relapse before celebrating a year of sobriety at the end of the movie. She reflects on sobriety, noting that she lost her job and her marriage fell apart while sober, something she didn’t expect. Smashed presents a real, and touching, look at addiction and how alcohol can ruin one’s life through relationships and work. It shows that sobriety is a constant journey which can be difficult, and that relapse is a part of that.

Why Movies about Addiction are Important

Media influences us. Movies are frequently, though not always, a reflection of our culture, values, and what is important to us. We absorb their messages, whether consciously or unconsciously, and take them with us throughout our lives. It’s not impossible for every person to responsibly consume alcohol, but it is difficult and for some people it may be impossible. A New York Times article cites a study from the University of Dayton, which showed that 20% to 25% of students changed their opinions on political issues after watching films about the government.* The decision to change one’s mind or how we understand issues after a movie might not always be so clear-cut. Movies about alcohol addiction make a difference.

The two movies listed above are important in the way they show how alcohol can negatively affect us. They show how difficult it is to recognize the problem in the first place, and how hard it is to get help especially when those around you make it harder. In Smashed, in particular, many of Kate’s family and friends have the same destructive habits and enable her behavior. Both films do a wonderful job of showing that our entire life, and environment, influence us. They’re well-made films for anyone, but they can also be a great choice for anyone looking for something that reflects their own experiences or their loved one’s experiences. Neither film shames or stigmatizes the characters or their addiction, but rather seeks to understand them and their journey. Something that is incredibly important when it comes to movies about addiction. If you or a loved one needs help with alcohol addiction, please reach out to us today.

*Resources:
Americans are Drinking Less Alcohol – Wall Street Journal
How Movies Can Change Our Minds – The New York Times

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


Substance Use in Media

Media and Addiction

With the rise of technology and media, it may or may not be obvious to say media has a significant impact on our lives. Advertising has been around for a long time and has changed rapidly in recent years. Companies and individuals seek to impact our lives through movies, music, radio, television, magazines, and so much more. As much of this has happened rapidly, society has struggled to recognize problems that have come up and how to deal with them. Substance abuse and addiction are complex topics and the way the media portrays them is equally complex. In our society, there is a conversation around how much companies and individuals in the media are responsible for the content they present.

In the U.S., media plays a massive part of most people’s lives in some ways. From the Pew Research Center, at least 69% of Americans use social media in some way.* From a government census, 78% of American households have a laptop or computer desktop.* In regard to television, Nielsen estimates that there are 119.6 million TV homes for the 2017-2018 season.* Clearly, media will reach most people one way or another. Looking into the various forms of media and understanding how they might influence addiction can be essential for many people. If you or a loved one is dealing with addiction, it can help to know how the media might play a part. It is even helpful to take a deeper look, to see how media can influence your or a loved one’s understanding of when substance use turns to abuse and addiction.

Drugs and Alcohol in Television and Film

The way people watch television is rapidly changing, but television consumption overall is still a major part of American life. Alcohol and drug use are common depictions, in varying situations. Any portrayal of substance use and addiction is not itself a bad thing. They are realistic parts of life; always avoiding taboo subjects and pretending they do not exist causes more harm in the long run. In fact, the stigma around drug and alcohol use often hinders people from seeking help. A common discussion in society is what portrayal is needed versus what is glorifying substance abuse? An important factor is the age group of target audiences, or who has access to content regardless of who the target group is.

With commercials, advertising for alcohol is incredibly successful and influences people of all ages. Commercials for alcohol do not necessarily glorify substance abuse or addiction, but they do present alcohol use as an avenue to a happier life. While they come with a warning to drink responsibly, the primary focus is the fun that alcohol provides. Groups of people are at a club, a party, a beach, or any number of pleasant scenarios.

Alcohol and drug use are frequent topics in television. They can influence people of all ages, but might make a more significant impact on younger people who are more easily influenced. The Council on Communications and Media wrote, “On prime-time television, 70% of programs depict alcohol use. More than one-third of the drinking scenes are humorous, and negative consequences are shown in only 23%.”* They also found, “Drug scenes are more common in movies…and no harmful consequences are shown more than half the time.”* This kind of message presents substance use as harmless or even humorous.

Social Media and Substance Use

While technology has been around for a while, social media is a more recent creation. It’s quickly become something that an astounding number of people in the U.S., and around the world, use. With the rapid creation and use of various social media platforms, societies have struggled to manage issues that arise. A lot of studies regarding the effects of social media are new and they will naturally continue for as long as we use it. What we do know currently, is that social media can be highly influential and misleading.

Social media can present use of substances in an appealing light, with little regard to the consequences. There are many popular accounts on Instagram that share funny text messages regarding substance use. People use illicit drugs or drink to the point where they are blackout drunk, which is then shared via text. Despite engaging in reckless behavior they hardly remember, the events are seen in a humorous light. Teens could be more susceptible to this, but anyone might view substance use as less risky as a result. In a study done by multiple Ivy League schools, the authors found, “When social media users are frequently and repeatedly exposed to or engage in such substance-promoting communications, they may become more accepting of or immune to these risky behaviors.”* Furthermore, this type of content makes it hard for someone to recognize if they already have a problem.

How Media Impacts Us

Much of media including film, TV shows, commercials, and social media is a recent phenomenon as far as history is concerned. When we study how they affect substance use, abuse, and addiction, we are only beginning to gain an understanding of these topics. Not all substance use has to necessarily be a bad thing. The purpose of prescription drugs is to help people. Truly responsible consumption of alcohol could be possible, but is difficult to actually maintain.

The point of the information above is not to be a scaremonger. Rather, to help others understand the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in media and how to navigate that. It’s helpful to understand if you have teenagers in your life. It’s also good to be wary of how the media might influence your own perception of the risk of substance use. Someone could have a drug or alcohol problem, but validation from media makes that hard to recognize or accept.

It will not be easy to figure out solutions to resolving these problems. Losing any reference to alcohol or drugs is certainly not the solution. They’re realistic parts of life. Hiding that will cause people to hide it from others, making help unlikely or impossible. Just like the accounts on Instagram, there should be resources to provide help provide education on substance abuse and addiction. Having these discussions is also essential so people are aware of how the media influences us and what to look out for.

*Resources:
Social Media Fact Sheet – Pew Research Center
Computer and Internet Use in the United States – Census.gov
Nielsen Estimates 119.6 Million TV Homes – Nielsen
Children, Adolescents, Substance Abuse, and the Media – The Council on Communication and Media
Scaling Up Research on Drug Abuse and Addiction Through Social Media Big Data – NIH

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

Dual Diagnosis & Co-occurring Disorders with Residential Treatment

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) defines Dual Diagnosis as, “…when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance use disorder simultaneously. Either disorder-substance use or mental illness-can develop first.”* Dual Diagnosis Residential Treatment Centers may not be the easiest to find, but they are incredibly important. Clients need doctors that can properly address both psychiatric disorders and substance use disorders.

Co-Occurring Disorders in Men

Addiction and mental illness can clearly create a vicious cycle. To properly address it there needs to be a clear diagnosis of addiction and mental illnesses. Not every person struggling with addiction will face a mental illness and their path will be a little different, though no less thorough. The people that do face addiction and mental illness though will need specialized care to properly address both issues. In a 2017 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it was reported that 8.5 million adults, or 3.4 percent of adults (18 or older) had co-occurring disorders in the prior year.*

Moreover, when it comes to seeking treatment, men rarely seek treatment for any disorder. If they seek treatment for addiction, they are less likely to seek treatment for mental illness due to shame and social stigma (NIH).* At Reflections, we are a men’s only rehab which we believe allows us to thoroughly treat the men we help. We work to be proactive in identifying and treating any mental illness with which our clients may be struggling. Our aim is for all of the men we treat to feel comfortable and to know that there is no shame in seeking help.

A Comprehensive Recovery – Dual Diagnosis Residential Treatment

For recovery to be comprehensive, it is important to treat a patient as a whole person. This means thoroughly going over their physical and mental health. We also will look at their history up to the point where they have entered rehab. Addiction is a complicated disease and treatment should be varied to thoroughly address all of the underlying causes. With dual diagnosis, the aim is to address the mental illness and drug addiction as separate but co-occurring disorders. The best plan for treatment is to integrate different forms of therapy. This will allow each issue to be addressed individually, but coordinated to adequately tie everything together. Treating only the mental health problems or only the addiction will not allow for a full recovery.

Our goal is to accurately and thoroughly understand each patient and how to best help them.

Behavioral Therapy to address Dual Diagnosis

At Reflections Recovery Center, clients will go through complete intake assessment within a few days of arriving. This will allow us to do physical and mental health evaluations. We will review medical history as well as family’s health history, if possible, to look for any patterns and to gain a thorough understanding of the patient. Each client with have a variety of therapies that they can engage in to best help their recovery.

Among the different types of therapy that we engage in, clients can participate in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). CBT works to help clients adjust their thoughts and attitude, leading to improved emotional stability. DBT is similar and helps clients learn to regulate emotions, tolerate pain in stressful situations, and maintain healthy relationships with other people. CBT and DBT both greatly help someone who is dealing with a dual diagnosis. Reflections also has a number of other relevant and beneficial therapies that our clients have the opportunity to engage in.

Nutrition and Biochemical Deficiencies

A physical evaluation will be essential to understanding what state the patient’s body is in. It is important to understand what nutrition the client is lacking or if they have any physical disorders. Nutrition plays a significant part in addiction. With regard to nutrition, part of what we are especially interested in is your cholesterol and vitamin D. Sleep is essential for any person and is absolutely necessary when in recovery. Cholesterol helps the brain to function and that can help manage feelings of impulsivity. When your brain is functioning better, sleep should be easier to get back to normal. Furthermore, lack of vitamin D can potentially lead to bone demineralization, myopathy and immune system problems. These in turn can lead to other symptoms like pain and fatigue, which begin to disrupt your sleep.

Addiction deprives the body of nutrients and your body will let you know that it is struggling. When our doctors know how the patient’s body is deprived, this allows us to begin the process of healing. When your physical and mental health are in a better place, you will have gained important tools in your fight against relapse. We will of course look into much more than cholesterol and vitamin D. Those are just a few examples of how important seemingly small parts of our health can greatly impact our lives. When you are working to treat an entire person, you need to look at the details that are often overlooked.

Dual Diagnosis Residential Treatment Centers

The truth is, a dual diagnosis is not something that is easy to treat. However, a dedicated medical professional works to find the root causes of the disorders and properly treat them. If you or a loved one is possibly dealing with a co-occurring disorder, then you need an experienced and licensed dual diagnosis residential treatment center. We have a qualified medical team that can treat psychological issues and substance use disorders. Our goal is to accurately and thoroughly understand each patient and how to best help them. We aim to help each patient develop the skills and knowledge to maintain sobriety wherever they go. Contact us today to find out more!

*Resources:
Dual Diagnosis – NAMI
National Survey on Drug Use and Health – SAMHSA
Men with Co-Occurring Disorders – NIH