Tag Archives: Substance Abuse

Tired of Life

For many of us, stress and anxiety are part of life.  However, you should never ignore or brush them off. If left alone, these “everyday” feelings can develop into depression or a sense of dread and general exhaustion. Over time, mental health disorders can make you more susceptible to drug use, or even worsen addiction symptoms. Feeling tired of life is something to take seriously. However, this condition is far from hopeless. There are many effective, proven routes toward regaining your mental health, sobriety, and overall happiness. 

What is Depression?

Depression is a very misunderstood condition. Oftentimes, people associate depression with general feelings of sadness. They may also assume a depressed person should just be able to “snap out of it.” While everyone experiences sadness in life, clinical depression is a very different issue. 

Clinical depression (or major depression) is a disorder characterized by persistent depressive moods and behavior. Someone dealing with depression may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and distance from friends and family. The disorder can also contribute to substance abuse problems. Depression can seriously affect sleep, appetite, energy levels, and day-to-day activities. Some people with high functioning depression can hide their sadness and loss of interest in life from those around them. However, this doesn’t mean their condition is any less serious or worthy of attention.

What Does it Mean to be Tired of Life?

Depression and existential dread often go hand in hand. In other words, life can begin to feel unenjoyable or even meaningless. When people say that they are tired of life, they generally mean they are tired of the routine they have fallen into and their lives lack excitement. However, feelings like this can turn into major depression. They can also factor into relapse for people with a substance abuse history.

Tired of Life

Addiction and Mental Health

Addiction and mental health are two very closely related issues. They can feed off each other, and one can cause or contribute to the other. In the medical world, examining both issues from a causation standpoint is known as Dual Diagnosis. Research showed that 60 percent of adolescents with a substance use disorder (SUD) also have some form of mental illness. 

So why are the two so connected? The U.S Library of Medicine found three possible answers to this question:

  1. There may be common risk factors between SUD and mental illness such as genetics or trauma. 
  2. Mental disorders can lead to SUD. For example, someone dealing with feelings of sadness or depression may choose to use drugs to artificially elevate their mood.
  3. SUD can lead to mental disorders. Drugs will change the chemistry in your brain to make it more susceptible to depression and other mental illnesses. Further, individuals who are abusing drugs may recognize their problem, but feel helpless in stopping it. This can seriously affect their emotional well-being. 

How do You Treat a Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis treatment is a holistic approach. Healthcare providers consider which condition started first and how it has impacted the other. For example, if a mental illness was already present when drug use started, it can be identified as the primary catalyst for the issue. Both issues must be addressed fully. Simply managing symptoms will not create a lasting solution. 

Integrated treatment is often the best option for someone with a dual diagnosis. It generally combines rehabilitation that can treat both drug abuse and mental health disorders. These steps will be different for each person. Professionals directly address someone’s individual problems and seek to treat the root cause or causes. 

Tired of Life

Treatment Types

Detoxification

The major first step in an integrated intervention is detoxing the body of any present substances. In a medically-supervised detox, this can involve giving the patient small doses of the drug over a certain period of days in order to taper them off and soften withdrawal symptoms. Going “cold turkey,” or quitting suddenly, often leads to incredibly painful withdrawals which can make sobriety seem impossible.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy revolves around cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This treatment type helps individuals identify negative thinking patterns in an effort to change those behaviors. 

Medications

The use of medications during an integrated intervention is carefully monitored so as to not create an additional dependency as a means of solving a previous one. However, medications can be genuinely helpful when treating mental health disorders.

Supportive Housing

Supportive housing, or a sober home, is a place where people with similar sobriety goals live together and hold each other accountable. They provide mutual support through their respective recovery journeys. Often, they attend meetings or other support groups together. 

Support Groups

Joining a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous is another step in the integrated intervention program. It allows patients to tell their stories and share their lives in a judgement-free zone. This is often an extremely beneficial outlet for people with mental health issues.

Tired of Life

Getting Help if You Feel Tired of Life

For someone struggling with mental health, substance abuse, or both, seeking professional treatment is the best route towards real, meaningful healing. If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction or depression symptoms, get help now. Contact us today so we can help you begin your journey to lifelong 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.

Prozac and Alcohol

Alcohol is one of the most widely misused drugs in the world. Given its high popularity and presence in modern culture, it is no surprise that some people experiment and mix alcohol with other drugs. Unfortunately, the dangers of mixing alcohol with other drugs will almost always cause a negative reaction. Prozac and alcohol is a common combination with many people not realizing the dangers.

What is Prozac?

Prozac (brand name fluoxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant. It is used to treat major depressive disorder, bulimia, nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic disorder. It is taken daily in pill or in liquid form and is typically taken for weeks at a time as a long-term treatment option. Fluoxetine works by binding to neurotransmitters in the brain and preventing the release of serotonin. By preventing the release of the chemical, it begins to build up in the brain which improves the transmission of neurons. Ultimately this causes a temporary elevation in mood and can cause euphoric effects. SSRIs are considered selective because they do not affect the release of any other neurotransmitters and are the most common type of antidepressants. Other types of SSRIs used to treat depression include Lexapro, Paxil and Celexa.

In 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that 17.3 million Americans reported dealing with at least one major depressive episode. Further, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that 1 in 5 US adults will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. With mental illness on the rise, it is not surprising to see an increasing number of people getting prescriptions for antidepressants such as Prozac. More access to antidepressants may encourage the mixed use with alcohol which can be dangerous.

prozac and alcohol - major depressive episode

Common side effects of Prozac are:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

How long does Prozac stay in your system?

Prozac is a long-term drug. Its main chemical, Fluoxetine has a half-life of around 2-4 days whereas its metabolite (norfluoxetine) has a half-life of 7-15 days. A half-life is the determination of how long it takes for a chemical to breakdown into half of its original strength. Therefore, it can take around 4 weeks to completely remove Prozac from the body. 


One main advantage of a longer half-life is that it covers individuals who miss a daily dose and prevents them from developing SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome.

What is Alcohol

Alcohol is a very common drug so naturally, most people know what it is. However, it can still be beneficial to understand what kind of effects it has on the body as it can inform you on how it will interact with a drug. What people most commonly refer to as alcohol is actually ethanol. It is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant which works to slow breathing, heart rate and cognitive function. Some believe that in low doses, alcohol works as a stimulant. This is because it can make people feel more relaxed or can take the edge off in social situations. However, this is not entirely true as those feelings of relaxation and calm are created by the depressive effects of the alcohol. How much the alcohol affects you really depends on various body composition factors such as how much you have eaten, body weight and drinking history. 

prozac and alcohol

Some common side effects of alcohol include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Distorted vision and hearing 
  • Impaired judgment 
  • Decreased perception and coordination 
  • Unconsciousness 

Mixing Prozac and Alcohol

The purpose of Prozac is to provide a calming effect and elevate mood. However, similarly to alcohol, Prozac can cause motor coordination and movement to worsen and can also affect alertness. The synergistic effects of mixing two drugs that affect movement and attention can cause an overall powerful depressive effect on your body’s nervous system. Further, the combination of the two can cause extreme drowsiness which can in turn lead to dangerous behavior. If you take Prozac and drink a light amount of alcohol- one you are usually comfortable driving with, you may not notice the overpowering effects until it is too late. The abuse of multiple drugs is polysubstance abuse.

prozac and alcohol

Effects of Mixing

An important tip to keep in mind is that alcohol tends to enhance the effects of any other drugs combined and vice versa. So in general, mixing alcohol with any sort of drug should always be avoided. Mixing Prozac and alcohol can also lead to suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. It is possible for alcohol to be a catalyst for depressive thoughts and feelings. Thus, drinking alcohol while dealing with symptoms of depression is not advised.

Even though Prozac should help reduce your symptoms of depression, the alcohol will likely be overpowering. One study even found that the “level of baseline alcohol consumption was significantly related to poorer response to Fluoxetine in a sample of depressed outpatients who did not abuse substances” and that alcohol use in general causes individuals to stop taking antidepressants for treatment.

It is also possible that the loss of effectiveness with Prozac can lead to less effective treatment with other drugs such as Lexapro.

Other side effects of mixing Prozac and Alcohol include:

  • Worsening depressive condition
  • The effectiveness of Prozac decreases
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased alertness
  • Increase risk of alcohol addition

You do not need to take Prozac and alcohol at the same time to feel their mixed effects. Prozac is a long-term medication. Its main chemical Fluoxetine and the other metabolites/chemicals will last in your body for some time. Subsequently, taking alcohol at any point during that period can cause a mixed reaction.

Treatment

Prozac is meant to help a number of conditions, and for many it does. However, it should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision. Mixing two substances can be very dangerous. Further, it can be made even worse if you are dealing with depression or alcohol abuse. If you or a loved one is dealing with depression or drug abuse, please contact us today.

Kratom and Alcohol

Kratom is a plant native to Southeast Asia. It is typically used for recreational purposes and has slowly made its way into the US market. Its leaves contain chemicals which produce a psychotropic (mind-altering) effect when ingested. While there is a lack of any known medical properties, there is currently no federal widespread ban on the drug. In fact, it is pretty easy to buy online in various forms. While it is not illegal in most states, that does not mean it can not be deadly or harmful. As many people consume alcohol, they will possibly mix Kratom and alcohol without realizing the potential risks.

Kratom 101

Kratom is the name given to the Mitragyna speciosa species of trees. It goes by several other names such as Biak, Ketum, Kakuam or Thom. In its native regions, Kratom is used as a painkiller and stomach medicine but has no legitimate medical use. It is typically found online in its powdered or capsule form, but the leaves can be eaten raw or crushed. 


The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drugs in the US under several schedules. A schedule 1 drug for example is considered to have a very high risk for abuse and has no accepted medical purposes. Drugs such as marijuana and heroin are considered schedule 1 drugs. The DEA however has not scheduled Kratom under any of its classifications. Still, the DEA has listed Kratom as a ‘Drug of Concern.’ There is a push to make the drug illegal in the U.S. and in fact, 7 states have so far made it illegal to possess or use.


In 2016, the DEA announced that it was going to place Kratom under a schedule 1 classification. However, later in the year, the agency withdrew their notice of intent and began “soliciting comments from the public regarding the scheduling of mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine under the Controlled Substances Act”. There have been no significant updates since then.

kratom and alcohol

Kratom Side Effects

Kratom effects on the body can be unpredictable. In low doses, the drug acts as a stimulant, causing users to feel an increase in energy and alertness, but can also have sedative-like effects when taken in high enough doses. The two main compounds in the leaves, mitragynine and 7-a-hydroxymitragynine, bind to the opioid receptors in the brain which can cause sedation, a euphoric high and pain killing effects. 

Kratom presents similar properties as some opioids. One of the cases for making Kratom a controlled substance rather than outright banning it is because some believe it can be used to treat opioid addiction. While there still needs to be more clinical trials to prove this, there is a push to keep it legal in the U.S.

Significant research is still necessary on Kratom, and it is difficult to say with certainty what effects Kratom will have on users. In general, users can expect to experience:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Drowsiness
  • Cough suppression
  • Pain reduction
  • Psychosis
  • Weight loss

While not all of these effects are necessarily negative, some negative short-term effects include:

  • Tremors
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation 
kratom side effects

Mixing Kratom and Alcohol

It is difficult to predict what the effects of mixing kratom and alcohol might be. Generally, mixing alcohol with anything is inherently dangerous. Mixing two or more drugs (also known as polysubstance abuse) will generally cause the effects of the one drug to enhance the effects of each other, in particular the negative effects. Kratom can present sedative or stimulant properties while alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.

Given that Kratom can enhance the effects of alcohol, mixing the two drugs can cause the depressive effects of alcohol to be enhanced and as a result lead to alcohol poisoning or death. According to the National Poison Data System, between 2011-2017 there were 11 deaths associated with Kratom use. Nine of those deaths involved other drugs such as alcohol, fentanyl, cocaine, benzodiazepines and even caffeine.

Additionally, substance use often lowers inhibitions and causes impaired judgement. The more substances are added, the more at risk someone might be for potentially serious consequences.

kratom and alcohol

Is Kratom Addictive?

There are two different types of addiction: chemical and psychological dependence. Given the similar effects to opioid drugs, it is very possible for an individual to become addicted to Kratom. It is still yet to be seen how severe Kratom addictions can be, as there lacks any clinical trials or an abundance of data to draw a conclusion from. Some users have reported becoming addicted to Kratom and have even experience Kratom withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Muscle aches
  • Irritability
  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Emotional changes
  • Involuntary movements
  • Runny nose
  • Insomnia

You can also develop a tolerance to Kratom, where you will need to take more of the drug to feel the same effects.

How long does kratom stay in your system?

There are currently no specific drug tests to detect the presence of Kratom in the body, most likely due to the obscurity of the drug. However, like most other substances, the duration of the chemical traces in your body will depend on the following factors:

  • Frequency of use
  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Body fat
  • Metabolic rate

There is no known half-life for Kratom but one the primary alkaloids found in Kratom, mitragynine, has a half-life of around 24 hours. Essentially, it would take a person a full day to remove 50% of the alkaloid and the alkaloid can be detected in some drug tests. 

kratom and alcohol

Treatment

With the lack of research on Kratom, it may be easy to believe that the drug cannot be dangerous. Its lack of popularity is not due to medical acceptance as the drug can still be very dangerous when misused. Alcohol is legal and widely used, but also presents serious risk of misuse, abuse and addiction. More research is necessary on Kratom and alcohol, but it is better not to mix at all. Staying informed on the dangers can help keep you safe against abuse, addiction, or overdosing. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, please do not hesitate to contact us

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

Adderall and Cocaine Cocktail Mixing – Drug Pairings


Adderall and cocaine

Mixing drugs is an unfortunately common occurrence in the United States, but many people mistakenly believe some drugs to be less dangerous than others are. The reality is that most drugs have the potential to cause serious and even life-threatening medical complications under the right circumstances. Mixing something like adderall and cocaine can have life threatening consequences.

Similarly, mixing drugs – even prescription drugs – with certain other substances has the potential to cause devastating results.

Why Is Mixing Drugs Dangerous? Can mixing Adderall and cocaine be dangerous?

When a doctor issues a prescription for a certain type of medication, he or she must check the patient’s medical records and known drug history to identify any potentially dangerous allergies or interactions. Doctors also provide prescriptions under the assumption that patients will follow the instructions for proper use to the letter.

Unfortunately, some patients may misunderstand a doctor’s instructions or may believe that mixing a prescription drug with another substance won’t be harmful.

Risks of Adderall Abuse

Adderall is most commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Unfortunately, Adderall abuse has become one of the leading types of prescription drug abuse in the U.S.

When used correctly for a qualifying condition, Adderall can help manage the symptoms of ADHD and improve:

  • Focus
  • Attention span
  • Short-term memory
  • Motivation

However, Adderall also carries a high potential for abuse, due to the fact it is a very powerful stimulant.

Adderall’s side effects can include several negative symptoms when abused or misused. A person who starts to take Adderall beyond the scope of their prescription may experience long-lasting bursts of energy followed by crashing.

It’s also possible for Adderall to interfere with sleep cycles. This amphetamine drug can also cause paranoia, aggression, mood swings, rapid heart rate and a host of other symptoms. When an individual combines Adderall with other drugs, the risk of adverse side effects dramatically increases, and the effects will differ based on the other substance used.

Adderall and Heroin Abuse

If a person who has a prescription for Adderall starts abusing heroin, there are many possible consequences. On the street, “speedball” is a common term for a combination of an “upper” like Adderall and a “downer” like heroin.

Some people mistakenly believe that a speedball offers the benefits of both drugs while canceling out the negative effects, but this is not the case. Adderall mixed with heroin simply increases the chances of suffering the adverse effects of both drugs at the same time.

Learn the Symptoms of Heroin Abuse

Adderall and Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine abuse isn’t as widespread as it was in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s, but it is still a problem for countless Americans. Combined Adderall and cocaine effects can include:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Extreme spurts of energy and alertness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Trouble breathing

Both of these substances are powerful stimulants. Taking both together greatly increases the risk of heart attack and brain damage.

Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Similar to the thinking behind a speedball, many people combine Adderall with alcohol in an attempt to experience the benefits of both without the negative side effects. A person may drink to calm down from the burst of energy that Adderall offers, or may use Adderall to wake up from the sleepiness that alcohol intoxication can cause.

Unfortunately, the effects of Adderall can make it harder for the person to feel the effects of alcohol, encouraging him or her to drink more alcohol than he or she normally would; this increases the risk of alcohol poisoning. Heavy consumption of adderall and alcohol also lowers one’s ability to recognize signs of overdose and other serious health issues. Additionally, long-term patterns of combining Adderall and alcohol can lead to heart failure and other cardiac conditions.

Adderall and Xanax Abuse

Xanax is a benzodiazepine medication that can treat the symptoms of anxiety disorders. It can produce feelings of calmness and relaxation, the polar opposite of what Adderall causes. Both Adderall and Xanax are widely prescribed drugs and meant to be used under medical supervision, but both are widely abused.

While there are no immediate dangers of taking both together, doing so can greatly increase the risk of developing an addiction to either or both substances. Adderall and Xanax both carry a significant risk for addiction. Taking Adderall and Xanax at the same time can be incredibly risky for that reason alone. Since these medications effectively counteract each other’s effects, a person who takes both may feel diminished effects of both, eventually encouraging him or her to take more of either than necessary.

Adderall and Marijuana Use

Marijuana’s legal status is a hot topic of public discussion, as many states have legalized medical marijuana, and a few have even decriminalized recreational pot. No matter how a person obtains marijuana, it’s important to know the risks of combining it with Adderall.

Combining marijuana and Adderall has the potential to increase the user’s risk of heart failure. Additionally, these two substances counteract one another and may encourage the user to ingest more than necessary, which can speed up the development of Adderall addiction.

Methadone and Adderall Use

Methadone is a common prescription for opioid addiction. This synthetic opioid medication can help a person transition away from harder opioids like heroin or prescription painkillers. But, methadone also carries the potential for abuse on its own.

When combined with Adderall, the stimulant can actually mask the signs of methadone overdose, potentially putting the individual’s life at risk.

Methadone abuse can lead to respiratory depression, coma, heart failure and a host of other complications. Adderall can effectively keep a person alert and moving through the early stages of an overdose. Meanwhile, others nearby may not recognize the danger before it is too late.

Adderall and Methamphetamine Abuse

Methamphetamine (or simply “meth”) is a very powerful synthetic stimulant capable of severe side effects on its own. Adderall and meth together become a very powerful surge of stimulants that can have devastating consequences.

Meth on its own can cause:

  • Delirium
  • Aggression
  • Heightened energy
  • Personality changes
  • Severe brain damage

Combining meth with another stimulant like Adderall, especially over repeated episodes, is something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

Risk of Overdosing on Drug Cocktails

Most forms of substance abuse carry a risk of overdose, and it’s essential to acknowledge the risk of overdosing that Adderall presents on its own. Some patients who take Adderall may start using the drug in different ways for more pronounced effects. For example, snorting Adderall and cocaine produces the desired effects much more quickly, but it also dramatically increases the risk of overdose.

Adderall Overdose on Its Own

An Adderall overdose is possible, even without other substances. Too much of the drug in a short time or a concentrated dose can cause tremors throughout the body, irregular heartbeat, difficulty breathing and several other adverse effects – including episodes of mania or even psychosis. Many people engage in snorting adderall as a means to feel stronger effects more quickly, but this can also increase the damage done.

Most people who combine Adderall with other drugs do so to either counteract or enhance the effects of Adderall, and some take Adderall to counteract or enhance the effects of other drugs.

Some people who experience illicit drug withdrawal may start taking Adderall for its stimulating properties. They may feel relief from the symptoms of withdrawing from other drugs, but this relief is short lived and creates more problems. Mixing adderall and other substances can also heighten the negative aspects of substances increasing risk of overdose.

For example, opioid withdrawal can cause extreme fatigue and depression, and a dose of Adderall may temporarily relieve these symptoms, thanks to this amphetamine’s stimulating properties. Eventually, this type of use will lead to Adderall abuse and make an already bad situation worse.

In severe cases of adderall overdose, symptoms might include:

  • hallucinations
  • panic
  • fever of 106°F (41.5°C) or higher
  • heart attack

Getting Help for Adderall Cocktail Mixing and Abuse

An overdose can lead to respiratory failure, coma or death in a very short time without medical intervention. When an individual abuses Adderall with another illicit drug, these interactions can produce extreme results very quickly.

It’s essential to acknowledge the risks of Adderall abuse, Adderall overdose, and how it can interact with other drugs – licit or illicit. A person who takes Adderall with a prescription may assume that it is safe simply because a doctor prescribed it, but this is only true when the patient takes it exactly as intended and directed.

Additionally, individuals who take other prescriptions or who abuse illicit drugs cannot fall into the trap of believing that Adderall can cancel out the effects of those other substances. If you know someone who has been using Adderall in a dangerous way, like mixing alcohol and Adderall or Adderall and cocaine for example, reach out to Reflections Recovery Center for guidance on how you can help stop their drug abuse.

Learn More About Prescription Drug Abuse

References:

https://medlineplus.gov/methamphetamine.html
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/methamphetamine
https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/drug-policy/methamphetamine-crystal-meth-drugs
https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/cbp-enforcement-statistics
https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/nsduh-ppt-09-2018.pdf
https://www.mayocliniclabs.com/test-info/drug-book/pod/DrugBook.pdf
https://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/04/25/meth-withdrawal-symptoms-timeline/
https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-63163/adderall-oral/details
https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/magazine/generation-adderall-addiction.html
https://www.livescience.com/41013-adderall.html
https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-we-need-medical-meth-cocaine

Substance Abuse Facts and Statistics: Differences Between Men and Women


Every individual who suffers from substance abuse has a different experience, but there are some general trends that apply to men and women that may help inform aspects of one’s treatment.

The best way to counteract substance abuse is with an individually tailored treatment plan, and this requires a careful examination of a patient’s past and the factors that influenced his or her addiction in the first place.

Substance Abuse Trends in Men

In general, men are more likely to abuse illicit drugs than women. However, there is a relatively equal chance for both men and women to develop substance use disorders.

Men and women also tend to display different preferences for the types of drugs they use. For example, marijuana consumption is more common among men than women, and women generally experience enhanced effects from stimulant use compared to men.

Marijuana

Among marijuana users, males have a higher tendency to have additional substance use disorders, as well as mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Men also generally experience a greater “high” from marijuana than women do, which can lead to patterns of abuse over time.

Heroin

Men are far more likely than women to inject heroin, and most women who inject heroin on a regular basis report social pressure and pressure from a romantic partner as their main motivations for injecting. Women who inject heroin typically take smaller doses than men to reach equivalent levels of addiction.

While studies also show that women are more likely to suffer a fatal overdose in the first few years of injecting heroin, this is likely due to their higher tendency to abuse prescription painkillers in addition to heroin. Women who do not fatally overdose in the first few years of heroin abuse are more likely to survive through recovery than men.

Substance Abuse Trends in Women

Laboratory studies suggest that hormonal differences between men and women may be the reason men and women experience drugs in different ways. The physiological differences between men and women lead to different experiences with illicit drugs, and substance abuse treatment professionals can use this information to develop individualized treatment plans.

For example, a woman who uses prescription opioids to self-medicate for depression would likely benefit from mental health counseling. But, she is statistically more likely to experience a relapse during recovery.

Prescription Painkillers

Some research indicates that women are more sensitive to physical pain than men and are more likely to experience chronic pain. This leads to a trend showing higher rates of prescription opioid abuse among women.

Women also have a greater tendency to take prescription painkillers for issues such as anxiety or depression. Additionally, studies suggest they appear to be more willing to take prescription painkillers that do not belong to them.

While women are more likely to abuse prescription opioids and more likely to relapse, men generally take larger doses and represent the lion’s share of overdose-related fatalities. In 2016, nearly 10,000 men and more than 7,000 women died from prescription opioid overdoses in the U.S.

Common Factors that Influence Substance Abuse

Many studies have shed light on the most common causes of drug addiction in men and women. Environmental factors, past trauma and co-occurring mental health conditions are some of the most prevalent driving forces behind addiction for both sexes.

Influential Addiction Factors for Men

Many of the factors that influence male substance abuse are external, such as work, life events, injuries or combat-related trauma. Men generally wait longer than women before seeking help with a personal problem or medical issue. And, men generally have higher physical tolerances for drugs than women do.

Essentially, this means men who abuse illicit drugs are more likely to do so at extreme levels than women in the same amount of time. Furthermore, men are more likely to develop long-term medical conditions resulting from drug addiction than women are.

Common Factors Influencing Drug Addiction in Women

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that women are more likely to experience domestic violence than men, and these incidents can lead to several health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, obesity and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since women are more likely than men to self-medicate for mental health issues like anxiety and depression, traumatic experiences are unfortunately a common gateway to drug addiction in women. Female substance abuse is more common among those who battle mental health conditions or who have been victims of violent or traumatic events in the past.

Suicidal Tendencies of Men and Women with Addictions

Substance Abuse Trends In Men - Reflections RehabStudies from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicate that the suicide rate among men is four times higher than among women. Men are not only more likely to attempt suicide, but they also tend to successfully complete a suicide attempt at a higher rate.

Furthermore, about 22 percent of suicide deaths in the U.S. involve alcohol, while opiates play a role in roughly 20 percent of suicides.

Suicide is the second-most common cause of death among people of ages 10 to 24. About 4 percent of American adults 18 and older report having suicidal thoughts each year. Also, about 1 million people attempt suicide in the U.S. each year.

As you may have deduced, drugs and alcohol play a major role in U.S. suicides and accidental deaths. Drug abuse also increases the likelihood of a suicide attempt succeeding.

For example, a heavily intoxicated man may be far more likely to turn a firearm on himself without taking time to think about this decision, whereas a sober person might stop and reconsider before pulling the trigger.

Benefits of Sex-Specific Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction, you may wonder why anyone would need sex-specific addiction counseling and treatment. There are many co-ed rehab programs available across the country, and some of them offer stellar services. However, it’s important to realize that the best way to approach substance abuse treatment is with an individualized plan.

Since men experience substance abuse differently than women, entering a sex-specific rehab program means that your treatment will focus on the issues and influential factors most likely to contribute to your pattern of addiction.

Men are generally more likely to use illicit drugs earlier in life than women. They are also more likely to use drugs to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder from military service or for recreational purposes. Men are also more likely to use drugs to increase productivity at work. On the other hand, women generally become addicted to drugs more quickly than men and are far more likely to self-medicate for mental health issues.

Substance abuse treatment largely centers on individual and group counseling, and co-ed treatment facilities can complicate this process. Residents of a sex-specific treatment facility won’t feel compelled to keep up appearances for the opposite sex, and they will be surrounded by like-minded individuals who share similar experiences.

Feeling comfortable with your rehab environment is a crucial component of a successful recovery, and both men and women generally report feeling more comfortable in sex-specific addiction treatment centers.

Get Our Free eBook on Sex-Specific Addiction Treatment

Teens Using Illegal Drugs Less, But Face Other Challenges (Depression, Bullying, etc.)


Today’s teens are very much different than the ones 10 years ago, who are very much different than the ones 10 years before that. To people older than 30, you probably don’t have to make much of an argument to get them to agree with that assessment.

But if you do need to, you can point to a few statistics to prove that the behaviors among America’s current high schoolers differ than those in generations before.

With all of the talk about opioids, “Molly” and head-scratching viral movements like the Tide pod challenge, you might be inclined to think today’s teens are experimenting more and using more drugs than ever before. Recent statistics, however, don’t support this theory. But, teens are increasingly facing other kinds of challenges, which we will explain in this article.

Teen Illegal Drug Use on the Decline

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) paints a pretty extensive picture of where teens stand with drug use, mental health issues and other lifestyle factors. The survey is conducted every two years, and the 2017 results were just released this summer. The latest survey drew from nearly 150,000 students all over the country who were in grades 9 through 12.

Here are some of the findings regarding illegal drug use among high school students:

  • 14 percent of students had ever used an illegal drug such as cocaine, inhalants, heroin, meth, hallucinogens or ecstasy.
    • This is down significantly from the 22.6 percent of high school students who responded the same way in 2007.
  • Only 1.5 percent of high school students said they had ever injected a legal drug.
    • This is down from 2.0 percent in 2007 and the recent high of 2.3 percent in 2011.

Prescription Opioid Use Among Teens Is Concerning

Despite illegal drug use being down across the board, the misuse of prescription opioids such as codeine, OxyContin and Vicodin was fairly high. The survey found 14 percent of high school students had misused prescription opioids, with more females responding positively than males.

This question hadn’t been asked in the survey before, so there’s no historical data to compare it to. The question was added to the most recent survey due to the country’s problems of late with opioids and heroin.

Adolescent and Teen Mental Health Issues Still Prominent

The most recent YRBS also had some revealing findings regarding teens’ mental health:

  • 31.5 percent of high school students reported persistent feeling of sadness or hopelessness within the past year, the highest mark in the last 10 years.
    • This number has been steadily on the rise since the 26.1 percent mark in 2009.
    • There was a big disparity among the two sexes in 2017: 41.1 percent of female students reported sadness/hopelessness feelings, compared to “just” 21.4 of male students.
  • 17.2 percent of students said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
    • This number was higher than the 14.5 percent who said the same in 2007, but is similar to the results from the 2013 and 2015 surveys.
    • Significantly more female students reported considering suicide than male students – 22.1 percent to 11.9 percent.
  • And how many actually attempted suicide? 7.4 percent of students said they had tried within the last year – 9.3 percent of female students, and 5.1 percent of male students.
    • This number was higher than the 2007 mark of 6.9 percent, but lower than the 2015 mark of 8.6 percent.

Teen Bullying Statistics

Nineteen percent of high school students said they had been bullied at school within the year prior to the 2017 survey; more than 22 percent of female students responded this way, compared to 15.6 percent of male students. The overall number was actually down slightly from the 19.9 percent mark in 2009. The number has stayed relatively the same over the last eight years.

Just under 15 percent of high school students said they had been the victim of electronic bullying within the last year; more than twice as many females said so than males did. The 2017 mark was down from 16.2 percent who responded the same way in 2011, the first year the survey asked this question.

Other Interesting Findings

The CDC survey also had some interesting findings about lifestyle factors among high school students:

  • Just under 40 percent said they had ever had sex, down from 54 percent in 1991 and 48 percent in 2007.
    • In fact, the number has been steadily declining since 47.4 percent of high school students responded positively to this question in 2011.
    • Just under 10 percent in 2017 reported having four or more lifetime sexual partners, a number which has also been steadily decreasing since 2011.
  • Only 53.8 percent of students reported using a condom during their last sexual intercourse, a number which has been steadily declining since the 61.5 percent mark in 2007.

The Takeaways

To boil all of these numbers down to a few memorable takeaways, here’s what we can conclude about today’s high schoolers:

  • They are using illegal drugs less and injecting less.
  • Prescription opioid misuse is a concern.
  • More students are experiencing depression-like thoughts and symptoms.
  • More students are considering suicide or have attempted suicide than the high schoolers from 10 years ago.
  • Bullying, whether online or at school, is still a concern, although not on the rise.
  • Hopelessness/sadness, suicidal thoughts and bullying are affecting female students much more than male students.
  • Teens are having less sex, but using condoms at a lower rate when doing so.

Getting a Teen Help for Drug Abuse and Mental Illness

Dual diagnosis treatment for drug or alcohol addiction and an accompanying mental health disorder is becoming increasingly important in our country. If you have a son who is at least 18 years old, Reflections Recovery Center can help if he’s struggling with drug abuse and a potential mental disorder – such as depression or anxiety.

There’s no shame in surrendering to the care of professionals for help in turning your loved one’s life around. Contact us today to learn more about our renowned Prescott, AZ inpatient treatment program.

Dual Diagnosis Resources

The Link Between Hunger Hormones, Substance Abuse and Addiction


When you start continually using a substance such as alcohol, opioids or cocaine, your body not only builds up a tolerance, but it eventually starts to develop cravings for that substance. This isn’t all too dissimilar to cravings you will have for certain kinds of food.

When one’s hunger hormones are out of whack, the person is at risk of overeating and eventually obesity. Researchers have begun studying this phenomenon as it relates to drug and alcohol use. And in limited trials to this point, they have found quite positive results.

This article will break down the likely connection between hunger hormones and substance cravings, and then we will get into the latest advancements and what they could mean for treating addiction in the near future.

How Hunger Hormones May Be Related to Substance Use 

As we learn more about overeating and obesity, the more important it is to focus on how hunger hormones (aka gut hormones) work. And as scientists study these hormones more and more, they are finding an increasingly stronger connection to the continued use of alcohol or drugs.

“Hormones from the gut act in the brain to modulate dopamine signaling, which controls decisions to seek out rewards,” said Dr. Mitchell Roitman, University of Illinois-Chicago neuroscientist, in a Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior article.

It’s no secret that drugs and alcohol have a direct effect on the brain’s dopamine production. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain sent by neurons to other nerve cells. In most cases, drug and alcohol use temporarily speeds up the production of dopamine. It tempts people into repeating and reinforcing this perceived pleasurable activity.

Prolonged substance use changes the brain’s natural ability to produce dopamine, and the body physiologically wants more of the substance in order to feel “normal” again. There is a reward in the brain when substances are used to achieve a certain state, and after a while, that reward almost becomes expected, leaving the person on edge until it is met again.

So if gut hormones have an effect on dopamine, and drugs and alcohol do, too, it follows that the key to fighting substance abuse should be in figuring out how to regulate these hormones. We are starting to understand that gut hormones are responsible for our cravings for more than just food, but any substance we put into our bodies.

Which Hormones Play a Role in Cravings?

There are three main gut hormones in play when it comes to regulating cravings and how “full” someone is regarding food, liquids, substances and more. These hormones are:

  • Ghrelin: The primary hunger hormone that increases appetite and food intake while promoting fat storage. It also plays a role in insulin release, and it can act on regions of the brain known for reward processing. A recent study found that ghrelin can influence the reward value of alcohol intake similar to the way it increases the reward value of food.
  • GLP-1: A hormone that releases while eating to tell the brain when the person has eaten enough. GLP-1 originates in the small intestine, and it stimulates insulin secretion while inhibiting glucagen secretion. This lowers the blood sugar levels in the body.
  • Amylin: Another hormone that tells the brain when to stop eating, and it also mitigates glucagen secretion. Diabetic patients are deficient in this peptide hormone.

Medications that Focus on These Hormones

If GLP-1 and amylin tell the person when to stop eating or drinking, then focusing on these hormones appears to be the key to regulating cravings and preventing overconsumption.

“Medications affecting GLP-1 and amylin are already FDA approved for Type II diabetes and obesity. These drugs could be repurposed for treating drug craving and relapse,” said Dr. Heath Schmidt of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman Medical School.

And at the University of Rhode Island, a group of researchers from the school’s College of Pharmacy have begun studying how a ghrelin-inhibiting drug affects alcohol cravings. Their studies have worked under the theory that higher concentrations of ghrelin are associated with higher alcohol cravings and consumption.

Professor Fatemeh Akhlaghi said that his team has found positive results when using a drug to block ghrelin in order to stave off alcohol cravings. So far, they have tested this medication in rats, as well as 12 volunteer patients. Their study was published in May in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Granted, scientists need to do further research in order to make a rock-solid conclusion about treating substance cravings by inhibiting ghrelin. But, the early results show much promise, at least.

Types of Diabetes Drugs – and Their Drawbacks

When focusing on hunger hormones in order to reduce alcohol cravings, the goal would be to:

  • Mitigate ghrelin levels.
  • Increase GLP-1 and amylin production.

The University of Rhode Island team used a drug originally developed by Pfizer to treat obesity and diabetes in their study. Elsewhere, scientists are focusing on GLP-1 analogs and agonists. In total, all aforementioned drugs have to do with diabetes and obesity, but scientists are now looking at them as a potential solution to alcohol and drug cravings.

If you’re not familiar with GLP-1 agonists, also called incretin mimetics, some common names to know are (generic name followed by brand name in parentheses):

  • Dulaglutide (Trulicity)
  • Exenatide (Bydureon)
  • Exenatide (Byetta)
  • Liraglutide (Victoza)
  • Lixisenatide (Adlyxin)
  • Semaglutide (Ozempic)

An agonist means it boost the production of, in this case, GLP-1. The drugs listed here are for type 2 diabetes patients and injectable, but they aren’t insulin. Instead, they improve blood sugar control and make you feel “full” more quickly – and for a longer period of time. This helps prevent overeating and, by extension, promotes weight loss.

However, you have to be careful when using GLP-1 agonist drugs and watch for side effects such as:

  • Either diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headaches
  • Heavy sweating

Managing Cravings in Rehabilitation and Recovery

Drug and alcohol addiction recovery programs typically place a major emphasis on managing cravings. This is often part of their relapse prevention education, in which clients learn about cravings and then practice a few strategies for keeping them in check. This is especially important as they graduate the program and return home to everyday life with no therapist or doctor to watch over them 24/7.

Cravings tend to last two to five years in most clients, although they can persist longer in some cases. They tend to lessen in intensity and frequency in time, but it’s important for people in recovery to know how to manage them and not let them draw them into relapse.

Although medications such as diabetes drugs may eventually become popular in order to help with substance cravings, they are not quite ready yet. In the meantime, learn some tried-and-true relapse prevention techniques, and find a rehab program that will teach these to you and give you sufficient time to practice these before you return home as a sober individual.

See Our Relapse Prevention Resource

Compulsivity and Addiction: How Compulsive Behavior and Substance Abuse Are Related


Characters with compulsive tendencies have been depicted often throughout the years in television, film and theater. Modern examples include the character Adrian Monk of the television series “Monk” and Robert McCall of “The Equalizer” film franchise. A more classic example would be Felix Unger of “The Odd Couple,” as seen on Broadway and on the small and silver screens.

Although none of these three characters have problems with drug use or alcoholism, people with compulsive tendencies are generally at greater risk of substance abuse than the rest of the population.

People can also fall prey to compulsive exercising, gambling, shopping, dieting and eating, but in this article, we would like to focus on when compulsivity collides with drug or alcohol use. Why? The combination could unravel one’s life and even turn deadly.

If you know someone who compulsively drinks or uses drugs, find out why you need to act quickly to get this person help before their physical and mental health goes significantly downhill.

What Causes Compulsive Behaviors? 

Compulsive behaviors are borne out of a desire to manage anxieties. For instance, someone who develops a heightened awareness or fear of germs may become a compulsive hand washer – or they may refuse to touch certain everyday items at all. The behavior gives them a sense of control over, and relief from, their anxiety.

This is why obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is classified under anxiety disorders. Although you may notice a lot of people with unique quirks and compulsive tendencies, the symptoms of OCD must be severe and persistent. Thus, OCD diagnoses are actually quite rare.

In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that only 2 percent of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with OCD in their lifetime. At any given time, roughly 2 million Americans are actively suffering from OCD.

The Symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

For someone with full-blown OCD, they will have persistent symptoms in two areas: obsessions and compulsions. Yes, the compulsions are usually borne out of the obsessive thoughts.

Someone with OCD will show signs of obsession, such as:

  • Aversions to germs or dirt
  • Repeated unwanted ideas
  • Aggressive impulses
  • Fixation on symmetry and order
  • Persistent sexual thoughts
  • Thoughts of being harmed, or harming loved ones

And the OCD sufferer will show signs of compulsion, such as:

  • Constant checking – such as to make sure doors are locked or appliances are in working order
  • Counting and recounting everyday objects
  • Repeated hand washing
  • Stubbornly sticking to a routine or ritual
  • Constant cleaning of various items
  • Arranging items to face a certain way
  • Organizing collections in alphabetical or other type of order
  • Hoarding items already used or of little to no value

OCD sometimes emerges as a way of managing another type of mental illness. In fact, the risk factors of obsessive-compulsive disorder include:

  • Genetics – a family history of the disorder
  • Extreme anxiety – especially borne out of living through traumatic or highly stressful events
  • Existing mental disorder – such as a mood disorder, other form of anxiety disorder, or a substance use disorder

The Compulsive ‘Reward’

Compulsive behaviors all relate back to dopamine and the reward system of the brain. Going on an invigorating run, for example, can give the person a “runner’s high,” in which a large amount of dopamine is released in the brain, eliciting a state of euphoria.

The person may then begin to repeat the same action in hopes of re-experiencing that original high. Sometimes they will achieve it; but, in most cases, they won’t. Nonetheless, the person keeps doing the same action to the point where it’s almost involuntary and ritualistic. This is compulsive behavior.

According to Graham C.L. Davey, Ph.D., a prolific author and a psychology professor at the University of Sussex (England), the brain registers all pleasures in basically the same way – with a release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, located in the basal forebrain. This pleasure can be brought on by eating a slice of cake, taking a drug, exercising, a sexual activity, winning a jackpot, beating a level in a video game – you name it.

Compulsivity and Substance Abuse: When Compulsions Turn Harmful

Some compulsions are largely innocuous and even healthy, such as exercising or counting calories (although these can be taken too far). One can even have the recurrent compulsion to thoroughly clean up after oneself after cooking and/or eating, and it’s hard to find much wrong with that. These can be considered “positive compulsions,” although it’s important to be mindful of moderation in these.

But when a compulsive person turns their attention to drugs or alcohol, red flags should be popping up left and right. Getting high on a new drug or getting inebriated to a certain point can result in a rush of dopamine in the brain and a state of euphoria, as we spoke of a moment ago. If it’s a positive and memorable experience for the user or drinker, a compulsive person will be hard-pressed to resist chasing that high again.

That high can never be exactly replicated, but a compulsive person will keep trying to relive or achieve it again. Before long, tolerance to alcohol or drugs increases, and then the person becomes used to having a certain level of that substance in their system each day. If they were to suddenly stop at this point, painful withdrawal symptoms will ensue.

OCD and Substance Abuse

For people with full-blown OCD, co-occurring substance usually has the following role: The person begins using drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medicating the OCD symptoms. Thus, you can conclude that having OCD is a risk factor for drug or alcohol addiction.

Getting Help for Compulsivity and Addiction

Do you have a family member or close friend with compulsive tendencies (such as gambling, shopping or eating) and who has taken an affection to drinking or a specific drug? Seek help on this individual’s behalf soon. Their quality of life can quickly deteriorate.

You may need to start with an intervention to get them to go into treatment. Compulsive people are usually not aware that their behaviors are unhealthy or abnormal; and even if they are, their compulsions usually override their willpower to stop. An intervention can help break through their current tailspin.

It’s also important that they enter a dual diagnosis treatment program, one that can address their mental health symptoms. Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott, AZ can help your son, husband, brother, male cousin, etc. learn to manage his compulsive inclinations in healthy ways as he recovers from alcohol or drug abuse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for OCD and Compulsivity