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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.

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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 or daughter who is at least 18 years old, Reflections Recovery Center can help if they’re 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.

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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.

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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 loved one learn to manage their compulsive inclinations in healthy ways as they recover from alcohol or drug abuse.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for OCD and Compulsivity

Preventing Suicide in Those Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol

Did you know that this month is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month? Suicide claims more than 41,000 American lives each year, so now is as good of a time as any to learn the signs of suicidal thoughts in your loved ones and to reach out to them if they are struggling.

We will cover several of the warning signs and risk factors for suicide in this article, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between suicide and drug and alcohol use. We also want to focus on suicide risks in teenagers and young adults – demographics which are highly vulnerable to thinking about or attempting suicide.

Substance Use and Suicide

Drug and alcohol abuse can be a manifestation of depression and suicidal thoughts, but it can also exacerbate those feelings and make suicide an even bigger threat. In either case, it’s a vicious cycle.

Here are a few stats and facts to know, courtesy of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death among Americans with a substance use disorder.
  • Having a co-occurring mental disorder in the mix increases the risk of self-murder even further.
  • People treated for alcohol abuse or dependence are about a 10 times greater risk of suicide than those in the general population.
  • Alcohol use is present in 30 to 40 percent of all suicides and suicide attempts.
    • Alcohol intoxication is involved in 22 percent of all deaths by suicide.
  • Opioids (heroin and prescription painkillers) are present in 20 percent of all deaths by suicide, while marijuana is present is just over 10 percent of all such deaths.

Alcohol and drug abuse tends to lower inhibitions and exacerbate feelings of depression, which partially explains why addicted individuals are at greater risk of suicide.

However, “more research is needed on the association between different drugs, drug combinations, and self-medication on suicidal behavior,” according to SAMHSA.

Mental Illness, Substance Abuse and Suicide

There’s a wide intersection between substance abuse and suicide, and another dimension is added when you consider co-occurring mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.). The findings in a 2011 SAMHSA survey showed just how great the risk of suicide increases as you add a substance use disorder, and then when you add mental illness and substance abuse, into the mix.

According to the survey, the following types of individuals reported suicidal thoughts over the preceding year:

  • People with any substance use disorder in general: 11.2%
  • Those with alcohol use disorder: 10.7%
  • People with an illicit drug disorder: 16.4%
  • Those with co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorder: 30.7%

For people without any of these disorders, only 3.7 percent reported suicidal thoughts over the year prior to being surveyed.

Risk Factors for Suicide

You could be at greater risk for suicide depending on a number of ethnic, health, job, sexual orientation, environmental and a number of other circumstances.

Statistically speaking, the following circumstances make for a greater risk for suicidal behaviors:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native descent
  • Engaging in non-suicidal self-injury (such as cutting)
  • Prior attempts of suicide
  • Arduous medical condition(s)
  • Mental health and/or substance use disorders
  • LGBT orientation
  • Current or prior service in the armed forces
  • A man in middle age or elderly years (the rate of suicide in men is 4 times higher than in women in the U.S.)
  • Access to lethal means (such as a gun in the home)

If you’re worried about a family member and he or she falls into one or more of these categories, then you’ll have to be extra vigilant and supportive as he or she battles hard times and toxic thoughts.

Warning Signs of Possible Suicide Attempt

Worried that a loved one may be on the verge of suicidal behavior? Some specific warning signs to look for are if they:

  • Openly talk about wanting to die or kill himself/herself, even in a joking manner.
  • Actively look for a way to kill himself/herself.
  • Introduce drugs or alcohol to the mix, or increase their use of either.
  • Frequently act anxious, restless, agitated or reckless.
  • Sleep too much or too little.
  • Isolate himself/herself from everybody else.
  • Talk about being a burden to family members and others.
  • Mention wanting to seek revenge on someone.
  • Show frequent, extreme mood swings.

Suicide in Younger Americans

Suicide actually occurs in older Americans more than you would think. In fact, the highest rate of suicide occurred among men aged 75 years and older, at least according to SAMHSA data from 2013. In women, those between the ages of 45 and 54 were responsible for the highest suicide rate.

While older Americans are more prone to completing a suicide attempt, it’s the younger ones who battle suicidal thoughts on a more frequent basis. In 2014, the highest rate of “serious thoughts of suicide” occurred in Americans aged 18 to 25, according to SAMHSA.

And here are the numbers among high school students in 2014:

  • More than 17% had seriously considered suicide.
  • More than 13% had made a plan to take their own life.
  • And more than 8% had attempted suicide.

Suicide also happens to be the second-leading cause of death among young Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. The same is true among 25- to 34-year-old Americans. The leading cause is accidents (unintentional injuries), if you’re wondering.

And if you have a child in college, you have to worry about binge drinking increasing the risk of suicide. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 74 percent of students who identified as binge drinker had attempted suicide before.

Don’t Forget Drug Overdose Risks

On a related note, don’t forget the threat of a loved one overdosing by accident if he or she is battling suicidal thoughts and has taken up substance use. Your loved one may think about committing suicide and even make plans on doing it, but still a small percentage actually go through with it.

If they are using drugs or alcohol heavily during this whole process, their life may suddenly and unintentionally be taken by another means – drug overdose or alcohol poisoning.

In 2016, more than 4,100 Americans between the ages of 0 and 24 years olds lost their lives to opioid overdoses, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. The highest death toll that year was among the 35- to 44-year-old demographic: more than 9,700 fatal opioid overdoses. There were more than 63,000 drug overdose deaths in total in the U.S. in 2016.

Preventing Suicide Crises

Although suicide-prevention efforts are happening on national and local levels, we encourage you to be active on the ground level to help any loved ones that might be at risk. Here are some fairly simple steps you can take to keep a loved one safe:

  • Remove or lock up any objects in the home that can be used in a suicide attempt, such as firearms, knifes, dangerous prescription drugs, etc.
  • If they are in an immediate crisis, stay with them until further help arrives.
  • Talk openly and honestly about suicide, and ask direct questions such as, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”
  • When they talk, listen without judging and express that you care and that they are loved.
  • Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice.
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
  • Ask what you can do to help, including anything you can get for them, as long as the request is reasonable.
  • If there are multiple people with the person in crisis, be sure only one person talks at a time – to avoid overwhelming the loved one.
  • Both you and the loved one should get familiar with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and phone number.
  • If they have also been battling drug abuse, schedule an intervention and start making plans for an extended trip to rehab.

Intervention and Rehabilitation

On that last note, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program will provide your loved one with ongoing counseling that can get to the root of low self-worth and suicidal thoughts. Addressing those issues effectively also has the by-product of helping the individual stay drug free for a longer period of time.

Reflections Recovery Center can provide a professional intervention and long-term inpatient treatment help your loved one who is struggling with substance abuse and suicidal behavior. Getting a loved one into rehab as soon as possible not only helps with their suicidal tendencies, but it will remove the threat of overdose, as well, so don’t delay seeking help on their behalf.

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Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

So many families are often confused on where to draw the line with helping a family member who is struggling with addiction – especially if that person is your child. Parents want to know how to help an addict without enabling… if you are enabling addiction, are you loving that person to death?

It is the natural instinct for parents to help their child and to provide for them – food, shelter, and assistance to keep them safe. However, the line needs to be drawn when you find that you are providing food, shelter and covering for their responsibilities only makes getting high or drinking easier for them.

Why would your loved one have the motivation to change an unhealthy lifestyle if it is so easy just to stay where they are at? This is what keeps many stuck in the cycle of addiction, with no desire to get out. That doesn’t mean that you need to cut off your loved one complete, nor should you put them into dangerous situations in an attempt to force them to change. Instead, you need to provide the right kind of help for an addicted loved one.

Enabling Addiction: The Wrong Way to Help a Loved One Struggling with Drug and Alcohol Abuse 

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Examples of How Loved Ones Enable Addiction and Substance Abuse 

In order to know the right way to help a loved one struggling with addiction to heroin, pills, alcohol, or other substances, you first need to recognize the behaviors that do not help. These are enabling behaviors and should be avoided.

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Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Denial (Refusing to Accept the Reality that A Loved One Is Addicted) 

Denial is a behaviors that is common surrounding substance abuse – and both the addict and those around them can have a hard time accepting the truth. Many parents ask how their addicted loved ones can be so crass or blatant with their drug and alcohol use, when they know what it is doing to those around them. Denial is very strong instinctive reflex to difficult situations.

The reality of the situation for the drug or alcohol user is that they have found themselves in a situation that is dire, and often denial is the only defense they have against a very harsh reality – that they are addicted.

For loved ones, denial is also very instinctive. Parents especially don’t want to see just how broken and in need of help, their children have become. Therefore, many loved ones don’t allow themselves to see the full severity of the addiction. This behavior not only keeps the family from formally realizing and addressing the extent of the addiction, but also sets an example for the addict. Remember, in the mind of an addict, the addiction is only as severe as the reaction of people closest to them.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Avoiding (Ignoring the Fact That A Loved One Is Addicted) 

For severe addictions, it can be harder for a loved one to avoid the signs and symptoms. When an addiction is causing failing health, work life, or personal life, it is easy to recognize and harder to avoid. With high functioning and functioning addicts, avoidance and denial are easier.

The avoiding enabling behavior is more common in the early stages of substance abuse and addiction, and loved ones often write off the signs of a problem as a “phase” or a stage that the individual will outgrow. In fact, it is just the opposite – parents and loved ones need to address the problem while in its infancy before it progresses.

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Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Being Quiet (Failing to Speak to Them about Their Addiction) 

Talking to a loved one about their problems with drugs and alcohol is not easy, and usually the individual will purposely make talking about the problem more difficult or uneasy in an attempt to avoid the conversation altogether. Addicts and those with substance abuse problems don’t want to talk about it – they want you to leave them alone and keep a situation where it is easy to get high or drink. Much like denial, being quiet only allows the progressive disease of addiction to worsen.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

 Allowing (Drug/Alcohol Abuse is Allowed in the Home or Controlled Environment) 

Many parents and loved ones that don’t understand the addiction, but recognize it, will often come to an agreement with the substance user. Drinking and using drugs is only allowed during certain times and under certain conditions, is an example of an attempt to create a controlled environment.

By creating a situation like this, you are only creating the illusion that the substance abuse is tolerated. You might think that you are only trying to lessen the dangers surrounding a loved one’s inevitable behavior, but when you look at it from the other side, these boundaries create an open situation where the substance abuse is tolerated, verified, and acceptable.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Justifying (Making Excuses for Them to Abuse Drugs or Alcohol) 

Justifying is similar to allowing, in that it establishes certain substance abuse behaviors as acceptable. A great example of this type of behavior is when families justify substance abuse due to past traumas that the individual might have gone through.

PTSD and trauma should not be seen as qualifying conditions for substance abuse, rather they should be seen as risk factors. Allowing a loved one to lean on past events or existing medical conditions as an excuse for substance abuse and self-medicating blocks responsibility and accountability. In order for an individual to change their behaviors, they need to know and accept that their current behaviors are not justified and they need to be motivated to change.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Being Ashamed (Trying to Protect the Family Image) 

Being ashamed is closely related to denial. This behavior happens when family members feel embarrassed or ashamed at the behavior of a loved one regarding their substance abuse. As a reaction to this shame, the family member often reacts in a toxic manner.

Disowning or cutting off the family member, refusing to communicate with that family member, or cutting the addict completely out of familial life and events are all reactions based off shame. While these reactions may seem justified in the mind of those feeling ashamed, they are not productive and can only hurt the addict and worsen their state.

It is important to note that the common reaction to these actions is often to care less about their worsening addictions and sink deeper into both depression and substance abuse.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Lack of Accountability (Buying them Necessities, Paying Rent, or Bailing them Out of Jail/Emergencies) 

Lack of accountability stems from the addicts perceived lack of repercussions from continuing their substance abuse and negative behaviors. If there are no repercussions for their behaviors, why would they care to change? Accountability must be established, if the addict is going to motivate themselves to make a change.

It is important to note that there is a fine line between cutting off a loved one to leave them helpless and only providing support that will help the situation to better. The problem comes in when you are offering the basic necessities but not a way to get out of the situation where they depend on you for those necessities.

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Trying to Control (Attempting to Control a Loved One’s Behaviors) 

This type of enabling behavior is rarer than others, but is extremely toxic to the addict. Controlling the behaviors of the addict stems from codependency on the part of the loved one. In certain situations, a family member may feel emotionally dependent on the addict, and therefore uses enabling the substance abuse as a barter. They allow the substance abuse, or provide an environment where the substance abuse is accepted in order to feel emotionally connected to the addict.

If the addict depends on you to continue their addiction, than you are needed – right?

Enabling Behaviors in Drug and Alcohol Addiction and Codependency: Image Series

Say No to Enabling (And Yes to Help) 

The main difference between enabling an addict and offering them real help, is that real help offers the chance at bettering the addict’s life, getting them help to treat the addiction (not strengthen or feed it), and performing actions that can lead to recovery.

How to Help an Addict without Enabling 

Familial bonds make it difficult to understand where the line between enabling and helping lays. It is also extremely difficult to bring yourself to cut enabling behaviors, and can cause emotional distress. Simply put, reversing enabling behaviors and replacing them with honest help for an addict often needs the help of an intermediary. Breaking enabling behaviors is best done with the help of professionals during an intervention that involves all members of the family that make up the enabling structure. This is the first step in addressing the enabling behaviors and offering real help for the addict. It will take time for the addict to heal from their addictions and behaviors, but it also takes time for the family to learn how to help without enabling.

 

Help for Families Enabling a Drug-Addicted Loved One 

Reflections Recovery knows and understands the struggles that families go through with a loved one, and we know that enabling behaviors like these cannot be broken overnight.

We offer intervention services for the family to help with the initial stages of addressing substance abuse and addiction, and the help you receive from us follows through the entire continuum of treatment – through detox and therapy to aftercare and ongoing addiction support.

Call us today to take the first step in getting help for your loved one.

Prescription Drugs that May Require Intervention, Rehab and Addiction Treatment

Doctors can prescribe hundreds of different medications for various medical conditions, and some drugs are riskier than others when it comes to addiction. Prescription drugs that regulate behavior, aid sleep, or allay the symptoms of psychological disorders all carry a significant potential for abuse. It’s crucial to understand the risks that come with some of the most commonly seen prescriptions in the country.

Types of Dangerous Prescription Drugs

Many prescription medications carry a significant risk of addiction. Rehab for prescription drug abuse is available for those who need it, and anyone who may be starting a new medication should investigate the risks of addiction.

Lyrica

Lyrica is an anti-seizure medication. Although it is a Schedule V controlled substance, doctors often prescribe Lyrica to people suffering from:

  • Diabetes
  • Various seizure disorders
  • Fibromyalgia

These medical conditions are very debilitating, so Lyrica quickly grew to astronomical popularity shortly after its release thanks to the marketing behind it touting it as a treatment for fibromyalgia. This drug basically slows chemical transfers in the brain to regulate hyperactive neurons.

Lyrica produces a calming effect, and some users report the effects as being very similar to those of Valium. Doctors also often prescribe Lyrica for general anxiety disorder, post-surgical pain and some forms of chronic pain.

Lyrica abuse is fairly common, as many people will start to abuse this medication even after it stops working for them. There are also many known negative side effects associated with regular use of the drug, so someone struggling with Lyrica addiction will likely experience these symptoms.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines are a class of prescription medications used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. These drugs are central nervous system depressants that lower excitability and relax the nervous system, allaying the symptoms of panic disorders and anxiety. However, many doctors only prescribe these medications for short-term use, as long-term use can be risky in several ways.

Detox for benzos typically involves flushing the remaining benzo medications from the patient’s system and then reassessing the patient to determine a better course of treatment. Like any other type of substance abuse, benzo addiction recovery is possible through a robust, comprehensive treatment program that addresses the addiction as well as any mental health disorders.

Some of the most commonly prescribed benzodiazepine medications include the following list. Click on any of the names to learn more:

Alprazolam, Also Known as Xanax

Doctors usually only prescribe this medication for short-term use, typically to address anxiety or panic disorders. Long-term use can lead to dependency, fast tolerance build-up and a variety of harmful side effects, such as:

  • Paranoia
  • Problems focusing
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Diazepam, Also Known as Valium

Diazepam is a more potent central nervous system depressant than alprazolam, and doctors typically prescribe this medication to address medical conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Musculoskeletal disorders

Some doctors also prescribe Valium to treat the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.

Clonazepam, Also Known as Klonopin

Doctors typically prescribe Klonopin to treat anxiety, panic disorders or seizures. It is mainly prescribed for short-term use because of the highly addictive properties of the drug.

The medication functions as an anticonvulsant drug for its effects on the central nervous system. Many users report that the drug creates a euphoric high, encouraging some to abuse it or take it longer than necessary.

Oxazepam, Also Known as Serax

This drug can help people suffering from insomnia or who have difficulty staying asleep. Unlike other benzo medications, oxazepam is a slow-release formula meant to help a patient stay asleep through the night.

It is long lasting and slow acting, so many people who take oxazepam gradually build a tolerance over an extended period, typically six months or longer.

Lorazepam, Also Known as Ativan

Doctors prescribe lorazepam (commonly under the brand name Ativan) to patients who suffer from anxiety disorders. The drug carries a very high potential for addiction, so most doctors limit patients’ prescriptions to a few weeks at most.

Many people who take lorazepam consistently for a few weeks will display signs of withdrawal after the prescription ends. Lorazepam addiction treatment is a complex process that often begins with detox and can involve a wide range of replacement medications or other treatments.

Chlordiazepoxide, Also Known as Librium

Chlordiazepoxide is a powerful tranquilizer medication sold under the brand name Librium. Librium addiction can set in very quickly after a person starts taking the medication regularly. Symptoms of dependency worsen very quickly over time.

Soma (Carisoprodol) and Robaxin (Chlorzoxazone)

Muscle relaxant medications are common prescriptions for neuromuscular disorders, muscle pain and spasms. Soma is the most common brand name, but various types of muscle relaxers such as carisoprodol, robaxin and chlorzoxazone all carry significant potential for abuse.

These medications are depressants that treat pain quickly, which unfortunately encourages some patients to abuse them at the first sign of stress.

Soma abuse can lead to severe withdrawal effects, such as:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme pain
  • Anxiety
  • Disorientation
  • Psychosis

Ritalin, Adderall and Other Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Medications

Some ADHD medications that require addiction treatment after abuse include:

  • Adderall
  • Ritalin
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • And more

ADHD medications are generally stimulants that encourage neurotransmitter production in the frontal lobe of the brain. These medications can help improve focus, concentration and sleep patterns in individuals with ADHD. Unfortunately, the stimulating properties of these drugs can lead to abuse from both the people with prescriptions and others who may try to obtain them without a prescription.

Adderall abuse is common on college campuses and in high-stress work environments. A person who doesn’t have ADHD will experience intense focus, improved concentration, heightened energ, and other seemingly positive effects when taking these drugs. However, the drug’s effects are highly habit forming.

Ambien

Zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien, is a very powerful sedative prescribed to aid sleep. This drug carries multiple risks, including accidental overdose, dependency and a host of side effects from abuse.

Ambien addiction can lead to:

  • Memory loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Disorientation
  • Nausea
  • Sleepwalking
  • Hallucinations

Primidone and Pentobarbital (Nembutal)

Primidone addiction is common among older males who take the medication, particularly among those who take other medications for multiple sclerosis. This barbiturate is an anticonvulsant and can treat some anxiety disorders as well.

Pentobarbital, often found with the brand name Nembutal, is a more powerful barbiturate and carefully controlled substance. Pentobarbital is also one of the most commonly used drugs for suicide due to its potency and ability to coerce a peaceful, painless death. People who take this drug for longer than absolutely necessary risk creating a dependency once the effects diminish. Accidental death is also a very significant risk.

Loperamide and Imodium

Loperamide, sold under the brand name Imodium, is a laxative medication designed to aid digestion and bowel movements. While this may not sound like an addictive drug, loperamide abuse is fairly common due to the trace amount of opioids present in the drug. This drug is available over the counter without a prescription. Unfortunately, many people suffering from opioid addiction mistakenly believe it is a viable substitute.

Loperamide can actually help some individuals wean themselves off stronger opioids, but there are a host of negative side effects associated with long-term use of the drug, including:

  • Intestinal pain
  • Urinary retention
  • Central nervous system damage
  • Abnormal cardiac behavior
  • And other complications

The Need for Rehab for Prescription Drug Abuse

These medications can all provide health benefits, but it is important to know they can cause dangerous side effects if taken too often. Before taking these kinds of medications, it is extremely important that you weigh the risks and benefits of each.

And finally, keep in mind that entering a comprehensive prescription drug treatment program is the best way to treat any type of prescription drug abuse. At Reflections Recovery Center, we can help you or a loved one find the root cause of addiction and develop proper habits to maintain a long-lasting recovery.

See More on Prescription Drug Risks

Roxicodone Addiction, Withdrawal and Treatment for Detox and Rehab

Balancing Roxicodone Risks of Dependency with Its Benefits

Roxicodone, also known as Roxycodone, is an opioid. More specifically, it is a white crystalline powder that comes from the opium alkaloid thebaine. It has an immediate release, and like many opioids, physicians can prescribe it to help patients deal with intense pain.

Roxicodone Dosing

The dosage of Roxicodone that is assigned to each patient depends on factors such as age, weight and drug tolerance. The level of tolerance for each specific person is different, and previous drug use may be a component in determining how effective it will be in covering someone’s pain. As with all medications, Roxicodone prescriptions take into account a patient’s medical history, including other medications or opioids.

What Roxicodone Is and When to Halt Usage

Know When You're Addicted - Reflections Recovery CenterRoxicodone is a very potent drug, and dependency can happen in a relatively short time. When someone who has become dependent on Roxicodone, or Roxi, stops taking it, withdrawal symptoms will likely occur.

Rather than stopping such a drug immediately, it’s best to wean off the medication to avoid painful withdrawal. The basic guideline is to reduce the dose by 25 to 50 percent each day, while carefully observing how the body and mind react to the change.

If the patient begins experiencing withdrawal symptoms, then the physician might up the dose back to the previous level before decreasing it again, but more slowly this time.

As with any drug a physician prescribes, users should talk to their doctors before ending a medication in any capacity. If you feel like you’ve become too dependent on this opioid pain reliever or another medication, discuss the situation with your doctor. If the dependency on the drug has lead to an addiction, your next call should be to a professional addiction treatment center.

At a certain stage of addiction, tapering off a drug is best done in a hospital or a licensed rehabilitation center, such as Reflections Recovery Center in Prescott. At Reflections, our team can help you safely reduce your dependence under professional supervision.

The Side Effects of Roxicodone

As with other prescription opioids, Roxicodone’s side effects can be very intense. Using this drug can lead to:

  • Respiratory depression
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Circulatory depression
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Shock
  • Cardiac arrest (especially when users take more than prescribed)

Like any medication, there are other, less serious side effects that users should still be aware of. These include:

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Pruritus (severe itching)

You can also develop problems with your heart, digestive system and even risks to your nervous system. In short, Roxicodone can affect almost all areas of the body.

How to Avoid Dependency on Roxicodone

The best way to avoid a dependence on this drug or another pain medication is to start with the lowest prescribed dose. In fact, taking the medication in this amount is often too strong from people who haven’t taken opioids before.

Staying on top of the pain by taking the drug at regular intervals – rather than waiting until the pain is at its worst – can prevent people from taking too much for their body to handle. In some cases, people will take more of the drug than they need while trying to cover heightened pain. Staying on top of your schedule for medication, which likely includes anti-inflammatory drugs as well, is better than taking too much later.

If you begin with a large amount, your body will be shocked by the drug and is likely to react negatively. If these reactions do happen, they will usually lessen over time as the body becomes more used to the drug, but that’s not exactly a good thing.

Roxicodone Addiction Signs

Abuse and addiction are different than physical dependence and tolerance. However, if you suspect you are becoming dependent on Roxicodone, it may be time to discuss another type of pain medication to cover your symptoms.

If you stop taking the medication and feel uncomfortable, you are likely in the midst of addiction, and you might feel Roxicodone withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Restlessness
  • Excessive tear production
  • Excussive mucus
  • Perspiration
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Backache
  • Joint pain
  • Increased heart rate

Groups that Should Avoid or Limit Roxicodone Use

Some people should avoid Roxicodone use completely or only use it while being treated by a medical professional. Nursing mothers should avoid using Roxicodone, as it can work its way into the breast milk. This can lead to infants developing dependence on the drug, therefore putting them through withdrawal symptoms once nursing stops or the mom stops using Roxicodone.

Drugs like Roxicodone can sometimes impede women in labor by weakening and lessening the frequency of uterine contractions. This can make the process of giving birth longer and more difficult.

Studies of rats and rabbits have shown that the use of drugs such as Roxicodone during pregnancy were not directly harmful to the fetus. However, using the drug during pregnancy should generally be avoided unless the benefits outweigh the possible risks to the fetus.

While there has been no proof that the drug has a different effect on older people as it does on younger people, the increased sensitivity that most elderly people have to drugs makes the effects appear more intensely in them. Like other opioid drugs, Roxicodone should be limited or taken carefully.

Roxicodone Rehab Facilities in AZ

A Roxicodone rehab center is the foremost resource for someone dealing with addiction. Reflections Recovery Center is one of these Roxicodone rehab clinics.

Contact us if you have concerns about Roxicodone addiction signs, or if someone you care about has developed a dependency. Powerful medication is sometimes necessary for pain relief, but when the ill effects start to outweigh the benefits, it’s time for professional care.

Learn About OxyContin Risks and Symptoms

Does My College-Aged Child Need Rehab?

When you help your son or daughter pack their things and send them off to college and life on their own, it can seem pretty straightforward at first. They’re an adult now. Your job as a parent is over. The responsibility for their future rests in their hands.

But when you start seeing signs that your newly-adult-aged child may be getting involved with drugs, the situation becomes murky.

Should you intervene, or let them sort things out on their own?

How responsible should you feel for your adult child’s actions?

Where’s the line between letting them be independent and stepping in as a parent?

The Line Between Freedom and Safety

Parents can be hesitant to get involved when they see their college-aged children using substances, because they’re unclear about what their role should be at this point in their child’s life.

While it’s good to foster a healthy sense of independence and give young people a chance to work out their own problems, a parent always has a right – and a responsibility – to intervene when their child’s safety is at risk, regardless of the child’s age. Substance use is most definitely a safety concern, and age shouldn’t be a deterrent from sending a child to rehab, if necessary.

When you see obvious signs that your son or daughter is using drugs, getting involved in the drug culture, or partying too much, there’s no time like the present to offer help and get them on the path to recovery. Early intervention prevents the problem from getting especially dire.

Do NOT wait for your child to “hit rock bottom” to provide the motivation for them to change their circumstances. Rehab for college students is a viable option available to your family, so don’t hesitate to go that route if your child is struggling.

Signs That Your College-Aged Kid May Have a Drug Problem

College Students Amphetamine Misuse Statistic Chart - ReflectionsSometimes it’s not obvious that there’s really a problem. Parents may be unsure if the behaviors they’re seeing are just normal growing pains as their child adjusts to adult life, or the sign of a substance abuse problem.

Here are some telltale signs to watch out for:

  • Changes in behavior and attitude that are not consistent with your child’s personality
  • Mood swings, irritability and erratic behavior
  • Periods of extreme hyperactivity, staying up all night without losing energy, etc.
  • Periods of lethargy and lack of motivation
  • Hanging out with other people who are abusing substances
  • Changes in work, sleep and eating habits
  • Inconsistent attendance at school
  • Medication or valuables missing from home, or an unusually frequent need for money
  • Acting secretive
  • Physical symptoms such as bloodshot eyes, nosebleeds, tremors, slurred speech, poor coordination, unusual bodily smells, etc.
  • Weight loss or gain, changes in physical appearance and personal grooming

Trends in College Substance Abuse and Addiction

Prescription drug use is rising on college campuses. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know about these dangerous substances.

Opioids

College campuses are certainly not immune to the opioid abuse crisis sweeping the nation. These powerful painkillers may be used legitimately for extreme short-term pain, such as after a surgery, but they can become addictive after even just a week or two of use. They are also abused by people looking for a high to help them escape from the troubles of everyday life.

A 2015 survey found that 16 percent of college students had taken pain pills not prescribed to them. That number was higher – 22.5 percent – for students involved in intercollegiate sports, most likely because opioid painkillers are often prescribed after sports injuries and surgeries.

Benzodiazepines

Also called benzos for short, benzodiazepines are the class of anti-anxiety drugs known by brand names such as Valium and Xanax. Known by earlier generations as “momma’s little helper,” they should really only be prescribed for extreme cases of anxiety, but are often overprescribed to many people who are dealing with stress-related anxiety.

Stimulants

Students with a heavy load of schoolwork, and often part-time jobs as well, have been turning to substances for years to help them get everything done, especially caffeine and energy drinks.

However, abuse of Adderall on college campuses, along with other ADHD medications such as Ritalin, has risen as these substances become more readily available in medicine cabinets across the nation. College students also sometimes turn to illegal drugs like speed (an amphetamine) and cocaine to stay up longer and get more done.

Alcohol Is Always a Concern

Binge drinking is practically synonymous with college life, but that doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Despite being legal (for those 21 and older, of course), alcohol is one of the most physically harmful addictive substances, and those who abuse alcohol tend to vehemently deny they have a problem because alcohol consumption is so common and socially acceptable.

If you suspect your son or daughter has binge drinking problems, or is turning to alcohol regularly to cope with college life, get help for them as soon as possible.

A Parent’s Role Changes, But Never Ends

The college years are when young adults are shaping their futures, and they are open to new ideas and ways of doing things. Some of those things are positive, and others may be negative. If you feel that your child is going down a negative path, a little redirection now will help avoid major problems down the road.

Here are some steps you can take as a parent to help your college-aged child avoid drug abuse:

  • Prevent your child’s access to prescription medication by disposing of any unused drugs in your medicine cabinet.
  • Check in regularly to get a sense of your child’s workload and stress levels, and help them figure out healthy ways to lighten their load.
  • Tell your child you are always there for emotional support no matter what – and follow through on that promise if they do come to you for help.

Explore Rehab for College Students

It’s good to give your child room to be independent and explore new things, but if you suspect drug use is happening, it’s important to intervene sooner rather than later. No matter how old your child gets, your right to be concerned for his health and safety never ends.

Get Help for a College Student Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol

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Guilt, Shame and Self-Blame in Addiction Recovery

Why is it that we feel those awful feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame in the months and years after stopping the use of drugs and alcohol? When one makes the decision to “clean up” and get sober, it is a good decision.

If anything, we should feel happier, and feel like what we are doing – by getting sober – is the right thing to do. Yet still, so many struggle with the feelings of guilt in recovery, and often it hampers a full mental recovery because we feel so tied down by these negative feelings.

Is Feeling Guilty Part of Addiction Recovery?

In early addiction recovery, you are going to feel a wide range of emotions in varying intensities. Often called “a roller coaster of emotions,” the feeling you get in the first weeks and months of recovery from addiction can make you feel like an emotional mess.

These are feelings that every human being experiences whether drunk, high or sober:

  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Shame
  • Elation
  • Joy
  • Disgust
  • Pity
  • Envy
  • Love
  • Hate
  • Indignation
  • Compassion
  • Empathy

These are the feelings that make you a living, breathing, feeling person. All humans express these feelings and emotions at varying levels throughout their lives.

It is no secret that drugs and alcohol alter the natural feelings and emotions in the body. This effect may even be one of the reasons someone starts using drugs or drinking…to feel more or feel less.

Feelings and Emotions While Using Drugs and Alcohol

What we perceive as feelings and emotions are really just chemicals in our bodies and brains. The emotions and feelings that we feel are simply a certain balance of chemicals, chemical receptors and neurotransmitters.

Drugs, alcohol and other chemicals can change the balance of the chemicals in our bodies and brains, and this is a reason why so many use chemicals like drugs and alcohol: to gain a desired emotional effect. Euphoria is often the main desired effect from drugs and alcohol – meaning that we tend to use drugs and alcohol to gain a higher level of the chemicals that cause positive feelings like joy, elation, empathy or compassion.

When the elevated level of chemicals starts to decline, the positive balance dips and often dips low enough to cause negative emotions, or our perception of our emotions turn negative. This is why almost all drugs and alcohol will have a “crash” period after the initial peak.

MDMA (Ecstasy/Molly) and Emotional-Chemical Balance

Love the Addict Hate the Addiction Quote - Reflections Recovery Center

The drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy or Molly, provides an extreme example of this effect. Serotonin and other “positive” chemicals flood the brain with MDMA use, making people on the drug feel extreme poles of positive emotions.

Ecstasy users will say that the drug makes them feel happier than they have ever felt, more elated than ever, and more compassionate and empathetic than ever experienced before. These extreme feelings can be connected to the high amount of “feel-good” chemicals in the brain that are released in response to the chemical MDMA.

MDMA is also known for having an extreme crash period after the drug wears off, with many feeling “lower” than ever before afterward for days or weeks.

Alcohol and Emotional-Chemical Balance

Alcohol shows us another great example of this effect. Alcohol changes the chemical balance in the brain, and lowers inhibitions. It tends to numb us to the negative feelings of guilt, shame and fear – temporarily.

Again, the body needs to keep the balance of positive and negative feelings, as well as the chemicals attributed to them. Thus, after alcohol causes a swing in one direction, the balance will swing the other way – leading to many people feeling increased guilt, shame and fear when the alcohol wears off (usually next day).

Feelings and Emotions After Stopping the Use of Drugs and Alcohol

After stopping the use of drugs and alcohol, the body will attempt to re-balance itself chemically. In essence, this means that the body and brain will increase or decrease a number of chemicals that cause positive and negative feelings.

The change upward and downward may not be perfect, as the body is trying to find the perfect balance again. These minor fluctuations could be reflected in a person and cause them to be “a bit moody.”

With greater fluctuations, the range of the changes in mood increase. When the fluctuations are great enough, it can move beyond simple changes in mood and into severe variations in mood and emotion. Such great changes can mirror the symptoms of bipolar disorder (where the body permanently has trouble balancing).

Emotional Symptoms of Acute Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal

Some of the greatest fluctuations in the balancing of chemicals that affect mood in the body are seen during the acute withdrawal phase. This is within the first 24 hours to seven days of stopping the use of drugs and alcohol, but the time frame varies depending on the type of drug and how long the drug or alcohol abuse happened.

During the initial acute withdrawal, the balance of chemicals is going to be wildly low, high or have extreme fluctuations. In this stage, the fluctuations may be so severe that they can be life-threatening – as is the case with withdrawal from alcohol, benzodiazepines and other types of drugs.

During this time, a person may feel the highs and lows of many emotions, including guilt, shame, anger, fear and the entire spectrum. However, because of all that is going on throughout the detox period – mentally and physically – the guilt and shame feelings tend to take a backseat to nausea, anxiety and more serious symptoms.

Often, it is not within the first few days or weeks that guilt, shame and self-blame really start to make an impression in the mind of the recovering addict. Rather, this tends to happen in the first six to 12 months of early recovery.

Feeling Guilty, Ashamed and Blaming Yourself Within the First Year of Sobriety

Within the first year of sobriety, well after the acute withdrawal symptoms have begun to subside, it is common to experience a “honeymoon period.” Also called the “pink cloud,” this phase is marked by a newly sober individual feeling incredibly good – so good that he or she might actually feel “high.” This is caused by the body and brain once again trying to find balance and going a little overboard, releasing numerous feel-good chemicals that cause a pleasurable feeling.

Some feelings of guilt or shame may be felt during this time, but the overall outlook during the honeymoon period remains positive, and the individual feels good and has a positive outlook on his or her sobriety. However, this is not a level that the body can sustain for long, and eventually the balance will be set lower.

Feeling Guilty for No Reason While Sober

It can be incredibly difficult for newly sober people to understand what is happening to them when they start to feel shameful or guilty in recovery. This onset of negative emotions may even trigger other negative emotions such as fear. When this happens, it is important for the individual to understand that this is just another round of the re-balancing of chemicals and emotions, and that it won’t last forever.

Help from support groups or an addiction counselor can be beneficial during this time, at least to get the emotions out and have someone to talk to until the balance flips back the other way.

Past Actions and Feelings Causing Self-Blame When Sober

When feelings of self-blame, guilt or shame are spurred by more than just a natural recovery fluctuation in the mind and body, these feelings can be more intense and grow into other negative emotions. Sometimes, our own actions in life or things we did while drunk or high can cause negative feelings in recovery.

Sometimes – even though we are healing and growing as a person and making good strides in recovery – we can feel very negative about ourselves. To address these feelings, it is especially important to have the help and guidance of an addiction counselor as well as support from a group of peers, family and friends.

How to Let Go of Shame in Recovery

When negative emotions like shame get you down in recovery, you have to recognize this as a pivotal point in your recovery and sobriety. This is the point that makes or breaks many people in recovery and can determine if you are to remain sober or if you are pushed toward relapse.

The most important things you can do at this point are to:

  • Let go of the shame
  • Realized you are not to blame
  • Reject guilt

Achieving this is easier said than done; we will be the first to admit this. We could list a multitude of practices to try and achieve this, such as 1) remind yourself of the good things you have achieved in recovery, 2) concentrate on the positives, 3) focus on your good qualities…however, overcoming certain feelings in a person with a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences does not have a one-size-fits-all answer.

Each individual is different, and finding what helps you let go of the shame and guilt has to be done individually. The one thing we can say for certain is that every individual does have the power within them to overcome these negative emotions. You just have to figure out how to swing your emotions back to the positive side – without using artificial stimuli like drugs or alcohol.

Again, we want to stress the benefits that support from others can yield in this process. Talk to a trusted friend or family member at the very least, but ongoing support from an addiction counselor or group is often the best way to start to tip the balance back to the positive side of things.

Continue Practicing Relapse Prevention

Sobriety has its ups and downs, but what so many recovering substance abusers find out for themselves in recovery is that what they were really searching for in drugs and alcohol was control over their emotions and control over the positives and negatives in their lives. While drugs and alcohol cannot offer you this control, you can take charge of your happiness and the positives and negatives in your life with sobriety.

Read Our Relapse Prevention Tip Sheet

What real clients have to say about Reflections Recovery Center in Arizona
Reflections provided me with the tools that got me where i am today with 14 months sober.
— Ricky A, Long Beach CA
Reflections gave me a life and an opportunity to become part of society. They challenged me and shaped me into the man I want to be.
— Dyer K, Gilbert AZ
I learned how to stay sober, found my best friends and created a new life at Reflections
— David S, Phoenix AZ

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