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(858) 263-9700


Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol Abuse in the United States on the Rise

A JAMA Psychiatry article that was published in September 2017 has shown that Americans are consuming more alcohol than ever before. An estimated one out of every eight Americans which equates to around 30 million people, struggle with an alcohol disorder.

The study looked at the drinking patterns of around 40,000 individuals between 2002 and 2003 and compared it to that of people in 2012 and 2013. The findings were shocking, to say the least, especially in light of other substance abuse problems affecting the country such as the opioid epidemic.

Study Findings

The following findings were made in the study:

  • Alcohol use disorders rose by almost 50 percent. Nearly 9 percent of the population was affected in the initial research period compared to nearly 13 percent during the second part of the study.
  • Alcohol use disorders have almost doubled amongst the African American population.
  • There has been an increase of 84 percent of the female population struggling with alcohol use disorders.
  • It was also noted that alcohol use disorders increased more than double (106 percent) in individuals over the age of 65 and by nearly 82 percent in those between 45 and 65 years of age.

As can be seen, these statistics show the increase in alcohol use disorders. This is the complication of alcohol use and using alcohol in itself has spiked tremendously. High-risk drinking, a situation that is defined as consuming four or more drinks a day in women and five in men and including a day where this limit is exceeded at least once a week, has increased from nearly 10 percent in 2002/2003 to nearly 14 percent in 2012/2013.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is a condition that is associated with a pattern of alcohol use that involves:

  • Being preoccupied with alcohol.
  • Having problems controlling one’s frequency of drinking.
  • Continuing the use of alcohol even if it causes problems such as getting into trouble with the law.
  • Having to drink more alcohol in order to achieve the same effect.
  • Using alcohol to the point where the body becomes dependent on the substance and stopping it abruptly will lead to the user experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Complications of alcohol use disorder may include:

  • Alcohol intoxication – the higher the alcohol level in the bloodstream, the more impaired one becomes and this can lead to issues such as mental changes and behavioral problems such as unstable moods, inappropriate behavior, slurred speech, poor coordination, and impaired judgment.
  • Alcohol withdrawal – when alcohol use is stopped or greatly reduced, the user can experience problems such as a rapid heartbeat, sweating, hand tremors, hallucinations, sleep-related problems, anxiety, agitation, and even seizures.

Pacific Bay Recovery

Pacific Bay Recovery is a top drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that specializes in helping patients with substance abuse issues such as alcohol use disorder.

The facility includes managing patients on an inpatient and/or outpatient basis depending on their needs and unique circumstances and offers the services of healthcare professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and occupational therapists to name a few.

Substance Abuse and Inpatient Rehabilitation Services

Substance abuse is a difficult and challenging problem for affected individuals to manage and overcome. Factors such as the environment one lives in or is exposed to contribute to continued substance abuse. Increased stressors and being known as mental health conditions are also problems that can lead to alcohol and drug abuse and this may lead to further mental and physical complications.

Recognizing that one may have a problem with substance abuse can be quite difficult because most individuals who face this problem are either ignorant of the problem or are in denial of being affected. The following are symptoms that may help one identify if they have a problem with substance abuse:

  • Overcoming Substance AbuseThere’s a lack of control when using the abused substance.
  • Family members and friends express concern over the substance abuse.
  • Questioning whether the use of the substance is actually a problem or not.
  • Only the user knows the extent of their substance use.
  • The user is isolating themselves from friends and loved ones.
  • The performance of the user at school or at work is suffering.

Those individuals who continue with the behavior to abuse substances despite facing negative consequences such as poor health or getting into trouble with the law are considered to be addicted to the substance in question.

Inpatient Rehabilitation Services

 

Inpatient rehabilitation is a treatment program where addicted individuals spend between one and three months at a designated and licensed facility aimed at helping those with substance abuse problems.

The following services are offered at these inpatient facilities:

  • Medical detoxification, where patients are withdrawn from their respective abused substances in a safe environment and where there is access to a healthcare professional who helps them go through the withdrawal process.
  • Access to primary care doctors and psychiatrists to address any physical and mental health issues which may arise or already be present and need addressing. Many patients who abuse substances are either diagnosed with or have underlying mental health issues which, as mentioned, may trigger abusing the use of alcohol and drugs.
  • Psychologists are also available to discuss mental health conditions and any underlying and unresolved stressors at home or at work. Psychotherapy aims at helping the patient have a positive outlook on life and teaches them coping skills to better deal with stressors outside of the rehab facility.
  • Occupational therapists are involved with motivating affected individuals to help improve their drive and their mood by incorporating appropriate activities for patients to perform. Relaxation techniques are also taught by these allied healthcare workers.
  • Physical therapists may also be involved to help with any musculoskeletal conditions or just help reduce tension in affected individuals by working on tense areas of the body. Massage therapy, for example, is one of the clinically proven methods for helping with stress reduction.
  • The program is beneficial in monitoring the medication intake of patients which improves their compliance, such as where treatment is prescribed for certain individuals like methadone for heroin addicts.

The biggest benefit of an inpatient rehabilitation facility though is that the patient is taken out of their environment where exposure to the addictive substance is a problem. Here, they are able to focus on the important aspects such as overcoming their addiction with the right help in order to get back on track with their lives.

How To Identify Alcoholism

People across the western world are certainly fond of a drink. In fact, almost 27% of the American population over 18 binge drink every single month according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Almost 70% of Americans had a drink in the past year and almost 56% in the past month. This will come as no surprise to many – and it’s no secret that lots of us need to cut down in one form or another. But the majority of Americans aren’t alcoholics. How can you differentiate between somebody that likes a drink and a problem drinker that potentially needs professional help? The simple steps below should help.

Identifying Alcoholism

Doctors across the world use a tool developed by the World Health Organisation called the AUDIT. It helps doctors identify people that might be at risk of alcohol abuse. Whilst it isn’t 100%, and scoring highly on it is not a diagnosis of alcoholism (you should always visit a licensed doctor for a diagnosis), it can give a good indicator of problem drinking and it’s a good tool to have in mind if you suspect you yourself or somebody you know may suffer from alcoholism.

The questionnaire includes 10 questions each with an answer scoring between 0 and 4. The maximum score is therefore 40, and any score over 20 indicates potential dependence. You can download the questionnaire for yourself at the following link but the questions include things such as:

  • How often during the last year have you found that you were not able to stop drinking once you had started?
  • How often during the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of your drinking?
  • How often during the last year have you needed an alcoholic drink in the morning to get yourself going after a heavy drinking session? (This is often known as an “eye opener” and it a big sign of alcoholism)
  • How often during the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
  • Has a relative or friend, doctor or other health worker been concerned about your drinking or suggested that you cut down?

 

Getting Help For a Drinking Problem

 

If you or somebody you love scored highly on the World Health Organisations AUDIT score, it may indicate they have a dependence on alcohol. There are lots of treatment options available for those who do, and there are a number of specialist services available across the united states that can provide tailor-made plans to help an individual overcome their drinking problem. Their treatment options include:

  • Inpatient recovery facilities (where a patient will stay on site to break their habit)
  • Intensive outpatient treatment (where the patient come in for regular meetings to discuss and get help)
  • Pharmacotherapy – sometimes drugs may be prescribed to overcome withdrawal
  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful for people that have a dual diagnosis of alcoholism and a mental health condition).

Opioids Now a Bigger Killer Than Cancer: Here’s How We Fix That

Opioids Kill More than CancerA recent CNN report identified a devastating truth about the current opioid epidemic: opioids are now a bigger killer of Americans than cancer. In 2016 there were 42 000 overdoses of opioids (which include codeine, fentanyl, and heroin). Only 41 000 Americans die from breast cancer each year. The news that opioids are a bigger killer than breast cancer is no surprise for some, and much has been made about the national opioid crisis. In October the President Donald Trump announced from the White House that the opioid crisis was a “National Emergency” and needs to be dealt with immediately.

 

You might be forgiven for thinking that opioid addiction means heroin addiction. But increasingly that is not the case. Many people afflicted by this were actually prescribed these drugs for their chronic pain conditions by Doctors. When a clamp down on opioid prescriptions swept across America, many were left in the dark, addicted and alone. Talking to the Guardian, Cassie from Cleveland talked about the first time she used opioids for her back pain

 

“I felt like that’s how I wanted to feel for the rest of my life…I had energy, I was happy, nothing hurt, and it also took away those feelings of feeling, like, out of place. It just numbed me.”

 

Now 31, Cassie has overcome her addiction and says it was an uphill battle, but she is happy she can help people in a similar situation.

 

Prescription drug addiction affects thousands of Americans every year and isn’t just limited to opioids. The following drugs can be addictive and may require treatment:

 

  • Opiates – Also called narcotics and prescribed for severe or chronic pain.
  • Stimulants – Used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Sedatives – Benzodiazepines used for sleep and to treat anxiety disorders.

 

The Solution: More Emphasis on Rehabilitation

 

It might seem like the landscape is dire, or that there is little hope for thousands of patients with prescription drug addiction from the way news outlets have been reporting the issue. But this isn’t true. With better support and a better understanding of the problem, we can make significant inroads into the problem.

 

A major issue has been the patients who were being prescribed drugs that have the “rug pulled out from under them” so to speak. These patients were taken off prescriptions and had no help to overcome their addiction. The CDC has made this a priority for Doctors, who are now being trained a lot more on how to wean their patients off the drugs.

 

There are also options for patients who do not have a prescription. Specialist rehabilitation services across the united states do fantastic work with both inpatient and outpatient services. They can take patients on an outpatient basis, where they prescribe a number of different drugs that can help wean addicts off the drugs. They also offer inpatient services, where the person stays at a residential facility with staff for a period of time. The clinician in charge of each patient will make a decision as to what treatment is appropriate for the patient.

 

With services like these, the opioid epidemic is sure to pass and patients will be free to live addiction-free lives.

 

Outpatient Rehab – Is it Right for Me?

For those whose lives still remain functional, outpatient rehab may be an option to consider. With this type of program, you see a counselor locally and work with therapy groups, attend AA/NA meetings, and complete assignments to help you with becoming drug- and/or alcohol-free. While you do have the freedom to live your life, random drug/alcohol tests are likely with this type of program, and you must be willing to submit to them, especially if it is court ordered outpatient care.

Addictive Medications and Minor AddictionsMinor Addictions

If you have trouble removing drugs and/or alcohol from your life, outpatient treatment may be right for you. This is especially the case if your life does not revolve solely around drinking and using drugs.  When you blow off friends, family, or general adult responsibilities to bar hop, consume an entire 12-pack of beer or bottle of alcohol, it’s time to get help. If you’d rather sit and completely lose your mind to get high instead of cleaning the house, grocery shopping, or spending time with your kids, it’s time to get help. This might be the right situation for you since you’re still able to function in daily life.

Remain in your Own Home

When attending outpatient rehab, you don’t have to deal with the stress of being in a strange place with conflicting personalities or those that are near death from their addictions. Being able to stay home with your family or in transitional housing while getting treatment has proven higher success rates. You have to take this program just as seriously as you would an inpatient center.

The transitional housing idea is to keep you in a dry household with others that are also in recovery. You still go to work, pay your bills, and have some freedom. There are curfews and some house rules to adhere to while seeing your counselor, participating in maintaining the home, and attending group sessions.

Live Normal Life without Drugs or Alcohol

In an outpatient program, you learn how to live life and make use of the extra time that you’d normally spend drinking or getting high. Some counselors suggest taking night college courses, painting, cooking, or taking up a hobby. It’s also an open invitation to get more involved with your spouse and children. Taking a more active role in your family is healing in itself and has plenty of benefits. You’re treating the addiction with your family, rather than being separated from them and feeling awkward returning home in a sober state.

Outpatient programs don’t work for everyone. This is the case with addicts where the only method of detection is by a blood sample or spinal tap. These expensive procedures have to be paid for by the patient and most cannot afford them. For those that recognize their problem and cannot afford inpatient care, this is a good place to start. It can be considered as temporary treatment while you look for financial aid or “scholarship” funds to get clean and live a healthy, substance-free lifestyle again.

Can You Get Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment At Home?

alcohol abuse treatmentA recent article on Foxnews.com explored just how dangerous attempting to deal with alcohol withdrawal at home without treatment can be. Alcohol addiction is a difficult illness to overcome, especially in people who can’t afford expensive long-term residential programmes. However, going cold turkey without the proper medication can be deadly. Luckily there are alternatives but currently, there is a lack of understanding about the options for alcohol withdrawal treatment at home.

Alcohol Withdrawal

If you don’t remember your biology classes from high school take a minute to remind yourself about homeostasis. Homeostasis explains how the body keeps itself in sync. Homeostasis explains why you are able to maintain a body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius (by sweating if you become too hot or shivering if you are too cold). The same principle applies to alcohol. When you consistently consume alcohol, your brain adapts to its new normal. The neurons (the signaling cells in the brain) adapt and get used to the alcohol. Of course, the alcohol is having detrimental effects on the body – particularly the liver – whilst a person drinks. When you take the alcohol away you put the body out of sync. The brain is no longer in homeostasis. Without the depressant effect of the alcohol, the brain goes into overdrive causing a number of distressing symptoms:

  • Tremors – your hands may shake as the brain wrestles to control the body
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations – This occurs in the brain cannot process what is a genuine stimuli (aka what the brain is seeing) and what is part of the imagination. This can be particularly distressing.
  • Death

Alcohol Withdrawal medication

A much safer way to detox from alcohol is with a certified recovery practice. This can either be as an inpatient, but can also be managed at home. You may have heard of many of the alcohol withdrawal medications which include:

  • Benzodiazepines: these drugs have been used for years to treat symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. They work by decreasing brain activity (which you need during the withdrawal period). They have a sedative effect, relaxing the patient and putting them to sleep.
  • Anticonvulsants: You might have heard of these drugs being used for epilepsy. That’s because they were originally designed to treat epilepsy. However, addicts undergoing withdrawal can often have seizures (much like an epileptic would) and these drugs can help prevent that.
  • Vitamins: In very severe instances, vitamin deficiencies in alcoholics can lead to dementia. As such vitamins are needed to supplement addicts who are usually extremely low in vitamins.

As we have seen – alcohol withdrawal is dangerous but there are options for addicts looking for alcohol withdrawal treatment at home. A number of alcohol withdrawal medications are available to avoid some of the distressing and occasionally deadly side effects of withdrawal. If you do try to detox at home, make sure you seek help from an experienced recovery clinic that can prescribe withdrawal medications and guide you through the process with experienced practitioners.

Holistic Rehab – It Isn’t just Crazy Talk

What is Holistic RehabA holistic approach to rehabilitation (rehab) for addictions might seem crazy, but the truth is, it works. These programs are based upon the premise that natural elements remove negative energies and toxins from the body to reduce the “need” for drugs and/or alcohol. Consider it as being a realist’s way of healing. Look into these programs and view the success rates–you may be shocked.

Natural Cleansing Remedies

Connecting with nature and natural elements help to detoxify the body naturally, removing toxins that aid in your dependency on drugs and/or alcohol. What this does is create natural endorphins, which are what creates happiness and energy.  When your body rids itself of negative feelings from positive reinforcements, such as a happy life, a tranquil environment, and a great support group, you can be on your way to embracing a natural lifestyle. This holistic approach may seem absolutely nuts to some, but it isn’t harsh on the body at all. It’s actually quite refreshing.

Aromatherapy for Trigger Reduction

Triggers and temptation cause a general unsettled feeling in the body. Aromatherapy counteracts it. There are different scents that every person finds relaxing. It is important to work with your counselor to find the perfect combination for your unique situation. For instance, someone who becomes angry when their drug of choice is not available may enjoy warm scents such as cinnamon, chocolate, or fresh baked goods. Those that get anxious when they need a fix typically enjoy eucalyptus or fruit scents.

What this type of therapy does is teach you how to take those feelings of anger, depression, and anxiety in combination with a relaxing scent and allow the negative energy to leave the body. The counselor will instruct you to use these scents, and fresh air to calm these unwanted feelings.

Creating Positives Out of Negatives

For every negative in life, there are several positives that will follow. It is important to learn how to take bad feelings, cravings, and triggers and turn them into something constructive. This can mean building something, painting, a new hobby or even going for an evening walk. It’s very cleansing to concentrate these feelings into something constructive to create feelings of accomplishment and happiness. Yoga is peaceful and helps to relax both the mind and body at the same time. Other ideas to consider are learning to cook, taking classes to learn a new trade, joining a walking club, or even just taking walks in nature on your own.

Holistic approaches aren’t for the birds. The body reacts to natural stimulation in a positive manner. Negative energy by allowing life’s stresses and tragedies to take over is what often leads society to dangerous addictions. Those with serious addictions may take longer to benefit from this approach and it may be very hard on the body in the beginning. Once you go through the program and see just how fresh and happy you feel, you’ll see that the tough road was all worth it and you’ll be more motivated to maintain the lifestyle.

The Stages of Relapse

Relapse is associated with many feelings, attitudes, and behaviors. There are 10 stages involved with relapse that has been identified by experts.

Stage1: Unhealthy Emotions

When you stop using drugs and develop a recovery plan to stay clean, you initially do fine. However, at some point, you may come upon a problem and not be able to adequately cope emotionally. These unhealthy emotions are often called “stinking thinking” because you feel down and out but do not understand why.

 

RelapseStage 2:  Denial

Instead of recognizing that you are stressed and emotionally unable to cope with these feelings, you use denial to convince yourself everything will be alright. However, this mechanism is similar to what you use when you are dealing with addiction and confronted with uncomfortable feelings. Denial of emotional stress often leaves the recovering addict feeling overwhelmed. If you use recovery tools, you will know that sharing these feelings help you get over these emotions.

The worst thing a recovering addict can do in the denial stage is isolated him- or herself from support persons. You may overreact and focus on internal issues, causing you to relapse quicker. Don’t distance yourself from your support network during the denial stage. Learn how to recognize it and move forward. During recovery, you may feel like you are on a roller coaster of your emotions. This is the stage of relapse where you often feel anxious and have much sleeplessness and sadness. These ups and downs are part of the denial stage of relapse.

 

Stage 3:  Compulsive Behaviors

In the downward progression of drug use, a recovering addict first tries to cope with emotional stresses by engaging in certain compulsive behaviors rather than using appropriate recovery tools. During this stage of relapse, you will find your thinking going back to the old, insane ways associated with drug and/or alcohol use. You know you don’t want to get back on drugs again, but you are also not using the techniques to cope that you learned in rehab.

Emotional relapse is associated with compulsive behaviors. These are things we do to attempt to repair ourselves, slowly abandoning the recovery program and returning to drug use. During this stage of the relapse process, you make irrational choices, use poor judgment, and become argumentative and defensive. Signs of emotional relapse include sleeping more, ignoring personal hygiene, and having distorted thinking.

 

Stage 4:  Triggers

Triggers are things, places, and situations that remind you or prompt you to use drugs or drink alcohol. In a solid recovery program, you do not use the right techniques to avoid and ignore triggers. During this stage, you need to avoid places that remind you of your using days. Triggers snap you and set you off. During this stage, you should attend a meeting, contact a sponsor, or turn to a higher power to remove the obsession for using drugs or drinking.

 

Stage 5:  Interior Chaos

When a person is triggered to use drugs, their stress level goes up and erratic emotions control thinking. This leads to interior chaos, which is part of mental relapse. During this stage, thinking patterns are more distorted and insane, with the obsession to use drugs becoming stronger. The reality of your condition is obscured by fantasies of the good old days of drug use.

During stage 5, you need to remind yourself of why you wanted to get clean in the first place. You need to go back and remember how the disease rendered both your body and mind abnormal. Also, you need to stay focused on the program in hopes of maintaining recovery. It is crucial that you remember that it is not external issues that lead to drug use, but it’s your inability to cope with emotions and thoughts that drive you toward drugs.

 

Stage 6:  Exterior Turmoil

If you remain in a state of mental relapse, you may at some point realize that your frame of mind is not right. You know that you are slipping out of recovery and having feelings of shame, fear, or even pride. Eventually, your addictive thinking ways cause problems with your outside world. This is when you have fights with family members, get into arguments with co-workers, and feel bitter.

 

Stage 7: Loss of Control

If you try handling your problems without help, they may overwhelm you until you feel fed up. You may feel that you are getting out of control again. Life may become troublesome, and you are at crises. Once you recognize that you are out of control, you may have a chance at staying clean. This is a crucial point during relapse to identify the problems and refrain from drug use.

 

Stage 8:  Addictive Thinking

At this stage of your relapse, you use all your addict defense mechanisms. The disease convinces you that recovery is not working, and that you should just do what you want. You may feel miserable and fail to understand what is really going on. Deluded feelings convince you that recovery is too hard and not enjoyable. The disease makes you avoid support persons, skip meetings, and think about using more and more. To avoid responsibilities, you think about leaving your spouse, quitting your job, and using drugs.

 

Stage 9: High-Risk Situations

By this stage, your mental relapse is full-blown. Your emotions are in turmoil and your thinking is distorted. You believe it is alright to go back to visiting places where drugs are, and you get to be around the drug scene. You justify your behavior and put yourself in real high-risk situations.

 

Stage 10:  Relapse

When you actually relapse, you revert back to your old ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. You find yourself abandoning your recovery skills and using drugs and/or alcohol again. The way you see it, you can use or commit suicide. Relapse is not a failure, however. Rather, this is just a minor setback. At this point, you need to go back into inpatient treatment, where you can work through your problems and get clean again.

Alcohol Abuse and Treatment

It isn’t what you plan, but sometimes, drinking causes you to cross the line from the occasional use or social use to problematic everyday drinking. This leads to alcoholism or alcohol abuse, which is related to genetics, social environment, and psychological issues. Certain ethnic groups are more at risk for alcohol abuse than others, such as Native Alaskans and Native American Indians. Alcoholism tends to run in families, too, and heavy drinkers suffer from numerous mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Do I have a Drinking Problem?

Drinking is more acceptable in many cultures and the effects of alcohol use vary from person to person. When social drinking becomes problem drinking, then the alcohol is in control. You may suffer from alcohol abuse if you:

  • Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
  • Feel ashamed or guilty regarding your drinking.
  • Need to drink for the purpose of relaxation.
  • Experience “blackouts” after drinking.
  • Have family members or friends who are concerned about your drinking.
  • Drink to excess on a regular basis.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Substance abuse physicians and counselors do not consider alcohol abuse to be the same as alcohol dependence, which is essentially alcoholism. Alcohol abusers do have the ability to limit their drinking, whereas alcoholics do not. However, excessive use of alcohol is dangerous and self-destructive either way. The common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:

  • Continuing to drink regardless of problems in relationships, work, or other.
  • Repetitively neglecting responsibilities due to the drinking.
  • Using alcohol while driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Having repeated legal problems due to the drinking.
  • Drinking to relax or reduce stress.

Alcohol AbuseWhen Alcohol Abuse turns into Alcoholism

Not all people who use or abuse alcohol develop full-blown alcoholism. However, frequent abuse of this substance is a major risk factor for alcoholism. Certain losses or tragedies often trigger binge drinking or other substance use issues. When a person becomes reliant on alcohol in order to function or feel physically well, then he or she is considered an alcoholic.

One of the first warning signs of alcoholism is tolerance. This is when you can drink considerable amounts without getting drunk or feeling “buzzed.” Tolerance is when a person requires more and more alcohol in order to feel the same effects. Another warning sign is withdrawal. This is when someone has certain symptoms when alcohol has not been in his or her system for a while, such as tremors, anxiety, or mood swings. In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol causes hallucinations, seizures, nausea, vomiting, fever, and confusion.

Denial of Drinking Problems

Denial is the biggest obstacle when considering rehabilitation (rehab) for alcohol abuse or dependence. For many alcoholics, the desire to drink is so strong that it causes problems with rational thinking and the consequences are ignored. Denial also leads to serious problems with relationships, work, social life, and finances. A person who is dependent on alcohol will deny this by:

  • Downplaying the amount he or she drinks.
  • Avoiding accepting consequences that are related to drinking.
  • Complaining that friends and family members exaggerate regarding the problem.
  • Blaming the drinking on other people or things.

Illicit Drug Abuse

Illicit drug use and abuse often lead to severe consequences, as in jail time or a prison sentence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 70 percent of prison entrants report using substances in the year prior to incarceration. Men are more likely than women to have used drugs before entering prison, also. Among young people aged 18 to 44, around 73 percent have used an illicit drug during the previous 12 months.

Illicit drug use and addiction is one of the worse types of addict problems. Illicit drugs are illegal to make, use, and/or sell, and include cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, and various hallucinogens. Also, most of these substances are highly addictive and carry serious health consequences and risks, even when consumed in small or infrequent doses. While it begins as experimentation, illicit drug users often find themselves dealing with the mental and physical effects of the drug and withdrawal from the substance. A person can become addicted easily and endanger the safety and health of others. Researchers have found that addiction is a brain disease, which is characterized by chronic relapses and abnormalities in certain brain pathways.

Categories of Illicit Drugs

Illicit drug effects are dependent upon the substance. The main categories are opioids, stimulants, sedatives, and hallucinogens. These drugs are categorized based on their effects. These include:

  • Opioids – Painkillers and heroin that alter chemicals in the brain responsible for mood regulation, slow down the central nervous system, and decrease breathing effort.
  • Stimulants – Methamphetamines, and cocaine lead to increased heart rate, excessive brain activity, and a state of hyperactivity.
  • Sedatives – Drugs such as Xanax and Valium are sedatives, and these cause a slowing down effect, drowsiness, and confusion.
  • Hallucinogens – LSD, mushrooms, and marijuana can alter the perception of time, space, and reality.

The Signs of Illicit Drug Addiction

There are certain behaviors that indicate an addiction to an illicit drug. These include:

  • Aggressive behavior, violence, and/or mood swings
  • Unusual or sudden change of energy level
  • Preoccupation with obtaining and using a certain drug
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Chronic mental and physical health problems
  • Inability to attend work or social activities
  • Legal consequences, such as loss of job or an arrest
  • Behavior that violates values and/or morals for the purpose of getting a drug

Treatment Options

  • Inpatient rehab program – This is best for individuals who suffer from severe illicit drug addiction. Doctors, therapists, and counselors monitor the addict to provide safety and a healthy environment for recovery.
  • Outpatient rehab program – These facilities work for the addict who wishes to maintain his or her job or for those who have families. The person attends group activities and classes at the facility but returns to home and daily activities.
  • 12-Step program – NA and AA are both good 12-step programs that offer support to people with addictions. These programs use the 12-step concept in order to help a person manage obsessions and compulsions of addiction.
  • Psychotherapy – Drug addiction often coexists with emotional and or mental health issues. This can lead to self-destructive patterns without appropriate psychotherapy.
References
Narcotics Anonymous
Drug Addicts Anonymous
National Institute on Drug Abuse
DrugFree.org
American Council for Drug Education
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence 

Lithium and Alcohol Treatment

Numerous pharmacological agents have been proved effective for treating alcohol addiction and enhancing recovery. The common class of drugs used to manage withdrawal symptoms during alcohol detoxification is Benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Benzodiazepines such as Diazepam, Chlordiazepoxide, Lorazepam, and Oxazepam are the most commonly used drugs. Among some skepticism and debate, Lithium has also been shown to have therapeutic benefits for the treatment of alcohol addiction. However, some medical experts believe that Lithium is effective only for alcoholics suffering from manic depression and bipolar disorder. It is generally thought that Lithium treatment may work only in those with a dual diagnosis.

One of the naturally occurring chemical elements, Lithium is useful in medicine as a mood stabilizer prepared in pharmacology by combining lithium salt with an orotic acid. Lithium orotate is said to be a drug-form with the fewest side effects. Other combinations of the drug are Lithium carbonate, Lithium citrate made by compounding lithium with carbon and oxygen.

Mechanism of Action of Lithium

Lithium works through the central nervous system by regulating the levels of neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin. Decreased activity of norepinephrine and increased serotonin levels help in reducing the stress response and increasing mental well-being. Though lithium is referred to as a psycho-active drug, it does not produce euphoric highs in its users. The therapeutic actions of lithium to start acting on the drug addict may take as long as a month.

Lithium AddictionLithium for Alcoholism

A number of research studies analysing the potential beneficial effects of lithium in alcoholic-recovery and rehabilitation have not provided conclusive evidence. Lithium is a successful pharmacological agent for treating depression symptoms. Since depression is a strongly associated symptom in chronic alcoholism, Lithium is expected to improve the recovery and prognosis in alcoholics. However, systematic clinical studies have failed to prove lithium’s effectiveness in neither depressed nor non-depressed alcohol-addicts.

Nonetheless, alcoholics suffering from bipolar disorder have been shown to benefit from lithium-assisted detoxification and therapy. So, lithium may really be indispensable for patients with a dual diagnosis (Alcohol Use Disorder and Bipolar disorder); but further research and large-scale clinical trials are required to determine the exact drug efficacy in such medical cases.

Lithium and Suicide Prevention

Lithium is especially useful in treating depression in individuals harboring suicidal thoughts. An interesting data analytics-study in Japan has demonstrated that cities with high Lithium concentrations in their water supply had lower suicide rates. This highlights a strong link between addiction and suicide, where lithium-assisted therapy could hold numerous benefits. 

Potential Side Effects of Lithium

The side effects of lithium include potential kidney damage, hypothyroidism, and weight gain; it may also cause nystagmus (involuntary eye-twitching). Furthermore, Lithium exposure during pregnancy has been associated with the occurrence of developmental defects in the fetus. To ensure safety during lithium-treatment, it is advisable to regularly perform blood and urine tests to continually monitor for kidney damage or other side effects. The levels of lithium in the body can also be influenced by changes in diet or dehydration. Finally, if the patient gets exposed to alcohol abuse when on lithium-treatment, an increase in the severity of side-effects may occur, preventing the drug from working properly.