The Disease of Addiction

What is Substance Use Disorder (SUD)?

Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a disease that affects an individual’s brain chemistry and behavior, leading to an inability to control the use of a substance to a clinical impairment. SUD is a relapsing disorder that is characterized by an individual’s compulsive drug seeking, long-lasting changes in brain chemistry and continued use regardless of the harmful consequences.

The following 12 criteria determine a Substance Use Disorder:

  1. Taking larger amounts of a substance than needed.
  2. Unable to stop using or cut down a substance.
  3. The amount of time using, getting and recovering from a substance use.
  4. Strong cravings for a substance.
  5. Urges to use a substance.
  6. Unable to perform normal functions at home, school or work because of substance use.
  7. Continuing to use a substance disregarding the consequences.
  8. Choosing substance use over personal obligations like social, professional or recreational activities.
  9. Finding yourself in dangerous situations because of substance use.
  10. Experiencing health issues (physical and psychological) caused by substance use and/or made worse by substance use.
  11. Building a tolerance to a substance (needing more of a substance to achieve the same effect)
  12. Developing withdrawal symptoms which are only relieved by consuming more of a substance.

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Commonly Abused Drugs

Many people turn to heroin as a last resort drug to fulfill their addiction to prescription painkillers. Heroin is much stronger, cheaper and easier accessible substitute for opioid painkillers. For someone struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD), heroin is an instant gratification without the need to find a doctor or prescription to experience a much stronger high than painkillers would provide.

Heroin derives from the opium poppy, which has highly addictive properties. Users generally feel an intense euphoria and “high” after taking one hit. This gradually turns into heroin abuse– initiating a heroin addiction. People are involuntarily becoming addicted to heroin when they put heroin in their bodies. Most people do not have a choice but to begin abusing heroin because of its highly addictive properties, since users begin building a tolerance even after the second use. A heroin addiction hijacks the user’s brain. Users begin to focus all their energy on experiencing that same high again, even if they need to go to extreme measures.

Physical and behavioral changes are one of the main indications for heroin addiction.

Physical symptoms:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Track marks on arms and/or legs
  • Runny nose
  • Lethargy
  • Nodding out
  • Extreme itchiness
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Shortness of breath
  • Scabs
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Nausea/ Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent respiratory infections/asthma
  • Heaviness in arms and legs
  • Increase in body temperature

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Isolation
  • Secrecy
  • Carelessness about health and hygiene
  • Lying about drug use
  • Carelessness to grooming his/herself
  • Avoiding loved ones
  • Stashing drugs and paraphernalia in places around home or car
  • Possession of paraphernalia [ needles, bottle caps, spoons, pipes, shoe strings, etc.]
  • Manic changes in behavior, from lethargy to hyperactivity
  • Stealing money or items of value
  • Lack of motivation to do anything not involving obtaining money for next heroin use
  • Increased sleepiness
  • Inability to fulfill responsibilities
  • Jumbled speech

Psychological symptoms:

  • Disorientation
  • Delusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Apathy
  • Numbness
  • Narcissism
  • Carelessness

Our heroin treatment program at HEAL Behavioral Health provides individuals the essential tools to combat a heroin addiction. Proper treatment and the right support can help people recognize their harmful tendencies and teach them how to utilize coping skills.

Despite its legality in the United States, irresponsible alcohol use can very easily lead to alcoholism. When people cannot stop drinking alcohol they are experiencing an alcohol addiction. Alcoholism left untreated can become a life long struggle for those who develop a severe alcohol addiction.

Alcohol in its consumable beverage form is ethanol– made by fermenting grains, honey and fruit. Ethanol is a depressant and causes slurred speech, impaired motor skills, difficulty walking, ultimately altering brain chemistry. When people use alcohol they have a greater willingness to take risks and act on impulse. Most alcoholics drink to feel these effects of alcohol intoxication—they drink to get drunk.

Some types of alcoholic beverages include:

  • Beer (4-6 percent alcohol)
  • Liquor (15-60 percent alcohol)
  • Wine (8-20 percent alcohol)
  • Spirits –vodka, whiskey, tequila, rum and gin (50-60 percent alcohol)
  • Alcoholic energy drinks (8-12 percent alcohol)

Abusing alcohol is consuming significant amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, which can lead to an alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder is a disease in which an individual uncontrollably uses alcohol and is unable to stop.

Some signs of alcohol abuse include:

  • Harmful drinking resulting in mental and physical damage
  • Excessive drinking despite the relative consequences drinking creates (legal and personal)
  • Using alcohol to cope with psychological or emotional problems

Signs of alcoholism include:

  • Inability to stop excessive drinking
  • Dependence on alcohol
  • Withdrawal symptoms when stopping use
  • Building an increased tolerance for alcohol

There is a fine line between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. No matter which category someone struggling with alcohol falls into, help is available. Alcohol does not need to control your life. Education in alcoholism, recognizing your tendencies, and practicing coping skills are all a part of treatment plan that we provide at HEAL Behavioral Health.

A Xanax addiction and/or any other benzodiazepine addiction is one of the most dangerous addictions a user could have. Xanax is the brand name for alprazolam, in the benzodiazepine class—a psychoactive drug that appeases the central nervous system of the brain.

Benzodiazepines are legal medications prescribed by doctors and are intended for short-term treatment for anxiety/panic or seizure disorder while the prescribed person is becoming accustomed to an anti-depressant or anticonvulsant. Xanax and other benzodiazepines have extreme tranquil and euphoric effects and are very effective in temporarily relieving people suffering from anxiety and panic disorders. However, Xanax has severely negative long-term effects on an individual’s brain with consistent use.

Benzos are a class of substances that have sedative and anti-anxiety properties. Every benzo is addictive, however, forming habits for each one will vary depending on the dosage, how fast acting it is and the potency of the medication. A Xanax addiction is progressive and does not happen overnight.

Benzodiazepines come in the form of:

  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Ativan
  • Klonopin
  • Librium

Signs of a Xanax or benzodiazepine addiction include:

  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Unable to be present
  • Slurred speech
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Aggression
  • Frequent urination
  • Hallucinations
  • Dry mouth/dehydration
  • Mania

Coming off of any benzodiazepine is extremely challenging but not impossible. Benzodiazepines are long-acting medications and can potentially take weeks to fully be filtered out of your system. Without proper detox and treatment, a Xanax or benzodiazepine withdrawal can be dangerous and even fatal.

Crack cocaine is an illicit substance— so any usage is considered abuse. Crack produces an immediate and powerful rush—though short-lived. Anyone abusing crack cocaine will need higher and more frequent doses to extend the short-lived high, unfortunately increasing the chances of overdose. Overdoses usually follow signs of dilated pupils and excessive sweating. Overdoses involving strokes, seizures or cardiac complications can be fatal.

Many people abusing crack cocaine use it for its “poly-drug” use. This means that users generally use cocaine in combination with other drugs—usually depressants. Many people with a cocaine addiction may also have a dependence on alcohol or heroin. The deadliest of these combinations is using heroin and cocaine together, also known as “speedball.” Combining these addictive substances increases their potencies and has significant health consequences—even deadly. Since these drugs are frequently used together, many people may consider alcohol or any drug used in combination with crack cocaine as a trigger for recovering cocaine users.

Some effects of crack cocaine include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Over-confidence
  • Euphoria
  • Tension
  • Loss of appetite
  • Talkativeness
  • Paranoia
  • High body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Fast breathing
  • Distraction
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Intense drug craving
  • Anxiety
  • Panic
  • Sweating
  • Erratic, abnormal and sometimes aggressive behavior
  • Psychosis

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there are no current medications approved by the U.S. FDA that are used to treat a cocaine addiction. It is advised not to address a cocaine addiction without professional and medical help. A common misunderstanding is that people can stop an addiction on their own just by abstaining from the drug. Users are likely to experience setbacks without the proper equipment and support provided in treatment.

Opioids are synthetic painkillers derived from the poppy plant. Many doctors prescribe opioids as a solution to acute physical pain– from injuries, surgeries, or other medical procedures. These medications are meant to be prescribed for short term treatment as the patient continues physical therapy. When prescribed long-term, the patient is at risk for opioid addiction. When users misuse the medication they are likely to become addicted faster.

Increased dosages of opioid drugs alter the brain chemistry so it functions normally only when the drug is present in the system. A tolerance to opioids leads to a dependency—which means that people who develop a tolerance begin using the drug to feel normal.

The high that most opioid addicts seek vanishes with daily opioid abuse. Routinely using opioids can eventually become an arduous process. Many people who have a severe opioid addiction cannot remember the last time they found using enjoyable.

Some of the more popularly prescribed opioid painkillers include:

  • Codeine
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Morphine
  • Oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
  • Oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet)
  • Fentanyl
  • Tramadol
  • Methadone

An opioid addiction is extremely dangerous because of the risk of opioid overdose. Overdose can result from prescription misuse or recreational use of opioids purchased on the streets.

Some signs indicating an opioid addiction include:

  • Intense cravings to use opioids or opioids
  • Many failed attempts to quit or control opioid consumption
  • Disregard for law enforcement
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities, whether at home or work
  • Recurring personal issues due to opioid use
  • Challenging recovery
  • Continued use—regardless of consequences

At HEAL Behavioral Health, we understand that beating an opioid addiction is difficult. We use certain medications in a continuum of care and closely monitor our patients’ progress. Clients learn about their addiction with the facilitation of a 12-Step program in a treatment course that will best suit the client’s clinical needs.

An addiction to methamphetamine is a powerful addiction. Many people who use meth for the first time are not aware of what they are signing up for. The rush that meth users feel when they first use it can kick-start a meth addiction from the very first use. The extraordinarily high release of dopamine from meth use is much greater than the natural human production of dopamine in the brain. This fuels binge use and other abusive tendencies.

In its illegal form, meth is a white odorless powder. Meth can be snorted, injected, smoked or orally consumed.

Some street names for meth include:

  • Ice
  • Crank
  • Glass
  • Cristina
  • Tina
  • Crystal

Most people who use meth are using it illegally, which is considered abuse. Meth can provide a user a “rush” when smoked or injected. Meth increases the user’s heart rate and feelings of pleasure. The rush that meth provides produces more intense effects than most drugs and can last anywhere up to 30 minutes. The rush is followed by a high that lasts up to 12 hours. The duration of the high depends on the route of administration.

Meth users usually feel:

  • Alertness
  • Elation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme Love
  • Talkativeness
  • Hyperactivity
  • Empathy

Meth is less expensive compared with other street drugs, making it that much more affordable and accessible. This can pave the way to binge use. Users enjoy the stimulant characteristic of meth that keeps them awake and high for several days. This high does not perpetuate the same effects with time. Users need to use higher doses to achieve the same high they felt in the beginning stages of meth use. Certain behavioral and physical changes are common among meth users.

Some signs of meth abuse include:

  • Drastic weight loss
  • Talkativeness
  • Tooth decay
  • Hyperactivity
  • Overconfident behavior
  • Distraction
  • Twitchiness, nervousness
  • Aggression
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of consciousness

Our program at HEAL Behavioral Health provides a holistic approach with medication assisted treatment to help overcome addiction. We understand that beating any addiction requires a strong support system and we help you create that foundation. Our inpatient meth rehab gives individuals the grounds to stop the destructive cycle of addiction in an environment that is conducive to healing.

Recovery is priceless

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Withdrawal and Detox

Withdrawals from a substance can be extremely challenging and intense. If a substance is used long-term, the medical consequences can grow to be more severe. Many users fear withdrawals, which prevent them from considering the option of stopping use. For many people, the longing to feel “normal” again almost feels unattainable, with or without the continued use of a substance. Because of this, the likelihood of relapse and overdose is high.

We can help with:

  • Alcohol Detox
  • Heroin/Opioid Detox
  • Xanax/ Benzodiazepine Detox
  • Methamphetamine Detox
  • Crack/Cocaine Detox

A medically monitored detox is a safe environment for addicts undergoing the withdrawal process. Through a structured program, doctors will assist patients in overcoming their withdrawal symptoms by tapering them off of a substance until they are medically stable, ultimately eliminating physical dependence. Physicians may prescribe medications to reduce the severity of specific symptoms and to reduce cravings. After detox, medical facilities usually advise patients to seek longer-term treatment at an inpatient drug rehabilitation facility. This is an essential step to prevent relapse and promote long term sobriety.

More About Alcoholism

Alcohol addiction does not discriminate. Unlike the general stereotype of an alcoholic who is homeless and dysfunctional, alcohol can affect anyone regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, education level, profession or socioeconomic status. Researches are still looking into why addiction affects some people and not others. However, some characteristics may increase an individual’s chance of being an alcoholic.

These factors include:

  1. Peer pressure from social circle or groups
  2. Family history of substance use disorder
  3. Mental illness, such as anxiety, depression or trauma
  4. Low self-esteem
  5. Underage alcohol use
  6. Regular alcohol use or binge drinking

The appropriate combination of support and evidence based treatment, alcohol addiction can be treated. Rehab for Substance Use Disorder has worked for millions of people nationwide. Help is available for you or a loved one who is struggling with alcohol addiction. It is possible for you to regain your health and life after undergoing a treatment program and learning the proper sober living skills.

HEAL Behavioral Health is an intimate program designed to provide the best care for people suffering for Substance Use Disorder. We are staffed with a team of experienced addiction professionals, many of whom are in recovery themselves. We can help you understand your addiction and build a life worth staying sober for—once and for all.

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Interventions

Addiction is a family disease and doesn’t necessarily only affect the person suffering. The family can feel the impact of addiction just as much as the user. No family will react well watching a family member suffer. At the same time, it’s hard for addicts in active addiction to realize their situation for what it is, who they are and understanding that they need to get help.

There is no such thing as revolutionary turning point that a family needs to wait for to stage an intervention. It is better not to wait. If someone’s substance use is negatively affecting the lives of those around him or her, seek professional help.

Waiting for that “rock bottom” moment can lead to overdose or even death.

  • If the addict or alcoholic’s safety is at risk

  • If the children of the addict or alcoholic are in danger

  • If the drug or alcohol use is having a severe emotional impact on the addict
  • If the drug or alcohol use has a harmful physical impact on the addict

  • If the addict has been admitted in a hospital for overdose or other substance use-related hospitalizations
  • If the addict is facing legal problems as a direct consequence of Substance Use Disorder and continues disregarding them

These are tell-tale signs that it is time for an intervention. Approach the situation with compassion and communicate how you and your family feel. It is important to understand that addicts are not receptive to harsh criticism. Our team at HEAL Behavioral Health can help with every step of the process. Consider having one of our professional team members to help stage an intervention for your loved one. Sometimes, having someone with personal experience conducting the intervention can allow for more successful and fluent communication than with just family.

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