Addiction to prescription pills is not just limited to opioids and pain medications. Prescription pills can be broken down into four broad classes – opioids, benzodiazepines, sedatives, and stimulants. Although there are many people who properly use their prescription medication, there are still people who misuse them.
What are the Types of Prescription Pills?
The rate of prescription drug abuse in the United States is worsening with time. While prescription drug use may begin for a legitimate reason, it can still turn to abuse. So, what are the types of prescription pills?
- Opioids: Opioids are prescription pain killers that are used to treat severe or chronic pain. These are the most prescribed of the four medication classes. Some common opioids are: Oxycontin, Lortab, Morphine, and Percocet.
- Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines are depressants that are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, and seizures. The most common benzodiazepine are Xanax and Valium.
- Stimulants: The most common prescribed stimulant is Adderall. Adderall is typically used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Similar medications are Concerta and Ritalin.
- Sedatives: Sedatives and tranquilizers are very similar. They generally produce a similar feeling of intoxification. Sleeping pills are common prescription sedatives.
How Do You Get Addicted to Prescription Medication?
Prescription medication is prescribed for people who need it. And while it may be beneficial for some people, they have an extremely high potential for abuse and addiction. But why is it that some people develop an addiction and others do not?
There are many factors that can go into substance abuse and addiction – family history and environmental factors are the big ones. Those who have a first-degree relative who struggled with substance abuse are significantly more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. Peer influence and family dynamics are the environmental factors that play into it.
While there are factors that play into substance abuse, the most common reason for addiction is the medication itself. Often, prescription medication is prescribed for those with chronic pain, and one will take the medication for an extended period of time. Eventually, the dosage is no longer sufficient to mitigate the pain and higher doses are consumed. This is called “developing a tolerance” and this is one of the most common ways addiction develops.
What are the Signs of a Prescription Pill Addiction?
Signs and symptoms of a prescription pill addiction varies based on the specific type of pill. But, here are the most common behavioral signs that indicate addiction:
- Doctor shopping
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Asking for refills more often than necessary
- “Losing” prescriptions and looking for replacements
- Sudden mood changes
- Demanding more privacy
Treatment at Holland Pathways
Here at Holland Pathways, we provide individualized treatment plans. We believe that everyone is different, and one treatment won’t suit everybody’s needs. Therefore, we work with each client to create a treatment program for them.
Binge drinking is a common form of alcohol consumption that is popular among college-age adults. Even though it is common, it can still be dangerous. People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol at social gatherings often don’t realize that a hangover is not their only consequence. Drinking alcohol excessively can have a major impact on one’s physical, mental, and psychological health. It can increase one’s risk of driving while impaired and it can also be a sign of alcohol abuse and addiction.
What is Binge Drinking?
Binge drinking is a form of heavy drinking. It is officially defined as:
- For men: drinking five or more drinks within a two-hour time period
- For women: drinking four or more drinks within a two-hour time period
This includes consumption of any time of alcohol, including wine, beer, or hard liquor. Binge drinking is the most common among adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Binge drinking also commonly occurs on college campuses.
Why do People Binge Drink?
People binge drink for various reasons and personal circumstances. In most cases, binge drinking occurs in social settings, such as parties. In these cases, people may binge drink in order to feel like they fit in, to easy social anxiety, or simply because they are curious about the experience of intoxication. Teenagers may binge drink because they feel like its an act of rebellion.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people who binge drink are not dependent on alcohol. However, this doesn’t mean that binge drinking doesn’t come without risk. It can lead to or be a symptom of a serious problem.
Reasons for binge drinking that may indicate alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking to numb emotions
- Drinking to distract from negative experiences
- Drinking to self-medicate
- Drinking to get dangerously drunk
- Strong alcohol cravings
Using alcohol to distract from personal issues is not a sustainable coping tool. Over time, excessive drinking can pose a serious problem.
Short Term Effects of Binge Drinking
Drinking heavy amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time can lead to dangerous levels of intoxication. There are physical, mental, and psychological effects of binge drinking.
Physical Effects of Binge Drinking Include:
- Lack of coordination
- Low blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeats
- Inhibited gag reflex
Binge drinking can also pose the risk of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can be serious and potentially life-threatening if left untreated.
Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms:
- Unusually slow breathing
- Loss of consciousness
If you notice the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Mental and Psychological Effects of Binge Drinking Include:
- Impaired judgement
- Increased appetite
- Lowered inhibition
- Memory blackouts
Increased Risk for Accidents
One of the most overlooked dangers of binge drinking is the likelihood of leading to serious accidents or injuries.
Dangerous Risks of Binge Drinking Include:
- Drunk driving fatalities
- Domestic violence
- Sexual assault
Long-Term Effects and Risks of Binge Drinking
Although there are many short-term effects from binge drinking, there are also long-term effects of it. The more frequently a person binge drinks, the more likely they are to experience long-term effects.
Long-Term Effects and Health Risks of Binge Drinking Include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Various cancers
- Weakened immune system
- Memory and learning problems
- Nerve damage
- Poor work performance
- Inability to stay in school or keep a job
Frequent binge drinking can also increase a person’s tolerance to alcohol. This can cause a dependence on alcohol. Alcohol dependence can make it difficult for a person to reduce or stop their drinking completely. People who become dependent on alcohol are at greater risk for alcohol addiction. They may also experience withdrawal symptoms within 12 hours of their last drink.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse
Although most people who binge drink are not expected to develop a serious alcohol problem, many still struggle in silence for fear of shame, addiction, or other personal reasons and they don’t seek help. At Holland Pathways, we offer a safe, accepting environment for all of our clients.
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Signs Your Loved One is Addicted to Heroin
Heroin is considered an opioid and can come in two forms – either as white or brown powder or as a black, tar-like substance. When abused, it is consumed by injection, smoking, sniffing, or snorting. Heroin is highly addictive, no matter how it is consumed. If you aren’t sure if your loved one is abusing heroin, we will go over the signs of heroin addiction.
Five Signs of Heroin Abuse
- Going “On The Nod”
Like alcohol, heroin is a depressant or a “downer.” This means that it will slow the body down, specifically blood pressure, breathing, and heart. As these internal systems slow down, certain signs will be visible. After the initial high of abusing heroin, your loved one will be in a drowsy state for several hours. Several users will go back and forth between consciousness and unconsciousness while abusing heroin. Going between a wakeful and drowsy state is called going “on the nod.”
- Ignoring Physical and Mental Health Problems
Heroin is extremely toxic to the brain and the body. Heroin abuse can cause depression and antisocial personality disorder. Some of the physical health effects include insomnia, liver and kidney disease, lung problems, and transmissible diseases like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis B and C. When a person is abusing heroin, their mind is consumed with the thought of using it again and again, no matter what happens to their mental and physical health.
- Withdrawal Symptoms
One of the biggest signs of heroin dependency is withdrawal. If your loved one is not able to use heroin, they will likely become very sick. Heroin exerts a strong force over the body’s chemical makeup and instead of relying on natural chemicals, the body begins to rely on what is coming from the heroin.
Withdrawal symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Cold flashes
- Intense cravings
- Involuntary leg movements
- Muscle aches and pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Vomiting and diarrhea
Withdrawal symptoms are the most severe one to two days after a person last uses heroin. Symptoms will typically fade away after a week. These symptoms can be extreme, painful, uncomfortable, and in certain cases, dangerous. It may be best to choose a medically supervised detoxification program.
- Signs of IV Drug Use
The most common form of heroin use is injection. This method is highly invasive. Long-term abuse will cause great damage to person’s body. Injection sites include forearms, legs, hands, and feet. You may notice bruising, scabs, scarring, and unhealed needle marks. Some chronic abusers may get tattoos on their arms or other locations in an attempt to hide the evidence of frequent drug use. Repeated injections can be dangerous, causing infection or inflammation.
- They Carry Equipment with Them
Otherwise known as paraphernalia, people who abuse heroin typically carry some sort of equipment with them. Being able to spot these items can help inform you that your loved one is abusing heroin.
Items used for transporting or storing:
- Small baggies
- Foil squares
Items used for injecting:
- A belt or rubber tubing
- Burnt spoon or bottle cap
- Cotton balls
- Syringes or needles
Items used for smoking:
- Burnt aluminum foil
- Burnt pop can
Items used for snorting:
- Cut off, hollowed-out pens
- Rolled dollar bills
- Razor blades
Frequent abusers often keep their items in small bags or a small case. This kit might be kept hidden in a vehicle, bedroom, bathroom, or other personal space. If you do find these items, we recommend you don’t touch them. In addition to possible bloodborne illness, heroin paraphernalia may contain traces of other illicit drugs and touching the strongest of these can cause an instant overdose.
Heroin abuse can be overwhelming. At Holland Pathways, we offer medically monitored detoxification services and we offer residential inpatient services.
Can PTSD Lead to Substance Abuse?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs when a person has sustained difficulty recovering from experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Trauma can include illness, a near-death experience, a car crash, violence, military combat, and more. There is a clear timeline of the event that sets it apart from the rest of a person’s memories. Some people turn to harmful substances to try to cope with their PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
People may experience a variety of physical and psychological symptoms. These symptoms can vary in intensity. The onset of symptoms also varies. For example, for some, PTSD may begin within a month of the traumatic experience. For others, PTSD may not begin for several years.
There are four groupings of PTSD symptoms:
- Flashbacks of the traumatic experience. This means the original trauma can be relived both mentally and physically. This can cause sweating, heart palpitations, nightmares, and frightening thoughts.
- Avoidance is another symptom of PTSD. The person suffering may avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event, as well as anything, anyone, or any place associated with the event.
- People may be on guard for danger, easily startled, surprised, or tense. This can lead to difficulty sleeping, irritable or angry outbursts, and engaging in self-destructive behavior.
- Feelings of hopelessness is the final grouping of PTSD symptoms. These can include negative thoughts about yourself, others, or the world. People may experience memory problems, feelings of detachment, trouble experiencing positive emotions, lack of interest in activities, and an overall feeling of numbness.
How Trauma Can Lead to Substance Abuse
PTSD cannot be pushed down and avoided forever. Some people try to avoid dealing with PTSD, whereas others may not even recognize they are suffering from it. In those cases, it is a family member or loved one who initially notices changes in the person’s behavior. PTSD can disrupt a person’s daily living, their job, and their relationships, making it difficult to function normally.
It can be extremely difficult to experience a traumatic event. It can be even more difficult to relive it again and again. The fear, discomfort, and overwhelming feeling of guilt and shame have been known to contribute to an increased risk of substance abuse. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to numb their feelings.
It is crucial to properly diagnose a person so they can get the treatment they need. This is the first step. Many people who rely on substances to dull the symptoms of PTSD have never been properly diagnosed in the first place. For the best chance at a sober life and the tools needed to deal with PTSD connected to substance use, contact us at Holland Pathways. We are here to help.
It can be extremely difficult to watch someone you love abuse substances. You’ll likely want to help your loved one through recovery. However, it is important to know when you are helping and when you have become a codependent. Being a codependent is a form of enabling. You may have done this unintentionally and believe that what you are doing is helping your loved one, but it can create a tricky situation. Protecting your loved one from trouble may actually hinder recovery.
Definitions of Codependency and Enabling Behavior
Codependency and enabling behavior are similar concepts. Both are easy to confuse with helping a loved one with substance abuse. Enabling behavior typically occurs when another person, usually a codependent, helps or encourages substance abuse. This happens either directly or indirectly. For instance, enabling behavior would be hiding substance abuse from others, like neighbors or children.
Codependent Characteristics and Behaviors
It may seem like you’re helping your loved one with substance abuse. However, codependent behavior can be dangerous for the person suffering from substance abuse. It allows them to continue using drugs or alcohol. Some of the most common types of codependent behavior include:
- An amplified feeling of responsibility for the actions of others
- A tendency to confuse love and pity, along with a tendency to love people they can pity and rescue
- A tendency to do more than fair share all the time
- A tendency to feel hurt when people don’t recognize their efforts
- An unhealthy dependence on relationships. A codependent will do almost anything to hold onto a relationship to avoid feeling abandoned
- An extreme need for approval and recognition
- A sense of guilt when they assert themselves
- A compelling need to control others
- A lack of trust in themselves or others
- A fear of being abandoned or alone
- Difficulty identifying their feelings
- Difficulty adjusting to change
- Problems with boundaries
- Communication problems
- Feeling angry and used
Codependency often appears in relationships where substance abuse is present. This relationship is often harmful to both people involved, but especially for the person abusing substances. Because of the codependent, the person using substances may not change their behavior or seek recovery.
This doesn’t mean that you should always avoid helping someone who is abusing substances. There are two ways to care for them: healthy caregiving and codependent caretaking. Codependent caretaking is harmful and should be avoided.
Who Does Codependency Affect?
The short answer is codependency affects everyone around. Unfortunately, substance abuse can cause a person to do things out of character. Codependency feeds into these new behaviors and creates a dysfunctional environment for those around. Oftentimes, a person with addiction is also a codependent!
How Do You Set Boundaries to Stop Enabling a Loved One?
There is no doubt that you have the best intentions when helping your loved one. All you want to do is keep them safe by protecting them from perceived danger. However, sometimes it’s best to let them make their mistakes. If they are constantly protected and bailed out of bad situations, they may not want to seek recovery.
Codependency Treatment and Recovery
We previously mentioned that a codependent person often tries to fix others. This can be dangerous and lead to instability or further substance abuse. Treatment works best if it’s left to the professionals. Addiction therapists understand coping behaviors, codependency, and substance abuse. In a recovery setting, like Holland Pathways, a person struggling with substance abuse can get the care and the assistance they need.
Life can be tough. Sooner or later, we all go through tough times and even traumatic events. Trauma can be a sustained series of events (like abuse) or it can be a single incident. Sadly, a traumatic experience may lead someone to turn to drugs or alcohol.
What is a Single-Event Trauma?
Single-event trauma is defined as a trauma that happens to one person in a single incident. Examples of single-event trauma include a mugging, an attack, a physical injury, or anything else that threatens a person at a single point in time. People who suffer from these instances often feel shame. They feel shame that they were unable to avoid the attack even though an event like that could not be foreseen.
There are other instances – such as the death of a loved one – that can also be traumatic. They may feel guilt for not being able to help their loved one or they may feel like they didn’t spend enough time with them. Because of these feelings, people often keep their trauma a secret from others. Unfortunately, this only increases the severity of the trauma and often it creates other problems. People often end up feeling isolated, alone, or even victimized.
A traumatic situation can send a person down a negative spiral. It can also cause changes to the person’s body and mind that makes them look to drugs or alcohol.
The Effect of Trauma on Your Body and Mind
A traumatic event has a severe and immediate effect on your physical and emotional health. This can lead to problems like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even substance abuse. Often, it is difficult for an individual to return to normal activities – social and occupational. Because of these problems, people turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. These seem like a simple and effective way to numb the physical and emotional pain, but it often leads to addiction.
Treating Addiction and Trauma Simultaneously
It is impossible to treat substance abuse and trauma separately. These are very complexly intertwined, so treatment must be for both. A dual treatment will include the following steps:
- Identifying the source of the trauma
- Eliminating feelings of shame or guilt associated with the trauma
- Managing negative emotions caused by the trauma
- Reinforcing positive feelings and rebuilding self-esteem
- Illustrating how the trauma was not the person’s fault
- Examining positive ways of coping with trauma symptoms
- Helping a person gain control over their emotions and decreasing anxiety
Here at Holland Pathways, we have experts that are ready to help you overcome trauma and substance abuse.