Staying Sober Through the Holidays

Staying sober through the holidays

Staying Sober Through the Holidays

While many things seem to have an extra touch of magic around the holidays, those in recovery may also find that this is a time when temptations and triggers multiply. If you’ve been working hard to protect your sobriety and reach your recovery goals, this time can be challenging.

Staying sober through the holidays comes down to understanding and protecting yourself through a season when alcohol and emotions flow more readily than they normally do. We’re here to help you recognize the challenge and find ways to overcome it.

Most Common Seasonal Relapse Triggers

Celebrating holidays without drinking and drugs can be hard when you feel like everyone around you is experiencing the season without a care. But what others are doing is not what matters. What matters is that you continue to take care of your body, mind, and soul.

Taking pride in your recovery and accomplishments rather than comparing yourself to others can help you overcome one of the biggest seasonal relapse triggers: exposure. Staying sober through the holidays may mean making some sacrifices.

You can limit your exposure to drugs and alcohol by strategically choosing who you spend your time with and where. If you choose to attend events where it will be easy for you to slip up, we have some suggestions for that, too.

Concrete Planning and Tips for Sober Celebrations

Staying Sober Through the Holidays

There are many strategies for staying sober through holiday stress and other temptations and triggers. The trick is finding the one or ones that work best for you. Here are some suggestions:

  • Avoid known risks to your sobriety by attending activities within your sober social circle.
  • Bring a sober friend to a regular party (traveling with a sober companion will make it easier for you to say no, avoid temptation, arrive early, and leave early.)
  • Know your limits when it comes to situations, locations, or people who trigger you.
  • Keep in regular contact with your sponsor throughout the season.
  • Practice self-care through yoga, meditation, exercise, or massage to treat yourself before and after social gatherings.
  • Attend 12-step or other support group meetings throughout the season (if you’re traveling out of the city or state you live in, you can still attend phone meetings or virtual sessions.)

Another tip that many in recovery have found helpful around the holidays is to carry a drink around every party you attend. When you arrive, fill a cup with water, soda, or another non-alcoholic drink and keep it in your hand for the duration of the event.

This way, you won’t have to refuse drinks all night, and you likely won’t have to explain to anyone why you’re not drinking unless you choose to. Attending holiday events with sober supports is another great way to stay on track.

Staying Sober Through the Holidays by Starting New Traditions

Staying sober through the holidays is easier when you take time to celebrate your most meaningful connections and relationships. One easy and exciting way to do this is by starting new traditions that do not center around drinking or drug use.

If you’ve been in recovery for a while, you may have already started building relationships with sober peers you can spend time with this holiday season. And if you have pre-existing friend groups that you’d like to spend time with, there is nothing wrong with asking them ahead of time to respect your sobriety and leave the substances at home.

Whether you’re planning a gathering with a support group or old friends, this holiday season is a great time to host a festive sober gathering. There are plenty of ways to have fun without being under the influence.

Ideas for New Traditions and Solo Activities

Staying Sober Through the Holidays

Whether you’re eager to be around friends or find positive ways to spend time alone, there are endless options for sober activities. Here are a few activity suggestions:

  • Host a board game night.
  • Invite friends for a craft or paint night.
  • Write in a journal or have a creative writing contest.
  • Take a long walk, go to the gym, or attend a fitness class.
  • Try yoga or meditation.
  • Craft a hand-written letter to a friend.
  • Adopt a pet.

Creative activities reduce stress and depression, two negative emotions that are frequently linked to relapse. Additionally, research shows that people who exercise regularly are less likely to use illicit drugs.

And having pets has been shown to boost our overall moods, reduce feelings of loneliness, and give us a sense of purpose. But your options are not limited to the activities on this list. Try these or find other ways to improve your mental and physical health.

Creativity, togetherness, a balanced diet, and regular exercise can help us through many obstacles during recovery. And managing negative emotions or finding ways to replace them with positive ones can make it easier to maintain your sobriety even when challenges arise.

Acronyms to Remember: Halt and Others

H.A.L.T is an Alcoholics Anonymous acronym for some of the most common relapse triggers. These are not holiday-specific, but that does not mean that they will take the season off. These are additional, year-round triggers you should watch out for:

  • Hungry.
  • Angry.
  • Lonely.
  • Tired.

To combat these emotional relapse triggers, practice anger management techniques and spend time with supportive friends and loved ones. Also, try to get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night and eat a balanced diet.

It may sound like an overly simplified solution, but how much we sleep and what we eat can impact everything from our moods to our immune systems. And while we are talking about the importance of making good choices for ourselves, we want to talk about saying no.

If you are feeling emotionally vulnerable, it is perfectly reasonable to decline attending events or spending time with certain individuals. Protecting yourself and your sobriety is your priority, not saying yes just to please someone else.

This leads us to another important AA acronym, which is C.H.A.N.G.E. In recovery, change stands for “choosing honesty allows new growth every day.” Being honest with and true to yourself is an important part of recovery.

Seeking Inpatient Care During the Holidays

If you have recently relapsed or are worried that you will, another option that you may want to consider is an inpatient rehab program. Our inpatient program offers 24-hour access to the care, support, and guidance of our professional team in a safe and comfortable facility.

In a setting like this, temptations and triggers feel farther away because they are. A change of scenery can work wonders for those who are struggling to maintain their sobriety and lack adequate social support at home.

During an inpatient stay, your days will include healthy meals, creative activities, counseling sessions, support group meetings, and more. We all have to start somewhere. Call us today at 866-263-1820 to see if inpatient care is right for you.

We also offer several other programs for those who prefer to continue living at home and attend weekly sessions and meetings for support. Staying sober through the holidays can be challenging. But it is not a challenge you have to face alone.

Opioid Alternatives: How to Find Pain Medications That Aren’t Addictive

Opioid Alternatives: How to Find Pain Medications That Aren't Addictive Pathfinders - An image of a prescription of opioids that are highly addictive and can lead to opioid abuse and addiction, which is why it is recommended to seek out opioid alternatives for pain relief.

Every day 116 people die of an opioid drug overdose. And 42,249 people died of prescription opioids in 2016.

These numbers are chilling.

What is even more chilling is that many of these deaths are preventable.

The problem is that prescription opioids are seen as one of the only ways of coping with chronic pain. And people are rarely offered non-opioid alternatives.

Many individuals in recovery for opioid abuse fear that treating pain with opioids will lead to relapse.

However, it does not have to be this way. Many opioid alternatives can provide lasting pain relief with none of the risks.

Since opioids are so commonly used, you may ask yourself: “Aren’t they the best method to treat pain?”

The answer is no.

Opioid Alternatives: How to Find Pain Medications That Aren't Addictive Pathfinders - An image of a prescription of opioids that are highly addictive and can lead to opioid abuse and addiction, which is why it is recommended to seek out opioid alternatives for pain relief.

A 2017 study showed that there was no difference between opioid and non-opioid treatment for pain management.

Opioid alternatives — like ibuprofen and acetaminophen — performed as well as opioids when treating leg and arm pain. And beyond addiction, opioids have many other side effects, including constipation, nausea, vomiting, and adrenal problems.

There are many ways of treating pain without addiction or side effects.

Let’s look at a few opioid alternatives to help you manage pain safely.

Non-Opioid Painkillers

Many addicts fear that pain relief and drug relapse go hand in hand.

But there are many non-opiate painkillers for addicts.

From drugs that treat inflammation and injuries to drugs that treat chronic pain, there are opioid alternatives.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Most people know drugs like Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen by their brand names, Tylenol and Advil.

These medications are usually associated with treating mild headaches or migraines.

However, most people don’t know they can be serious non-opiate painkillers.

These drugs are considered NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

They work by acting directly on the injured body tissue to reduce prostaglandins, which causes increased inflammation after an injury.

NSAIDs function differently than opioids, which act on the central nervous system. The opioids bind to the opioid receptors in the brain, decreasing the brain’s awareness of pain. This leads to a euphoric feeling that can become addictive.

Though these drugs are non-addictive and are typically safer than opioids, they still have side effects like liver damage, stomach irritation, kidney problems, and bleeding problems.

Another serious side issue is the ceiling effect. This means that once you have increased the dosage to a certain point there is a limit or “ceiling” to how effective these drugs are.

As a result, these drugs are not recommended for chronic pain sufferers.

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

Chronically ill patients are especially at risk for opioid addiction.

This is because the long-term use of opioids increases the risk of becoming dependent. It may also be because many non-opioid drugs are not approved for long-term use.

However, for people suffering from chronic diseases, like fibromyalgia and chronic back or knee pain, there are opiate alternatives.

For example, Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) work by decreasing sensitivity to pain by interfering with the spinal cord’s pain suppression pathways.

The practice of using these drugs has already become popular.

One SNRI, Duloxetine, is already widely prescribed as a treatment for chronic pain.

Though Duloxetine works well for chronic pain, it has side effects like loss of appetite, constipation, and fatigue.

With many individuals that struggle with opioid addiction looking for opioid alternatives, drugs like Duloxetine provide a second chance at life.

Tricyclic Antidepressants

Tricyclic antidepressants are drugs that treat chronic pain and depression.

These drugs work effectively because chronic pain and depression have similar neurological makeup and often affect similar parts of the brain.

They work by controlling the output of serotonin and norepinephrine. They also regulate the function of the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus.

One benefit of using antidepressants to treat pain is that it can also help treat the depression that accompanies opioid abuse.

Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants are usually only thought of as anti-seizure medications.

However, they can also function as powerful opioid alternatives for those struggling with opioid abuse. They work by interfering with the pain signals sent from oversensitive or damaged nerve cells.

Though anticonvulsants are relatively safe, they do carry some risks. These drugs can affect levels of vitamins C, D, E, B6, and B22. They can also cause nausea, dizziness, weight gain, and fatigue.

Some of the newer drugs have fewer side effects. For example, drugs like Gabapentin and Pregabalin have successfully treated pain caused by spinal cord injuries.

Corticosteroids

Many people think athletes and bodybuilders typically use steroids or that extra boost in performance and muscle.

However, many people are unaware that steroids have been and continue to be used for pain management.

Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, they can be used to treat joint damage, nerve damage, and soft tissue damage.

What makes corticosteroids different than opioids is that they work on a cellular level. They bind to a cell, change gene expression, and control cellular function. This allows for the management of pain without the damaging effects of opioids.

Physical Opioid Alternatives

For people afraid of the side effects of pills, there many opioid alternative treatments that provide pain relief.

Physical Therapy

A great pain management option to talk to your doctor about is physical therapy.

Physical therapy allows for treating an injury or illness with exercise and massage, instead of surgery or drugs.

It also allows for more long-term pain management and recovery.

Physical therapy can often require more work on the part of the patient.

It requires attending sessions. In many cases, you will also have to perform exercises at home.

For people living without reliable transportation or in areas where physical therapists are rare, it can be challenging to access this type of treatment. Some physical therapists will travel to you, so it is important to consider all of your available options.

Physical therapy can improve healing and can provide long-term pain relief.

Opioid Alternatives: How to Find Pain Medications That Aren't Addictive Pathfinders - A middle-aged man is engaging in physical therapy with a professional physical therapist as one of the available opioid alternatives to manage pain and improve the healing process instead of abusing opioid medications.

Acupuncture

One of the safest ways of treating pain without side effects is acupuncture.

Though acupuncture is often regarded as pseudoscience, there is evidence showing it can help treat pain.

One study found that acupuncture worked and medicine in providing long-term pain relief for patients who came into the emergency room.

Scientists have found that acupuncture can change the way the brain processes and perceives pain.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is another alternative to opioids that has minimal side effects.

Chiropractic care is a part of the medical profession that focuses on the spine and its function.

Most practitioners manipulate the spine to align the body and improve function. This makes it the perfect treatment for lower back pain, headaches, and neck pain.

Although many see chiropractic care with the same skepticism as acupuncture, there is plenty of evidence to show that it is safe and effective. For example, 95% of chiropractic users report that chiropractic care has helped them manage neck and back pain.

Consumer Report study showed that chiropractic care outperformed all other back pain treatments, including prescription and over-the-counter medication.

For people who want quick relief without addiction or side effects, chiropractic care may be the perfect option.

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation TENS

One of the most interesting methods of pain relief is a TENS machine or a TENS unit. This machine essentially zaps the pain away.

A TENS machine, or a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, treats pain by passing an electrical current through the superficial tissue.

It is believed that the subtle vibrations may drown out the signals of pain that the nervous system is sending.

It may also work by stimulating healing in damaged tissue.

Another benefit of this treatment is that it’s relatively cheap. Each TENS machine is only $100 per unit. Therefore, you can get pain relief without opiates and without breaking the bank.

One of the main drawbacks of a TENS machine is that there is not much evidence to support its effectiveness. However, some experts are hopeful it can work for certain kinds of pain.

We Can Help With Opioid Addiction

For many individuals struggling with addiction, having a plan for dealing with pain can be one of the essential parts of preventing relapse.

Many opioid alternatives offer relief for almost every situation – from back pain to chronic pain.

We understand that drug addiction is a process.

If you or a loved one struggles to make your way through, contact our team of experts today.

Remember that help is always available.

 

Expectations Can Be Dangerous in Recovery

We all enjoy rewarding ourselves from time to time, but it’s important to remember that expectations can be dangerous when entering recovery.

When I was newly sober, the thought of rewarding myself seemed pretty risky.

I can even admit that I had moments where I thought of rewarding myself with a drink.

The disease of addiction is always there, and it rears its ugly head from time to time. This is why it is vital to understand that expectations can be dangerous if not set properly.

If you aren’t careful, you can find yourself slipping up pretty easily.

So how do you celebrate your recovery safely?

Is there a way to let your hair down and have a good time without it ending up in relapse?

Why Can Expectations Be Dangerous? - Pathfinders Recovery Center - A group of individuals in a residential rehab facility is engaging in a group therapy session and discussing why expectations can be dangerous when it comes to recovery.

When I was newly sober after my program at Pathfinders Recovery Center, I found myself getting overly enthusiastic about each milestone I reached.

I would plan out everything in my head.

I remember I planned a big party on my one-year anniversary.

I had everything all mapped out in my mind and played the party out over and over in my head.

I made a big mistake by doing this. Having too many expectations. I didn’t realize this until after the party. It didn’t go exactly as I had planned.

It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be, and there were some people who I really wanted to be there who did not show up.

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I remember feeling bummed out. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to. My expectations were not met. I remember thinking “What’s the point?” I came very close to relapsing. It wasn’t until I went to a meeting the next day that I realized I had set myself up for disaster. I was not living in the moment. It was something I heard over and over again at Pathfinders.

Staying in the moment is a very important element to remaining clean. The staff that helped me stay sane at Pathfinders said to take it one day at a time, and as true as that is, for some of us, it’s one moment at a time. Things don’t go exactly the way you want them to. This is true for almost any situation in life.

Addiction Recovery Gifts

There are a lot of different ways you can remind yourself of your progress. Getting yourself a gift is a fun and rewarding way to do so. It’s important to recognize your process and keep it front and center in your mind. I got myself a journal the day after I left Pathfinders. The program there had taught me to channel my feelings in writing. I would track my thoughts and feelings from one day to the next.

I still go back and look through these entries once in a while to keep myself on track. It’s a constant reminder of the ebbs and flows. Some days are great, and I truly believe that I will never use them again. Then there are those days when I am less sure of that. Keeping a journal has helped me realize that not every day will be flawless, but I do have the ability to get through each one.

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The great thing about keeping a journal is you can be brutally honest with yourself. We all have thought and feelings we sometimes don’t feel like sharing with others. A journal allows you to let those thoughts and feelings out. I used to feel embarrassed looking through some of my older journal entries.

We have the ability to embarrass ourselves in a way that others can’t. It’s ok — The one thing you need to keep in mind is you are living out your process. There are going to be times when the truth is uncomfortable, but it’s always better to be truthful with yourself and own those feelings.

The recovery gifts that you get yourself can also be great gifts for others. Since I enjoy journaling so much, that is my go-to gift for my other friends in recovery.

If I’ve already gotten one of my friends a journal, my next go-to is books. Books have a remarkable way of expanding our minds and changing us. It doesn’t always have to be a book on sobriety either. I usually try and figure out which types of books my peers enjoy, and gift them accordingly. By the way, starting a book club is a wonderful activity for you and your sober friends. This is a great way to realize that expectations can be dangerous while in recovery.

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Vacation

When I was about a year into sobriety, I planned a two-week trip to the Bahamas for several friends and me. Sure we all had a little bit of apprehension, specifically the ones of us who never traveled much. This helps with managing why expectations can be dangerous in recovery.

Luckily for us, the program at Pathfinders offered us a remarkable number of resources in terms of planning a vacation. They gave me the tools I needed to feel confident about planning a sober trip.

Why Can Expectations Be Dangerous? - Pathfinders Recovery Center - An addiction counselor is meeting with two individuals in recovery to help them plan a sober vacation to reward themselves for understanding that expectations can be dangerous in recovery, and it's important to take it one day at a time.

One of the stressful things about traveling is making plans. You don’t want to get somewhere and not know what to do. We had a lot of help. We planned out or day, but also kept it somewhat flexible. If we wanted to go out with a guide and sightsee, that option was available. If we wanted to hit up the spa or relax by the pool, we could do that whenever we wanted. We were set up in a place where alcohol wasn’t out in the open.

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So yes, it is possible to avoid temptation and have an enjoyable trip.

Much like anything you do in recovery, accountability should always be at the top of your list.

We all made it a point to check in on each other.

We had our meetings.

We talked about where we were at mentally.

Having recovery meetings on vacation didn’t sound like the most fun idea to me, but they were very necessary.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to have your meeting next to a pool and hot tub. Just remember, expectations can be dangerous in recovery, so be sure to set realistic goals with the dedicated staff available.

5 Ways to Prevent Drug Abuse

Prevent Drug Abuse

RAISING AWARENESS AND EDUCATION ON THE PREVENTION OF SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Statistics provided by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2017 show that approximately 19.7 million Americans aged 12 years and older suffered from a drug addiction disorder.

Other statistics show that of all 21 million people who suffer from substance abuse, only 10% of these individuals actually receive treatment. What is even more shocking is that drug abuse has resulted in over 700,000 deaths from 1999 to 2017.

This makes drug abuse awareness, education, and preventative measures all the more important. Having a family member or a close friend suffering from substance abuse often leaves you with one thought: how to help beat their addiction and reclaim the person you love.

But what if you can find ways to prevent drug abuse before it becomes a problem? Drug abuse prevention starts with looking at what triggers this use. This is a key part of preventing substance abuse: being aware of its causes.

SUBSTANCE USE RISK FACTORS

Although many people use drugs and alcohol, not all of them end up becoming addicted to these substances. However, as the statistics above indicate, a good number of substance users end up being emotionally and physically attached to the drugs.

Just like in other diseases, there are several psychological, environmental, and physical risk factors that may cause certain individuals to be more likely to develop addictive habits. In many cases, knowing these indicators can help prevent substance abuse.

GENETICS AND FAMILY HISTORY

GENETICS AND FAMILY HISTORY Of Addiction

Having family members who have struggled with drug abuse in the past can significantly increase a person’s chances of developing these habits themselves. Of course, this is not a destined eventuality.

Knowing all the information on your familial addictions can help you better avoid forming your own addictive behaviors. This can also be helpful should you choose to start your own family, through maintaining a balanced family life and setting good examples for your children.

Community prevention programs can also often lend assistance and resources for reference in this regard. If you are unable or unsure of how to keep yourself and your loved ones away from harmful substances, it can help to seek professional assistance in preventing substance abuse.

MENTAL ILLNESS

Psychological problems such as depression and anxiety can lure one to drugs in the hope of self-medicating the emotional pain these mental conditions can cause. This mostly happens with teens and young adults, whose minds may not know how to process difficult emotions yet.

Mental illness can be a significant risk factor for the later development of a substance use disorder. This is why it is so important for the parents of adolescents struggling with mental health problems to check in with their child about their emotional state.

Knowing how to healthily and effectively talk about difficult subjects can be essential for helping children to be aware of the dangers of substance abuse, and communicate their emotional needs.

Furthermore, adults with mental illness will also be more likely to develop a substance addiction from using drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. In these cases, it is highly recommended to get professional help in learning how to live a well-balanced life.

Common mental conditions found amongst adults struggling with addiction are general anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and various other personality and mood disorders.

ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL FACTORS

Friends and peers have a great impact on one’s life. Sometimes, this impact can have negative consequences. In many cases, people start using illicit drugs or abusing alcohol to better fit into their social circles.

To minimize this risk in children, teaching them the power of independence and ensuring they are aware of the various health risks that come with using drugs can help them more easily make healthy choices.

If they are already using or are ‘at-risk,’ then reaching out to community prevention programs and resource centers that aim to prevent substance abuse can be a great way to provide support to these struggling youths.

Amongst older individuals, their abuse of alcohol or other drugs may also be influenced by environmental or social factors, such as living with an abusive or addicted individual, peer pressure from negative friend groups, or high-stress work, school, or home responsibilities.

Ways to prevent these external influencers from having a major impact on your own life may be to start talking to a counselor, surrounding yourself with good friends, or seeking support from other family members and acquaintances.

STARTING DRUG USE AT AN EARLY AGE

STARTING DRUG USE AT AN EARLY AGE

If someone goes through a traumatic childhood, they may turn to drugs to try and alleviate the trauma effects. Some common traumatic experiences that can result in mental illness or substance abuse include sexual harassment, neglect, harassment, accidents, and others.

If your child experiences any of these hurtful experiences, it is important to get them professional help. Adverse childhood events or ACEs are increasingly being linked with drug use and mental health disorders that arise later in life.

One of the most important ways to prevent substance abuse is to be a good example of parental support and help your child maintain a well-balanced life through getting them the help they need after a traumatic experience.

REASONS WHY PEOPLE RISK DRUG ADDICTION

Whether involving illegal drugs, prescription medication, alcohol, or any other form of addiction, there are various reasons as to why someone may risk their health by abusing these addictive substances.

CHASING THE RUSH OF A HIGH

Many drugs can produce euphoric highs, making the person taking them feel powerful and confident. These feel-good effects can be brought about by other behaviors, including gambling, which gives you financial gains.

One can also get excited after receiving social media notifications, resulting in smartphone addiction. The most common forms of addiction, however, are those involving addictive substances, such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, opioids, and various others.

AS A WAY OF RELIEVE STRESS AND SADNESS

REASONS WHY PEOPLE RISK DRUG ADDICTION

People who suffer from social anxiety, stress, and depression may turn to substance use with the hope of overcoming stress. Facing stressful situations may also prompt people to continue using or relapse even after going through successful treatment.

TO IMPROVE CONCENTRATION AND INCREASE PERFORMANCE

Some people, especially those who engage in sporting activities, take stimulants to increase their performance. Others, and especially students, take sleep-alleviating drugs to study for more hours.

While these behaviors may give you short-term gains, the long-term side effects are far worse and often can result in permanent damage. Furthermore, for many forms of drug use, no conclusive evidence has been found to confirm that these are, in fact, performance-enhancing.

When there is more than one risk factor involved, the chances of developing a substance use disorder are higher. However, many individuals can still form an addiction, even without any risk factors playing a part.

5 WAYS TO PREVENT DRUG ABUSE

Just as substance addiction is possible, so is prevention. When it comes to preventing substance abuse, there are various factors that go into making better decisions for the mental and physical health of both yourself and others.

Here are a few effective ways to raise awareness of the abuse potential of drugs, the underlying causes of addiction, and ultimately how to help prevent drug abuse.

1. FIND EFFECTIVE WAYS TO HANDLE PEER PRESSURE

Human beings have a habit of not wanting to be left out, especially by their friends and peers. For this reason, you will find that most teens and some adults start abusing drugs as a way to fit in with their friends.

If you find yourself in this situation, try finding the courage to say no. Or, you can find more positive friendships that will not pressure you or push your boundaries. If you find yourself being pressured to try drugs, finding a good excuse to leave the situation can help prevent temptation.

2. FIND BETTER COPING MECHANISMS

WAYS OF PREVENTING SUBSTANCE ABUSE

A good number of people who abuse drugs do so as a coping mechanism for the negative things they are facing in life. It is important to note that there is nothing wrong with experiencing negative emotions.

Instead of turning to drugs for solace, find better ways of dealing with them. Some effective coping mechanisms include:

  • Talking to someone
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Writing it down
  • Exercising

Trying out any of these mechanisms takes your mind off drugs. Even practicing mindfulness can help make what seems unbearable a bit easier, even for younger individuals by learning how to ‘observe’ thoughts without acting on them.

3. CHOOSE YOUR CIRCLE OF FRIENDS CAREFULLY

Making healthy friendships plays a major role in your overall health and well-being. However, you need to choose your friends wisely as socializing with the wrong crowd can easily lure you into drug use, and you may find yourself abusing drugs in no time.

Make sure you hang out with people who show you love and support and discourage you from attempting unhealthy substance use. Such people also provide a safe environment where there is less likelihood of triggering drug abuse risk factors.

4. ALWAYS ALLOW YOURSELF TO REST

Ways to Prevent Drug Abuse

Imagine spending all day in the office handling difficult clients or workmates, then going home to find family duties and social obligations waiting for you. All these responsibilities expose you to a chronic state of stress, leaving you no time to rest.

In the long run, you might find yourself turning to drugs to help you keep up. But guess what, if you fell ill and took an emergency break today from all those responsibilities, this would not be seen as unacceptable.

So, rather than sacrificing your happiness and risk getting physical and mental illnesses, consider taking time off and taking care of your wellbeing. There are some great activities that you can engage in during this time, including:

  • Getting a massage
  • Reading your favorite book or magazine
  • Taking a hot bath
  • Switching off your smartphone and taking a break from social media

Taking some time off may seem like a hard thing to do, but it goes a long way to preventing drug abuse. In the long run, this can also help reduce the likelihood that you will need to take more time off in the future in order to receive treatment for a substance addiction.

5. ANALYZE ANY POSSIBLE RISK FACTORS

Having prior knowledge of any possible drug abuse risk factors makes it easy for you to overcome them. For instance, if you have a family history of substance abuse, then you can make a promise of abstinence to yourself and plan ahead to avoid following in their footsteps.

Also, if you are friends with someone who abuses drugs, it may be a good idea to help them seek professional addiction treatment services. If this is not an option, making the decision to distance yourself from or end this friendship can keep you from forming these habits, as well.

CHOOSE LIFE OVER DRUG ABUSE

Although the potential to abuse drugs may be in your genetics, the choice on whether to use them or not is entirely yours. By actualizing the above tips on how to prevent drug abuse, you avoid not only addiction but also other risks that come with substance abuse.

If you have an addiction problem or fear that someone close to you is using in excess, you do not need to suffer in silence. Enrolling in a research-based treatment program can provide assistance in addiction prevention and help you eliminate substance abuse risk factors.

MAKING AN ACTION PLAN TO TACKLE DRUG ABUSE

Take the bold step to change your life now by contacting the Pathfinders Recovery Center team. We offer alcohol and drug addiction diagnosis and effective, evidence-based treatment that can help you or your loved ones prevent and overcome addiction.

Just by reaching out to a Pathfinders representative, we can help you avoid the consequences of addiction and learn how to maintain a happier, healthier, and substance-free life, today!

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic in Arizona

The United States as a whole is facing a health crisis of epic proportions. More and more Americans are becoming addicted to – and dying from – opioids. Not one American state goes unscathed. Arizona, in particular, has slowly taken a big hit over the last decade. The opioid epidemic in Arizona now claims the lives of two people each day. The state has begun to collect data regarding opioid abuse. And recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield invested $10 million to reduce opiate misuse. But despite the efforts, many Arizonans are still misinformed about the state-wide epidemic. To help, we’ll explore everything about Arizona’s opioid crisis in this article.

Let’s begin!

When Did the Opioid Epidemic Begin?

The opiate epidemic is a recent phenomenon that has slowly been in the works since the 1990’s. But the presence of opiates in the United States dates as far back as the country’s foundation.

Early History of Opiates in the United States

It’s believed that opium first came over along with the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower. Back then, people used the opium poppy for the same reasons that doctors prescribe them today. Opiates have long treated pain, diarrhea, coughing, and also works as a sedative.

addiction treatment, heroin addiction treatment, dual diagnosis treatment center in arizona, cooccurring disorders treatment, meth detox scottsdale arizona, meth rehab arizonaBy the 19th century, Americans used opium to treat a wide range of medical issues. Doctors prescribed morphine to dying patients suffering from cancer.

Medics also used morphine as an anesthetic. It’s probable that medics administered morphine during the Mexican-American War. It’s also likely that physicians who settled in Arizona brought over opiates. Patented medications for teething and menstrual cramps began to contain opium. After the Civil War, the pharmaceutical company, Bayer, introduced heroin on the national market. Following this, heroin became widely used as a medicine into the early 20th century.

20th Century Stigmatization

In the early 1900’s, the federal government outlawed opiates in all its forms. Doctors could only prescribe them in medically necessary situations.

But even so, physicians during this time were vastly limited when it came to prescribing them. They were also limited when it came to treating opiate addiction. Despite all this, drug abuse continued to increase across the United States. During Prohibition, opiate users were further stigmatized. The concept of “junkie” came into being during this time.

The Rise of Prescription Painkillers

recovery center in scottsdale, recovery center in arizona, recovery center in phoenix, addiction treatment center, dual diagnosis recovery center, dual diagnosis treatment, heroin addiction help, get sober todayAmerican physicians continued to fight for the right to prescribe opiates. Soon after, the federal government began to recognize the medical value of opiates. By the 1960’s, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and other synthetic opiates came into being. Recreational opiate and heroin use skyrocketed during this time. Fears of prescribing opiates arose once again.

But despite all this, the prescription painkiller market surged – and continues to. Even though opiate addiction is now at an all-time high, it’s a problem that our nation has faced for over a century.

Why & How Did the Opioid Epidemic Happen?

Medicine and science have never been as advanced as it is today. We understand how to treat many diseases and conditions a lot better than we used to. However, our understanding of how to treat pain is still extremely weak. And to a large extent, the opioid crisis that our nation and the state of Arizona faces results from this.

Doctors Don’t Understand Pain Treatment & Management

It’s estimated that 100 million Americans live with chronic pain.

With such a big number as this, physicians would seem to have a better understanding of treatment. But that is, unfortunately, not the case.

Doctors only receive about 9 hours of education about pain over the course of medical school. To make matters worse, the federal government doesn’t adequately fund pain research. In fact, the National Institutes of Health only spend 1% of its budget ($358 million) per year on pain research.

Many doctors don’t understand how addictive opiates can be. They don’t understand how to wean their patients off them. Many patients wind up misusing their prescriptions, becoming addicted as a result.

Do Physicians Over-Prescribe Opiates?

It was once believed that American physicians under-prescribed opiates for pain treatment. Because of widespread stigmas against opiates, many doctors continue to fear to prescribe them. But that’s not to say that physicians aren’t over-prescribing them, either.

Many Americans in need of relief don’t have enough access to painkillers. Only about 5% of chronic pain patients have prescriptions for painkillers. But to a larger extent, Americans may have too much access to prescription opiates.

It’s known that some pharmaceutical companies have vigorous lobbying and marketing campaigns. Physicians are often the target of these marketing ploys.

In 2016, doctors prescribed 431 million painkillers. This was enough for every Arizonan to have a 2.5 week supply.

And again, many doctors don’t understand how to adequately treat patients with opiates. As of 2016, more than 70% of overdose fatalities occurred among patients who became addicted while treating their chronic pain. In Arizona, 4 out of 5 new heroin users start because of prescription painkiller misuse.

Health Insurance Doesn’t Cover Alternative Medicine

The opioid overdose epidemic has caused many pain patients to turn to other forms of therapy.

We’ve all heard of physical therapy and alternative therapy, like acupuncture and chiropractic. These forms of therapy yield great results in the treatment and management of pain. But many people suffering in pain are unable to afford them.

Certain health insurance policies may cover acupuncture, biofeedback, massage therapy, and chiropractic care. But as of 2007, Americans spent $33.9 billion out-of-pocket for alternative medicine.

This figure is likely much higher today. With high health insurance premiums, many Americans are unable to afford alternative medicine. In Arizona, 17% of residents are still uninsured as rates continue to increase for the insured.

Heroin as a Cheap and Dangerous Substitute

Millions of Americans not only suffer from chronic pain. Many of them are unable to obtain and afford adequate treatment. And many who take prescription painkillers find themselves prone to addiction.

As a result of these factors, many people have turned to heroin for relief.

Heroin and prescription painkillers are all derived from opium. Heroin is specifically derived from morphine while painkillers come from codeine. Despite the slight variations, heroin has the same – if not, a more powerful – effect as painkillers.

Heroin is not only a substitute for painkillers. It’s cheaper and easier to obtain.

In fact, a bag of heroin costs less than a pack of cigarettes. This means that in Arizona, a bag of heroin can cost anywhere from $5-$8.

Most heroin in the United States comes from Mexico. With Arizona right on the Mexican border, heroin is readily available on the streets.

Opioid and prescription overdoses in Arizona have increased in the last few years. But since 2016, heroin overdoses have tripled in Arizona.

Where Are Overdoses Occurring in Arizona?

Opiate overdoses have occurred in both urban and rural Arizona. But some areas are more ravaged by overdoses than others.

A concentration of overdoses has occurred all over the Phoenix metropolitan area. The northeast parts of the Tucson metropolitan area has also experienced many.

The cities of Buckeye, Flagstaff, and Kingman – and all surrounding areas – have also had high overdoses.

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic in Arizona

The opioid crisis has been in the making to become an epidemic since the 19th century. American physicians continue to prescribe painkillers without a firm understanding of them. Nor does the medical community understand how to provide adequate pain treatment.

With rising healthcare costs, many people addicted to painkillers are turning to heroin.

Many Arizonans wonder what is being done to address the opioid epidemic in Arizona. Here’s how the state is fighting the epidemic as of now.

Naloxone

In 2017, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey declared opioid overdoses a public health emergency. Since then, the state has integrated Naloxone as part of its efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

Slow breathing occurs with opiate use. But when someone overdoses, their breathing can stop altogether. It can also be near impossible to wake someone up while they’re overdosing.

Naloxone, otherwise known by its brand name, Narcan, is a narcotic blocker. When administered, it reverses the effects of opioids. It comes in the form of injections and nasal sprays.

The state of Arizona has trained emergency personnel on how to administer Narcan. Recently, Narcan became available at CVS stores across Arizona.

Narcan is by no means a cure for the opiate epidemic. However, it is an antidote that is saving more lives every day across the United States.

Arizona Opioid Emergency Action Plan

Since the declaration of Arizona’s opioid crisis, opioid overdose cases have decreased.

Statewide overdoses began to decrease after the implementation of new prescription guidelines. This decreasing trend also coincided with the state’s surveillance reporting system.

The Opioid Action Plan came into enactment in September 2017. The action plan aims to increase patient and public awareness as prevention methods. The plan also improves prescription practices and access to treatment facilities.

The Arizona Opioid Epidemic Act took effect in April 2018. This law enforces limitations on prescription opioids.

Under this law, physicians can no longer dispense prescriptions themselves. Physicians who prescribe opiates must take routine education courses on opioids. Pharmacies are also required to check into the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program.

Seeking Help for Opioid Addiction

Huge strides in the fight against opioid addiction have occurred in Arizona. But the opioid epidemic in Arizona is still alive and well, much like it is in the rest of the United States.

Still, there is hope for the future of Arizonans affected by opiate addiction.

Do you or someone you know suffer from heroin or painkiller addiction? A healthier and sober future is possible, and the Pathfinders Recovery Center is here to help.

To learn more about how we can help you at our Scottsdale, AZ facility, contact us today!

 

Addiction and Loneliness

loneliness-and-addictionIf you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction this article will cover a perspective proven through clinical studies that you must not miss. Society in general has led addicts to feel ashamed of the insidious affliction they suffer from, and the stigma can contribute to both addiction and loneliness. Addicts cause pain and confusion in themselves and anyone that truly deeply cares for them.

What Does Loneliness Look Like?

Loneliness may not be the same for everyone. The Huffington Post explains, “Being lonely is more of a state of mind and that state of loneliness can change on a dime if one so desires.” Loneliness in addiction can look like:

  • Disconnection from others
  • Little to no interest in relationships
  • Feeling depressed and anxious
  • Thinking there is no one to talk to
  • Believing there is no hope
  • Feeling like no one cares

A History Of Failure

A little over a century ago this country made the decision to ban and make illegal nearly all drugs.  They instituted punishments as an incentive to deter people from abusing these substances.  This makes sense on a basic level of thinking, but the issue is that it is clearly not working, as shown in this chart. In my experience When something doesn’t work, you either have to fix it or throw it away.

overdose-death-stats

From the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Adapting To The Environment

In the early 1920s there were some interesting experiments conducted regarding addiction. They took a rat, placed it in a cage on its own and put two water bottles, one with Cocaine laced in the water and one containing fresh water.  The rat drank the cocaine water until it overdosed and died. Bruce K. Alexander, Professor Emeritus, Simon Fraser University conducted some similar experiments but added some new variables. He made a “rat park” with cheese, tubes, toys, and most importantly friends!  In this rat park he put the same two types of water bottles, one with cocaine laced water and one with pure water.  The following observation was astonishing. The overdose rate amongst the rats dropped to 0 percent.  Most rats didn’t even touch the cocaine water, and the ones that did stopped before overdose. Professor Alexander questioned, “What if addiction is not about being hooked on chemicals but it is instead an adaptation to your environment?”

The message to be heard here is that humans want to bond and connect. If our self-esteem is low, or we have been beaten down emotionally, we will naturally feel a desire to bond with something other than people.  This could look like food, gambling, drugs, sex, television, shopping…really anything that makes us feel okay for a short period of time and provides relief. Therefore, it is counterproductive to punish addicts, remove them from society, label them felons, make them unemployable, shun them, etc…it just perpetuates the cycle.

Finding Solutions To The Drug Problem

In 2000, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe with 1 percent of their entire population being hooked on heroin.  Portugal decriminalized all drugs and set up social programs to help drug addicts reintegrate back into society. They took all the money they were spending on housing, feeding, arresting, and policing these addicts and put it into social programs where they would set drug addicts up with jobs and pay half their salary for the year, thus incentivizing companies to hire them and affording the addict the opportunity to reconnect with people and find a sense of purpose. Fifteen years after these programs were set in motion the addiction rate is down 50 percent, overdose is down, HIV rates have gone down drastically in addicts, and in EVERY addiction study shows massive decreases.

Hopefully one day our society can catch on and be this progressive and in the solution.

Helpful Tips to Overcome Loneliness and Addiction

  • Build a social network from the ground up. We addicts are intelligent people; we can see who is healthy and working on themselves and who is not – stick with the winners and you will become one.
  • Find someone that you can trust that understands addiction and talk to this person VERY REGULARLY about your feelings of loneliness, anger or whatever it is that you’re experiencing
  • Volunteer work and support groups such as 12-step fellowships are great places to make new healthy connections this will take time and attendance and may not happen right away so you have to keep going.
  • I want to reiterate the importance of cutting out negative connections – not all connections are good connections.
  • Make friends and family a priority in your life.  When you’re down and out it’s not going to be your online “friends” there that save your skin; the real connections that you make will be there for you when you need them the most.
  • Commit to people and make a plan to show up for them and then follow through with that plan!

Contact Us

Pathfinders Recovery Center
Scottsdale, AZ
pathfindersaz.com
info@pathfindersrec.wpengine.com
(855) 728-4363

*This blog post was authored by Lawrence Briggs, Director of Operations at Pathfinders Recovery Center. Ph: 480.320.0752