Why Should You Choose A Women’s Sober Living Home?

Women's Sober Living

When it comes to addiction – from epidemiology to treatment – gender matters. The facts show that men and women get addicted differently, to different drugs, at different rates, and for different reasons.

This translates into having a direct effect on treatment, where women and men respond differently to certain circumstances and approaches.

As the message of addiction as a treatable illness continues to spread through society, it’s important to follow that up with the clarification that each and every individual deserves a unique treatment that best fits their needs.

Part of ensuring that a person gets the right treatment for their addiction involves accounting for the differences in their experience as a result of their gender.

Women’s sober living homes present an opportunity to address the unique needs that women in recovery possess, serving to help them overcome the challenges of early recovery, avoid relapses in the first months of sobriety, and equip them with the tools they need to continue the recovery process at home and in regular life.

 

Women Face Unique Challenges in Addiction

Men and women are biologically and socially different, and these factors greatly affect how and why men and women struggle differently with addiction. But first, a primer.

An addiction begins in the brain. When a person takes a drug, the drug travels through their bloodstream into the brain, where it affects the way they think by affecting the way chemicals naturally produced by the brain are released. This can cause feelings of euphoria and other emotions, generally known as a high.

Once this wears off, the urge to go for round #2 immediately presents itself. Yet it is only after several rounds that the brain begins to genuinely struggle without the drug, causing what is understood as dependence.

This is where the brain generally stops functioning properly without a continued supply of drugs, and it’s the crux of why addiction is a brain disease, rather than a matter of choice.

Addiction is a progressive illness, which means it gets worse over time. It’s also an illness described in stages, beginning with initiation, then escalation, then maintenance, then withdrawal, and finally, relapse. The timeframe for this process is highly individual.

Women face unique issues in matters of addiction because the numbers show that they get addicted much faster than men do, on account of certain neurobiological sex differences. Other differences include:

• Women are more likely to experience a pleasurable response from an addictive substance.
• Women are more likely to self-medicate using addictive drugs.
• Women escalate their drug use at a more rapid pace than men.
• Women stabilize at higher doses than men do (women who struggle with addiction use more drugs than male addicts).
• Women are at a higher risk for drug-related side effects.
• Women experience withdrawal symptoms much more severely than men do, and experience greater levels of stress during withdrawal.
• Women are more likely to relapse than men.

The differences change from drug to drug. For example, women experience fewer withdrawal symptoms from alcohol than men. They also use smaller doses of synthetic opioids.

They are more likely to end up in the ICU, yet fewer women use drugs than men. Women who use opioids tend to be younger than men, and less likely to inject the drug. Those that do inject are likely to do so under peer pressure from sexual partners and social circles.

Women drink less than men but are swiftly catching up. Among adolescents, women’s drinking habits are ahead of men. Nevertheless, the risks of alcohol use weigh more heavily against women than men – women are disproportionately victimized in alcohol-related crimes.

Women report illegally using stimulants for functional reasons rather than recreational purposes (better performance at school or work, more energy, weight loss) while men are more likely to use stimulants for fun.

A higher level of estrogen means women get addicted to stimulants faster than men do, and at a younger age, yet they are more likely to complete meth addiction treatment than male counterparts, and are not as likely as men to suffer from cognitive side effects as a result of cocaine use.

 

Other Factors

The previous factors point to just how different male and female experiences can be in addiction, yet they account largely for biological factors.

Many social factors also heavily influence the rate at which women develop an addiction, as women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, sexual violence, and other traumatic experiences.

Due to a higher incidence of depression and anxiety, as well as chronic pain, and conditions related to fertility and the menstrual cycle, drugs often become a way for some women to seek refuge from emotional and physical suffering (hence the stats on self-medication).

 

How Women’s Sober Living Provides Greater Benefits

Sober living homes for women provide a safe space for women to be away from men, and free from any triggers or forms of temptation. Sober living homes are strictly structured, but they don’t feel like a prison sentence.

Women are free to go and leave whenever they feel ready, and the homes are set-up to have a welcoming atmosphere, with plenty of amenities to provide tenants with things to do and ways to spend time.

Some homes feature meditation areas, on-site gyms, and a fully equipped kitchen. Others provide tenants with a series of other benefits, including beautiful outdoor areas and access to local parks and beaches.

On-site staff are trained to help women in recovery through counseling, therapy, and supervised group activities. While the thought of sharing a home with other strangers might not sound comforting to begin with, there is a heavy emphasis on promoting a sense of community and sisterhood among the tenants.

Many women in recovery feel alone and feel like the weight of sobriety is too much to bear alone. Sober living homes present an opportunity to discover how others deal with many of these same fears and feelings, and how those who have been sober for a long time continue to motivate themselves to stay clean.

 

The Benefits of Sober Living Homes in the Long-Term

One of the greatest strengths of any sober living home is its structure. Rather than pushing tenants to follow a program, tenants are given the tools needed to explore their sobriety together and determine for themselves how and when they would like to move forward.

While rehab facilities focus on providing a program for addicts to follow within a set timeline, sober living homes provide a place of temporary residence while placing emphasis on several simple rules:

• A strict daily curfew.
• Mandatory employment or job-searching.
• Regular social activities between tenants.
• Each tenant is responsible for maintaining a clean and livable space.
• Drug searches make using or keeping drugs within the facility impossible.
• Tenants are encouraged to seek treatment through therapy and group therapy.
• Tenants are encouraged to find hobbies, nurture skills, and make productive use of their free time.

This better prepares them for life outside of a recovery setting by making the choice to move onwards a conscious one, informed by a feeling of readiness rather than any pressure to feel ready on a certain set date.

People progress through recovery at a unique pace, and sober living homes help ensure that they are well-equipped to handle the challenges of long-term sobriety regardless of how quickly or slowly they adapt to a life without drugs.

Because women are more at risk of struggling with a relapse, because they are often financially dependent on the people around them, and because they are more often trapped in physically and emotionally abusive relationships than their male counterparts, it’s critical for women’s sober living homes to provide autonomy and the ability to live in a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment.

Many women’s sober living homes work with local women’s shelters and transitional as well as long-term housing projects to help those who are victims of violence.

Once a recovering addict feels confident in their newfound strength as a sober individual, emboldened by the way sober living homes prioritize independence and self-determination, they are not simply ‘done’ with recovery. Staying sober and continuing to grow as a sober individual is a life-long process.

Finding the Will to Overcome Addiction

Finding the Will to Overcome Addiction

Identified as a brain disease, addiction is much more than a moral failing or an issue of personal responsibility. As we understand more about how this condition affects the brain and continues to affect a person long after the habit has stopped, it’s becoming clear that combating addiction requires an understanding that this is a chronic problem that must be managed in the long-term, rather than seeing it as a condition with an effective cure or available short-term strategy.

While we’re told that addiction isn’t about willpower, there is an element to the recovery process that does require a substantial amount of will and personal input: the decision to start. It’s important to find the will to overcome addiction – and most importantly, one must feed and nurture that will. Staying motivated in the fight against addiction is the real challenge, because it’s a very slow burn, with months or years passing before it truly feels like the addiction is in the past.

 

The Choice to Start Recovery Is Yours

To find the will to overcome addiction, you need motivation. Some people are motivated by their families, their children, or their partner. Some people are motivated by fear of their own death, of all the things they have yet to do, of what they wanted to accomplish but never had the chance to attempt. Some people are motivated by the promise of fulfilling their own purpose, understanding that they lose the chance to explore their potential if they don’t work on giving up the habit. And many, unfortunately, are not motivated by anything at all, having lost their motivation in the days and months building up to their addicted state.

If you are someone in recovery or an addict planning to start the recovery process, and you have a powerful motivation, that’s great news. It won’t guarantee your success, but it gets your foot in the door. But for others, especially if the addict is someone you know and care for, bringing them to the realization that recovery is worth the effort can be very difficult.

 

Do Interventions Help?

Often, interventions help addicts realize that they are cared for and that they have a place in the world that they can properly reclaim once sober. It gives them hope that there’s something to life after the addiction. But interventions must be planned delicately, depending on the situation.

Therapists with a history in helping addicts deal with addiction often also help families plan interventions if the situation calls for one. Sometimes, a major intervention isn’t necessary. Sometimes, it’s enough to help convince a loved one to go see a professional and talk about their problem without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.

From there, the choice to start the recovery process is both an important one and a frightening one. The road to overcoming addiction is long and harsh, and the early days are marked by intense cravings, confusion, painful withdrawal symptoms, and more.

 

Overcoming the Challenges of Early Recovery

Help is critical. The first choice will always have to be the recoveree’s, but from there, it’s important to recognize the role that help plays in making the first few weeks of recovery bearable. From potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms to intense cravings, unpredictable thoughts and behavior, and the urge to go further than ever beyond to secure a fix, a recoveree’s mind can often be in pure chaos in those first few weeks of recovery, rebounding from pure joy at being free from addiction to the terror and anguish that follows early sobriety, as thoughts and feelings that had been carefully blocked out through drug use come rushing in.

A history of addiction can go hand-in-hand with issues with mental health and self-esteem, and it isn’t uncommon for recovering addicts to develop problems with anxiety and depression as a result of their drug abuse.

The proper healing environment is critical for times like this. Rehab clinics, sober living homes, and inpatient programs are designed to help recovering addicts in the first stages of addiction, and sober living homes help many who need more time away from the outside world and the temptation of using again. The only effective treatment for addiction in the long-term is time, but that time should be spent managing one’s mental health and tackling positive goals for the future.

After withdrawal ends, recoverees are encouraged to participate in both individual and group therapy sessions, take up new hobbies, make new acquaintances within the sober world, and plan for their future by going back to school or looking for work.

 

Looking for Help in the Right Places

Sober living homes, therapists, psychiatrists, and addiction clinics all offer help for recoverees struggling with sobriety. But it’s also important to remember to look for help in other places: like at home, among friends, or at the gym. Sometimes, the best way to deal with stress from addiction is by going for a run, taking up boxing classes, learning to paint, or learning a musical instrument.

Hobbies and friendships are important in recovery because they provide outlets for stress and help recoverees feel better, while also helping them develop skills they can be proud of. A stronger self esteem is important in the fight against addiction, because it can give a person more to hold onto when the urge to relapse comes knocking.

 

It’s Not Over After Rehab

The recovery process lasts a lifetime, in some interpretations. It is possible to overcome addiction, but the risk of relapse remains. It’s only through the diligent and continuous management of an addiction that relapse is properly avoided, over months, years, and decades. After the first year or so, it becomes about making use of the tools gained during the early recovery process to continue to manage cravings and deal with stress in a healthy way, avoiding old habits and turning to friends when the temptation grows too powerful.

When relapses do occur – and they tend to occur in most people within the first 12 months after treatment – it’s important to get right back on the horse. With the proper guidance, a relapse can be an opportunity to learn how better to combat addiction, rather than being viewed as a failure. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we deal with them, and how we seek to avoid making them in the future, that truly defines our character.

Admitting You Need Help with Addiction Is Not A Weakness

Admitting You Need Help with Addiction

Aside from being physically strong, strength is also the quality of being able to stand up to an immense amount of pressure or resistance without giving way. It’s fair to say that most recovering addicts don’t feel very strong in the early days of recovery. And to many, the guilt and shame of addiction might wear down on them to the point where they feel that they either don’t deserve help or shouldn’t seek it out.

Being a burden to others is a real fear for many recovering addicts, and it sadly keeps them from getting the help they need. But rather than showing weakness, consider perhaps that openly acknowledging you have a problem and voluntarily seeking out help shows strength instead. Indeed, rather than feeling weak for admitting you need help, the courage it takes to step up and tell another human being that you’re flawed and struggling is tantamount to courage.

 

Asking for Help Requires Strength

People don’t hide weakness out of strength. That is a misinterpretation of what it means to be strong, instead twisting the meaning into something else entirely. To be strong requires fortitude, to be strong requires the ability to stand up in the face of adversity. It requires action.

It does not require a lie. Any addict refusing to seek help is not being strong but is instead acting tough. Portraying a falsehood is simply shielding oneself from the pain of unveiling an inner insecurity, running away in cowardice from the difficult path that lies ahead to instead wallow in silent self-pity. True strength comes from recognizing what must be done, and indeed, seeking help is the only feasible way to deal with an addiction.

We don’t lock ourselves in a room and try really hard to get better when we’ve caught a chronic illness. Instead, we go to a professional and accept the tough treatment that lays ahead. We do our best to survive and live on for the sake of those who we are accountable to, those we feel responsible for, and for ourselves, to prove that life still has meaning and purpose.

The courage required to step up and do something about your addiction is a sign of strength, while acting like it isn’t a problem at all is just a sign that you have given into your fears and anxieties, and have chosen to ignore a problem rather than confront it.

 

Addicts Need Help

Addiction is not a disease you treat alone. It’s a disease that requires professional and medical help. Some types of addiction are best treated with medication, while others require intensive therapy and time spent away from drugs, time spent dealing with the physical and mental ramifications of long-term addiction, time spent looking inwards and reflecting on the events that transpired while addicted, and how the consequences of those events need to be dealt with in sobriety.

Addiction treatment is as much about helping an addict overcome addiction and avoid relapse as it is about helping them cope with the difficulties and realities of sobriety after addiction, helping them stay sane and mentally prepared for the many different consequences they’re likely to face, and get ready for the responsibilities they’re going to have to take on. From paying your bills to taking care of yourself and your loved ones, addiction treatment highlights the difficulties in rejoining society after being addicted, and often does its best to make each patient aware of the speedbumps and pitfalls they have to avoid or overcome on the way.

Because most addicts relapse within the first year after treatment, recovery programs also often account for the future, either by encouraging recovering addicts to seek further resources to switch to a different program if they feel they still need the support and help, including outpatient programs and sober living homes are ideal ways to continue the fight against addiction.

 

Addiction Can Be Temporary

Addiction is a chronic illness, in the sense that it shows signs of coming back and requiring continued support and treatment to overcome. However, on that note, it can be overcome. While recovery is a lifelong process, and sobriety is something you have to actively work on, the aspect of physical and emotional dependence is something that does fade away with time. The memories of the addiction never leave you, but the addiction itself does, and you regain the ability to live life as you choose to.

This is important because it signifies that getting help means something – it means that you get to have purpose again, and lead life in such a way that you aren’t pursuing the next high but are instead pursuing the next goal. But it’s only by first asking for help and dedicating yourself to recovery that you open up that possibility. That’s why addiction can be temporary. If you let it, it will grow until it consumes you completely, and leaves you for dead. But if you fight it, together with the help and support you need, you can end its overwhelming influence over you and make a real difference in your life – and in the lives of others.

 

Helping Others Become Stronger

Recovery never ends, but it’s difficult to find ways to maintain the same level of motivation over years and years. With time, stress can mount, and certain events can tip the balance and send you over the edge. Having something consistent to hold onto is important in that regard, as it convinces you to stay on the straight and narrow.

One way to ensure that you’re always involved in recovery without constantly making things about yourself is to get involved in the recovery of others. Get active in local sobriety groups, write about addiction and recovery online, organize group meetings to share stories and talk about mutual challenges, and keep the spirit of recovery alive by encouraging others to come together and help one another stay motivated.

Strength means resilience, and like anything else, it takes effort and the right will to bolster that resilience and maintain it even in the face of failure. Most recovering addicts struggle with their addiction, and there will be more than just one instance where you might consider giving up entirely. But you owe it to yourself to truly give your all, and trust those around you to help you as best as they can as well. Remember: unless you volunteer to throw in the towel, your chance to overcome addiction will never go away.

 

Avoiding Situations with a High Likelihood of Relapse

Avoiding Situations With Likelihood of Relapse

Drug relapses occur when the urge to use overcomes any rational thought or inhibition that might have otherwise kept a person from using drugs again. In part, drug relapses are as common as they are due to the chronic nature of addiction as a brain disease, as an illness that changes the way we process certain thoughts and chemicals, and as a progressive issue that alters the brain and mind in drastic ways over a long period of time.

But on the other hand, relapses also don’t usually happen out of nowhere. The urge to use remains, and can grow stronger in times of stress, but it’s often a specific moment or event that drives a person to start using again. These high-risk situations can be identified and avoided. But the key lies in knowing what to look for and knowing why certain situations or events cause a person to make the jump and relapse.

 

Identifying High-Risk Situations

Different people possess different pressure points, and it is important to consider what memories and associations you feel affect you most strongly. Certain situations and sensations may catch a recovering addict off-guard, making them feel things and remember things they have not felt nor remembered for some time.

Anything from a specific song to a stroll through an old neighborhood can bring back memories that evoke a time when drug use was still a normal part of the day, and when it was much harder to envision a life without drugs. A degree of nostalgia is normal for any person, but when we become nostalgic for things in the past that relate to our addiction, we’re putting ourselves at risk for a relapse.

Being around old friends who still use or being with people who use around you can be a powerful trigger as well. This can elicit reactions and feelings you might not want to have, including the urge to give into the darker parts of yourself and have one last hit/high. As such, few common high-risk situations that need to be avoided are:

  • Old places where you used to drink or use.
  • Old music that reminds you of some of your favorite moments.
  • Old friends who still use or don’t respect your sobriety.
  • Struggling with physical pain or chronic pain.
  • Being around strangers who are using.
  • Being invited to a party with drinks and/or drugs.
  • Struggling with social and/or peer pressure to drink again.
  • Having problems in your relationships with others.
  • And more.

These high-risk situations can, at times, bring out the worst in a recovering addict. Being in pain both emotionally and physically, being overwhelmed, and being reminded of what it was like to be numb to everything except the drugs can, when put together, be a deadly combination to anyone’s convictions, especially when your motivation to stay sober is already combating your brain’s natural urge to switch back to using again. Physical and emotional dependence takes time to heal but staying away from drugs for that long is not easy. Thankfully, it does get easier over time. Day after day, with each passing moment of sobriety, you’re making yourself less likely to relapse.

 

Identifying Risk Factors Before They Escalate

Risk factors are factors that increase the risk of something happening – in this case, they’re factors we should be aware of when trying to understand how likely it is for a person to relapse again. A risk factor means that it can contribute to a person’s chance of relapse, but it never guarantees it. Nor does a person need to struggle with many different risks to relapse.

However, identifying risk factors is important in preventing relapses by minimizing the reasons a recovering addict might have to use again. To do so, figure out:

  • What in your life currently presents you with overwhelming stress, and how can you delegate some of that to reduce your stress?
  • How can you manage your fears and anxieties, as well as your stress, without taking advantage of a drug?
  • Are you getting enough rest, food, and exercise?
  • Are you speaking with a professional about mental health issues that worry you?
  • Do you feel lonely, angry, irritable, sad, or ashamed at random times in the day without any rhyme or reason?

These are just a few factors that might contribute to a person’s struggle against relapse, by undermining their recovery with negative thinking and the false promise of a better, easier way of dealing with problems through continued drug use.

 

What to Do When A Relapse Happens

When a drug relapse does occur, it’s important not to panic. Talk to a professional first and seek help immediately. The best response to a drug relapse is a reaffirmation of your recovery. Speak to your therapist, sign into a rehab program, or consider temporarily staying in a sober living home. It’s normal to feel ashamed and disappointed after relapsing, but it’s also important to look at the bigger picture. A relapse does not mean an end to your recovery.

In the simplest of terms, a drug relapse occurs when an individual loses hope in their recovery. It might only be for a few minutes, or even just a few moments, but all it takes is one big step off onto a slippery slope. However, a relapse never means the end of a person’s recovery journey. Instead, relapses best present themselves as opportunities for an individual to improve on weaknesses in their recovery. Don’t see a drug relapse as a loss, but as a lesson.

Part of why this mindset is crucial is because it is important not to forget how common relapses really are. At least about half of all recovering addicts relapse at least once within the first year after finishing a recovery program. It’s impossible to think that these relapses are caused solely by a lack of motivation or interest in recovery. Losing hope in some measure is part of the process and reveals an opportunity for you to identify what it is that made you the most vulnerable to using drugs again. It’s important to shore up those weaknesses, rather than dismissing them or missing the opportunity to reflect on what happened and figure out what you should pay the most attention to in the future.

Over time, research shows, it becomes easier and easier to resist the urge to use again. The brain does heal after quitting drug use, although the extent to which it can fully recover differs from person to person. Nonetheless, it’s very possible to reach a point in your own recovery where you can completely overcome the fear of relapse, given enough time and enough growth.

 

What Are You Missing Out on Due to Drugs?

What Are You Missing Out On While Addicted

In short, drug use robs you of life. It robs you of time, of people, of meaning, of work, of experience, of everything that makes life worth living. It gives you an easy out, a way to numb the pain, but only at first. That excuse goes up in smoke very quickly, but too often, people only realize that by the time they’re already hooked. No one wants to be addicted – we like the ability to choose, even if we always make the same choice.

Knowing you can stop at any time gives you a sense of control over how you choose to deal with your own problems – and when that sense of control disappears with the realization that you have become completely dependent, so does any desire to continue using. Yet your body, brain, and mind all disagree, and in the confusion, drug use becomes something almost impossible to let go of. Through drugs, life becomes a blurry mess – and while that allows you to stop seeing all of the bad, it erases the good as well.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can get help, and experience what life has to offer. And believe us, there’s a lot to be experienced.

 

Fulfilling Relationships

The bond between people is important. Whether we make friends, partners, or meet new members of the family through birth or marriage, our ties to others are often how we grow and develop as individuals. No man is an island, and no human survives total isolation. We’re pack animals after all, and a good tribe is something we all seek.

To that end, fulfilling relationships are about more than feeling important in a crowd. There is a basic human instinct to look after our own – to love and nurture others selflessly, because ultimately, that makes us feel good too. We take but we give back as well, and the ability to give back and recognize how we affect the lives of others can help us cement our sense of self.

 

A Sense of Purpose

Speaking of a sense of self, purpose is incredibly important. One of humanity’s most powerful traits is our incessant need to ask ‘why’. Just as we explored themes of philosophy and theology throughout countless civilizations, every individual’s journey is beset with moments of curiosity and genuine mystery. What are we here to do? Everyone finds their own answer. Some seek to be a parent, a sibling, a productive member of the community. Some wish to be firebrands, to stand out and make a change, to inflict their will upon this world. Some want to serve the greater good, however and wherever they find it. Some define themselves by their talent, others, by a craft they honed for decades.

However you choose to define yourself, it takes time and experience to discover who you believe to be. Addiction robs you of the opportunity to explore life and how you fit into it all, and leaves you wondering what it was all for after decades wasted.

 

A Healthy Self-Esteem

Being comfortable in your own skin is something many drug addicts struggle with, due to a combination of both internal and external factors. Some are driven to feel ashamed for their actions and their behavior by others, and some are driven to feel ashamed for their actions and behavior through an inner sense of guilt, and most attribute their feelings of self-hatred to a combination of both, eventually leading to depressed feelings and a constant, oppressive cloud of negativity.

It’s no secret that addiction is closely intertwined with mental health problems, and while many who go on to be addicted start using as a way to self-medicate, there are also many who only begin developing serious symptoms after they become hooked to addictive substances. Drugs steal the opportunity to be happy with who you are, one way or another.

 

A Functioning Body

The body struggles under heavy drug use, this is no mystery. Whether it’s something legal like alcohol or something illegal like methamphetamine, excessive drug use leaves us broken and hurting both physically and mentally, through decreased mental capacity, problems with memory and cognition, as well as serious physical symptoms from failing organs and growing tumors to a variety of injuries and diseases accrued as a result of the consequences that sometimes follow the risky actions of those struggling with addiction.

It shouldn’t be a privilege to be healthy, but given the current state of things, it unfortunately is. Nevertheless, drug use puts a serious wrench in any person’s plan to live a long and pain-free life, often drastically shortening an individual’s lifespan without the need for an untimely accident.

It’s easy to forget just how long life can be. Some days go by like seconds, akin to fistfuls of sand slipping through our fingers. Some days take forever and seem to never end. But as a whole, for those fortunate enough to live out their lives into an old age, life can be a journey of countless births and rebirths, of entire stories and complete arcs crammed into decades of experience and living. We are never defined by a single mistake, or a single moment, unless we let it define us. We have countless opportunities to start over and try again.

An addiction does not spell doom for any one person’s life. An addiction is a long chapter, but it can come to an end, and pave the way for something entirely new and different. Something much better. Any time you ask yourself if things could have been different, consider this instead: what do you need to do now to make things different? What can you do, this day, this week, this month, to turn your life around for the better? Drugs are not worth doing, not only because of how they addle your brain or affect your relationships with others, but because they limit your options and completely blind you to the potential you have to live a much better and far more fulfilling life. Regardless of how long you have been addicted, you always have the option to stop and seek help.

Being Understanding of a Loved One in Recovery

Understanding Loved One In Recovery

It’s frustrating to be an addict’s partner or close relative, and it’s okay to think, feel, and sometimes even say that. But it’s also important to put things in perspective, consider your partner’s circumstances, and understand both what it means to be an addict, and how demanding recovery can be.

Not all relationships survive an addiction. Whether you’re a parent with a child, an adult with an addicted relative, a best friend, or a life partner, an addiction can and often will do damage to any and all of these relationships. Relationships are built on trust, and most people with an addiction will do one or more things to erode and undermine said trust while addicted. This doesn’t magically change once your loved one is sober – it can take weeks, months, or even years for a person to feel confident in their sobriety and the life they’ve made for themselves after addiction. It can take just as long to completely regain someone’s trust. But if you are both willing to take the tough steps to get there, it will be worth it in the end.

 

Recovery Is Hard

No one can completely empathize with the struggle of recovery without going through something similar, but you can still understand what it might mean. Imagine relying on something to function like a basic human being, until it begins to eat away at you and bring your life to its knees. Then, you must learn not only to live without it, but to live successfully without it – a task you might have struggled with before that thing came into your life to begin with.

Couple that with emotional instability, new environments, common feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing, and a strong craving for another fix, almost like thirst or hunger. Recovery, especially early on, is grueling and testing. Drug-free environments like sober living homes and rehab facilities can help make the process of going sober safer and more effective, by circumventing the relapses that are often common in the first few weeks of sobriety. Even so, over half of all people who go through a recovery program relapse within the first 12 months after the program has ended.

Recovery is hard because addiction is pervasive and takes time to overcome. More than just a matter of the mind, it can accurately be described as a brain disease. Physical dependence to a drug does not remove a person’s ability to choose not to take the drug, but it heavily influences the odds against them.

We are simply wired to listen to our brain – our instincts are integral to keeping us alive, and certain things, like a craving for food, the will to procreate, or the allure of someone attractive, or instant and instinctual. Drugs manipulate a lot of the brain’s pathways related to things we find naturally rewarding, and for a long time after someone stops using, those same pathways continue to be preoccupied with the thought of another fix. Understanding that recovery is hard is an important first step to supporting your loved one.

 

Recovery Takes A While

The first step in most recovery programs is to get someone off the drugs and help them go through the immediate events that follow. Heavy drug use can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which are a collection of physical and mental symptoms caused by the abrupt end of drug use. Some symptoms are caused by a host of underlying problems previously numbed by the drug use. Others are caused by the brain effectively ‘recalibrating’.

After the withdrawal symptoms end, drug addicts go through recovery at their own pace. A person’s success in recovery doesn’t depend so much on their willingness to stay sober as it does on their ability to adapt. Some people transition into sober living very quickly – others take longer. There is no good way to tell how long it might take for sobriety to ‘sink in’, but some people consider a full year spent completely sober a good goal.

Rather than think of a set time, consider more abstract criteria. Recovery is successful when an addict feels they no longer need to fear a relapse, and when they’ve established a lifestyle they are content with, with a variety of ways to deal with stress in the event that they ever feel the need to use again.

Because this process can take a while, it’s important to be aware of the potential bumps and challenges along the way. It’s not a steady path forward – there will be struggles and unexpected difficulties. Working together to overcome them won’t be easy, but it’s the only way for a relationship to survive an addiction. It’s okay to feel frustrated, but don’t consider your loved one a failure for relapsing when things get tough. Help them find the courage to try again, and the confidence to believe in their chances at a lasting sober life, despite prior setbacks.

 

Addicts Need Compassion

Tough love will not work. While it might not seem that way, addiction is often coupled with feelings of guilt and shame rather than any sense of smugness. Even if they try to hide it, a lot of addicts are deeply depressed and fear that they’ll never improve. Negative reinforcement – or ‘tough love’ – is more likely to make things worse, rather than help them reach the mindset they need to truly make progress.

Compassion is an important component in helping an addict improve on their condition. Addiction is not a moral shortcoming, or a reason to belittle someone – it’s a condition that needs treatment. And as your loved one’s partner, relative, or friend, it’s important that you provide support for that treatment. To an extent.

 

Draw the Line

There will be moments of frustration, irritation, and even genuine anger. There will be sadness. And it will not be easy. But understand where to draw the line. Supporting an addict in their recovery also means avoiding anything that might enable them and being strict about behavior that counts as emotional and/or physical abuse.

If an addict continuously fails to stay sober and is almost immediately back on their old habit after every treatment, it’s time to pull out. Consider not ending the relationship, but instead putting more responsibility on the addict’s shoulders. It’s on them to decide how to live now, and it cannot be on you to continue to look after them. After a certain point, caring for an addict begins to take its toll to such an extent that it damages your own mental health.

If you feel you are no longer capable to help, make it clear that you’ve had enough. Draw a line, set your boundaries, and stick to them – for your own good, and for the good of your loved one.

The Warning Signs of Relapse

Warning Signs of Relapse

A drug relapse occurs when a recovering addict starts using again. In the simplest terms, that is all a relapse entails. But relapses happen to people for different reasons, and most of the time, they can be prevented. Relapses are also not a sign of weakness.

Many recovering addicts fail to internalize (or haven’t even heard) that as many as 90 percent of all people who go through the recovery process experience at least one relapse before achieving lasting recovery (defined usually as several years of abstinence). In fact, over half of all recovering addicts relapse within one year after their first recovery program – it’s important to note that that is after their recovery program, not during or before.

Of course, understanding what a relapse means is different from accepting it as normal or correct behavior. The whole point of getting sober is to stay sober and avoid relapses. While the first few are to be expected, it’s also easy to get trapped in a constant cycle of relapses and sobriety attempts, without really learning why relapses occur, or taking the proper measures to ensure they don’t happen again.

 

Recognizing the Warning Signs

The first step to coming back stronger after a relapse is being okay with the mistake you’ve made and rededicating yourself to sobriety. Before anything else, you must understand that a stumble doesn’t eliminate you from the race. You can get back up and keep on working towards your goal. Then, it’s time to completely and effectively reflect on what happened and try to make the most of the experience in a positive way.

Relapses are very emotional and troubling. They usually begin in the mind, through thoughts and feelings of doubt, worries and internal anxieties, struggles with what it means to be sober and whether all this fighting and struggling is worth it. These feelings are normal to a point, but when they become overwhelming, the next stop is usually a relapse. The urge to use again and the inner hunger to return to old habits can sometimes be overpowering, especially in the face of overwhelming external stressors. Some of the warning signs to consider include:

  • Increasingly erratic emotions.
  • Increasingly abrasive/irritable, harder to control temper.
  • Easily distracted, hard time concentrating.
  • Emotionally pre-occupied with negative thoughts, including depressive thoughts or anxious thoughts/fears.
  • Worrying excessively about a relapse, day in and day out.
  • Other sudden behavior changes.
  • Losing faith/lack of faith in recovery programs, increased cynicism.
  • Loss of interest in old hobbies, no new developing interests.
  • Robotic/dispassionate pursuit of day-to-day activities.
  • Depressive declarations/thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
  • Low energy/constant lack of sleep.
  • Insomnia/unable to rest.

Many of the warning signs of relapse are similar to the warning signs of depression, and the two are often intertwined. What relates one to the other is the lack of hope and constant negative thinking.

 

Consider Asking for Help

You do not have to wait for a relapse to occur to confirm your fears. If you realize that your behavior lately has been erratic, uncontrolled, or otherwise in line with some of the other warning signs listed above, it would be smart to consider getting professional help. A therapist or psychiatrist experienced with addiction medicine can get you the psychological assistance you need to not only get through this but work on developing ways to feel an oncoming potential relapse and stop it dead in its tracks. Your ability to prevent relapses hinges on your willingness to rely on others and work with them (and yourself) to take a breath, gain perspective, and figure out the best way to not give into the urge to use again.

Another option is to sign into a sober living home. Like rehab facilities, sober living homes are drug-free zones, heavily enforced to keep all residents safe from drug use. And unlike rehab, you get to stay as long as you want to, with no set program. Sober living homes are ideal for recovering addicts who feel they may be at risk for relapsing, and just need a place to stay for a while where they won’t try to get their hands on anything.

 

What Counts as A Relapse?

Some might ask themselves if it’s ever okay to use drugs without actually relapsing. The difference between using and relapsing is the control. If you can use a drug without losing control over how you use it and how much of it you use, you haven’t relapsed into an addicted state.

However, realistically, this just isn’t feasible for most people. In fact, almost all recovering addicts should vehemently oppose the idea of using again, in ‘moderation’. The body and brain remember what it was like to be addicted, and after an addiction passes and the body and brain recover from drug use, they become much more susceptible to the effects of a drug – especially if you start using again at the same pace as just before your initial treatment. Some people have reported quitting drinking and eventually going back to drinking responsibly, but it’s very rare and not at all worth the risk. You’re simply opening yourself up to a full relapse into uncontrollable and chaotic addiction.

As such, a relapse counts as any amount of drug use that puts you back in an addicted state – struggling to control your behavior, driven by the need to satisfy and chase your high, and using drugs to cover up any underlying pain or suffering you may be struggling with.

 

Why It’s Okay to Relapse and Keep Going

A relapse is not a failure, and it doesn’t spell doom for your recovery or indicate that your recovery program is ineffective. As mentioned previously, don’t try to see your relapse as a sign that you’ve failed – see it as a sign that your recovery isn’t complete yet, and there are still a few major obstacles you have to cover.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter of time. It simply takes a certain amount of time spent sober for the body and brain to readjust and get over the cravings, to a certain degree. Sometimes, relapses give us insight into weaknesses we may still have – triggers and emotional problems that need to be dealt with before the recovery can be ‘complete’.

Getting Over the Stigma of Recovery to Get the Help You Need

Overcoming the Stigma of Addiction

It’s hard to treat addiction. It’s also hard to find addiction treatment. There’s no denying that – over 80 percent of people who are potentially eligible for a heroin addiction don’t get the help they need for their addiction. Many of them try to find help, but find that they aren’t eligible, financially or otherwise. If they lack the cash, they may seek out not-for-profit treatment centers or government-run centers, which reject applicants with a history of mental health issues or a history of crime. Then, there are those who do make it through treatment – over half of who eventually relapse within the first year after rehab and go right back to the start.

Thankfully this may change soon, but there are still other issues in the way. While many are genuinely in denial and don’t think they need help for their addiction, there are many Americans who can’t afford to get the help they do need. And when they do finally get the opportunity for treatment, they find that the commitment – whether that means staying in a residential treatment facility or heading to a treatment clinic at least thrice a week – is too much for their busy working schedule, which is necessary to help support the family.

A substantial number of Americans fear that if they get the help they need, they will lose their job, the respect of those they know, and their reputation. They fear the stigma and repercussions surrounding addiction, and they may think that if they keep their use under control (which they cannot), then everything will be fine.

Money, fear, and time – these are the primary reasons Americans don’t get the help they need, and the stress and pain of it all further feeds their problems. However, the alternative is much worse: long-term addiction, leading to potentially fatal overdoses, broken relationships, debt, a dying career, and worse.

Treatment is worth it, and the sooner an addiction is addressed, the better. No addiction expert believes that an addict needs to hit rock bottom before things get better – all an addict has to do is believe they need help and ask for it. Before that can happen, however, an addict may have to overcome the fear surrounding the decision to go into treatment.

 

The Stigma Surrounding Addiction

Addiction is still largely misunderstood. There are plenty people who believe what addicts need most is some tough love and the metaphorical crack of a whip as motivation. We’ve tried treating addiction through decades of incarceration, but the data then and the data now was always the same: it doesn’t work. Addicts are often aware that they’re destroying their lives. They’re often aware they’re hurting others. It’s not that they don’t care – it’s that they can’t stop. And that eats them up inside, which leads to a dark and slippery slope towards death.

No one chooses addiction. People choose drugs – but they don’t choose addiction. And once they’re addicted, the only choice they can make is to get help. When that help doesn’t work, they need the mental state to keep going, and to try again. Without the support of friends and family to convince them to go through with it all, many give up. Others stay sober for decades, but slip up due to one mental break, and accidentally end their lives.

 

Overcoming Stigma

Every case of addiction is its own little tragedy, and wrath and judgment will do nothing to help the millions of Americans struggling with substance use disorders. However, you can’t go and change the opinion of every American who maintains that addiction is a choice, and the only treatment is discipline. Instead, you have to move past that stigma, and realize that the only way to get better is to seek out help despite what other people might think of you, and despite the possibility that even after months, you’ll have to go through the process again at what feels like square one.

That’s because it isn’t square one. Every relapse feels like a failure, but it isn’t a failure. Not if you turn it into something else. Relapses are opportunities to learn more about yourself and your addiction, to figure out why they happened, and how you can prevent them. In the immediate aftermath of a relapse, there’s little time for reflection and calm collected thinking – but give yourself a chance, and understand that relapsing after treatment is common, and not a sign of failure, but a fact of addiction recovery.

From there, continue treatment. Don’t see it as a restart – see it as a continuation. And don’t stop. The relapses will end soon, and you’ll feel ‘in control’. That’s a dangerous feeling, because life isn’t something we can control. But it’s the first step towards learning to live a normal life again, before learning to let go of the anxiety and fear around relapses, and instead simply focus on the things that make you happy, keep you sober, and allow you to live your life without battling with your old habits.

 

Addiction Treatment Works

Addiction treatment is not a quick-fix pill or a cookie-cutter program – it’s a tailor-made plan built around you, as per the experience and expertise of people who dedicate their lives towards helping addicts live better ones.

For some, the crux of treatment is getting to live in a place without drugs, while a therapist helps you unravel the pain and misery of your childhood, as you rediscover your passion for sports and take on the goal of running a marathon. For others, it’s working diligently on your recovery while keeping your eyes on your job, taking time off work to get clean so you can make the strides in your career that you’ve always wanted to make. For some, it’s being a better parent and sticking to each step of the plan in order to overcome your addiction.

The core of every case of addiction treatment is a highly personal, highly effective motivator. For many coming in for the first time, motivation might even be an alien concept. Depressive thinking and anxiety are common among drug addicts, and hopelessness is a popular state of mind. It takes a few weeks of sobriety and the right kind of therapeutic support to get into the headspace to look at the bright side of the future and realize that you might still have a lot more life left in you than you thought.

 

Continuing to Break Stigma After Recovery

Addiction treatment is something you do have to choose, and it’s something you have to do on your own. But there’s not a moment when you’re not surrounded by help. Whether it’s professional help or the love and support of your friends and/or family, every case of successful addiction recovery is ultimately a team effort. You make it through because those who care about you want you to, because they show you that they care, because they give you the reason you need to keep going.

And you can be there for someone else, too. Continue to break stigma by helping recovering addicts see that there is a path forward, by continuing to visit local meetings, meeting new people, and speaking about your experiences and challenges. While every story is different, a new and unique perspective can be just what someone else might need to convince themselves to stay committed to sobriety that day. And the next. And the next.

 

Is It Possible to Reverse the Effects of Addiction?

Reverse the Effects of Addiction

Addiction treatment can go a long way to give someone their old life back – but more importantly, it ventures to help people give themselves a chance at a completely new, and better life.

Sometimes, however, things are broken during addiction that can’t be fixed. The repercussions of addiction are not always reversible. To understand what can and can’t be changed through addiction treatment, you have to know how addiction affects the mind, body, and brain.

One thing is for sure: addiction can be treated. And, with proper care and support, you can life a fulfilling life without relapsing. That being said, there are serious long-term side effects to recurring drug use – and not all of them can be reversed.

 

The Short and Long-Term Effects of Addiction

In short, drug use alters the brain temporarily. This change is reinforced through repeated use and leads to addiction. Other effects that are common are rising drug tolerance (the drug loses effectiveness) and withdrawal symptoms when sober (as the system tries to adjust and recuperate after the changes introduced by recurring drug use).

Drugs have different effects, both in the brain and in the rest of the human body. Alcohol, for example, is a carcinogen and is metabolized by the liver into acetaldehyde. Most of the acetaldehyde is then eliminated from the body. During the process, the liver is damaged. Long-term alcohol use can lead to permanent liver damage (liver cirrhosis), greatly increased risk of cancer throughout the body, as well as long-term to permanent damage to the brain.

Meanwhile, methamphetamine is neurotoxic and damages the serotonergic pathways in the brain, potentially leading to anhedonia – the growing inability to feel pleasure. Meth is also a powerful stimulant, causing loss of appetite, straining the heart, and increasing the risk of stroke (when blood is no longer flowing into the brain, causing brain damage and death).

The most common short-term effect of drug use is a high. But in high dosages, drugs can cause an overdose. Not all overdoses cause death, but they do greatly damage the body and leave a lasting effect. For example, a heroin overdose can potentially leave a person paralyzed or brain damaged due to oxygen deprivation.

Some drugs are harder to overdose on alone – like anti-anxiety medication – but in combination with another drug (alcohol, for example), the effects of both drugs combine and create a very potent and deadly mixture. Most street drugs are also cut and mixed with additives, including fentanyl in the case of heroin. Fentanyl is responsible for a serious rise in heroin overdoses in the last few years, due to its extreme potency.

In the long-term, drugs still kill – but slower. Long-term drug use causes a steady decrease in grey matter, leaving a person less capable of critical thinking, problem solving, risk assessment, and other cognitive functions. Meanwhile, addiction itself can lead to other health issues including malnutrition, sexually-transmitted diseases, IV drug-related diseases, rapid weight loss/weight gain, as well as cuts and lesions caused by incessant scratching and poor hygiene.

Some of these effects can be reversed – others cannot. This depends largely on the cause of the damage, the extent of the damage, and where the damage is. While drugs affect the body, mind, and brain, addiction begins in the mind and brain.

 

The Psychological Effects of Addiction

Addiction leaves a person more likely to struggle with another mental disorder. Long-term addiction can also expose a person to traumatic incidents and serious long-term emotional damage. However, most of the emotional effects of addiction are reversible with family support, professional counseling, and a long-term commitment to therapy.

Addiction itself is never necessarily ‘cured’, but it’s possible to go a whole lifetime without relapsing after a certain point. That ‘point’ is different for everyone, and the road to getting there – achieving comfort and confidence in sobriety – is different for every recovering addict.

 

The Neurological Effects of Addiction

Alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, meth, tobacco – these are all wildly different drugs, but they all have something in common: long-term use robs a person of cognitive capacity and slowly but surely changes and damages the brain. This accounts for loss of risk-assessment and increased risk taking, as well as general decreases in cognitive function. However, the good news is that this damage can be reversed.

Long-term research shows that abstinence and recovery help the mind and the brain recover from addiction. There are exceptions, of course. Damage done to the brain through oxygen deprivation or blood deprivation (stroke) cannot be reversed. When parts of the brain die, they can’t come back. The brain exhibits extreme amounts of plasticity, however, allowing it to rework sections of existing tissue to increase cognitive function. That being said, paralysis caused by severe cerebral hypoxia isn’t something that time can heal.

 

The Physical Effects of Addiction

Damage to your organs through drug use can be largely reversed through medical treatment, a good diet, and lots of time. However, there are cases when addiction can lead to extensive organ damage and eventual organ failure, requiring a transplant or medical intervention (such as dialysis in the case of kidney failure).

Whether or not the damage done to the body through drug use can be reversed depends on what kind of damage it is.

For example, IV drugs can cause rhabdomyolysis, which is a syndrome of symptoms caused by muscle fiber death and renal failure due to dead tissue in the bloodstream. Unless treated soon, this can cause a painful death. Meanwhile, opioid overuse can at times cause hyperalgesia – an increased sensitivity to pain, including chronic pain. Opioid-induced hyperalgesia may go away with reduced use or must be treated with a non-opioid painkiller.

The way your body responds to any given drug is highly individual. Meanwhile, indirect damage to the body caused by drug use (such as injuries suffered from a car accident) may or may not be permanent.

 

Get Help

Life is worth living to the fullest, and the sooner a person seeks help for their addiction, the more of life they’re likely to enjoy. As fun as the ride might seem while it lasts, the long-term repercussions of severe drug use are nowhere near worth any time spent being addicted.

There is no good reason not to seek out help. Going cold turkey alone and trying to stay sober is not a good game plan, making a relapse highly likely. Meanwhile, withdrawal symptoms are often not just uncomfortable, but can be fatal in the case of alcohol and other depressants. Having medical professionals present while going through withdrawal and detox can save a life.

Drug rehab exists for the well-off and the less fortunate alike, and addiction doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can get addicted for a wide variety of reasons, regardless of willpower, moral compass, or overall happiness. Addiction is not something people openly choose, and it isn’t a condemnation of immoral actions – it’s a brain disease caused by interactions between the brain and the overuse of certain substances, alongside factors such as psychiatric health and frequency of drug use. And like other brain diseases, addiction needs to be treated by a trained professional, with time, and if needed, medication.

Regardless of whether you or someone you love is addicted, convincing them to seek out help is critical. While not all effects of addiction can be reversed, life is still best spent sober and in good health than struggling with addiction day in and day out.

Mental Health Issues That Commonly Accompany Addiction

De-Stressing After Addiction

Addiction and other mental health issues often go hand-in-hand, for several reasons. It’s important to understand that in a lot of cases, people who struggle with one mental illness may also struggle with symptoms pertaining to another mental illness, or they may have several codependent diagnoses. Addiction is considered a mental health issue by the DSM (Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a book that generally reflects the opinion of most mental health professionals on the subject of what is and is not a mental health issue.

Mental illnesses begin in the brain, either as a result of external factors (factors such as nutrition, trauma, chronic stress, abuse, brain injury, tumors, hormonal irregularities, poisoning, and more), or internal factors (genetics and prenatal health conditions, including illnesses and viruses plaguing a pregnant mother). Both addiction and other mental health problems are often the effect of these factors, in one way or another.

Although many might argue that this takes personal responsibility out of the equation, the overwhelming majority of addiction cases don’t begin with a person willingly wanting to be an addict. Education and healthcare play a greater role in preventing and treating addiction than most people realize – and by identifying addiction as a mental health issue, more people can come to terms with understanding that addicts need treatment and compassion, rather than an approach that prioritizes incarceration and heavy judgment. Mental health and addiction go hand-in-hand – both need to be treated together, and either one can help cause or amplify the other.

 

Depression and Addiction

Depression is arguably one of the more common disorders diagnosed alongside an addiction. Characterized as a consistent low mood for more than two weeks without any apparent or reasonable cause, depression is set apart from normal episodes of sadness and sorrow by the fact that it often has no clear “normal” cause, such as loss or grief, and the fact that it can last for a very long time.

Sometimes, depression drives people to drink or use other drugs to cope with the empty or lonely feeling of being depressed, while on the other hand, it’s the effects and consequences of addiction that eventually leave some people feeling depressed and hopeless, to the point that they develop a clinical depression.

 

Anxiety and Addiction

Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health issues in the United States, with anxiety being somewhat more prevalent. Anxiety disorders manifest in a wide variety of ways, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, specific phobias, as well as PTSD and panic disorder.

Anxiety is characterized by fear, worry, and unease at inappropriate times or in excessive levels. Someone with an anxiety disorder may fear a certain situation or may constantly play out worst-case-scenarios in their mind despite no indication of any danger, or no particular reason for worry. They may experience hyperventilation and symptoms mimicking a heart attack during a panic attack, and they may feel extreme dread when facing a particular situation, such as having to enter a small space or speak in front of a crowd.

These extreme fears can be diminished and controlled through the use of anti-anxiety medication, which can be addictive, as well as alcohol, which mimics sedatives such as benzodiazepine (Xanax, Valium, etc.) by lowering inhibitions and cutting away at fears.

 

Addiction and Other Mental Health Issues

People with other mental health issues, including PTSD, OCD, personality disorders as well as body image disorders such as dysmorphia and anorexia may turn to drug use as a way to cope with their symptoms, feeling as though the euphoric feelings caused by drug use help them with their disorder.

 

Why Mental Health Issues Accompany Addiction

Drug use changes the way the brain works slightly. While all drugs are psychotropic in some shape or form, some of them are addictive. Using addictive drugs can be helpful in the treatment of certain illnesses and diseases – including terminal pain management, ADHD, and anxiety – but misusing a prescription or taking the drugs illegally for recreational purposes can lead to a physical dependence on the drug.

The brain begins to crave the drug as a way to maintain a newfound “normal” high, imposing withdrawal symptoms whenever usage is stopped, while reinforcing use with more cravings and thoughts of recurring drug use. It becomes harder and harder to stop the more a person takes the drug, and some drugs are more addictive than others.

This can lead to a variety of problems. People who are addicted to drugs tend to feel self-loathing, regret, self-deprecation, and anger. They tend to seek out drug use not only because they crave the high, but because it masks the pain they feel when sober. This is an emotional addiction, wherein drug use is not only reinforced by what the brain wants, but by what the mind needs as a way to cope with all the problems introduced before or after the drug use began.

Heavy drug use also has a series of other side effects, both physical and mental, including tardiness, aberrant sleep schedules, poor hygiene, skin problems, malnutrition, rapid weight gain/loss, and other issues contributing to a lower quality of life, loss of employment, broken relationships, and a decaying social life. All this heavily contributes to a person’s state of mind, pushing them to avoid living out a real life and seeking drugs either to feel better, or to “end it all”.

If addiction began as a way to cope with a pre-existing problem – such as an abusive relationship, sexual trauma, problems at work or school, or chronic stress from an inescapable situation – then it can amplify these problems and speed up the development of a mental health issue arising as a result of stress, including anxiety disorders such as social anxiety, PTSD, and more.

If someone has a genetic predisposition towards a certain mental health issue, drug use may cause them to get to the point where they trigger this issue, and let it grow and develop into a diagnosable disorder.

Furthermore, addiction can put someone in a situation where they engage in needlessly risky behavior, due to lowered inhibitions and a decreased capacity for critical thinking. This can lead to a number of physical consequences, including infectious diseases from unprotected sex, as well as injuries caused by accidents while under the influence. These can leave a lasting mental effect on someone with a history of drug abuse, including emotional scarring that takes years to properly process.

 

Chicken and Egg

Addiction and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are ultimately intertwined in such a way that it’s hard for doctors and patients alike to properly identify which caused the other, and which came first. Either way, treatment has to address both. Treating a dual diagnosis – wherein someone struggles with a diagnosable mental health issue and an addiction – requires a program that addresses both usually through a combination of dedicated residential treatment, therapy with an experienced psychiatrist, and the use of non-addictive psychiatric medication, including antidepressants.