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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

12-Step Programs for Addiction Recovery

12 step programs for addiction recoveryThere is a reason that addicts who are seeking recovery turn to 12-step programs. Since the program of Alcoholic’s Anonymous was founded in 1935, AA and many other fellowships like it have helped millions heal from addiction and related issues. Alcoholics Anonymous alone exists in nearly 170 countries around the world with an estimated 2 million members. Currently there are over 30 variations of 12-step programs that address issues such as overeating, codependency, sex addiction and more.

How do 12-Step groups work? First, 12-step programs provide a safe place for people to go and share anonymously about their addiction. Meetings follow a general format in which members use only their first name to identify themselves. While some meetings are open to the public, there are many that are closed to members only. This provides an opportunity for members to share openly about their current struggles and seek support from others who have experienced similar issues in a private setting.

In popular 12-step literature, it is stated that the benefit of one addict helping another is without parallel. While doctors, psychiatrists, researchers and other professionals play an important role in helping improve outcomes for someone seeking recovery, there is something uniquely special about the relationship between two recovering persons. When another addict is able to share with someone who is new to recovery about where they were and where their life is now, a unique bond is established, and within that bond hope begins to blossom. There is something very reassuring about hearing someone else that understands exactly what you are going through via their own experience. 

As you listen to others share personal stories of experience, strength, and hope of recovery, you will begin to develop a sense of confidence that you too can recover. The idea behind 12-step groups is that you will feel a sense of inner strength knowing you are with a group of people who are all working towards a similar goal. It is common for people to want to deal with the problem on their own. This form of isolation is one of the major characteristics of the disease of addiction. 12-step groups give a person an opportunity to step out of isolation and ask others for guidance and support. 


Another characteristic of the disease of addiction is suppressing emotions. Most addicts have a fear of being misunderstood about their problem, so they tend to shy away from expressing how they feel. 12-step meetings provide a platform for people to share openly without being criticized or judged. In exchange, members will share with each other how they have handled challenging situations.

How does one get the most out of a 12-step group? By participating! Each group differs in size and members so it may take some investigating to find the group that feels right to you. Once you have found it, stick with it! Find a sponsor, get a service commitment, and reach out to the group members to maximize your benefit. The principles found within the 12 steps offer a guide to living and have helped millions recover!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Synthetic Drugs

synthetic drugs rehabWhen family and friends suspect that a loved one is abusing substances, they often think of the usual suspects like marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and opiates. However, over the past several years, the drug world has made the transition into the 21st century. The prevalence of synthetic drug abuse has grown exponentially. Synthetic drug use is now as severe if not more severe than traditional drug use in American culture, especially with adolescents and young adults.

The goal of this blog is to introduce individuals to what these drugs are, and to identify what to look for if a loved one is using these drugs.

Spice, K2, and other synthetic cannabis: Synthetic cannabis is often marketed under the names of “Spice,” “K2,” simply “synthetic marijuana.” These drugs are often sold over the counter and require no identification to buy them. They are marketed as incense or potpourri, but using them to achieve psychoactive effects is the only real purpose. Synthetic marijuana is chemically similar to THC and is sprayed or mixed with different generic herbs. Due to the variability of the chemical that is sprayed or mixed, producers are able to work around current drug laws. The use of these substances has several side effects that include anxiety, nausea, racing heartbeat, elevated blood pressure, seizures, tremors, hallucinations, and suicidal thoughts. Synthetic marijuana is now the third most abused substance by high school students, with one in nine high school seniors reporting use of synthetic marijuana in the past month.

Bath Salts: Substituted cathinones (or “Bath Salts”) are the second most popular synthetic drug that is now being abused. These cathinones received the name of Bath Salts due to the visual resemblance they share with Epsom salts, as well as them often being labeled for sale as such. Bath Salts are very similar to both amphetamines and cocaine, in that they are very strong stimulants. Currently there are over 70 variations of chemicals that are classified as substituted cathinones, with several other substances being very structurally similar. Bath Salts have several side effects including headaches, racing heartbeat, reduced body temperature, hallucinations, paranoia, and violent behavior. The use of bath salts has been increasing since the mid 2000s, which resulted in over 10,000 calls to poison control centers in 2012.

Kratom: Opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl are some of the common synthetic opioids that are now prevalent in American society. Although these opioids are usually prescription drugs used to treat pain, they have been shown to have a high rate of abuse. A drug that you have most likely not heard of is Kratom. Although Kratom is not technically a synthetic opioid, it still bears mentioning, as it is one of the most abused legal opioids. Kratom is a leaf that comes from Southeast Asia that has been used for thousands of years as painkiller and antidepressant. The leaf is taken from the tree then brewed as a tea, made into a powder, or manufactured into pill form. Chemically, it is structurally similar to morphine. Unlike Spice and Bath Salts, Kratom is usually bought over the Internet and has virtually no regulation in the United States. Side effects of Kratom are similar to other opioids that include constipation, sleep problems, weight loss, and high potential for overdosing. Although popular, there is currently no information available on prevalence of use in the United States.

The use of synthetic drugs presents several unique challenges in prevention, side effects, and treatment. The availability of these drugs is one of the biggest issues. Spice is often sold in gas stations and convenience stores, and is largely unregulated due to it’s unique chemical make up. Immediate side effects from these substances are often even more severe than traditional drug use as well. Psychiatric problems such as psychosis, paranoia, and violent behavior are often common side effects. Unlike abuse of other traditional drugs, negative side effects of synthetic drugs are often apparent from the first use. Finally, due to these drugs being relatively new and all having their own unique chemical makeup, treatment is often complicated. It is ever important for the public to become knowledgeable about newer synthetic drugs as we continue to broaden the scope of addiction treatment!