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Understanding Cravings During Recovery

Posted on :  November 4th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Cravings during recovery are often a frightening prospect for those seeking to end their dependence on drugs and alcohol. However, cravings are a natural and normal part of the recovery process. Just because an individual is experiencing them does not mean a relapse is likely to occur. Understanding a little bit about cravings is the first step to dealing with them.

What are cravings?

Cravings are defined as overwhelming and persistent desires to use substances. The definition itself seems relatively simple, but as anyone who has experienced cravings can tell you, they can be a living nightmare.

Cravings are both physical and emotional. There is a physical dependence on the substance, so naturally the body craves it when it is no longer available. This withdrawal can result in physical manifestations such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, sweating and muscle tension. As for the emotional issues, moods can fluctuate, leading to feelings of restlessness, anxiety and depression.

One of the main issues with cravings is the thoughts and behaviours that occur during those urges. The accompanying thoughts and behaviours are what lead to a “cycle of addiction.” Among the most common thoughts are:

  • “I can’t deal without it.”
  • “I have to have it.”
  • “I need to find it.”

Those specific thoughts, if left unchecked, can lead to detrimental behaviours such as:

  • Hiding small bottles of alcohol
  • Soliciting for drugs
  • Stealing other people’s prescription medications
  • Using sex for drugs

Important things to understand

Although cravings seem daunting, they can be managed and overcome. There are a few things to understand, however.

Cravings are fleeting. It’s important to know that cravings don’t last forever. When they hit, they can last anywhere from three to five minutes or longer depending on one’s focus. Unfortunately, the longer one dwells on the craving, the longer it will last. The key is to engage the mind in some other activity so as not to focus on the cravings. Participating in a mentally engaging activity like reading, game playing or even physical exercise can help dispel the urges.

Cravings are normal. Cravings are a natural occurrence after substance abuse ceases. They are to be expected and shouldn’t be considered a sign of weakness. Cravings do not mean that recovery efforts are unsuccessful. Quite the contrary, cravings mean things are progressing.

Cravings are tougher at the beginning. For most people going through recovery, the beginning phase is the most difficult. They experience the most intense and frequent cravings as they start a program. It’s important to know that cravings will become less intense as time goes by.

Cravings don’t equal relapse. Just because cravings occur, doesn’t mean a relapse will occur. Cravings are desires and nothing more. That doesn’t mean one has to give in to them. Undoubtedly, it is a struggle, but it can be overcome.

Cravings vs. triggers

While in recovery, many people confuse cravings with triggers. Although the two go together, they are quite different. Triggers are either mental or emotional situations that can lead to a craving. An argument with a spouse, for example, can act as a trigger, prompting the individual to crave drugs or alcohol. Even memories or significant dates can act as triggers. Wistfulness over the past or dealing with certain holidays can also spark cravings. Cravings, however, can occur even without a trigger. They can simply happen out of the blue for no reason at all.

Understanding cravings can help take away some of the fear surrounding them, but nothing compares to having adequate support and treatment to help deal with them. Participating in a recovery program can help address some of the specific issues involved with cravings so that they don’t seem so overwhelming. After all, cravings are just part of the journey to recovery.

If you’d like to learn more about dealing with cravings during recovery, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey.

Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. (TRC) is an Ontario addiction treatment centre with the philosophy to help individuals take control of their addiction and help them rebuild their lives and careers.

Understanding an Addict’s Thought Patterns

Posted on :  October 30th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Addiction is more than just a physical condition; it is also a mental one. According to findings in The Journal of Neuroscience, cognitive or thought patterns may differ among substance abusers as compared to those who do not suffer from addictions. It suggests that addicts may have more difficulty with thought processes related to understanding long-term consequences. In addition, they also show a tendency toward impulsivity. Aside from these discoveries, however, there are some common thinking patterns exhibited by those suffering from substance abuse.

Common patterns

An addict’s thought patterns display themselves in certain types of thinking behaviours. Here are some common patterns:

  • Blaming and shaming. Whether directed at oneself or others, the addict often engages in thoughts of blame and shame. A person may blame his or her substance abuse problem on the insensitive or neglectful parent. As for shame, it’s often self-directed. For example, the addict feels responsible for things beyond his or her control, such as a parent’s death.Constant blaming is also considered victim mentality, in which everyone else is responsible for the addict’s negative consequences and feelings.
  • “Should” statements. Many addicts succumb to “should” or “ought” statements in their thought patterns. The substance abuser has a mistaken belief that everyone and everything should live up to his or her expectations. These expectations are often unrealistic as well. When things don’t measure up, frustration and despair ensues, which leads to abuse. “Should” statements don’t only apply to others, the addict often uses them in regards to personal behavior as well. If he or she fails to do what “should” be done, it often leads to reaching for a fix.
  • All or nothing thoughts. An addict often exhibits “black and white” thinking patterns. These patterns are especially noticeable in the use of the words “always” and “never.” Statements such as “I always get the short end of the stick,” or “I’ll never be able to stop using,” are common. They often help the addict justify further substance abuse.
  • Catastrophic thinking. This irrational thought pattern can be considered “making mountains out of molehills.” Things become magnified and blown out of proportion. It often shows up in relation to guilt over a relapse. That one drink isn’t viewed as a slip up; it’s seen as a last straw that will lead to job loss, bankruptcy, divorce, homelessness, or some other major catastrophe.
  • Discounted thinking. Discounted thinking is the flip side of catastrophic thinking. This form of cognition discounts or minimizes things. For example, a former addict who has been sober for two years discounts the achievement and dwells on that one relapse instead.
  • Elitism. At some point, an addict entertains elitist thoughts of feeling unique or special. Perhaps it comes across as non-conformity. This pattern often displays itself as setting oneself apart.
  • Fear of being exposed. An addict often has thoughts around fear of exposure or getting caught. Whether it’s the discovery of the addiction itself or illicit behaviours surrounding the addiction, fearful thoughts often repeat in a continuous loop.
  • Impulsivity. As mentioned earlier, impulsivity seems to be a common thinking pattern among addicts.
  • Overgeneralizing. This is essentially a distortion in thinking, where sweeping generalizations are made from a simple isolated incident. For example, a man hurts a woman emotionally and from then on she says all men are no-good cads.
  • Pleasure seeking. An addict’s thoughts also revolve around pleasure seeking. Seeking a high or a release from that next fix is a common pattern. Pleasure seeking thoughts also coincide with pain avoidance as well.
  • Stressful thoughts. With difficulty in seeing long-term consequences, the addict often succumbs to stressful thoughts. He or she panics because the idea of things improving in the future is unimaginable. As a result, these thoughts can lead to a relapse or increased substance abuse.

Although these thought patterns are common for an addict, they can be changed. Seeking mental health counselling as part of a substance abuse recovery program can help alter those patterns, leading to improved thinking and an improved life.

If you’d like to learn more about dealing with thought patterns and substance abuse recovery, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey.

Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Don’t hesitate to call us!

Staying Sober in College after Substance Abuse Treatment

Posted on :  October 27th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Maintaining sobriety after undergoing a substance abuse treatment program is tough for anyone, but for college students, it can be especially challenging. Unfortunately, “getting high” often goes along with higher education. Alcohol is prevalent on many college campuses and drugs are easy to obtain as well. A student coming out of recovery has many potential triggers that could lead to a possible relapse. However, there are proactive steps a student can take to maintain sobriety while attending school.

Avoid going to a “party” school

You may be familiar with the ever-popular Playboy magazine’s list of top party schools. This list categorizes the colleges most known for “extracurricular” activities such as alcohol and drug use, as well as loose sexual morals. While many young people flock to these institutions for the party atmosphere, for the student in recovery, these universities can be dangerous. It would be wise to avoid them.

In some cases, though, a party school may be a student’s only option because of location, cost, or a specific academic program. In that scenario, the student should consider looking into sober housing options and joining a support group.

Look into sober housing options

Whether the college has a party school reputation or not, seeking out sober housing options is a must. Many colleges and universities understand the needs of recovering students and offer special housing consisting of either sober dorms or sober off-campus residences. Taking advantage of a sober living environment can make things much easier.

Sober housing is more than just living with other sober students. Many sober housing options offer additional services such as tutoring and academic counselling, recovery and relapse programs, as well as crisis management for both medical and mental health issues.

In some cases, students are fortunate enough to live at home and remain within driving distance of a school. Living at home and commuting is perhaps the best sober living option available. Nothing compares to having the support of one’s family close by when faced with the challenges of maintaining sobriety.

Look for a support group

Support groups or 12-step programs are invaluable resources for students in recovery. Not only do they help students face challenges associated with daily sober living, they are also a great way to meet people and make new friends. Most large colleges and universities offer on-campus 12-step meetings. If possible, the student should opt for an on-campus or school affiliated meetings, rather than traditional group meetings. Why? Most off-campus groups are comprised of adult recovering addicts, who don’t always relate well to students and their unique issues. With on-campus programs, students have the benefit of meeting other students with similar problems, needs and interests.

Be honest regarding recovery

Maintaining one’s sobriety while attending college also relies on honesty. Although it’s not necessary to share details about addiction treatment with everyone, a student should let roommates and new friends know about his or her sobriety. That also means explaining why sobriety is a choice. Being honest about one’s status as a recovering addict can help avoid troublesome situations like going to a party where drugs and alcohol are present. It will also stop others from pressuring the sober student to partake in these substances.The sober student will also quickly learn whom to trust. No matter what, honesty is the best policy.

Enjoy the learning experience

Finally, part of maintaining sobriety is to embrace the positive aspects of life. For a college student, that means enjoying the learning experience, not just in terms of academics, but also in terms of life. Participating in meaningful activities as well as cultivating new friendships is an important part of a college education, but perhaps the biggest lesson of all is how to live and enjoy life sober.

If you’d like to learn more about maintaining sobriety during recovery, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey. Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Don’t hesitate to call us! We’ll be happy to help you.

Beware of Isolation During Recovery

Posted on :  October 22nd, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

When going through the recovery process, a substance abuser has many challenges to face. However, one challenge that an individual may not be aware of is isolation. Isolation is both an obstacle and an enemy to recovery efforts—and is often a major culprit when it comes to relapse. Recognizing and dealing with the symptoms is crucial to ensure a successful recovery.

Isolation signs and symptoms

Isolation is more than just feeling lonely or being separated from others; it is a complex phenomenon that can trigger a number of signs and behaviours—ones that may lead to a relapse. Here are some common signs and symptoms of this danger.

  • Blaming others. Pointing the finger at other people is often an indication that a recovering addict is attempting to isolate himself, often as a form of self-protection. However, doing so creates emotional distance that could lead to a relapse.
  • Ceasing healthy or enjoyable activities. If during recovery an individual gives up hobbies or other pleasurable activities, consider it a warning sign. The same goes for changes in other healthy behaviours such as exercise and eating well.
  • Engaging in secretive behaviour. Sneaking around or simply withdrawing from family and social settings is another indication of potential trouble.
  • Falling back into negative self-talk. Many recovering addicts have self-esteem issues, which often improve during recovery. However, if a former substance abuser falls back into negative self-talk, it is often a sign of isolation.
  • Feeling hopeless or defeated. Feelings of hopelessness or defeat often lead to a person distancing himself from others.
  • Feeling lonely. Isolation is often characterized by feelings of loneliness. If they intensify or become more frequent, it is a cause for concern.
  • Feeling bored. Boredom is another danger sign during recovery. Not only can it lead to isolation, it can tempt an individual to start abusing again, simply because there is “nothing else to do.”
  • Feeling overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed or experiencing a lack of control can cause a person to withdraw and seek solace in drugs and alcohol, instead of talking with others.
  • Having heightened feelings of anger or resentment. Increased feelings of anger, resentment and frustration pose a danger to those in recovery. In an effort to hide or escape these feelings, isolating oneself is, usually, the end result. This could potentially lead to a relapse in order to avoid looking at the issues behind the feelings.
  • Having stronger or more frequent cravings. Problems with cravings can also lead a person toward isolation. Many times an addict feels shame or failure for experiencing cravings and hides instead of seeking help.

Dealing with isolation and its symptoms

Although dealing with isolation is a challenging prospect, it is important to tackle it head on as soon as possible. Ignoring symptoms in the hopes that they go away is risky at best and damaging at worst—with the possibility of a relapse always hanging in the balance.

The most effective strategy for dealing with isolation is to have a strong support system, one that includes a variety of sources such as family, friends, groups and professionals. There is no underestimating the value of supportive family members when dealing with the isolation experienced during recovery. The same goes for nurturing friendships. However, a support system must include more than loved ones. Although their love and concern are helpful, a recovering addict also needs people who can specifically relate to his unique experiences of isolation, such as other recovering addicts. Group therapy or 12-step meetings can fill that gap. Finally, professional counselling or a treatment recovery program can successfully help an individual deal with the difficulties of isolation during recovery.

Isolation is an issue to be aware of while going through recovery, but thankfully, it’s an issue that doesn’t need to be faced alone.

If you’d like to learn more about dealing with isolation during substance abuse recovery, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey. Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Addiction and Mental Illness: Dual Diagnosis

Posted on :  October 17th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

For many substance abusers, there is not just a battle against addiction, but also a struggle with mental illness. This concept is known as a dual diagnosis and can be extremely challenging. Mental illness along with addiction is double trouble. Although a dual diagnosis can make recovery more difficult, it is not impossible. Understanding a bit about this condition can help aid one’s recovery.

Which came first?

When it comes to dealing with a dual diagnosis, it reminds one of the old chicken and egg riddle, “Which came first?” There is a question of whether the mental illness is causing the addition or whether the addiction is causing the mental illness. In many cases, it’s difficult to tell because the two conditions are so intimately related and dependent upon each other. Addiction can result in mental illness due to changes in brain chemistry caused by the addictive substances. On the other side of the coin, mental illnesses such as depression may cause a person to abuse drugs or alcohol.

This situation poses quite a challenge when it comes to treatment because there is a risk of treating one issue but not the other. Many sufferers are left wondering whether they should focus on their addiction or whether they should seek mental health counselling. In many cases, addicts do not even realize there is a psychological issue.

The best approach to this scenario is a comprehensive one. When seeking treatment, a holistic approach that involves counselling along with a substance abuse recovery program will uncover any hidden mental issues, as well as treat the addiction.

Common co-occurring mental disorders

Although any psychological issue can occur alongside addiction, there are some common mental illnesses associated with substance abuse. Some of the most common include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia


The interaction between addiction and mental illness

So, how do addiction and mental illness interact? Underlying mental illnesses often cause a person to abuse drugs or alcohol. For example, someone with bipolar disorder may be more inclined to engage in risky behaviour like drug abuse when he or she is having a manic episode. Then when a depressive episode hits, the bipolar person may once again turn to drugs or alcohol to dull any emotional pain. He or she may also abuse in an effort to re-experience the euphoria of the manic phase.

For others, the addiction starts first and then leads to mental illness over time. Consider someone who abuses alcohol. As the person’s tolerance increases, so does alcohol consumption. Eventually, the depressant effects of alcohol alter the addict’s brain chemistry, which may lead to mental illness—most likely depression.

Either way, as both the addiction and the mental illness progress, it becomes a vicious cycle.

Challenges in diagnosis and treatment

People with a dual diagnosis often go without proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment, due to a number of challenges.

  • Confusion: Many addicts are confused about their situation and are unaware that they are faced with both conditions.
  • Stigmas: Individuals suffering from addiction, mental illness, or both, often face stigmas. Both substance abusers and the mentally ill are often viewed as selfish and lacking in morals and willpower. As a result, many fail to seek help.
  • Misdiagnosis: Since both substance abuse and mental illness symptoms are similar (and overlapping), misdiagnosis is relatively common. For example, someone coming off a cocaine binge may appear depressed, but many not actually be suffering from depression.

Although these challenges exist, they are not impossible to overcome. The first step is to realize there is a problem and seek help from a centre that focuses on comprehensive treatment and offers recovery programs emphasizing both counselling and addiction treatment. This will ensure that any dual issues will not only be uncovered, but also treated.

If you’d like to learn more about dual diagnosis, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey.

Why the Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse

Posted on :  October 14th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Prescription drug abuse has become quite the epidemic in Canada, particularly among young people. Just last year, CBC News reported a significant rise in prescription drug abuse in Hamilton. In fact, it has become the city’s biggest drug problem. Meanwhile, in Sault Ste. Marie, prescription opioid abuse has risen 188 percent since 2006 according to The Sault Star. So, why the rise in prescription drug abuse?

The ease and availability of drugs

Compared to illicit street drugs, prescription drugs are relatively easy to obtain and are widely available, which leads to more abuse. Just think about a typical family’s medicine cabinet. It is likely filled with a variety of unused medications just waiting to fall into the wrong hands.

Aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies also leads to an increase in the availability of drugs. Both supply and demand go up, eventually flooding the market place with painkillers, opioids and other addictive prescription drugs.

In other cases, a simple click of the mouse can buy a variety of drugs over the Internet, leading to the potential for abuse.

Finally, some physicians are in the habit of overprescribing medications. In this day and age of modern medicine, many of us are accustomed to popping a pill for every ailment. We automatically expect a prescription, and many physicians willingly oblige. In some cases, this leads to accidental addiction. What starts out as a legitimate prescription ends up as a habit, and then an addiction.

Perceived safety plus insufficient warnings

Prescription drug abuse is also on the rise due to misconceptions around their safety, as well as insufficient warnings of their addictive effects.

Most people equate prescription medication with safety, which they should — to a degree. Such drugs have undergone a great deal of research and testing before release. Add that to a physician’s recommendation, and it all appears to be safe. It is this perceived safety that can lead to abuse. Those taking the drugs as prescribed don’t anticipate addictive side effects, and those experimenting with the drugs to get high assume they are safer because they are “clinical.”

Sadly, insufficient warnings on prescription medications can also result in greater abuse. For example, Percocet is commonly prescribed to relieve pain, but how many physicians and pharmacists emphasize its addictive side effects? Also, how many patients are likely to research or heed the warnings?

Lack of social stigma

The rising abuse of prescription drugs can also be attributed to a lack of social stigma around pharmaceutical medications. Illicit street drugs like heroin and crack are often conjure images of dark alleyways and shady parts of town, riddled with criminals and other unsavory characters.

Prescription drugs, in contrast, aren’t viewed as “street drugs” per se. They are not as readily associated with drug dealers and unlawful behavior. In most cases, prescription drugs are obtained through friends, family or other means. Rarely are they purchased off the street like narcotics, so they lose that stigma of being illegal substances.

The wide availability of pharmaceuticals also lessens the social stigma. After all, everyone has some form of prescription medication at home. It’s ubiquitous and commonplace, which makes it difficult to stigmatize. Our society simply accepts prescription drugs as part of daily life, which makes it harder to understand their abuse.

In addition, it’s quite easy to pop a pill under the guise of “not feeling well” or “experiencing some pain,” even though it may be far from the truth. Doing so would hardly have anyone batting an eye, whereas saying the same thing and smoking or injecting heroin would be considered a shocking disgrace.

Whether prescription drug abuse continues to rise, remains to be seen. However, the widespread availability of drugs, misconceptions about their safety and lack of severe warnings, suggests little will change. Social acceptance, as well as ignorance, around this issue, adds to the problem.

Only continued education and awareness about prescription drug abuse can help battle this ever-increasing problem.

If you’d like to learn more about prescription drug abuse and addiction, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey. Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. (TRC) is an Ontario addiction treatment centre with the philosophy to help individuals take control of their addiction and help them rebuild their lives and careers.

Warning Signs That a Loved One Is Abusing Drugs

Posted on :  October 9th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

The signs of drug abuse are not always apparent, even if the person is a loved one and is living in the same household. Substance abuse often remains a secret, and people devise numerous ways to conceal their symptoms and hide their drug problem. If you are concerned that a loved one is abusing drugs, look for some of the following warning signs:

Changes in Behaviour

Behavioural changes are symptomatic of substance abuse, and they are not always easy to hide.

  • There are changes in work or school attendance. If your loved one is missing work or skipping school, this could indicate a drug problem, particularly if the individual denies doing so. Feigned or unexplainable illness is also a common excuse.
  • Incidents of trouble are on the rise. Whether it is getting into arguments, physical altercations or actual trouble with the law, take heed. It could be a result of drug abuse.
  • Sudden, often unexplained financial problems occur. If your friend or family member has a sudden need for cash or always seems broke, be aware. It could signal money being spent on a drug habit, particularly if there is no other apparent explanation for the lack of funds.
  • There is a sudden change in friends and activities. Has your loved one been hanging out with a different crowd lately? Perhaps he or she no longer frequents the same places or enjoys the same hobbies. This conduct could signal a problem as well.
  • Suspicious behaviour occurs. If you notice any strange, secretive or suspicious behaviour, it could also signal drug abuse. Follow your instincts.

Physical signs and symptoms

Aside from behavioural issues, there are also physical signs and symptoms that indicate a potential drug problem.

  • Impairment in motor skills. Drugs affect one’s motor skills or muscle movement. Look for things like faulty coordination, shakiness and tremors or slurred speech.
  • Neglecting personal appearance. If your loved one has been lax in personal grooming habits, or no longer takes pride in his or her appearance, it could be a cause for concern.
  • There are changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Substance abuse can result in sudden weight loss or gain, as well as appetite changes. Also be mindful of differences in sleep patterns.
  • There are changes in the eyes. The eyes are not only the windows to the soul; they can indicate a drug problem. Bloodshot eyes or extreme changes in pupil dilation (either smaller or larger) are warning signs.
  • Unusual body odors are detected. If you notice unusual smells on your loved one’s clothing, body or breath they could also be clues.

Psychological changes

Finally, substance abuse results in some observable psychological changes. These are just a few of the most common signs.

Displays of anxiety, fear or paranoia happen for no apparent reason. Watch for unusual displays of these emotions. They are often signs of drug-induced hallucinations or other effects.

Frequent periods of lethargy occur. If your loved one frequently appears lethargic or “spaced out,” with no reasonable explanation, it is a likely warning sign of substance abuse.

Mood swings occur more frequently. Barring issues like hormonal changes or other logical reasons, if you notice sudden emotional outbursts or mood swings, be mindful.

Sudden bouts of hyperactivity or silliness occur. Aside from the lows of lethargy, substance abusers often exhibit periods of hyperactivity, giddiness and extreme agitation.

There are sudden personality changes. Finally, if you notice something “off” about your friend or family member, it could signal a problem. Sudden personality changes or a change in attitude often result from drug use.

You probably know your loved one pretty well and can tell if things don’t seem quite right with him or her. Trust your instincts when dealing with your friend or family member, but also be aware of the warning signs of substance abuse. Sometimes we are so close to those we love that we fail to notice issues right away.

If you’d like to learn more about understanding a loved one’s drug abuse and addiction, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey.

Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Gender Differences in Drug Abuse and Addiction

Posted on :  October 7th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

It’s obvious that there are many differences between men and women. Drug addiction is no exception. It affects men and women differently, including biologically, socially and in terms of how they seek treatment.

Biological differences

One of the major biological differences between men and women, other than sexual characteristics, is size. Compared to men, women are normally smaller. In addition, their bones are lighter, and they have a higher percentage of body fat. These characteristics influence the way drugs affect their bodies.

Rarely do people adjust the dosage of drugs in accordance with their body size, so women often end up with higher amounts of drugs in their systems. Toxins from drugs also tend to accumulate in fat tissues, which affects women to a greater degree.

Hormones also influence the actions of drugs within the body. Research from the University of Minnesota found that the predominantly female hormone, estrogen, seems to act on receptors within the brain, which heighten the reward stimuli or pleasurable sensations from drugs. In effect, women will achieve an overall greater level of euphoria, thus ending up with more cravings and increased drug usage.

All of these factors suggest that women not only end up with more drugs in their systems, but they also potentially have an increased risk for addiction. According to a study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse, researchers discovered that female addicts used drugs more often than men and often chose harder drugs when compared to males.

When it comes to equality between the sexes, there is little where biology and addiction are concerned.

Social differences

Despite great strides in social equality between men and women, there are still differences; particularly in the way each gender approaches drug abuse.

Men are still encouraged (and rewarded) for taking risks, being competitive and acting out. These behaviours signify leadership and are traditionally considered masculine. As a result, men are more likely to take drugs. They may also choose to take larger dosages or indulge more often, in order to prove they are tough. This behaviour especially apparent when confronted in a group situation.

Women, in contrast, adhere to different cultural expectations in regard to drug abuse and addiction. Taking drugs is not seen so much as a way to prove oneself or show personal independence, but rather to connect and fit in with others. Females often try drugs because someone close to them is using these substances. It may be a partner, spouse or even a group of friends.

Regardless of the way each gender gets involved in drug abuse and addiction, undoubtedly it is still a problem requiring treatment.

Differences in seeking treatment

When the time comes to tackle drug abuse and addiction, gender differences are still apparent.

Although nowadays men are allowed to be more sensitive and emotional, many still keep their problems to themselves and remain reluctant to seek help.  Many fail to recognize they have a problem, particularly if they can continue functioning at work and in other aspects of life. If and when men do seek counselling and treatment it is usually due to an external recommendation, most often from an employer or from the criminal justice system.

Women suffering from drug abuse and addiction, however, are more likely to recognize a problem and seek help on their own, according to a UCLA study. In many cases, women also end up in a rehabilitation program due to referrals from social workers or health care professionals. Oftentimes women seek assistance with issues initially unrelated to addiction, like health problems or abusive relationships, which eventually uncover substance abuse issues.

Fortunately, both males and females benefit from entering addiction treatment programs, regardless of the manner in which they seek treatment.

If you’d like to learn more about understanding drug abuse and addiction, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey.

Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

5 Things to Eliminate for a Successful Recovery

Posted on :  October 3rd, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

It seems obvious that the major goal of undergoing an addiction treatment program is to achieve recovery. As anyone who has undergone treatment can tell you, it can be quite challenging at times.

Working towards recovery requires the elimination of more than just addictive substances. It also involves ridding oneself of limiting thoughts and behaviours. An addict can achieve a better, more successful recovery by letting go of these unhealthy patterns. Here are five things to eliminate:

1. Eliminate negative emotions

When an alcoholic or drug addict stops abusing, that person is usually faced with an overwhelming flood of negative emotions, especially anger and resentment. Without the substance to mask the individual’s feelings, these emotions bubble to the surface.

Giving into negative emotions and letting them take over can lead to a possible relapse. Using drugs again helps to suppress those ugly and painful feelings.

It is important to feel and acknowledge anger and resentment, but letting go of them is crucial in order to move forward.

2. Eliminate excuses

A substance abuser often makes excuses for his or her behaviour, whether in the past or during those times he or she stumbles in recovery. Excuse making then becomes a habit, which halts progress.

Owning up to past mistakes and substance abuse helps a person grow, and it improves determination. Eventually, that determination leads to strength to help fight cravings and ease one’s recovery process.

3. Eliminate fear

Fear can be paralyzing and extremely self-limiting, which makes it difficult to advance along the road to recovery.

Undergoing a treatment program in and of itself is a very courageous act. That alone should help one eliminate some of the fear lurking within one’s mind.

At the same time, it’s quite understandable to be afraid of the unknown. Drug rehab involves many changes, and that is often a scary prospect. Facing physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, lifestyle adjustments, and changing personal relationships are all worrisome events. However, fear won’t make them appear any better; they’ll simply appear worse.

As with other emotions, acknowledging their existence, then letting them go is the best way to eliminate their fierce, life-limiting grip.

4. Eliminate guilt

Guilt often plagues the person going through a recovery program. This feeling, just like anger and fear, can also limit the work of recovery.

Guilt keeps one focused on the past. It’s almost like driving while staring in the rearview mirror; one misses the details of the road ahead. That just creates a slowdown and also leads to possible unforeseen dangers. In the case of rehab, it could mean a relapse.

Regret and shame over past behaviours is common. Very few recovering addicts are proud of their drug use, especially if it led to criminal activity or the betrayal of friends and family.

It is perfectly acceptable to recognize and atone for past mistakes, but then the guilt must be eliminated. It served its purpose to provide awareness, but then it must go. That is the only way for healing to begin. It also makes for a more positive recovery.

5. Eliminate negative self-talk

One of the most important elements in recovery is the mental talk in one’s head. It comes as no surprise that negative self-talk will hamper recovery efforts. Why? Because itacts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The mind is very powerful, and its thoughts can influence a person’s beliefs — and more importantly, a person’s actions. Constant thoughts of “I can’t do this” end up becoming a reality, which can make a recovering addict slip right back into abusing again.

Eliminating negative self-talk can help keep a person’s recovery efforts on track. Better yet, substituting positive self-talk can help improve one’s journey towards recovery.

A successful recovery is possible with the right support. Besides focusing on the elimination of addictive substances, getting rid of unhealthy attitudes can make a huge impact — in recovery and life.

If you’d like to learn more about understanding drug abuse and addiction, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey. Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. (TRC) is an Ontario addiction treatment centre with the philosophy to help individuals take control of their addiction and help them rebuild their lives and careers.

5 Myths about Substance Abuse and Addiction

Posted on :  October 1st, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Although there is more awareness about substance abuse and addiction these days, unfortunately, there are still plenty of misconceptions. Some common myths still exist, which can perpetuate ignorance and prevent people from seeking help. Here are five myths:

1. Addiction is a genetic disease that cannot be overcome

Addiction is very complex. It does act as a disease, which many people falsely perceive as incurable. They assume it is something one is born with and cannot change or overcome. However, an addict is not at the mercy of his or her genetics. Research indicates that genetics is responsible for 50 percent of an individual’s proclivity toward addiction, but there is no guarantee a person will become an addict.

If a person does suffer from addiction, it can be overcome. Addiction is a brain disease, meaning that chemical changes occur in the brain when one becomes hooked. These changes are treatable and reversible through medication, counselling and other methods. Although not always easy, one can overcome addiction.

2. Addiction is a lack of willpower

Another damaging myth is that addiction is simply a lack of willpower. This myth harkens back to the idea of “just saying no.” Saying no to drugs and alcohol isn’t so simple. The abuser rarely feels as if he or she has an actual “choice.” Choice seems impossible because the drugs have already hijacked the brain, causing chemical changes, which make it practically impossible to resist using. Incessant cravings and endless compulsions make it difficult for someone to quit by the force of will alone.

3. Addicts must hit rock bottom before seeking help

Conventional wisdom says that addicts must hit “rock bottom” before seeking help. This idea is also a myth. After all, what exactly is “rock bottom?” Does it mean that a substance abuser must be at death’s door before he or she undergoes treatment? If that were the case, it could be too late.

Treatment can (and should) be sought at any time. It is never too early to begin recovery, and the sooner one starts, the better. Reversing addiction becomes much more challenging the longer a person has been abusing drugs or alcohol.

4. One cannot force an addict into treatment

Ideally, addiction recovery should be willingly chosen by the substance abuser, but that is not always possible, nor practical. Many people are pressured or forced into treatment by family members, employers or under dictates from the criminal justice system.

However, just because these individuals are undergoing treatment under someone else’s terms, doesn’t mean recovery won’t be successful. In many cases, once a person starts to sober up, he or she gains a clearer perspective on things and then willingly embraces change.

5. Relapse equals failure

Sadly, many people assume that relapse equals failure in treatment. When a setback occurs, many addicts become discouraged and quit. Outsiders may also view a relapse as an unsuccessful treatment and question either the validity of the program or the so-called willpower of the substance abuser.

By no means is relapsing considered a failure. In many ways, it’s like learning to ride a bicycle. Just because the rider falls off doesn’t mean he or she will never be able to ride. Addiction recovery is similar. People will fall off the proverbial bicycle many times before learning to ride successfully.

Recovery is a process that often involves setbacks. These bumps in the road are not an indication of failure, or that someone is a hopeless case. They are simply challenges that need to be addressed, either by getting back on track or adjusting treatment methods. It’s no different than getting back on the bicycle or adding training wheels. The important thing is to keep going.

If live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, you can make the first step by contacting Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic and kick start your journey. Make sure you have an unexpired OHIP card or call 1-866-532-3161 to find out how to get one.

Towards Recovery Clinics Inc. (TRC) is an Ontario addiction treatment centre with the philosophy to help individuals take control of their addiction and help them rebuild their lives and careers.

Who We Serve ?

  • Individuals using/abusing street narcotics (e.g. heroin).
  • Patients abusing prescription narcotics(i.e., Codeine, Talwin, Percocet/Percodan, Dilaudid, Morphine or Demerol, et cetera).
  • Individuals displaying any of the following behaviours: Compulsive drug use or drug seeking/craving.
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