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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.


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 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.


Understanding Methadone Maintenance Treatment

Posted on :  September 16th, 2014  |  By :  towardsrecovery

Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), also known as methadone maintenance therapy, is an all-inclusive long-term treatment program used to address opioid addiction and dependency.

Treatment involves the use of the drug methadone as a substitute for the addictive drug the user was dependent upon, such as heroin or prescription narcotics. In addition to prescribing medication, treatment also includes an array of individualized and specialized assistance including counselling, social and medical services, as well as case management.

What is methadone and how does it work?

Methadone is a synthetic opioid or narcotic medication. A long-lasting drug, it is used as a painkiller, as well as a remedy for opioid dependence.

The drug’s chemical composition allows it to target the same receptor sites in the brain that opioids do. In effect, the body cannot distinguish between methadone and other opioids like heroin, Demerol or Morphine. While this method may sound like simply adding another drug to the equation, methadone acts as an agonist or blocker against other opioids.

When an individual takes methadone, it counteracts the euphoric high achieved from heroin and similar substances. Methadone’s properties also outlast the effects of these other drugs. This characteristic leads to a reduction in substance abuse by the patient and eventually total cessation.

What are the benefits of MMT?

There are numerous benefits to methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), especially when used in conjunction with behavioural health counselling. Here are a few of the advantages provided by MMT:

MMT reduces drug cravings and use. One of the greatest barriers to recovery is a client’s continued urge to take the addictive substance, be it heroin, prescription painkillers or some other opioid. Methadone is essentially an anti-addictive drug that combats drug cravings and use.

MMT helps alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms. Physical withdrawal symptoms such as dizziness, insomnia and nausea are alleviated by MMT. It also aids with psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression and mood swings. These symptoms vary from person to person and can often be difficult and painful. Methadone treatment eases the so-called “roller coaster” ride of withdrawal.

MMT can be used long-term. Unlike some forms of therapy, MMT can be managed almost indefinitely. Tolerance to methadone develops slowly, and its effects outlast those of other opioids. As a result, clients can be on maintenance treatment for as long as needed.

MMT reduces high-risk behaviours. Administering methadone along with comprehensive counselling and other health services, MMT effectively reduces high-risk behaviours. Clients are less likely to engage in potentially harmful acts such as sharing drug injection needles, practicing unsafe sex or participating in criminal activities.

MMT improves quality of life. Once involved in MMT, clients report improved physical and mental health, enhanced social functioning and improved quality of life. Many say that once they were on treatment, they finally felt “normal” after suffering for so long.

How is treatment regulated and administered?

The use of methadone for substance abuse treatment is strictly regulated under Canadian law. Physicians must obtain an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act in order to prescribe the drug. In the province of Ontario, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has additional guidelines to ensure doctors provide quality care.

Treatment is administered under the supervision of a qualified physician, who is usually part of a comprehensive team involving counsellors, pharmacists, nurses and other health and social service professionals. The drug itself is taken orally and is usually dispensed as a liquid medicine or a tablet dissolved in water.

Treatment is administered in the following phases:

Stabilization Phase.This phase is where the client becomes oriented to the program. He or she undergoes assessment and is introduced to the medication. The client also addresses feelings related to taking this life-changing step.

Action and Maintenance Phase.This phase focuses on lifestyle changes and adjusting to the absence of substance use. The treatment plan is carefully monitored to ensure continued success.

Tapering Phase. This phase occurs if the client feels he or she is ready to taper off methadone and eventually stop its use. Once again, the plan is monitored, and the client receives needed support during this period.

Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is an effective therapy for those seeking to end their struggle with substance abuse.

If you or anyone you know wishes to seek help for addiction, and live in or around Hamilton, St. Catharines, or Brantford, Ontario, contact Towards Recovery on 519-579-0589 to locate your nearest clinic. We will be happy to help you.


Resentment: A Danger to Recovery

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

Harboring resentment is a danger to the addiction recovery process. It is even mentioned in “the big book,” Alcoholics Anonymous. “Resentment is the number one offender. It destroys more alcoholics than anything else.” (64). Not only does it impact alcoholics; it poses a danger for anyone undergoing a substance abuse treatment program.

Why is it a danger?

Resentment is a dangerous emotion to experience during recovery because it can thwart your efforts and possibly lead to relapse. Here are some of the damaging ways resentment can hold a person back from a successful recovery:

It serves as a relapse trigger. Perhaps the most harmful aspect of resentment is its potential to cause a relapse during recovery. This negative emotion is unpleasant, to say the least, and it can be an excuse to go back to drugs or alcohol. Using substances helps to suppress those ugly and painful feelings. At that point, it’s easy to slip back into old patterns of addiction.

It causes a loss of focus. Resentment is very sneaky because it draws attention away from personal issues and behaviours. You become so focused on wrongs committed by the transgressor that you lose sight of personal responsibility. It also leads to the development of a victim mentality. The reality is only you can fix yourself. Blaming someone else won’t advance your recovery efforts.

It keeps you stuck in the past. This emotion keeps you focused on the past. Whether the hurts and wrongs were intentional or not, they remain in the past and can’t be undone. Resentment prevents you from healing and moving forward in recovery. It’s almost like driving while looking in the rearview mirror and expecting to arrive easily at your destination.

It prevents relationship building. If you hold much resentment, it becomes difficult to establish and maintain connections with people. One of the most rewarding aspects of recovery is fostering new relationships and reestablishing old ones. Resentment prevents this from happening and keeps you emotionally isolated.

It delays progress. Not only does resentment delay progress in recovery, it hinders progress in life. Harboring resentment is similar to lugging a heavy weight around all the time. It slows you down and holds you back.

So what is resentment exactly?

Resentment is a negative emotion that occurs when someone feels wronged or harmed in some way. It is often a lethal mixture of anger, contempt, bitterness and hatred.

Feelings of resentment may occur in response to actual events and situations, or they may simply be imagined. Many people often feel ill will for perceived slights that others would consider totally irrational.

Regardless of the cause, letting these feelings of anger and hatred fester does more damage to a person feeling the resentment than to the transgressor. Actress Carrie Fisher said it best in this quote, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” For someone in recovery, that emotional poison can lead right back to drinking or drug use.

How to deal with resentment

Just like dealing with addiction, dealing with resentment takes time and patience. It is a process. Individuals struggling with this emotion also need to remember that resentment (and other negative emotions) shouldn’t be eliminated, but acknowledged and managed.

Some tips for dealing with resentment include:

Counselling. Most people in recovery are going through counselling or a 12-step program already. If not, it’s wise to seek professional help. It’s also crucial to bring up resentment issues as they arise.

Focusing on positive emotions. Feelings of resentment will lessen when focus is given to building and maintaining positive emotions.

Journaling. Writing out feelings can be helpful in order to understand them and come to terms with resentment issues.

Meditation. Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, helps individuals become more objectively aware of thoughts and feelings, making it easier to deal with resentment.

If you or anyone you know wishes to seek help for 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.




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  • 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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