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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

What You Need To Know Before Detox

Detox is often a person’s first step into their recovery journey. Cleansing the physical body of drugs and other toxins is a crucial step towards true healing. In fact, little progress can be made until the process of detox has done its work. Without first stabilizing things physically, we cannot truly be ready to do the work required of us in recovery.

Many recognize this as the turning point in their lives and know that things will not go back to the way they were before, and it’s true, the process of recovery does involve significant change. Unfortunately, many people allow their fear of change to lead them to hit “rock bottom” before they consider going to detox.

Others fear entering this first big step of their healing process due to being unsure of what it will entail, and what it means for them to begin this “recovery journey”. However, armed with accurate information, they may be more able and likely to take the needed steps towards recovery. 

Who Needs Detox?

Not everyone who uses substances in a problematic way will need a detox. More than anything, the necessity of detox is determined by the body’s physical reliance on alcohol or other substances, marked by tolerance and dependence.

Tolerance refers to the need to take more of a substance in order to achieve the same effect. While this demonstrates that the body has grown accustomed to the presence of the substance in the system, it is not always enough to warrant detoxification.

Dependence in this case means that the body has adapted to having a persistently elevated level of the substance present. When we ingest substances, they release particular neurotransmitters that mimic the processes of the brain’s reward center. Over time, the body adjusts its own production to account for the increase in externally-fueled neurotransmitters.

This results in a need to take the drug to feel as if we are functioning normally. When we stop taking the drug, we will face instant withdrawal symptoms, both mental and physical, that are uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.

This is the benefit of a medically-supervised detox, where we are able to cleanse our bodies and reset from the effects of the drugs on our system. 

Drug Detox Must Be Completed Before Rehab

Many treatment and rehab centers require guests to complete the detox process before being admitted to their program. To truly benefit from treatment, to gain insight, and be able to focus on the emotional and psychological parts of overcoming addiction, we must not continue to be under the influence of the substance.

Both for your own sake and the others in the program, it is helpful when you are able to think clearly and have goals that are aligned with the goals of recovery rather than continuing in any drug-seeking behaviors and mindset. This can also be very triggering for other individuals if someone has not completely detoxed before entering the treatment facility. 

Should be Under the Care of Medical Professionals

Although it is possible to detox on your own, it is not recommended. The process can be very uncomfortable and painful even, but when you’re medically supervised, the health professionals responsible for your care will do their best to keep you comfortable.

During withdrawal, several complications can arise depending on the substance and the severity of physical addiction. This fact alone should have you convinced of the importance of seeking medical attention, along with your specific physical and mental health considerations.

Intense cravings and discomfort from the withdrawal process may weaken your resolve to quit and put you at risk of relapse, just as your recovery journey is starting out. But, detoxing with medical professionals can help you manage and treat symptoms. 

The Process Can be Uncomfortable

The process of withdrawal is often accompanied by several symptoms:
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea, stomach upset, and gastrointestinal distress
  • Appetite changes
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Depression and hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Disorientation
  • Strong cravings
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Duration of Detox Can Vary

There is no set time frame for detox, and it is highly dependent upon a number of individual factors. For some, it may take weeks to clear the body completely from the drug. While it may be frustrating to not have a clear idea going in how long you will be detoxing, you can feel assured that they are very much taking your individual needs into account.

These factors include:
  • The drug of abuse
  • Potential poly-substance abuse
  • Typical rate, dose, and duration of use
  • Goals of the patient
  • Previous treatment attempts
  • Co-occurring health conditions

First Phase Of Recovery

Detox is just the first phase of treatment. Many people believe that detox is all they need, but in order to break the cycle of drug addiction, rehab and treatment should follow. It is important to try and move from detox right into a treatment facility to limit the chance of relapse.

One of the most beneficial things about detox at The Haven is the comprehensive treatment options that will allow you to move from detox at The Pines to phase one treatment, and on to phase two as you work through the program. 

At The Haven, there is no fear of not knowing what comes next, as our case managers will work with you to map out your journey through recovery at The Haven and beyond. Contact us today!

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

4 More Reasons Online IOP is Better

Despite many of our society’s growing concerns with technology, this year especially, we have come to rely on our devices to connect us with others and serve an even greater role in our lives.

In truth, we may have surprised ourselves this year in our ability to battle with our technology and come out victorious. Many of us have likely had the experience of trying to sort out connectivity issues, learning how to set up a zoom call, or even to make the printer succumb to our will. 

Last month, we reviewed the newcomer on yet another technological frontier: Virtual IOP for addiction treatment.

We explored many of the benefits of a Virtual IOP program that is related to the length and frequency of meetings. Participants meet via zoom for 9-12 hours of therapy a week, be it an individual, group, or family sessions. This program framework allows for greater flexibility for participants, while still providing the needed structure and access to treatment providers during their crucial transition back to the community.

Today, we’ll take an even closer look at the benefits when treatment of this nature is delivered online.

You Can Stay Home

The best thing about a virtual IOP program is that you can participate right from the comfort of your own home. While we may be familiar with this phrase, and the “comforts of home,” let’s take a minute to unpack what that really means.

When you are at home in your own environment, the first benefit is that you know you will be comfortable. You have the option to choose where you’ll sit, where you’ll participate, and have the benefit of being within reach of your favorite blanket, a sweatshirt if it’s cold, and an environment, in general, that is particularly soothing to you.

When you’re in your own home and are not directly face-to-face with the others in your group you may feel more comfortable sharing when you are aided by the physical distance between you. You can also feel assured that there will be greater privacy and that you are not going to be seen walking into the treatment center.

Of course, there are many other intangible benefits of participating in recovery from home that plays out in the day-to-day activities of life as well as through the general idea that learning is better stored and recalled based on location. This means that you may be more able to access and implement what is discussed in session back into your everyday life when objects and places around your home serve as treatment reminders.

You Are Demonstrating Commitment to Your Recovery

Another important factor is that taking part in an IOP program that requires multiple hours of your time and attention a couple of times each week requires a certain level of commitment. In this case, your actions demonstrate your commitment. Because the brain has difficulty holding two opposing ideas at once, this sends an implicit message to your subconscious that you value the work that you are doing. In fact, this often leads to greater patient responsibility than for someone who is only engaged in treatment for one hour each week.

You Are Saving Time and Money

When compared to higher levels of care, like residential and partial hospitalization, IOP treatment is a lower-cost option, while still providing the structure and support needed for those who need it.

Virtual treatment also opens the door to those who cannot easily access standard treatment. It may be that you do not have a car or there is no reliable public transportation system available to you. Or, you may live in a rural area where quality treatment is not accessible.

Without having to drive across town, grabbing a meal in between sessions is as easy as taking a walk to the fridge. That said, you’re also saving money on your commute and have more time back in your day to invest in things that support your recovery lifestyle.

You Are Setting Yourself Up for Long-term Success

Through virtual treatment, you will become better accustomed to receiving support in a virtual environment and more prepared for today’s technological world.

In addition, because this is a more structured program and there are opportunities for both group and individual sessions, you have more opportunities to connect with others in the recovery community and establish relationships that will outlive your time in treatment. These relationships are also key to keeping you engaged and committed to the entirety of the treatment process. This, in turn, has shown to lead to better recovery outcomes.

Virtual IOP at The Haven

The Haven’s Virtual IOP program may be right for you if you have successfully completed a higher level of care, or if you’re looking for more support than what a traditional outpatient therapist may provide. You can take part in our program right from the comfort of your home and may be able to find all the support that you need, delivered right in your living room. 

Speak with one of our admissions representatives to learn more about if IOP is the next right step for you!

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Video Games and Addiction

When you think of video games, depending on your age, the image of yourself as a child innocently playing Mario kart may pop into your head. Or you may think of the latest Fortnite dance your nephew showed you, or of the new game your granddaughter is begging to have you get her for Christmas. 

However, these days, many video games do not have the same innocent appeal. Rather, they are being targeted for adults with mature content. Over the last two decades, there has been an increase in violence and drugs featured in video games. Many of these new games have adult themes of sex, violence, and drugs. 

Though it may feel as though these games are harmless, the content of these games shapes our perspective of substance abuse and can contribute to both the stigma surrounding those who use substances and the later experimentation of those who play them. Too much screen time devoted to these games can also affect our behavior, thoughts, and emotions in a way that will also make us more susceptible to substance abuse. 

The Role Drugs Play In Video Games 

Through evaluating the current most popular games, interesting trends have revealed that many video games feature both fictional and real drugs such as heroin, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, magic mushrooms, and painkillers. Even just this exposure and normalization can affect our perception and attitudes towards substances.

Many games take it one step further and incorporate drugs directly into the gameplay. Players learn to use them for a couple specific purposes: as a power-up, a specific health power-up, or as a tool to disorient the game player. In some games, you may find that when you eat a mushroom, you gain energy and strength, or in others, you may be subject to vibrant hallucinations after finding and injecting the sought-after substance. Some games such as grand theft auto glamourize drug use and dedicate the game’s storyline towards building cocaine, heroin, and marijuana-dealing empires.

Some games seek to incorporate a more realistic and informed portrayal of substance use by giving players short-term rewards at the expense of long-term consequences. Others also seek an honest portrayal of drug use by manipulating gameplay to demonstrate the concept of physical dependence as in the Bioshock series.  Aptly named, one particular video game, Narc, gives players points for killing drug deals and references several illegal substances.

This wide array of drug use in popular video games can lead to muddled and confusing messaging about substance use as a whole. Teens who identify with their game character may find themselves more easily tempted and more willing to experiment with substances when offered the opportunity. They may not be fully prepared to handle the risks associated with drug use when in real life, they find they are playing without the guarantee of unlimited lives. 

Continued exposure to violence and risky behaviors such as substance abuse will soon impact their beliefs about these behaviors. This is especially true for teens drawn to mature-rated games. The themes in these video games are psychologically powerful and may lead to unhealthy beliefs about drugs and addiction, and may impact their brain development in these formative years.

How Video Games Contribute to Substance Abuse 

If we’re looking to understand the impact of video games on those who struggle with addiction, it’s important to look beyond the content of the games that they’re playing. 

When people expose themselves to too much screen time or video games, they may lose out on developing other areas of their life that builds their resilience and contributes towards positive well-being. Gaming, even online with others, often gives people a false sense of connection and belonging which can contribute to the development of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Video game use can become problematic in our lives when it comes at the expense of our other responsibilities and relationships or when it becomes our only coping skill to “get lost” within the world of our video game. It’s at this point that we might consider our gaming to be a “behavioral addiction” as it reflects many of the characteristics of substance addiction.

The link between the self-reinforcing behaviors found in video game addiction and substance abuse is thought to be a primary contributor to developing addictive patterns. 

When playing video games, certain brain pathways are impacted, including the dopamine or “reward” circuits of the brain. This same system is lit up when someone engages in other self-rewarding behaviors, including drug use. For this reason, gaming and substance abuse can exacerbate each other. 

This means that those who suffer from a video game addiction are also more likely to use substances. Research confirms this link between gaming disorders and substance abuse as well as between other co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety.  

Some gamers will use substances while playing video games, both as a means to relax or out of habit. They may also use different stimulant drugs to help improve their performance or help them stay up all night to finish the campaign. This combination of gaming and the use of drugs can make these individuals much more susceptible to drug addiction.

Addiction Recovery at The Haven at Pismo

While at The Haven, our focus is not on treating behavioral addictions like video game addiction, the truth is that many of these underlying patterns are the same. At the Haven, we teach our guests a new way of living life, of breaking these cycles of substance addiction and being intentional about both the way they spend their time, and what they allow to influence them. 

If you or someone you love is stuck in a cycle of addiction, reach out to us today to learn about how we can help!


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Your Physical Health Can't Afford Another Drink

Just one drink should be fine, right?

At one point or another, we all may be guilty of typing “Is alcohol healthy?” into the search bar. With fingers crossed, we hope to find some justification for our use.

For those of us in recovery, we wonder something similar, “can’t I have a healthy relationship with drinking?” and “will one drink really be so bad?”

As Mary’s story reminds us, for those in recovery, there is no “off” switch. Once we start drinking, it really feels almost impossible to stop. It is one of the most cunning tactics of addiction to convince you otherwise.

The truth is, alcohol impacts your body from the moment you take the first sip. Although an occasional glass of wine or beer when balanced with an otherwise healthy lifestyle will not have a lasting impact, for many in recovery there truly is no “just one drink”. In fact, the cumulative effect of drinking can take a serious toll. Over time, there are some serious consequences on your brain and body

How Drinking Affects the Body

The body has to work hard to remove alcohol from the system. When you drink more than the body can process, you will feel intoxicated as the alcohol builds up in the bloodstream and distributes throughout the body. Over time, this build-up of alcohol affects not only the digestive system but can also cause permanent damage to the body's other vital systems. 

Digestive System

Damages in the digestive tract are often not apparent until it is too late. In addition to the well-known effects of alcohol on the liver, excessive drinking can also cause inflammation of the stomach and pancreas and may be a risk factor for several types of cancer, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.

Once ingested, alcohol is converted to acetaldehyde and damages the mouth, throat, and esophagus cell tissue as it metabolizes on its way through the system. As your body prioritizes eliminating the alcohol from your system, it increases the rate of the digestive process. This prevents your intestines from fully processing food and absorbing vitamins and nutrients, also leading to gassiness, bloating, diarrhea, or painful stools. The digestive system, in general, becomes more prone to ulcers, hemorrhoids, and even internal bleeding. 

Central Nervous System

A primary effect of alcohol is its ability to alter the communication between the brain and body. In the moment of intoxication, slurred speech, difficulty balancing, and lack of coordination are the first signs that you have had too much to drink.

Over time, the impact on the brain's frontal lobes affects your ability to form long-term and short-term memories. It also negatively affects your ability to think rationally and to make appropriate choices. This area is also associated with emotional control, judgment, and other vital roles of executive functioning.

Chronic and severe alcohol abuse can also cause permanent brain damage and a brain disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which is a neurological disorder that can also be described as alcohol-induced dementia. 

Immune System

Your immune system serves a vital function in fighting off germs, viruses, and other illnesses in the body. The primary effect of alcohol on the immune system is in slowing down the white blood cells, rendering them less efficient and less effective at fighting off bacteria. This makes you more susceptible to illnesses, including pneumonia, among others. 

Circulatory System

Heavy drinkers are at greater risk of heart-related issues than people who do not drink.

Common symptoms include:
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • High blood pressure
    • Anemia
    • Fatigue
    • Difficulty moving blood through the body
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke
    • Heart Disease
    • Heart Failure

Reproductive and Sexual Health

Although our classic understanding of alcohol may lead us to believe that it will help lower inhibitions and make it easier to have fun in the bedroom, the reality is often very different. Men who have too much to drink often experience erectile dysfunction. Excessive alcohol use can also lower sex hormones, which in turn lowers the libido.

For women, drinking too much may cause them to stop menstruating, affecting fertility. Heavy drinking during pregnancy puts one at high risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth. Also, children born who are exposed to alcohol in utero are at risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FASD). 

Skeletal System

Long-term alcohol use can affect your bones by reducing their strength. Thinner bones can put you at risk of fractures if you fall. It can also lead to muscle weakness, cramping, and eventually atrophy.

Overcome Alcohol Addiction at The Haven

Reviewing the consequences of heavy drinking is not intended to cause you more shame, but to make you more aware of the damage alcohol can cause your body. Learning to take care of yourself and to nourish yourself is part of your healing journey.

Often the damage that alcohol causes to the body is not felt until it is too late. However, it is never too late though to get help. Remember, although alcohol can create damage, we are resilient and able to heal. We are also capable of making different choices now that will help protect our future selves from the physical consequences of our drinking.

If you or someone you love are looking to overcome an addiction to alcohol, reach out to us today to learn about our treatment programs, and our virtual IOP that you can take part in right from the comfort of your own home!