Categories
Addiction Recovery

Addiction Intervention

Addiction Intervention

Compassionate Intervention Consults (aka “soft interventions”)

So you are trying to decide whether or not to organize an intervention for a loved one? Choosing to confront a loved one about their addiction is a difficult decision and most people are at their wits’ end by the time they start looking at intervention as an option. You need reliable and targeted information to help you determine what’s best for your loved one. And perhaps more importantly, for them to be able to see the severity of their current situation. I have worked in this field, in this city, for over 22 years and I know the resources available locally, within and outside of Texas.

Before You Start

When you start planning an intervention for a loved one struggling with addiction you want to be sure the  professional you work with looks at your family dynamic in its entirety. There are a lot of different certifications, licenses and types of interventionists out there – very few of them are fully and independently licensed and even those who are credentialed rarely are licensed in both mental health and addiction. Fewer still have the precision that comes with years of counseling professionals struggling with addiction or having served for years as the Clinical Director of an inpatient medical detox hospital.

“Recovery is an evolutionary process of the self.

It requires change, commitment, community and time.”

BW Carrettin, 2013

Whomever, you consider – be intentional. Ask questions; interview them. You are trying to do the best you can for the one you care about – it’s okay to be thorough. Here’s a hint/hack for you; if the professional cannot weather a little scrutiny and direct questioning from you, how could they ever be successful in an intervention?

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that getting sober is only a fixed state (think is or is not), but staying sober is a gradual, ongoing process. To fully embrace and maintain true, life-changing recovery requires a commitment to whole life recovery as a way of living. This isn’t accomplished in a single week or even a month or two of treatment in a facility. But it can certainly begin there. The person who is addicted will ultimately need to commit to major lifestyle changes in order to return to enjoying a full life and ongoing success. In the beginning, just getting into treatment is a start in the right direction. While I definitely want those who need it to go to treatment, I want more. Whether it’s alcohol, opiates, cocaine, synthetics or something else, my goal is to have them understand for themselves why they need it and to make that choice. They are the only person who can ultimately decide if they will stay sober/clean. I believe it helps if they decide to start the path as well.

A Different Kind of Intervention

In my practice, I provide in-office, compassion-driven intervention consultations and therapeutic services for adults struggling with addiction. Through my practice, I also provide counseling for clients after they complete treatment and work with spouses and families of loved ones in active addiction and early recovery. Through my work I help families prepare to undertake a substance abuse intervention and also find the best possible treatment options for the adult who is in crisis. With over 20 years of experience working with individuals and families in crisis I am uniquely qualified to help you develop the best possible treatment plan for your loved one. My non-confrontational, invitational approach to intervention is proven effective and allows for a family to lovingly, effectively and compassionately encourage a loved one to get the help they need.

Please note, I do not use “tough love” or other adversarial, aggressive approaches. I have seen these work only insofar as, occasionally getting a person to agree to go to treatment and shortly after admitting, leaving against medical advice and relapsing, which can ultimately be life threatening. That is not to say that getting a person into treatment isn’t a first step or that harder approaches have not been successful for some and may be what your loved one needs. But if force is the flavor you intend to use, I am not the best option for you.

“Sobriety is a state of condition. Recovery is a way of living.”

BW Carrettin, 2003

Knowing the Options

I have developed relationships with many hospitals, residential treatment centers, intensive outpatient programs, physicians, and sober living houses over the years and have acquired inside knowledge of all these options. Each year, I dedicate time to personally visiting, evaluating and re-evaluating programs so that I can stay up to date on what they are doing and how they are doing it. This helps me to effectively support you and help you select the most effective programs available for your loved one’s needs. We work together so that you have the best information from the intervention through the treatment process and into aftercare to make it less stressful for you. The goal is to do everything possible to ensure you have the best information and support possible.

My Services

The consulting services I provide are both individualized and comprehensive. I assess each individual’s and family’s strengths and weaknesses to develop a plan that most effectively addresses their treatment needs. I meet you where you are in the intervention process and tailor a plan that helps you achieve your goals for success. Collaboration is key and I often consult with other professionals and utilize a team approach to develop a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary plan to most effectively meet your individual needs. Additionally, I can follow up with the program while your loved one is in treatment and coordinate aftercare plans for after they have completed a program.

In addition, I am a Nationally Board Certified counselor, fully and independently licensed therapist, licensed addiction specialist, have advanced training in traumatic loss and am trained in critical incident stress management. This means that I am uniquely qualified to assess programs and match individuals to the right type of services for their individual needs. I also work closely with the family after the intervention in order to support you through the treatment and recovery process and prepare you for your loved one’s eventual return home.

If this sounds like I may be the right person for you, please give me a call.

MORE RESOURCES FOR YOU

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Categories
Cocaine & Stimulants

Cocaine and Stimulant Addiction

Counseling for Cocaine and Stimulant Addiction

Life will get hard at times; there is no doubt about it…how we as unique individuals cope during these dark times can make all the difference in the long game. Some people choose to turn to family or friends to help them through, some may engage in online “retail therapy”…then there are some of us turn to using illegal substances, such as cocaine or Adderoll, to curb depression, energize us or push us through during hard times. And in the moment, even though we know better, we may actually think it’s working. But ultimately, the drug takes over our lives, we lose the person we thought we were and more times than not, become addicted and unable to walk away on our own. The recovery path from cocaine and other stimulants is extensive and requires great motivation once they choose to get their lives back on track. Counseling with a seasoned, professional who specializes in cocaine and stimulant addiction can be a great help.

Sometimes it gets even more complicated when we have pursued relief from one stress not realizing we have added to another. For example, a client may be prescribed stimulant medications such as Adderoll if they suffer from ADHD with the goal of helping to treat their condition which may not be an issue if the medication is taken as prescribed. However, if prescription stimulants are taken in doses and in different manners other then prescribed by the physician, there can be complications. On the other hand there are other stimulants, such as cocaine, which wreck havoc on the brain and body no matter how it is ingested.

When stimulant substances are ingested there is a rapid increase in the release of dopamine in the brain and in a very amplified way. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with pleasure, movement and attention. When stimulants are abused or too much is taken in at once, there will be disruption of the normal communication between the brain cells and the release of dopamine. There will be a notable increase in the release of dopamine causing individuals to feel a sense of euphoria…which they will enjoy and want to keep coming back too, which is what places them at risk for addiction. And here’s the kicker, the dopamine high of that first time can never be reached at that level again, but the addict will continue to chase it’s ghost in hopes that it can be reached. And so increases of use and frequency as well as combining with other substances is likely to follow.

Not only do stimulants produce feelings of euphoria, but they can cause other health effects that may lead to long-term complications, including:

Increased blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Increased body temperature
Decreased sleep
Decreased appetite (malnutrition)
Feelings of hostility
Paranoia
Stroke (if used in high enough doses)

Prescription stimulants, such as Adderal, are also often abused and taken in higher quantities or in different ways than they were prescribed. This is because these medications will suppress the appetite, increase wakefulness, and increase focus/attention. Most often they are abused for weight loss purposes or to enhance performance. College campuses are seeing a steady increase of problems with cocaine and stimulant addiction and abuse abuse by students hoping to stay awake and study longer. Prescription stimulants may also deliver feelings of euphoria which may, like cocaine, lead them to abuse the substances for recreational purposes…such as to “get high.”

Cocaine and stimulant addiction are very real and can occur in anyone that takes them, especially if they are without medical supervision or decide to take the stimulants in their own ways. If stimulants are abused long-term, individuals may begin to experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the substance or are without it for a significant length of time. These symptoms may include: fatigue, depression, and disturbed sleep patterns. In addition, with long-term abuse of stimulants the individuals will have recurring drug cravings, loss of control of how much they take, and a desire to get the drug no matter what the consequences. Individuals who have been abusing or are addicted to cocaine of stimulants will require treatment for medical detox and continued counseling to help with the management of their addiction. It takes time to wean the body off of the substances and also to decrease the negative feelings and improve their overall well-being.

image

Counseling and ongoing support programs can be very helpful in this process and require different time commitments depending upon many factors including genetics/family history, what the individual has an addiction to, length of time and volume of use, their overall health and how resilient they are to cravings. It’s important to note that an ample amount of time will be needed to allow the brain to recover from how it has been changed physiologically while using the stimulant substance(s).

During detoxification the individual will experience great urges to find and consume more of the stimulant they were addicted to just from cues in their everyday environment that they may have associated with their drug intake. For that reason, relapse related to use of stimulant substances are fairly common. Even in individuals who ultimately recover and establish a long-term abstinence from abuse of stimulants, the persistent drug-using urges from their environment can trigger them to easily relapse either during treatment interventions or long afterwards.

Ultimately, cocaine and stimulant addiction should be taken very seriously and individuals can suffer life-threatening complications from the improper use and abuse of these substances. If you or your loved is struggling with a stimulant dependency or addiction it is never too late to seek help. Watching someone you love develop and lead a life that revolves around such a devastating habit can take a toll on all who are involved. With the right treatment, the right motivation, and great support you or your loved one can be on your way to discovering a healthy, happy and fulfilling life. Don’t let your addiction steal away any more of your life!

Call Now (346)-493-6181

image

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

 

Categories
Synthetics, Designer Drugs, & More

Synthetic and Designer Drugs

Counseling for Synthetic and Designer Drugs

Synthetic and designer drugs are often newly-created versions and adaptations of illicit drugs. Sometimes, they are even new substances, manufactured by individuals in labs, or even in homes. These drugs usually are much stronger than their illicit counterparts. The sheer intensity of the substances can cause more devastating effects on the body. One of the most concerning aspects about synthetic and designer drugs is the common use of highly toxic materials as ingredients when making them.

There are three major categories of synthetic drugs:

  1. Synthetic cannabinoids – mimics marijuana
  2. Synthetic stimulants – mimics cocaine, methamphetamine, “bath salts”
  3. Synthetic hallucinogens – mimics LSD

Synthetic/designer drug makers will often give their creation its own brand name. They often market it under such names as: K2, Spice, Vanilla Sky, White Rush, Scarface, etc. Whatever the name, these products are extremely dangerous and can be life-threatening if ingested…even once. Yes. Just a single use can kill you.

Another challenge related to these substances is that they are ever-changing depending on what the individual manufacturing it decides to put in them. The ingredients that are used can be tweaked and changed however the the person making it decides, which can make potentially even more deadly. To make it even more complicated, with the ever growing number of chemicals being developed…these manufacturers genuinely have no way of knowing exactly what their drugs contain.

image

Using Synthetic and Designer Drugs Is Extremely Risky

The risks of using synthetic and designer drugs are huge because you never really know what you are taking. When you these these drugs there is a good chance that your body will be altered and you may not function as your normal self after just doing it one time. It can also target select body functions causing them to decline in function with each continued use. The plain truth is that you may not even survive at all, even after one dose. So you have to ask yourself, “Is using this really going to be worth the risk of possibly losing or ruining my life, or the lives of others?” But with so much misinformation out there and a general ignorance to just how lethal these drugs area – the questions rarely get asked. And far too often, younger people become the deadly recipients; giving in to peer pressure or the misinformation they learn on the internet.

Some symptoms of using synthetic drugs may include:

Hallucinations
Aggression
Paranoia
Suicidal thoughts or impulses
Homicidal tendencies
Increased heart rate
Increased blood pressure
Confusion
Vomiting
Heart attack or stroke
Death
Seizures
Self-destructive/violent behavior
Delusions

What Makes Synthetic Drugs So Dangerous

Since synthetic and designer drug makers often change the properties of the original drug counterpart, these drugs typically will have a new, different effect on the brain. They typically also have a different effect on the behaviors of those who ingest them. These new and different effects on the brain/behavior can make drug rehab and counseling more difficult. Each individual who receives treatment and counseling will need to have a different regimen according to how the substance they’ve chosen to ingest has affected their body. The old days of “one path to recovery” as a motto for addiction treatment is simply no longer valid. Treatment centers and professionals who are worth their salt know they have to adapt care to meet the ever-changing problems that arise from an ever-changing and adaptive list of drugs. If the chemistry is ever-changing, how can the care and treatment be successful if it doesn’t change to meet it?

Why Is Synthetic Drug Addiction So Hard To Treat

Most synthetic drugs will end up causing physical damage, psychiatric damage and/or addiction. Once an individual starts using them they will most likely not be able to stop themselves from going back again and again, despite the terrible consequences. Knowing the risks and what they might lose is not enough to keep most addicted people from using again. When addiction reaches this high of a level, there must be some sort of intervention and rehabilitation. This is necessary if the person is going to have the best opportunity for recovery and the support needed to reclaim their life and restore sobriety. People addicted to synthetics/designer drugs often need a structured, treatment environment, medication intervention and working with addiction professionals in order to get them back on the right path.

What to Expect in Treatment for Synthetic and Designer Drug Addiction

With synthetic and designer drugs, expect counseling and rehabilitation to be intensive, structured and thorough. This is needed in order to detoxify the body, create behavior limits, learn new skills, support knew boundaries, address the guilt and shame and curb cravings/urges for the substances. Being inpatient in a facility tailored specifically to treating these addictions can also be very helpful. However, initially they may have severe withdrawal symptoms and behaviors that will have to be managed with medication and other measures that are deemed necessary at the time to ensure their safety.

image

Ultimately, drug addiction is a complex and difficult disease affecting the you and everyone in your life. It is up to you to start making the right decisions; ask for help and find the motivation you need in order to make a better life for yourself and the ones you love. Your road to recovery begins with you and your greatest chance of success lies in part on your willingness to accept the change.

Stop.

Breathe.

You CAN do this.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

What Happens After I Finish Treatment?

After detox and inpatient treatment, continuing to work with a seasoned and experienced counselor who specializes in addiction recovery will only increase your chances of helping you reclaim your life. If your loved one is suffering from addiction, be supportive and let them know you care…because it may make all the difference – and get some help for yourself, now. You cannot save them from themselves, but you can learn how to help and how to heal.

Survival is not enough – life is meant for living.

image

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Categories
Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery – for Professionals

If you are reading this, you are already taking a step in the right direction. Whether you are struggling with addiction yourself or love someone who is, getting more information is a good place to start. Addiction is a devastating disease that affects not just the addict but the entire circle of family and friends who care about them. And yes, addiction is a disease – a disease of the brain. The actual changes in physiology and neurochemistry are there – it is not a choice. However, just like a person fighting cancer – choice is involved in treatment and follow through. Genetics, lifestyle and and experiences all play a part, but once addiction is awakened, it’s a devil that doesn’t just go away. Lives change in it’s wake. Whether they change in bad ways or healthy ways is the choice an addict has in their addiction recovery – but sometimes that choice cannot even be discussed until the brain has been detoxed from the substance of abuse and begun to heal. Whether alcohol, prescription opiates, heroin, cocaine, marijuana or designer/synthetics – if you are committed to your recovery, or are the loved one of someone struggling with any of these – I’d like to help.

Addiction And The Brain 101

So, in simple terms, by the time addiction is in play – the brain sees the need for the alcohol or drug as an issue of actual survival. Seriously, the same part of the brain that tells you to jump back from the rattlesnake or get out of the way of the oncoming truck is lit up like a bonfire during a craving episode in addiction. This is old brain – old world brain – it’s the part of the brain that essentially makes up the brain of a reptile. We all have it. It’s concern is survival (and aspects around that) and nothing else. And in addiction, it trumps logic, reasoning, emotions – everything. During addiction the reptile part of the brain that usually sits in the back seat, jumps up and grabs the wheel.

colorbrainquoteSo, how on earth can you expect to reason with old brain crisis-response wiring? Ultimately, you can’t. Not while the substance is still in control. Although the survival response comes from the non-dominant part of the brain, when it triggers the life-or-death survival button – it takes over and no argument or heartfelt plea is going to overcome it.

That being said, there are strong windows of opportunity to springboard addiction recovery. Sometimes it’s when an addict has hit an incredible wall of losses, sometimes it’s the edge of losing everything, sometimes it’s a wearing down to a few moments of openness amidst despair – it can come in many forms and no, it doesn’t require hitting “rock bottom”. If the addict is willing – don’t wait. No holiday, or inconvenience is worth an opportunity to get in front of this disease and begin to heal all the lives it is hurting. Whatever the excuse – remember that the risk is ultimately, death.

What The Different Levels of Treatment Looks Like

There are many levels of care and below I have listed from highest to lowest, the more common titles. There may be hybrids and extensions out there – but these are the core:

*Detox – Inpatient
*Residential-Inpatient
*Partial Hospitalization-Outpatient (although some with overnight exist)
*Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – Outpatient
*Counseling/Psychotherapy
*Community Support Orgs (12 Steps, SMART, Celebrate Recovery, etc) – Outpatient
*Sober Living (this provides housing environment to support any/all outpatient services above and I highly, highly recommend this for no less than 3-4 months in a reputable Sober Living residence)

image

Why Discharge Plans and Recovery Plans Are Critical

Far too often, patients are so excited and looking forward to getting out of treatment and back home that they fail to put the amount of focus, investment and commitment into the ongoing plan for their recovery after they leave inpatient treatment. Remember the reptile brain we spoke of earlier? Well, here’s the kicker – he isn’t really restrained until 18 months after the last use. (and for life it’s a risk) But it gets better – it’s 18 months after the last use of any mood-altering substance – not just the one the addict happened to be dependent on. Although the first 60-120 days are likely to show the greatest improvement (longer with meth and a few other substances) – the old brain “reptile” is still going strong and the risk of relapse is great. Perhaps even greater because to the addict and many around them – life is already so much better and so our vigilance relaxes a bit.

After a residential treatment stay, I would encourage most people, especially those in treatment for the first time, to definitely go to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). This helps to bridge the experiences and tools learned in the secure and protected environment of inpatient or residential with the transition back into the open community where the environment poses many more risks to the recovering addict.

Sober Living Homes

(*in a safe, professional and reputable establishment) are a must in my book. If you want to significantly raise the chances of long term recovery then this extends the intensive support frame during those critical months and gets you ahead of the game. Sober living provides an extension of the organization and security, in part, that an inpatient treatment level gives but allows for the recovering addict to return to work, school and family. Many professionals dismiss this as being intrusive, others do not want to burden their families in their absence and even collegiates will say they don’t want to lose a semester. Stop. Losing all of the progress that has been made with a fast relapse back to use, or worse, is what is at stake. Loved ones, this is your arena too, don’t let convenience keep you from supporting what is necessary. Compassion is not about what is wanted, but what is needed. Be clear about this.

evoNemot12 Step and Community Support Groups

A word about 12 Step and other community support organizations. While I strongly support these the fact remains that they are not a replacement for counseling – and counseling is not a replacement for them. These groups are built as communities of mentors and peers – it is a communal path of support. Counseling is a clinical service delivered by professionals – it addresses emotional, psychological and complex cognitive issues. They are not the same and most long term recovering addicts will tell you they have used both. (be very cautious about a representative of either group who maligns or diminishes the other – this is your recovery path, get what you need from it.)

Why Loved Ones Need Help Too

Parents, partners, family – loved ones. This is called a “family disease” for a reason – it affects the whole family. No matter how strong or removed from it you may think you are – it affects the family; everyone. Many addiction recovery situations are made so much more complicated and jeopardized because of the false beliefs that the addict “is the one who’s sick” or “it’s their problem” – and so the hurt, confusion, resentment and pain just sits and ferments in all those around them. If you are a loved one of an addict – in addiction recovery, in treatment or actively using – you need support and information too, a lot of it. The denial that addicts have in the midst of their disease is less insipid because everyone but the addict sees it. The denial held by the loved ones is much harder because usually very few see it and even fewer will call it out and confront it. The very best gift you will ever give yourself and the addict you love is to get some help – private counseling, a support group of other loved ones of addicts – there are lots of resources out there. If you or a loved is struggling with the disease of addiction and you are ready to make changes and get your life back, I am here and I can help you.grief

Ben Carrettin is Nationally Board Certified, a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor with over 20 years of experience. Ben has worked in the arena of addiction/emotional health and the corporate world for many years. He works with both addicts and with the spouses, partners and parents of addicts – ask about his “What Now?” workshops for loved ones or his recovery consults for professionals. If you have reached a point where you are ready for change, Ben is here to help.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

Addiction Recovery Counseling and Support

image

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Categories
Opiates (Heroin and Prescription Pain Pills)

Opiate Addiction and the Brain

Opiate Addiction and the Brain

As human beings we have a long history of using opiates, such as morphine. And if a person gains unlimited access to opiates, they can easily and quickly become tolerant and addicted to it. The drugs have an intense effect on the human brain. Prescription opiates are after all intentionally designed and created to make a person feel good within a short period of time. The drugs increase the level of dopamine released in the brain and copy the effects of endogenous opioids. More often than not, people who have taken opiates with consistency often have difficulty feeling normal without taking the drugs and little or no knowledge of what really happens with opiate addiction and the brain.

Our brains produce a natural morphine known as endorphins. They stimulate the opioid receptors to lift our mood when we are under stress; helping us feel more motivated and relieving pain when there is an injury. These hormones are produced during excitement, exercise, feeling loved, orgasm, pain, or even eating spicy food.

The production of endorphins also leads to the discharge of dopamine, which is the chemical that activates the reward system of our brain. Dopamine acts as natural “go system” that helps humans pursue stuff that we need to survive. Our brain also has a “stop system” found in the prefrontal cortex at the front of our brain. It helps us determine the consequences of our impulses. When a person is addicted to opiates, the “go system” of the brain acts on its own, and the “stop system” can no longer control it.

Some Examples of  Opioids

Heroin

Codeine – ingredient found in many cough syrups

Hydrocodone – Vicodin, Lortab or Lorcet

Oxycodone – Percocet, OxyContin or Percodan

Hydromorphone – Dilaudid

Morphine – MSContin, MSIR, Avinza or Kadian

Propoxyphene – Darvocet or Darvon

Fentanyl – Duragesic

Methadone

What Opiates do to a Person’s Brain?

Opiate drugs activate the dopamine pathway (also known as the reward pathway) that sends out a rush of pleasure chemicals to the brain. When talking about opiate addiction and the brain, opiates are much more stimulating than natural endorphins, which is partly why they are so addictive. Once a person uses opiates, the brain stops creating natural endorphins because the body thinks that there are already enough levels of it in the brain. Within six to 12 months of using opiate drugs, the cells that produce endorphins can be significantly reduced in size and even die off.

One of the most commonly abused illegal opiate drugs is heroin. When it is injected into a vein, heroin reaches the brain within 15 to 20 seconds. It then binds itself to the opiate receptors found in the different parts of the brain that include, you guessed it; the reward pathway. When the receptors in the reward pathway are activated, the person feels a brief and very intense rush of euphoria. This is followed by several hours of what many report as a “contented and relaxed” state. This feeling of euphoria is what draws people back to opiates again and again.

The effects of opiates are similar to the ones from naturally occurring opioid peptides. When used for medical purposes, opiates can stop diarrhea, depress breathing, and relieve pain. They come with side effects that include vomiting and nausea. But when used in large doses, they can make breathing shallow or even make it stop altogether. Thousands of opiate addicts have died due to overdose. And mixing alcohol with opiates only increases the risk of death.

Opiate Addiction and the Brain vs. Opiate Dependence

Dependence happens due to the normal adaptations to prolonged exposure to opiates. People should not confuse the term dependence with addiction because they are not the same. Addiction is described to be the compulsive seeking (psychological) and use of the drug that results to deadly consequences. Addiction can include some type of dependence (physical) as well.

Another way to understand it is this: dependence is typically acute and holds the potential to be resolved or cured. Addiction on the other hand can be acute or in remission – but it is always chronic and life long (i.e. it is not cured or removed). This is why we say a clean/sober person is “in recovery” and not that they are “recovered”.

A person who is dependent on opiates will experience some type of withdrawal symptoms when the use of the drug is suddenly stopped or reduced. The symptoms can be mild to severe. Withdrawal symptom includes flu-like discomfort, stomach cramps, unpleasant mood, diarrhea, and severe muscle pain, just to name a few. The withdrawal symptoms are most commonly managed medically through the use of a slow drug taper.

Dependence is often accompanied by tolerance, which is the need to take higher doses of the drug in order to get the same effect. Once a person experiences tolerance, it can be difficult for the health care provider to evaluate whether the patient has a drug problem or if there is really a need for higher doses to control one’s symptoms. This is the reason physicians are attentive and vigilant to their patients’ symptoms, as well as the level of functioning to provide them with the most accurate information needed to prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Connection of Opiate Addiction and Brain Damage

While it has already established that opiate overdose can result to slow breathing, its effects on brain function are still being studied by researchers. Depressed respiration can affect the oxygen level in the brain. Researchers are still trying to determine the long-term effects of opiate addiction on the brain. Previous studies have shown that there is some deterioration of the white matter among heroin users that affect their ability to respond during stress situations, regulate behavior, as well as their decision-making abilities.

“One of the worst health epidemics facing this country is the belief

that successful pain management actually means the absence of any pain at all.”

BW Carrettin, 2003

Getting Off Opiates

Once a person stops using opiates, the natural chemical system of the body can’t turn on right away. It has already been damaged, and it will take a while to recover. The person will go through severe withdrawal that can last up to a week. Then the person will also undergo a long process called post-acute withdrawal syndrome that can last several months or even years.
When the person is suffering from withdrawal, they are typically depressed and with no motivation to do anything. Removing opiates from their system will suddenly bring lots of pain because there is no base level of endorphin found in their system.

Treatment for Opiate Addiction in Houston, Texas

Opioid addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes or heart disease, and like all chronic diseases it is a medical condition for life. While it can be managed and kept in remission – it cannot be cured and will not go away. However, a person with an addiction can regain a healthy, active and productive life.

There had been a lot of growth and improvement in the field of addiction treatment and one aspect of that is medication-assisted treatment or MAT. Because of a lack of up-to-date training, antiquated ideas about addiction and a general ignorance of neurology and physiology – many people, even those in the addiction treatment field, find the idea of medication-assisted treatment to be controversial. This is sad and detracts from the core intention of recovery work. It’s important to know that the goal of medication-assisted treatment is to recover from addiction. These medications, prescribed and monitored responsibly, do NOT replace one addictive substance with another. They provide a safe and controlled level of medication to overcome the use of a problem opioid. Medication-assisted treatment only works if all three of it’s equally important parts are upheld: medication (monitored and taken as prescribed), counseling (with a seasoned professional who specializes in addiction) and community support (meetings as well as family and friends)

In the past, the standard treatment for opiate addiction involved the use of methadone. (Even in the face of better options methadone is still widely used today for treatment of opiate addiction.) Methadone is a long-acting opioid that is used to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. It also controls the craving and relapse of the patient. Whether methadone treatment is actually an effective tool for rehabilitation remains a subject of great controversy.

Another medication used in the rehabilitation of opiate addicts is Buprenorphine. It contains a partial agonist opiate, has a weaker effect on the receptors in the brain than some newer medications and has a limited high, which some health care providers believe can deter the addict from abusing the medication. This medication is also surrounded by controversy – some have suggested it is due to improper use, others suggest negligent monitoring by treating physicians.

Naltrexone and Naloxone are used as antagonists at opioid receptors to block the pleasurable effects of the opiates. These do not contain opiates nor do they produce a high. When coupled with counseling or other therapeutic treatments these blockers have more recently been reported to help people quit their opiate addiction. There is an intramuscular injectable (IM) version called Vivitrol which lasts approximately 30 days and has been reported to successfully block highs and help to control not only opiate cravings but alcohol as well.

Succeeding in Recovery from Opiate Addiction

For addiction recovery to be successful over a lifetime requires a great deal of desire, commitment, persistence, humility and support. One of the most widely available community-based support organizations is 12 Step with meetings across the globe and in nearly every city in the United States. Churches, community centers and many other venues are also available depending on your area.

A seasoned and experienced counselor who specializes in chemical addiction can also help the recovering addict through the challenges that arise in the recovery process. If the counselor is also licensed and experienced in mental health, they can also assist with issues such grief, anxiety or relationship conflicts that may come up during treatment and recovery. Counseling or psychotherapy is helpful not just for the addict but also for the partners, friends and family who love them.

Change is hard and for many it can also be a bit scary. Patience and compassion, but not coddling or excusing, is necessary. Learning how to set good boundaries – new boundaries – is important for everyone involved. Remember – getting better doesn’t mean back to how things were. It will never be the same way it was in the past. That was the past. But it can be better, more than better. It can be really good.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opiates, or any drug or alcohol, reach out and get help. A better life is possible and attainable. I’ve worked in this arena for a long time and I’d like to help you.

Stop.    Take a moment.    Breathe.

You CAN do this.

Call Now (346)-493-6181

For More Resources

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.

Opiate Addiction and the Brain

Categories
Alcohol

Alcohol Addiction Counseling

Alcohol Addiction Counseling

Alcohol has been around since ancient times and has consistently been an accepted part of almost every culture since. Alcohol has a routine and casual presence in society from weddings, to funerals, after work “happy hour” gathers, family vacations and even everyday meals. Despite it’s commonplace in our culture, there is nothing common, simple or easy about alcohol addiction.

For many of us, consumption will likely never result in addiction. For even more us, alcoholism is not only likely – it’s almost genetically guaranteed. It’s typical today to take precautions if we know that diabetes, cancer or cardiac disease is in our family tree – but it’s fairly rare to meet someone who takes the same precautions with the alcohol. Unfortunately, the costs for this oversight is staggering and the battle to regain a healthy and happy life once dependency has been established is not an easy one. Alcohol addiction counseling can be a part of getting you or your loved one back to healthy, happy living.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol Addiction is described as a chronic and progressive brain disease.  A person who is suffering is unable to control their craving for alcoholic substances. They are physiologically impaired and there is no choice involved in this. All disease revolves around a central organ or system that is impaired. Alcoholism is not a weakness and it is not a choice. There is measurable change in the brain and to heal there has to be a significant treatment intervention and a significant period of recovery followed by lifelong recovery maintenance. An alcoholic cannot just stop. Period.

The urge to drink alcohol is so strong, that people suffering from alcoholism find it difficult to even reduce consumption, despite the increase problems that arise. Even when the losses are high and the awareness of the destruction apparent, the strength of the urge to drink usurps the rational mind and plunges the alcoholic back to drinking.

Alcoholism is caused by an unending desire to consume alcohol, which is due to both a physiological and a cognitive dependence. There is also extensive literature describing a “spiritual malady” as also being present. So the body, mind and spirit are all three debilitated. To heal – all three must be treated.

Becoming overly dependent on alcohol can cause major issues for a person, such as resulting in extensive damage to the tissues, and spreading of other diseases throughout the body including heart problems, certain cancers, liver and kidney problems and a host of gastric disorders as well. The physiologic risks go on and on. Keep in mind that the brain takes physiology damage too.

Risks of Alcohol

When a person drinks, the alcohol is absorbed in the body through the stomach and enters the bloodstream. The alcohol flows through the blood and reaches the various organs, tissues, and muscles of the body. Temporarily, the drinker feels pleasant effects, but when taken in excess it can have serious effects on health, even leading to terminal illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, alcohol poisoning, etc. Not to mention the losses of employment, marriage, friends, home, respect and trust of children and even freedom (such as in DWIs and incarceration).

Detoxing on your own from alcohol is extremely dangerous. Going into withdrawals for an alcoholic can be life-threatening and your home is not equipped to handle it – nor is an ambulance guaranteed to make it to you in time. In patient medical detox is necessary and provides more protection and 24 hour monitoring to assure your safety. This is not a situation to tough it through or dismiss casually. Please, do not do this at home – go to an addiction treatment center – there are many options available.

How Does a Person Become An Alcoholic?

There are a lot of opinions on this. Most widely accepted is that a person becomes an alcoholic through consumption. Various factors are included here; drinking to excess, drinking regularly, starting at a young age, etc. After all, alcohol is addictive and dependency can be reached easily. But there are also other factors – such as genetic predisposition. If there are people in my family tree who struggled with alcoholism or addiction then my chances are much greater. There is also a greater risk in family legacies that include certain anxiety and mental health disorders.

Consider it this way; there is a base chance that any human being may have to become dependent. Whatever that chance is for you, it increases if you start drinking as a kid/teenager, it increases again if there was alcoholism/addiction on one side of your family, goes even higher if on both sides of your family, goes even higher if you drink to excess or daily or to sooth your feelings and so on.

There are 6 progressive stages of alcohol consumption:

Euphoria: The feeling of happiness that is experienced after the first drink

Excitement: The drinker starts losing control of his or her feelings and emotions.

Confusion: This is the beginning of the feeling of dizziness. The drinker becomes unable to perceive situations correctly, and his or her responses become slow, unable to take responsible decisions.

Stupor: The person loses all control over motions, and is unable to move or respond.

Coma: In this state, the person is unconscious, and may find it difficult to breathe.

Death: this is the extreme stage of alcoholism, where the drinker may die from respiratory arrest, a situation where the drinker is unable to breathe.

Admitting You Have a Drinking Problem

It is commonly thought that people should stop drinking before or once they reach the Euphoria stage. However, there are many who do not stop – many who find they cannot stop. Before there is any hope of healing an alcoholic has to realize they have a drinking problem, and admit it. People who deny it, find it difficult to accept help and are very unlikely to ever overcome this problem. Families who deny the problems of their loved ones only make the problem worse.

How Can Alcohol Addiction Counseling Help You?

Various treatment options, alcohol addiction counseling tools and techniques can help you regain control of yourself. After medical detox and residential treatment, out patient therapy is one of the most widely accepted tools to help you reclaim control of your life. A seasoned and experienced counselor will address thinking and behavioral patterns, which led to alcohol addiction, and gradually can help you make and keep better choices, diminish relapse risk and increase development of a healthier, happier and more balanced you. Brief Therapy, Solution-Oriented Therapy, ESI Coaching, CBT, Mindfulness techniques, Motivational Interviewing and a variety of other approaches offer a pragmatic and applicable route to long-term recovery for today’s intelligent and fast-paced professional.

Spouses, Partners and Families Need Support.

The idea that the addict is the one who is sick and the only one who needs to get help is toxic and misleading at best. This is a disease that affects the whole family – whomever those loved ones may be. Whether your addicted loved one is in treatment, headed to treatment, just out or even refusing to go and actively in their disease – you need support too.

I work with many spouses, partners and parents of adult addicts and alcoholics. The suffering and wounds they carry as a result of the disease have to be addressed as well. There are specialized alcohol addiction counseling and support groups for family and friends – and there is also private alcohol addiction counseling. For real and lasting healing to take place for any addict/alcoholic or loved one – you have to get help. A family, marriage or relationship is a complex, unique and delicate system. To help it, we have to help all the parts. You need help too, and you deserve it.

Services We Offer

Our specialized Recovery Consultation service has only one purpose; “to help you free yourself from the slavery of addiction and get you back to living a happy, fulfilling and meaningful life.” Recovery from alcohol is a massive challenge, but also know, that together with appropriate treatment and community support, we can overcome your impulse to drink and get you back to leading the life you want.

Ready for Life?  Call Now (346)-493-6181

 

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.