Why 30 Day Alcohol & Drug Treatment Doesn’t Work

There have been a number of studies conducted over the years that indicate 30-day treatment centers have a success rate as low as 8-12 percent after one year has passed. Within 3 to 4 months the majority of those who have attempted to gain sobriety have returned to using the drug and relapsed. This pattern with heroin addiction, meth addiction and alcoholism is something the addiction field has observed for many years. With the advances in recent brain study science new information has started to be contributed to the field as to why this is.

Somewhere around the 30-35th day of sobriety the addicted brain begins to enter Post-Acute Withdrawal. The symptoms vary, but the most challenging and pernicious of them are dysthymia and anhedonia. Dysthymia is a technical term used to identify low-grade, consistent depression. A person doesn’t feel awful – they can still work and function and socialize, it’s just that doing so is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Anhedonia is another technical term used to characterize the inability to feel pleasure. This simply means that things that I used to find worthwhile and sustaining no longer feel good. Sex, television, food… nothing scratches the itch.

Early in an addict’s recovery process, usually around 30-35 days of sobriety the brain of an addict begins to start Post-Acute Withdrawal. There are a variety of symptoms most notably being dysthymia and anhedonia. Dysthymia is another term for a lower grade depression. A person is still able to carry out normal day to day activities, however they will feel uncomfortable. Anhedonia is another term used to describe Numerous studies have indicated that 30-day treatment centers have a success rate of between 8-12 percent after one year has passed. In fact, within 3 or 4 months the vast majority of those who attempt to gain sobriety have returned to using. This pattern with meth addiction, heroin addiction and alcoholism is something the addiction field has observed for years. Recently, brain science has started to contribute some new information to the field about why this is.

Meth addicts, alcoholics and heroin addicts seem to struggle when they’re in situations that feel futile. The dysthymia and anhedonia that accompany PAWS would probably be almost tolerable if it didn’t last 3-4 months. Here we notice “month three syndrome” where during their third month – often around day 75 – our clients become fixated on a reason they need to leave treatment. Family, job, pets, “I want to get back to normal life”, the list is endless because the reason stated is rarely really the real reason. PAWS has kicked in and the addicted brain is looking for something – anything – to feel ok again. The problem is that often clients will leave treatment and when they discover that whatever they were fixated on doesn’t work they return to what does.

The 30-day treatment model was established in the 1970s and remains mostly because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Long-term treatment does work. Our experience is that clients who complete 90 days in treatment and participate in online aftercare to transition back home have a higher success rate.

Questionable Painkiller Prescribing Practices Found for New Mothers

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have released a new study that reveals a potential prescribing problem when it comes to new moms. According to the release, many women are receiving opioids after child birth when heavy opioids are not actually needed. And while childbirth is a painful and intense experience, when it is over, most women are not in ongoing pain to the extent that they need narcotic painkillers after returning home. It also found that most states and hospitals do not have explicit policies regarding postpartum care and painkillers.

“There are many guidelines for managing acute or chronic pain, but not for maternity care. We have a public health crisis with opioid addiction. We were surprised to see more than 1 in 10 women were going home with an opioid prescription,” said Marian Jarlenski, researcher at the University of Pittsburgh health and lead author of the study.

Before conducting the study, researchers gathered information from 164,720 women, and then excluded those who had a cesarean section, which a surgery with a longer and more painful recovery time. Then they looked at the women who had given birth without any complications and found that about 18,000 women were given prescription painkillers, even though only 5,100 of them received an additional procedure that would require pain medication.

Upon further investigation, the researchers noted that the women who were given prescriptions and did not have any additional painful procedures were more likely to suffer from depression and smoke prior to giving birth. While most of the women were only given a few days’ worth of pills, some were given a month’s supply, and some even refilled their prescriptions.

Marian Jarlenski also explained that she would be doing another study related to these findings. She is now interested in examining the doctors prescribing methods and how it relates to the possible over prescription of painkillers to new mothers. Nobody is questioning whether new mothers should get the treatment they need to feel more comfortable, but it does shed light on sometimes loose prescribing practices of doctors in areas of medicine that can put more patients in danger by potentially developing a dependency on a drug that they don’t need.

Opioid Abuse Changes the Brain of an Addict

Doctors are pushing for more education on addiction and how it rewires an addict’s brain. Dr. Anderson Spickard, an experienced addictionologist who has been working in the field for more than 45 years, recently told The Daily Caller News that he had difficulty believing that out of all the patients he had treated over the years, they simply could not stop on their own. He went on to explain that addiction is a disease that, “tells you that you don’t have it, so you don’t admit it. You can’t admit it.”

Drug Dependency and Neural Pathways

Over time, addiction changes the way an addict thinks. The person comes to associate being happy with using their drug of choice. The addiction takes over their ability to form rational thoughts and make decisions.

On a chemical level, an addict’s substance abuse leads to the brain releasing large amounts of dopamine into their system. This makes them feel euphoric, and is the source of the “high” associated with drug use. As the addiction takes hold and becomes even stronger, the urge to get high becomes an even more driving force for the addict. It can even overpower basic human instincts like caring for children.

The dopamine hijacks the addicts brain and makes the person unable to stop using drugs. This neurotransmitter is so powerful that it influences the frontal part of the brain where we make executive decisions, along with the hippocampus where we store our memories and the middle of the brain where the nucleus is located. The denial, anger and behaviors associated with drug and alcohol abuse are run by this brain chemical.

This process is explained in much more detail in Spickard’s book The Craving Brain (pictured).

The Pathology of Addiction

Some people have difficulty with the idea that addiction is a brain disease because it starts with an initial decision by a person to start using drugs or alcohol. While someone may have initially voluntarily started using a substance, no one wants to end up with a disease that leads to repeated, uncontrollable cravings for a substance that takes away their free will. This is the condition doctors and researchers describe as the disease of addiction.

Researchers now recommend long-term treatment as being an appropriate approach for dealing with the addicted brain. An initial treatment period of at least 30 days, in addition to follow-up care can help to establish good memories related to sobriety and help an addict stay on the road to permanent sobriety.

Alcohol Hinders Recovery from Traumatic Events

Johns Hopkins researchers have recently indicated that alcohol directly hinders the recovery of traumatic events. The study, which appears in the journal Translational Psychiatry, is an important discovery, as many people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder often turn to alcohol to self-medicate.

The report highlights the exact biological effects of alcohol on the brain that prevent therapy from alleviating the pain from traumatic events and highlights the danger of continued alcohol use among those that are struggling with these issues.

“If the effects of alcohol on memories to fearful responses are similar in humans to what we observe in mice, then it seems that our work helps us better understand how traumatic memories form and how to target better therapies for people in therapy for PTSD. In fact, binge drinking or other attempts to use alcohol to self-medicate could be sabotaging any therapy efforts,” commented Norman Haughey, Ph.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In order to conduct the experiment, researchers mice placed in situations that would produce fear. Once the mice were “fear-trained,” they were split into two groups. One group of mice received water and the other group received alcohol. Subsequent tests on how the mice reacted when placed in conditions similar to the fear test showed that the mice that received alcohol preemptively reacted to fear more than those that received water. Researchers were then able to conclude that alcohol helped solidify the fear memories.

The study also inspected how the brain reacted to fear, both in the mice that were given water and the mice that were given alcohol. The mice that were given alcohol had more receptors on the part of the brain that is responsible for holding onto fear. Incidentally, this is the part of the brain that therapists are most interested in healing in a person who is suffering from PTSD.

While alcohol consumption is a common behavior employed by people trying to forget their problems, it seems that they are actually doing the opposite. Drinking may temporarily numb their pain or make them forget their problems, but, according to this research, they are actually cementing the memories into place the more they drink and making it harder to recover.

New Drug Shows Promise for Pain Relief without Risks of Addiction

One of the most difficult parts of the opioid crisis has been the fact that so many people have become dependent on the drugs, even when taken as prescribed. As a result, countless people went on to develop more serious substance abuse and addiction problems. This scenario has led to ongoing research into finding medications that provide pain relief without the dangers of most of the narcotics on the market.

Recent preclinical research funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse shows that a new medication acts on both opioid and non-opioid receptors in the brain to ease pain without the harmful side effects other drugs produce. When researchers gave the compound, called BU08028, to primates, they experienced pain relief but didn’t become dependent on the drug. The primates found it “less rewarding than cocaine and two different opioids.”

Researchers found that doses of BU08028 between 10-30 times more powerful than were necessary to provide pain relief didn’t affect the primates heart nor slow down their breathing. Both of these are common side effects for humans who have taken high doses of opioids and can lead to overdose.

The primates were self-administering the BU08028 during the test period. By comparison, a second group of primates who were administered morphine did develop symptoms of physical dependence after receiving repeated doses. Those that received BU08028 did not show any symptoms.

The primates who were given morphine experienced withdrawal from the drug when their medication was stopped. These symptoms included increased respiratory rate, blood pressure and heart rate. The researchers concluded BU08028 did not lead to symptoms of dependence and withdrawal in the primates who had ingested it.

The new compound was developed in a medical laboratory. It holds promise for the approximately 100 million people in the United States currently living with chronic pain. If this compound is fully developed and eventually is made available to the consumer market, it could mean that human patients may get symptom relief, without the concern of opioid misuse they, and their doctors, are constantly living with.

Much more research will be necessary before BU08028 would be ready to be tested in humans, but the side-by-side primate study shows promise. As medical research continues, various alternatives will eventually developed that will save thousands, if not millions of lives over time, as opioid addiction is one of the biggest problems facing our country today.

If you have a loved one struggling with an addiction to painkillers or any other drug, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today for more information on how we can help.

Heroin Addicts No Longer ‘Typical’

Stereotyping goes way beyond ethnicity. Religion, socioeconomic standing and education are all subject to stereotypes as well. And, as researchers have discovered, so are heroin addicts. People tend to have an idea about what a heroin addict looks like, and are oftentimes surprised at how many them do not fit into that mold. In the past heroin users were assumed to be inner-city males, but that has changed in recent years.

Nowadays it is more common to find people abusing heroin in the suburbs. And while it is true that more teenagers are using heroin than before, adults are turning to the powerful drug in larger waves as well. A recent study shows that middle-to-upper class adults and teenagers are more likely to abuse heroin than people living in cities. People living in rural areas are also using the drug more than ever before.

Why is heroin moving into neighborhoods throughout the United States?

One possibility could be that people who have formally abused prescription painkillers are now shifting to heroin. Although it is unlikely for the average prescription drug user to start using heroin as well, about three quarters of heroin users were hooked on painkillers first.

“It’s not uncommon to see addictive behaviors begin after a doctor prescribes pain relievers for legitimate reasons. Some people like the way the medications make them feel mentally, and they get hooked on prescription opioids. They subsequently turn to heroin for a better, cheaper and more accessible high,” explained addiction psychiatrist Jason Jerry, MD. The last few decades have shown a dramatic increase in the number of painkillers prescribed, in fact the United States prescribes more painkillers than any other country.

With the heroin epidemic still a major problem in this country, more and more people are looking for effective solutions. Addiction experts agree that intensive treatment is always the best option for someone struggling with heroin. However, treatment often has to contend with its own stereotypes. Many people consider that treatment is strictly one model, or always in a hospital, or doesn’t work or some other notion. As the demand for evidence-based treatment grows, rehabilitation centers are evolving at a fast rate overall and incorporating more therapies that have track records for success.

If you have a loved one who is using heroin or some other drug, contact Acceptance Recovery Center today for more information on how we can help.

Benzodiazepine Abuse Can Be Harder to Track

benzodiazepine abuseOxyContin and Vicodin are some of the most abuse prescription drugs on the market and therefore also the most talked about. However, painkillers are not the only prescription drugs that are commonly abused. In fact, Xanax abuse is a major problem in the United States, made worse by dangerous withdrawal symptoms and ease of access.

Xanax is a benzodiazepine, but it is not the only one. Another popular benzos include brand names such as Klonopin, Ativan and Valium. Primarily, these drugs are prescribed for anxiety problems. If a person is suffering from moderate to severe anxiety they are likely to receive a prescription for a benzo in order to calm them down and prevent them from being affected by environmental or emotional stimuli that has previously brought on anxiety. However, along with their effectiveness as anti-anxiety medications, they are also among the most abused prescription drugs on the street.

One of the most difficult part of addressing an addiction to benzodiazepines is that they are often hard to isolate since they are typically used in association with other drugs. These combinations of substances make can make them even more dangerous, with very serious and even life-threatening side effects. One of the most common scenarios includes mixing them with opioid painkillers.

“Benzodiazepines and opioids will decrease the respiratory rate by acting on their respective receptors [in the brain]. If you overdose and take too much, other regions [of the brain] are unable to compensate and you will stop breathing,” warns Alexander Sandweiss, a medical student at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Another common poly-substance abuse situation is mixing benzos with alcohol. This can also result in respiratory complications, blackouts and severely impaired cognitive ability. As if all of these problems weren’t enough, there have been a number of reports indicating that fake Xanax pills have been found in Arizona and elsewhere containing other substances, such as fentanyl.

The point of all this is that taking benzodiazepines that aren’t prescribed can be a very serious problem, and it can lead to more substance abuse and addiction. If you have a loved one who has a problem with drugs like Xanax, contact us today to learn how we an help.

Study Examines Effects of Meth Use by Pregnant Mothers

effects of methamphetamine useMethamphetamine is one of the most addictive drugs available to users. The combination of a euphoric high and extreme cravings make this drug very hard to abstain from and even harder to resist if others are consuming it nearby. This means that something like a pregnancy may not deter a woman in recovery from using meth. Because of the phenomenon, researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in Honolulu wanted to see what sort of effects methamphetamine use by a mother had on her unborn baby.

They discovered that when a pregnant woman ingests methamphetamine the drug actually alters their child’s brain chemistry. This translates to significant delays in comprehension and muscle development. The full results of the researched appear in the latest issue of JAMA Psychiatry.

“Our findings provide additional evidence that maternal use of methamphetamine and tobacco during pregnancy may lead to altered brain development in fetuses that are evident on the quantitative neurological examination in neonates,” reported Linda Change, MD, professor of medicine at John A. Burns School of Medicine.

And while the news that methamphetamine is dangerous to a fetus may not come as a surprise to many, the fact that methamphetamine use among pregnant woman is increasing is an alarming statistic. In the last ten years, the number of women who use methamphetamine while pregnant has increased 92%, spurring researchers to find concrete data on the effects of this trend. In addition to potentially irreversible damage for the baby, methamphetamine use among pregnant women highlights a real need for more treatment aimed at this part of the population.

Women who are addicted to drugs and also pregnant require a specialized type of help that is not readily available, and they are among the most under-served populations of substance abusers in the country. Increasing the number of treatment facilities that cater to pregnant women would likely help to prevent many babies from being born with drug withdrawals, developmental delays and physical problems.

Imaging scans and other methods of analyzing an unborn baby are developing quickly, and researchers hope to use these new technologies to further investigate the role that methamphetamine use by pregnant mothers plays on their babies to help with education, prevention and treatment efforts.

Drug Testing Reveals Drug Abuse in the Workplace

Drug test report Quest Diagnostics is a national drug testing company that analyzes samples from the workforce throughout the country. Employees and potential employees are often asked to submit to a drug test either before they are hired as well as throughout their employment randomly or if there is suspicion of use. In addition to providing a snapshot on workforce drug using, the test results also shine a light on how effective or ineffective current drug prevention techniques appear to be working.

According to some of their latest statistics, positive tests for marijuana use has increased by 25%. This is likely due to the more states approving marijuana use, and an opinion of the potential risk or harm caused by marijuana by the general public. However, marijuana use on the job is still an issue for employers, even in those states, as it often leads to a problem with short term memory, distraction, and a decrease in cognitive abilities. This usually translates into poor job performance, mistakes and accidents in the workplace.

Marijuana was found in 45 percent of U.S. workers who tested positive for a substance last year. The rates of detection for amphetamines and heroin have also gone up since 2011, with amphetamine positive tests rising to 44 percent and heroin detection rising by 146 percent. In addition to showing that drug use is increasing among employees who are getting drug tested, this study reveals that there is more work that needs to be done to prevent people from abusing them. With many people are entering the workplace for the first time, some of this may fall on parents.

Drug testing one’s children is often viewed as an extreme measure, reserved for habitual users that have a history with drug abuse. However, some experts suggest that drug testing children prior to heavy drug use may be beneficial.

“I think parents hesitate to test their children, because they don’t want to accuse them or anything like that. But when you read about the deaths, you wonder what happened before that…It just seems like, overall, in society, we need to be a little more cognizant and spend more time observing the situation,” commented Jon Helm, ARCpoint Labs of Herndon director.

Of course, drug testing may not be for everybody, but experts believe that this is one method that is underutilized when it comes to preventing or stopping drug use among teenagers. At the very least it is a tool for measurement to analyze the current drug culture among a group of people, whether that be new hires, teens, people in treatment, people on probation or other populations.

Circadian Rhythms may be Key Factor in Recovery

sleep pattern in recoveryCircadian rhythms are the cycle that most people follow. It synchronizes with daylight and evening and is the natural behavior of sleeping at night and being awake in the daytime. For many years it has been known that adhering to the body’s circadian rhythms is vital for physical and mental health, but now scientists are finding that it can also be very important in overcoming addiction as well.

Methamphetamine and other addictive substances disrupt these natural rhythms. This is evident in the fact that meth addicts may stay up all night, or for many days in a row, and fall asleep when the drug wears off, despite the time of day. These erratic patterns make people feel unwell and leave them searching for relief, which unfortunately often includes drug seeking.

A closer look at this phenomenon led scientists at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo to hypothesize that focusing on Circadian rhythms might be beneficial when looking for a way to help in recovery. The researchers decided to add something to a methamphetamine addict’s schedule – exercise. Exercise stimulates the same part of the brain that methamphetamine does, and has equal, but opposite effects on circadian rhythm.

fasebjourThe researchers used mice that had the portion of their brain removed that was responsible for their internal clocks and were administered methamphetamine that was alternated with exercise. They found that the mice taking the methamphetamine and also exercising were able to reinstate their natural rhythms, even with that portion of the brain missing. They also found that after the methamphetamine was taken away, the exercise helped to keep the pattern in place. The study was published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Although treating methamphetamine addiction with more meth may sound crazy, there was a method to their madness. By using it short-term to re-establish a rhythm with healthier behaviors, they may by on their way to creating a new method of treatment that can work.

“Our experiments show that it might be possible to use methamphetamine to treat meth addiction itself, by associating drug usage with a stimulus that’s not harmful: exercise,” commented Oliver Rawashdeh, PhD, co-author of the study.

These results show the power of reinforcing the circadian rhythm that has been harmed by methamphetamine use, while also giving hope to meth addicts. Future applications of this data could include incorporating exercise into the schedule of someone trying to withdraw from drugs, which would give them a better chance at recovery. It is also a lesson in the effectiveness and necessity of having adequate sleep for our overall health.