Have you ever told a story about someone doing something distasteful or illegal, yet that someone was you? Or have you felt the need to pose a question as another person to stir some reaction or get specific feedback? If yes, then you are no stranger to SWIM.

 

SWIM is an acronym for "someone who isn't me". Many people use SWIM when telling some story about them doing something unpleasant, to avoid reprimand. They say something like, "So and so got drunk and hit a stray dog." Or "SWIM ate an entire bag of oranges when stoned and now they have been on the toilet with running stomach for the last hour." Usually, they believe it would provide some identity concealment or legal protection when talking about something they should not be admitting to.

 

Those who use SWIM assume that they can say pretty much whatever they feel like in an online forum without any social or legal consequences. Or that they could get away with it because they are only reporting what someone else did.

 

This article delves deeper into the SWIM culture and why it's widespread among young adults, especially those using illegal drugs. We'll also talk about how young people perceive the risk of their participation in a public forum and how they manage to conceal their identity.

 

SWIM culture and what it's all about

 

SWIM is often used to avoid self-incrimination in contexts discussing drugs and alcohol use. It's also used in places where criminal acts occur to "avoid" legal action. The "M" in SWIM is sometimes replaced with a "Y" for you, so, SWIY instead of SWIM. Someone who isn't you is mostly used when one is questioning the other. For example, "SWIM loves using drugs. How much does SWIY pay to support his habit?"

 

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Online forums can be a great way to get information or even social acceptance for your actions or thoughts. This can be both a good thing, and a bad thing.

 

SWIM and SWIY are all the rage these days. People use them in forums, social platforms, and even when talking to other people. They do it to try to save face and avoid judgment. In some cases, they use these acronyms to protect the board. Some boards don't allow anything illegal or linking to unlawful material. Other boards prohibit "confessions." Members cannot start a thread admitting they are abusing drugs and so on. So, they use SWIM or SWIY acronyms to avoid being shut down.

 

One Reddit user was curious about why people who want to talk about drugs on online forums use SWIM. He asked why people wrote things like. "SWIM wants to know how blah blah blah."

 

A majority of responses dismissed SWIM as lame. "I don't get it … do they realize saying SWIM doesn't change anything and that feds aren't looking to bust forum users," read one post. "It stands for the stupid way to incriminate myself," read another. "It is policy to use it on some forums. It's stupid, but some places require it," added another.

 

But this doesn't stop people from using SWIM. The reality is many people would rather hide face when talking or writing about something they deem shameful or unpleasant.

 

Online forums and the need for anonymity 

 

People use the internet to find drug-related information, prescription drugs, and novel substances marketed as "legal highs." After all, the internet offers a convenient way to access this information and products. It also ensures anonymity – especially among those who want to maintain their privacy for fear of judgment or incrimination.

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Dark, online forums are the perfect place to speak anonymously about your addiction to drugs or various other criminal activities.

Anonymity serves as immunity for those concerned about potential legal and social ramifications of revealing stigmatized or illicit identities or behaviors. It also facilitates the creation of social support groups based on stigmatized identities.

 

Those struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues use online forums for a range of reasons. These include information exchange, social support, friendships, convenience, and even recreation.

 

The forums are managed by peer leaders who moderate content and may remove members who do not comply to set rules. Rules are meant to ensure members do not deviate from the forum's focus, and that people coexist in harmony.

 

Online forums allow users to present themselves anonymously. They can also read comments while remaining anonymous, or take part in the conversation using a pseudonym. People prefer remaining unidentified when using online forums, especially when discussing illegal or stigmatized behaviors.

 

SWIM in online forums

 

The enforcement law is always on the watch out for drug dealers and suppliers. That's why people are warier of discussing such compared to other issues like drug-abusing or drug addiction. They have code words and vague language and use the third person to describe their experiences. SWIM is one such language.

 

In one analysis, participants reported that they discussed their substance use in public online forums strictly. Their discussions involved only drug use and not dealing/supply and past but not future or present. The discussions are also vague enough for the rest of the population to understand. Of the participants in the analysis, none mentioned discussing drug supply or deals in public forums. One of them admitted to doing so – but only through private messaging.

 

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You never really know who you're talking to online. Some people seek answers to their problems, when they may be too afraid to ask someone they know for help.

 

The law and SWIM

 

SWIM is not usually a crime because it is not defamation. The United States law defines defamation as any statement made by someone that hurts another's reputation. Defamation is proven by showing that:

Taking care of the underlying problem

 

Most people who use SWIM often have some mental or substance abuse disorders. So they try to get help or communicate with others using SWIM to conceal their identity or feelings. According to the National Institute of Health, the internet has the potential to assist young adults by lowering the stigma associated with mental health and drug dependence. It also gives them access to professionals and services that they would otherwise not access.

 

But still, it is essential for young people with addiction problems to seek substance abuse treatment. Holistic addiction treatment will often address the mental, social, and physical aspects of addiction. A 2016 report calls for a public health-based approach to address drug use. Public health is a science of preventing injury and disease and protecting and promoting communities and populations' health.

 

It’s normal for minors to feel anxious or worried from time to time. It happens when they move to a new area or school or before a game and so on. But for some minors, anxiety affects their thoughts and behavior every day, interfering with their home, social, and school life. In this case, a professional may prescribe anxiety medication to help the minor overcome the problem.

Anti-anxiety medications influence the body and brain to lower the symptoms of anxiety, like fear, worry, and panic attacks. These drugs don’t cure anxiety disorders. They only help to manage the symptoms.

Different anti-anxiety medications exist. The doctor prescribes one depending on the type of anxiety disorder present – whether it’s PTSD, separation anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, or generalized anxiety. They may also consider other medications that the minor is taking and whether the minor has co-existing medical conditions.

Anti-anxiety drugs do a great job of relieving the symptoms. But there are concerns as people report feeling emotional inertness. Some say they feel a loss of motivation or less empathy for others. Others say they are less able to cry or laugh even when appropriate or being unable to respond with the same level of enjoyment as they normally would. But surprisingly, not everyone is concerned about this. In a study of 819 individuals, 38% termed the blunting as a positive outcome of treatment. 37% regarded it as a negative.

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Anxiety may affect people differently. The drugs doctor prescribe may only temporarily numb the emotional responses of the patient.

People who viewed the emotional blunting negatively are those with more severe symptoms. And as it turns out, the severity of anxiety before medication is directly proportional to the severity of the emotional blunting during treatment. But the good thing is that the blunting usually goes away when one stops using the anti-anxiety drugs.

Examples of anxiety medications include:

Effects of anxiety in minors

Anxiety affects many aspects of a minor’s life. Irrespective of how hard they try, their minds wander into different places. One may experience more physical symptoms like digestive problems, upset stomach, constant uneasiness, sweaty palms, bouncing legs, or heart palpitations. Depending on the type of disorder, they may also experience shaking, a sense of unreality, avoidance of social situations, dizziness, specific fears, etc.

When the use of anxiety drugs becomes a problem

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Taking anti-anxiety meds on a daily basis can easily build up a tolerance and lead towards an addiction. Many may even self-medicate with other drugs, like alcohol or opiates.

Addiction

One of the most glaring effects of anxiety drugs is prescription drug abuse. Tolerance leads to more users, which leads to addiction. Studies show a close link between anxiety and substance abuse. Many young people who struggle with mental conditions like social anxiety disorder also end up with substance use disorder. Like any other alcohol or drug problem, the minor will need to go through a medical detox and comprehensive addiction treatment to regain control of their lives.

Complacency 

Sometimes, the anxiety drugs go beyond enhancing mood and make the minor feel too little emotion. Some report feeling as though they have lost the richness of day-to-day life. The drugs are designed to boost the brain’s hormones that are responsible for scaling down uncomfortable moods. But this reduction can be experienced as a “dulling” or “blunting” of emotions. So, one doesn’t smile at a happy ending in a movie or laugh with the same enthusiasm. They may feel apathetic and not have the same excitement when doing the things they enjoy, like swimming or singing.

Emotional blunting is where the emotions and feelings are dulled, so the person neither feels up nor down. They simply feel “blah.” And while this doesn’t happen to everyone, studies reveal that between 46% and 71% of people using anti-anxiety drugs have experienced emotional blunting at some point.

Unfortunately, when complacency happens in children, they may have a hard time:

Tolerance to anxiety medication

Prescription medications do a great job at relieving symptoms of anxiety. However, they are not a miracle cure or a permanent fix. According to the American Academy of Family Physician, there’s little evidence that benzodiazepines retain their therapeutic effect after four to six months of regular use. So it might be a good idea to discontinue them once the desired effect is achieved.

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Drug dependence can quickly turn into an addiction. Many who are prescribed anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants will develop a tolerance to the drugs and they might move on to other illicit substances.

When the symptoms of anxiety improve after starting an anti-anxiety drug, doctors may still prescribe it to prevent symptoms from returning. In some cases, they may increase the dosage to maintain the cycle of tolerance and dependence.

Physical tolerance happens as the brain adapts to the way the anti-anxiety drug alters its chemical composition and how the neurotransmitters send and receive messages. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that tolerance occurs when regular doses of a drug seize to have the same effect as they once did. So the person will need to elevate their dosage to get a similar outcome.

Dependence

When a minor begins to take anxiety medications, he or she’s likely to feel at ease from anxiety, panic, and stress. Their muscle tension will relax as the blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature goes down. But when they develop tolerance, they become prone to drug abuse, which in turn increases drug dependence and the chances of addiction. They may also experience a sort of “blah” general outlook on life.

Tolerance, dependence, and addiction can be resolved with a holistic drug treatment program. Some experts cite benzodiazepines as one of the  hardest drugs to quit. Others in the list of hard-to-quit drugs include alcohol, cocaine, meth, heroin & opioid drugs, and nicotine. This explains why comprehensive treatment is critical in cases of abused prescriptions.

Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is a criminal offense. It happens when someone drives or operates a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol to the extent that makes operating the vehicle unsafe. DUI may attract hefty fines, jail time, and high insurance premiums. It may also cause loss of health or life in case of an accident.

Most states in the US have laws requiring persons with DUI convictions to go through a test to determine the extent of their alcohol use. This evaluation checks the extent the driver’s life is affected by alcohol use, and if their drinking behavior is considered alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse. Meaning, if someone is arrested for DUI, that fact by itself shows that the individual has a drinking problem.

But unfortunately, most people may deny a drinking problem until something serious – like a DUI – happens. Others may acknowledge a drinking problem but do nothing about it. If your loved one falls in any of these categories, you’re likely wondering how you’d confront them after a DUI. In this article, we will discuss the intervention details and typical things charged during the DUI offense to give you an idea of how you should approach the situation.

 

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A DUI can be a life-altering experience for many reasons. None of which are typically good. If a loved one has recently been charged with driving under the influence, it might be a good time to get help.

 

Potential consequences of DUI

When your loved one drives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, he or she may risk injury or death to self, pedestrians, and/or other road users. He or she may face severe consequences like jail time, high insurance rates, job loss, and large fees and fines. Their driving privileges may also be revoked. And when they’re found guilty with DUI, the information will reflect on their criminal records, severely limiting future opportunities.

If you think your loved one has an addiction problem, you should confront and nudge them to seek help. This could be anything from joining a support group, to attending rehab and so on. In some cases, getting help may allow your loved to mitigate some of the legal consequences that come with DUI charges.

How to go about confronting an alcoholic after a DUI charge

It is incredibly difficult when you love someone with substance abuse disorder. Individuals who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction tend to be unable to love or appreciate the people around them as they once did. They also do a great job of pushing you on edge or making you feel scared. But as most recovered addicts will tell you, the confrontation from a friend or family often marks the turning point in their addiction story. It is what saves them from a life of self-destruction.

 

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Typically, a DUI charge is a wake-up call to someone who is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Be someone who can offer help.

 

In case you’re wondering how to go about the initial confrontation, here are some quick tips to get you started:

Confrontational interventions

This is where you convene a group of people to confront your loved one. These people work to persuade the person to change their behavior. More specifically, they motivate them to seek help from a treatment program or a professional to deal with their alcohol addiction. The intervention team often includes family and friends of the alcohol-dependent person.

Before you confront your loved one

Don’t be afraid

Fear paralyzes people from taking action. It is fear that makes families and friends ignore the problem or convince themselves that the addiction problem will fix itself. But this conversation needs to happen. Your loved one has a DUI charge. If you don’t do anything, it is likely there will be a next time.

Prepare for an intervention 

 

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Staging an intervention with an alcoholic is an important step on the road to recovery from addiction. Be supportive and caring throughout the whole process. Addiction takes time to heal.

 

It’s essential to prepare and decide what happens in an addiction intervention before you involve the person. People struggling with alcohol addiction are in a fragile state, mentally and emotionally. So, you have to intervene in a way that doesn’t make them feel attacked or alienated. Everyone should be friendly, composed, and open-minded. Here are some good points to keep in mind:

During the confrontation

Make sure the subject listens

The person may likely want to walk out of the room. However, the team should ask him/her to sit and listen to what everyone has to say. Modern approaches to confrontational interventions rarely involve accusation, humiliation, and pointing out the subject’s flaws.

Air all concerns

Each person in the team can share thoughts or read their letter expressing their concerns. In this case, these grievances should consist of how the subject’s behavior has affected the person speaking. For example, the DUI has caused property damage or emotional torture, and so on. The focus should be to encourage the subject toward treatment.

Lay out specific consequences

Your intention shouldn’t be to accuse the subject or force them to take treatment. But you should lay out specific outcomes should the person fail to get treatment for their alcohol addiction.

Offer potential treatment options

Once each member expresses their love and concern, the group should offer the person with a list of possible treatment options to consider. And when it’s all said and done, the subject decides whether or not to seek treatment.

Things to keep in mind when confronting an addict after DUI

Get help

The best way to learn how to face the person with an addiction problem is to stage an intervention with the help of a professional interventionist. This allows families and friends to come together and plan how to confront the subject.

Know your timing

You may want to confront the person immediately after the DUI. But that’s never the best idea. You want to wait until they are sober – preferably in the morning. At this time, they will be rational and less likely to lose control of their emotions. Besides, waiting will give you more time to stage an intervention rather than doing it all by yourself.

 

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Intervening in a loved one's self-destructive lifestyle can help that person turn their life around.

 

Have compassion 

Chances are your loved one doesn’t want to talk about the DUI and their addiction problems. When you insist on having a conversation, they’ll likely be resistant and angry. You should know that he or she isn’t resisting you, but the conversation and its possible outcomes. Speak with compassion and care, not with judgment. When you accuse or speak with a negative tone, you’ll only stir resentment and anger.

Conclusion

Your role in getting help for the individual you are confronting is critical. Even though your words support, or actions may not go through immediately, they will bring the patient a step close to accepting they have a problem, enrolling in an addiction treatment center, and regaining control of their life.

Music is an effective form of therapy. It enhances the body's immune system function, reduces the stress levels, and increases the production of dopamine, a feel-good hormone. Music interventions like listening to a song, playing an, or discussing the lyrics can offer healing during addiction recovery.

Music therapy itself is a therapeutic tool that can facilitate social, cognitive, and emotional change and growth. Music also provides some psychological benefits that are important among those trying to break the habit of addiction. Research around the effects of songs on human health, behavior, and wellness shows that music offers the following benefits:

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Music affects the soul like nothing else. A good song can make you forget all of your problems and take you away to a moment of triumphant emotion.

 

With that in mind, let's look at the 10 songs to help during drug abuse recovery.

1. Amazing Grace

There is something about the Amazing Grace song that makes it so uplifting, relaxing, and comforting. The song has a nice and smooth flow and carries a message that forgiveness and redemption are possible irrespective of the sin. That a soul can be delivered from despair through the mercy of a Higher Power. If you are looking for something inspirational, you should listen to Aretha Franklin's version of Amazing Grace.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound 

That saved a wretch like me. 

I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see

 Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come, 

'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

 

2. Happy

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The right kind of music can make you feel happy.

Happy is a feel-good song –and there's a lot to feel happy for. It is one of the best songs of all times that you can listen to elevate your moods, spirits, and so on. You can even dance to the beats when you feel all lazy and unmotivated to do anything else. Happy by Pharrell Williams may not talk about addiction but will sure get you feeling happy.

My level's too high (happy), to bring me down

 Can't nothin' (happy), bring me down

 I said (let me tell you now) uh

 Bring me down, can't nothin'

 Bring me down

3. Broken and Beautiful

If you are more into rock n' roll, then you'll love Kelly Clarkson's Broken & Beautiful. You've struggled with substance abuse, gone through addiction treatment, and emerged successfully. You're a superpower, and you've got this because you've had it all along.

Can someone just hold me? 

Don't fix me, don't try to change a thing 

Can someone just know me? 

'Cause underneath, I'm broken, and it's beautiful

4. Roar

Roar, like many other Katy Perry’s Songs, is uplifting and empowering. It also has a catchy tune that makes you feel good about yourself.

You held me down, but I got up (hey!)

Already brushing off the dust

You hear my voice, your hear that sound

Like thunder, gonna shake the ground 

5. Let's Spend the Night Together 

Let's Spend the Night Together by Rolling Stones is as romantic as rock n' roll music goes. It is a perfect song to listen to when you're thinking about love. Who knows, you can even pick up a few lines from the song and dedicate it to your significant other. The lead singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards wrote this song.

Let's spend the night together

Don't hang me up and don't let me down (don't let me down)

We could have fun just groovin' around, around and around

6. Drug Addiction

It is pretty inspiring to know that someone out there has been on the same journey as you. Their stories serve as motivation. They keep you going and make you feel less alone. The song Drug Addiction by Colicchie is an incredible story. You'll probably resonate with every single word. 

Look, you don't got a clue what I've been through

When I was at my worst you couldn't walk a mile in my shoes 

I survived a lot, so it's only right that I smile 

And I'm aware of my surroundings, I'm no longer in denial

7. Fighter

Our list of songs about addiction recovery wouldn't be complete without The Fighter. After all, you really are a fighter. You've won so many wars, and you'll continue to do so for the rest of your life. The Fighter by Gym Class Heroes is one to keep you going through the tough times. It promotes strength and motivation and will uplift you whenever you're feeling down.

And if I can last thirty rounds 

There's no reason you should ever have your head down 

Six foot five, two hundred and twenty pounds 

Hailing from rock bottom, Loserville, nothing town

8. Recovery 

In his album "James Arthur," James Arthur talks about his journey with recovery and redemption. His song, Recovery, shows that he's been through dark times, but there's always light at the end of the tunnel. 

In my recovery

I'm a soldier at war 

I have broken down walls 

I defined

I designed 

My recovery

9. Breaking the Habit

As a recovering patient, you understand that the little life stresses can push you to use. This song, Breaking the Habit by Linkin Park, talks about the things that people turn to when they hurt. It is something you'll relate to and can help you identify such feelings when they arise.

I don't know how I got this way 

I'll never be alright 

So I'm breaking the habit

 I'm breaking the habit

 I'm breaking the habit tonight

10. Don't Stop Believin'

Remember your struggles with substance abuse and your "journey" to sober living? How it felt. It wasn't easy, but you never stop believing. You hold on to the feeling. Don't Stop Believin' is a great song to keep you going strong.

Streetlight people

Living just to find emotion

Hiding somewhere in the night

Don't stop believing

 Hold on to that feeling

We hope you enjoyed our playlist! Are there any songs you think we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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We hope these songs helped you feel inspired about your recovery from alcohol or drug use.

Addiction is sometimes referred to as a "family disease," and rightfully so. It affects the patient and his or her entire family's physical health, finances, and psychological well-being. At the same time, the family also has the power to make or break their loved one's recovery efforts as he or she goes through the journey to sobriety. That's why the importance of family therapy can never be overstated.

 

Family therapy is designed to address specific issues that affect the psychological health of the family, like substance abuse. It helps families work through challenges, struggles, and tough times in a manner that doesn't just address the problem but leaves the family stronger.

 

Addiction takes a toll on everyone. It forces family members to pick up the slack of the addict, make excuses for his/her behavior, and potentially endure physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Extended family members and friends may also have to chip in financially (or in other ways) to cushion the ignored responsibilities. Unfortunately, this naturally leads to instability and conflict within any given family, irrespective of how close-knit it used to be. In the long run, family members end up feeling disappointed and even frustrated with the behavior.

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While the abuse might not always be physical, psychological and emotional abuse can stick with a person for a lifetime, if help is not sought.

 

Therapy is a means to help cope with alcohol or drug addiction – and that's not the same as making the problem disappear. Accepting the situation and letting go of things that are beyond control is part of family therapy. When families let go of expectations, they can heal and embrace their present reality while working to a better future. The opposite is also true.

 

What is family therapy? 

 

This therapy recognizes that the addiction problem affects the entire family as opposed to just one person. It aims to empower families with skills to help adults and adolescents communicate through conflict and understand any substance abuse or co-occurring disorders like mental health disorder, family conflict and communication, learning disorders, peer networks, work or school issues, and so on. Family involvement is especially critical when the addict is an adolescent because he or she is still under parental care and is subject to the parent's rules, control, and support.

 

Family therapy is based on the belief that every family member plays a part in the family system, and when one person is affected, the entire family takes the hit. Treating an individual alone is the same as addressing an illness's symptoms without treating the disease itself. And although this approach is often used to help solve a person's problem that's impacting the entire family, it also applies in family-wide issues like conflicts between spouses, siblings, children, or parents. Family therapists can help loved ones to identify ways to manage conflicts, struggles, and challenges.

 

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Given the chance to communicate honestly and openly is a good foundation for true growth and continued development of familial relationships.

 

Family-based approaches 

 

Family-based interventions are often provided in conjunction with behavioral interventions and medications. The adult or adolescent substance abuser may attend individual or group therapy sessions with their peers and family therapy.

 

Models of family therapy

 

Family therapy is offered in outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential rehab programs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse post, dubbed "Principles of Adolescent Substance Use Disorder Treatment: A Research-Based Guide," here are some types of family-based approaches.

 

Family Behavioral Therapy (FBT)

 

Family Behavioral Therapy is an evidence-based intervention that uses innovative, easy-to-learn, behavioral therapies to attain goal performance within a family context. It blends behavioral contracting and contingency management to address drug and alcohol abuse and other behavioral problems. FBT addresses vast areas, including family relationships, mental health, sobriety, and effective management of substances, sports performance, self-protection, employment, beautification, and home safety. Under this model, the patient and family member take part in treatment planning and select specific treatments from a list of evidence-based treatment options. FBT also rewards positive behavior during each session. And when behavioral goals are met, the therapist may use contingency management to reinforce the behavior.

 

Multidimensional Family Therapy (MDFT)

 

MDFT protocols guide counselors in analyzing and intervening simultaneously in adolescents and their family's life. Cognitive processes, emotions, and behavior are linked and are all addressed under this family-based treatment model. Teen problems like substance abuse and delinquency are multidimensional, and therefore require multifaceted therapist behaviors and remedies. As a multisystem model, therapists work separately with the teen, the family and other systems (juvenile justice systems or school), and then together to forge new relationships.

 

Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT)

 

BSFT diagnoses and corrects patterns of family interactions connected to distressing symptoms and experiences in children ages 6-10. It attempts to shift family interactions from habitual to proactive or conflictive to collaborative, to allow the trapped love to thrive. BSFT is a short-term, problem-focused model with an emphasis on adjusting maladaptive interaction patterns. It includes 12-16 sessions that run over three months.

 

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Healthy relationships can be developed over time, with the right amount of commitment and a positive outlook on your future.

 

Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

 

The overriding goal of MST is to keep adolescents who display serious clinical issues like violence, drug use, or severe criminal behavior in school, at home, or out of trouble. Through intense contact and involvement with family, this treatment model tries to get to the bottom of the adolescent's behavioral issues. It works to change the patient's ecology to enhance prosocial conduct while minimizing problems and delinquent behavior.

 

Functional Family Therapy (FFT)

 

FFT is an empirically grounded family therapy for dysfunctional and at-risk adolescents ages 11-18 and their families. It's a short-term (about 30 hours) program that helps the youth overcome conduct disorders, behavior problems, delinquency, and substance abuse. The counselor works with families to uncover family behaviors that contribute or lead to delinquent behavior. He or she then modifies the communication in the dysfunctional family, and trains members to set clear rules about responsibilities and privileges, negotiate effectively and generalize changes to community relationships and contexts

 

Family therapy in addiction treatment leverages the family's strength and resources to find ways for the addict to live without drugs or alcohol and to improve the effect of dependency on both the patient and their family. It can help families uncover their own needs and help to keep addiction from moving from generation to generation.

 

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NDSUH), 18.2 million people aged 12 and older did not receive specialty treatment despite needing one. The 2017 survey revealed that 1.0 million people perceived they needed substance use treatment, but did not get treatment at a specialty facility. Of this number, about 2 in 5 were not ready to stop using, and 1 in 3 had no medical cover and could not afford the cost. Others did not seek treatment because they did not know where to go for help or had no means to travel to the specialty facility.

 

Specialty facilities include rehab centers providing outpatient and inpatient services as well as inpatient services at hospitals. But they exclude treatment received in a support group, emergency room, or private doctor’s office. Although specialty facilities can be effective in addressing drug addiction and related problems, their locations and associated costs may be a hurdle for certain individuals who need substance abuse treatment.

 

Insurance is critical for drug rehab

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Being able to afford quality addiction treatment doesn't have to be a gamble. Options are available for all people across the United States.

Financial limitation is a big barrier to getting effective treatment. Many drug-dependent individuals lack insurance, which covers a large percentage of treatment costs. Without insurance, the out-of-pocket costs can make care unaffordable for many people – even low-cost options like individual or outpatient therapy.

 

Here are some common reasons why many people remain uninsured:

 

 

In 2018, 27.9 million individuals, 65 years or younger, were uninsured in the United States. This number is higher (by 500,000) than what was recorded in 2017. About 5% of the uninsured were Native Hawaiian/Asian, 15% black, 33% Hispanic, and 44% white.

 

People without insurance coverage have far less access to care than those who are insured. Several studies show that uninsured individuals are less likely to get treatment for drug use and related conditions than the insured counterparts. Most of them would rather avoid seeking treatment because of the amount they would need to pay-out-of-pocket.

 

The National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) of 9,000 participants asked why individuals with dual diagnosis (substance abuse and mental disorders) did not seek professional care. Almost 15% of participants quoted financial limitations such as concerns about cost or lack of insurance. About 17% said they had to stop treatment because of the cost and their insurance not financing further treatment.

 

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Many people cite financial limitations as a primary reason they don't get treatment for their addiction.

 

Cost of rehab

 

The actual price that an individual pays for substance use rehabilitation depends on a range of factors, including:

 

 

Rehab facilities costs vary based on the aspects mentioned above. But on average, people bay about $1,500 to 2,500 per month.

 

Insurance options for substance use

 

Every policy or plan is different, but employer-subsidized insurance, private insurance, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cover abuse and mental health treatments. The ACA doesn’t consider substance abuse as a pre-existing condition. So it doesn’t deny treatments. Those who are covered under Medicare or Medicaid can also get funding and treatment options for substance use.

Getting drug rehab without insurance

 

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While there are many options to pay for drug rehab, the cost is ultimately worth it. You cannot put a price tag on your health and safety.

Low-income or no-income addiction treatment centers

 

Insurance is a great way to fund addiction treatment. But as we’ve discussed earlier, people might not have it for several reasons. The good news is that there are free drug rehabilitation programs that patients can join. Most states offer to fund rehab services that can be accessed by those with little to no income or insurance. These treatment centers often require that the patients meet certain requirements to qualify. For example, one will have to demonstrate a lack of income, addiction status, and need for help. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) maintains a Single State Agencies (SSA) for Substance Abuse Services directory that helps individuals determine who to contact for free rehabilitation programs.

 

The Salvation Army 

 

The Salvation Army is yet another widely recognized and available addiction resource providing free drug rehabilitation services. It maintains a database of no-fee rehab programs, and those with low or no income or insurance cover can access treatment facilities. Salvation Army has been offering emotional, social, and faith-based help for people struggling with alcohol or drug addiction problems for more than 100 years. Their no-cost programs provide food, housing, community, counseling, and employment as they work to treat symptoms and eventually, the root causes of prolonged substance use.

 

Financing options

 

Some programs offer financing options. Financing is a better option as free rehabs often have waiting lists and limited funding. Some individuals may be somewhat skeptical about taking on a debt, but it’s essential to look at addiction treatment as an investment. In the end, it pays off. When someone attains sobriety, they can go back to their healthy, productive lives. Their loved ones, too, can have peace of mind to focus on other essential aspects of life.

 

Paying cash or privately 

 

Those that choose to pay for care out of pocket can avoid different hassles and challenges. They have the freedom to pick the rehab facility of choice without third-party influence, and not have to worry about uncovered or unusual expenses as well as hidden fees. Besides, paying cash allows one to negotiate the cost of care, and sometimes, get great deals along the way. LA Times analysis revealed that a majority of treatment facilities offer deep discounts to individuals who pay for care out of pocket. The report pointed out that those who paid in cash could pay $250, while those who used private insurance paid $2,400.

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With so many lacking insurance coverage in the United States, it is no wonder the addiction epidemic has skyrocketed out of control. Help is always available. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to make your own luck.

Insurance is essential for drug rehab

 

A study published on CNBC indicates that 62% of Americans do not have enough money to pay for emergencies. These families are living paycheck to paycheck, and lack savings to pay for rehabilitation costs. Insurance plans that offer coverage for substance abuse come in handy because they cover about 60-80% of the overall cost. But again, not everyone has insurance coverage. That said, the pricing (or cost) shouldn’t hold patients back. As mentioned earlier, there are free rehab programs, low- and no-cost addiction rehabs, financing among other options to explore.

 

D.A.R.E., the anti-drug campaign, was designed to teach learners about the dangers of drug use, arm them with social skills to resist peer pressure to explore, and help them feel that saying no is socially acceptable. Resistance and self-esteem were at the core of D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program). Through the 80s and 90s, it expanded from a small local program to a national campaign against drug use. At its peak, D.A.R.E. was adopted by 75% of schools in America at the cost of approximately $125 per child.

But see, there was only one problem. D.A.R.E .did not work

The approach made sense on the surface and was widely embraced by teachers, parents, and policymakers. But as it turns out, the program did little or nothing to fight drug abuse in youth. In some cases, it only made things worse. A 2009 meta-analysis of 20 controlled studies by two statisticians revealed that those who participated in the D.A.R.E. program were just as likely to abuse substance as those who got no intervention. But more disturbingly, other studies indicated that some learners were more likely to abuse substances if they passed through the program.

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While it was perhaps well-intentioned, D.A.R.E. did not produce positive results in stemming the tide of drug abuse in the United States.

If you were among the millions of students who took part in the D.A.R.E. program between 1983 and 2009, you might be surprised to learn that experts have repeatedly proven that it didn't work. Despite being one of the most widely used drug abuse prevention programs targeted at school-aged students, it did not make you any less likely to abuse drugs or turn down the offer to abuse drugs from friends. The catchy "Just Say No" slogan that has served to keep the D.A.R.E. program distinguishable among learners seemed to be just that – catchy as studies show these words may not hold up under a microscope.

History of the D.A.R.E. program

D.A.R.E. is the most popular drug use prevention program in the U.S. (and the world). The original D.A.R.E. program, which was latched on Nancy Reagan's mantra "Just Say No," was created in 1983 as a joint effort between the Los Angeles Unified School District (L.A.U.S.D.) and Lost Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.) to end the recurring cycle of substance abuse, related criminal issues, and arrest. The curriculum's core elements were skill training, resistance, and self-esteem building for elementary school students. D.A.R.E. created and implemented a middle school and high school curriculum in 1984 and 1989, respectively.

D.A.R.E. took off quickly. Communities understandably wanted to ensure their kids led a drug-free lifestyle. It reached about 6 million learners in the first year at the cost of $750 million. It even expanded to other parts of the country (and globe) with funding support from the Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Communities Act of 1994, Department of Justice and other organizations. According to a National Institute of Justice report, 52% of school districts nationwide had adopted the D.A.R.E. program in one or more of their schools in 1994.

But it didn't take long for research to show that the "Just Say No" approach wasn't working. By the early 90s, multiple studies revealed that D.A.R.E. did not influence its graduates' choices regarding drugs and alcohol use. The effort to ignore vast reviews about the program came to a climax when the Institute of Justice accessed the program in 1994 and rendered it ineffective, but failed to publish the findings. In that decade, the program was placed under scrutiny by the U.S. Surgeon General Office, Department of Education, and the Government Accountability Office. These evaluations saw the transformation of D.A.R.E. into an evidence-based curriculum, Keepin' It REAL, which was launched in 2011.

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Throughout the greater part of 30 years, D.A.R.E. has been in place across the United States. It did nothing but push children away from the rest of society, if they were to experiment with drugs or alcohol.

Overall efficacy

Proponents say that the program has helped prevent drug use among students. They argue that D.A.R.E. enhances social interactions between students, police officers and schools and that it's the most prevalent drug abuse prevention program. Opponents, on the other hand, use evidence to show that the program is ineffective at preventing students from abusing substances. They contend that the program makes students ignore legitimate information about the dangers of drugs and that it's even linked to increased drug use.

In the 1990s, different polls started to show a reduction in the use of cocaine, L.S.D., methamphetamines, and marijuana. But opponents argue that the program – which condemned illicit substances – might have made the survey participants be more guarded and thus less likely to open up about using. Again, between 1991 and 1995, there was a 92% increase among 8th graders who had used marijuana and a 59% increase in illicit drug use among high school seniors. According to opponents, this is too big a number for a program that works. The war on drugs didn't manage to prevent declining life expectancies and record numbers of overdoses either.

The results of 30 other similar studies indicate that the program didn't prevent students from abusing substances in the short-term, or later on in life. A study produced alarming results with graduates showing a 29% increase in substance abuse and a 34% rise in tobacco use. But the most disheartening research done on the D.A.R.E. program was one that for over ten years. Participants indicated their drug use statuses when they were 10, and then 20 years old. The results showed that those who finished the program were no less likely to drink alcohol, use illegal drugs, or succumb to peer pressure than their counterparts who never went through the program. What's more, participants who took part in the program said they struggled with low self-esteem later in life.

The weakness of the D.A.R.E. program

The weakness of the program, as many studies point out, was the simplicity of its message – and its alarming claim that “substance use is prevalent.” Students don’t respond well to exaggeration, and both the “Just Say No” mantra and panic implied in the drug-fighting campaigns were pushing the kids away. At the same time, some researchers suggest that by making the drugs seem to be everywhere or widespread, the program might push kids with mental conditions (like anxiety or stress) towards drugs.

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The D.A.R.E. program was a historic failure, by any measure. We still have much to learn about the reasons people turn to drugs or alcohol, and why it becomes a major problem for some.

Moving into the future

In 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded a $13.7 million grant to develop and test the "Take Charge of Your Life" (T.C.Y.L.) program. The pilot study that ran for eight years examined T.C.Y.L.'s effectiveness in empowering students to not act on their desire to use alcohol and illegal drugs. Findings revealed that D.A.R.E.'s T.C.Y.L. coursework had varying effects for students. Students who had used cannabis by the 7th grade were highly unlikely to use it by 11th grade, compared to those in the control group. The study also uncovered that D.A.R.E.'s curriculum resulted in a 3 to 4% increase in cigarette and alcohol use among 11th-graders who never used in 7th grade, compared to those who never joined the program.

Based on the results of T.C.Y.L., D.A.R.E. transitioned to a brand new, and promising coursework called Keepin' it REAL. This program encourages learners to "Refuse offers to use drugs, Explain why they don't want to use, Avoid situations where drugs are used, and Leave situations where drugs are used (REAL). It encourages them to lead a safe and responsible lifestyle. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there were no concerns, adverse effects, or unintended consequences with the Keepin' it REAL program. The Department of Justice, in a 2012 review of the new program, said it was promising as it seemed to lower marijuana and alcohol use, and improves resistance skills. However, the report also noted that positive outcomes usually fade over time.

 

The idea that some foods may have the potential of causing addiction and that some forms of overeating may indicate an addictive behavior has been discussed for years. There has been a growing interest and research on the subject, leading to more definitions and assessment methods. While the diagnosis of food addiction isn’t formally recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), some studies show that DSM-5 criteria for substance use disorder (SUD) might be transferable to food addiction. Food addiction involves cravings, binge eating behaviors, and a lack of control around food.

No one chooses addiction

Experiments in humans and animals reveal that foods (especially those highly palatable) activate the same areas of the brain as addictive drugs like heroin and cocaine. Highly palatable foods are foods rich in salt, fat, and sugar. Like cocaine, marijuana, heroin, or even alcohol, these foods trigger dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain. Note this; the brain registers all pleasures in the same way – whether they come from a sexual encounter, monetary reward, psychoactive drug, or a palatable meal. In the brain, pleasure is linked to the production of dopamine. Food, like addictive drugs, provides a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by triggering dopamine production.

Food addiction doesn’t happen in humans alone

Researchers from Connecticut College discovered that Oreos, a tasty cookie, excited some neurons in the rats’ brains’ pleasure center even more powerfully than cocaine. Surprisingly, these rats quickly identified the tastiest, fattiest, and sweetest part of the snack – the middle. So, they would break and eat that part first. If this study’s findings are anything to go by, then high-sugar, high-fat foods and substance of abuse trigger brain process to the same extent.

Desire initiates the process, but learning sustains it

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Dopamine is released by the brain during pleasurable experiences, like sex, or even eating food.

Dopamine doesn’t just contribute to the pleasure experience; it also plays a part in memory and learning – both of which are critical in the transition from “liking” eating to becoming addicted to it. Dopamine interacts with glutamate, another neurotransmitter, to assume control of the brain’s system reward-related learning. Repeated exposure to palatable food causes the reward center to want it, driving the vulnerable person to go after it.

Compulsive eating

When the brain’s reward center keeps getting flooded with dopamine, it will, at some point, adapt to the trigger and eliminate the dopamine receptors. As a result, dopamine becomes less effective. So, the individual may realize that the food no longer gives them as much pleasure. They have to eat more to feel good because the brain is now tolerant. The pleasure linked to the food diminishes, but the memory of the pleasure and desire to remake it persists. So, compulsion takes over.

Is food addiction a real addiction?

Does this mean that someone is a food addict if they have too many unhealthy foods like ice cream or burgers, or knowingly eat calorie-packed meals that are potentially harmful to their body and overall health? The short answer is annoying: “it depends.”

According to some scientists, too much fast food or junk food changes the brain’s wiring to an extent where one loses the ability to resist eating certain foods – despite the potential undesired effects. However, some experts question the validity of comparing any overeating habits with those of addiction to alcohol or drugs. They suggest that the uncontrolled or binge eating disorder may be connected to biological triggers that vary from one person to another. And that the intense cravings cannot be equated to those of someone struggling with substance abuse disorder.

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Food addiction can create the same, compulsive behavior patterns as an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

The debate about whether food addiction is a real addiction lies in the term “addiction,” and the way one defines it. If an individual cannot control their urge to indulge in unhealthy food even when it is causing physical or psychological harm, then the phrase, “food addiction” matches the bill. The inability to stop doing something when you want to is the heart of addiction.

Recognizing an addiction to food

Although food addiction is often associated with obesity, it can take many forms. A food addict can be thin or normal, someone who overeats at regularly scheduled meals or grazes on snacks the entire day, etc. So, someone can have healthy body weight and still be addicted to food. It’s just that their bodies may be genetically programed to take care of the extra calories consumed. In some cases, they do lots of physical activity to compensate for overeating. Unfortunately, those addicted to food will keep on eating despite the adverse outcomes.

Researchers at Rudd Center for Food and Science & Policy at Yale University designed a questionnaire to identify patients with food addiction problems. The questions seek to find whether one:

Food addiction problems

Unlike drug or alcohol addiction, food addicts cannot abstain from eating. That’s why food is perhaps more insidious than drugs. Food addiction can be all-consuming and interfere with different aspects of a patient’s life. In addition to causing or worsening medical problems like heart disease, diabetes, malnutrition, or acid reflux, food addiction can also cause obesity and accelerate conditions like sleep disorders, obesity, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Not to mention psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, depression, and low self-esteem.

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Food addiction can become a real problem. Many treatment options are available for an addiction to food.

Food addiction treatments

Although food addiction may not be a recognized diagnosis or treatment, advances in the medicinal world make it possible to manage and resolve it. A medical expert may recommend one or more of the following treatments after conducting a medical review:

Addiction treatment is usually personalized and needs individual, family and community support.

Several studies have shown a strong correlation between substance abuse and mental illness. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many people with mental health conditions develop substance use disorders (SUD), and vice versa. The incidences tend to co-occur (also called comorbidity or dual diagnosis) more often than what could be attributed to chance.

While mental health issues don’t cause drug addiction or vice versa; they can exacerbate the symptoms. It is not uncommon for individuals to self-medicate a mental illness with alcohol or drugs. Conversely, alcohol and drugs can lead to psychological issues like paranoia, delusions, anxiety, and depression or worsen existing psychiatric conditions. So, individuals diagnosed with anxiety or mood disorders are highly likely to suffer from drug abuse disorder compared with respondents in general. The same holds for those diagnosed with drug disorders as they are likely to suffer from mental disorders like anxiety or mood disorders, etc.

Please don’t take our word for it

A past NIH study showed that certain protective factors don’t exist among those with severe mental illness. Individuals with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, for instance, have a higher risk for drug use. Multiple national population surveys suggest that about 50% of those who experience substance use disorder will also experience mental illness at some point in their lives, and vice versa.

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Mental health issues and substance abuse go hand-in-hand for many people of all ages, and backgrounds.

Other reports not only support that these two disorders are connected, but also emphasize that drug use in itself is a mental illness. This is because drug use changes the brain in ways that affect the person’s hierarchy of desires and needs. The resulting compulsive behavior that overpowers one’s ability to control impulses despite the negative outcome is similar to other mental illnesses.

With that in mind, let’s now look at types of mental disorders that increase drug use.

Anxiety disorders and drug use

Anxiety disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million (or 18.1%) adults age 18 and over annually. But anxiety doesn’t affect adults alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), these disorders affect 25.1% of children aged 13-18. When the anxiety goes untreated, these children may perform poorly, become distant socially, and abuse substances.

Comorbidity is common with substance abuse and anxiety. About 20% of individuals with mood disorders or anxiety have substance use problems. The same number of people with drug problems suffer from anxiety and mood disorders. A mental health professional told ADAA that anxiety disorder often travels in the company of drug or alcohol abuse, as those with a social anxiety disorder might abuse substances to feel comfortable and less restricted in social settings. But it robs them of knowing when to stop or accepting that they have an underlying problem that needs therapy and treatment and not substance to overcome the fear. Eventually, the drugs that serve as temporary solace (whether illicit drugs, prescription drugs, or simply stimulants) can also trigger anxiety.

Bipolar disorder and drug use

Individuals with bipolar disorder experience radical mood swings that can last for days or weeks in a row. Depending on the severity, these episodes may occur as little as a few times in a year or as often as several times in a week. In one study of people with bipolar disorders, about 60% had some history of substance misuse. And while it’s not clear why this disorder makes people more prone to alcohol and drug abuse, different studies try to connect the dots.

Some experts believe that inherited traits play a role in linking bipolar disorder to alcoholism or drug abuse. In a Mayo Clinic post, one doctor suggests that the genetic differences affect brain chemistry linked to bipolar disorder. He further noted that the same traits might also influence how the brain responds to drugs and alcohol, exacerbating the risk of substance use disorders. But there’s also the aspect of mania – where the upswing from depression lowers judgment, leading to increased substance abuse.

Other experts suggest that addiction arises when the patient uses drugs or alcohol to ease anxiety, depression, and other bipolar-related symptoms. As discussed above, abusing substances in the name of relieving the symptoms only worsens the situation. Frequent drug use can change the brain’s reward system. Over time, this mind-altering changes lead to compulsive drug-seeking behavior. Drug use can also cause brain changes that lead to bipolar disorder.

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Many adults battle depression and other types of mental health issues on a daily basis.

Depression and drug use

Depression is another mental disorder that frequently co-occurs with drug use. Like other mental illnesses, the relationship between drug use and depression disorders is bi-directional. Depressed individuals may abuse substances to uplift their mood or escape from feelings of despair or guilt. However, substances like alcohol (which is a depressant) can increase the feelings of fatigue, lethargy, hopelessness, or sadness. On the other hand, people can feel depressed once the effects of alcohol or drugs wear off, or when they struggle to deal with the way addiction has affected their lives.

Depression is like a gateway to substance abuse. Approximately one-third of those with major depression go on to have alcoholism problems. People struggling with depression often have a hard time giving up drugs or alcohol because it can worsen depression. Some who quit cold turkey are bombarded with withdrawal symptoms that are difficult to bear, causing them to relapse.

Schizophrenia and drug use

Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness in which people interpret reality abnormally. This brain disorder makes it hard for people to distinguish the imaginary from reality, affecting about 1% of all Americans, approximately two million adults. Patients often are unable to respond to different social situations in an appropriate emotional way. This leads to strained relationships with family and friends.

An estimated 50% of those suffering from the condition have a history of substance misuse. Often, these people engage in alcohol or drug abuse to self-medicate or relieve feelings of depression and anxiety. Drug and alcohol are environmental triggers for schizophrenia. A person with existing genetic risk factors for the condition can activate it after prolonged substance abuse. Using illicit drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, or marijuana heightens schizophrenia symptoms or make them worse.

Schizophrenia and substance abuse disorders have similar symptoms, which explain why people often confuse one for the other. Unfortunately, this only makes it even harder to diagnose the condition or co-occurring illnesses.

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Self care is important when dealing with a dual-diagnosis or co-occurring mental disorder.

Conclusion

It suffices to say that mental disorders and drug use are two sides of the same coin – you cannot address one and ignore the other and expect a successful outcome. That’s why dual diagnosis patients enroll in integrated treatment programs that address both problems simultaneously. Otherwise, untreated mental disorder symptoms can cause the patient to be unable to remain sober and clean. Untreated drug use, on the other hand, can make mental disorder treatment ineffective.

The medical marijuana craze has ignited a multi-billion dollar industry. From oils to tinctures to lotions to lattes to e-cigarettes in all shapes and sizes, for pain, anxiety, depression, seizures, autism, soft skin, hangover, etc., marijuana is everywhere. In fact, those who invested in top marijuana companies in 2016 are potentially up more than 1000%. Yet another danger lurks under the guise of "synthetic marijuana", "K2", or "spice".

It is not a surprise that marijuana is gaining popularity globally, including on Wall Street. After all, cannabinoid (CBD) –the second most prevalent ingredient in marijuana – has been touted for different health issues. It’s also backed scientifically for its effectiveness in treating the worst childhood epilepsy syndromes like Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome which fail to respond to antiseizure drugs. Studies have also shown its effectiveness in addressing anxiety and chronic pain too.

But the main concern with CBD products is that they are mainly sold as a supplement as opposed to medication. At the moment, the FDA has only approved Epidiolex for a prescription, and does not control the purity and safety of dietary supplements. So it is hard to tell whether a product has active ingredients at the dose as indicated or other unknown elements.

One study tested 84 CBD products from 31 companies and revealed that 69% were mislabeled. Some had too much CBD; some had no CBD at all. Some contained too much THC – the active ingredient in marijuana that’s associated with the “high”. Other surveys indicated that a fraction of the products contained harmful synthetics that are health hazards.

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Both the legal and illegal marijuana business is booming across the United States. Pot farms, like this one are creating a variety of products, with little oversight.

Medical marijuana can be safe and beneficial to human health. The only reason marijuana is still federally illegal is because of THC, which affects one’s ability to concentrate, focus and even keep track of time. But with the rising popularity and demand of the legal natural marijuana, numerous companies have sought to simultaneously minimize production time and boost profits by creating synthetic cannabinoids.

What is Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic CBDs are a large family of chemically unrelated compounds that act on the same brain cell receptors as THC. Synthetic marijuana products are human-made, but mimic THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. They are misleadingly marketed as legal and safe alternatives to real marijuana. However, synthetic cannabis affects the brain more than natural marijuana, and their effect can be dangerous or even life-threatening. Unsuspecting users (mostly teens and young adults) assume that the fake weed is harmless – but that’s a grave mistake.

Synthetic marijuana is either sold as a liquid to be vaporized and inhaled or sprayed onto plant material to be smoked. It goes by several other names:

About synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids are not one drug. Manufacturers produce and sell hundreds of different synthetic chemicals. Each year, new products with unknown health risks make entry into the market. As mentioned earlier, fake weeds are prevalent because consumers believe they are legal and relatively safe. This can be linked to the misconception that many users have, that marijuana is a naturally occurring weed and is, therefore, safe to use (but that’s not all there is to it). Depending on what’s available or personal preference, synthetic cannabinoids is either:

In 2010, over 11,000 individuals were admitted to the emergency room due to synthetic marijuana use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And in 2016, 2,695 calls were made to poison control centers about people who were harmed by using synthetic CBD. What’s disturbing is that 75% of these people were between 12 and 29 years old.

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Many teenagers and young adults are turning to synthetic marijuana to pass drug tests, or because they think it is a natural, safe alternative to cannabis. It can be quite dangerous, however.

K2 Users beware

Most K2/Spices are illicit. So, manufacturers try to get around the laws by producing new drugs with different ingredients or by marking them as “not fit for human consumption.” They are labeled not for human to mask the intended purpose and avoid the FDA’s control of the manufacturing process.

Synthetic cannabis products are not safe. And since there are no standards for producing, packaging or distributing the chemicals, it might be hard to tell the contents of products and the potential reaction. Again, synthetic CBD can have varying levels of chemicals between batches, or even within the same batch. The products may also be contaminated with toxic chemicals or drugs.

Side Effects of Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic marijuana can have adverse effects on the brain and overall health. Common side effects of synthetic cannabinoids include:

Note that these effects may vary based on factors like the type of synthetic marijuana, the dose and duration of use. K2 can be addictive, meaning a person may experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit cold turkey.

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While it may look nearly identical to weed, synthetic cannabis can actually be very dangerous to the user.

Incidences Involving Synthetic Marijuana

The CDC issued a warning after receiving reports of multiple cases from the Department of Public Health, including deaths among those who used fake K2. Other states have also reported the same cases. The warning urged everyone who’s bought a product that goes by names (spice, K2 or synthetic marijuana) to throw it out. It also encouraged those who had already used to call for help or go to the closest healthcare facility in case they experience severe, unexplained bruising or bleeding.

In another report, synthetic marijuana –which is 85 times more potent than THC – led to a “Zombie Outbreak” in New York City in 2016. For several hours, users were staring blankly, moving slowly and occasionally groaning. 18 out of the 33 people who displayed signs were transported to the hospital. The incidence happened after using K2 that Reddit users describe as “out-of-this-world potent.”

In 2018, 71 people overdosed from synthetic CDB in Connecticut. A significant percentage of the cases occurred on the New Haven Green. And although no deaths were reported, six or more victims had near-death experiences. In the same year, the drug was linked to 22+ cases of severe bleeding from gums, nose and in urine in the Chicago area.

 

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