Stress is a normal part of life and can serve a useful purpose. It can motivate you to run the last mile of a marathon or get that promotion at work. But if you don’t get a hold of your level of stress and it becomes long-term, it can seriously affect your family life, job, and health. Chronic stress also heightens the risk of burnout.
Burnout is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. When you experience burnout, you may:
Burnout saps your energy and reduces productivity, leaving you feeling increasingly resentful, cynical, and helpless. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give. These effects extend to every area of life, including your social life, home, and work. Burnout can lead to long-term body changes that predispose you to substance abuse.
The signs and symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, but common indicators include:
Sustained stress can gradually lead to physical and psychological burnout, creating a vacuum that individuals might be inclined to fill with drugs or alcohol. Many studies have established a connection between drug use and alcoholism.
When people burn out without any promise of relief, most of them will take action, trying to make themselves feel better. Many turn to alcohol, others to prescription or illicit drug use. Some will turn to a wide range of alternative self-destructive behaviors. They do so:
When individuals experience burnout, they often struggle to cope with the overwhelming stress and emotional exhaustion. They may turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to temporarily escape or numb the emotional pain and distress they are feeling. This coping mechanism provides a way to momentarily alleviate their suffering and provides a perceived relief from stress and burnout.
Burnout can be accompanied by various physical and mental health symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. People may turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication, using these substances to alleviate or mask these symptoms. They may believe that these substances help them feel better or more “normal.”
Burnout can lead to feelings of helplessness and a desire to escape from the overwhelming responsibilities and stressors that contribute to burnout. Drugs and alcohol offer a temporary escape from these challenges, providing a sense of relief and distraction from the difficulties they face.
People turn to drugs because of being stressed out, and vice versa. Increased substance use can lead to a range of physical and mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and physical ailments, all of which contribute to stress and burnout. Substances like drugs and alcohol also:
They make it hard to manage your daily responsibilities effectively. The resulting cognitive impairment can lead to work-related stress and decreased performance, contributing to burnout.
Issues like absenteeism, reduced job performance, and strained relationships with colleagues and supervisors are common among those who abuse substances. These work-related issues can intensify stress and lead to emotional burnout.
The costs associated with maintaining a drug or alcohol addiction can lead to financial difficulties, including debt and instability. Financial strain is a significant source of stress and burnout.
Substance abuse often causes conflicts within personal relationships, leading to emotional distress and strain. Relationship issues can be a major source of stress and emotional exhaustion.
If you are experiencing early signs of burnout or are already past the breaking point, you cannot continue living life as you have been. This will only lead to further emotional and physical repercussions. Instead, you want to pause and change the direction by figuring out how you can help yourself.
It all starts with early identification – or recognizing the warning signs of burnout. Once you do, you want to seek professional help for burnout. This is especially critical as it helps rule out underlying medical conditions and also provides guidance on treatment options.
In many cases, you may need therapy and counseling, which entails a range of therapeutic techniques and practices to help you address and manage various emotional, psychological, and interpersonal challenges.
A mental health professional will use a range of evidence-based techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and other therapeutic approaches to manage your burnout and other underlying issues like addiction. Such therapies help you identify and change negative thought patterns and develop healthier coping strategies. They may also employ holistic approaches to address your overall well-being.
Holistic approaches like mindfulness and meditation, nutrition and exercise, holistic counseling, and alternative therapies aim to heal the whole person – that is, the mind, body, and spirit. These approaches can empower you to make positive changes in your life and enhance your overall quality of life
Remember that seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It’s crucial to address burnout early to prevent it from worsening and potentially leading to more severe mental health issues. Additionally, adopting holistic approaches to stress management can help you build resilience and better cope with life’s challenges without resorting to substances. These approaches promote overall well-being and a healthier stress response.
Many people perceive addiction as a mere habit or choice. They mistakenly think that those who abuse substances lack willpower or moral principles. This misunderstanding often leads to blame and stigma, reinforcing the idea that those struggling with addiction lack the strength to control their actions.
However, addiction is far from a simple matter of willpower or morality. It’s a complex disease that reshapes the brain’s chemistry and circuitry. This alteration in brain function makes quitting an uphill battle. Like a dragon, addiction takes over one’s life with a force that’s difficult to comprehend. It takes a shift in mindset and a comprehensive approach to truly dethrone this dragon and change the relationship with addiction.
Addiction, at its core, is a pattern of compulsive behavior driven by the relentless pursuit of pleasure, relief, or satisfaction. Again, like a dragon, it starts as a small, harmless creature but swiftly grows into a powerful force capable of controlling every facet of someone’s life. Addiction can lead to:
Recovering from a substance abuse problem is a challenging process. Unless you shift your mindset, it can be harder to reclaim control of your life. By mindset, we mean the way you think and your attitude about everyday life. So, instead of focusing on issues that led you to where you are or stressors that you can’t seem to shake off, you make a conscious decision to focus on your goal.
A mindset shift is critical in addiction recovery for various reasons. For example, it will help you recognize that addiction is a complex medical condition and not a moral failing. This understanding can boost your self-esteem and make you feel more capable of overcoming challenges. Changing your relationship with addiction also makes you more receptive to seeking help and support. You’re more likely to reach out to professionals, friends, and support groups when you understand that recovery is a valid and achievable goal.
When you understand the power addiction holds over your brain, you’re better prepared to face, manage, and overcome potential relapse triggers. A mindset shift sets the foundation for lasting recovery. Instead of just aiming for short-term abstinence, you focus on building a sustainable, fulfilling life without the need for substances.
Dethroning the dragon of addiction is a metaphorical concept of overcoming addiction by shifting your mindset and taking control over the powerful influence of the addiction, or the “dragon.” Here are some strategies that can help change your mindset and aid in addiction recovery:
This is the starting point. Recognizing that you have an addiction and admitting it to yourself is crucial. Denial can be a significant barrier in the recovery process, so being honest with yourself is the foundation for change.
Learn about addiction as a medical condition rather than a personal failure. Understand the brain’s reward system, the impact of substances, and how addiction alters brain chemistry. This knowledge provides a foundation for recovery.
This mindset shift involves changing how you perceive yourself in relation to the addiction. Instead of feeling helpless and victimized, see yourself as a warrior who is determined to confront and conquer the challenges of addiction.
Engaging with healthcare professionals, therapists, and addiction specialists is a crucial step. They can assess your situation, provide personalized treatment plans, and offer therapy to address both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction.
Setting goals gives you direction and purpose. They can be related to abstinence, personal growth, relationships, or any area of your life that’s affected by addiction. Having clear, achievable goals helps you measure your progress and stay motivated.
Surround yourself with a support network of friends and family or peer support groups. These individuals can offer encouragement, understanding, and accountability as you work toward recovery.
Recognize the situations, places, emotions, or people that trigger your cravings. Developing awareness of these triggers allows you to create a plan to avoid or cope with them effectively.
Learn healthy ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions through holistic and evidence-based therapies. Most treatment facilities offer these treatment options as part of their rehabilitation programs.
Celebrating even the smallest victories reinforces your progress. It could be a week of sobriety, completing a counseling session, or achieving a personal goal. Celebrations boost your morale and remind you of your achievements.
Taking care of your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is fundamental. Adequate sleep, nutrition, mindfulness exercises, and self-compassion contribute to your overall ability to cope with stress and triggers.
Recovery is a lifelong journey. Even during tough times, remind yourself why you started and how far you’ve come. Persistence and commitment are essential to overcoming challenges along the way.
Ultimately, changing our perspective on addiction and seeking professional help paves the way for transformation, personal growth, and a renewed sense of purpose. It enables you to break free from the shackles of addiction and rediscover a life filled with hope, health, and fulfillment. The path to dethroning the dragon of addiction is challenging, but with the right strategies and support, it is a path that leads to recovery and a brighter future.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, contact a healthcare professional, counselor, rehabilitation center, or addiction support helpline for guidance, assistance, and resources.
One of the best ways to look at drug addiction is to think of it as an uninvited guest. No one wants a substance use disorder to come into their lives and settle in for an extended stay. No one desires this any more than they would like to have diabetes, heart condition, or any other serious health issue. But addiction, nonetheless, imposes its presence, gradually making itself at home and overstaying its welcome, refusing to leave even when the negative consequences become apparent.
Comparable to an uninvited guest who overstays their welcome, addiction’s entry is unassuming, but its effects are far-reaching and damaging. Let’s delve into how drug addiction slips into your life, disrupts your peace, and why evicting this invisible enemy often requires professional help.
Substance abuse sometimes enters one’s life like an uninvited guest. Other times, it’s invited by one and unwanted by another (family members, spouses, etc.). Either way, the initial encounter often takes the form of curiosity or experimentation.
An individual may try a substance once to see what it’s like—much like they’d entertain a guest for a brief moment out of politeness. The initial encounter may not immediately raise alarm bells. However, this phase marks the beginning of a journey that can lead to hidden consequences.
This stage is marked by the brain’s response to the addictive substance or behavior, where the initial curiosity or experimentation gives way to a heightened sense of pleasure and comfort. It can be likened to when an uninvited guest feels at ease and gradually becomes more comfortable in their surroundings.
Alcohol or drug use activates the brain’s reward system, releasing neurotransmitters like dopamine that create pleasure and euphoria. Just as the uninvited guest appreciates the comforts of their new surroundings, the brain starts associating the substance or behavior with a pleasurable experience.
As the brain experiences the surge of pleasure from the substance or behavior, it reinforces one’s inclination to repeat the action. This reinforcement parallels the process of a guest finding specific amenities in their host’s house that make them want to stay longer. The brain begins to form connections between the stimulus (the addictive substance or behavior) and the pleasurable feelings, leading to a desire to repeat the experience.
At this point, the individual starts to use the addictive substance or engage in the behavior more frequently. The pleasurable sensations felt during the initial encounters become a sought-after source of comfort, leading to an increased desire to recreate those feelings.
The guest-turned-intruder’s presence becomes more noticeable as the addiction disrupts an individual’s life. What was once an occasional indulgence becomes a more frequent occurrence. The substance or behavior is no longer a choice but a compelling need. Responsibilities and relationships become overlooked or compromised as the individual’s attention becomes increasingly consumed by destructive habits.
As the uninvited guest takes over, addiction tightens its grip. Just as the guest starts dictating the household’s schedule, addiction dictates the individual’s life. The regular dose of pleasure the brain receives from the addictive substance or behavior creates a reliance that’s difficult to break. One may try to quit or reduce their addictive behavior, but withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and deeply ingrained patterns can make this a daunting task.
Some uninvited guests might promise to leave but then linger longer. And that’s similar to what happens when one is in pursuit of breaking the cycle of addiction. They might successfully abstain for a period, but the allure of the addictive substance or behavior and triggers like stress or social situations can lead them back into old habits. These relapses can be discouraging and make breaking free even more challenging.
The rewiring of the brain caused by addiction makes it extremely difficult to quit without professional help. Addiction affects multiple aspects of a person’s life, from brain chemistry to behavior, emotions, and decision-making. Seeking assistance from addiction specialists and professionals can help understand these changes, develop effective strategies, and provide the necessary support to reclaim one’s life from the grip of addiction.
The struggle to break free from addiction echoes the challenge of convincing an unwelcome guest to leave. Despite the individual’s sincere attempts, addiction often clings tenaciously, leading to cycles of relapse and self-criticism. Experts use different treatment options that might involve a combination of therapies and medications to help treat addiction. These may include:
Behavioral therapies are evidence-based approaches that modify addiction-related behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. These therapies address the psychological aspects of addiction and help individuals develop healthier coping strategies. Examples of behavioral therapies include:
MAT combines medication with behavioral therapy to treat substance use disorders. Medications like Methadone, Buprenorphine, Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram help manage withdrawal symptoms, reduce cravings, and stabilize brain chemistry. MAT is particularly effective for opioid and alcohol addiction.
Addiction affects not only the individual but also their loved ones. Family therapy involves the family members in the treatment process to address interpersonal dynamics, communication, and support systems.
Holistic treatments consider the individual as a whole, focusing on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. These approaches complement traditional therapies and promote overall health, and include:
The road to recovery is characterized by rediscovery, growth, and renewal. Much like reclaiming a space after the departure of an unwanted guest, individuals in this phase work on rebuilding their lives by joining support groups, nurturing relationships, embracing healthier habits, and creating a future filled with positivity and meaning. The process involves personal development, self-compassion, and a commitment to a life free from the shadow of addiction, demonstrating the resilience and strength of the human spirit in overcoming challenges.
If you or someone you know is struggling with drug use, contact a healthcare professional, counselor, rehabilitation center, or addiction support helpline for guidance, assistance, and resources.
Substance abuse changes how your brain, body, and central nervous system work. When you decide to stop using substances, it can trigger various withdrawal symptoms, and anxiety is a common one.
Anxiety is a natural stress response and often manifests as feelings of unease, fear, or worry. The intensity of anxiety can vary depending on factors like the type of substance used, the duration and severity of use, and individual differences in how the body and brain respond to withdrawal.
Withdrawal occurs when someone stops using a substance they have become dependent on, and during this period, anxiety symptoms can intensify. This happens due to chemical imbalances in the brain and the body adjusting to functioning without the substance.
When you become dependent on a substance, your brain and body adapt to the presence of the substance, leading to changes in neurotransmitter levels and neural pathways. When the substance is suddenly removed, the brain and body need time to readjust to the absence of the substance. This can cause fluctuations in neurotransmitter levels, particularly those related to mood regulation, leading to increased anxiety.
Withdrawal-related anxiety disorder can manifest in both physical and psychological symptoms.
Coping with withdrawal anxiety is crucial for a smoother recovery. Here are some strategies to help manage anxiety during withdrawal:
Be aware of what triggers your anxiety and learn effective coping strategies so you can take proactive steps to manage anxiety during withdrawal and promote a smoother recovery.
Once you have identified your triggers, explore these coping strategies to determine what works best for you.
Relaxation exercises are highly effective in treating anxiety. Studies show that multiple forms of relaxation training can help individuals reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being. Try:
It’s tough to navigate recovery alone. You need all the support you can get. Take advantage of the following:
Rest is an essential aspect of managing anxiety during withdrawal. Anxiety symptoms can worsen when your body and mind are tired – and the reverse is also true. Here are a few things to try out:
If you are experiencing severe anxiety or other distressing symptoms during withdrawal, it’s best to seek professional help from a healthcare provider or addiction specialist. They can provide appropriate support, guidance, and treatment options to manage anxiety symptoms effectively. In most cases, this will include:
Facing anxiety during withdrawal can be challenging. Know you’re not weak – it is often challenging for most people. But you will not regret your decision once the withdrawal is over. You’ll enjoy a happier, healthier, and more productive life.
Drug testing has become a standard practice for many employers. Most of them perform drug screenings to ensure workplace safety, maintain a drug-free workplace, and, in some cases, comply with legal requirements.
While a drug screen can be an essential tool for employers to maintain workplace safety and productivity, it can also be a barrier for those in recovery from addiction. For these individuals, the fear of failing a drug test can discourage them from seeking employment that requires drug screening. And with recent layoffs and scarce employment opportunities, the pressure to find and maintain a job can be even more intense.
Luckily, many employment opportunities don’t require drug screenings. These include jobs in the following fields:
While many other options exist, these job fields are the most likely to hire without drug tests. In fact, less than 4% of candidates drug test for this position. The reason is such jobs have minimal workplace risk and can be executed with some level of independence. Generally, these jobs need self-discipline, creativity, unique skill sets, and independence.
If you’re unemployed and looking for regular jobs, getting yourself off drugs is your best bet. This included marijuana in any form. Despite legalization, some employers might still want to test for THC. Weed testing detects the presence of the concentration of THC in your body. When you stay off drugs, you won’t have to limit your chances to companies that perform these screening tests. You can be free to find a job you love.
Here’s a list of companies that don’t drug test. What’s fascinating is that most of them are arguably the most successful companies.
This article will explore some of these job options at different levels. We’ll rank them from the highest-paying jobs to the least-paying ones based on the average annual salary. Note that these can also be an ideal side hassle if you’re an artist looking for work to supplement your art and relieve the stress of not having enough money.
Average annual salary of $31,000 (source)
A cashier is an entry-level job that involves handling transactions, processing payments, and providing customer service. As a cashier, you’ll be responsible for scanning items, totaling purchase costs, and collecting customer payments. You may also assist customers with questions and help resolve any purchase issues. Cashiers need to have basic math skills, good customer service skills, and be comfortable working with a cash register or point-of-sale system.
Average annual salary of $23,000
Your work as a dog walker will involve providing exercise, companionship, and ensuring their safety. You may work independently or for a pet care service company. This job typically requires a love for dogs, the ability to handle multiple dogs at once, and the physical ability to walk long distances. Dog walkers should also have good communication skills to interact with pet owners and knowledge of primary pet care, such as feeding, administering medication, and managing behavior.
Average annual salary of $23,000
Housekeeping mainly revolves around cleaning private residences or commercial properties, including hotels, resorts, private homes, and commercial buildings. Your work will typically involve vacuuming, dusting, cleaning bathrooms, changing linens, and doing laundry. As a housekeeper, you’ll need to have good attention to detail, the ability to work independently, and be physically able to perform the necessary cleaning tasks.
Average annual salary of $99,000
Your job as a real estate agent is to help people buy, sell, and rent properties. You’ll need to have good communication and sales skills, as well as knowledge of the local real estate market.
Average annual salary of $82,000
As a general manager, you’ll be responsible for overseeing the operations of a business or organization. This can include managing employees, creating budgets, and developing strategies to increase profitability.
Average annual salary of $63,000
As a film producer, you’ll be involved in creating a movie or TV show, from developing the concept to hiring actors and crew members to oversee the post-production process.
Average annual salary of $48,525
Florists create and sell floral arrangements for various occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and special events. You’ll need to have a good eye for design and knowledge of different types of flowers.
Average annual salary of $54,000
Interior designers work with clients to create functional and aesthetically pleasing spaces for homes, offices, and other buildings. You’ll need to have a good eye for design and be able to work within a client’s budget.
Average annual salary of $44,000
As a chef, you’ll create menus, prepare food, and manage kitchen staff. Therefore, you should have a passion for food, good cooking skills, and the ability to manage a busy kitchen environment.
Average annual salary of $52,000
Your job as a journalist is to research and report on news and current events. This can include writing articles, conducting interviews, and investigating stories.
Average annual salary of $38,894
Personal trainers create personalized workout plans for clients and provide guidance and motivation to help them reach their fitness goals.
Average annual salary of $31,000
Cosmetologists provide various beauty services to clients, such as hair styling, makeup application, and nail care.
Average annual salary of $49,000
Photographers capture images for various purposes, such as weddings, events, and commercial campaigns. You’ll need to have a good eye for composition and be skilled in using photography equipment.
Average annual salary of $27,386
Your job as a dog trainer is to train dogs and their owners to improve behavior and obedience. Essential skills for a dog trainer include a good understanding of dog behavior and the ability to communicate with owners.
Average annual salary of $89,000
Mobile application developers create, design, and develop smartphone, tablet, and mobile device applications. You would typically work to create user-friendly, efficient, and visually appealing apps that meet the needs of clients and users.
Average annual salary of $73,000
IT consultants provide advice and support to businesses and organizations in various areas of technology, such as software development, cybersecurity, network design, and information management. You would assess their needs, recommend solutions, and assist with implementation and training to help them achieve their technological goals.
Average annual salary of $71,000
Computer animators use specialized software to create digital images and animations for various media, including films, video games, and television shows. In a work setup, you’ll work with a team of animators and other artists to bring characters, objects, and environments to life using modeling, rigging, and texturing techniques.
Average annual salary of $66,000
Computer programmers write and test codes for software applications and systems. Your work will involve designing, developing, and troubleshooting software to ensure that it meets the needs of clients and users.
Average annual salary of $57,000
Copywriters and bloggers create written content for various mediums, such as books, articles, websites, and social media. You would research and write about various topics, often working with editors and other writers to refine your work and ensure that it meets the needs of clients and readers.
Average annual salary of $45,000
Graphic designers build visual designs and concepts for various media, such as advertising, branding, websites, and print materials. Your work is to create designs that communicate ideas, messages, and identities effectively.
Drug testing is not a requirement for all jobs. But specific industries have made it a standard practice to ensure safety and productivity. Some typical jobs that routinely drug test include federal jobs, military positions, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, transportation workers, construction workers, aerospace and defense workers, and educators.
Over the years, much progress has been made in reducing the stigma surrounding certain medical conditions, such as HIV and cancer. However, the same cannot be said for substance use disorders. Those struggling with addiction often face blame and shame for their condition, which can lead to a lack of understanding, support, and effective treatment. Overcoming addiction stigma is crucial to helping people get the help they so desperately need.
Despite the recognition of addiction as a disease, many individuals still view it as a personal choice or moral failure. In fact, research shows that addiction is more highly stigmatized than other health issues like mental illness. In fact:
These statistics highlight the extent of stigma and discrimination those struggling with substance abuse face. The negative attitudes and beliefs towards people with substance use disorders are deeply ingrained in society and often result in individuals facing isolation, shame, and difficulty accessing support and treatment. And when the country is waging war on drugs due to the opioid crisis, it is more important than ever to address the stigma and discrimination towards people struggling with substance abuse.
Stigma increases the risk of opioid overdose cases by discouraging people from seeking help due to fear of rejection. It can also prevent people in recovery from being able to fully reintegrate into society, impacting their employment, housing, and social opportunities. It is important to challenge these stigmatizing beliefs and attitudes toward addiction and promote empathy, understanding, and support for those struggling with addiction. Ending stigma is the best way to save lives.
Stigma refers to negative attitudes, beliefs, and stereotypes that are attached to individuals or groups based on certain characteristics or circumstances, such as addiction. Stigma can create a barrier for individuals seeking help or support and exacerbate feelings of shame, guilt, low self-worth, and isolation.
According to the 2021 survey by NSDUH, 40.7 million adults with substance use disorders did not get treatment at a specialty facility. Of this number, 39.5 million (96.8%) didn’t feel like they needed treatment, and 837,000 (2.1%) believed they needed care but didn’t try to get treatment.
Some examples of stigma towards those with addiction include:
Stigma related to heavy drinking and illegal drug use can come from various sources, including primary care physicians, friends, family, employers, media, and society. The justice system also contributes to stigma because it incarcerates those with addiction instead of helping them seek treatment.
Various resources are available for people struggling with addiction, including support groups like Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), which offer a community of peers who understand the challenges of addiction. You can also join inpatient or outpatient programs for a safe and supportive environment that allows you to focus on your recovery. Treatment centers provide a range of treatment options that include:
Remember that recovery is a journey, and it is important to be patient and kind to yourself along the way. You can overcome addiction and lead a healthy and fulfilling life with the right support and resources. Don’t suffer in silence; reach out for help today.
Harm reduction is a public health approach that aims to reduce the harms associated with drug or alcohol use, even if the individual is not yet ready to quit. Harm reduction strategies can include safe injection sites, needle exchange programs, and overdose prevention initiatives. Harm reduction efforts can help individuals manage the risks associated with drug or alcohol use and provide a supportive and non-judgmental approach to addiction.
If you are struggling with addiction, knowing that you are not alone is important. Addiction is a common issue that affects millions of people around the world. While it may feel like you are the only one dealing with this problem, many others are also struggling and seeking help. By reaching out for help, you can connect with others who understand what you are going through and provide you with support and encouragement.
Addiction is a complex disorder that results from a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. The role of genetics in addiction has been widely studied over the last few decades, and research has shown that certain genetic factors contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to addiction.
One of the most studied genetic factors in addiction is the presence of specific variations in genes that encode proteins involved in the brain’s reward system, such as dopamine and serotonin receptors. These variations may affect how these proteins function, leading to alterations in the brain’s reward circuitry, which can result in addiction. Other genes linked to addiction include those involved in stress response, impulse control, and decision-making.
For example, researchers have identified specific genes that may influence an individual’s response to drugs and alcohol, including genes that affect the metabolism of drugs, the neurotransmitter systems involved in reward and pleasure, and the stress response system. And while research in this area is still ongoing, some genes linked to addiction or protection against addiction include:
Moreover, family studies that include siblings, fraternal twins, identical twins, and adoptees suggest that as much as 50% of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs depends on their genetic makeup.
Research on the human genome reveals that humans are 99.9% identical on a genetic level. But the 0.1% variation is critical as it’s responsible for the differences in their sequence of DNA bases. These differences contribute to visible variations like hair color and height and invisible traits like protection from or increased risk for diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and addiction.
Genetics is just one factor that contributes to addiction, and the influence of genetic factors can vary depending on an individual’s environment and life experiences. Furthermore, not everyone with a family history of addiction will develop substance abuse disorder. People without genetic risk factors still have a risk of developing an addiction. Here are some other factors that contribute to addiction:
Genetic research has provided a better understanding of the complex interplay between genes and diseases like addiction. Today, mutations like BRCA 1 and 2 that predispose patients to a high risk of ovarian and breast cancer serve as crucial medical tools in assessing one’s risk of severe diseases. Researchers can now unravel the genetics of single-gene disorders like breast/ovarian cancer, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, and addiction.
Understanding the genetic basis of addiction makes it easier to identify individuals who are more susceptible to addiction. By using genetic testing to identify these variations, healthcare providers can better evaluate a person’s unique addiction risks. But this is an area that needs more research.
In addition to identifying individuals who are more susceptible to addiction, the knowledge of genetics can also inform addiction treatment approaches through pharmacogenetics. Pharmacogenetics studies how an individual’s genetic makeup affects their response to medications. By tailoring addiction medications to an individual’s genetic makeup, healthcare providers can improve treatment efficacy and reduce the risk of adverse side effects.
If you have a genetic predisposition to addiction, taking proactive steps to manage your risk and prevent addiction is essential. Here are some things you can do:
Remember that having a genetic predisposition to addiction does not mean that you will automatically develop an addiction. Taking proactive steps to manage your risk and getting help if needed can reduce your chances of addiction and help you live a healthy, fulfilling life.
Mental health and addiction issues often go hand in hand, and many people suffer from both. When you have a mental health disorder and substance use disorder at the same time, it is referred to as co-occurring disorders. Co-occurring conditions can be very difficult to manage, as each disorder often significantly impacts the other.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration estimates that about 9.2 million adults in the United States have a co-occurring disorder. Yet, only 7% of those individuals receive treatment for both issues. A whopping 60% of individuals with co-occurring disorders do not receive treatment for either issue. This is a growing concern when it comes to overall public health.
Co-occurring disorders, also known as dual diagnosis or comorbidity, refer to the simultaneous presence of a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder in an individual. This means that an individual may struggle with drug addiction and an underlying mental health condition such as bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, trauma, etc.
Research has shown that people with mental health disorders are more likely to develop a substance use disorder, and people with substance use disorders are more likely to develop a mental health disorder. In fact, roughly about 50% of people with severe mental illnesses are affected by substance abuse and vice versa. This is because individuals may turn to substances as a form of self-medication to cope with their mental health disorder symptoms. Substance use may also worsen existing mental health symptoms or lead to new mental health problems.
Self-medication is one of the main issues surrounding co-occurring disorders. People self-medicate to attempt to numb or cope with the symptoms of their mental health disorder, such as feelings of sadness or worthlessness. However, this is a risk factor for substance abuse and addiction.
Self-medication can also mask the underlying mental health issue, making it difficult for individuals to access the appropriate mental health services. This further perpetuates the cycle of substance abuse, making it even harder for individuals to break free from addiction.
The signs and symptoms of a co-occurring disorder vary depending on the abused substance and mental condition. For example, marijuana abuse and depression could look very different from the signs of alcohol abuse and schizophrenia.
That said, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help determine if you or a loved one may be struggling with comorbidity:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a dual diagnosis and should consider seeking professional help.
Co-occurring disorders can be challenging to diagnose and treat because the symptoms of the mental health disorder and the addiction tend to overlap. This makes it difficult to determine which condition is causing which symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms might vary in severity, making a patient receive treatment for one disorder while the other disorder remains untreated. People may also be less likely to seek help if they struggle simultaneously with both issues.
But the good thing is that many treatment facilities and professionals (like psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists) specialize in treating comorbid conditions. These healthcare professionals are experienced in diagnosing and treating substance use and mental health disorders. They will perform a comprehensive assessment that includes physical exams, psychological evaluations, mental health screenings, and substance use assessments to determine the primary and contributing conditions.
Once a dual diagnosis is established, the healthcare provider will create a treatment plan that integrates both mental health and substance abuse treatment co-currently. Addressing these comorbid disorders at the same time ensures the best outcome.
With integrated treatment plans, the same practitioner offers both substance and mental health interventions in an integrated manner. The goal is to treat the person as a ‘whole,’ not just two separate issues. This treatment addresses the underlying causes of addiction, such as depression and anxiety, while providing strategies to help deal with cravings and overcome the physical aspects of addiction.
Integrated treatment often involves specialized therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), motivational therapy, and trauma-informed psychotherapy. Each type of therapy helps address the underlying issues contributing to addiction while promoting healthy coping skills and emotional regulation. These therapies can be offered in individual or group settings.
According to SAMHSA, co-occurring disorders are treated in a stage-wise fashion with different services provided at different stages: engagement, persuasion, active treatment, and relapse prevention. At each stage, a team of professionals provides services that address mental health and substance use disorder.
After treatment, the patient is encouraged to attend support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to maintain sobriety. Additionally, they are encouraged to use the skills and techniques they learned in therapy, such as mindfulness and stress management, to help them cope with triggers and handle cravings.
Co-occurring disorders are complex conditions that require integrated and comprehensive health services. With the right combination of therapies, medications, and peer support, individuals can recover from mental health disorders and addiction.
Methadone has been used to treat people with extreme pain for decades and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat opioid addiction. According to SAMHSA, methadone can help people with opioid use disorder reduce their cravings and withdrawal symptoms, stay in treatment longer than those who are not taking it, and lower their chances of using illegal opioids.
However, some are still skeptical of its effectiveness in treating opioid addiction, citing the potential for misuse and abuse. They think that methadone can quickly become a replacement addiction and that it can still be used to get high. But proponents, who include top addiction professionals, argue broader use of methadone could help address the current opiate overdose epidemic in the US. They advocate for easier access to methadone treatment for opioid addiction, citing its potential benefits in helping people manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
This article will explore both sides of the argument and discuss the risks and benefits of using methadone as an addiction treatment.
Methadone is a powerful drug used for pain relief and opioid use disorders. It is a synthetic opioid, but unlike other opioids, it has been approved by the FDA to treat opioid addiction. It is one of the three medications approved in the US for opioid addiction treatment.
The drug works by binding to and blocking the opioid receptors in the brain, thus reducing cravings and preventing withdrawal symptoms. It is typically administered once a day at room temperature, though some people require more frequent doses. Methadone is available in liquid, powder, and tablet forms.
Methadone is extraordinarily effective if the standards of any epidemic are considered. A study found that those receiving the drug were 59% less likely to die of an overdose than those who did not receive it.
Methadone is used as part of a treatment program for opioid use disorder. Those receiving the drug to treat opioid addiction must receive it under the care of a qualified healthcare provider.
This provider prescribes the medication and supervises its use. After a period of stability, some people may be able to take the medication home and administer it themselves. However, this is an option only after they’ve gone through frequent tests and counseling sessions.
The duration of methadone treatment varies depending on the individual and the severity of their addiction. But the National Institute on Health recommends a minimum of 12 months. Some patients may need long-term maintenance. But those who are getting off the drug should work with their healthcare provider to gradually taper off the medication to avoid any life-threatening methadone withdrawal symptoms.
Methadone has long been controversial in the addiction treatment world. While advocates are proposing a significant expansion in access to the drug, the providers of methadone for addiction treatment are warning that caution should be used when prescribing the medication.
The primary concern for those who oppose expanded access to methadone is its potential for misuse and abuse. While methadone is effective for treating opioid addiction, allowing doctors to prescribe it to anyone could lead to low-quality care, abuse, and overdose on methadone itself.
At the moment, patients need to visit a methadone clinic each day for a single dose. They also need to be a part of an opioid treatment program and go through frequent drug tests, take part in counseling sessions, and prove that they’ve had opioid addiction for over a year.
Opponents of expansion strongly believe it’s essential that methadone treatment is accompanied by counseling and other services that opioid-trained professionals are qualified to offer. They also point to worrying statistics about methadone-related overdose. A recent estimate by NIDA found that methadone is involved in 3% of opioid-related overdoses.
On the other hand, advocates argue that methadone can be prescribed responsibly, with adequate monitoring and oversight. They point out that the benefits of broader access to methadone outweigh the potential risks. And that the risk of overdose is too high and that methadone can help treat addiction, reduce cravings and prevent long-term health problems caused by opioid addiction. According to the proponents, the opioid crisis has reached a level where any measure taken to reduce the number of overdoses is worth exploring.
Those in favor of expansion don’t see why increasing access should be a problem considering any healthcare provider can prescribe methadone for chronic pain treatment. They argue that strict regulation is only imposed on addiction treatment, which makes little sense and is a sign of the discrimination and stigma faced by OUD patients. Currently, no other drug is as restricted for approved use (opioid addiction), yet it has few restrictions when prescribed for pain management.
It is worth noting there have been fewer methadone-related deaths even after significant restrictions were lifted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The lift allowed “stable” patients to bring home their weeks’ worth of methadone doses instead of going to a clinic every day for an amount.
Methadone is a safe and effective treatment when taken as prescribed. Patients should work closely with their healthcare provider to find the correct dose and frequency of administration that works for them. Patients should also take precautions when taking methadone, such as:
Some common side effects of methadone include:
Methadone is generally considered safe to use during pregnancy. However, it will likely cause harmful side effects to a developing fetus and should only be used when the benefits outweigh the risks. Breastfeeding women should consult their doctor before taking methadone, as it can be passed to the infant through breast milk.
For people with opioid addiction, many facilities offer comprehensive drug addiction treatment programs. These treatment plans include counseling, support groups, medical monitoring, and other therapies designed to help patients gain control of their addiction and begin the journey toward recovery.
The number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has skyrocketed in recent years, with opioids leading the way as one of the most deadly and addictive substances. Many even consider it a drug overdose epidemic. According to the CDC, there were approximately 107,000 overdose deaths in 2021. In the same year, SAMSHA identified 141,529 unweighted drug-related ER visits from its analysis of 52 hospitals.
If these numbers are anything to go by, it’s evident that addiction is a major problem in the US.
And yet, despite this alarming trend, many US hospitals and emergency departments lack dedicated addiction specialists who can help those suffering from substance or opioid use disorder. This is a glaring omission, especially given how critical an early intervention can be for someone in the throes of addiction.
Without access to addiction specialists on staff, people with substance abuse problems may not get the help they need at a crucial juncture. As a result, they may go through multiple hospitals or ER visits. A lucky few will be connected with a treatment facility while they’re still at the hospital.
For everyone else, they walk out with a phone number to call, or often, nothing at all. Once they leave, many of these people go back to their old habits and never make the effort to call the number they’ve been given.
There’s a clear need for hospitals to do better when it comes to addiction treatment. So why is it that so many don’t have addiction specialists on staff?
If you go to a hospital with a kidney problem, you’ll likely be seen by a nephrologist. If you have a heart condition, you’ll be seen by a cardiologist. But if you’re struggling with addiction, chances are you won’t see an addiction specialist.
Only a few hospitals have someone who specializes in addiction medicine on staff. A majority of hospitals focus on primary care. Addiction is left untreated.
This is a problem because addiction is a disease requiring specialized care. Without access to an addiction specialist in ERs, people with substance use disorder are often left at the mercy of whoever happens to be on call. This could be a general practitioner, an ER doctor, or even a social worker, most of whom have very little training in physiology, medications, and other aspects of treatment.
For years, addiction prevention and treatment services have been delivered separately from other general and mental health care services. Drug and alcohol abuse has traditionally been viewed as a criminal or social problem. As such, prevention services were not typically considered a responsibility of health care systems. For this reason, those struggling with substance use disorders have had access to only a limited range of treatment options that were generally not covered by insurance.
In a nutshell, most hospitals don’t have specialists because:
For a long time, addiction has not been seen as a medical problem but rather a social or psychological one. Some medical staff still see it as a moral issue and not something that requires formal medical treatment. This attitude can make it hard to justify dedicating staff and resources to addiction treatment.
Additionally, many hospitals are already understaffed and overstretched, so it could be difficult to add another specialist.
And finally, there’s the question of reimbursement. Addiction treatment is notoriously underfunded, and many insurance companies don’t cover the cost of specialized care. Hospitals can find it hard to recoup the cost of hiring an addiction specialist.
NPR shared a story of a 63-year-old heroin addict, Marie, who was admitted to Salem Hospital, north of Boston, for COPD. The next day, she was told she was ready for discharge after the doctor had confirmed that her oxygen levels were good. But the woman was experiencing heavy withdrawal symptoms and could not move. She didn’t want to leave the hospital but felt like she had no choice.
Sadly, most hospitals would still let her go despite her pain and condition. Sometimes, she’ll be issued a list of detox programs or rehab centers to call. But more likely, she’ll be sent on her way with no real plan or hope for recovery.
This is a typical story of what’s happening in many US hospitals. Marie was lucky to have found a doctor who administered her some medications that helped. But every day, people with addiction walk into ERs across the country only to be discharged without real help or support.
This is dangerous because it increases the likelihood of patients relapsing and overdosing. In fact, research shows that patients have a higher chance of overdosing within a few days or weeks of being discharged from the hospital.
An addiction specialist is a medical professional specifically trained to diagnose and treat patients with substance use disorders. These specialists can provide critical support to patients who walk into the ER for various reasons but have an underlying addiction problem. Salem Hospital is one of the few hospitals that has succeeded in naming addiction as a specialty and hiring people with training in the disease.
And despite reservations from some staff, the addiction specialists get overwhelmed many days with referrals – a clear sign of the need for their services. The trend is similar in five other Massachusetts hospitals that added addiction specialists in the last three years. These facilities are funded by HEALing Communities study. Addiction specialists can help patients in several ways, including:
Addiction specialists are vital in helping patients get the treatment they need. They can also refer them to a reputable treatment facility for specialized care. Hospitals can provide a much-needed service to their communities by having these professionals on staff.
According to the National Institutes of Health, effective integration of addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery solution across healthcare systems can help address drug abuse and related issues. This is also the most promising way to improve access to and quality of treatment.