What happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol

The capacity of alcohol to affect the human body is significant, and there are many cases where individuals with alcohol use disorders have ended up severely ill or even dead from drinking. Many people might be surprised, however, to learn that their bodies can actually bounce back fairly quickly once they stop drinking. While the early stages of recovery can be a rough ride, particularly for people who have formed chemical dependencies, getting well is very possible. From cognitive issues to one’s ability to sleep, improvements in well-being set in faster than you might guess.

The Effects of Alcohol

Before looking at what happens once a person chooses to stop drinking, it’s important to understand what the starting point in the treatment and recovery process is. To accomplish this, you should consider what the effects of alcohol consumption, especially sustained drinking over many years, can be. Alcohol has a documented history of causing many terrifying medical conditions, including:

  • Impairments in thinking, risk-assessment skills and physical coordination
  • Organ failure
  • Chemical dependency
  • Fluctuations in body chemistry, particularly metabolization
  • Brain shrinkage
  • Psychosis

As is the case with many substances that lead to addiction patterns, alcohol also has a strong influence on how dopamine is released in the human body. Dopamine is a neuroreceptor that plays an essential role in how the human brain constructs its sense of reward from different activities. When operating in a healthy manner, this reward system encourages humans to eat, hydrate and have sex.

Dopamine also encourages us to try things we found pleasurable again, and that’s where it can play an insidious role in the cycle of addiction. When a person goes into the alcohol detox process, the loss of the dopamine release can give rise to cravings for whatever triggered it. In this case, when people stop drinking, they can develop a strong urge to start drinking again. This addictive cycle also can be reinforced by drinking-related activities, such as dancing and socializing at the bar. Consequently, people often end up feeling empty and unrewarded when they begin the treatment process.

When You Stop Drinking: The First Hour

About an hour after you stop drinking, your body will respond by initiating its built-in alcohol detox system. The liver goes to work trying to filter out what it perceives to be a poison from your bloodstream. At the same time, the pancreas will start generating insulin, a process that leads to carb cravings even though the body may not be biologically hungry.

If you come from a genetic group that’s prone to the alcohol flush reaction, you’ll begin to see indications of the reaction during the first hour. These can include:

  • Inflammation of membranes inside the nose
  • A reddening of the skin
  • Increased symptoms for people with asthma

While we think of alcohol as making people tired, it actually serves as a sleep disrupter. The perception of drowsiness from alcohol consumption derives from the depressing effects it has on the nervous system. In point of fact, alcohol can be downright lethal during this period as cardiac and respiratory functions can become dangerously depressed.

The Next Two Days

At about the 12-hour mark following the end of a drinking session, you’ll begin to experience the effects of a hangover, especially if you did not make much effort to hydrate during your drinking episode and right after. Your body will ride up and down through shifts in glycemic levels, so you should definitely make an effort to have water nearby to mitigate the effects of a hangover.

It will take about 48 hours for your body to fully complete its alcohol detox effort. Some sense of grogginess may stick with you during this period.

One sign that someone may have an alcohol dependency problem will emerge about 10 hours after they’ve had their last drink. They may experience a combination of nausea, retching and sweating. If you go through this process, it will peak by 30 hours from when you stop drinking, and it should largely subside within 50 hours. Those suffering from severe mental problems arising from an alcohol use disorder may experience visual or auditory hallucinations that last as long as six days.

72 Hours Later

If you don’t have a chemical dependency on alcohol, this is the point at which your body will begin to feel significantly better. Carb cravings should now subside, and you’ll likely feel physical and mental energy returning.

For people who have developed long-term substance use disorders, this is where an alcohol detox can get downright scary. Around 72 hours since the last drink, an individual may develop delirium tremens, what are frequently called the DTs. This can lead to greater confusion rather than the improved mental function a non-addict might experience. At this point, a host of withdrawal symptoms can occur, including:

  • Seizures
  • Convulsions
  • Delusions
  • Ketoacidosis
  • Hyperpyrexia

In extreme instances, a person may even undergo full cardiac or respiratory failure. This can result in death. Not surprisingly, there is a high risk of hospitalization under these circumstances.

If you’re worried that your alcohol detox efforts might lead to withdrawal symptoms, you can discuss your desire to stop drinking with a qualified professional. If necessary, you can be given drugs to encourage the process. However, it’s wise to be aware that one of the most common drugs prescribed, benzodiazepine, has its own withdrawal risks; it has been documented to have serious interactions with other medications, especially antidepressants.

One Week

At this stage, if you’re not exhibiting withdrawal symptoms, your body should begin to show significant indications of bouncing back. Thanks to the fact that you’ll be sleeping better, you should notice a great deal more physical and mental energy. Alcohol also has negative effects on the skin, and these will begin to clear up once a person has quit drinking for more than a week. If you’re worried about dry skin, rosacea or dandruff, it’s very possible that cutting alcohol out of your diet may lead to a marked improvement in your appearance.

One Month

By the time it has been a month since your last drink, internal organs in your body will begin to exhibit signs of recovery. Liver fat levels should drop by about 15 percent, leading to a visible reduction in belly fat and an improvement in your body’s capacity to filter out toxic materials, including alcohol. You’ll also continue to notice improvements in the appearance of your skin.

One Year

The reduction of belly fat levels will continue for the whole year after you stop drinking, and you may lose more than 10 pounds during the process. Internal organs will also continue their recovery process.

It’s believed that the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the medulla are all adversely affected by alcohol consumption, and they should all bounce back during this period. There’s some evidence that the adverse effects on them may play a role in the increased cancer risks that are associated with heavy drinking. Consequently, if you can stop drinking for one year, you’ll face a lowered chance of developing several types of cancers, especially ones associated with the digestive tracts, such as oral, colon and rectal cancers.

Beginning the Recovery Process

One of the trickiest aspects of a recovery effort is that the ability of some people to quit cold turkey is high while others will struggle to kick a drinking habit. Amazingly, about 60 to 80 percent of people who appear to have serious substance use disorders during their teens and 20s will just quit having problems because they get too old to indulge in dangerous drinking behaviors by the time they hit their 30s. On the downside, the remaining 20 to 40 percent of the population who won’t be able to casually stop drinking or just age out of it are much more likely to require assistance from professionals within a structured treatment program.

A study of what leads to this split among people who show signs of addiction indicated that the susceptibility of an individual to addiction is roughly 60 percent genetic. On the flip side, the ability to kick a habit appeared to be 54 percent genetic. There will be those who never get addicted, and there will be those who never have trouble quitting cold turkey. Also, there will be drinkers who can easily develop substance use disorders and may struggle mightily to stop.

In light of the potentially lethal effects of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, it’s advised that anyone who is worried that they might face a difficult climb when they attempt to stop drinking should look into recovery program options. Proximity to where you live is important, but finding a program that fits your needs is more important. If you’re dealing with a complex set of potential interactions, such as drinking alcohol along with using drugs, you may need to enter a program that’s focused on dual-diagnosis cases. This is particularly important because only a professional can make a determination about whether someone might need treatment with drugs in order to stop drinking.

It may be necessary to take a closer look at mental health concerns as well. For example, research has shown that there’s a genetic propensity for individuals with anxiety disorders to self-medicate by consuming alcohol. Many mental health treatments call for antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications to be prescribed, and there are possibly complex interactions that can occur in those who are being treated for alcohol withdrawal issues. An experienced professional can help you sort out how you might want to move forward with treatment under those circumstances.

You should also try to build up a social support unit. If there’s someone in your family or a close friend you trust to assist you with things like getting to counseling sessions, you should recruit them as an ally in your recovery process. Due to the strong linkage between alcohol and social activities, you may also want to curtail relationships that tend to lead to drinking sessions. For example, rather than meeting friends at a bar and deciding not to order a drink, you could choose to only meet in public places where no alcohol is served.

Given enough time, your body can begin to heal itself once you stop drinking. The recovery process, however, is one that can take months or even years. By far, the most important thing is to keep your focus on trying to get better. Even if you stumble and have a drink, you’ll want to remember what your goal is rather than dwelling on a slip-up. With a commitment to health and wellness, recovery is absolutely possible.

What is Outpatient Rehab

What is outpatient rehabOne of the most difficult challenges a person can face is overcoming addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, you may be looking into the different options available for addiction treatment. Every person is unique, so the circumstances surrounding their substance abuse should be considered when selecting a treatment program.

Since the needs of one individual in addiction recovery are distinct from the needs of another individual, you need to be aware of different treatment approaches before enrolling in an addiction recovery program. The most common types of treatment programs are supervised detoxification, long-term and short-term residential treatment, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient programs and other outpatient services like individual counseling or group therapy sessions. Depending on the severity of your substance abuse and related health conditions, the most effective type of treatment program might be an outpatient program for alcohol and drug treatment.

Outpatient Treatment Program Basics

Outpatient rehab is a non-residential addiction recovery program. Because clients can live at home during treatment, this type of program is perfect for someone who is motivated to get sober but cannot take the time off from work, school or other responsibilities to attend inpatient treatment.

Although outpatient programs give clients more freedom during treatment, these programs can be just as intensive as inpatient treatment as they often require daily sessions with an addiction specialist. The number of hours of attendance required each day and the number of days per week will vary depending on the needs of the individual during each stage of recovery.

The first three months of treatment is the time period in which people in recovery are most likely to relapse. Thus, most outpatient rehab programs last between 30 to 90 days. However, the exact duration of treatment is determined by a client’s unique situation, challenges, and needs.

Elements of Effective Outpatient Treatment

To offer an individual the best possible support for overcoming their addiction to drugs or alcohol, an outpatient rehab program will offer therapy options utilizing evidence-based treatment modalities. Standard outpatient rehab programs include individual counseling sessions, group counseling and therapy, psychoeducational programming, pharmacotherapy and medication management, routine monitoring of illicit drug and alcohol consumption, case management, 24-hour crisis coverage, community-based support groups, medical treatment, psychiatric examinations and psychotherapy for clients with a co-occurring mental health disorders and vocational training and employment services.

Depending on the recovery goals of the client, they may want to explore adjunctive therapies, including acupuncture, art and music therapy, biofeedback therapy for stress reduction, meditation, and other holistic approaches and nutritional guidance. For some, therapeutic recreational events can be a valuable part of treatment because it helps individuals find substance-free activities to replace former substance use.

Both standard treatments and adjunctive therapies may be scheduled on a weekly or even daily basis depending on the needs of the individual.

Dual Diagnosis and Outpatient Treatment

According to SAMHSA’s 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were approximately 7.9 million adults who had co-occurring disorders in 2014. Thus, an important outpatient service to consider is whether a facility offers psychotherapy options for co-occurring mental health disorders. It is estimated that roughly half of people who struggle with addiction are also dealing with a co-occurring mental health disorder. If an individual who is managing both an issue with substance abuse and a co-occurring disorder wants the best possible chance at overcoming addiction, they need a program that includes dual diagnosis support. This type of program will treat both disorders to prevent future relapse in an attempt to self-medicate uncomfortable psychiatric symptoms.

The Ideal Candidate for an Outpatient Treatment Program

When you envision drug rehab, you probably imagine an inpatient program like you see on television or in the movies where you spend an extended period of time away from your daily obligations to treat your addiction in a setting similar to a hospital. While some people need to attend an inpatient program, it may not be a viable or effective model for your personal recovery journey. For some individuals, an outpatient program is an ideal option, offering the flexibility they need to achieve their recovery goals without forgoing their work and personal responsibilities.

What is most convenient for you shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when deciding what type of treatment program to attend. Instead, the most important factors to consider are the severity of your substance abuse and whether you have other related medical issues or psychiatric disorders.

As a spectrum disorder, addiction to alcohol or drugs can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. This means that people have different needs as they work toward sobriety depending on the classification of their symptoms. If a person only has mild or moderate substance abuse symptoms and is seriously committed to the process of recovery, an outpatient program might work best. The very nature of an outpatient drug rehab program involves being allowed to leave the treatment facility on a regular basis, and for this reason, outpatient treatment requires individuals to demonstrate a commitment to managing their own recovery without around-the-clock care.

Those who are dealing with severe substance abuse symptoms may not be suitable candidates for outpatient treatment programs. Because of the high risk of returning to substance abuse, a program that takes place on an inpatient basis may be the best option available. When a person has completed a more intense program, or they have been determined to be stable by the professional conducting supervision during the individual’s detoxification process, an outpatient program may present the best option.

Types of Outpatient Rehab

Depending on your individual circumstances and treatment needs, one type of outpatient drug rehab program may better serve your needs than another. The three most common types of outpatient rehab are intensive outpatient treatment programs, day treatment or partial hospitalization and continuing care groups.


Intensive outpatient programs may be offered during the day or evening to accommodate busy schedules. Those who take part in an intensive outpatient treatment program participate in more frequent meetings at the outset of the program. As time goes by and the person reaches their recovery goals, they will need to attend fewer meetings per week.

Day Treatment or Partial Hospitalization:

A more comprehensive form of outpatient treatment is known as day treatment or partial hospitalization. When a person participates in a day treatment program, they typically spend between five to seven days per week attending scheduled treatment for addiction recovery, but they can leave the premises of the facility during the evenings and any days off. In some instances, a person will begin in the day treatment program and progress to an intensive outpatient program as their needs for addiction recovery treatment evolve.

Continuing Care:

Continuing care groups are also known as aftercare groups. These group counseling sessions typically meet once per week and are facilitated by a licensed professional. Clients can only take part in these groups after successfully completing an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.

Benefits of Outpatient Treatment

For those who are candidates for outpatient substance abuse treatment, there are a number of benefits to this type of program, including the freedom afforded by a program that does not require individuals to reside at the rehab facility during treatment. This aspect of outpatient care is invaluable to individuals who have personal or professional obligations that must be maintained during the addiction recovery process.

One benefit of an outpatient program is that you don’t have to forgo your commitments during treatment. This allows you to continue to financially support your family and take care of your children or spouse without hiring a full-time caregiver. Additionally, by not taking days off from work, it is less likely that your boss or co-workers will discover that you have a problem.

Another benefit is that the cost of attending an outpatient rehab program is significantly cheaper than an inpatient rehab program. If you cannot afford inpatient treatment, then this may be the best option for you.

What Outpatient Treatment Cannot Accomplish

An outpatient addiction treatment program cannot offer supervised detoxification services. When a person stops using a substance to which their body has become accustomed, it is possible that the sudden cessation of use will cause symptoms of withdrawal. During the process of supervised detoxification, these symptoms can present a number of challenges and, in some circumstances, may prove to be very dangerous or even life-threatening.

An inpatient facility that offers a supervised detox program can provide a person who is going through this uncomfortable yet essential stage of recovery with the confidence that accompanies 24/7 supervision by a team of experienced professionals. In some instances, the best course of action is to enroll in a short-term detox program at a hospital before taking part in an outpatient program. The treatment professionals at the outpatient program will advise you on whether supervised detox is necessary considering your circumstances. Because addiction affects each individual in a unique way, it is best to consult with a medical professional to determine what path to recovery will prove most effective for your personal situation.

Goals of Outpatient Rehab

When an individual participates in an outpatient treatment program, our aim is to equip them with the tools they’ll need to sustain their recovery for as long as possible. By providing each person with the techniques, information, and education they need to face the challenges that lay ahead, we want to do everything we can to make sure our clients are in the best possible position to maintain their recovery after completing the outpatient program. Recovery from addiction is an ongoing journey, and our goal is to offer you the guidance necessary to succeed.

What Participation in an Outpatient Program Looks Like

A person who enrolls in an outpatient addiction recovery program will be provided with a schedule for treatment. The precise nature of this schedule for treatment will depend on the needs of the individual seeking recovery support. For some people, it may be necessary to attend all day sessions several times per week. However, other individuals may only require a couple hours of on-site treatment per week. The frequency and services included in each personalized plan for outpatient treatment will vary, but the common element will be the requirement that the individual is able to commit to attendance for the treatment schedule they agree upon with their counselor.

The specific treatment strategies that will be included in your customized schedule for outpatient addiction recovery will be contingent on your personal needs. Some of the strategies for treatment that may be utilized include participation in 12-step style programs, education about addiction, therapy on an individual and group basis, treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, advocacy for issues of a legal nature and continuing aftercare support, including help avoiding the temptation of returning to substance abuse.

When to Consider an Outpatient Rehab Program

Addiction recovery is a deeply personal process that will require different things from each person. If you think that an outpatient treatment program might be your best option for recovery from substance abuse, you should consider the options that are available to you. Living with the burden of addiction is not a viable option in the long run. When you are ready to build toward a more sustainable way of life, an outpatient drug rehab program might provide you with a chance to maintain your obligations while working to overcome addiction.

Relapse Prevention Guide

In the world of addiction treatment, relapse prevention is one of those areas where the only way to stay on top of it is through constant diligence and work. Unlike other diseases where the illness is gone once you have taken the appropriate medicine, addiction is a chronic disease; the threat of relapse is always something that will be with a person once they become afflicted. This has to do with the way addiction affects the brain and also how the brain is affected by outside triggers. These triggers can come from anxiety, anger, interpersonal situations and a whole host of other factors. If you aren’t constantly working in a recovery program of some sort, then the odds of relapsing jump upward.

The Disease of Addiction

In order to fully understand why relapse prevention is not only a vital but also an ongoing process in dealing with addiction, it is important to know exactly what the disease is. Addiction is defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine as a chronic brain disease that primarily affects the reward, memory, motivation and related areas. The dysfunction that occurs in these areas leads to characteristic biological markers as well as shifts in a person’s psychological, social and spiritual bent. This change in tendency is displayed in a person’s pathological pursuit of triggering their reward center through the consistent use of certain chemical substances.

The main symptoms of addiction are the inability to abstain on a regular basis, behavioral problems, inability to recognize intrapersonal and interpersonal problems stemming from use, cravings and emotional dysfunction. Addiction is a chronic disease, meaning that there will be periods of relapse and remission. Without proper treatment, including relapse prevention programs, the disease can progress and possibly result in disability.

Addiction Treatment

If you are suffering from addiction or a substance use disorder, then the first step is to seek help from a treatment center. Depending on how far the disease has progressed and how it has affected your everyday life, you might need a high level of initial care as can be found with an inpatient program or a lesser level of care from an outpatient program. Here is a comprehensive list of options:

  • Long-term inpatient programs are designed for people who have severe addiction problems and require 24/7 care in a medical facility. These programs focus on detoxification and medically assisted withdrawal, group counseling as well as individual therapy, resocialization including employment training and household management and coming up with strategies and coping mechanisms to prevent relapse. People stay at the facilities on average between 6 and 12 months.
  • Short-term inpatient programs are intensive programs based around a revised 12-step approach. There are individual and group counseling sessions as well as health and wellness training. The average stay is three to six months.
  • Intensive day treatment programs are designed to give a level of care compatible with an inpatient program while still allowing the patient to live at home. There are two to four-hour meetings multiple times weekly focusing on both group and individual counseling sessions.
  • Outpatient treatment programs are for people who have addiction or substance abuse issues but can still function in the world by going to work and taking care of their family. A meeting takes place one to two times weekly for two hours each time and entails both group and individual counseling.
  • Individual treatment options work well for people who are in the beginning stages of addiction and do not require a high level of care. Usually, the approach used will involve Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and address the issues that led to the initial substance abuse. Meeting frequency and duration vary.

The Struggle of Relapse

Once you have completed the course of recovery through one or more of the various programs that are available, the focus of treatment shifts toward a model of preventative care. For many people, by the time they reach the end of their treatment program, they will have already had a relapse. Relapse simply means returning to substance abuse after a period of sobriety. People suffering from addiction have a 40 to 60 percent chance of relapsing at some point according to the National Institute of Health. Those numbers are on par with other chronic diseases like hypertension and asthma and are significant to point out because of the shame and regret that are often associated with relapsing. Relapse is considered a common part of recovery and is actually a useful tool for signaling the need to reenter treatment or modify a treatment plan.

Triggers and Early Warning Signs

An important aspect in recognizing that a relapse is likely is understanding what might be triggering it. A trigger is something that prompts a person to feel upset and scared because they are made to remember something bad that has happened in the past. In the world of addiction, triggers can very easily lead people to relapse and possibly spiral downward if not addressed in a timely manner. Here is a list of some of the more common triggers that can spark a relapse:

  • Withdrawal symptoms that come about from the discontinued use of a substance are a huge trigger for relapse. Not only are these symptoms a major cause of relapse, but they are often a major obstacle to people seeking treatment in the first place. Symptoms of withdrawal are varied depending on the substance, length of use and amount ingested. Symptoms include anxiety, nausea, physical weakness, stroke, accelerated heart rate, irregular bowel, blood pressure problems, mood swings and sleep problems.
  • Everyday life can be full of stressors that can wear people down and possibly become triggering.
  • Poor self-care in the form of stress management, eating and sleeping habits or leisure time can all weigh a person down mentally and physically, which can result in relapse.
  • Seeing old friends they formerly used with is a big trigger for many people. The old friend doesn’t even have to be using anymore for the trigger to still be present. Many times, friends who use together develop a co-dependency that will still be present even in the face of abstinence.
  • Old hangouts like bars, drug houses or anywhere that use commonly occurred can trigger the urge to pick up again.
  • Anything that was a part of a drug-using life can become a trigger to use again. Old habits become etched into memories as do the memories of using that are tied to them.
  • Uncomfortable emotions are difficult to deal with under normal circumstances, and for someone suffering from addiction, negative emotions can definitely trigger the urge to use. When people experience feelings of hunger, anger, loneliness, fatigue or sadness, it’s natural to want to shut them down as quickly as possible.
  • Relationships and love can cause all sorts of highs and lows that can trigger someone. This is especially true of the lows that come from fighting or breaking up.
  • Leading an isolated existence without contact from friends or family can cause someone to overthink things or just become generally depressed, which is never a good thing for someone with addiction issues.
  • Being overconfident in your ability to abstain from using or thinking that you have it beat is a surefire way to relapse again. Acting as if nothing bad can happen blinds you to the dangers from all the triggers listed here, which leaves you open and vulnerable. It is important to remember that having an addiction is nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to pretend doesn’t exist.

The Stages of Relapse

There is a misconception that a relapse is an event when, in reality, it is a process. Before a person picks up a substance and begins to use again a whole process has taken place leading them to that point. This process is cumulative and can begin weeks or even months before the actual use occurs. This is why one of the main goals of treatment and relapse prevention is to recognize these warning signs in their initial stages and deal with them at their easiest. Recognizing triggering events such as those listed above is one great way to prevent a relapse. Another way is to recognize the stages of relapse listed below so that you are prepared to deal with them.

Emotional relapse is the first stage and occurs long before a person even thinks about using. They are still cognizant of their last relapse and want to avoid future use, but their emotional and behavioral states are setting them up to do just that. Denial is a big part of this stage and takes shape in many forms including isolating, bottling up emotions, not going to meetings, not sharing if they do attend meetings, focusing on other’s problems rather than their own and poor eating or sleeping habits. The underlying theme here is the denial of the person’s addiction and the need to stay vigilant during recovery.

The two important areas to address during this stage are denial and self-care. With the former, there is a mindset developing that the person is immune to or in control of their addiction. This sets up a false sense of security that will leave them open to triggers and eventual use. The latter can be problematic because neglecting oneself whether physically or emotionally will also leave them vulnerable to triggers.

Mental relapse is the next stage; at this point, a person is involved in an internal struggle between using and abstinence. As they progress through this stage, the desire to escape starts to overpower the will to abstain. Some important indicators of mental relapse include cravings for drugs or alcohol, fixating on people, places and things from when they used, minimizing or glamorizing past use, lying, bargaining, thinking of ways to control their use, looking for an opportunity to use and planning a relapse.

Avoiding high-risk situations is important in helping a person step back from this stage. If they are reminiscing about an old bar they used to go to, they might try visiting it, or they might glamorize their past use and trick themselves into believing they should have never stopped in the first place. This stage can be seen as a tightrope walk where the person walking it can fall off at any moment and start using again.

The final stage is the physical relapse where the actual process of using again. Some clinicians split this stage into a “lapse” which involves one use and “relapse” which involves multiple using events. However, this can be problematic for the person lapsing by tricking them into a false sense of security that can quickly lead right back to this point or further. It is best to minimize the potential negative consequences of any use by rejoining a treatment program whether it is a 12-step program, outpatient facility or some form of individualized care.

Relapse Prevention Tips

There are certain steps you can take to help ensure that the risk of relapse is minimized throughout the recovery process. There are many people who have gone years and decades abstaining from use, so it is definitely possible. Here are some tips that can help you avoid that next pitfall down the road to recovery:

  • Stay in treatment for its duration and follow the aftercare guidelines.
  • Eat a healthy diet low in refined sugars and simple carbohydrates. These two substances can cause energy spikes and crashes as well as emotional swings.
  • Have a regular exercise regimen.
  • Try natural ways of reducing stress such as meditation and yoga.
  • Join a support group or 12-step program and make connections with people in similar circumstances.
  • Avoid people, places and things that are associated with drug or alcohol use.
  • Surround yourself with positive family and friends who will support your decision to stay clean.
  • Pick up a hobby or creative endeavor to give yourself a positive output for your energy.

With this knowledge and these tips in hand, you can prepare yourself to deal with whatever curveballs life may throw at you in a positive way while maintaining your sobriety.

Tips for Staying Motivated in Recovery

When someone with substance use disorder becomes sober or first gets out of rehab, there’s a lot of excitement involved even when they know that there is a hard road in front of them. It is exciting to get free and change your life even if it can seem a bit scary at the time. Consider the advice below to maintain your motivation in sobriety.staying motivated in recovery

Set Goals

It can seem like a lot to you to remain sober and have goals at the same time. Being sober is amazing in and of itself, and your life is going to continue to open up to amazing possibilities as a result. You might want to gain back what you have lost or reach for something you put off long ago. You can do this.

In fact, it helps your sobriety a great deal to work on other aspects of your life. Addiction has most likely negatively impacted your health and personal relationships. Setting and working toward goals can help you to take back what was stolen, and it will give you additional motivation to remain sober.

Choose large goals, but break those goals up into smaller ones. For example, if you want to run a marathon, you can’t start off running the whole thing just because you used to do it. Instead, start by working toward smaller milestones. You might want to build up to running 5 miles, but you need to start with simply walking. Then jog before moving on from there. Achieving smaller goals will help to boost your confidence, which will also prevent you from sabotaging your own efforts.

Understand That You Are Worth Your Sobriety

Speaking of self-sabotage, you need to understand that you’re worth your sobriety, and you deserve a fulfilling life. You are not damaged goods, and you are not too far gone. Don’t believe that nonsense. You were meant for something great. You have been through the worst, which means you can help a great many people. People will listen to you because you have been where they are, and you can show them that awesome things await them in their sobriety.

You might become fearful or suffer from a feeling of inadequacy while on your journey, but don’t let that stop you. These feelings are temporary, and you can change them with the right mental attitude. You know what’s important to you. Staying motivated in recovery means being honest with yourself. So, when you feel tempted to drink or get high, ask yourself what’s really going on. You could just be afraid of success. It happens to more people than you might think.

Get Rid of the “All or Nothing” Mentality

On your journey, things aren’t always going to be great. You’re not going to have perfect days, and that’s okay. The important thing to remember is that you don’t throw in the towel just because things aren’t perfect. Don’t beat yourself up or quit because you didn’t work out or didn’t complete something else you set out to do. Pick up where you left off and keep going.

Imagine that you’re walking down a road. Let’s say the road is 5 miles long, and you want to reach the end. Along the way, you stumble on some rocks or veer off the course to take in some pretty views. Maybe you take a nap under a tree for a few hours and start back down the road. Would you be upset that you stumbled on rocks, looked out over the landscape, or took a nap? No, of course not.

Just because you’re not steadily walking down the road, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to get to the end, and it doesn’t mean you haven’t crossed the same amount of road to get to where you are. Progress is progress. Don’t disregard all of your previous achievements and beat yourself up for getting off-track. Just get back on the road and keep going.

Keep a Journal

It’s easy to forget where you’ve been, all you have struggled with, and how you used to think. If you keep a journal and read your earlier entries, you will find that you have grown a great deal.

In fact, with a record of what you’ve been up to, you might find that you have drastically changed in just a few months, which is nothing short of amazing. This can be incredibly encouraging on days when you feel down or think you aren’t progressing.

If there are areas you haven’t been able to overcome, don’t lose heart. It happens, but don’t forget to celebrate your successes. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, look at it as a learning opportunity and use it to continue on your path to personal growth. Be sure to take things as they come, and don’t forget to write down your thoughts, feelings, and actions along the way.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

On your recovery journey, you’ll discover many reasons why you want to be sober. In the beginning, it might simply be because you’re done living the way you did before sobriety. For others, they might want to be sober for their kids.

All of the reasons you have for being sober are valid and will help you stay committed, but it’s important to remain diligent. When life gets hard, because it will, you will need to stay focused on what you want. You will need to get rid of all of the distractions keeping you from your goals. Also, be sure to constantly remind yourself why sobriety is important and why you’re worth the effort.

Don’t Chase the Past

Addiction has a way of robbing people of precious moments that occur on a daily basis. After the storm has cleared, you might have this overwhelming desire to make up for lost time. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t change the past, and you don’t live there.

What’s more, if you’re busy worrying about the past, you’ll never live in the present, and you’ll rob yourself of your future. So, allow the past to teach you and propel you in the present so that you’ll have brighter days ahead. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do with what I have today?” Then, stay focused on the present and remember that looking back at the past with regret will not help you reach your goals for a more hopeful future.

Decide What You Want in Life

It might be beneficial to you to create a vision board. Put everything on it that you want in life. This could be as simple as taking cuttings of things you want from a magazine. During the process, avoid focusing on superficial things and think of what it is you truly value in life.

This might be family, friends, or health. Think big and small. Eventually, you might want to get your dream car or pay off debt, but you also might want to enjoy the morning air on your front porch with a good cup of coffee. Put that on your vision board, and look at it often. Whenever you do one of the things on your vision board, put a star or some other mark to see how much you have accomplished.

Take Time to Love Yourself

You’ve been through a lot, and it’s time to love yourself. Along the way, you might have caused harm to others, but you have been harmed too. Taking time to love yourself helps to undo some of the harm you have experienced.

Self-care lets you know you matter and will give you fuel to keep on moving. You will start to feel better about yourself and begin to grow physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Self-care activities that can boost your overall well-being include yoga, jogging, and other exercises. You can also start daily meditation or take time out of each day to read an inspirational book. Life can get busy, but it’s important to focus on healing, especially during the recovery process.

Keep a Schedule

Along with maintaining a self-care routine, keeping a schedule is vital to your success. When you keep a schedule, you will prevent yourself from not achieving your goals and having fruitless days. Having a schedule in place is also one of the best things that you can do to properly manage your activities so that you don’t begin to feel overwhelmed.

If you have unhealthy people in your life, your schedule can also help you to maintain your personal boundaries. It’s vital that you attend to what’s important and avoid putting your needs on the backburner for the sake of “helping” others. A schedule will ensure that you avoid distractions, meet your daily responsibilities, and remain focused on your sobriety.

Reach Out

You weren’t meant to carry all of your burdens on your own. Consider attending AA, NA, or other meetings to talk with people who have been where you have. You’ll find “old timers” and new people at these meetings who can help you both learn and grow. Meetings will also give you the opportunity to work with a trustworthy and wise sponsor who can provide support along your recovery journey.

In addition to attending meetings, it’s important to reach out to true friends and beloved family members who really have your back. Also, consider getting in touch with your higher power. Learn from those around you, and remember that you don’t have to go through life alone.

Take Time to Enjoy Life

It’s time to start living the life you always wanted. Trying to stay sober can be hard work, and you might feel it’s an uphill climb. Because of this, you need to take time to enjoy life to avoid getting burned out.

Enjoy fresh air, take a bath, get out in nature, and find other healthy things that bring you pleasure. This may be something as simple as an exciting TV show, a good book, or some comfy clothes. Whatever it is, embrace it. Doing so will make the process of staying sober easier.

Make a Gratitude List

When you start thinking of all the things that have gone wrong in your life, it’s time to be grateful for all the positive things that have happened to you. Make a list of all the things that are good, no matter what they are. You can be grateful that your bed is comfortable or that at least you have a bed. If you went through rehab, be grateful for the opportunity and don’t forget to express gratitude daily for being able to live life sober. Keep a list of all the positives in your life and refer to it often. Say “thank you” to your higher power and work hard every day to keep a feeling of gratitude in your heart.

It can be difficult to give yourself time to achieve everything you set out to do or to stay motivated in recovery. However, it’s very important that you don’t look at everything you need to do and get discouraged or overwhelmed. Staying motivated in recovery is about understanding where you’re going while focusing on achieving your goals in doable steps. You weren’t meant to do it all overnight. Recovery is a process, but step by step, you’re going to do this. You’ll see.

Stealing Addiction – How to Stop

stealing-as-an-addictionLarson is a well-respected man. He participates in community outreach programs, regularly donates chunks of his wealth to charity, and even hands out soup to the homeless on every holiday he can.

By day he is a stock broker, and by night a humanitarian… except when he goes shopping. Larson lives a double life. When he goes to the mall, he obsessive-compulsively steals items, some he wants, and some he doesn’t even care for. When grocery shopping, he hides things on the bottom of his cart and walks out with them. Even his friends feel the wrath, as many small things seemingly disappear around him. Larson has a stealing addiction.

Kleptomania VS Addictive-Compulsive Theft

According to the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding, which hosts Kleptomaniacs Anonymous, kleptomania is a rarely-diagnosed disorder with different characteristics than the more common addictive-compulsive theft. Basic differences between the two are as follows:

Kleptomania Addictive-Compulsive Theft
Steals for no monetary gain Steals to better self
Tension increase beforehand Tense entire time
Pleasure at time of theft only Pleasure after theft
No remorse, may even be unaware Remorse usually felt
Not angry when stealing Likely to be angry when stealing

Basically, if you find yourself stealing random items for no purpose, and you cannot control this urge, you likely have kleptomania. However, if you find you cannot stop stealing things you desire and you feel guilt or shame afterward, chances are you’re an addictive-compulsive thief  Either way, there is help available to you, although currently that help is limited. (See bottom of article.) More and more experts are agreeing nowadays that stealing can be an addiction, just like drug and alcohol abuse can be, as reported by CBS News.

Theft as an Addiction, not just a Crime

Terrence Shulman, founder of the aforementioned Shulman Center, is the leading expert on theft as an addiction. A former addictive-compulsive theft himself, (as well as a lawyer), Shulman realized he was addicted, not just breaking the law. He set out to help himself and others like him, and founded the Shulman Center, which is the largest stealing-addiction recovery network available.

In an article written for Addiction Professional, Shulman notes that 10% of Americans shoplift regularly, nearly 70% of arrested shoplifters will repeat the offense, and a whopping 75% of Americans have stolen from the workplace.

The fact that 10% of Americans admit to shoplifting regularly is simply astounding. Further research on these 32 million people may show a majority of them to be addicted to stealing.  Foundations like Mr. Shulman’s serve to treat these addictions, but perhaps because stealing is a private and taboo thing, many people do not treat their addiction. This is perhaps illustrated most greatly by the fact that 70% of those caught stealing go and do it again.

In Conclusion

If you took a Milky Way from a gas station once and also borrowed money from your uncle but never paid him back, you are not addicted to stealing.  If every Thursday night you steal a Milky Way, and borrow money from people constantly without paying them back, you may be addicted to stealing.  This is all to say that only you know the difference.  If you believe you may be addicted to stealing, there is help:

The Shulman Center

Help for Shoplifters

The Pathways Institute for Impulse Control

Also, there are conference calls available three times a week, open to anyone anywhere who wants to discuss their addiction to stealing.  Click here for the days, times, and phone numbers.

Viral Video: Dad Tells Son of his Mother’s Fatal Heroin Overdose

Children of addicts are the real victims of drug abuse. Of the 586,000 heroin addicts in America, surely a large number of them are parents. With heroin addicts dying from overdoses at a rate of over three per hour, surely a large number of them leave small children behind. The average age of a heroin addict in America is 23, so it’s fair to assume that the majority of heroin users who are parents have children well under 18.

Brenden Bickerstaff-Clark’s son is eight, and last week in a video that’s gone viral, Bickerstaff-Clark told him how his mother had died from a heroin overdose the previous night. After grabbing his hand and taking a deep breath, Bickerstaff-Clark looks his son in the eye and says, “Mommy died last night.” The unnamed boy is unsure how to process the information at first, but after a moment responds, saying, “What? What do you mean, my mom?” He then cries hard as Bickerstaff-Clark explains the truth: that his mother had died from a fatal heroin overdose. It’s the saddest thing online right now.

The 29-year-old father posted the video to Facebook “for any and every addict with children.” Bickerstaff-Clark himself is a recovering heroin addict with (at the time of the post) 94 days clean. Regardless of whether or not you agree with his method, the message was definitely spread. The video currently has over 34 million views.

Already an Epidemic

This happened in Youngstown, Ohio, which is in Mahoning County, which is just one of the several Ohio counties in the middle of a heroin epidemic. In fact, according to the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network (OSAM), the Youngstown area is oversaturated with heroin. A recent report stated that on a scale of 1 to 10, the overall availability of heroin in the area is a 10. Local law enforcement commented on this, saying “Heroin is still our biggest problem; we’re just so inundated with the heroin.…”

One woman from Youngstown recently begged the police to take her to jail in order for her to beat heroin. Her quote given to NBC makes it clear how badly the area is affected: “There’s no help out there anymore. There’s a three-month waiting list for any rehab around here because of the heroin epidemic. It was faster to go to jail.”

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, and the Mahoning County Coroner reported that 42.4% of the drug-related deaths processed in the last six months were due to heroin. The drug is so rampant in the area that even a 97-person drug bust in Warren, OH didn’t even make a dent in the amount of heroin around. Actually, OSAM reported that the amount of heroin in the area “has either remained the same or has slightly increased during the past six months.”

Evidence suggests there is an entire drug-smuggling operation in Youngstown. Last year, the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force issued fifteen arrest warrants for suspected drug dealers in the area. Also last year, a “drug trafficking organization operating in Mahoning County” was taken down. A locally-based criminal gang called the Vic Boys is the most likely culprit. Ohio is in the middle of a heroin epidemic.

Ohio is by no means the only state with a heroin problem. The entire country faces a serious threat. The Centers for Disease Control reports “The United States is experiencing an epidemic of drug overdose (poisoning) deaths.” It just happens that Ohio is where Mr. Bickerstaff-Clark lives, and is also one of the states affected the most. Still, regardless of where it happens, children of addicts are the true victims. Remember, for instance, the Ohio couple who recently passed out in their car from heroin overdoses, the woman’s young son in the back seat.

Silent Victims

Parents die from heroin overdoses, leaving their children behind. This is a cold reality. Also, babies are born with heroin addictions due to their mothers’ abuse. Last year in Whitefield, New Hampshire, as reported by WMUR, Tanya Fleury’s granddaughter found her father (Tanya’s son) dead from an overdose. Told that her father was sick and went to heaven, the little girl said, “I’m not going to have my adventures with daddy anymore.” Often, the two would surf or play guitar.

Lieutenant Nicole Ledoux of the Manchester Police Department told WMUR that children are usually the callers-in of heroin overdoses. “Kids as young as 8 or 9 are calling us to say their parent or their guardian or caregiver is unconscious and unresponsive, and we come out, and we find out that the person is suffering from an overdose,” said Lt. Ledoux.

Earlier this month, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, a seven-year-old girl spent an entire day trying to wake her parents up. The next day she went to school, and upon being dropped off afterward, she told the bus driver about how she couldn’t wake her parents up. Police later found both parents dead from heroin overdoses. Also inside the house were three other children, aged 5 years, 3 years, and 9 months. All four children are now heroin orphans. Allegheny County, where McKeesport is located, suffered 422 opioid-related deaths last year, a new record for the county.

Take a look at Huntington, West Virginia, where one in ten babies born at Cabell Huntington Hospital suffer from drug withdrawal, usually from heroin and other opiates. The national average is one in 150, still a number far too high. The drug-addicted babies shake, vomit, and scream inconsolably. The symptoms can last months. Usually the hospital has room for 12 babies, but numbers haven’t been that low in years.

One out of every four people who live in Huntington has a heroin (or other opiate) addiction. Lieutenant David McClure of the local police “has grown accustomed to drug overdoses,” and “his crew responds daily to such calls.” What exactly is he accustomed to seeing? “Moms passed out with their kids still seat-belted. Dads sprawled on floors, their toddlers within an arm’s reach of heroin.”

The story of Maycie Nielsen is hard to forget. She was four years old when her parents started doing heroin. Her sister was nine and her little brother was two. Early on, her parents would physically fight, use heroin in the open, call the cops on one another, and generally create chaos for the children. Eventually her grandmother took her in, as her mother was arrested and her father a homeless junkie. She spent her childhood wondering where her father was and with her mother in jail.

This last example truly shows how bad the heroin epidemic can be for children. In January of this year, the seven-month-old child of Wesley and Mary Ann Landers was a patient at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Upon visiting one day, the parents went into the bathroom of their child’s hospital room together, and proceeded to shoot heroin. Both of them overdosed. Mary Ann died, and Wesley was rendered unconscious when medical staff opened the locked door. Narcan saved his life.

Wesley was found with a needle in his arm, two on the bathroom sink, and a loaded gun in his pants pocket. He faces drug possession and concealed weapon charges. The child went into the hospital with two parents, and left with one. Also, that child will someday have to face the fact that his or her mother died just a few feet away.

More than the Loss of a Parent

Obviously, losing a parent is one of the toughest things any child ever has to endure. With nearly 80 people dying from heroin a day, this is happening too often. However, there are countless other ways parental drug abuse negatively affects children.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that 2.2 million children in this country have at least one parent dependent on illicit drugs. According to the Children’s Bureau, “Parental substance use can affect parenting, prenatal development, and early childhood and adolescent development.” Furthermore, parental drug use can lead to a lack of proper nutrition, a lack of supervision, and a lack of nurturing, even neglect. Oftentimes, affected families experience mental illness, are victims of domestic violence, or suffer from unemployment.

The Children’s Bureau offers a wealth more of information regarding children of addicts. The following are typical outcomes for children with drug-abusing parents:

  • Poor cognitive and/or social development
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Mental health issues
  • Physical health issues
  • Substance abuse
  • High stress
  • Difficulties concentrating and learning
  • Difficulty controlling responses to stress
  • Difficulty forming trusting relationships

In the case of Brenden Bickerstaff-Clark and his 8-year-old boy, a parent was lost at the merciless hands of heroin. That is a worst-case-scenario. As a parent, simply doing drugs already puts your child at much greater risk for the above outcomes. However, even children without parents are being affected by the heroin epidemic as well.

Heroin Affects Foster Children

Parental substance abuse is “a major reason for the growing number of children in foster care,” according to Pew Charitable Trusts. In Ohio’s Clermont County, over 50% of children placed in foster care have at least one parent addicted to heroin. When case workers investigate claims, whether they be of abuse, neglect, malnutrition, etc., “What we’re finding more and more is that the parents are addicted to opiates. And more often than not, it’s heroin,” said Timothy Dick, assistant director of child protective services in the county.

Dealing with the same issue, the state of Indiana recently had to hire 113 additional caseworkers to keep up. One-third of children in foster care in the state of Vermont have parents who abuse heroin. Last year, the number of US children in the foster care system reached an all-time high of 415,000. Nancy Young, director of the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, talked about how it’s not entirely clear just how many child welfare cases involve parental drug abuse. She said that she suspects most of the cases do. This is also “what all the caseworkers and judges are saying,” according to Young.

In Conclusion

Maybe you think that Brenden Bickerstaff-Clark posting the video of telling his son that his mother had died was helpful. Maybe you think that he went too far. Either way, it cannot be argued that Brenden’s son is not alone. Using related statistics, it’s safe to assume that every single day at least one child loses a parent to heroin. Bickerstaff-Clark included a caption with his video, explaining his actions. Whether you agree with his method or not, it’s difficult to disagree with his words:



How Much Does Rehab Cost?

Well-known centers often cost up to $30,000 for a 30-day program. For those requiring 60- or 90-day programs, the total average cost of rehab could range anywhere from $12,000 to $60,000. Outpatient programs for mild to moderate addictions are cheaper than inpatient rehab. Many cost $5,000 for a three-month program.

A breakdown of the costs associated with different levels of addiction treatment can be helpful. For example, if you are considering detox, the lower end of cost would be approximately $350 to $750 a day, while the upper end may reach $1,500 to $3,000. It is important to keep in mind the range of costs as you begin researching addiction treatment programs and facilities.

how-much-does-rehab-costIt can be overwhelming to think about paying for treatment at these rates. But when you consider the alternatives, it may be easier to see the benefits of finding the funds needed to afford rehab treatment.

Insurance is one of the most common ways to cover the costs of addiction treatment. The amount insurance covers depend on the insurer and what the health provider accepts.

Types of insurance that may cover addiction treatment include:


Medicaid is a public insurance program for low-income families. Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” insurance providers (including Medicaid) must cover all basic aspects of addiction treatment. While Medicaid covers addiction treatment, not all addiction treatment centers accept Medicaid as a form of payment. To find a rehab that accepts Medicaid, get in touch with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).


Medicare is available to anyone over 65 years old and those with disabilities. Medicare is available for a monthly premium, which is based on the recipient’s income. People who earn less pay lower premiums.

Medicare can cover the costs of inpatient and outpatient drug rehab. It consists of four parts that cover different parts of addiction treatment.

Part A – Insurance for Hospital Stays. Medicare Part A can help pay for inpatient rehabilitation. Part A covers up to 60 days in rehab without a co-insurance payment. People using Part A do have to pay a deductible. Medicare only covers 190 days of inpatient care for a person’s lifetime.

Part B – Medical Insurance. Part B can cover outpatient care for addicted people. Medicare Part B covers up to 80 percent of these costs. Part B covers outpatient rehab, therapy, drugs administered via clinics and professional interventions. Part B also covers treatment for co-occurring disorders like depression.

Part C – Medicare-approved Private Insurance. People who want more benefits under Medicare can opt for Part C. Out-of-pocket costs and coverage is different and may be more expensive.

Part D – Prescription Insurance. Medicare Part D can help cover the costs of addiction medications. People in recovery often need medication to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. These medications increase the likelihood of staying sober.

State-financed health insurance

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a health care system law passed in 2010 that covers addiction treatment. If you are addicted to drugs and alcohol, the ACA may be a way to help pay for it.

Under the ACA, coverage for addiction treatment must be as complete as it is for any other medical procedure. Some of the things you can get with these insurance plans include:

  • Addiction evaluation
  • Brief intervention
  • Addiction treatment medication
  • Clinic visits
  • Alcohol and drug testing
  • Home health visits
  • Family counseling
  • Anti-craving medication

ACA health insurance plans also assist with inpatient services like medical detox programs.

Some states run their own Health Insurance Marketplace platforms separate from Healthcare.gov. Differences between state and federal medical plans are based on Medicare and Medicaid coverage in each state.

Private insurance – The out of pocket cost will vary based on your specific insurance, the type of rehab and the length of your stay.

Cash Pay

Some people can either afford to pay for rehab themselves or lack insurance coverage. If you are serious about treatment and its expense, talk to friends or family about fund-raising methods and finding support for your rehabilitation. Other avenues could include tapping into savings or seeking help through public programs or charities.

Overall Costs

Some treatments can cost $5,000 to $10,000, whereas luxury rehab facilities can carry a price-tag of $100k or more, for a one-month stay. However, there are public programs that offer basic addiction treatment education and counseling for low-income individuals.

With this said, it is important to note that the degree of a person’s success is strongly correlated with the type of treatment he or she receives. The goal of getting treatment is to avoid the potential for relapse and getting the treatment that is right for you is essential.

Not everyone has insurance, but there are still ways to access addiction treatment. One way is to look for a free or low-income rehab center. The other is to look into rehabs that offer financing options. Financing is often a better choice because free rehabs often have limited funding and waiting lists.

Drugs and the Brain: Changing You One Neuron at a Time

For those that remember the television commercial, it turns out if your brain is an egg, the idea of drugs being a hot frying pan isn’t so far off.

Abusing drugs of any kind affects brain functions we use every day to live. Some effects on the brain are temporary, such as a hangover from alcohol, but >some are permanent and irreversible, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, which can cause muscular paralysis and/or amnesia in alcoholics. Every drug, not just alcohol, affects the brain; it is just important to note that any amount of any drug also affects the brain. However, before we can understand what happens to our brains on drugs, we need to understand what happens in our brains without drugs.

What does my brain do?

The human brain is an unimaginably complex organ that functions more efficiently than any computer ever built. To actually answer the question of what a brain does would take a mountain of essays. However, regarding the brain and drug use, a simplified version will do.

The brain is comprised of 100 billion nerve cells called neurons. Essentially, there are releasing neurons and receiving neurons. The releasing neurons disperse chemicals called neurotransmitters, which carry messages all around the body. These ‘messages’ include anything from blinking our eyelids to solving a math problem. Receiving neurons have landing pads for neurotransmitters, and once they land, the message is ‘unlocked’ and carried out by the body.

Basically, the brain is a communications center that functions as the command post for the entire body. Brain cells communicate, and we live. When actions are performed that are conducive to survival, such as eating, sleeping, having sex, etc., the brain rewards us by releasing >dopamine, or sometimes serotonin. These are the two neurotransmitters responsible for happiness. This is called the reward system, and is crucial to our survival.

What do the drugs do?

drugs-and-the-brainDrug abuse alters the way the brain communicates, especially regarding the reward system. Drugs force the brain to produce up to ten times the normal amount of dopamine. The brain therefore believes something good has happened, and will crave a repeat of the dopamine flow. More and more will be needed to get dopamine levels back to normal, resulting in higher tolerance.

Also, the activities that create regular amounts of dopamine, such as eating or having sex, become less important to the brain than drug abuse, which creates abnormal amounts. The end result is addiction, because the brain tells the body it needs the extra dopamine.

The Vicious Cycle

You’ve never done hard drugs. One night, you use heroin, and extremely high levels of dopamine are released. The next night, you use the same amount as before, but don’t get quite as high. You double up your dose to feel the same effect. Already, you have a higher tolerance. The next night, you need even more. By the time the week is over, you realize you haven’t eaten or slept. Your brain has replaced the dopamine it receives from normal functions with the dopamine it receives from the drug. Within a week, you’re addicted. Now, on top of needing it like you need sleep, you need more every time.

The worst part of this vicious cycle is not actually what happens to your brain on the drugs, but what happens to your brain when you’re not on them but addicted to them. Once addicted, your brain will produce less dopamine than usual for normal events. For instance, a good meal and a nap may not do anything emotionally for an addict. This can cause severe depression. Consider this quote from drugabuse.gov:

Just as we turn down the volume on a radio that is too loud, the brain adjusts to the overwhelming surges in dopamine (and other neurotransmitters) by producing less dopamine or by reducing the number of receptors that can receive signals. As a result, dopamine’s impact on the reward circuit of the brain of someone who abuses drugs can become abnormally low, and that person’s ability to experience any pleasure is reduced.

The bottom line is that drugs affect your brain in such a way that they become the only means by which an addict can feel pleasure. At that point, your brain might as well be a frying egg.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

For patients needing drug and alcohol treatment, outpatient rehab and inpatient rehab can provide an essential level of care to achieve long-term recovery. But how do you know which type of program you or a loved one would best benefit from? Both types of treatment have distinctions which make them more or less appropriate for a patient’s needs, depending on the patient’s level and length of addiction.

What is Inpatient Rehab?

inpatient-rehab-houseInpatient treatment lasts a minimum of 28 days. You voluntarily enter a safe, secure facility in which intensive drug and alcohol treatment is the cornerstone of your daily activities. Often, people who have attempted outpatient treatment but have ultimately relapsed back into drug and alcohol use, or have found outpatient treatment difficult to complete, achieve success in an inpatient program.

People who require detoxification services due to concerns about withdrawal also benefit from inpatient rehab, as detox services can be included as a part of inpatient treatment. After detox (if necessary), patients undergo an intensive, daily drug or alcohol treatment regimen to learn about the disease of addiction in a supportive, immersive environment.

Inpatient rehab programs are safe, structured environments in which you are removed from stressful circumstances that promote or fuel the urge to use. Because negatively influencing factors are removed from your daily experience, participation in inpatient treatment can begin to work on building life skills that had been interfered with due to addiction. Because of this intensive level of care, inpatient rehab is ideal for people who have unsuccessfully attempted to overcome addiction in outpatient rehab programs, or for people who have identified that they need drug or alcohol treatment and want to “do it right” the first time. As previously stated, the level of care necessary for you should be determined by an in-person assessment with a qualified medical or counseling professional. Most often, people who have attempted outpatient treatment without success do require inpatient care, but some people who have not yet undergone outpatient treatment may not require this high level of care.

Some people are wary about voluntarily beginning an inpatient drug or alcohol treatment program because of the intensity, but inpatient programs are highly emotionally supportive and focus on helping the whole body and mind through treatment. For this reason, many inpatient treatment centers encourage family participation, including family education programs and weekend programs. In addition to immediate family, people benefit from having a “therapeutic community” in inpatient – a community of patients who support one another through treatment by encouraging others to stay on task. In addition to the other differentiators of long-term inpatient care, it is this camaraderie gained through empathy and shared experience that often helps you overcome addiction while completing drug or alcohol treatment.

What is Outpatient Rehab?

Outpatient Rehab provides you with more freedom. Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment programs share many similarities with inpatient, but in a differently structured environment. Outpatient rehab provides you with more freedom of movement which allows you to maintain a regular commitment to family, work, and educational responsibilities. Because of the ability to go home after a daily or evening program, you are able to have a greater level of privacy and anonymity. You do not need to explain a prolonged absence to friends, coworkers, or family members.

Unlike inpatient rehab, you are not provided with the safe, secure environment that isolates you from negatively influencing factors. You return to your own environments after outpatient drug or alcohol treatment, and must voluntarily abstain from drug or alcohol use, which requires a greater amount of diligence. However, the benefit of this is that outpatient rehab (like inpatient rehab) provide a support network for patients in the form of official support groups, individual counseling, and family counseling so that you are never alone in your recovery. You are provided with a strong support network of non-using peers and sponsors. Outpatient drug and alcohol treatment requires a component of group therapy and support groups like NA and AA, which provide a new, positive element of social change in your life and facilitates long-term recovery.

Like inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab also focuses on family support and involvement, and an immediately positive element of outpatient rehab is that you can automatically apply the lessons learned from outpatient treatment programs to your daily experiences.

Advantages of Inpatient Rehab

Inpatient rehab requires a 28 day stay. The actual length of a typical stay depends on your diagnosis, needs, situation and insurance coverage.

5 Pros & Cons of Inpatient Rehab


  • You receive 24-hour supervision by trained staff and therapists; you are never alone while battling your addiction.
  • You are part of a community – other residents in the facility are also overcoming their addictions.
  • You are in a program that provides an intense level of care – individuals who have tried to battle addiction previously may a more intense setting.
  • Being in a residential setting, more time each day is focused on recovery, through group and individual counseling settings, as well as other treatment exercises.
  • You do not have the distractions of daily life activities/worries while in treatment.


  • You are not free to come and go and you please
  • You are in a structured environment that dictates when you get up in the morning, when you eat, when you have counseling sessions and when you have free-time. For many, though this seems like a “con” it is actually one of the best components of residential/inpatient treatment.
  • Arrangements for child care will need to be made while you are in treatment.
  • Often, you will need to take a leave from your job to participate in residential treatment.
  • Many insurers will only cover outpatient rehab.

5 Pros & Cons of Outpatient Rehab


  • Outpatient rehab is structured so you can continue many of your daily activities such as work, caring for children etc.
  • Counseling sessions are often offered in the evenings and sometimes even on weekends.
  • You can apply what you learn in treatment to your real life setting and start making changes immediately.
  • Many outpatient rehab programs includes family sessions, to help your support network better understand the challenges you face.
  • Outpatient rehab is considered a more affordable treatment option and is generally covered by insurance.


  • You risk being exposed to the same influences, risks and triggers in your life that pushed you towards drug or alcohol.
  • You may still have access to drugs/alcohol.
  • Daily life distractions could keep you from focusing on recovery.
  • Access to your counselor is more limited than in a residential/inpatient facility.
  • Many residential clients develop bonds with other people in treatment that later become part of their sober support network. In outpatient rehab, you do not spend as much time with others in treatment, which makes building the foundation of this support network more challenging.

There are many pros and cons to rehab facilities. The right facility for you depends on many factors. It is possible to make changes before you become dependent on drugs and/or alcohol. Many people change their relationship with drugs and/or alcohol before it is too late.

A variety of health and treatment professionals can help you to stop using drugs / alcohol. Treatment professionals help you evaluate your problems with drugs or alcohol and gain an understanding of where you are in the disease. What are the symptoms you are experiencing? How has drugs and alcohol use affected your life? Then they help you make choices about the goals you want to accomplish in terms of quitting and remaining sober. Armed with a treatment plan, you are much better able to choose among the options.

People who want to stop using choose among the available treatment options to find an approach that is right for them. The right approach will give you the knowledge and support you need to meet your goals and to set new goals during recovery. Treatment will help you and your family and loved ones recover from a disease that has damaged their daily lives and their hopes for the future. The right approach will restore the hope you may have lost to the disease of drugs and/or alcoholism.

Health professionals who treat any type of disease—cancer, AIDS, arthritis, diabetes— will attest to the importance of hope in the recovery process. When a person’s hope is restored, so is the motivation to act, to make ongoing choices to fight the disease and to do what is necessary to recover.

Recovery is an Ongoing Process

Recovery from addiction is an ongoing process because there is no cure. The treatments and support that you choose now may later be too much or too little. The goal is to find what works now, and to educate yourself about all the options available, so that if you need more help in the future, or less help, you can find the treatments and supports that are right for you.

break-free-from-addictionTo think that you have to recover from addiction on your own with no help represents the distorted thinking that is a well-known symptom of addiction. In recovery from addiction, support comes in many forms. Family physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists, counselors, self-help groups and other organizations are just a few of the supports available that will help educate you about addiction and provide the level of support you need.

You and your medical or counseling professional are best equipped to know which type of treatment is ideal for your situation. Be honest with yourself about how independently dedicated you can be in an outpatient rehab program. Do you feel like the temptations to use based on daily stresses, friends and acquaintances, or lack of social support would be an issue in successfully completing outpatient rehab? Have you tried and been unsuccessful time and time again at stopping your drug or alcohol use by yourself or in outpatient rehab? Are you physically addicted to drugs or alcohol and absolutely require a medical detox prior to receiving treatment services? When you speak with a specialist about voluntarily entering drug and alcohol treatment, talk about your personal circumstances in order to figure out which aspects of inpatient or outpatient rehab programs would best suit you. Outpatient and residential drug and alcohol treatment programs both have life-changing benefits, and understanding which program will best help you achieve long-term recovery is one of the first steps toward becoming sober.

An addiction can strike a person when they least expect it, as they’re trying to handle an increase in their workload, childcare or child-rearing, mental health issues, family issues, or for no reason whatsoever. It often begins innocently — trying to relieve the stress of everyday life, or just to try something new. Before the person knows it, they’re turning to the drug or alcohol as a way of coping with any negative feelings or stress in their lives. They may find they need more and more of the drug or drink in order to gain the same benefits from it. Efforts to scale back or to stop altogether are difficult or next-to-impossible.

Drug addiction and alcohol addiction is usually not easily overcome on one’s own. Most people who face an addiction to a substance or alcohol need additional help. At the onset of your treatment, you’ll have to figure out what path works best for you and your needs.

Outpatient Drug Rehab Counseling

What is Outpatient Drug Rehab?

Outpatient drug rehab is a form of substance abuse treatment that does not include living at the facility. Outpatient treatment can vary widely, from partial hospitalization to 12-step meetings. Outpatient drug rehab programs allow you to continue to live at home during drug or alcohol rehabilitation. Outpatient drug rehab tends to cost less than residential or inpatient treatment, and it may be more suitable for those unable to take extended absences from work or personal obligations.

Before you choose a program, consider which type of outpatient treatment program will work best for you and ask some questions about the program – such as how much it costs, what kind of treatment it offers, and where it’s located.

  • Intensive outpatient: These programs are similar to inpatient residential programs with respect to service and effectiveness. The major focus is relapse prevention. Intensive outpatient programs usually meet at least 3 days a week for 2-4 hours a day or more. These programs are often scheduled around work or school to accommodate daily schedules.
  • Partial hospitalization: This treatment is specifically meant for people who require ongoing medical monitoring but have a stable living situation. Partial hospitalization treatment programs usually meet at the hospital for 3-5 days a week for at least 4-6 hours per day.
  • Outpatient Drug Rehab Counseling

    1 on 1 Counseling

    Therapy and counseling: These treatments are usually combined with other treatment methods or as follow-up support after inpatient rehabilitation. Therapy and counseling can help you identify the root cause of your drug use, repair relationships and learn healthier coping skills. Treatments include self-help programs like Narcotics Anonymous (following a 12-step model), behavioral therapy, group or individual therapy and family counseling.

Outpatient treatment can be extremely effective. Many who begin and continue treatment stop using drugs and improve their occupational, social and psychological functioning.

Everybody’s treatment needs are different based on their history of abuse, substance being abused, duration of abuse and much more. Depending on these factors, you may require varying combinations of services and treatment such as a combination of counseling or psychotherapy, medication, medical services and family therapy. Additionally, these needs may change as treatment and recovery progresses.

Therefore, make sure that the outpatient drug rehab program offers individual treatment plans and a continuing care approach where the treatment intensity varies over time according to your changing needs.

What to Expect from Outpatient Drug Rehab?

It is important to note that the exact program used in a recovery facility may differ greatly. However, all programs tend to include the following:

  • Patients enrolled in the program are expected to remain abstinent from recreational drugs or alcohol.
  • Patients begin with an initial assessment. During this initial assessment, it is possible to determine what the needs of the patient are. This provides a basis for forming a treatment plan and goal setting.
  • Patients agree to a weekly number of therapy sessions.
  • Oftentimes there are activities and seminars that the patient is expected to attend.
  • While attending rehab, there are specific rules that govern the behavior of the patient. The patient may be removed from the program if they do not abide by these rules.
  • If the treatment plan is proving ineffective, there may be a need to modify the existing plan.
  • Patients are expected to share personal information with therapists. Oftentimes this happens in one-on-one settings, but may also include group sessions that include other people.

There are a number of benefits in attending these selected rehab options, they may include:

  • The patient is able to remain employed or stay in school while they attend outpatient recovery. Those who would struggle to find time away from their commitments may find this to be highly advantageous.
  • The transition from recovery facility to home life is non-existent. Those who leave an inpatient program for the first time often have to adjust to having personal freedoms again. Unless there is an aftercare program in place, this transition can lead to a relapse. Because the patient is already going home at the end of each session, the program ending is not such a shock.
  • Some worry that they may be stigmatized by attending an inpatient facility. It may not be possible for someone to leave for several weeks on end without giving an actual explanation. If the patient is worried about discretion and privacy, attending an outpatient program is much easier to keep a secret.
  • When comparing the costs, an inpatient treatment facility is often much more expensive than an outpatient facility.
  • If the patient has a supportive family or sympathetic friends at home, they may be able to benefit from interacting with them when they go home every night.

Disadvantages of Outpatient Drug Rehab

As stated before, not everyone might benefit from outpatient drug rehab. There are a number of disadvantages to consider as well:

  • It is only natural that those who go home unsupervised face more temptation than those who remain in inpatient rehab. Because there is no restriction on their movements, it means they have to show more determination and willpower right from the start.
  • Those who do not stay in rehab will find that there is far less support available. Patients at an inpatient facility have the option to talk to professionals around the clock. It may feel empowering to be in close proximity to others who all share the same goal.
  • When attending outpatient recovery, there is a chance that the patient will have a number of distractions. Work commitments and family life do not take a breather as the patient transitions into a sober lifestyle.
  • The same triggers that led to the abuse of drugs and alcohol in the first place may still be present. When trying to stay sober, worrying about potential triggers is going to serve as a distraction.
  • There are both physical and emotional challenges throughout the first weeks of recovery. Withdrawal symptoms may prove to be problematic for weeks after the patient has last used drugs or alcohol. During inpatient rehab, a professional can generally help with these situations. In the outside world, this level of help is unlikely.

Outpatient Drug Rehab isn’t for everyone. If you need more supervision or want to get away from your surroundings look at Inpatient Drug Rehab Programs.

What is Needed to Succeed in Outpatient Drug Rehab?

There are clearly additional challenges to succeeding at an outpatient facility. However, if you or someone close to you is considering this option, remember that you can increase your chances of success by adhering to the following:

  • There is no factor more directly related to the success of a program than the patient’s motivation to change. No matter what option of recovery they decide upon, if they have no desire to succeed, it may ultimately result in a relapse.
  • Having an outside support group that can help during or after treatment is always a positive step. Because these facilities have limited availability, it is a good idea to have somewhere to turn.
  • A good facility will provide the patient with a number of different resources. However, it is ultimately up to the patient to make the most of these resources. The saying goes ‘you get out what you put in’.
  • Those not enrolled in an inpatient facility need to take responsibility for their own environment. This means avoiding things, places and people that may trigger a relapse. It may seem harsh, but spending time with the same friends you used to drink with is not a good idea.

There are many services available to those undergoing outpatient drug rehabilitation.  Examples of these include: behavioral counseling, mental health attention, job searching help, support groups, psychiatrist meetings, educational classes on drugs and how they affect a person, and regular visits with a counselor to discuss progress and revise the plan if it is not working.

Length of Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient drug rehab treatment programs vary in structured schedules and timelines. Everyone progresses through addiction treatment at their own pace, so there’s no set length of time for care.

Typically, programs run anywhere between one and three months, but they can run longer. Most treatment facilities require 90 days of participation in order to ensure successful results. The length of your outpatient treatment care can be extended depending on the progress the individual makes, following further care recommendations and ongoing evaluations from an addiction treatment professional.

Just like the variations in care, there are variations in the cost of an outpatient drug rehabilitation program. Of the different types of outpatient care available, one of the most consistent features is the low cost in comparison to other forms of treatment. Additionally, due to being referred as less intensive, outpatient care tends to attract those who are intimidated by the recovery process.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Rehab

There is a common misconception that outpatient treatment programs are the opposite of residential inpatient programs in regards to treatment intensity. When it comes to the intensity of outpatient care there is a large degree of variation. Some outpatient drug rehab programs are designed with accessibility and flexibility in mind while others are a major commitment and would be difficult to complete while handling day-to-day responsibilities.

Some argue that there are distinct benefits to allowing a patient to continue to live (and in some cases, work and attend school) in a home environment – in this case, whatever it is they might call home. While inpatient treatment removes those struggling with substance abuse from an environment that may have contributed to the development of drug or alcohol addiction to begin with, outpatient drug treatment provides a way to more accurately test the efficacy of ongoing treatment while a patient remains amidst those very triggers. In a way, some point out, it more accurately assesses the coping mechanisms of the person in recovery when they return home at night, while continuing to provide them with intensive periods of support throughout the day.

In addition, outpatient treatment challenges a patient to seek out and utilize sources of support in their home environment, such as in finding local self-help groups or other recovery mentors in the neighborhood that can help guide someone down the path of recovery. Given that the transition from inpatient to outpatient treatment can be jarring, the addict in recovery will have the support of the community where he lives, works, and belongs, welcoming him back to wellness, and to a life without bondage to addiction.

There is a flip-side to these arguments, however. Those struggling with an addiction might face a much greater challenge of abstinence in an outpatient treatment center, especially in the early stages of recovery. Since their environment is not changing, they can easily access the addictive substance and are faced with temptation on a regular basis.

In addition, outpatient treatment does not always mandate follow up or aftercare treatment after the period of outpatient treatment ends, so it is important to find a facility that can direct you to another service that provides it, to help ensure continuity of care and continued recovery.

Of course the most important consideration in determining the need for inpatient or outpatient care is dependent upon the severity of your condition. If substance abuse is interfering with normal activity, is associated with or causing medical problems or is part of a dual diagnosis, inpatient programs frequently will prove a better option. Inpatient treatment is also preferred by many who need medical detox.