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IOP vs Outpatient

For many people who struggle with addiction, the idea of moving out and leaving home is scary. While confronting substance abuse is difficult enough, leaving everything you know behind can be even more painful and make recovery feel like something foreign and not achievable. Some people simply may not be able to quit their jobs to receive treatment. Others may not want to or are willing to leave their spouses or children.

For reasons like these and many more, people turn to outpatient treatment facilities. Outpatient programs provide the opportunity to get sober safely and receive the type of addiction counseling you need to thrive without having to put your life on pause.

There are some people who feel that residential treatment is their only hope of quitting drugs or alcohol. Their home environment is filled with triggers that prevent them from focusing on their recovery. Outpatient therapy uses counseling to help people confront those triggers on a daily basis. You don’t have to worry about returning from a long-term inpatient program only to be flooded with temptation.

There are two types of outpatient therapy to consider: traditional outpatient treatment and intensive outpatient treatment, often shortened and referred to as IOP. Understanding the difference between the two programs can help you feel more comfortable with the idea of treatment and select the right program for you and your lifestyle.

Traditional Outpatient Addiction Treatment

The least restrictive form of counseling, outpatient programs are favored by many with mild addictions for their flexibility. You can attend counseling sessions when you are free, so most people get help in the evenings or weekends while they go about their daily lives.

For people whose substance use hasn’t impacted their ability to hold down a job or attend school, traditional outpatient therapy can be convenient and beneficial. However, people with long-term addictions that have significantly impacted their life, relationships and health aren’t going to receive the intensive level of support and therapy they need to get better.

Who Should Go to Traditional Outpatient Programs?

There are a few types of people who make a good fit for outpatient drug and alcohol programs. These include:

  • People who have recently developed a drug or drinking problem
  • People whose addiction is mild
  • People who have begun experimenting with drugs or worry they’re bordering on addiction
  • Recovering addicts who have relapsed and want a refresh on sobriety tactics and resources
  • People who are highly motivated and committed to getting sober and have a strong family support system

hat to Expect in Traditional Outpatient Treatment

Regardless of setting, most addiction programs last around 90 days according to the addiction treatment standards provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Most outpatient programs are specified by monthly duration rather than days. Group therapy is often a large component of treatment, and many programs follow a “step-down” approach that connects clients with 12-step support groups to continue their treatment after they’ve completed a recovery program.

Most outpatient rehabs are welcoming and laid-back. The fear that you will be treated like a helpless patient can be disregarded. You are a willing, fully capable person who has decided to take back control over your life. You will be greeted by a supportive staff that prioritizes your well-being.

Your motivation plays a large role in your success and recovery. People who aren’t ready to get sober might have a difficult time showing up and participating in counseling sessions or group therapy.

Those who don’t believe they have a problem or are resistant to treatment won’t benefit greatly from the services at an outpatient program. If you are looking to help a loved one realize the extent of their addiction, you might want to consider scheduling an intervention rather than encouraging them to just attend a program.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment Programs

An intensive outpatient program, or IOP, is ideal for people with moderate addictions that do not require medically supervised detox. People with co-occurring disorders may also choose to attend an IOP program where they can receive treatment for both their addiction and any underlying psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.

In IOP treatment, different therapies are used. The duration of sessions is much longer than regular outpatient therapy. A typical IOP program lasts for three hours a day, three days a week. Some highly focused IOP treatments can even meet up to 30 hours a week.

The intensity of the treatment and the duration of the therapy are ultimately up to you, but understanding the different types of treatment options and their effectiveness can help you make the right decision. Flexibility is just one aspect of choosing the right rehab. You also have to ensure that the IOP you’re interested in uses the right combination of therapy to truly help you overcome addiction.

While 12-step programs have been proven to be effective models of therapy, they aren’t the only way to stay sober. Personalized treatment is an important aspect of addiction recovery. Everyone has unique struggles and circumstances surrounding their addiction and affecting their sobriety. An IOP with a combination of therapies that work for you is the best way to achieve success.

Typical Therapies Found at an IOP</h3?

Every rehab has its own philosophy and approach to treatment. The more time you’re able to commit to a program, the more therapies you can try. Understanding the most common IOP services and treatments will make it more comfortable for you and help you make better choices when selecting a rehab.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the most common forms of therapy used by psychologists and addiction counselors. CBT is designed to help you as you are now rather than focusing on your past and dredging up uncomfortable memories and painful feelings.

While past experiences such as abuse or trauma often play a large role in the development of addiction, substance use disorder is a present issue that must be addressed from various angles.

Through CBT, you work with a therapist in one-on-one sessions. During your treatment, you’ll learn how to identify negative thinking patterns and develop healthier perspectives that alter your behavior.

The fear of losing control is strong among millions of people, and the uncertainty that overshadows addiction can make recovery feel more like a threat than an opportunity. CBT can help you gain the security and confidence you need to confront a variety of challenges without the use of drugs or alcohol.

Addiction Education Groups

Some aspects of an IOP center around knowledge. Understanding how addiction happens and the various ways it affects your body and mind gets you more involved in your recovery. Rather than feeling like you have a problem someone else is equipped to fix, you gain the valuable information necessary to understand, explain and treat your addiction.

These sessions are usually held in groups and are relaxed. Substance abuse, its consequences, and relapse prevention techniques are covered; most people undergo this type of therapy at the start of their IOP.

The official term for this type of therapy is “psychoeducation.” While some therapeutic techniques are implemented throughout the group sessions, the focus is more on knowledge and awareness.

Family Therapy

The impact of addiction on someone’s marriage and family relationships can be devastating. Because an IOP is designed to address multiple aspects of your life, family counseling sessions are included in most programs.

The benefits of family therapy in substance abuse treatment include greater emotional support and increased accountability. When you understand how your addiction has impacted your loved ones, you may become more motivated to commit to your sobriety.

Family members who don’t understand addiction and think of it as merely a choice can also gain valuable insight during family therapy sessions. A substance abuse counselor can help parents, siblings and even children understand addiction and the best ways they can help you during your recovery.

Couples therapy at an IOP can help spouses reconnect and understand one another better. It’s difficult to maintain a healthy relationship when your entire life is consumed by addiction. Couples counseling will provide new insight, teach you both communication strategies and help you close this chapter of your life as you move on to recovery.

Skill Development Group Therapy

Skill development groups prepare you for life without drugs or alcohol. A cognitive behavioral approach is used to help participants build new skills or relearn old coping mechanisms that were replaced by substance use.

Addiction reduces the ability to make sound decisions and handle stress in a healthy way. In fact, studies show that chronic stress increases a person’s likelihood of substance abuse. Skill-building exercises with fellow patients will help you strengthen communication strategies, understand how different people perceive the same situation and build confidence in your ability to work independently and with others.

Support Groups

Group therapy is a big part of recovery treatment. Addiction often causes feelings of isolation, but group therapy proves that you are never alone in your struggle. Addiction support groups are considered a form of self-help treatment. The group leader encourages each participant to find something positive about the other members, build their own self-confidence and become more comfortable with expressing their feelings.

Support groups also provide a sense of emotional security. Treatment can produce a lot of anxiety whether it’s from fear of failure or a fear of judgment. Group therapy fosters a sense of camaraderie and acceptance. People are able to connect with others who understand their addiction and the difficulty it takes to overcome it.

IOP vs. PHP Therapy

While an IOP is a step up from outpatient rehab, it may not be enough for people with severe addictions. In more severe cases, a partial hospitalization program, or PHP, is the preferred method of treatment.

A PHP can be used to treat people who have recently left a residential center or who have relapsed and need greater access to therapy and resources than an IOP provides.

Most PHP sessions last for six hours a day and meet five days a week. The large portion of time dedicated to a PHP can impact a person’s ability to work, care for their family or attend to other responsibilities. Sometimes, a PHP is referred to as “day rehab.” The best way to think of a PHP is to imagine a residential treatment without the need to sleep over.

The same types of programs you find in an IOP program are often offered in PHP therapies. The primary difference is the duration of the treatment sessions.

Choosing the Right Program for You

The treatment program you choose for your recovery will impact you, your loved ones and the rest of your life. Weighing the options and considering the long-term effects of your addiction can help you decide whether you need a program that’s more flexible, like traditional therapy, or more regimented, like an IOP.

Don’t let fear hold you back from getting the help you need. It may be more comfortable to stay at work and only attend an outpatient session a few times a week, but many people benefit from the short but intense rigor of IOP treatment.

What is Depression / Mental Illness

A lot of people equate depression with feeling sad, but depression is much more than that. Depression is a mental illness. One of the characteristics is feeling depressed or sad, but it also involves other symptoms. Among the symptoms of this mental illness are:

  • Loneliness even when part of a group
  • Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or inability to get out of bed
  • Changes in eating habits ranging from not eating to overeating
  • Feeling hopeless, guilty, worthless, empty or helpless
  • Irritability or anger
  • Chronic aches or cramps with no medical cause
  • Restlessness
  • Thoughts or attempts at suicide

While most people have down days when they may experience one or more of these symptoms, the American Psychiatric Association suggests that a depression diagnosis should be limited to individuals who have experienced one or more of the symptoms continuously for at least two weeks.

This condition is considered an affect or mood disorder. It shares characteristics with several other mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. While some depressive episodes last a few days or weeks, some people suffer from chronically depressed feelings over the course of their entire lives.

Types of Depression

Not everyone suffers from the same version of this illness. Harvard Medical School identifies four types of depressed states that are common to both men and women and two that are specific to women:

Major depression

is a state of overwhelming dark mood that is all-encompassing. People suffering from this type lose interest in activities they once enjoyed and may have a hard time functioning on a daily basis. They are at great risk of suicide.

A persistent depressive disorder

is also known as dysthymia. This type of disorder lasts for at least two years and resembles major depression, but the person does not experience the symptoms as acutely. They are still able to function on a daily basis although they may not find much joy in life.

Bipolar disorder

is also known as manic-depressive disease. People suffering from bipolar disorder face periods of extreme highs followed by extreme lows. This pattern cycles. They may experience extreme periods of high energy, grandiose ideas, and unreasonably high self-esteem before spiraling into deeply depressed episodes when they may not have the energy to get out of bed and lack the self-confidence to handle even simple tasks.

Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD

is typically seen during the shorter days of fall and winter. With shorter days comes less sunlight. Sunlight has been found to interact with the body’s chemistry to elevate a person’s mood. Without that sunlight, some people may suffer a short-term version of this disorder.

Perinatal depression

also known as postpartum depression, relates to both major and minor depressive episodes revolving around pregnancy or the birth of a child. These episodes may last for as long as 12 months after the birth of a child.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD

is a type of depression many women experience from shortly prior to ovulation until menstruation starts. It is a severe version of premenstrual syndrome or PMS.

Causes of Depressive Episodes

As with many mental illnesses, more than one factor can be attributed to causing depressive episodes. Some people inherit a predisposition for this illness while others suffer from a hormone imbalance as seen with perinatal depression or PMDD. Others suffer from a brain chemistry imbalance that affects how well the neurotransmitters work in mood stabilization. Biological differences in the brain also account for depressed emotions.

While people may be predisposed to this illness, there are often triggering events. Some common triggers include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Job loss
  • Obesity
  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Overwhelming debt
  • Fear of letting others down or of what other people will think
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Abuse, violence or neglect
  • Relocating
  • Medical diagnosis
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Changes in diet or sleep habits
  • Isolation
  • Increased stress in day-to-day life

Adverse Health Behaviors

Left untreated, depression can lead to other unhealthy behaviors. For example:


May give someone suffering from this mental illness temporary relief from the symptoms at the cost of their physical health. Experts have determined that the nicotine in cigarettes stimulates brain receptors. This stimulation enhances mood and decreases depressed feelings.

Lack of physical activity

Can be an indicator of this mental illness. When a person feels tired all the time or lacks drive or interest in activities, it is not unusual for physical activity to lapse, which can lead to obesity. On the other hand, increased physical activity is a great mood enhancer and can help someone who is depressed overcome their mental illness.

Alcohol and drug consumption

Are frequent self-medication techniques for persons suffering from this condition as they try to escape the negative feelings that overshadow their lives. They do not take into consideration that prolonged drug and alcohol use can be detrimental to their physical health, and in some cases, alcohol and drugs actually increase the negative symptoms.

Sleep deprivation

Is often the result of this condition. Lack of sleep can affect the overall health of an individual and increases the likelihood for such problems as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Prevention Is Key

While most experts agree that this mental illness cannot be prevented, steps can be taken to lessen the effects:

  • Develop good tactics to deal with stress, such as yoga and meditation.
  • Build self-esteem.
  • Enjoy plenty of sunshine.
  • Stay organized and create a detailed routine.
  • Get ample sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.
  • Recognize the signs for depression and get help before they become debilitating.
  • Enjoy less social media time and more face-to-face time with friends and family.
  • Avoid alcohol consumption and recreational drug use.
  • Remain true to a treatment plan by attending all therapy appointments and taking medication even when feeling good.
  • Connect with other people who can provide support, such as friends, family or a mental illness support group.
  • Avoid making major decisions during a depressive episode.
  • Practice thinking positively.
  • Avoid toxic people or situations.

Family and Friends

This mental illness also affects family and friends. They are stuck on the outside, seeing their loved ones suffering and their personalities changing. Children may feel neglected when their parents cannot get out of bed. Spouses may experience frustration when they must take up the responsibilities of the depressed spouse. Parents may be at a loss to understand why their straight-A student is now failing.

First and foremost, remember that depression is a mental illness. It is real and is as important to receive treatment as high blood pressure, diabetes or a broken limb. Your loved one is not lazy or faking it to get out of work. They need your help and support.

Additional steps that can be taken include the following:

    • Learn as much as you can about the condition and how to treat it, which may include psychotherapy and medication.
    • Avoid trying to cure the illness alone. Just like you would go to a doctor if you had a physical illness, you need to depend on a qualified doctor or therapists to diagnose the mental illness and create a treatment plan.
    • Create a low-stress environment. Avoid pressuring them back into a routine they may not be ready for. Take steps to help create a new routine. For example, set up reminders on their phone for when to take their medication or to pay bills. Help them organize their home so that they can find things.
    • Ask your loved one how you can help. This is especially important if they already have a diagnosis and know what to expect from depressive episodes. They may need something as simple as someone to help them clean up or put groceries in the refrigerator. They may need someone to talk to about what is worrying them. They may just need to know they are loved.
    • Create a support network both to help you as a caregiver and to help your loved one. Think of this disorder as a boulder you are trying to roll uphill. Alone, the task is almost impossible, but with a support network’s help, the job becomes easier.
    • Listen without judgment, and be aware they are not necessarily asking you to fix anything. Of course, if it is something easy and necessary to their life, like cooking a meal or cleaning their apartment, then help. But often, your loved one just needs to know they are being heard while they work out the thought processes that are clogging their head.
    • Take threats of harm seriously. Suicide is a very real and final side effect of depression. If your loved one is threatening suicide, avoid leaving them alone. Removed all sharp objects, weapons, and medication from the home, and call a suicide hotline or mental health professional for crisis intervention. You can also call 911.
    • Use positive enforcement to help build your loved one’s self-esteem and to keep them on a treatment plan.
    • Make it easy on your loved one to stay on a treatment plan. You may want to offer to go with them to therapy sessions or pick up prescriptions for them.
    • Take care of yourself. When you board an airplane, as part of the emergency procedures, you are told to put on your oxygen mask before helping others. The same is true when caring for someone with this illness. Remember to eat. Take personal time to unwind and refocus. Get plenty of sleep and be cognizant of what you can and cannot do. If you burn out or fall into your own depressed state, you will be unable to help your loved one.

Remember that the only person you can control is yourself. No matter how much you want to protect your loved one, you cannot hold yourself accountable for their actions. You have probably heard the adage, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” The same holds true with trying to force someone with a mental illness to abide by a treatment plan. You can offer them help. You can take them to a therapist and pay for their medication, but you cannot force them to take the steps to get better. If the situation is dire, you may need to seek professional or legal help to prevent them from harming themselves or others.

Many people who have experienced depression describe it as being down a deep, dark well where there is no way out. Fortunately, there are ways out. With therapy, medication, and self-care, you can curb the effects of this illness and lead a normal life. You have taken the first step by learning more about mental illness and prevention. Now is the time go further and put what you have learned into practice.

What to do When a Loved One comes home from rehab

Rehab is just the first stage of the journey an individual must travel to return to a normal life in recovery. When loved ones return from a treatment center, friends and family may be unsure about what kind of support to provide and when they should step back to allow individuals to manage the situation on their own.

Treatment has provided these individuals with a number of strategies and tools to manage their emotions and cravings, and they should be allowed to utilize these tools for their everyday needs. Addiction experts recommend a number of actions you can take to help your loved one navigate the post-treatment period after coming home.

Good Planning Can Support Successful Outcomes

The post-treatment period is a sensitive time not only for addicts but also for everyone around them. Friends and family may have experienced lying, theft and a variety of other negative behaviors that they must try to put aside in the interests of making a new start.

The recovering individual has a big job to do that includes learning to cope with everyday frustrations and failures without the crutch of the substance. You can help the individual develop a workable plan for daily life. This could include a list of daily responsibilities and a schedule for attending meetings or counseling sessions, but it should also include a period of free time for reflection and personal enjoyment. These activities should always be based on reasonable expectations for the individual at their current state of ability.

The structure of a daily schedule can provide stability and encourage positive use of time. Of course, individuals should be directly involved in creating a workable schedule for themselves. Adolescents who have completed treatment may require a bit more supervision in developing goals and understanding consequences.

Resolve to Avoid Nagging

Everyone knows that nagging can have a countereffect. Being constantly nagged can arouse feelings of resentment and resistance, which can have the opposite effect you would want in an individual trying to rebuild a productive life. Moms, in particular, often find themselves constantly reminding their adult children in recovery to do certain things and perform beneficial tasks. However, you should resist this impulse whenever possible.

The recovering addict is working on developing inner controls and positive habits. This effort can be undermined by the constant nagging of loved ones. Step back and allow the person to develop these skills gradually while you praise their positive actions.

Leave Old Issues in the Past

Friends and family can provide support for the recovering individual by avoiding any mention of issues that may have occurred during the period of addiction. There may be a number of problems that existed previous to the substance use and may have even contributed to it. However, stabilizing their behavior and actions in normal life should be the main task being handled by the individual in recovery.

After they have some mastery of coping strategies in the present, a look back into previous problems can begin. Loved ones can help prevent recovering addicts from falling into old patterns by encouraging them to implement their treatment strategies while moving toward the future with a more hopeful, positive outlook.

Avoid Mentioning How Addiction Has Hurt the Family and Others

The behaviors associated with substance use and addiction often cause severe damage to relationships and can lead to social embarrassment for family members and friends. If the addiction has gone on for a period of time, the number of these occasions may be significant and may even be in quite recent memory. However, it’s helpful to not mention how much family members or friends have been affected by these events.

Chances are that the recovering individual remembers these incidents very clearly and is dealing with the resulting shame and distress. If you avoid emphasizing this aspect of the past, you can help your loved one stabilize during the initial recovery period. If old resentments continue to affect the relationship, counseling as a group can be a good option. Studies show that family therapy can be a helpful measure for dealing with the lingering resentment and trust issues that have been caused by addiction.

Resist the Urge to Make Decisions for Him or Her

Family members often have to resist the urge to manage the recovering addict in the same way that they have had to do in the past. This is important because this type of behavior takes responsibility out of the hands of the individual who really needs the practical experience of making daily decisions and applying the techniques that will help maintain sobriety.

Family and friends can be available to act as a sounding board and support, but they should avoid imposing their own views on how the individual should progress. These decisions need to be done at the individual’s own pace and in a manner that is comfortable for him or her.

Don’t Clean Up the Consequences of Mistakes

Developing a successful strategy for maintaining sobriety can be an up-and-down process. Everyone’s life is different, and each person must learn to manage a variety of emotions and circumstances that arise daily. Mistakes will be made by the recovering addict. These mistakes may include not attending meetings, not taking medication, taking on a stressful job too quickly or fraternizing with people from the past.

Your task is to allow these mistakes to happen without running in to “fix” the situation in some way. Let recovering individuals experience the consequences of their actions and determine the remedy on their own terms. Of course, you can be on hand to listen and be the sounding board for ideas.

Don’t Take On Responsibility for Bad Decisions

When the inevitable mistakes occur, parents, siblings and close friends often want to rush in to help restore the situation for the person in recovery. Although this may make them feel better, it can be a mistake for the addicted person. Taking responsibility for one’s actions is one of the most essential concepts of addiction treatment.

If the person has crashed the car, lost a job or failed to maintain a relationship, those closest to him should get out of the way and allow the recovering individual the space to take responsibility for the problem. Although the situation may seem like a step backward, it presents an important opportunity for addicts to learn how to manage their lives effectively.

In some cases, the setback may be a relapse into substance use. Relapses are common during recovery and are not a sign that treatment has failed. In fact, it is often an impetus to learn more effective skills for recovery. In this case, you should support decisions that are made and encourage the person to do whatever is necessary to repair the situation.

Begin to Rebuild Trust

The process of rebuilding trust in a relationship can be a tenuous one. Particularly in cases when the addiction has gone on for years, there may have been many breaches of trust that leave resentment, disappointment and even fear about being hurt again. These feelings are normal and should be acknowledged and admitted.

All parties should be aware that the rebuilding of trust can only occur over a period of time. When needed, group or individual counseling can help manage these emotions. Providing an honest and encouraging environment helps re-establish these bonds, and it can be a particularly important part of the recovery process for the individual.

Look for Opportunities to Praise and Encourage

The period after treatment can be one that provokes tension and anxiety for all involved. Maintaining realistic expectations can help alleviate the stress so that everyone can feel more comfortable during the initial steps of rebuilding a normal life. If you make a point of looking for positive actions, you will have opportunities to give praise to the individual.

You can also take note of daily actions that advance their recovery strategy and use them to encourage the individual to continue these efforts. If you stay alert to anything positive in the person’s daily life, you can use these incidents to encourage and praise.

Don’t Follow Him or Her Around

Parents, siblings and close friends may feel compelled to stay close to the recovering addict to prevent them from spending time with bad companions and ensure that he or she does not fall into past bad habits. However, the freedom to make one’s own decisions and exercise one’s own inner controls is a fundamental learning task for those in recovery. The process may include testing limits and performing actions in certain ways that seem unusual to the non-addicted person.

Allow loved ones in recovery the space to test their new sobriety in non-threatening ways. This allows them to become more confident in their own actions and decisions. The development of this confidence is an important feature of a successful recovery.

Avoid Intrusions on Privacy

After the negative behaviors involved with addiction, suspicion can be strong in family members and friends. However, it’s important to avoid checking up on the addict by looking at their cellphone texts or listening in on conversations. Intrusions on privacy can only lead to misunderstandings and stress in the relationship. Trust must be re-established organically, and this means respecting the privacy of the individual as you would any other person.

Make Positive New Memories

Families and friends can often heal the emotional breaches that develop from addiction by creating new positive memories that help reinforce bonds with the individual who is recovering. Simple activities such as having a pizza-and-a-movie night, walking through the woods together or cooking a favorite meal can cement relationships and bring a feeling of normalcy that everyone can value. Even painting a room, doing a crossword puzzle or waxing the car together can be a moment of solidarity and stability.

When awkward moments occur, learn to laugh them off with a joke or just change the subject. Keeping the occasion positive and comfortable should be the main goal. The joy in life comes from small moments that are shared and appreciated, so creating them for your loved one in recovery can be both helpful and enjoyable for everyone involved.

By providing emotional support and encouragement during the many difficulties of rebuilding a normal life after addiction, family and friends can be a critical factor for success in the post-treatment period. However, it is essentially the task of the individual to do the daily work of maintaining sobriety using the skills they have learned in rehab to navigate the process. Providing a positive and honest environment in which the person can use these new skills can help them sustain a successful recovery over the long term.

How to Make 2019 Better for Your Mental Health

Each new year inspires us to make changes in our lives. As one chapter closes, a fresh new start looms on the horizon, and resolutions are one way to mark the end of one year and embrace another.

The impending arrival of a new year is a period where many of us will reflect on our lives. It’s important to look inward and consider what we’d like to do differently in the year to come. However, it’s equally important that we are mindful in our introspection instead of just focusing on our failures and tearing ourselves down. Rather than resolve to change who we are for the new year because we feel we aren’t good enough, we should look ahead to 2019 as an opportunity to grow and apply our earned wisdom to create a healthier, happier life.

Mental health was a major topic of discussion in 2018. With so many people coming forward about their own struggles, stigma has begun to shift, and we’re more accepting of conditions like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. Once considered “made up” or “all in your head,” these psychological conditions are real disorders, often with biological components, that should be taken as seriously as any physical illness.

As the new year arrives, it’s time to focus more on your own well-being and consider how your mental health has impacted your life thus far. These tips will help you learn how to prioritize your mental health in 2019 and live one of your most transformative years yet.

Learn More About Mental Illness

Education is the gateway to recovery. So many people are unfamiliar with the statistics and nature of psychological disorders that they simply don’t know how to seek treatment. Many people may refuse treatment for conditions like substance use disorder because they don’t think anyone can break their addiction, or they may believe that a therapist is incapable of curing their depression because they view themselves as “broken” or “damaged.”

In a study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a lead researcher at the Illinois Institute of Technology reported that about 40% of Americans refuse treatment for their mental health conditions because of stigma.

In order to recover, you have to understand the warning signs, symptoms and nature of mental illnesses. Whether it’s substance use disorder, depression, anxiety or something else entirely, learning about mental illness and how it impacts your life is the first step toward recovery.

You can start by checking out resources from major organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the American Psychological Association and

Learning about mental health and illnesses also makes us better equipped to help other people. If a friend or loved one is struggling with addiction, for example, it can be difficult trying to reach them or understand their behavior. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and experiences of people with substance use disorder can change our approach and make it easier for us to communicate with the people we care about.

With proper education, it becomes much easier to understand the importance of counseling and psychological intervention. You don’t go to a therapist because something is wrong with you; you go because you understand something isn’t working as it should, and you want to get better.

Studying mental illness removes shame and combats stigma. Once we understand that our brain is just as important as the rest of our body’s organs, getting treatment doesn’t feel like an admission of failure or guilt.

Seek Therapy or Help When You Need It

Our mental health encompasses many important facets of our being, including our decision-making ability, emotional expression, and relationships. Almost every social function we have in our lives is impacted by our mental health, and when you struggle with a disorder, it can negatively impact every facet of your life.

Many people who suffer from mental illness don’t realize how much a therapist can help. Those with substance use disorder might even be told by their own family and friends that their addiction is their fault and refuse treatment because they don’t believe anyone can ever help them.

As an addicted individual, it’s important to understand that your participation and commitment to getting sober is half the work. Without an open mind, no amount of therapy or rehab can make a difference; everything will just sound like advice meant for other people.

Mental illness in America is growing, and so is substance abuse. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that over 21 million Americans over age 12 require some form of substance abuse treatment.

Every year, one in five U.S. adults experiences a mental disorder. That’s over 43 million people. No matter what you’re suffering from, you’re never alone. Seeking therapy or rehabilitation for your problems, even if you aren’t entirely sure what they are, can put you on the right path toward recovery.

Pursue New Interests

Stagnation is a major contributor to depression. If you feel like you’ve been stuck living the same day over and over again for ages, it’s time to regain control over your life by changing your routine. You may not be able to quit your job and travel the world, but you don’t have to completely overhaul your entire existence to experience change.

Start by looking at your passions. What makes you happy? You may not be able to think of something right now, and that’s OK. You have plenty to discover that will ignite a spark in you. Finding new interests and pursuing outside hobbies is great for building self-confidence, meeting new people and living a more active, healthy lifestyle.

If you like physical activities, why not look for a yoga or dance studio near you? You could also try something like kickboxing, martial arts or hiking. Physical exercise releases stress and anxiety and can even alleviate the symptoms of depression.

There are so many new things you can try out that will do wonders for your mental health. Apart from the distraction they’ll bring, new interests will also show you how much more there is to life than just what you see. Make a commitment to try at least one new thing a week whether it’s going to read a book at the coffee shop you always pass on your way to work or visiting the art museum.

It’s OK to drop activities that don’t interest you in pursuit of greater passions. What matters is that you’re adding diversity to your life and gaining new experiences in the process.

Practice Becoming More Mindful

Many people mistakenly believe that mindfulness and meditation are all about clearing your head of all thoughts. In reality, becoming mindful is about learning to live more in the present and being aware of yourself and current experience. Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings without identifying with them.

Dr. Patricia Rockman of The Centre for Mindfulness Studies says that mindfulness grants people “access to a different perspective, helps them open to other possibilities, and enhances resilience and their capacity to tolerate distress.”

Is mindfulness a cure-all for mental illness? Of course not, but being mindful is one way to reduce stress and resist falling prey to many of the negative emotions and thoughts that weigh us down throughout the day. Most therapists incorporate a variety of techniques in their treatment plans to address the complexities of mental illness, and mindfulness has been demonstrated to prevent depressive episodes and reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The widespread application of mindfulness is still being explored, but you can start learning how to be more mindful right now with sites like Tiny Buddha, Mind Body Green and Mindful.

Change Your Diet

We’ve all heard about how important it is to eat a balanced diet, but what does that mean? You should consider your nutrition like puzzle pieces. Different vitamins and minerals have to come together in order to complete a picture, which is your physical well-being. Did you know what you eat also plays a role in how you feel?

A well-balanced diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates like whole grains, and lean proteins. Eating too many fried foods, white bread and rice, trans fats and refined sugars can make us feel lethargic and depressed.

Processed snacks and fast food don’t provide the nutrients and vitamins we need to look and feel healthy, so they should be eaten only in moderation. Vitamin deficiencies can cause a variety of physical ailments as well as a low-mood, depressive symptoms and anxiety. Finding ways to incorporate plenty of vitamins D and B into your diet can help combat these side effects. Natural sources include salmon, tuna, spinach, and kale. A healthy salad can pack plenty of vitamins in each bite and deliver your daily dose of wellness.

In the new year, head to the grocery store to stock up on produce and wholesome foods so that you can start the year off by nourishing your body the best you can.

Embrace Self-Care

An addicted individual is someone who particularly struggles with self-care. Drugs and alcohol often start off as a way to self-medicate and reduce the feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and low self-esteem. However, over time, people find themselves caught in an endless cycle.

Many people fail to take time for themselves due to work obligations, family and other responsibilities. However, a lack of reprieve and adequate rest can cause our stress levels to rise and worsen the feelings of anxiety and depression. You don’t have to completely neglect your loved ones in order to practice self-care.

You may find that the little things go a long way when it comes to caring for yourself. Think of the small gestures others have done for you that made you feel loved and appreciated. Enjoying your coffee in solitude each morning, going for a jog to clear your thoughts or drawing up a hot bubble bath with essential oils are all easy, simple acts of self-care that can do wonders for your mental health.

Self-care is also important because it teaches us that we’re valuable, too. It’s natural for all of us to look outward and focus on everyone else’s thoughts and feelings, but we need to pay close attention to our own minds. Have you ever asked yourself, “How are you?” It may feel strange, but you could be shocked at how much you really have going on beneath the surface.

How Will You Move Forward?

Everyone needs to heal in some way or another, and 2019 is your chance to do just that. No matter what you struggle with, there is a way to get help and work toward recovery. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself and follow it up with a list of everything you’d like to change. You might find that they’re imbalanced, but that’s OK. As you move into the new year, it’s time to understand that you always have a choice. Seeking treatment and help from others is one way of taking control over your life.

The new year is a chance to confront everything that has held us back in the past and develop a more hopeful outlook on life. Make 2019 the year of recovery one day at a time.

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: