Relationship Consequences Of Drug Abuse

Relationship In Recovery

In most cases, love is a double-edged sword. When you emotionally commit to another human being, you grow empathic to their every feeling. When they’re troubled, you’re troubled. When they’re happy, it brings you joy. And when there’s serious strain in the relationship, it can send you into a fit of depression.

Love can strengthen, but it can also weaken. We risk that whenever we open our hearts to someone else, and even when a relationship’s future looks bleak, we are often inclined to work as hard as we can to save it. Sometimes, that is a good thing. At other times, this drive can only make things worse.

With addiction in the picture, it’s difficult to tell where the pendulum swings. Sometimes, a loving, supporting partner can be the key to recovery. At other times, a partner struggling with addiction can tear the other apart emotionally, irrevocably destroying a once beautiful bond, and leaving a lasting mark.

Through hard work, commitment, and luck, addiction and drug abuse can be overcome in a relationship. But sometimes it’s better to spare yourself, than lose yourself and your partner over your partner’s disease.


Why Active Addicts Often Make Terrible Partners

There is a lot of stigma against people struggling with addiction, and many still view it as a consequence of moral failing, rather than a brain disease with behavioral side-effects. It is true that people who struggle with drug abuse usually become less pleasant because of their addiction, to the point where they may start lying and acting irrationally to support their habit. But behavior like this is not indicative of the person’s usual personality, rather, it’s part of the disease.

And it’s that part of the disease that makes addicts terrible partners. Trust is important in a relationship, and the ability to depend on your partner is the cornerstone of any romantic commitment. Addiction effectively steals your partner away from you, making them unreliable and often downright untrustworthy, introducing secrecy and drama into the relationship.

To overlook that long enough to survive recovery is difficult. Relationships have a hard time surviving addiction, and if you’re the supporting partner, then your biggest task is staying sane and not succumbing to codependency, or worse yet, enabling behavior. That being said, being in a relationship while fighting addiction isn’t all bad.


Relationship: A Boon Or A Bane On Recovery

One reason why many recovery groups explicitly advise against dating while in recovery is because the pain of rejection or of a break up can easily send a recovering addict spiraling back into addiction through relapse. Early recovery in particular is a very fragile time in a recovering addict’s life, as adjusting to long-term sobriety and life without drugs can take a while.

Relationships, as such, can present themselves either as a big obstacle in a person’s recovery, or as their saving grace, the one thing they have left to hold onto as a form of accountability and motivation for staying sober, and remaining abstinent.


Living With A Partner In Denial

If your partner is in denial, and refuses to get help, then you may be approaching a point in the relationship where the person you fell in love with is fading away, and you have to consider your own mental health and emotional wellbeing. Losing yourself trying to help someone else is not a reasonable long-term deal – even if your partner recovers, the guilt of leaving lasting emotional damage will drag them back down.

Be sure to practice self-care if you’re going to be an emotional pillar of support – even if that ultimately means making the difficult decision of stepping out of your partner’s life. For some, that might be the push they need to get them to realize that help is needed.


Codependency And Enabling

A relationship between someone struggling with addiction and their partner can devolve further into more damaging problems, including the enabling of addiction through lies and secrecy, and codependency – developing mental health issues including addiction in part because of your partner’s condition.

Often, partners (and parents) who enable their loved ones may not be fully aware of their behavior or may even be in denial. It might start off as trying to save your partner from embarrassment by lying to concerned friends about his or her addiction, but it can progress into bigger lies and manipulative behavior.

An important part of addiction is waking up to the consequences of being addicted and using that as motivation to seek help. By hiding your partner’s problems, you may be making things worse for them.


Getting Stronger By Healing Together

It’s not all doom and gloom. But it is a decision you and your partner have to make. If you’re the supporting partner, then you have to ask yourself if you can stand by your partner’s side throughout their recovery and trust their commitment to abstinence. Your support, unconditional love, and constant willingness to be there for them may save them in moments of weakness, especially if you aren’t alone.

In other cases, your willingness to forgive may mean your partner will feel less pressure to change – and over months and years, take you for granted. This toxic cycle is something no one should have to try and withstand.

The juggling act is to find the right point to make that crucial decision. Not too soon, and not too late. If you can find that point – and choose to stay – then with a little luck, your bond will strengthen through the experience of fighting through addiction together. It can be a growing experience, as well, pushing the relationship to its limits and discovering a new sort of love – the dependable kind that lasts through real crises.

What kind of effects does addiction have on your relationship – and how do you see your future? It’s important to sit down and think long and hard about these questions and decide what they mean for the future of your relationship, regardless of which partner you are.


The Effects Of Opioids

Addiction to Opioids

Humanity has a long history with opioids, stretching back to antiquity. While some ancient remedies, such as mercury and mouse paste have been completely abandoned, opium and its derivatives are key painkillers in today’s prescription medicine market – and they are the key to understanding the country’s current opioid crisis.

Opium is the sap of the poppy plant, known for vibrant red and yellow flowers, and its black edible seeds. After centuries of use as an analgesic, a German chemist derived the alkaloid morphine from opium, and this was further developed into heroin decades thereafter.

Through morphine and heroin, Western medicine revolutionized anesthesia and painkilling – at the cost of a rising addiction problem. Thus, opioids became a controlled substance, obtainable only for medical or research purposes, through a prescription.


What Are Opioids?

Opioids are substances that bind directly to the brain’s opioid receptors and induce a state of euphoria coupled with powerful analgesic effects. Opioids are defined by the symptoms produced by morphine and other opium derivatives: happiness, pain relief, and slowed breathing. Aside from natural derivatives like morphine and heroin, synthetic opioids like fentanyl and carfentanil exist as well. These are extremely dangerous substances, potent enough to mimic a nerve gas.

Opioids are widely considered the world’s most dangerous kind of drug. Most opioids are extremely addictive and very potent and are responsible for millions of deaths worldwide – nearly 40 million in 2013 alone.

In the US alone, opioids caused over 142,000 overdoses between July 2016 and September 2017. In 2016, this class of drugs caused over 64,000 deaths. Even when survived, opioid overdoses can cause lasting damage, from memory loss and cognitive damage to permanent paralysis.

When opioids bind to the brain, one of the side effects is slowed breathing. This is amplified by depressants such as benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax) and alcohol. Illegal heroin is often also cut with more potent synthetic opioids to save costs and improve potency, leading to dangerous results such as badly mixed batches and extreme concentrations, resulting in more overdoses. When the brain is flooded with opioids or a combination of several drugs inducing this respiratory slowdown, the body passes out and you stop breathing.

In an overdose, the lack of oxygen can cause brain damage and death. It happens quickly, and often.


The Addictiveness Of Opioids

The biggest danger behind opioids is not their tendency to kill, but their tendency to addict, which often leads to death. Opioids are extremely potent and leave a lasting impression on the brain, making people far more susceptible to drug abuse than most other drugs.

This change in the way your brain works progressively increases as you continue using the drug, until you develop a full-blown physical dependency. This is defined as a tipping point when trying to stop leads to painful withdrawal symptoms, as your body has adapted to a consistent stream of opioids in its system, to cope with this powerful drug.

Emotional dependency is also possible – people may abuse illegal painkillers to deal with emotional pain, or stress, or to calm down after an argument. It becomes a habit, one they cannot break because they rely on a regular hit of chemical happiness.

Most cases of addiction are a mixture of both types of dependency – and in both cases, it’s important to seek help as quickly as possible.


Surviving Opioid Withdrawal

Although opioids are very addictive and dangerously fatal due to the abundance of imported synthetic opioids, opioid withdrawal is not as dangerous as alcohol or benzodiazepine withdrawal. The body does not treat opioids as a toxic substance, and withdrawal symptoms – while painful – are rarely fatal. They are still dangerous.

It is always best to undergo withdrawal under medical supervision, in a treatment facility or clinic, rather than at home without proper healthcare or emergency equipment. Opioid withdrawal is best described as a painful flu, lasting a few days to a week. Unassisted withdrawal may lead to a relapse, due to pain and cravings.


Is One Hit Enough For Addiction?

Because of the potency of many opioids – from painkillers to heroin – there is a myth that a single hit is enough to “ruin your life” or trigger an addiction. There is no drug that gets you addicted in one hit – but drugs like heroin do make your brain susceptible to more drug use, basically putting you “in the mood” to try said drug again.

Usually, addiction is a slippery slope. In some cases, it starts as a use of medication and turns into abuse. In other cases, it might be experimentation or peer pressure, eventually turning into a habit.

Not everyone on painkillers gets addicted – in fact, only a fraction gets addicted due to prescribed medication. Most opioid addicts today start with heroin, and prescription pain medication is not the only cause for today’s crisis.

But that does not change the fact that there are too many prescription painkillers in America’s healthcare system, and that pharmaceutical companies pressured doctors into selling more drugs, while utilizing misleading statements to market painkillers and anti-anxiety medication to garner a greater profit, leading to an abundance of unused drugs landing on the streets – or more accurately, floated from real patients to their relatives and friends.

Chronic pain may not be adequately solved with opioids, and effective, personalized pain management is a healthier and safer option to creating a better quality of life in many patients struggling with long-term pain. However, people who take pain meds do not usually get addicted, even if some do.


Opioid Treatment Today

In the past, addiction was a problem medicine was not quite sure how to address. It wasn’t until the stigmatization of addiction dropped considerably before we began revolutionizing our concepts of addiction and addiction treatment.

While rehab and sober living has existed for decades, new psychotherapy methods and addiction medication can help opioid addicts today find a personalized and safe way to beat the addiction, and eventually be rid of it completely.

There is no single effective path towards long-term abstinence, but there are many methods available to help professionals craft the right path for you.

Mixing Alcohol And Drugs Is Deadlier Than You Might Think

Mixing Drugs Alcohol | Transcend Texas

The idea behind mixing alcohol and drugs is usually to “improve” on a user’s experience. Experimenting with drug combinations might lead to new highs, or ways to deal with a drug’s immediate negative “comedown” effects. However, in reality, mixing alcohol with other drugs only serves to create an extremely dangerous and very potent combination, landing you in the ER or worse.

Knowing how alcohol interacts with different drugs may help give you an idea of why you should never mix booze and pills.


How Alcohol And Xanax Mix

Perhaps the deadliest combination on the list, alcohol mixed with sedatives or anti-anxiety drugs (benzodiazepines) like Xanax or Valium creates an extremely powerful sedation effect that not only potentially knocks you out, but also slows down your breathing and negates your coughing reflex, rendering you unable to breathe and unable to cough up vomit or any other blockage.

This is because alcohol and sedatives are extremely similar. Both are depressants, which means they have a calming and sedating effect on the body and the brain, lowering inhibition, slurring speech, and slowing down breathing.

Because they both require the same enzymes to be properly metabolized, the use of both sedatives and alcohol causes each substance to spend much more time in the user’s bloodstream, greatly amplifying the effects of each drug. In other words, a “normal” dose of alcohol mixed with a “normal” dose of Xanax is much more powerful than each drug individually.

Beyond using the same enzymes in the liver and causing the same sedative effects, using multiple drugs at once – also known as polydrug use – greatly amplifies your chances of struggling with multiple addictions.


How Booze And Opiates Kill

While alcohol and sedatives are extremely dangerous, they’re abused as often as opioids and booze are. Prescription painkillers (or opioids) are natural or synthetic derivatives of opium. Heroin, another commonly abused opioid, is also often taken alongside alcohol. When consumed together, these drugs also cause a “slowdown” of the body’s processes, often leading to death through oxygen deprivation.

Unlike Xanax, opioids are metabolized separately from alcohol. However, taking both at the same time can make the dangerous side effects of heroin and prescription painkillers – namely, the risk of passing out and choking to death – much more pronounced.

Beyond that, opioids are also known for being some of the most addictive drugs in the world. Up to 5% of all prescription drug users end up getting hooked on painkillers, with recovery taking months or years.

The biggest danger in this combination is how common it is. Throughout the years, the American healthcare system prioritized the sale of painkillers to aggressively fight the emergence of chronic pain in America, leading to a flooding of unused and resold prescription medication, as well as a dangerous misuse and eventual abuse of painkillers in hundreds of thousands of Americans. This arose from a combination of aggressive marketing tactics from pharmaceutical companies, as well as a growing concern among physicians that pain was undertreated in the US.

Before an official crackdown, the growth of the internet and the online prescription drug business further fueled the fire. Today, America is dealing with the biggest opioid crisis in history, with overdoses from heroin and prescription painkillers higher than ever before.


Alcohol, Cocaine, And The Brain

Alcohol and cocaine is another common combination because of the widely opposing effects of cocaine and booze on the mind. While alcohol suppresses inhibition, causes slurred speech, and slows a person’s coordination and cognition, cocaine works in the opposite direction as a stimulant, introducing a powerful euphoric high alongside a sharp increase in motivation and energy levels.

However, the use of both at the same time are thought to cancel out each other’s negative effects. In reality, using alcohol and cocaine may dampen the effects of each, causing many to use excessive amounts of cocaine or alcohol to achieve the desired high. This poses a greater risk of overdose and death. In fact, the risk of death is up to 20 times higher when taking both cocaine and alcohol, rather than just cocaine.


The Risks Of Alcohol And Cannabis

On its own, the negative effects of cannabis may be milder than most other drugs. Yet when combined with alcohol, its potency expands greatly. Aside from being a depressant, alcohol is also a diuretic and a vasodilator, meaning it affects the rate at which your endocrine system works, and expands your blood vessels, accelerating the effects of drugs in the bloodstream.

With modern methods of cannabis use including smoking high concentrations through e-cigarettes or consuming THC oils, the effects of THC can be greatly amplified by combining with alcohol. Misjudging your cannabis use while drunk can lead to nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, and more.


It’s Not Your Fault: Addiction Is A Slippery Slope

Addiction is a slippery slope | Transcend Texas

Addiction is a disease. The brain is sick, and the way it works has been warped and changed. To break out of an addiction, you must consistently and vehemently oppose your desires and instincts – it takes time to dig yourself out of that hole, and most people don’t do it without help.

On this path to getting sober and staying sober, most people will encounter one challenge after the other. Like any disease, addiction requires treatment, downtime, and recovery. One of the worst roadblocks on the way to recovery is a person’s own guilt and shame – in a way, for many people struggling with addiction, they’re their own greatest enemy. This stems from the innate belief that, somewhere and somehow, addiction is your fault.

People who take drugs to begin with are at risk of developing an addiction. But very rarely do we take drugs while in our right mind. In some cases, people get addicted growing up around drugs and violence. In other cases, it’s a matter of self-medication and excessive stress – developing alcoholism from stress at work or strain in the marriage. In yet other cases, many teens find themselves slipping into addiction due to peer pressure, party behavior, and mistakes that they regret deeply later in life.

To understand why addiction isn’t your fault – and why it’s important to internalize that for a successful recovery – we need to go back into how addiction takes root to begin with.


Addiction In The Brain

Addiction is a condition marked by the repetition of behavior that was once enjoyable and is now a source of grief or pain. Despite the clear detrimental effect, an addicted person cannot stop themselves from going through with said behavior.

Repetition does not mark an addiction. Instead, it is the dangerous and negative side effects that simply do not discourage the patient that act as a telltale sign. For example, if you spend countless hours a week training and obsessing over your sport, then you are not technically addicted. You are simply dedicated. If you spend hours a day on the internet, but still lead a healthy life, you are not addicted. Millions of Americans own smartphones, carrying them on their person and compulsively checking them up to fifty times a day on average. Yet that does not mean the average American has an addiction.

Addiction occurs when behavior in the brain – sometimes compulsive behavior like gambling, yet usually behavior involving substance use – causes your brain’s reward system to become skewed. There comes a point when you want to stop but can’t – giving up an addiction brings about feelings of pain through withdrawal symptoms, and intense cravings akin to hunger and thirst. Addiction is also accompanied by tolerance, which forces addicts to up the ante on their addictive behavior/drug of choice to experience the same high/relief, and it is accompanied by a growing lack of interest in anything besides the focus of the addiction.

This change in the brain can be documented, and visually confirmed in brain scans. Thankfully, it can be reversed – but the process takes months and years of recovery.


Choice And Addiction

Choice as a factor in addiction has been the subject of countless debates. Many want to hold people accountable for their actions and see addiction and the guilt it brings as punishment for drug use, no matter how incidental.

While it is reprehensible, uncompassionate and short-sighted to morally judge people for their addiction, choice does play a role in addiction – both before and after. We choose to start using, even if that choice was a mistake we regret. And we must choose to stop using – and hold true to that choice for the rest of our lives.

You have the power to choose – and that truth should empower you to be stronger than the addiction and seek help on the days when it feels like too much.

After treatment, when early recovery is over, and the cravings subside, it is your choice to stay true to sobriety. Post-rehab programs like sober living help in this regard, by outfitting you with the tools you need to stay clean.


The Ineffectiveness Of Blame

For some people, the realization that their choices played into their current situation can be too much – it can drive them into a spiral of guilt, depression, and relapse. It is useless to pretend that choice plays no role in addiction – but it is just as fruitless to be paralyzed by blame, or guilt.

The only thing that matters is today, tomorrow, and the future – and you have the choice to help yourself or get help and continue fighting against your addiction no matter what choices you made in the past.


Your Responsibilities In Recovery

Responsibility in recovery begins the day you come out of rehab, clean and free from drugs. From that day onwards, you owe it to yourself and those around you to stick to your recovery.

Recovery is a different journey for everyone who goes through it. Some individuals do best with one-on-one therapy, while others need to be in group therapy for the most effective treatment. For some, their addiction is tied to childhood traumas and depressive symptoms going back decades. For others, they need to confront their past by cutting themselves off from old friendships and moving away from old memories.

For most people, now and again, relapses will happen. The relapse rate for common addictions – including opiates and alcoholism – is quite high. When and if relapses happen, it is your responsibility to get back on the horse and continue your recovery. Do not let a relapse discourage you from potential permanent sobriety in the future – and know that relapses are common in early recovery, as part of the lingering cravings in your brain.

With time, it will be easier to fight them – and eventually, you will have the support system and the surroundings to help prevent them completely. By embracing your responsibilities to yourself, and your accountability towards others, you can fuel your recovery with the knowledge that everything you do is important, for your future and the wellbeing of those you care about most. You matter – and your fight against addiction matters.

How Addiction Changes Behavior

Addiction Changes Behavior | Transcend Texas

Addiction changes behavior because it is a disease of the brain, wherein chemical changes introduced by a reaction to a certain behavior or substance cause a lasting change on the way the brain works, sometimes developing into an unmanageable and unhealthy habit. The brain cannot get addicted to a drug on the first hit. But the first often leads to the second, and so on. If nothing stops the behavior, or if anything encourages it, then a few bad choices can cause can lead to what feels like the loss of choice itself.

Addiction treatment is a route to retrieving the ability to choose a better life and reinforce that choice above the ruinous alternative. It takes time, though, because of how addiction changes the brain. Understanding that can give you keen insight into the disease, and help you see just why it can be so difficult to fight against.


How Addiction Changes Behavior In People

Addiction changes behavior, not by forcing them to do something, but by heavily encouraging it. People who struggle with addiction are just that: people, from all walks of life, with a unique and varied list of problems and concerns, living with the symptoms of a disease that compels them to do anything and everything for the next high due to how addiction changes behavior.

This disease does not transform a loving and kind person into a stereotype. But going through an addiction and coming out the other side can change someone. It takes a lot of strength and a lot of time to beat an addiction, and for many, this journey causes them to reflect, consider, reprioritize and, in some cases, relearn what it means to live life.

It is difficult to pinpoint when exactly an addiction begins, but the telltale sign for when an addiction has taken hold of a person is when they try to stop doing something and find that they just cannot. The horror of that realization might be prefaced with justification and excuses for a while – we are all very good at lying to ourselves. But at some point, the truth becomes undeniable, and by then most people are in the thick of it.

The brain’s reward pathways are at the center of it all. Drugs and certain behavior cause the reward pathways to essentially get confused – addictiveness correlates strongly with how pleasurable something is, and the high of an illicit drug is essentially so powerful that the brain is desensitized to other pleasurable stimuli and begins to strongly crave that same high repeatedly. Addiction changes behavior because of the constant need to find the next high and that’s what makes it so easy to fall into the trap.

Other hobbies fall to the wayside, relationships falter, and focus becomes harder to come by. In addition to completely hijacking and manipulating the way the brain keeps you motivated, addictive drugs often damage the brain as well, reducing cognition and problem solving, increasing risky behavior, cutting down on inhibition and memory. These issues all contribute to how addiction changes behavior in a person, making them less reliable, less attentive, cutting into their focus and determination, and changing their motivations in life.

The likelihood of someone suffering an addiction depends on many possible factors, some of which are external (mental health, emotional state/stress, peer pressure, the addictiveness of the drug), and some of which are internal (genetics). But once it happens, getting out is tough.


Seek Out A Professional

Addiction treatment is not an exact science, but it is still best left to professionals. Treatment for addiction comes in dozens of shapes and sizes and determining what to suggest and what to leave out depends entirely on a patient’s circumstances, the logistics of the situation, the extent to which addiction changes behavior in them, and the skills and specializations of available professionals and treatment centers in the area.

Professional help is more than a prescription and some therapy – addiction treatment is a long road, unique for every individual, tailored to their needs. Professionals communicate across all levels of care, helping patients find a path that will get them the best results. While some people have had success in fighting addiction on their own, with the help of friends and family, it never hurts to seek a professional opinion – especially when nothing else seems to work.


Why Is Addiction Shunned?

The mind and the body affect each other, and trouble in one brews trouble in the other. In the same way, a mental illness can be as much a “physical illness” as a compound fracture or the flu. A mental illness can be caused by, or can cause physical change, just as how physical change can cause mental illness. Sometimes it is a matter of genetics, and at other times, external factors (i.e. environmental factors) play a major role instead.

Addiction is a condition caused and linked ostensibly to “feelings”. The inner workings of the brain and the way it struggles to work the same way after substance misuse is hard to see in everyday life, and it makes addiction harder to “see”. Someone struggling with addiction invariably feels certain things differently to others, which makes it an incredibly difficult thing to relate to, something quite difficult for many to feel naturally compassionate towards. When someone has a major gash in their leg, the visceral nature of the injury and its healing process evokes sympathy – an “unseen” condition is harder to empathize with, but it is every bit as real.

Awareness plays a big role. While many lives are touched by addiction indirectly, fortunately only a relatively small percentage of people have struggled through this issue. It is important for others to realize what it truly means, and why it deserves a little more sympathy rather than judgment and prejudice.

Only by approaching addiction both individually and on a larger scale from a place of care and love can we find a solution to it. Individually, support and care are critical for successful recovery. And in society, we could use a little sympathy for the people who struggle with the condition.


Quitting An Addiction

Addiction relies on support. Cravings are a big part of addiction, especially early on in recovery right after quitting, and the key to maintaining sobriety is having people around you who encourage you to stay sober, such as in a Houston sober living community.

The only prerequisite to getting better is wanting to, even after a relapse. From there, your path differs. Some people have incredible success stories, going through decades of addiction and then going sober for one goal or purpose, never looking back and never relapsing. Others have longer journeys, in and out of rehab, through several different treatment methods and centers. Some think that addiction is a life-long battle, while others see it as a chapter.

Regardless of what your recovery journey will look like, quitting addiction is always hard – and always worth it.


Changing the Perception of Addiction as Failure

Perception of Addiction | Transcend Texas

Addiction is not a failure, yet many have the perception of addiction being failure. To many people, someone who is addicted is morally challenged, emotionally immature, and weak-willed. Addiction is a sign of weakness and failure to them, rather than a disease.

This shows a fundamental lack of understanding in the general population of what addiction is, how it occurs, what it feels like, and what it means to fight it.

Thankfully, addiction is not incredibly common. Only about 6% of the US adult population struggle with substance use. That is enough to make it a nationwide issue that affects most families, but not enough to make it something most people can intimately relate to. So, to truly and effectively fight addiction, at home and in the streets, we must understand it and change the perception of addiction.

The first step to that is dispelling any false notions, such as how addiction is formed, or what being addicted says about a person’s character.


Addiction Can Happen To Anyone

Addiction does not discriminate based on willpower, mental health, intelligence, or personality. Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others, but this depends on their emotional state and the drug itself as much as it depends on their genetic predisposition (family history), and more.

People with addiction cannot be described with a single stereotype – it is a disease that affects people from all backgrounds, all statuses, throughout all ages and races, and across both genders despite the perception of addiction commonly held by the public. Highly influential lawmakers and politicians, celebrities and business people, managers, and academics. From the poorest and least successful to the richest and most gifted, addiction rears its head and wreaks havoc.

Risk factors exist. However, so do protective factors. While eliminating risk factors can go a long way in preventing addiction in families, it is not a guarantee. However, identifying risk factors and protective factors can give very important context to some families who wonder why someone they know, and love is struggling with addiction. Risk factors include:

  • Emotional vulnerability and excessive stress.
  • A disharmonic/dysfunctional home environment.
  • Peer pressure/addicted peers.
  • Age & sex (teens and men are more likely to use drugs, while women are quicker to become addicted to them).
  • Risk-seeking behavior.
  • Mental illness & self-medication.
  • Drug use in the family/addiction history.
  • Lack of opportunity/widespread oppression.

However, protective factors play a role as well. These factors alleviate the risk of addiction in children and adults:

  • Supportive family members/parental involvement.
  • A satisfying job & manageable stress levels.
  • An interconnected community.
  • Upwards social mobility.
  • Better education on addiction.
  • Readily-available counseling and mental healthcare.

However, while these factors tie into why someone may or may not become addicted, they do not imply that addiction is a necessary result of the above risks, or that a protective environment will completely discourage drug use. Life is complicated, and we cannot control all its aspects. What we can do is understand why things might have happened through the right perception of addiction and help those in need find the road they need to better themselves.

Addiction does not begin out of nowhere, either. It is important to address the meaning of choice in addiction.


The Difference Between Choice And Addiction

The key point towards explaining what makes addiction so heinous and why its victims deserve compassion rather than judgment, is the concept of choice and motivation, and what the brain has to do with it all.

Science has addressed that addiction stems from a reaction in the brain’s reward pathways tied to the use of certain drugs. They change the way you think, coupling the motivational processes of the brain with drug-seeking habits. This creates a loop where, instead of thinking about your passions, your future, or even your relationships to others, you relentlessly crave the next high. Nothing makes you as happy as getting the next high does, and resisting that craving is unbelievably difficult.

Yes, addiction always begins with a choice. Multiple choices, in fact. You cannot trigger an addiction with one high – but you can activate the mechanism that leads to addiction, making you much more likely to use again after the first usage of an addictive drug. It is this perception of addiction that is often misunderstood, yet still dangerous.

Generally-speaking, people choose to use drugs before they become addicted – but that can always be considered a mistake, and no human goes through life without making them. Only unlike many other mistakes, the consequences for this mistake are life-changing, and can be often avoidable with proper treatment, support, and compassion.

Just because bad choices lead to addiction does not mean that recovery is as simple as “choosing to stop.” The conscious choice of getting better is an important part of the recovery process, but it is only the first step. This perception of addiction that simply “choosing” to get better is all it takes is what makes relapses so much more damning and painful than they should be.

Relapses, which occur when a sober individual loses their sobriety and goes back to using, are part of the recovery process. They can be wakeup calls, providing those in recovery with a much-needed reminder or lesson that can help them along the way. But if approached from the point of view of failure, they can end sobriety entirely and spell someone’s doom.

Addiction itself is the punishment for making “bad choices”, even when they were simply misguided attempts at escaping from some other pain, or to fit in. But once addiction begins, choice alone is not enough to do the trick. Treatment, on the other hand, can work wonders. If people choose to get help.


The Perception Of Addiction Starts At Home

Addiction is a widespread issue, touching people in all walks of life across the country. But individually, it is best if we put our focus on our families and communities, doing what we can to make things better and change the perception of addiction. If you have a family member in rehab, or in recovery in general, then be sure to communicate with treatment centers to determine how best to help them.

If you have been sober for a while, you might find it helpful to help others and support them on their journey out of addiction. By encouraging people to get help, and proving the efficacy of modern addiction treatment methods, everybody can do a little bit to help fight the issue.

Why Is Drug Addiction So Prevalent In Cities Like Houston?

Drug Addiction In Houston | Transcend Texas

Like any big city, Houston has its fair share of problems – crime and drug addiction among them. As serious as drug addiction is, it only affects a very small fraction of the total adult population of the US, despite lax attitudes towards alcohol, and in some places, marijuana.

However, in Houston, Texas as well as other large cities in states across the country, the concentration for drug abuse grows and becomes more apparent. So, what it is about big cities like Houston that seems to make the phenomenon of addiction grow?


Drug Addiction In Houston

As is the case with many other big cities in the country, drug addiction is a substantial and growing problem. In Houston alone, heroin and meth are particularly troublesome, causing the most deaths and drug-related crimes in the city for decades. On the flip-side, to accompany high drug usage, Houston also has a prodigious selection of rehabs and treatment centers.

Many factors affect why Houston is struggling with drugs, the biggest being that it is a.) an incredibly populous city in a country with well over a quarter billion people, and b.) the most populous city in the state of Texas, a state that has established drug issues, and struggles to fight against the illegal trade of drugs out of Mexico.

Among other substances, gangs produce and smuggle marijuana, meth, and cocaine over the border into the United States, with meth being the biggest problem in the region, while street heroin and prescription opiates take a second spot.

Methamphetamine has grown to become an issue in Houston. The amount of meth seized from 2014 to 2015 grew by other 400 percent, while Houston reported over 780,000 cases of addiction in 2008 throughout the entire Houston area. In schools, about a third of students report having been sold/offered drugs on school property.

Aside from being the most populous city of Texas, Houston also struggles with growing poverty, a possible factor that contributes to the growth in addiction alongside an explosion in the local drug supply.


Drug Use And Big Cities

Cities grow organically through a continuous cycle of supply and demand in the workforce – opportunities are created by industries pioneering in a region, bringing jobs, and creating a need of real estate and residences around the industry. Decade after decade, the city grows because of its people, and its population grows because it is a city.

But with this growth comes the many downsides of living in an urban environment, especially in poverty. Large cities can become incredibly cramped, destitute, and unhealthy places to live in. For many, drug addiction provides a relief from that lifestyle that otherwise cannot be afforded.

Aside from there, where there are many people, there are many different people problems. Drug dealers specifically target urban neighborhoods to reach a large density of people and sell as much as possible, as quickly as possible, turning cities into the areas in the country with the largest drug problem.

Drug addiction is not only an issue in large cities. All of America is struggling with drugs, particularly opioids, methamphetamine, alcohol, and marijuana. But there are distinct differences in the way urban and rural addictions work.

Reports show that, among other key differences, ages between rural and urban addictions were very different with rural admissions to treatment being typically much younger. In addition, rural addictions primarily revolved around alcohol and non-opiates, while urban addictions had the countryside beat with its opiate abuse.

Why Texas Is Struggling With Drugs

Aside from the methamphetamine problem out of Mexico, another big issue hitting the streets is the recurrence and abundance of black tar heroin being sold, alongside an increase in opioid overdoses, and a decrease in the average age of both overdose victims and patients on opioid medication.

The overall demand for heroin in Texas has increased dramatically, alongside a larger number of reported calls to the Texas Poison Center Network regarding heroin. Although heroin usage has increased, opioid prescription abuse has decreased, suggesting perhaps that some addicts have moved on from getting their fix through street heroin rather than painkillers.

While these drugs picked up, others have dropped in usage. Both synthetic cathinones and cannabinoids have dropped in overall usage since their peak in 2011, and emergency calls due to ecstasy (MDMA) have dropped since 2009.

With its proximity to the border, large population, and its reputation as a major economy, it is no wonder that Texas is a common source of business for drug dealers and manufacturers.


What Can Be Done?

Enacting major political and economic change to help shift the state of healthcare and poverty in the US is not something most people can hope to affect in their lifetime – but there are little differences we can make to create a drastic impact in our own little communities, and with a little luck, within entire towns and city districts. You do not have to look towards politics and policy for answers, nor do you need a lot of money.

All it takes is to spread awareness on recent facts around drug addiction, dispel old myths, build a better understanding of addiction among your friends and family, and most importantly, help those around you who struggle with addiction to this day.

Over 6% of all Americans over the age of 12 struggle with substance abuse and drug addiction. Many of them are our relatives, our friends, our colleagues, or neighbors. Just by reaching out and offering help, addressing the issue without judgment, or by promoting local causes that focus on outreach and change, you can make a little difference and help change lives. In a city of over 2 million people, there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to helping others – but everyone focuses on helping those in their immediate vicinity better take on their life’s challenges, we can all build stronger, better communities. Men and women’s sober living facilities can also provide a safe haven for those trying to stay sober.

Not every attempt will be a success, and not everyone will reach and maintain their sobriety. But anyone can. And no one deserves to be given up on.


How Does Someone Become Addicted?

How You Become Addicted | Transcend Texas

Addiction is multifaceted in both its appearance and ill effects. Some people become addicted quickly, while others go through months of drug use and quit at the drop of a hat. Some people exhibit terrifying and destructive behavior, while others can successfully go through great lengths to hide their addiction, suffering underneath the surface.

There is a misconception that only certain “types of people” become addicted. It is true that addiction is more likely in times of distress, or as a result of escalating self-medication – but it is also true that anyone can fall prey to addiction. Society’s poorest addicts are every bit as human and personable as upper and middle-class families struggling with alcoholism, across all ages.

Drugs affect the human brain in the same way every time, but what that effect has on individual people is an entirely different matter. Understanding how addiction works, how individuals deal with it, and how drugs affect the human body can go a long way towards learning the how’s and why’s of addicted behavior, and making progress in your own recovery.


Drugs And The Human Body

Have you ever had a craving for a certain food? A certain activity? Or even a certain person? A lot of our needs and wants are driven by a predisposed code most humans have – we’re pleasure seekers in one form or another, and the things that give us pleasure (sex, chocolate, fatty food) have become human favorites due to thousands of years spent selectively surviving the Earth’s harsh environments.

We’re more complex than just our base instincts – but they’re there nonetheless, and to satisfy them can feel really good. This is all due to a part of the brain known as the pleasure center. When we do certain things or ingest certain substances, our pleasure center releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Drugs overstimulate the pleasure center by manipulating our neurons and changing the way dopamine is released, either by releasing more of it than usual or by preventing our cells from properly disposing of it, thus keeping it in our synapses for longer.

As this happens, our body and brain begin to form an addiction to whatever is releasing this unnatural amount of euphoria. Too much of a good thing is no good –and in the case of substance abuse, addictive substances cause a physical reaction as a result of consistent and continuous usage.

Once addiction kicks in and the cravings start, your mind begins to interpret them as needs, more than just wants. Addictive behavior – even the destructive and risky kind – stems from a combination of a corrupted pleasure center, and a decline in cognition and reasoning. Essentially, it becomes harder to keep a cool head and be reasonable about your behavior, and continuous use often leads to impulsive behavior, and worsening decision making as you become addicted.

Tolerance is another aspect of addiction that makes quitting all the more difficult. As addiction continues, the body begins to form a resistance to the effectiveness of a drug, reducing its effects. For example, it may take more alcohol to get drunk, or it may take more cocaine to achieve the same high. This is the body’s cells defending itself from a barrage of unnatural brain functions – but the result simply spurs an addict on to use more drugs in order to achieve the same effect. While the body can protect itself against a high, it cannot protect itself against the lethal side effects of an overdose.

When trying to quit after tolerance kicks in, it is not unusual for a person to go into withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can range from discomfort and irritability to violent sickness, and even death if approached too drastically, depending on the drug. These occur because the body has gotten used to the drug intake, and depends on it for certain brain functions. Cutting off your own supply requires readjustment, the kind that is best done under medical supervision.


When Does Someone Become Addicted?

Addiction begins in the brain, but it is difficult to feasibly track someone’s addiction through constant brain scans – so the most reliable source for when someone can become addicted is the person themselves. For someone to be an addict, they have to admit to themselves that they are one, or exhibit enough symptoms so that denying it would be completely illogical.

A total inability to stop oneself from using – that is what makes someone become addicted. If a person can’t stop themselves despite promises or plans to do so, and despite negative consequences that would typically discourage behavior, then they’re addicted. If a person loses their job, destroys a relationship, or even commits a crime to satisfy their addiction, then it is clear that they have a serious problem.


Addiction And Mental Health

Addiction and mental health are intertwined for several reasons, the most glaring one being the fact that addiction is a disease of the brain above all else. While different kinds of addiction can lead to organ failure and cancer, the brain is what is first affected and causes the addiction to begin with. The combination of addiction and the destructive behavior it can help cause often triggers mental health issues that may have been under control in the past, or were lingering underneath a stable surface.

On the other hand, existing mental health conditions can be made worse when you become addicted, while often playing a part in causing addiction (trauma, anxiety and depression are all wrought with stigma, and are conditions that are prone to self-medication gone awry).

The link between addiction and mental health issues must never be forgotten, especially because both are affected by a public perception of healthy vs. unhealthy.

Addiction, just like other conditions, does not reduce a person to the stereotype of their affliction, and it is important to treat every individual as an individual, and not “another junkie” or “another kook”. These generalizations often drive people to hide their problems, deny dangerous symptoms or lie in order to avoid unjust criticism and emotional harm.


Putting Addiction Behind You

It happens over time, and it takes time to heal and recover from. When you become addicted it can cause serious damage over the course of just a few months, but regardless of how long the disease has been ongoing, it can be put behind you with the right treatment and support.

Drug addiction treatment has gotten better than ever, with programs designed to accommodate any individual’s unique therapeutic needs and considerations. Treatment facilities have long recognized that there is no proper one-size-fits-all solution for addiction, and the result is a comprehensive, custom process.

As such, there’s also no telling how long it’ll take you to get over this period in your life – but as long as you think you can, you will.


How Do Drugs Affect You Mentally?

How Drugs Affect You | Transcend Texas

Hallucinogens, painkillers, depressants, stimulants. Illegal and legal drugs alike come in all shapes and sizes, in liquid, gas and solid forms, and can be found in a cabinet at a doctor’s office, the commercial refrigerators of a 7-Eleven, or in the jacket pocket of a shady businessman. In every person’s life, drugs affect you or play a part in some chapter, existing between the lines.

Drugs have an impact not only on individuals and society, but on the economy, amounting to billions of dollars lost in productivity, absenteeism, and death. Drugs affect men, women, and children from all walks of life. And there is no clear answer on how to deal with the problem.

However, on an individual level, there’s a lot that can be done about how drugs affect you. Treatments and therapies exist to help people turn their lives around and start fighting addiction. The physical and mental effects of drug use can be mitigated, and even partially reversed. Over years, diligence and support can turn a tragedy into a story of personal triumph – and all it takes to begin with is the will to take a brave first step into a different kind of living.

But to really fight drugs on an even playing field, you have to understand what they do and how drugs affect you. It’s no secret that drugs affect the mind, but understanding how can give you the comfort and power you need to do something about it, and motivate you to keep moving forward even when times are tough.


Substance Use And The Brain

In essence, all drugs have a distinct negative impact on the brain, and achieve this in much the same way. While drugs can be ingested, inhaled, injected, and otherwise consumed, they all eventually make their way into the bloodstream through one method or another. It’s there that drugs cross the blood-brain barrier – an incredibly selective membrane that usually protects the fluid in the brain and CNS from most things in the bloodstream – and begin to affect the brain.

When drugs affect you they must cross the blood-brain barrier to actually do anything. And that is what makes them dangerous. Drugs mimic the body’s own pre-existing neurotransmitters, and attach themselves to neurons, sending certain signals throughout the brain. For example: cocaine is an incredibly popular drug because it causes an elevated state of happiness, excitement, and motivation.

It does this by binding to transporters in the neurons that are responsible for transmitting dopamine from one cell to the next. Dopamine accumulates in your synapses, prolonging its effects in the pleasure center of the brain.

This interaction with the brain is not what makes cocaine physically dangerous – however, it is what makes cocaine so addictive. This same principle goes for all other cases where drugs affect you, but in different ways. Alcohol and benzodiazepines, for example, are depressants. They are opposite to a stimulant like cocaine, but still addictive.

Alcohol works on three levels, or three separate neurotransmitters, throughout different parts of the brain. It increases the effects of GABA (causing slurred speech and lack of coordination), inhibits glutamate (causing a slowdown in movement and thinking), and increases dopamine release (causing pleasure). By spreading throughout the brain, alcohol will affect your balance, your breathing, your senses, and even your sexual performance.

Yet only one of these effects contributes to the addictive properties of the drug: its effects on the pleasure center of the brain.

Stimulants can excite your body and heighten your senses, depressants can slow you down and make you sluggish, and painkillers like morphine can greatly reduce or eliminate pain signals – but all of these drugs affect your pleasure center in the same way, increasing the release or retention of dopamine in your cells, and causing feelings of pleasure, joy, and euphoria.

These positive emotions mask the darker side effects of each and every drug – namely, their deleterious effects on both mental and physical health, and the nature of addiction as self-destructive behavior.

Stimulants can stop your heart and damage your brain when the drugs affect you. Alcohol greatly damages the liver and kidneys, and leads to cancer. Opioids like morphine and heroin cause respiratory depression, and death through oxygen deprivation. And because of the interaction between these drugs and the pleasure center of the brain, all drug use eventually leads to addiction, unless it stops beforehand.


How Drugs Affect You & Your Thinking

Drug use not only causes feelings of joy, but can damage your mental health and put you on the path of an addictive loop. For example: excessive use of drugs affect you and will corrupt the pleasure center and make most other activities meaningless or unenjoyable. Old habits fall away, and even the most basic wants can slip away in favor of drugs. The biggest difficulty for many who choose to give up addiction is finding something else to make them happy, because continuous drug use makes the brain forget what normal pleasures feel like.

Most drugs affect you and your thinking in other ways, namely dampening your cognitive abilities and cutting into your memory. Frequent black-outs from excessive drug use will also affect your ability to recall even the most basic and recent memories, and prolonged usage leads to both long-term brain damage and higher chances of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and personality disorders like paranoia. If a person has a genetic predisposition towards certain mental health issues, addiction may drive these disorders into the forefront.


Addiction Needs To Be Fought

Addiction exercises a powerful hold over a person’s mind, because of how drugs affect you and the strain on the brain. The pleasure center is highly involved with concepts like will, motivation, and reason – we work hard to satisfy our emotional and physical needs, and addiction overwrites many of those needs with a new protocol.

Driving that out, denying it and building a whole new life around sobriety does not happen overnight, or even just in a matter of a few weeks. It takes months and years, and the journey is harder for some than it is for others. However, while addiction never fully goes away – and resisting any urge to use again is something former addicts have to live with – it does get easier with time. And in time, even the worst days of the addiction can become just another detail in a long life lived well.


Why Are More People Than Ever Getting Addicted To Prescription Drugs?

Addicted To Prescription Drugs | Transcend Texas

America’s war on opioids has a long history, tracing back to the beginnings of addiction as a medical definition, and our first instance of fighting a “war on drugs”. To understand where things might have gone wrong, and what factors play into why people getting addicted to prescription drugs grew so prevalent, it’s important to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

The Roots Of America’s Opioid Problem

Cutting back to a day and age when chronic pain became the main focus for pharmaceutical companies and modern Western medicine, drug companies began developing new pain medication that was less addictive and less powerful than morphine, but could help patients deal with their pain and reduce their complaints.

Research has since shown that opioids are either slightly or not effective at all for combating pain in the long-term, but at the time, it seemed like the best thing to promote. Production of prescription opioids and subsequent prescription of opioids shot through the roof, creating two issues. On one hand, it led to a large number of chronic pain patients getting addicted to prescription drugs. This is by far a minority, but the over prescription also led to an influx of unused prescription painkillers in households everywhere. Some people sold their medication – other pills landed in the hands of friends and family, creating new addicts here and there.

We are still facing the issues brought about by those addicted to prescription drugs today – and as both prescription drugs and heroin continue to be a problem, the overdose statistics rise.


How Strict Regulations Led To Heroin

Prescription drug use has actually dropped in recent years, contrary to popular belief – while it is true that a lack of understanding and easy profits has led to an excessive sale and use of prescription medication in the past few decades, the government has done a lot to curb this. But on the other hand, all this did was create a large population of those addicted to prescription drugs, and then tear away their only somewhat reputable source of opioids.

While pharmaceutical companies ultimately care mostly about their bottom line, they produced a clean product. After regulations were implemented without a proper protocol in place to help all the addicts seek treatment and get better, they turned to more dangerous alternatives – including heroin, wherever it could be found, in whatever form.

Today, the explosion in heroin usage has led to the creation of an influx of heroin from abroad and an increase in local production, leading to a new generation of heroin users who never had to transition into the drug from being addicted to prescription drugs.


Stronger Threats From Abroad

With a growth in demand, the vacuum left by tighter prescription drug regulations and a lack of local heroin production to keep up has led to the rising popularity of certain synthetic opioids – including massively dangerous drugs such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

Synthetic drug production is nothing new, especially today. Homegrown designer drugs are hitting the market faster than the law can keep up with them, and the threat is one that is still in the process of being tackled by policymakers.

Meanwhile, those formerly addicted to prescription drugs who turned to heroin, and people who started out as heroin addicts are increasingly going to run into the risk of a fatal overdose from a bad batch, or an excess of fentanyl. Many suppliers cut their heroin with fillers to reduce the cost, then mix in fentanyl to increase potency, often proving fatal to customers.


How Opioids Kill

Opioids trigger an analgesic effect, while releasing neurotransmitters that cause an enormous swell of pleasure and happiness. However, this also makes them incredibly addictive. The major side effect to this is that, if taken excessively, opioids will slow a person’s breathing to the point that they completely cease to breathe, and choke.

Aside from the fatal nature of an overdose, constant misuse of opioids can drastically alter the body and leave lasting effects, including liver damage, brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen, and in the case of a survived overdose, partial or full paralysis. When left without oxygen for an extended period of time, the body begins to shut down certain functions in order to preserve vital organs – including cutting off major muscles and nerves.

Most prescription pills abused today are opioids, but thousands of Americans are also struggling with stimulants such as amphetamine (Adderall) and anti-anxiety drugs (Valium, Xanax, etc.).


Tackling The Problem At Home: Addicted To Prescription Drugs

It has rather succinctly been explained that the key behind America’s issue with being addicted to prescription drugs – and drugs in general – is that “it’s much easier to get high than it is to get help”. That’s not an attack on the moral character of anyone who has ever used drugs, but a condemnation of the state of our current healthcare, and inability for most Americans to seek help when it’s needed, both out of stigma and out of a lack of finances.

On one hand, getting treated for addiction isn’t cheap, especially when the first option that comes to mind for some is either rehab or attending a twelve-step program. On the other hand, many who can seek treatment do not, either because they do not recognize their problem, or because they’re convinced that they can solve the issue before it becomes apparent, thus saving them the trouble and stigma that comes with admitting to being addicted to prescription drugs.

When someone is addicted, everything they do is second-guessed. For a misguided few, they go from being a human being, to a caricature. Many others simply struggle to reconcile the person they once knew with the disease. All of this is due to a flawed understanding of addiction – and that flawed understanding contributed to the rise of prescription drug addiction in America, alongside a failing healthcare system, and the consequences of a post-recession economy at a time rife with optimization, digitalization, and the economic crisis.

That does not mean all hope is somehow lost. There are things we can all do, as long as we stand united in doing the best we can for our loved ones. By protecting our friends and family, we can all make a difference throughout the nation – and it starts with proper education.

Read up on addiction, and all the latest material on the subject. Reach out to the people you know who are struggling with addiction, and speak to them from a place of compassion, rather than judgment.

Find out what behavior you might have been engaging in that could be enabling someone. See what you can do locally to raise awareness on the issue of opioid abuse, and encourage families to put aside their beliefs or misconceptions, and embrace their sons and daughters and help them fight addiction. It’s a long road for every single person struggling with addiction, but through treatment, support and time, everyone can heal.