How Opioids Work in the Brain

How Opioids Work in the BrainOpioids or pain killers have been a blessing and a curse for those suffering from chronic pain. The blessing comes from the fact that they can effectively block or reduce pain and the curse from their addictive nature.

Opioids work by attaching to proteins in the brain called opioid receptors which in fact reduce the perception of pain felt by the suffering individual. With this numbness of pain come the relaxed and the euphoric feeling, especially when the amount of opioids used is more than the exact amount needed for its pain killing effect. In another word, the brain feels rewarded by the overdose of opioids and this effect has brought on the national epidemic of opioids overdose facing our nation.

If the brain didn’t require the repeat of the euphoric feeling perhaps there would be no addiction to opioids or not as much as it is today anyway. But the reality is that that great feeling that comes from overdose is our reward, and like any other situation, rewards are hard to refuse. This particular natural reward, produced by the dopamine in the brain, is designed to support our survival by making us to repeat and repeat the activity generating the reward. Two examples for the necessity of the reward for survival are eating and sex. I don’t think there is any argument about the fact that do it once and forget it attitude would have had disastrous results for our species, in both of those cases.

So, it is easy to argue that the problem is not the opioids or the reward system of our brain. The problem is that synthetic opioids allow us to get as much as we want thus allowing us to overdose. It is noteworthy to mention that overdose is not a factor in the natural reward system of the body from dopamine created from our brain.

It is obvious that as long as we stay in control of our body’s reward system, meaning we can take as much opioids as we feel like being rewarded for, we will have a hard time to stop the cycle of reward and overdose. Unfortunately in many cases, this cycle continue until the body cannot catch up with the effect of the overdose any longer and stops the reward function along with all other functions. That is death.

10 Ways To Relax Without Drugs Or Alcohol

Ways to Relax Without Drugs or Alcohol
Everyday millions of Americans face numerous stresses in their everyday lives. We live in a fast paced society with so much on our plate that we often forget that we are people and people need self-care. Not having the proper outlet for stress release can build up our anxiety levels which more often than not tend to take us down a path of unhealthy and even dangerous decisions to help us unwind. Many people rely heavily on drugs and alcohol to take the edge off and this is something that could potentially escalate to levels far beyond our control. There are plenty of healthy ways to relax and deal with triggers in life.

Exercising

Keeping fit is not just essential for your health but another great to relax. Physical exercise releases endorphin which really help with mood swings, anxiety disorders and triggers which is very helpful when trying to stay sober. You can join a gym and get additional advice on the best workouts and a healthy diet or work out your own. Swimming, playing sports, running and jogging are all great ways to stay fit and release stress. Find out what works for you and incorporate it into your everyday life. 

Meditating

For centuries, people have relied on the calming and healing effects of meditation. It is known to reduce stress, anxiety, depression even alleviate pain. There are two common types of meditation: concentrative and mindful. In concentrative meditation, the focus is on a single image, sound or mantra whereas mindful meditation focuses on all the sounds and images in the mind. Regardless of which one resonates with you, it’s a great tool to try for your relaxation needs.

Practice Controlled Breathing

Breathing is the most important thing you will ever do in your life. Your life literally depends on it. So it’s no surprise that how you breathe is essential to your wellbeing. During times of stress and anxiety, our breathing becomes shallow and even strained. Take some time to sit down and practice controlled breathing exercises for about 5-10 minutes a day. Breath in and out using your diaphragm, clear your mind and just focus on the sound and rhythm of your breathing. It will get easier the more you practice and after a while you will feel a sense of inner calmness and relaxation. You can even try it the next time you’re in between meetings and just need to quickly reflect and relax.

Reading

A good book can do wonders for the soul. Whether you want to travel to far away lands or get lost in a spectacular mystery, this is a great way to keep your mind off of your worries. Remember as a child you would get lost in the story for hours at a time, no care in the world? You can still achieve that level of bliss by setting aside time to read a book you enjoy.

Listening to Music 

Whether you enjoy classical hits or radio pop songs, a little bit of music everyday is a healthy part of the healing regiment. Music is a universal language and it doesn’t matter what culture or language you connect with, you can just enjoy the song. You can get a small or a large sound system, either way you can relax or work with music playing in the background. It’s a wonderful way to destress. Don’t forget to dance like no one’s watching!

Journaling 

Many people find journaling to be a very helpful in keeping track of their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. It is often referred by therapists as the writing itself is very therapeutic. Some keep their journals others choose to get rid of them once the writing is complete. Through journaling, you can keep track of triggers, breakdowns and even the coping mechanisms you used to deal with them. You can keep the journals private or share them with friends, family even a therapist. All in all, journals are a good way to see how much progress you made or just be an outlet for you to release.

Floating

Another trend that is becoming quite popular is floating. It can be done in a pool while lying on your back staring up the sky or at the beach of that’s accessible for you. The sounds and images around you can be relaxing or you can also opt to close your eyes. There are also certain spas that have floating pods which look like tanning beds filled with salt and water to allow you to float while relaxing in a safe setting. Always use caution and stay safe when floating!

Gardening

Nature is one of the best ways to heal. When you’re in the garden you’re away from the hustle and bustle of city life and this is the perfect opportunity to take some time to connect with yourself. Working with your hands is a great way to deal with triggers particularly if you’re working on staying sober. It was fun to get dirty in the dirt as a child and it’s still fun as an adult. Go out into your yard or around your apartment and find out what area needs some attention. Plant flowers or build a rock garden either way this your time to relax and have some fun.

Spend Time Doing Something that Will Make You Laugh

While we don’t know for sure if laughter is the best medicine it certainly is a great way to release stress. Whether it’s a comedy show or comedy club or just hanging out with family and friends laughter, giggles and chuckles release tension by engaging your sense of humor. What if life is just too hard and you can’t find anything to laugh about. Then you’ll have to work at it. Rent movies, hang out without comedians just try to relax your body and mind and enjoy the moment. Practice laughing like you did when you were a child, freely and without judgement.

Celebrate all That’s Good in Your Life

Celebrate yourself. Celebrate all you have accomplished to get where you are now. You’re a warrior, brave and battle-tested and you have overcome so many obstacles to get to where you are now so take some time to celebrate that. Celebrate alone or with the people you love, celebrate life in the healthiest way you know how. Being cynical and worrying all the time will put you in a destructive mindset and you might feel that you need drugs or alcohol to take the edge off. But you now have so many other tools in your toolbox that you can refer to either one when the stresses of life become overbearing. You don’t need drugs, living your life to the fullest is the greatest thing you can do for yourself.

Can a Walk in Nature Improve Mental Health?

Nature Walk Benefits in RecoveryYes a walk in the woods has proven to have positive impact on mental health by reducing the risk of depression and other mental illnesses. This suggestion is supported by a growing body of correlational and experimental evidence that shows a link between decreased nature experience and the development of mental illness.

It has always been assumed that a peaceful natural surrounding has a positive effect on the mental health of people. We all have experienced the good feeling that comes from a walk in nature. But it is interesting to know that the good feeling we have been experiencing and attributing to being in nature is actually a fact, proven by science.

Dr. Gregory N. Bratman* and 5 of his fellow researches from Stanford University, stated in an article published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, that a nature experience such as a walk in a natural setting decreases rumination, which is repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self.

According to Dr. Bratman’s research, participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.

As Dr. Bratman explains, “the mechanism might be the impact of nature exposure on rumination, a maladaptive pattern of self-referential thought that is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses. We show in healthy participants that a brief nature experience, a 90-min walk in a natural setting, decreases both self-reported rumination and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC), whereas a 90-min walk in an urban setting has no such effects on self-reported rumination or neural activity. In other studies, the sgPFC has been associated with a self-focused behavioral withdrawal linked to rumination in both depressed and healthy individuals.”

So, it is well advised to go ahead and surround yourself with nature, and take in all the positive things that results from such a serene and peaceful act. Let your mind sort things out in peace and provide you with the answers you need going forward.

At our facility, Center For Addiction Recovery, we have created a Zen waterfall in the mist of our 12 Acre private and peaceful campus to provide the tranquility that is associated with such environment. We believe the natural setting we offer our clients goes a long way to enhance the treatment they seek.

Addiction Slip and Relapse

Addiction RelapseOne of the biggest fears of a recovering addict is the possibility of relapse once they go back to their daily routine. It’s not an unreasonable fear, after all, once you have left rehab you might be going back to the same home and circle of friends you had while you were using. While relapse prevention guides can be helpful, nothing can truly prepare you for facing emotional and mental triggers. Having a plan in place can be quite helpful to prevent relapse but understanding slips and relapses is key to preventing them.

The concept of relapse is a real concern within the confinements of rehab and it’s very much part of the recovery process. Some people tend to believe that after recovery they’ll be able to use their drug of choice in moderation resulting in slip ups that leave them feeling guilty and can be very harmful as well. Relapse and slips are two different concepts. A slip is the occasional drug use that leaves behind a residue of guilt and sadness whereas relapse is falling fully back into drug addiction. While not every slip back will cause you to fall back into addiction, it’s important to know the signs of a potential relapse, some of which are listed below:

  • Extreme cravings which have no outlet are left ignored.
  • Thinking nostalgically about drug use in the past and rebuilding that emotional connection.
  • Thinking you can moderate your drug use and feeling confident it won’t spiral out of control.
  • Extreme stress with little or no self-care to help up manage it.
  • Feeling isolated or reconnecting with old friends who encourage the old habits.
  • A slip that leads to withdrawal symptoms.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “people recovering from addiction often have one or more relapses along the way.” So, relapse is not an unusual situation. Just remember, support  is available. Reach out to us at A Center for Addiction Recovery or contact the resources provided to you during your discharge planning.  Because of the potentially dangerous nature of relapse, it’s important to get help as soon as you feel this is an issue for you. There’s no shame in relapsing. The goal is to make sure you get the support you need before the situation escalates. As Confucius says, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

What Happens After Rehab

The road to addiction recovery and rehab can be confusing and frightening for people as they don’t really know what expect. It can be equally terrifying for those who have completed treatment and are now expected to move back into the functioning world, particularly if they are leaving a residential treatment facility. In a drug-free facility it’s easier to abstain, manage cravings and get the help right away when you need it but how do you remain drug-free when resuming your everyday life faced with everyday challenges? Support After a Drug or Alcohol Rehab Program

One of the most important steps you ever took in life is deciding to go to rehab. You took control over an escalating situation and triumphantly maneuvered through the obstacles. Now that you successfully completed rehab, the next step is to reenter the world manage staying sober. When treatment is over and you’re ready to face the world post-addiction, it’s important to understand that this will be a transition and requires not just your own attention and perseverance but the help of a team of addiction specialists. Your team will help put together an exit plan that fits with your new life schedule. This plan will outline goals you wish to accomplish and a breakdown of how how to reach them. Your plan may include:

  • Getting a sober support system.
  • Attending outpatient rehab.
  • Seeing an addiction counselor once a week.
It’s important to have as much support as possible while you transition in life post-rehab. If you have any concerns it’s best to reach out address them before leaving the residential treatment facility so that your team of specialists can incorporate any additional requirements and information into your exit plan.
Another important aspect of life after rehab is the aftercare. Most people tend to join support groups and meet with counselors once a week to continue the work they started in rehab. There will be triggers and cravings along the way and these sessions provide guidance and a healthy support system that can help you create and maintain coping mechanisms to prevent potential relapse. It takes a lot of strength and determination to decide to enter rehab and perhaps even more when treatment is over. Don’t let fear and uncertainty cloud the bright future you have ahead of you, your support team at A Center for Addiction Recovery is here ready to assist!

Support Groups and Rehab: A Look into Social Healing

Relapse Prevention Support Groups
It’s no secret that we live in the golden age of social media. These days we’re able to connect with each other on a whole other level compared to ten years ago. The different platforms we use to communicate with each other has allowed us to connect with others of similar likes, dislikes and even behaviors bringing forward different types of relationships. But what exactly does this mean for the individual struggling with addiction?
Addiction isn’t just a faulty behavior pattern, it becomes an identity. This identity doesn’t just disappear when you decide to go into rehab. It becomes part of the core of our being and effects every aspect of our decision-making and overall life structure. In order to move out from a behavior that is life threatening and destructive we can’t just change that which is destroying us without first acknowledging it and realizing that we must create a new identity, one that harbors the behaviors, thoughts and emotions for our higher good. The best part is that we don’t have to do it alone.
In an age where external factors can be a huge threat for those who are on the path to healing from substance abuse, social groups are critical for a successful recovery. The right support group can be a safe place for you to share your journey. A group that reinforces sober behavior can help you create a new identity, shattering old, destructive thought patterns and help you see the alternative to what you have been accustomed to. Social support works because we humans are social creatures and rely on each other more than we care to admit.
No society would thrive, no leader would be in charge, if we did not look for support in the people around us. Often times, that support doesn’t exist amongst our family or friends as they may not understand the path a recovering addict is experiencing. Members of a support group offer shared norms, values and life struggles which is what often makes them so appealing and effective.  It’s not just about one professional telling everyone how to heal themselves, these are actual people discussing their triggers and off-days as well their successes.They also offer plethora a of advice which can be constructive provided the group is monitored by a qualified moderator. Above all, support groups offer a sense of belonging which is essential to the healing process.
Finding the right support group can be a difficult task. In order for change to occur and a new, sober identity to rise, destructive behavior patterns must first be identified. The right support group will not only help those behaviors come to the surface and be an environment that creates a sense of belonging so that you can share your experience successfully but also provide guidance and advice on what the your next step could be. Creating a new identity and working towards a sober life is a difficult process. But as billionaire Narayana Murthy truthfully stated, “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.”