Posts Tagged ‘Substance abuse’

Breaking Bad Habits Now

April 4, 2017

Habits form when we repeat an action and often they are very helpful to us. We form bad habits because they have short-term benefits, and we ignore the long-term consequences for this momentary payoff. The more enjoyable the instant gratification, the harder the bad habit is to break.

When behaviors are enjoyable, even if they’re unhealthy, they can release a chemical in the brain called dopamine. The habit becomes even stronger, and we continue doing it regardless of how we feel afterward (i.e. overeating, obsessively checking social media, etc.).


Along the path to better habits, we must start by making a choice. Here are several strategies to break bad habits:


  • Identify purpose – Perhaps the most helpful strategy is to understand what purpose the bad habit serves. If you weren’t getting something from it, you wouldn’t keep doing it.
  • Identify progression – What actions typically lead up to your habit? Disrupting the progression of events that trigger your bad habit sets you up for greater success.
  • Identify motivation – How would you assess your commitment to change? Feeling a deep connection to your “why” helps make difficult choices worth it.
  • Identify influence – Try to avoid individuals who are linked to dangerous habits like excessive drinking or drug use.


  • Plan ahead – Don’t trust your strength in the moment. Making a plan ahead of time for dealing with temptation prepares your mind to resist the urge.
  • Change environments – Be mindful of situations and temptations where it might be easy to continue in your behavior. This will help to eliminate the potential for a slip-up.
  • Practice mindfulness – Pay attention to your mind and body. Be mindful of the emotions you’re experiencing and what’s going on in your body.
  • Replace with good – Trade out your bad habits for good ones. For example, swap out the time you once spent overeating and use it to exercise.


  • Not alone – You don’t have to do this alone. Find someone wanting to quit one of his or her bad habits and team up.
  • Forgive – If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Change takes time. Some days you might take a step back before you keep moving forward. Forgive yourself and keep trying.

Stress Self-Assessment

March 14, 2016

Feeling stressed? While everyone reacts differently to stress, your body, brain, and emotions have a unique stress response. Understanding these reactions can help you fine-tune your stress-reducing strategies.

  • Pain – Stress can bring on immediate or chronic pain, such as back pain, headaches, nausea, jaw or fist clenching, muscle tension, etc.
  • Depression – Extreme amounts of stress can lead to symptoms of depression, including feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty.
  • Anger – Arguing and feeling short-fused with coworkers or loved ones is a common reaction when under stress.
  • Anxiety – Stress can trigger you to feel anxious, worrying or fearing the worst possible scenario.
  • Substance Use – Smoking, drinking excessively and drug use are all unhealthy ways of self-medicating your anxiety.
  • Eating – Overeating, skipping meals, and eating junk food with little nutrition are all ways people change their eating habits when under extreme stress.

Ask yourself the following questions to understand how you’re managing your stress load.

  • Do you have a support network in place?
  • Are there activities you enjoy?
  • Do you regularly get enough sleep?
  • Are there responsibilities you can delegate?
  • Do you practice relaxation exercises such as mindfulness, yoga, or meditation?
  • Do you have access to professionals who can help you?

After you’ve evaluated coping methods, here are a few action steps you can take.

  • Address physical concerns – See your physician to assess any immediate physical concerns or questions you might have. Seek their recommendations for changes in your diet, exercise, or other habits.
  • Start small – Start with simple tasks, such as turning off screens or electronics earlier before bed or taking five minutes for deep breathing.
  • Recruit a friend – Accountability is key, so choose a friend or family member to encourage you on the path to positive changes in your life.
  • Take notes – Everyone responds differently to relaxation techniques or organizational tools. Keep a journal or use an app to track the strategies working for you. Seeing your progress can be just the motivation needed to continue good self-care.

Reclaim Your Family’s Health from Substance Abuse

February 5, 2016

The family of someone with a substance abuse disorder is in great danger of emotional damage. If someone you love has an addiction problem, following the pointers below will help you to initiate the healing process, both for you and for the ones you love.

Start the Healing Process Now

If someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, they need immediate help. Any delay allows the problem to worsen, so step in now before things deteriorate even further. Have a thoughtful talk with your loved one and let them know how their choices are hurting you and the rest of your family.

Keep Yourself Safe

Talking to your loved one is a healthy first step, but you have to remember to protect your own emotional health. Don’t become so focused and emotionally invested in fixing the issue that you forget to take care of yourself. Surround yourself with support, either from family members or close friends. Also, in your attempts to help your family member, don’t put yourself in physical danger either.

Remember It’s Not Your Fault

Your loved one made the choices that led to substance abuse on their own. You are not to blame. Additionally, if you are unable to help your loved one change, that’s not your fault either. Encourage your loved one in any way you can, but accept the fact that, in the end, you are not responsible for the change, rather they are the one who must make the decision to change.

Tactics to Avoid

Stay away from resorting to threats and bribes. Don’t shield your loved one from the consequences of their substance abuse problem. They need to face reality in order to move towards healing. Don’t use subversive schemes such as hiding or throwing out drugs.

Moving Forward

The most important step for you and your loved one is to see professional help. Don’t let the situation get any worse before you take action to restore the health of your family.

Mental Illness Plays a Role in Repeat DUIs

November 19, 2015

Roughly 60% of repeat drunk-driving offenders have suffered major depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). Researchers studied people convicted of at least two DUI offenses during the past 10 years. A majority reported mental-health problems as well as alcohol or other drug dependency; female repeat DUI offenders were more likely than men to suffer from depression or PTSD.

“People who deal with drug and alcohol abusers need to understand there are often other disorders that need to be dealt with as well,” said lead researcher Sandra Lapham, MD, MPH, director of PIRE’s Behavioral Health Research Center. “That’s why we need to screen repeat offenders for multiple disorders. The offender should be viewed as a unique person with a unique set of issues. If they include psychiatric problems, these should be treated along with drug and alcohol issues.”

“The results of this study should encourage the courts to develop a more comprehensive approach to dealing with the hard-to-treat drinking driver,” added Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Eric J. Bloch. “Assessing the mental health of a DUI offender will help us choose the program that will reduce the change of a re-offense.”

The research was published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol. (Reference: Lapham, S.C., C’de Baca, J., McMillan, G.P. and Lapidus, J. Psychiatric Disorder in a Sample of Repeat Impaired Driving Offenders, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67(5): 707-713.)

Another new report recommends that people arrested for drunk driving should be tested for other drug use and mental illness as well. The Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest in Albuquerque, NM, studied 612 women and 493 men, aged 23 to 54, who were convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol. The research established that 32% of the women and 38% of the men were found to use other drugs besides alcohol, compared to 16% and 21%, respectively, in the general population. This report is published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Elderly Face Unique Substance Abuse Challenges

August 28, 2015

Older adults have many of the same problems as young people do with alcohol and other drug addictions, plus other issues unique to their age group. Estrangement from family, financial problems, and a host of regrets are nearly universal to people of all ages in recovery. But the elderly also have to deal with greater isolation and changing body chemistry. In addition, the fact that they may have even less accountability and more free time can become negative factors as well.

Treatment programs are seeing an increase in older addicts as “Baby Boomers” – the first generation to experience widespread recreational use of drugs who were born before admitting addiction and seeking help became fashionable – reach their 50s and 60s. The National Institute on Drug Abuse recently held the first national forum on drug addiction among the elderly. Federal officials expect the number of seniors with alcohol and other drug problems to leap 150% by 2020.

On the positive side, older addicts who are ready to quit drinking or taking drugs are often more successful in doing so than their younger counterparts. Older clients may be suspicious of therapy, but they tend to keep their appointments. However, their therapy needs to be tailored to their needs: counselors must be respectful of their privacy and have good manners, and the sessions should be shorter and held during the day so seniors don’t have to drive at night.

About 3% of Americans seeking treatment for addiction are over age 60, but the percentage who have addition problems is suspected to be higher. A decade ago, three of four older addicts were battling alcohol abuse, but today about half have problems with drugs other than alcohol.



Intermittent Explosive Disorder Affects up to 16 Million People

July 11, 2014

A little known mental disorder marked by episodes of unwarranted anger is more common than previously thought, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has found. Depending upon how broadly it’s defined, intermittent explosive disorder (IED) affects as many as 7.3% of adults – 11.5-16 million people – in their lifetimes.

People with IED may attack others and their possessions, causing bodily injury and property damage. Typically beginning in the early teens, the disorder often precedes – and may predispose for – later depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders.

To be diagnosed with IED, and individual must have had three episodes of impulsive aggressiveness “grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressor,” at any time in their life, according to the standard psychiatric diagnostic manual. The person must have “all of a sudden lost control and broke or smashed something worth more than a few dollars… hit or tried to hurt someone… or threatened to hit or hurt someone.”

People who had three such episodes within the space of one year – a more narrowly defined subgroup – were found to have a much more persistent and severe disorder, particularly if they attacked both people and property. Affecting nearly 4% of adults within any given year – 5.9-8.5 million people – the disorder leads to a mean of 43 attacks over the course of a lifetime and is associated with substantial functional impairment.

Evidence suggests that IED might predispose toward depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse disorders by increasing stressful life experiences, such as financial difficulties and divorce. If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from IED, contact Soundside Wellness Consultants.

A Guide to Finding Help with Mental Health

November 26, 2013

Sometimes we need help with problems beyond what family and friends can provide. Substance abuse, anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are conditions best addressed by professionals who have the specialized knowledge to handle them.

But whom do you all for what and how can you tell if the professional is qualified to handle a particular problem? It can save time and minimize confusion to ask for guidance and referrals.

Many people can serve as guides. Your employer may have an employee assistance program which can put you in touch with an employee assistance professional. These people are trained to assess a problem, help when it’s possible and to refer employees to other helping professionals when needed. A school’s student assistance counselor can do the same for young people. Other sources for help or referrals to help are clergy, hospitals and community-based mental health clinics.

When asking for referrals to mental health professionals, be specific about the nature of the problem as you know it. For example, if you know or suspect that substance abuse it the problem, don’t be shy about saying it. Helping professionals do not judge. They understand that we all have problems sometimes. Specific information can help them get you to the person who can most quickly and knowledgeably help you.

This is an important point. Various types of mental health professionals are trained in a general way to help people of all ages with a variety of problems. But many of them continue their training by focusing on a particular area of knowledge. For example, a therapist or counselor also may be a certified addiction counselor (CAC), which means s/he has developed additional expertise in substance abuse problems. This person may further specialize by working with adolescents who have substance abuse issues or people who relapse frequently.

When you select someone to call, ask questions. If you don’t understand something, ask the professional to explain it to you until it’s clear. This is a good way to get a feel for how the person interacts with you. You’ll want to feel comfortable with this person and with entrusting your health to him or her.

A word about insurance: Call your insurance company to find out what mental health services are covered and for how long or how many visits. Be sure to ask the professional or agency which insurance plans they accept before scheduling an appointment.

It may take time and several calls or an introductory visit or two to find the person who can best help. Stick with it even though it’s a difficult time in your life.

Questions to Ask – Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine who can best help you.

  1. How many years have you been in practice?
  2. What are your professional credentials? (Write down the acronyms (letters) and names so you can ask for an explanation of any terms or letters with which you are not familiar.)
  3. Do you specialize or have a special interest in a particular area of mental health or behavioral health, such as substance abuse?
  4. Will your services be covered by my health plan? (Have your health plan information handy.)