How to Avoid Relapse Around Addicted Family Members

When you leave the lifestyle of active addiction, one of the biggest challenges is reconnecting with people from your old life. Many of them knew you when you were using, and some of them might still be using, too. However, what can you do when the person in your life who’s still using is a family member?

Dealing with drug use in your family is always a challenge. Knowing the difference between helping and enabling can be difficult at times. And watching someone go through something as terrible and life-altering as active addiction can cause heartache. However, when you have your own recovery and sobriety to consider, the challenge increases dramatically.

Maintaining your sobriety is one of the most important ongoing parts of your recovery, and it requires continual commitment. If a loved one is using around you, it poses a significant threat to your drug abstinence. Learn more about how you can deal with an addicted family member without relapsing.  

Don’t Accept Drug Use

As part of your relapse prevention plan, you might have set rules and boundaries for yourself. You might have resolved to avoid parties where you know there will be drug use. You may even avoid certain routes that go past some of your old favorite bars.

When you encounter friends and family members who are still in the throes of active addiction, it’s important to have boundaries for them, too. If you live with or spend a lot of time with someone who uses, you should let them know that you won’t tolerate drug use in your presence. If someone uses legal recreational substances like alcohol, you can still tell them that it makes you uncomfortable to be around it.

Setting clear boundaries for yourself removes some of the uncertainty when it comes to certain high-risk situations. It’s easier not to cross the line when the line is clearly drawn. Setting boundaries with someone who is addicted can also show them your commitment to sobriety. In some cases, you may have to cut ties with them until they seek recovery.

Avoid Constant Triggers

Triggers are a fact of life for people who are living in recovery from addiction or other mental health issues for that matter. Some triggers come from inside your own mind and can be difficult to avoid completely. Others can come on suddenly, like when a billboard ad for some ice-cold beer triggers alcohol cravings. While it’s important to learn to cope positively with cravings and triggers, you should also avoid regular sources of triggers when you can. A friend or family member who continues to use around you can cause you to continually cause you to have thoughts and triggers toward relapse, testing the limits of your coping mechanisms.

If you have gone through addiction treatment, you may have experienced elements ofcognitive behavioral therapy at some point in your treatment process. In the cognitive-behavioral model, high-risk scenarios are the first catalyst for a relapse. A relapse doesn’t start with the first time you use again; it starts with the way that you cope with a high-risk situation. If you live with, or if you are always around someone who uses, you are constantly in a high-risk scenario. Relapse is a very real threat to recovery. Like other chronic diseases, addiction relapse occurs in more than50 percent of people in recovery.  

Avoiding triggers might mean distancing yourself from people who are still using. While this may sound harsh, it might be as beneficial to your addicted family member as much as it is for you.

Don’t Be an Enabler

While you were going through active addiction and treatment, your family may have had to learn how to avoidenabling behaviors. Now that you’ve completed treatment, and you’re encountering other people in your life in active addiction, it’s important to learn to avoid enabling as well. If a family member is struggling with active addiction, you, more than anyone, understand what they are going through. You might want to help them, ease their pain, or cover for them.

However, enabling is often defined as shielding an addicted person from a consequence of their addiction. Softening the blows that are coming as a result of their actions and behaviors can prolong the time they spend in active addiction before seeking help. If you’ve set clear rules about being around drug and alcohol use and abuse and a family member continues to break them, one of the consequences of their addiction might be that they see you less often.

It may seem like a drastic move, but if a family member is putting your sobriety at risk, it might be best to remove yourself from those high-risk situations. You can let the addicted person in your life know that you will be there to help them find addiction treatment as soon as they agree to seek the help they need. However, risking your own sobriety to be around someone who is using, may only serve to enable them and risk your recovery.

Continue Your Recovery

Addiction treatment is important in achieving and learning how to maintain sobriety. However, after you complete your addiction treatment, it’s important to continue your pursuit of recovery. People often relapse when they become complacent in their recovery process, and when you encounter high-risk situations like a using family member, it puts a strain on your resolve. However, going to 12 step meetings, connecting with your support group, and connecting with your alumni coordinators, can help heal you on the road to recovery, even as new challenges pop up.

Seeking Addiction Help

If a loved one or family member is ready to address their substance use disorder, you might be able to help them find the right addiction treatment services for their needs. Call the addiction treatment specialists at The Palm Beach Institute at 855-534-3574 or contact us online to learn more about the available therapy options and how you can help your loved one get the care they need. If you are worried that you might need help preventing your own relapse, or if you’ve started to use again, we might be able to help you find additional treatment or aftercare services as well. Call anytime.


Can Alcohol be a Gateway Drug?

If you asked someone what they thought of as “gateway drugs,” in today’s current opioid epidemic, they would probably say something along the lines of prescription painkillers as a gateway drug to stronger, illicit substances like heroin. And, there actually have been studies illustrating a clear link between the two.

The second drug that would perhaps seem the most apparent offender is marijuana, especially as decriminalization and legalization become more commonplace. However, there is an even more widespread gateway drug, one that has escaped notice due to how normalized it is.

And that’s alcohol.

According to reports, 88,000 people die from alcohol-related incidents each year in the U.S., which makes alcohol-related incidents the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the nation.

Alcohol misuse, alcohol poisoning, and the problems that result from abusing alcohol cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars each year, which includes law enforcement, emergency services, and alcoholism treatment. And yet, it remains a legal, commonplace, acceptable substance.

What Is a Gateway Drug?

A gateway drug is a term for the first substance that someone might use, abuse, and eventually, develop a dependency to before either building up a tolerance and seeking a more potent substance or becoming curious about other substances after initially using one.

Of course, substance abuse is never the result of just one thing or even two. Rather, there is a whole spectrum of contributors behind why one person might be more vulnerable to addiction than another, including trauma, family history, mental illness, and even some form of genetic predisposition.

That being said, the concept that a substance can serve as a gateway drug for someone who might not have otherwise developed an addiction to multiple substances remains a popular one. In the case of alcohol specifically, it should be no surprise how alcohol overwhelmingly leads the way as the initial substance a person will try before moving on to drugs when the facts are considered.

Alcohol: A Socially Acceptable Substance

Alcohol is more than just a legal substance; it’s an incredibly prevalent one. It’s almost easier to try to list places in the United States where alcohol isn’t available for purchase rather than the places it is.

But there is more to it than just the fact that alcohol is widely available and easily attained. It has been normalized in the mainstream of our country for decades. It is commonplace now to get drinks after work, at the movies, at sports games, at dinner, to celebrate, to mourn, and so much else.

Because drinking alcohol is so “normal” and socially acceptable, it serves as the starting point for many people who end up as drug addicts. Someone may start out just drinking socially, only to have alcohol become a bigger part of their routine until they find themselves counting down the hours until they can have their next drink, or looking to alcohol as a means of relief and refuge.

Even if the person doesn’t become dependent on alcohol, there is still the risk that they will transition from drinking to using drugs. This could happen while drunk, or it could be a natural extension of the habit of drinking to experience relief and enjoyment.

According to a 2015 study, it was found among the group of polysubstance abusers that the majority of them had used alcohol before trying either tobacco or marijuana and eventually moving on to other drugs as well.

Can Underage Drinking Lead to Drug Abuse?

Because of both the accessibility and public perception of alcohol, it’s no wonder that in the United States 60 percent of teens have consumed alcohol by age 18, and 33 percent even earlier than that at 15.

Children that begin using alcohol in their teen years and earlier are significantly more likely to not only develop a dependence on alcohol but also, in fact, have it become a gateway to using and abusing other substances. In a study specifically surveying high schoolers who were abusing multiple substances, it was found that more of them had used alcohol than any other substance and that even those using other substances had first started with alcohol.

The Palm Beach Institute Can Help You Get Your Life Back

Although it’s a legal substance, alcohol remains a major problem at both micro and macro levels. And while alcoholism on its own is a severe illness, the inherent danger of alcohol is compounded by the fact that so many of those who misuse it go on to use other substances.

If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, call the Palm Beach Institute at 855-960-5456 or contact us online. We’re available anytime, day or night, to answer your questions or walk you through the process of choosing the right rehab for your needs.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Opioid Use?

Opioid abuse in the U.S. has reached levels that officials across the board agree can no longer go unnoticed or untreated. President Donald Trump in 2017 formally declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, which observers say is an important step in addressing the epidemic of opioid misuse.

An estimated two million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain medicines in 2015, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for that year. And data from the report show that treatment admissions linked to these medications more than quadrupled between 2002 and 2012, although only 18 percent received treatment for prescription opioid use disorders.

What Are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of prescription medications that are used to treat moderate-to-severe pain. Drugs in this class, which include the illegal drug heroin, interact and bind with opioid receptors on the nerve cells in the body and brain. They reduce pain messages to the brain and thus the feelings of pain in users.

These medications are intended for short-term use and are cOpioids in pill bottlesonsidered safe when taken as prescribed by a doctor for a short time. However, the feelings of euphoria and relaxation in addition to pain relief make them easy to misuse and abuse. This means users take more than the quantity prescribed, take them without a prescription, or take them in a way that is inconsistent with how they are supposed to be taken. Even users who have legitimate prescriptions and use the drugs regularly can still develop a dependence on them, and dependence can lead to addiction.

What Happens If Opioid Abuse Continues?

When taken at higher doses than what is therapeutically necessary, opioids produce a strong sense of euphoria. When this happens, the brain is flooded with neurochemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, which activate the reward and pleasure pathways in the brain. This makes the use of opioids pleasurable and reinforces the behavior of taking high doses as the action is associated with pleasure.

Continued opioid abuse over a prolonged time can lead to building a high physical tolerance to the pain relievers. When people take large doses of opioids, they will have more of the drug in their systems than they have opioid receptors with which the drug can bond. However, with prolonged, habitual, and heavy use of the drugs, the brain begins developing additional opioid receptors that can bind with more and more of the drug.

As a result, people who use opioids in this manner will find themselves increasing the dose of the opioid they are taking to achieve the desired effects. At this point, they have developed a dependence and are on the road to an addiction that can lead to overdose or death.

Long-Term Effects of Opioid Abuse for Addicts

The “desired effects” that users set out to get when they abuse opioids harm the body and mind and come with serious, life-threatening risks.

Here are some specific opioids and the long-term effects they can have on users’ physical and mental health.

Codeine – Prolonged use of codeine can cause a number of effects on the body that can lead to death. Respiratory depression, when a person’s breathing becomes shallow or dangerously labored, is possible. Other medical complications include cardiac damage to body’s vital organs and coma. Using this drug for long periods can quickly cause physical dependence and can lead to addiction.

Fentanyl – This powerful synthetic opioid is estimated to be 80 to 500 times stronger than morphine. warns that first-time users experimenting with this Schedule II drug or using it recreationally are in extreme danger of overdosing on it. Chronic fentanyl use increase users’ risk for significantly damaging decreased oxygen in the body’s tissues and damage of multiple organ systems. Long-term use can also result in users exhibiting poor judgment in personal and professional situations.

Heroin – The long-term effects of repeated heroin use include physical structure and physiological changes in the brain. This results in imbalances in neuronal and hormonal systems that are not easily reversed, according to data cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Chronic users also may find problems with making decisions and regulating their behavior. These conditions have been linked to the breakdown of white matter in the brain that results from regular heroin use. Addiction, of course, results from prolonged use. People who use methods that allow the substance to reach the brain quickly are at increased risk of developing an addiction to it.

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Hydrocodone – Frequent use of this opioid, which is sold under the names Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab, can result in several physical health problems, such as acetaminophen toxicity, liver damage, and sensorineural hearing loss. Mental health is at risk as well with chronic use.

Hydromorphone (Dilaudid) – Chronic hydromorphone users are at risk of developing physical and psychological problems. Anxiety, depression, mood swings, and reckless behavior are some of the challenges that come with the long-term use of this drug. Prolonged abuse could lead people to move on to heroin, which commonly happens when prescription opioids are abused. Severe side effects include chest pain, breathing problems, and seizures.

Methadone – Methadone dependence is difficult to break once established, even for those who use it as a substitute for opioid addiction treatment. It is estimated that about 5,000 people die yearly from abusing this drug. Its effects have been likened to those of the illegal addictive opioid heroin.

Morphine – People who chronically use or abuse morphine can cause irreversible damage to their vital organs. Excessive use threatens the respiratory system, putting users at risk of breathing problems, and the cardiovascular system, which brings on chest pains, collapsed veins, and abnormally low blood pressure. Chronic morphine users may have a hard time passing urine or feel pain while urinating. They also may have renal damage.

Oxycodone – Chronic oxycodone users may develop a physical and psychological dependence over the long-term. Users may have trouble sleeping, experience changes in balance, depersonalization, and mood swings, among other problems. Paranoia, depression, and hallucinations have been associated with long-term oxycodone use. Serious consequences can result from long-term use of oxycodone that contains acetaminophen. Kidney and liver failure have been associated with the use of this drug as well as cardiac arrest, heart failure, low blood pressure, seizures, suicidal ideations, and more.

Percocet – Prolonged use of Percocet, a combination of oxycodone and acetaminophen, can cause structural and functional changes in the brain. Chronic users may experience lightheadedness, difficulty concentrating, or memory loss as a result of changes in the brain. Psychological challenges include depression, paranoia, confusion, insomnia, hallucinations, and personality disorder. Users also could exhibit mood swings, introverted behavior, and other behavioral changes.

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Long-term effects of opioid use also can trigger structural and functional changes in the brain that cause users to lose much of their ability to cope with pain naturally without the use of pain medication. In other words, long-term opioid use has been found to cause significantly decreased pain tolerance. Additionally, users begin to experience pain more intensely since they don’t consistently have high levels of opiate painkillers in their systems.

Many people who misuse and abuse prescription opioid medications may find they need professional help at an addiction rehabilitation or treatment center to get off the drugs and on the path to recovery.

Effects of Opioids Can Linger Beyond Recovery

Once opioid users become and remain sober, their brain chemistry and neurological functioning will begin to stabilize and return to a relatively normal state. However, there are lingering effects that can remain with a person in recovery from opioid addiction for months or even years after their use has stopped. These effects, or symptoms, are known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), and they are an unfortunate consequence of having been a habitual substance abuse for a prolonged period.

The lasting psychological effects brought on by prolonged opioid use are arguably the most persistent. Without the daily, habitual abuse of opioid pain relievers, individuals are confronted with their undiluted emotions, which can be overwhelming at first. It takes time to adjust to this as the return of one’s emotional sensitivity often feels like an emotional flood. Additionally, many people who have overcome an opioid addiction will be prone to experiencing depression. Ongoing treatment that involves counseling and methods, such as a 12-step program, can help people manage their PAWS symptoms as needed.

The Palm Beach Institute is a Resource for All Things Recovery

Opioids are some of the most highly addictive and dangerous chemical substances that exist. While opioids can be beneficial when used correctly, the misuse and abuse of the medications have cost many people their lives. At the Palm Beach Institute, we believe that everyone deserves the chance to return to a life of health and happiness.

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The Effects of Long-Term Heroin Use

The opioid heroin has been around for literally hundreds of years in various forms, including at one point serving as a cough medicine, of all things. Heroin was originally derived to serve as a less-addictive alternative to morphine, but unfortunately, addiction rates instead quickly skyrocketed.

Currently, it is estimated that more than 500,000 people in the United States are suffering from a dependency on heroin. Heroin is a significant contributor to the country’s opioid crisis, having been responsible for nearly 16,000 overdose deaths in 2016.

However, while the chances of fatal overdose are frightening enough, this is only one of many consequences of heroin addiction. The habitual use of heroin causes many other negative and, in many cases, irreversible effects that only increase in severity the longer an individual abuses it.

The effects of regular heroin abuse on your body and brain are debilitating and often deadly enough on their own that overdosing doesn’t even have to enter the picture as a fatal danger of using heroin.

What Effects Does Heroin Have on the Brain?

Heroin acts on the central nervous system and brain in order to produce its main effects, heightened senses of pleasure and euphoria, as well as sedation. The body naturally produces its own opioid-like substances, but heroin is much more potent, creating a significantly amplified effect.

Heroin works by quickly binding to the brain’s opioid receptors, blocking pain signals and stimulating dopamine levels by inhibiting a neurotransmitter called GABA that regulates the production and release of dopamine. Without the GABA neurotransmitters able to do their job, heroin floods the brain with dopamine, serotonin, and other “feel-good” chemicals, causing a spike that activates the reward and pleasure circuits of the brain.

Over time, with repeated use, the brain adjusts to the presence of heroin by creating additional opiate receptors with which heroin can bond. As it’s bombarded over and over again with high levels of heroin, the brain begins creating more places to put the heroin, so to speak. This is what causes an individual’s tolerance to increase, as they have to start escalating their dosage in order to achieve the desired effects.

Heroin’s constant stimulation of the brain’s pleasure center cements the association of heroin use with feelings of intense pleasure. Repeated use, therefore, creates psychological and physical dependence. The brain will stop producing its own dopamine and rely instead on heroin as the sole source of neurochemical production, which creates uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when someone who has been regularly using heroin for long periods of time stops taking it.

These effects can cause serious, often permanent alteration and damage to the brain, including:

  • Inability to regulate neurochemical levels
  • Deterioration of white and gray matter brain cells
  • Impaired decision-making abilities
  • Inability to regulate behavior
  • Inability to respond to stress
  • Impaired processing of information

While many of these effects have been proven to be reversible in the short-term, the longer someone abuses heroin, the less likely their brain will ever function the way it did before they started using.

What Effects Does Heroin Have on the Body?

The physical effects of long-term heroin use are as serious as they are varied and far-ranging. While the obvious effects include an overall decline in hygiene and addressing basic needs such as eating and sleeping regularly in favor of sustaining their habits, other damage that heroin inflicts on a user’s body includes:

  • Significantly weakened immune system
  • Swollen gums and damaged teeth
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Impotence
  • Severe constipation
  • Depression
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney damage

The different ways heroin can be ingested also affects the kinds of health problems that can arise. If heroin is smoked, it can lead to serious lung problems and leave the user more susceptible to illnesses like pneumonia, which has a greater lethal potential than normal due to the dangerously slow and shallow breathing heroin use induces.

If someone is instead regularly injecting heroin intravenously, it opens them to an even wider array of physical damage to the body, including blood clots, inflammation of the valves and lining of the heart, collapsed veins, and more. Injecting heroin also leaves users vulnerable to bloodborne illnesses that are unrelated to the drug itself but caused by sharing needles, such as hepatitis and HIV or AIDS.

Many users will attempt to avoid these problems by snorting heroin instead, but this just creates another avenue for heroin to deteriorate an individual’s body. The effects of snorting heroin can range from chronic sinusitis and nosebleeds to a total loss of sense of smell, perforation of the nasal septum, and even a collapse of the nasal cavity.

Heroin abuse has the power to take an otherwise perfectly healthy person and leave them with severe health problems and potential diseases. Overdosing on heroin is obviously a serious danger that should not be hand-waved away, but it is also vitally important that people are aware of the long-term effects of heroin and how regular abuse can ruin your body and mind without ever once overdosing.

Find Freedom from Addiction at the Palm Beach Institute

There are many options available for those in need of treatment for heroin dependency. However, it’s important for each individual to receive treatment in a program that effectively addresses each of their needs.

If you or someone you love is struggling with heroin addiction and would like a free consultation and assessment, call the Palm Beach Institute at 855-960-5456 or contact us online. We are available anytime, day or night, to help anyone in need begin their journey back to a life of happiness and health.