Physiological Recovery After Addiction

Malibu Addiction Recovery

Over time substance abuse negatively impacts brain functioning. Once a substance abuser is no longer in active addiction the brain begins to repair by creating more neurons. Neurons are nerve cells and similar to other cells except for one difference. The difference being neurons transmit information throughout our bodies.

Neurons transmit information in two different ways, chemically and electrically. There are different types of neurons which have varying tasks. The sensory neurons transmit information from sensory receptors throughout the body to the brain. Motor neurons carry information from the brain to our muscles. Interneurons carry information from one neuron to another.

These neurons are made-up of dendrites, cell body and axons. Interestingly, neurons come in different shapes and sizes. Some neurons are made-up of more dendrites and can take in more information. Other neurons have larger or shorter axons.

Information is transmitted from dendrites to neurons and from one to another using chemicals called neurotransmitters. There are several types of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Eventually an individual in active addiction increases the level of dopamine which furthers the addiction. The substance abuse addiction increases the glutamine which speeds up communication between neurons to the point that an excitement occurs in the brain. The GABA levels would normally keep the glutamine in check and not allow for the speed up in communication.

In increasing addiction behavior the GABA levels are decreased and the glutamine is not held in check. This excitement in the brain brings about cravings in the individual. If these cravings are not met withdrawal then begins.

There are several ways to manage addiction withdrawal symptoms. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation are an option. Meeting with your primary care physician is always a good idea for medication options if warranted. Make sure to keep a list of symptoms and be open and honest about the substance abuse behaviors so that the physician can have adequate information to provide appropriate treatment.

Exercise is also a great way to get physically fit and work off extra energy. Jogging, hiking, walking, lifting weights, and swimming are but a few great ways to stay active. These are also beneficial coping skills which can assist in reducing a number of symptoms such as stress, anxiety, and depression.

Attendance at meetings such as AA, NA, and CA can be a great way to reduce stress by surrounding yourself in the recovery community. Have you spoken to your sponsor lately? Do you have a sponsor?  Sponsors exist to help others struggling with addiction. If you do not have a sponsor it is important you work on getting one as soon as possible.

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Marijuana Maintenance

Marijuna Relapse

While it may be hard to deny certain medical uses and benefits of medical
marijuana, it is important to keep in mind that there is little to no research
about the trigger effect that marijuana may have on addicts/alcoholics in
recovery. Some undesirable side effects of marijuana include increased heart
rate, appetite and sensory perception and diminished coordination. Marijuana
has been noted to cause short-term memory loss, anxiety, paranoia and even
psychotic episodes. There has been little research on its trigger effect on
schizophrenia but, it is believed that marijuana use amongst adolescents with
a predisposition to schizophrenia can be detrimental in the onset of the disorder.

Some users may experience anxiety and the sensation of panic when
they smoke marijuana. There has been much talk of a correlation between
marijuana use and psychological disorders, such as depression, bipolar
disorder, ADD/ADHD, and anxiety. However, it is not clear which precedes
which. Often times, those already suffering from mental disorders turn
to marijuana as a way to self-medicate – a more likely case. The concern
however, is whether this is a safe way to treat such disorders or if it only
serves to make matters worse.

Some addicts and alcoholics have tried the ‘marijuana maintenance’ program,
believing that they can simply smoke weed without going back to the harder
stuff that they were using before getting clean. This rarely works however,
because for those in recovery, the introduction of a drug in the brain releases
their addiction all over again. The fact is that whom may identify as addict or
alcoholic, have minds that are wired a bid differently and so using any kind
of intoxicating substance will set the wheels of our addiction spinning again.

It’s not unusual for some wavering addicts to think that they could go back
to only smoking pot after each bout of using the harder stuff – heroin and
cocaine, or other drugs of choice. However, soon enough and without fail,
these people often find themselves mired once again in active addiction.
Literature used in 12 Step fellowships reminds us that “alcohol is a drug”
… and so is marijuana.

For those who might be thinking, ‘perhaps I can still smoke pot’, its important
to remember that being clean means abstaining from any mood or mind-altering
drug. In other words, anything you use with the effect & intention of getting high.
And no, that doesn’t include taking ‘psych meds’, like anti-depressants or medication
to treat bipolar disorder. So, by that definition, using marijuana in and of itself breaks
one’s sobriety. To the alcoholic and addict, it is as detrimental as alcohol, heroin,
cocaine, or any other intoxicating substance.

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Abusing Prescription Drugs

Those abusing prescription drugs are no different than those who are addicted to heroin, cocaine or any illegal drug. An addict that uses prescription drugs may come to be depend on them which can result in negative consequences. When an addict uses prescription drugs the medication can change the brain chemistry, making it less effective at producing other chemicals in the brain. Once this occurs the brain will need the drug to maintain homeostasis. At this point the addict now has a physical dependence on the medication.

The initial decision to take prescription drugs may be by choice, but over time this may change. The ability to make sound decisions may change and the impulse to take more than prescribed could increase. There are a few different classes of prescription drugs that are often abused: opioids like OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicodin which are used to treat pain; central nervous system depressants, or benzodiazepines, like Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Klonopin which are commonly used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders; stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin, which are used to treat attention deficit disorder.

Some of the effects of using prescription drugs excessively may include:  anxiety; depression; difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much; A loss of interest in relationships with friends or family; withdraws symptoms may develop the user attempts to stop the medications on their own. Signs that someone is becoming dependent on prescription drugs could include:  mood swings; lack of interest in treatment options other than more medications; complaints of vague symptoms to get more medication; ‘doctor-shopping’ to get more pills; on and off relief from anxiety; using more than the recommended dose of the medication. The best way to treat someone who has become addicted to prescriptions is through a residential detox facility, such as Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center.

A commonly abused class of drugs which are often mixed with other prescription medications, sometimes producing fatal results are benzodiazepines or ‘benzos’.  These are psychoactive drugs which enhance the effect of brain receptors resulting in sedative, hypnotic, and muscle relaxing effects. Benzos are widely prescribed for a variety of conditions, chief among them, anxiety and insomnia. Used chronically, benzos are addicting. Caution must be used when prescribing benzos to patients with a current or past history of substance abuse. Benzos are widely prescribed and generally produce almost immediate effects and may be prescribed for short-term “as-needed” use.

An association between benzo use, depressive symptoms and in some cases, the emergence of suicidal ideation, has been seen. People rarely abuse benzos as a solo drug. They are commonly used with opioids. As a possible drug of abuse, benzos are preferred among addicts because of the rapid onset of action. Many people seek out drug detox and drug rehab in order to titrate safely off of benzodiazepine. Discontinuation of benzos or a quick reduction of the dose, even if only taking for a short period of time, can result in withdrawal symptoms.  This is a major sign of physical dependence. Whether you are seeking drug rehab treatment for benzo addiction, pain killer abuse, or any other prescription drug, it is important to research and find a drug treatment center that can safely detox you, providing the education/skills needed to both obtain and maintain lasting sobriety.

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Addictive Thinking

Addictive Thinking_Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center

Impaired impulse control, combined with a relative inability to process consequences, can accurately sum up what is often referred to as addictive thinking. These types of thought patterns can lead to a lack of trust in one’s self and others, then to increased isolation. Reward and negative reinforcement factor importantly in behavioral and addictive motivation. The anticipation of reward is sometimes what we refer to with the terms ‘triggers’ or ‘cravings’, which are addressed in treatment at Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center

Once the brain experiences, or anticipates experiencing, some rewards from drug abuse, such as blunting of negative emotions, an increase in feelings of well-being, or the lessening of withdrawal symptoms, negative reinforcers are put in place. When a negatively reinforcing behavior like drug abuse sets up a reward pathway within the brain, regulation of impulse control is compromised and negative consequences that result from the continued use of the substance cease to matter as the substance is now also being abused in order to diminish the feelings associated with these consequences.

This is where addictive thinking comes into play. Once a relationship between a behavior and a feeling is established, obsessive thinking or anticipation of reward may be coupled with more uncomfortable feelings unless a particular action is followed through to its conclusion. Chemical restructuring in the brain may bring about dominant thoughts which center on obtaining and using the drug necessary in order to both create and diminish the desired euphoric effect and the resultant accompanying grief involved.

The resultant physiological and psychological cravings will produce thought patterns which are often referred to as addictive thinking patterns. Addictive thinking in relation to substance abuse may manifest itself in difficulty delaying gratification, pleasure seeking, impulsive actions, degradation of previous held moral standards or principles, a victim mentality, and a fear of exposure. The foundation of these addictive thinking processes are anchored in denial of one’s own objective reality, irrationality of thoughts and behaviors and self-obsession or selfishness to the point of willful disregard or neglect of another’s feelings or safety. Addicts and alcoholics often show no awareness or concern for the boundaries set by other people and compromise their own values in order to obtain and use the substances that provide relief from the resultant obsession and addictive thinking.

The vicious cycle of addictive thinking patterns result in unhealthy behaviors that then begin to have a negative impact on relationships. Nearly every action, motive, or decision the addict makes can begin to fall into question or suspicion by those around them. As an addictive behavior history begins to take root in an addict’s life, non-addicts begin to take notice and become mistrustful. An addict’s predominant focus becomes the obtaining and using of a particular substance or substances. Frequently the addict, driven by this type of addictive thinking, will choose a relationship with a drug over those with his or her own family.

Addictive thinking patterns produce unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact relationships. Non-addicts will begin to question the addict’s motives and thought processes behind decision making. Distrust of the addict develops based upon behavioral history. The main focus for an addict is substance abuse, as he or she will often choose drugs and/or alcohol over family. Isolation starts to develop in this pattern as friends and family begin to distance themselves from the addict because they no longer trust them and also as a protective mechanism from being hurt or let down.

Arguments increase and people get pushed away as the addict begins to rigorously defend his or her motives and position, especially those that challenge the addictive behaviors. The addict has now become alienated. The isolation or alienation fuels the substance abuse and denial becomes the main strategy for the addict to help justify the behaviors.

From the addict’s point of view, everything is just a big misunderstanding: family don’t understand, friends don’t understand, employers don’t understand. The addict may then seek solace from other active addicts and the addiction may grow stronger. The isolation from family and friends has now become reinforced.

In treatment, these addictive thinking patterns must be brought to light and addressed by both the addict and their loved ones, as this type of behavior can continue to persist even in sobriety. At Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center, we treat individuals and their families, we even take couples in together for treatment, because we understand that addiction is a family disease. The staff at Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center understand this and are thoroughly trained to help bring your family together.

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Battling Ego


Many of us identify with our ego, the self that is attached to everything around us. The self that takes offense to others negative comments about us and identifies when we have been harmed in word or deed. The self that experiences the world on a personal level. This self-attaches to everything in relation to your ego, positive or negative. The world at this level is ego based and never neutral. Things are either good or bad.

Often people abuse drugs as an attempt to reach this higher spiritual plane and seek to have egoless experiences, but instead, get trapped in the ego because instead of removing oneself from self, drugs increase the sense of ego experience, making it even more intensified. Drugs trap the spirit, they do not liberate. Substances like opiates, alcohol and cocaine all intensify the sense of ego.

The impulse to use drugs is often positive but misguided. As has been said, alcoholics and addicts are looking for God in all the wrong places. Treatment has an overwhelming psychological focus on the mental state of the client which traps the therapist and client in the ego and is perhaps not the best answer for the client. The therapist is trying to alleviate mental distress by helping the patient become more logical and rational in their life and to help them become more effective in their decision making. They try to create an intellectual answer for a spiritual problem. In order for real treatment to take place, everything about treatment must change.

When drug addicts experience the connection to the source, the need for drugs dissipates and will stay dormant as long as the addict stays spiritually fit. By meditation, self-examination and dedication to service of others, the addict will stay connected to his higher self and evolve. As he or she evolves and comes closer to the source, the ego becomes less important and drugs become irrelevant.

Treatment for drugs and mental health issues is evolving and at Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center we heal the soul, not just the mind, using meditation, acupuncture, equine teachers, hypnosis, holistic therapy, emdr and many other tools to cross over to a new way of healing that connects us to the source of all that is. We are starting a new change process at the level of the soul that has as its goal, transformation to a deeper level of experience, reinforcing the spiritual beings we have always been at our core.

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Finding A Higher Power

Oceanside Malibu Treatment Center_Finding A Higher Power

It’s common, and often times necessary, for people on the journey of addiction recovery to desire a connection with a higher power. Sometimes, simply strengthening and refining our relationship to the house of worship from our upbringing can fulfill our need for connection with a higher power. In addition to rehabilitation treatment and support received from loved ones, this relationship provides a source of stability and support that allows an addict to heal. Through prayer and attending worship services, an addict with a sincerely held religious belief can redefine his/her life and gain a new sense of purpose. As addicts, however, we are often an irritable group who generally bristle when we first hear talk about any kind of higher power. But whether or not we are religious, we can be spiritual. Spirituality can be a personal journey within ourselves. But how do we start on that journey?

Our connection with the environment can awaken our spirits. The physical environment has long been linked with spirituality. In ancient cultures, the sun, moon, mountains, and rivers all had spiritually significant roles. Taking part in the life that grows around us and developing a passion for nature can be a great method to harness peace and purpose. A long walk in the woods, gardening, or volunteer work with animals, any of these things can give us an opportunity for reflection on our connection with the world around us and help to develop our sense of a higher power.

Giving back to others is a spiritual act in itself. Selfless acts go beyond religion and give us a sense of deeper connection the communities in which we live. Regardless of personal belief, giving of ourselves is rewarding both to the people who receive our charity and to us. Acts of selflessness create a virtuous circle that feeds our spirit and helps connect us with our higher power.

We may wince at the very idea of “meditating.” We’ve already had to get and stay clean. It feels like we have had to change everything in our lives. Now people are telling us that we have to become some kind of guru and stare into the distance until we achieve enlightenment. But, meditation is not something to inspire resentment or fear – although it often does for people who have never tried it. Meditation is a practice that happens appears in many different organized religions, but so is charity, and we have no problem separating religion and our own acts of charity.

Meditation is simply a method of being still and practicing mindfulness. As addicts, we often live fast, drama-filled, seemingly complicated lives. Meditation offers a simple method for us to take a small step toward slowing things down, if only for a short period, and feeling connected to our own existence. There are also several physical and emotional benefits of meditation. What is important is that we set aside time for ourselves each day during which we practice awareness of self and our connection to the people, life around us and our higher power.

We can make a connection to a higher power with or without religion. If we follow a particular religion we can improve our practices and improve our conscious contact. If we do not follow a particular religion, we can take steps toward awareness and connection that will yield spiritual dividends.

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