Finding the perfect gift for someone you care about isn’t always easy. Will they like it? Will they use it? Do they already have it? With so many questions that need answers, you could spend hours online shopping without making any real progress. Especially if you are looking for a gift for a recovering alcoholic or addict, finding something that they will love in their new life of sobriety can seem overwhelming.

Gift Ideas for Recovering Addicts & Alcoholics

Whether you are doing some Christmas shopping for your sibling who just finished a medical detox or looking for a birthday gift for a newly sober friend, finding the right present can mean a lot to someone you love. Especially if your loved one is new to recovery and your relationship has been a bit shaky, a thoughtful gift can show them you are here to support them in their journey. At Vertava Health, we are sharing a few of the best gift ideas for people in recovery.

Personalized Memento

Going through addiction treatment and getting sober is a big accomplishment that should be celebrated. Help your loved one commemorate this achievement with a personalized memento. This could be anything from an engraved piece of jewelry with their sobriety anniversary on it or a monogrammed recovery journal. This type of thoughtful gift for someone in recovery can let them know just how proud you are of them for getting sober.

Experience or Activity

One of the best gifts for recovering drug addicts or alcoholics is a fun experience or activity. They likely missed out on various experiences because they were prioritizing their addiction. This year, help them get those experiences back. This gift could be something they always wanted to do or a new activity for them to try. An adrenaline rush may help them find the high they have been missing. Trying a new activity could help find a hobby to fill the void drugs and alcohol left behind. Finally, a fun activity that you can do together could help strengthen your relationship.

Recovery Book

Especially if your loved one just left a long-term rehab and is still learning how to navigate life in recovery, they may be struggling. You likely do not always know what to say to help, but a book on recovery may have the words you are struggling to find. This book could have a lasting impact on your loved one.

Hobby Supplies or Gear

During treatment, your loved one may have embraced a new hobby. These activities are great for helping them stay busy and filling the void that drugs or alcohol may have left behind. A good present for a recovering addict may be something related to this new hobby. If they started doing yoga and meditation, get them some yoga gear or a meditation guide. If they participated in art activities for addiction during treatment and enjoyed it, get them the supplies they need to continue doing these activities at home. If they used music programming during treatment, get them lessons to learn a new instrument.

Photos

Getting sober is an emotional journey. A photo album, collage, or framed photo can all be sentimental gifts for people in recovery that can remind them that getting sober was worth it. Find photos that show your loved one at their best or everything they have accomplished since getting sober.

 

The right gift for a recovering addict or alcoholic doesn’t have to be a material item. Especially in early recovery, your support and time may be more important to them. Do your best to be there for them and help them with their recovery journey.

If you have a loved one who still needs to get sober, do not wait to take action. Contact us today at Vertava Health to learn more about how we may be able to help.

 

It started out simple enough. Smoking a bowl, hanging with my friends. Fast-forward seven or eight years. I’m still smoking, but now it’s daily whether I’m with friends or not. Sometimes, I’d burn through an ounce within maybe… two weeks at most. This seemed fine since it’s not like something natural like weed could ever hurt me or cause issues.

Flash forward again to the last two years. I’ve had some of the worst nausea of my life. I haven’t been able to eat anything until the late afternoon at the earliest. Weight loss and a lack of appetite were my new normal. Suddenly, I started throwing up and well… I couldn’t stop.

Even smells would set me off. There were these brief windows between bouts of uncontrollable heaving that were so pure. Everything would be normal, even nausea that was consistent for the last two years was alleviated. Then quick as it came it would disappear, and I’d be stuck heaving again.

The vomiting and nausea landed me in the ER more than once. My family even claimed I must’ve been on other drugs or in withdrawal. The IV sticks became something I have gotten so used to that it stopped phasing me. Five visits just for fluid will do that to you. The biggest problem was—no one knew why this was happening. That is, until the ER doctor recommended I meet with a gastrointestinal specialist. The GI doctor quickly diagnosed me with CHS, or cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Turns out, it’s been the weed all along. The thing I thought was helping me was the culprit from the jump.

I guess if I had known more about marijuana, I would have known sooner why I kept getting so sick for so long. I would’ve sought treatment for marijuana addiction.

A Quick Look At Marijuana

Marijuana is a plant that occurs naturally. It is actually a plant known as cannabis. As is the case with most plants, cannabis can come in a couple of different types. The two main types of cannabis are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis sativa L.

Cannabis sativa L is the non-psychotropic, or non-mind altering, type. It is most commonly used in the materials industry. It can be used to produce oils, materials for clothes, rope, and much more. It’s commonly referred to as hemp.

Cannabis sativa on the other hand is the strain that makes up what is commonly known as marijuana. Other names for this include:

  • weed
  • pot
  • dope
  • grass

It is made up of seeds, stems, roots, and other plant materials that range from green to purple in color. It is lauded for its psychoactive properties and medicinal aspects which are directly related to its active ingredient, THC. THC stands for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol.

Currently, marijuana is the leading most-used drug in America. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), show that about 22.2 million people use it each month.

So, where and when did marijuana use even start?

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The History Of Using Cannabis

Cannabis use can be traced back as far as 500 BC! Ancient peoples in Asia frequently used plants as herbal medicine. Marijuana was one of those plants that often served as a medicine. Within the United States, the plant has a more colonial origin. It first came to America when colonists were using it for textiles and ropes.

Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut were the first colonies to actively look for farmers for hemp and require current farmers to grow hemp. It wasn’t criminalized until the 20th century. 

Some experts suggest this change was related to political and racial factors of the time. Nowadays, it is becoming more and more common to see the substance be decriminalized and in some cases, legalized for medicinal or recreational uses.

There is also some evidence that types with higher THC content were created for the psychoactive effects for use in religious ceremonies. Other information suggests that the common use of marijuana even with higher THC concentrations were only medicinal.

In the 1800s, doctors began finding and recording the benefits of cannabis extracts. By the end of the decade, cannabis extract was readily available since it was sold in pharmacies and in doctor’s offices in both Europe and in the United States.

Recreationally, marijuana made its way into popular use in the United States during the early 1900s. Some of this is linked to the intense desire the country felt to relieve some of the stress of the Great Depression. Unfortunately, in America, the introduction of cannabis into the country was able to be tracked to immigrants from Mexico which led to a stark resentment of not only immigrants but those who used the “evil weed”. This fell right into the narrative being pushed during the prohibition era, and it led to more than 25 states outlawing cannabis before 1931.

By 1937, the U.S. had created a federal law that regulated the use and possession of hemp which made having any other strain of the plant illegal, even if it was for medicinal uses. The government doubled down on this during the 1970s “War on Drugs”, further criminalizing the substance—again, even if used medicinally.

The medicinal benefits of marijuana relate to its ability to lessen stomach cramps and sometimes help with vomiting or nausea by increasing hunger. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has actually even approved drugs that employ THC to treat nausea in patients with illnesses like cancer or AIDS.

But, like all medicines and substances, there is the chance and common occurrence of side effects.

Side Effects Of Using Marijuana

Most people use marijuana because It makes them feel good. When using the drug, people will often experience a “high”, this usually is seen with:

  • increased senses
  • a different sense of time
  • feeling humorous
  • relaxation
  • mood changes
  • decreased body movement
  • impaired thinking and memory

In some instances, if too much cannabis is had, whether it is from ingesting or smoking, it is possible to also have hallucinations, delusions, and other types of psychosis. Marijuana is often responsible for both long-term and short-term effects. Some short-term effects include:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory
  • hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • psychosis (risk is highest with regular use of high potency marijuana)

Currently, there is still no evidence that links marijuana to life-threatening overdoses. However, cannabis, or marijuana, has been linked to extreme feelings of anxiety and paranoia that can lead to panic attacks which are a result of overuse. It can also lead you to feel like you are experiencing an overdose on marijuana.

Sometimes these lead people to seek care in the local emergency clinic which allows them to get care for the psychotic episode triggered by the overuse of marijuana. Of course, not all the effects are short-lived. Some effects can be long-term and even lifelong. These include:

  • breathing problems
  • increased heart rate
  • intense nausea and vomiting

This intense nausea and vomiting are known in the medical field as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.

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What Is Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS) is a syndrome of cyclic vomiting associated with cannabis use. CHS is actually considered an adverse effect, which is basically a negative side effect. The first case of CHS was reported in 2004.

Typically, CHS is categorized as cyclic vomiting that comes from chronic, high dose cannabis use. Often, CHS is also associated with frequent and compulsive hot baths or showers that are taken to relieve symptoms.

In the medical field, cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is considerably under-recognized. This means that the story we started out with is incredibly accurate. Many of those with CHS head to their local ER time and time again with what is called “intractable nausea and vomiting”.

Part of what makes it hard to diagnose is the stigma around using marijuana and the legality of it. This leads a lot of those seeking care to lie about use or pretend that they don’t use at all. This can prevent the doctor from getting a clear picture of the issue at hand.

Another unfortunate truth of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome is that symptom management can be hard.

Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Symptoms

Through different case studies, doctors have identified three stages of CHS: prodromal, hyperemesis, and recovery.

Prodromal Stage

During the prodromal stage, people typically experience:

  • morning nausea
  • urges to vomit
  • stomach discomfort

These symptoms may last for months or years. It shouldn’t be too surprising that during this time most people use marijuana more since we know that it is used in nausea treatment.

Hyperemesis Stage

People in the hyperemesis stage of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome will experience intense and persistent nausea and vomiting. This is typically the stage in which people will seek relief in any way that they can, including baths and showers.

Recovery Stage

The recovery stage can last from days to months. People in the recovery stage often:

  • feel better
  • return to normal eating patterns
  • resume a regular frequency of showering

What Causes CHS?

Researchers have several theories on the causes of cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome. Only a small number of regular and long-term users of marijuana develop CHS. Part of this leads some researchers to suggest that genetics might play a role. Other researchers theorize that the effects of marijuana can change with chronic use.

Much like addiction or dependence on a substance, it appears that CHS can be due to a combination of things. Currently, there are more studies being conducted and centered around CHS. Hopefully, as more research is done, more clarity will be gained on what the actual cause of cannabinoid hyperemesis is.

Where Do You Get A Diagnosis And Seek Treatment For Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome?

CHS is actually a gastrointestinal issue and so the best place to seek a diagnosis or treatment for it would be seeking care at a gastroenterologist’s office. Gastroenterologists, or GI doctors, are specialists in the gastrointestinal tract. This means that they know the ins and outs of everything from the esophagus to the far end of the system. They know the processes in which food goes in and waste goes out.

Most GI doctors will only accept patients after they have had a recommendation by a primary care physician. We suggest that you address concerns with your family doctor and ask them to give you a referral to a local gastroenterologist to address your symptoms if you think you may have CHS.

However, it is important to know that getting treatment for CHS is not going to solve the underlying issue.

Is Marijuana Addictive?

The short answer: yes, marijuana can be considered addictive. 

The longer answer is that research conducted by, and with, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), shows that THC can lead to a marijuana use disorder or cannabis use disorder. This is a type of substance use disorder (SUD) that is characterized by dependence on a substance, in this case, marijuana.

Marijuana use disorder becomes an addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with a lot of different aspects of everyday life. Some additional studies as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suggest that 1 in 10 users will form a marijuana addiction.

The National Institute of Health (NIH), also says that part of the addictive nature of cannabis relates to the dependence on the substance that leads to symptoms of withdrawal. They also cite that as many as 30% of those who use marijuana may have a marijuana use disorder.

They go on to say that in 2015, 4 million people in America met the criteria for marijuana use disorder but only 138,000 voluntarily sought treatment for it.

Treatment For Addiction To Marijuana That Considers CHS

Currently, you can get treatment for marijuana addiction or a marijuana use disorder. Treatment options right now are most often centered around things like binge use. Binge use is when you are using a lot of a substance, especially in a short period of time.

Treatment also focuses on things like withdrawal. Studies show that withdrawal from marijuana is possible and it can lead to an increase in the side effects and symptoms we listed above. Aside from these two main pieces, the treatment also often tries to help with the feelings of preoccupation with using.

Part of addiction is the intense need or craving to use a substance. Addiction to marijuana is no different and some of that impacts the effectiveness of treatment and the potential for relapse. This means it is critical that care focuses on that as well.

Less common is the potential of pharmacological treatments for it. These would be treatments for marijuana use disorder that rely on medications to be effective. For other drugs of use like opioids, this type of treatment has been thoroughly proven as safe and effective. It is called medication-assisted treatment and has been around for a long time. For marijuana, however, it is not used, and studies are still being conducted to determine the safety and effectiveness of it.

Finding Your Resilience With Vertava Health

If you or someone you love is struggling with cannabis addiction, Vertava Health is here to help. We offer comprehensive and compassionate treatment for all types of addictions and can help guide you through the difficult portions, like withdrawal and detox.

There’s one specific thing we use to help you, something unique: we use your strength. Your own dedication and strength are key ingredients in your own recovery. It might not feel like it, but we’re confident you have the power to change your life. Call us at (615) 208-2941 and we can chat about how.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take CHS to go away?

This is entirely dependent on the time it takes for your body to go through the stages of CHS. If you are concerned about the time it is taking or want more information on what you can expect during recovery, we suggest that you ask your physician.

Is cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome permanent?

It is not permanent if you stop using and seek appropriate treatment for both CHS and marijuana use disorder if you have these two disorders concurrently.

How long does it take to recover from cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?

The time it takes for recovery after CHS is dependent on your body, your care schedule, and if you refrain from any use during the recovery process. We recommend if you are concerned about how you are progressing that you reach out to your doctor.

Can CBD help cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome?

As of now, we are not seeing any research coming through that CBD will help CHS. It is important that you ask your doctor before trying any new or different treatments than those that they recommend.

Pop culture is always shaping our lives, mindsets, and thoughts. Whether we like it or not, some of our strangest prejudices come from the silver screen. One such stereotype is that all “stoners” are dumb or slow.

Take the movie Pineapple Express, for example, it was a 2008 hit film that made more than $100 million at the box office. It is touted as one of the best “buddy stoner” films of all time. It’s led to a particular type of marijuana known as, you guessed it, Pineapple Express to be one of the most popular strains of all time.

The film is renowned for its silly and over the top comedy including zingers like:

“I seen’t it”

“It’s like killing a unicorn, with like, a bomb”

“It’s out bro! Monkey’s out of the bottle”

These silly lines and other comedic effects throughout the film are all representations of stoners and those who use marijuana regularly. Of course, this isn’t the only such film that depicts drug use in this light. There are tons of Hollywood hits that display drug use from cocaine to meth to alcohol and back again.

As for weed, it’s usually displayed in a light of fun, happy-go-lucky giggle fits, and some really, really dumb sounding one-liners. Other common tropes of the stoner include tie-dye shirts, hippie styles, and a laid back attitude. We also often see these people as being a little bit “slower” than the rest of the cast.

Both physically and mentally, a person using marijuana is usually shown to be a bit out of it. In other films, we can see cast members portraying individuals with an addiction to it that leads them to need treatment for marijuana addiction, or maybe they face things like cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.

But, is there any truth to the perception we have that smoking marijuana makes you less smart and actively causes brain damage to those who smoke it?

All About Marijuana In The Brain: The Good And The Bad

Let’s start by covering the basics. Most of us know by now that marijuana is a plant that occurs naturally. It is actually a plant known as cannabis. As is the case with most plants, cannabis can come in a couple of different types. The two main types of cannabis are Cannabis sativa and Cannabis sativa L.

Cannabis sativa L is the non-psychotropic, or non-mind altering, type. It is most commonly used in the materials industry. It can be used to produce oils, materials for clothes, rope, and much more. It’s commonly referred to as hemp. More now than ever before, it can also be found within a variety of beauty products like lotions and shampoos. Some crafting kits even boast the inclusion of hemp string for friendship bracelets.

Part of this major uptick in the use of hemp is due to its small environmental impact compared to most synthetic materials. This actually is part of what draws people to using marijuana as well for things like anxiety or pain instead of pharmaceutical options.

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Cannabis sativa is the strain that makes up what is commonly known as marijuana. Other names for this include:

  • weed
  • pot
  • dope
  • grass

Currently, marijuana is the leading most used illegal (remember, it is still illegal at the federal level in the United States) drug. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that about 22.2 million people use it each month.

It is made up of seeds, stems, roots, and other plant materials that range from green to purple in color. It is lauded for its psychoactive properties and medicinal value. These are directly related to its active ingredient, THC.

An active ingredient is an ingredient that is responsible for the active effects of a substance. For marijuana, it is known as THC, as we said before. THC stands for delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol. This is also the chemical that your brain will slowly develop a tolerance for over time with prolonged use of marijuana.

However, this type of marijuana isn’t the only kind that people are using.

Synthetic Alternatives To Marijuana Are More Dangerous To The Brain Than We Realize

Synthetic marijuana is a man-made hallucinogenic substance that is typically sprayed onto plant material. These products that make up synthetic marijuana are commonly known as herbal or liquid incense and can often be found in e-cigarettes and other types of devices. Truthfully, it is not safe for human consumption but has become popular in recent years.

Also known as “fake weed,” “K2,” or “spice” it produces mind-altering effects and can cause the individual to act in an odd manner. Since the main ingredients in it are chemicals that impact the cannabinoid receptors, just as THC can, they are often known as fake weed and synthetic marijuana. Often it is advertised as a more powerful, safe, and legal alternative to cannabis.

Synthetic marijuana is illegal and may have toxic ingredients that can cause increased heart rate, unexplained bleeding, and vomiting. According to government sites, it is part of a new category of drugs known as new psychoactive substances or NPS.

Synthetic marijuana may cause the brain and body to experience:

  • memory loss
  • seizures
  • psychosis
  • cardiac and respiratory problems
  • stroke
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • altered perception of euphoria
  • violent behavior
  • kidney and brain damage

In addition to the above symptoms, synthetic marijuana can be addictive to individuals who take it. Regular users trying to quit may have the following withdrawal symptoms if they have been using things like spice:

  • headaches
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • Irritability

Also, it is important to recognize that you can overdose on synthetic versions of marijuana. An overdose occurs when a person uses too much of a drug and has a dangerous reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms, brain damage, or death. The danger here is heightened as some synthetic versions are compounded with things like synthetic opioids which increase the risk for accidental overdose.

Marijuana And The Brain

The thing that makes substances of use, like illegal drugs, misused medications or alcohol so unique is that they change or alter the usual mechanics of the brain. They do this because they are made up of special chemicals that change the way the current chemical cycles in the brain work. THC and the other components of marijuana are what directly impact the brain and can even change its chemistry.

In our brain, we have special messenger chemicals called neurotransmitters. These messenger chemicals are responsible for signals moving through the brain and most of the rest of the body. They are responsible for emotions like happiness or sadness and even reactions like when you accidentally touch a hot plate.

There are a ton of different types of these neurotransmitters—or messengers—in the brain. Each of them has different functions and specialties. You can think of them as a mail system.

Some mail trucks come by every day with our standard packages and envelopes but sometimes we ordered items like a new TV or maybe even a new mattress online. When those packages get sent out they don’t fit in the everyday USPS truck, and they come in via a bigger box truck and get dropped off at a different time, or maybe even right at your front door rather than the mailbox down the driveway.

The same thing happens in our brains with our chemical messengers. Each neurotransmitter has its own job or its own type of package delivery. For example, chemicals like dopamine or serotonin are responsible for emotions and happiness. Other chemicals include things like cannabinoids. These along with endocannabinoids are responsible for things like pleasure, memory, concentration, and perception.

They are also the neurotransmitter, or chemical messengers, that marijuana impacts. Specifically, THC mimics these cannabinoids and endocannabinoids. This is why smoking cannabis can lead to a change in reaction time, emotions, concentration, and more.

Since using pot affects brain areas that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, and sensory and time perception, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we get used to this type of change or feeling in our brains. Marijuana dependence occurs when the brain adapts to large amounts of the drug by reducing the production of, and sensitivity to, its own endocannabinoid neurotransmitters.

Does Marijuana Kill Brain Cells?

A common thought that also stems from the tropes seen in films and TV is that cannabis use “kills” brain cells. This became what we thought of as “common knowledge” during President Reagan’s time in the Oval Office because of the infamous PSA that touted the line “this is your brain on drugs”.

The basis of the PSA actually originally came from a study conducted by Dr. Robert Heath. The study claimed it found structural changes in the brains of monkeys that were dosed with marijuana. Since then, this study has been discredited as it could never be replicated. Actually, the National Center of Toxicological Research paired with a variety of other scientists and research teams to try to replicate this effect. Neither of the larger studies ever found any evidence of “physical alteration”.

This essentially laid to rest the claims that using marijuana kills brain cells, yet with the Hollywood tropes and a lack of news surrounding these newer, better-controlled studies, the common consensus is still that marijuana must impact brain cells by killing them off. Now, that isn’t to say that marijuana doesn’t impact the brain. It can impact different parts of the brain and even some specialized circuits in the brain.

There are a lot of different parts and pieces of the brain. Things like the cerebellum, the hippocampus, multiple lobes and cortices, and even something called the basal ganglia.

THC is a chemical that changes the functioning of the hippocampus and the orbitofrontal cortex. The hippocampus is a memory center in the brain. One of the fun tricks to remembering this part of the brain and the role it plays is to think of a “hippo on campus”, which is definitely something that we would remember. The other part it impacts, the orbitofrontal cortex is responsible for enabling a person to form new memories and shift attentional focus.

Also, THC can mess with the functioning of the cerebellum and basal ganglia. These are brain areas that regulate balance, posture, coordination, and reaction time. So, when Hollywood shows that stoner trope of someone waiting for a stop sign to turn green, it turns out that it is something that using marijuana can cause.

The special circuit that the impact of the cannabinoid neurotransmitters, or messengers, can actually also trigger the brain’s reward system. In the normal brain, dopamine is the usual reward chemical. This system can be and sometimes is activated or altered by more than just substances that get misused.

The Mailing System Of The Brain And THC

Think of the receptor system in the brain like that mail system that we discussed before. Once they drop off their package at the mailbox, then the package spends time in the mailbox or at the door. This is similar to how a chemical transfer works in the brain. Once the neurotransmitter drops the chemical off, then the chemical gets to work producing the feeling associated with the message, whether the message they are sending and receiving is about happy feelings or more negative feelings.

So for example, let’s say that the dopamine mailman has come and delivered your daily dose of dopamine. Once the dopamine has linked up to your receiving mailbox, then it sits there and does its business to make us feel happy. After a time, we (or in this instance a protein) goes to pick up the mail for the day and disconnects that dopamine from the receptor in the mailbox.

This allows the receptor to be ready to accept its next drop off from the mailman. The same can be said for the cannabinoid receptor system that THC impacts. Once the cannabinoids have linked up with their special receptors, a protein comes along and removes the messenger chemical from the receptor.

When using drugs or alcohol, this communication or mailing process can get knocked out of sync or out of order. This can cause the neurotransmitter to stay connected to its receptor longer or to even potentially come back too soon.

And when the mail doesn’t get picked up then chemicals start to rush the brain continuously. This causes an amplified signal, also known as euphoria or a “high”.

Get To The Point: Does Marijuana Cause Addiction?

A common question related to these changes in the brain that can be attributed to substances like weed is: is it addictive?

In general, most people would want to say no. Since “It’s naturally occurring it, it can be used for medicine and it doesn’t feel like I’m addicted.”

The true answer, however, is that yes, marijuana can be considered addictive.

According to research conducted by, and with, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC can lead to a marijuana use disorder or cannabis use disorder. This is a type of substance use disorder (SUD) that is characterized by dependence on a substance, in this case, marijuana.

Marijuana use disorder becomes an addiction when the person cannot stop using the drug even though it interferes with a lot of different aspects of everyday life. Some studies, as reported by NIDA, suggest that 9% of people who use marijuana will become dependent on it, rising to about 17% in those who start using it in their teens .

Some studies have shown that there is an addiction to marijuana because the features of the three stages of drug addiction outlined by clinical researchers are also present in those who show dependence on cannabis.

Part of this may be due to the increase in the THC level in weed within recent years and particularly over the last handful of decades. This makes addiction or dependence much more likely than ever before.

Using marijuana can and usually will have both physical and psychological effects and lead to some really specific side effects.

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Side Effects Of Marijuana Use And Dependence

Most people use marijuana because It makes them feel good. Remember, it can activate those reward systems in our brain that let us feel good, relaxed, and even euphoric. When using the drug, people will often experience a “high”, this usually is seen with side effects or symptoms like:

  • increased senses
  • a different sense of time
  • feeling humorous
  • relaxation
  • mood changes
  • decreased body movement
  • impaired thinking and memory

These are also what we usually see in films and on the big screen. From munchies to the “stupid stoner” tropes, Hollywood is simply capitalizing and cashing in on some of the real side effects of using marijuana. In some instances, if too much cannabis is had, whether it is from ingesting or smoking, then it is possible to also have hallucinations, delusions, and other types of psychosis.

These types of symptoms or highs can be seen in movies like Dazed and Confused, Friday, and even in shows like That 70s Show. But, the feelings of the high that come with using marijuana isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when thinking about recurrent use and dependence. Marijuana is often responsible for both long-term and short-term effects.

Some short-term effects include:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory
  • hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • psychosis (risk is highest with regular use of high potency marijuana)

This is directly because marijuana over-activates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of the receptors that we were talking about earlier. However, it is important to remember that there is still no evidence that marijuana can kill brain cells or that marijuana is linked to life-threatening overdoses.

On the other hand, cannabis, or marijuana, has been linked to extreme feelings of anxiety and paranoia that can lead to panic attacks which are a result of overuse. Sometimes these lead people to seek care in the local emergency clinic which allows them to get care for the psychotic episode triggered by the overuse of marijuana.

Of course, not all the effects are short-lived. Some effects can be long-term and even lifelong. These include:

  • breathing problems
  • increased heart rate
  • intense nausea and vomiting

So, it is important to know the risks associated with it. We know now that science is showing that addiction or dependence is possible, however, not many of those people seek treatment or detox for their dependence on cannabis.

Can You Get Help And Treatment For Marijuana Addiction?

Currently, you can get treatment for marijuana addiction or a marijuana use disorder. It may not be common but there are those who seek and benefit from treatment for it. Treatment options right now are most often centered around things like binge use. Binge use is when you are using a lot of a substance, especially in a short period of time.

Treatment also focuses on things like withdrawal. Studies show that withdrawal from marijuana is possible and it can lead to an increase in the side effects and symptoms we listed above. Aside from these two main pieces, the treatment also often tries to help with the feelings of preoccupation with using.

Part of addiction is the intense need or craving to use a substance. Addiction to marijuana is no different and some of that impacts the effectiveness of treatment and the potential for relapse. This means it is critical that care focuses on that as well.

Less common is the potential of pharmacological treatments for it. This would be treatments for marijuana use disorder that rely on medications to be effective. For other drugs of use like opioids, this type of treatment has been thoroughly proven as safe and effective. It is called medication-assisted treatment and has been around for a long time. For marijuana, however, it is not used and studies are still being conducted to determine the safety and effectiveness of it.

Recovery Is Tough But So Are You, And We’re Here to Help

When it comes to getting treatment for addiction of any kind it can be intimidating, and there can be some hesitancy. For marijuana specifically, approximately half of the people who enter treatment for a marijuana use disorder are under 25 years old.

Aside from being young, most of these individuals also report other problems and even some risky behaviors. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly known as the DSM, 4.3 percent of Americans have been dependent on marijuana.

Also, 9% of those who try marijuana develop dependence. Compared to the 15% of cocaine users who develop addictions and 24% of those who use heroin, this may not seem like a lot. However, remember how many more people regularly use cannabis. This makes cannabis dependence more common than other types. Yet, we know most people never seek treatment for it. We’re here to help.

Get Help With Vertava Health And Live Your Best Life

If you or someone you love is struggling with cannabis addiction, Vertava Health is here to help. We offer comprehensive and compassionate treatment for all types of addictions and can help guide you through the difficult portions, like withdrawal and detox.

There’s one specific thing we use to help you, something unique: we use your strength. Your own dedication and strength are key ingredients in your own recovery. It might not feel like it, but we’re confident you have the power to change your life. Call us at (615) 208-2941, and we can chat about how.

Ready To Make A Change?

We can help you overcome addiction and get your life back. Your calls are always free and 100% confidential.

(844) 951-1939

Frequently Asked Questions

How many brain cells does marijuana kill?

Actually, marijuana killing brain cells is a common myth that comes from the Reagan Administration’s “This Is Your Brain on Drugs” campaign. Marijuana can impact the brain and its chemistry, and it can lead to dependence, but it does not “kill” off brain cells.

Although a lot of people look forward to the holiday season and many people enjoy the snow, not everyone likes winter. Instead of feeling cheerful and merry, they feel down and depressed. Feeling a little sad from time to time isn’t unusual, but when this sadness becomes severe or comes back each year at the same time, it may be a sign of seasonal affective disorder.

What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?

Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is a type of depression that is recurring and appears annually at around the same time. The symptoms can range in severity but will often last several weeks. It is estimated that anywhere from 10 to 20% of recurring depression is related to seasonal affective disorder.1

The most common form of seasonal affective disorder occurs in the late fall and early winter. Called winter-pattern SAD or winter depression, many researchers believe that this type of depression is related to waning daylight hours because it tends to be more common in higher latitudes. While less frequent, some people will experience summer-pattern SAD or summer depression with symptoms occurring during the spring and summer.

Dealing with seasonal affective disorder isn’t always easy and left untreated, it could severely impact a person’s life.  Some symptoms of seasonal affective disorder may include:

  • Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Poor concentration
  • Suicidal idealization

How to Cope with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder can severely hinder a person’s life, but it is treatable. While it may not be completely unavoidable for everyone, there are some ways to ways to cope with seasonal affective disorder and decrease the severity of symptoms.

Spend Time Outdoors

Winter depression is thought to be connected to lack of daylight, so one way to combat SAD symptoms is to get outside and get natural light as much as possible. Exposure to sunlight may increase the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate and boost a person’s mood.2

Lighten Up Your Home

Getting outside in the winter is not always an option, but you can try to brighten your home instead. Keep curtains open to let in as much nature light as possible and combat the lack of daylight with artificial lights. People dealing with SAD symptoms can also look into getting a light box that mimics natural light. Regular exposure with light therapy is one of the more effective seasonal affective disorder treatments.

Exercise

Because seasonal affective disorder can lead to fatigue, many people will become stagnant.  While hibernating until the symptoms pass can be tempting, it may make depression worse. Regular exercise is proven to boost mood and may be an effective means of combating seasonal affective disorder symptoms.3 Start slow but stay consistent with your workouts for the best results.

Follow a Sleep Routine

Evidence suggests that winter depression may be partially caused by a disconnect between people’s sleep-wake cycle and their circadian rhythm, the internal process that regulates this cycle.4 One way to try and correct your circadian rhythm is to practice good sleep habits. Keep a regular sleep schedule and follow a routine before bed to make falling asleep easier.

Get Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an important role in the body’s regular functioning and is often obtained through sun exposure. Because winter days tend to have less sunlight, your body may be lacking this vitamin. To make up for it, try adding supplements or foods with vitamin D to your diet such as fatty fish, mushrooms, or egg yolks.5

Practice Stress Management

In some cases, stress may make SAD symptoms worse, but stress reduction practices may help you feel more relaxed. Try incorporating breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness into your daily routine to deal with stress before it becomes overwhelming.

Avoid Drugs & Alcohol

Many people are not sure how to deal with seasonal depression, so they will turn to drugs and alcohol for help. These substances may numb the pain or act as a sleep aid, but ultimately, they can make depression worse. With habitual use, a substance use disorder may develop and instead of just dealing with the winter blues, you may now need treatment for a co-occurring disorder.

Get Professional Help

While these at-home remedies for dealing with seasonal affective disorder may work for some people, they may not be effective for everyone. If you are continuing to struggle or thinking about suicide, get help immediately. Your treatment for season affective disorder may include a combination of light therapy, medications, and psychotherapy.

Depression is different for everyone, but it is important not to let it control your life. Dealing with seasonal affective disorder symptoms right away may prevent secondary problems like substance use disorders from forming. If you or someone you care about is already struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our substance abuse treatment centers help people overcome addiction and work through their mental health challenges to find lasting relief and recovery.

To learn more about our programs at Vertava Health and how we may be able to help you, contact us today.

 

Your front-facing camera isn’t forgiving, is it? When it clicks on unexpectedly, at an angle you’re not prepared for, you get a glimpse of your face that might not be flattering, to say the least.

“Is that how my chin looks all the time?! Oh my gosh my neck—oh no, my…” and on and on. Even though all these cameras and all these screens can give us new glimpses of ourselves, the obsession over how we look is not new.

According to Sarah Lohman, an author and culinary historian, Americans’ dieting and obsession with weight can be traced back to the mid-1800s, which is also when the first graham crackers were invented–—for people who should be eating healthily.

adderall dependency

Weight and health have basically been on our national mind ever since. In a speech in the ‘60s, John F. Kennedy referenced young people neglecting their bodies by not focusing on physical fitness. As a reminder, there were zero video games to blame then.

You can find information supporting our national struggle with obesity and you can find information saying that this is not really a problem and is being exaggerated. It is a fact according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), however, that the rate of obesity has been steadily rising since 1988 at least.

This also means, unfortunately, eating disorders began to rise and they continue to be a problem. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that eating disorders impact lives not just in America, but all over the world. It also shows that women are more likely to struggle with an eating disorder than men.

All these things combined mean the diet and exercise industry rakes in billions of dollars, we’re sold (and buy) things that promise quick weight-loss results, and our opinions of ourselves are constantly shifting when we’re told how fat (or skinny) we are.

Finding a great way to lose weight is basically now a national pastime. What if a pill could solve your weight struggles, though? What if you could take a pill and just start losing weight?

It’s a dangerous question because the answer is so enticing. The fact is, there is no safe weight-loss pill. There have been many in the past that claimed to help people lose weight, easily and safely, but the results aren’t that simple.

Now people are using Adderall® to lose weight and it’s the same story. Taking Adderall may lead to weight loss, but there are dangerous side effects including the possibility of becoming dependent and/or addicted.

Adderall Is Not A Weight Loss Pill

Chances are if you’ve already heard of Adderall you’ve heard it referred to as the “study drug” or the pill that helps someone pay attention or stay awake. Adderall is the brand name, however, and the pill is classified as an amphetamine by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

There are a lot of people who get prescribed Adderall for legitimate reasons, most commonly for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and it can be perfectly safe to take. Like any prescription, if used properly and under supervision of a doctor, there’s usually nothing to worry about.

Using Adderall for weight loss, however, is a different story. It’s not a pill designed for weight loss, that’s just a side effect. What Adderall is actually designed to do is balance the level of three brain chemicals: serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Balancing those three chemicals in the brain of someone diagnosed with ADHD leads to them feeling calm. Normally, their brains are feeling under stimulated which makes them struggle to stay focused and pay attention.

Specifically for weight loss, dopamine plays a large role. It’s sometimes called the “reward” chemical because it’s the one that tells the body “Hey, you feel good, whatever just happened was good!” This is one reason why Adderall leads to weight loss: it can produce the same effect as eating a full meal.

Which means your body isn’t getting the signals from your brain it usually would, specifically the one that says “You’re hungry so you better eat.” If you don’t feel hungry you can go longer without eating, which can lead to weight loss.

It’s Dangerous To Take Adderall For Weight Loss

There are already other side effects to worry about when taking Adderall, like increased heart rate and higher blood pressure, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely unsafe. Doctors prescribe Adderall to help those with ADHD, like we mentioned, but also people struggling with narcolepsy.

Doctors should not be prescribing Adderall for weight loss. Most of them don’t, in fact. People taking Adderall specifically for weight loss are most likely doing this without the direction or knowledge of a doctor. That’s one reason it’s dangerous, but here are some more.

Adderall Dependency

By taking Adderall to suppress your appetite you could be starting a dangerous cycle. Simply not eating is an unhealthy way to lose weight, first of all, and can lead to struggling with anorexia. Second, you may become dependent on Adderall.

Dependency is different from addiction but it can often lead to that as well. Dependency is when your body becomes used to the effects a drug creates. If you take Adderall for a long enough time your brain may become used to the raised levels of your brain chemicals, and so their effects on your body are weaker over time.

This means you may have to begin taking more of the drug, or take it more often to achieve the same effect you experienced previously. It can also lead to dangerous bingeing and purging cycles if you ever stop taking Adderall.

Your appetite will come back when you stop taking Adderall which means your body will begin telling you to eat again. Weight will naturally begin to return to your body. This can also lead to either beginning to take Adderall again, or start your struggle with an eating disorder.

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Adderall Addiction

Addiction means you feel a strong urge and “need” for something. It also means you’ll do whatever it takes to get the thing you’re addicted to, which can lead to portions of your life suffering, not to mention physical and mental struggles as well.

Taking Adderall to curb your appetite and thus lose weight can lead to addiction because you could become convinced the drug is the only way to achieve weight loss. It can lead to similar struggles as far as how your body reacts to dependency, but addiction is also rooted in how a substance affects you socially.

Neglecting your day-to-day responsibilities, selling prized possessions or even stealing to make money for meeting your need, and depression developing are all ways addiction can affect us. Becoming addicted to Adderall could lead to all of these.

Addiction is scary and can seem impossible to get past, but there are ways to find help.

Recovering From Adderall Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with Adderall addiction, Vertava is here to help. We offer comprehensive and compassionate treatment for Adderall addiction and can help guide you through the difficult portions, like withdrawal from Adderall.

There’s one specific thing we use to help you, something unique: we use your strength. Your own dedication and strength are key ingredients in your own recovery. It might not feel like it, but we’re confident you have the power to change your life. Call us at (615) 208-2941 and we can chat about how.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Fast Does Adderall Work For Weight Loss?

Adderall may affect your weight and it may not. One possible side effect is appetite suppression, but there is not exactly an accurate timeline for when that may or may not happen. It’s also very dangerous to take Adderall for weight loss because it can lead to dependency, where your body begins needing Adderall to feel and react a certain way. It can also lead to addiction, where you feel strong urges to take Adderall and begin feeling like it’s the only way you can be happy and maintain your weight.

What Does Adderall Do for Weight Loss?

One of the possible side effects of Adderall is appetite suppression. Because Adderall alters how much dopamine is in the brain, the chemical sometimes called the “reward” chemical, your body can react by feeling less hungry. This is because eating releases dopamine to let us know we are satisfied, which is why sometimes a large meal can make you feel happy and at peace. When Adderall increases the amount of dopamine in your brain it can lead to your brain not telling your body to eat, since it already feels at peace and happy. Decreased appetite can lead to weight loss, but it’s a very slippery slope. You can then become dependent on Adderall to suppress your appetite, which can mean taking it more and more often. This can also lead to addiction.

Substance use and mental health disorders impact people differently and fall on a wide spectrum of severity. At Vertava Health, we are doing our best to ensure that each patient is placed in the right treatment program for them. Not only do we offer the full continuum of care from residential to outpatient treatment to meet people at different stages of the recovery journey, but also we are taking steps to place people in the right level of treatment based on their specific needs and goals.

 

Better Patient Assessment & Better Care

Tridiuum, a premier provider of digital behavioral health solutions, offers a Behavioral Health Index (BHI) that is a measurement-based assessment tool for behavioral health severity that uses validated population data to define “norms” and organize patients based on acuity of symptoms to enhance their recovery outcomes. At Vertava Health, we are partnering with Tridiuum to make the Behavioral Health Index the foundation of our patient assessments to improve placement of patients at various stages of their treatment journey. Not only will we be using this tool to better understand patient needs before treatment begins, but we also plan to use this digital health tool throughout each patient’s recovery journey.

This type of qualitative and data-driven approach to behavioral health assessments ensure that patients are in the level of care that is best fit for their specific needs and goals at the time of the evaluation. As they progress through recovery, their needs will change and so should their treatment. At Vertava Health, we are committed to providing individualized treatment plans that do just that, so we will be using the Behavioral Health Index regularly during the patient’s journey, rather than just upon intake. Each one of our levels of care also follows American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) criteria for guided treatment plans that are designed with the patient’s long-term success in mind.

With many people struggling from the mental health impacts of COVID-19 and the stress of the holidays around the corner, the need for better and more tailored substance abuse and mental health care is even more important.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a substance use disorders or experiencing mental health symptoms, it is okay to ask for help. At Vertava Health, we are here to pioneer care that helps people live out their best future. Contact us today to learn more about how we may be able to help you or a loved one.

Not everyone struggling with a substance use disorder gets help for their problem. In 2018, an estimated 21.2 million Americans ages 12 and older needed help for a substance use disorder, but only 3.7 million of these people received substance use disorder treatment in the last year.1 This stark difference means that the majority of people never got the help they needed, and both them and their loved ones continued to suffer because of it.

More People Covered by Health Insurance

At Vertava Health, we want to help more people struggling with substance use disorders get the treatment they need in order to find happier and healthier lives free from addiction and co-occurring mental health symptoms. Although some people may be in denial about their substance abuse problems, we recognize that another one of the biggest barriers to getting people recovery help is their ability to pay for addiction treatment. If health insurance doesn’t cover the program they need, not everyone is able to afford private pay. Unfortunately under these circumstances, some people may forgo treatment altogether.

To break down this barrier and make getting help for recovery easier, we have expanded are in-network health insurance providers. Each one of our Vertava Health locations now accepts more providers in-network so that more people can get the help they deserve. Together, this equates to 20 million lives covered, or 20 million people who could now start their recovery journey without insurance holding them back.

More Insurance & More Care

This in-network health insurance expansion is just one of many steps we are taking at Vertava Health to make our treatment programs more accessible for you and your loved ones. We are also working to open more facilities throughout the country as well as offer more programs at these facilities that help people in different stages of recovery. Together, these changes will help us help more people get the treatment they need and the opportunity for a new start.

To find out if you or someone you love is a part of the 20 million lives covered, contact us today. We will help you verify your health insurance and guide you through the next step.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty Regarding Opioid Sales

Pharmaceutical company giant and maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to criminal charges concerning misleading information about OxyContin. Specifically, the charges relate to violations in marketing a scheduled drug, false claims to Medicare and Medicaid, and a kickback scheme that urged doctors to promote OxyContin.1

Their penalty includes an estimated $8.3 billion settlement. Members of the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, are supposed to pay $225 million in civil penalties. The company itself will be dissolved as well with the intention of creating a new “public benefit corporation.”1 Although Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty, criminal investigations and the federal case against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are to continue. The Justice Department has said that they seek to allocate some of the money from these lawsuits to local opioid abatement.

This is not the first time Purdue Pharma has run into issues with their business tactics or was penalized for what some believe to be a big role in the development of the opioid crisis in the United States. Lawsuits against Purdue Pharma have been in the works for several years now, but the last time Purdue Pharma plead guilty to federal charges was in 2007.1

Pharmaceutical Companies & The Opioid Epidemic

With the United States in the midst of a serious opioid epidemic and several people in need of opioid addiction treatment, many people are looking for someone to blame. Some people are pointing fingers at big pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma. These pharmaceutical companies are being called out for their deceptive marketing tactics that downplay the addictive nature of opioids and contributing to the nation’s opioid crisis.

Although prescribed by a doctor, opioids like OxyContin, morphine, codeine, and more can become addictive if they are misused and abused. Approximately 21% to 29% of people prescribed opioids for chronic pain will misuse them, and anywhere from 8% to 12% will develop an opioid use disorder.2 Unfortunately, those who develop a dependency on these drugs and do not enter a prescription drug abuse program for help may eventually turn to heroin. In fact, about 80% of heroin users had misused prescription opioids first.2 These alarming numbers are why many are so concerned over the misleading marketing tactics of prescription drug companies.

Regardless of how you got there, if you or someone you care about is struggling with an addiction to opioids, do not wait to get help. At Vertava Health, we have substance abuse treatment centers that have been helping people just like you get the help they need to overcome their addictions and move forward with their lives.

Contact us today to learn more.

2020 has been an interesting year so far. Not only did the world come to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the United States is in the midst of a presidential election.

With the nation strongly divided on many issues, political ads at every turn, and the coronavirus crisis still a problem, many people are reaching their limit and turning to some dangerous outlets for help.

How the Presidential Election Impacts Drinking & Drug Use

Elections are important, but the connection between presidential elections and substance abuse is a cause for concern.

Politics in general tend to be a source of stress, anxiety, and tension for many people. Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, a poll found that 57% of Americans cited the current political climate in the United States as a somewhat or significant source of stress.1 Not surprisingly, 72% of Democrats said the outcome of the 2016 presidential election was a significant source of stress in their life, but 26% of Republicans agreed.1 In response to these high-stress levels from the 2016 election, the term election stress disorder was coined, and although it is not an official medical disorder, its use is now making a comeback with the upcoming 2020 election.2

Unfortunately, stress can be a big contributing factor to the development of substance use disorders. Study after study shows that those exposed to high levels of stress are more likely to abuse alcohol, do drugs, or relapse if they already completed a medical detox program and are now sober.3 The stress from the coronavirus crisis is already leading to increased substance abuse problems, and now adding the election into the mix isn’t helping matters.

In an attempt to escape the 2020 election stress, some people may be turning to drugs or alcohol for help. Not to mention the fact that if your chosen candidate doesn’t win, coping with the loss may make these substances even more tempting. One study found that within 30 days of election day in 2016, counties with more support for the losing candidate saw an increase in alcohol sales and alcohol consumption.4

In some cases, drinking during the election season is even seen as trendy. The internet is filled with a variety of election drinking games for debates and election night. While these games are meant to be in good fun, they may have more devastating results than many people realize and could exacerbate the relationship between elections and substance abuse. For people already struggling with their alcohol consumption, this correlation may be dangerous. They may use these election drinking games as an excuse for their alcohol abuse, and it could push their drinking over the edge.

How to Manage Election Season & Substance Abuse

As Trump and Biden square off, some people may be tempted to turn to their liquor cabinet or use drugs to escape, but this is not the answer. While it is important to stay informed, limiting media consumption, unplugging from social media, practicing self-care, and avoiding drugs and alcohol may help you survive the election season without falling to substance abuse.

People who are in early recovery or outpatient care should be especially careful. Because of the strong connection between elections and substance abuse, election season can be a triggering time. Be mindful of your sobriety, and take extra precautions to avoid relapsing during the election season.

Regardless of if you are a die-hard donkey, enthusiastic elephant, or somewhere in between, if you have a substance abuse problem, stop waiting to get help. Our addiction treatment centers help people from different walks of life and backgrounds work through their stress to find lasting sobriety.

Begin your journey to recovery or get a loved one help. Contact us today at Vertava Health.

In 2017, it was estimated that 1 in 12 adults in the United States had a substance use disorder.1 With the added stress and uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis, these numbers are only increasing. A survey from June of this year found that 13% of people started or increased substance use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.2 Not only does this disease wreak havoc on the person with the problem, but also their substance abuse tends to lead to issues for their loved ones and community as well.

The youth tend to be an especially vulnerable group when it comes to addiction. An estimated 74% of people admitted into substance abuse treatment began their substance use when they were 17 or younger and 10.2% at age 11 or younger.3 For youth across the United States and the world, this means that caving into peer pressure or just trying drugs and alcohol for the fun of it could lead to bigger issues down the road. Because October is Substance Use Prevention Month, now is a good time to focus on ways to help people, including young adults in particular, avoid the many downfalls of addiction.

How to Observe Substance Use Prevention Month 2020

Prevention and early intervention are important parts of curbing substance use. Both can not only help people avoid the negative consequences of addiction but also save lives.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or a teenage, here are some things you can do to observe Substance Abuse Prevention Month 2020 and do your part to prevent the development of a substance use disorder in someone you care about.

  • Learn the early signs of addiction and how to intervene immediately
  • Talk to the young adults in your life about the dangers of substance abuse, prescription drug abuse, and underage drinking
  • Encourage your loved ones to get mental health care if needed to keep them from turning to drugs and alcohol for help instead
  • Get involved in the lives of young adults you care about and encourage open communication with them
  • If you have personal experience with substance abuse or watched a loved one struggle with addiction, share your story as a warning to others
  • Get involved with community efforts surrounding substance use prevention or organize your own

Unfortunately, substance abuse is a downward spiral, and what begins as occasional misuse or experimentation can eventually lead to a substance use disorder. Get help at the first sign of trouble to keep these problems from getting out of control. Contact us today at Vertava Health to learn more about how we may be able to help you or someone you care about.

The Future Of Mental Health Care

Thanks to advances in technology, changes in patient preferences and recent events impacting the feasibility of in-person appointments, the landscape of mental health care is changing. 

Technology And Mental Health Treatment

In recent years, technology in the field of mental health has evolved considerably. Patients and care providers are now able to use any device connected to the internet to access mental health care services, records, and supportive resources. 

Thousands of mental health apps are now available for mobile devices, and more apps are being developed all the time. Accessing an app or other online service to address mental health may not only change treatment, but improve it as well.

Benefits Of Virtual Mental Health Care

Virtual mental health services offer many benefits for patients and health care professionals, including:

  • Affordability — For many people, using an app or online resource is more cost-effective than visiting a provider in-person.
  • Privacy — Using virtual mental health services allows patients to get the care they need with privacy and anonymity.
  • 24-hour support — Many virtual mental health services are available at all hours of the day and night, which provides patients with continuous access to support.
  • Convenience — The use of virtual services allows patients to access the support they need from any location. For patients with limited resources and/or a long commute to the nearest clinic, online mental health care can be invaluable.
  • Availability — Virtual health care services allow patients to get help faster than would be possible if they had to wait for an in-person appointment.
  • Flexibility — In situations where other forms of care may be unavailable, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual mental health services are still accessible.
  • Collection of data — Technology can be used to collect important data about patients that mental health care professionals can use to provide better treatment.
  • Appeal — For some patients, especially those who have never taken advantage of mental health care services before, virtual care may be more appealing.
  • Support for in-person care — Technology can be used in combination with in-person mental health services to facilitate better patient outcomes.

Five Types Of Virtual Care

In the field of mental health care, several different types of virtual services are available. Here are five:

  1. Data Collection Apps

Data collection apps passively gather data about the user and transmit the data to researchers. 

Researchers can use this data for a range of purposes, from improving current treatments to gaining a better understanding of specific mental health trends.

  1. Tracking Of Symptoms

Developers are working on applications that can passively track mental health symptoms by keeping records of the user’s behavior, as well as the speed and tone of their voice. These applications may be able to provide an alert prior to the onset of a serious mental health crisis.

  1. Skill Building Apps

The purpose of skill building apps is to help users develop better problem-solving and/or coping skills.

  1. Virtual Support

Technology can be used to connect patients with another person, such as a peer or a healthcare provider, when support is needed.

  1. Self-management

Self-management apps are designed to help users manage their own mental health needs. For example, the user may use an app to track their progress toward certain goals, set up reminders to take medication, or deal with stress and anxiety. 

Apps are also available to track physical characteristics related to mental health, such as heart rate and sleeping patterns.

Getting The Most Out Of Virtual Mental Health Care

Not all virtual mental health care services are the same. For this reason, it’s important for patients and healthcare providers to research their options carefully before using any of these technologies. 

To evaluate a specific app, be sure to read reviews from third-party sources. Patients can also check into the validity and efficacy of a given app by talking to a trusted healthcare provider.

Keep in mind that virtual mental health care options are not always a substitute for in-person services. The best virtual mental health care options will provide clear instructions patients should follow in case of an emergency or worsening symptoms.

To learn more about virtual care at Vertava Health, connect with us today.

Like hospitals and other healthcare providers, substance use and mental health treatment are essential health needs, and all four of our locations remain open to provide life-saving and transformative care.

Substance use and mental health issues never take a day off, even though much of the world is currently waiting on the sidelines. If you’ve been struggling with either of these conditions, but haven’t wanted to disrupt your normal daily routine, now can be the perfect time to seek care.

How We’re Keeping Our Treatment Centers Safe

Although everyone’s lives have been a bit more worrisome and unconventional in recent months, your care and well-being remain our top priority at each of our locations.

We’re taking added measures to protect the health and safety of our patients and team members while continuing to provide well-rounded and comprehensive care for addiction. Here are just some of the actions we are taking:

  • daily screening of all staff and patients for symptoms of COVID-19
  • tracking the latest guidelines provided by the CDC, WHO, and regional health officials
  • restricting visitors to reduce the chance of accidental transmission
  • encouraging ground transportation to our facilities in lieu of flying
  • increasing sanitary procedures and deep cleanings at all of our locations
  • securing gloves, gowns, soap, masks, and hand sanitizers at our campuses
  • altering dining protocols to minimize contacts and promote healthful eating

Find The Right Treatment Program Today

We can help you explore treatment options, find the right rehab center, and design a plan that meets your needs.

Contact Us

The Importance Of Treatment Right Now

In addition to the measures we’re taking to ensure patient and staff safety, this is also the time to acknowledge that substance use and mental health disorders are diseases that requires immediate attention, care, and treatment.

If you contract COVID-19 in the midst of struggling with one of these issues, things could get worse. You may be at an increased risk for developing COVID-19 because of limited access to quality healthcare and medication and co-occurring physical and mental health conditions.

However, there is added safety for being around healthcare professionals at this time. If you should have any need arise during your stay, our clinical staff can take immediate and appropriate steps for getting you medical attention on-site, or to a higher level of care.

Rest assured, we continue to serve our patients with the highest quality of addiction treatment care. Please connect with us and we can address any of your questions related to the treatment experience and our heightened health and safety preparedness actions.

6 Tips To Help You Stay Clean And Sober Over Labor Day Weekend

For many, this Labor Day weekend will include some type of gathering or celebration with family and friends.  But for those recovering from addiction, weekends like this can be a time of worry, stress, fear, and triggers that can lead to relapse.

If this is your first holiday experience, sober, it can be an overwhelming one. In active addiction you may have said and done things that not all family members have forgotten, or forgiven. Seeing them for the first time might bring up feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety. Remember although these feelings are uncomfortable, they will pass.

You’re a changed person, but your friends and family, are still the same. With a little time sober, it’s easy to recognize unhealthy behaviours in other people. You may have a family member or two, who drinks too much. If you find yourself taking their inventory, stop. Use the tools you’ve been given. Remember, although you’re powerless over their behavior, you’re not powerless, over your own. I know it’s tempting to want to save people, but learn how to walk first, before you try and help others.

Getting and staying clean and sober requires accountability, commitment and awareness – while maintaining a structured lifestyle.

Below are 6 tips that will help you stay clean and sober over this holiday weekend.

Avoid high risk situations. Know your triggers. Stay away from your old using friends. Recognize certain family members may set you off. Have a backup plan. Talk with your sponsor or recovery coach, before you get there. Commit to checking in with your support on a daily basis. If you’re travelling out of town, check out the meetings in your area and go to them.

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Bring a buddy with you. Families are less likely to recreate unhealthy dynamics, with a stranger in the house. If you can’t find someone to go with you, phone a friend, or go to a meeting. Having someone that you can honestly tell your thoughts and feelings to, will greatly relieve any stress you might feel.

Take a time out. Go for a walk, and clear your head. Remind yourself of all the reasons you quit using. Focus on the scenery around you. Get up early and watch the sunrise. Feeling good first thing in the morning will bring a smile to your face.

Help out the host. Make yourself useful. Do the dishes, sweep the floor, and notice things that need to be done. In past gatherings you were either absent or too busy using or thinking of ways to use, to be helpful. Now that you’re sober, here’s your chance to make those amends. Don’t tell people you’ve changed. Show them!

Hang out at the kids table. Hanging out at the kids table protects you from seeing and smelling the alcohol being consumed, at the grown-up table.  The children will love you, but more than that, it’s a great way to engage in play and feel like a kid again.

Play the tape ALL the way through. Being in a celebratory atmosphere, it’s easy to forget how bad your addiction really was. You might think having a glass of wine isn’t such a bad thing; after all. But don’t kid yourself. No matter what your DOC, having a glass of alcohol is a really bad idea. Once you’ve broken your sobriety it’s easier to do it again and again. It won’t be long until you’re right back where you left off and it will get worse, from there. Cravings are normal. They pass in a few minutes. Personally, I find drinking a glass of water helps.

Relapse doesn’t just happen. It’s a gradual build up of unvoiced resentments and self-pity. If you find you’re feeling resentful, chances are, you’ve taken the easier softer way by avoiding an uncomfortable conversation. Or maybe you said yes, when you really meant, no. Either way, nothing is worth using over. Find the courage to be honest about the way you feel, and if that doesn’t work, you can always leave.

Remember: Labor Day was designed as a day of well-deserved acknowledgment for the contributions that American workers have made to our country. It’s also a chance to put everything you’ve ever learned about staying clean and sober, into practice. No matter what you’re experiencing, say thank you. It wasn’t long ago that you were feeling ashamed and hopeless. Rather than indulging in self-pity, celebrate in gratitude.

Have a safe and sober holiday. Happy Labor Day to you and your family!

What is National Recovery Month?

This September marks the 31st National Recovery Month. This national observance, held every year in September, reminds Americans that treatment can enable those suffering from a substance use disorder to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Spreading the message with unrelenting positivity, Recovery Month promotes the message that addiction prevention, treatment and recovery can and does work.

Recognizing Recovery Month provides an open platform for those living in recovery to share their stories with the broader public. Sharing these recovery journeys with the community further emphasizes the value of addiction treatment.

Recovery Month isn’t just about educating the nation on the benefits of treatment. It’s also a time to celebrate the achievements of the millions of Americans currently living in recovery. The path of recovery is not always an easy one, and those walking it every day deserve to be recognized for their daily victories over addiction.

Each year, a new theme for Recovery Month is carefully developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to resonate with everyone, not just those in recovery.  This year’s theme of Joining the Voices of Recovery: Strengthen Families and Communities, focuses on bringing people from all walks of life together to share their personal addiction success stories and encourage others currently struggling with addiction to find their own successes in long-term recovery.

Is there a need to recognize addiction treatment and recovery?

Addiction is a disease that burdens millions of families throughout the country. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 21.5 million people aged 12 or older have suffered from a substance use disorder – making up roughly 8 percent of the population. Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, are now the leading cause of unintentional death in the U.S. While the opioid epidemic is on the verge of being declared a national emergency, an estimated 4.3 million people aged 12 or older are currently using prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons.

In fact, if you are under the age of 50 in America you are more likely to die from an overdose than any other cause including a car accident or cancer.

Unfortunately, these are just some of the distressing statistics regarding addiction that have come out in recent years and they’re only getting worse. Recovery Month encourages the public to talk about addiction openly. It recognizes recovery as an attainable goal for someone currently in the midst of an addiction battle. But most importantly, Recovery Month reinforces the idea that recovery is possible through treatment and a battle with addiction does not need to end in tragedy.

Why does National Recovery Month matter?

The negative stigmas surrounding this disease can often discourage those afflicted with addiction from seeking help. We now know that labels such as “addict” and “junkie” are more than just hurtful, they can actually drive people away from pursuing treatment and ultimately, the path towards their recovery. Throw in mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety, and a general lack of understanding of the disease and its treatment options and the roadblocks that addiction presents can often times make recovery feel out of reach.

However, these obstacles do not mean that recovery has to be just a pipe dream.

In order to turn recovery into a reality, we must first be able to talk publicly about addiction, treatment, and recovery within our communities and families. This September is the perfect time to unpack the stigmas surrounding addiction with your family, with your friends, with your colleagues, with your social media followers, and anyone else who will listen. Begin the conversation without prejudice and encourage those suffering from an addiction to come forward and seek help.

The message of Recovery Month doesn’t end after September. Through education, SAMHSA hopes to arm the country with an arsenal of knowledge that can be used to increase awareness and help change the conversation surrounding addiction and treatment 365 days a year.

At Vertava Health, seeing our clients and their families celebrating Recovery Month means the world to us. Their stories can be a sad reminder of just how devastating addiction can be, but they also serve as powerful examples of the healing that addiction treatment and recovery can lead to. Due to this, many of our graduates willingly share their journeys of recovery with others.

We have to change the conversations surrounding addiction, treatment and recovery if we want to end the revolving door of addiction. This Recovery Month, take the time to celebrate you and your loved one’s triumphs over addiction. Educate yourself on the realities of the disease and the benefits of treatment. Invite those living in recovery to talk about their experiences with addiction. It’s time to start breaking down the stigmas surrounding this disease, increasing awareness and talking openly about addiction- you never know who might be listening.

If you are currently living in recovery, Vertava Health wants to be the first to welcome you to Recovery Month. We’re so glad you’re here. If you’re currently struggling with addiction, we want to lend a helping hand. Our treatment specialists are here to take your phone call 24/7 at 844-951-1939.

If you’re struggling with substance use or another mental health issue, immediate virtual care is available through Vertava Health. We offer personalized counseling and therapy sessions on your schedule. There’s no shame in asking for help—it can save your life.

Worldwide, there were 585,000 deaths involving drug use in 2017. The World Health Organization reports that one-third to half of all drug-related deaths are due to overdose.

That same year, 70,237 lives were lost to drug overdose in the United States alone.

August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, a time to remind people that overdose is a real threat that happens every day. It’s a day to honor the families who lost loved ones and break through the stigma surrounding drug overdose.

What Is International Overdose Awareness Day?

International Overdose Awareness Day began in Australia in 2001. Penington Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches and advocates for harm reduction and community health, has been organizing this day since 2012. It is now recognized in 39 countries.

There are several goals of International Overdose Awareness Day:

  • raise awareness about overdose death across the world
  • get rid of the stigma of drug-related death
  • reduce the harm caused by drug use through evidence-based practices
  • inform the public about overdose signs and symptoms
  • teach people that overdose is preventable
  • honor the memory of people who died of a drug overdose

To meet these goals, individuals promoting this day may provide information on overdose risk, community services, harm reduction, and addiction treatment. Some call for a change in drug policy and advocate for people who use drugs to be treated with respect.

How To Promote Overdose Awareness

Anyone can raise awareness in their corner of the world by spreading information about overdose. It isn’t something people usually talk about, and that’s part of the problem.

The stigma surrounding drug use and overdose prevents many individuals from seeking help when they suspect an overdose. Countless deaths may be prevented by destroying this stigma so people feel safe calling 911.

People can promote overdose awareness through:

  • educational events
  • candlelight vigils for overdose victims
  • walks to honor lost loved ones
  • fundraisers
  • naloxone (Narcan) training
  • overdose awareness t-shirts
  • social media posts
  • overdose fact sheets

Silver badges, purple wristbands, and purple lanyards are also available as symbols of overdose awareness. Wearing these brings the issue to other people’s attention and may spark a conversation on the dangers of overdose.

Overdose Signs And Symptoms

Learning about overdose signs and symptoms for specific drugs that you or a loved one are taking—even if they are prescribed—can help save a life.

There are many signs and symptoms of overdose that vary depending on the drug. If a person seems to be having a negative physical reaction, they may have taken too much and need medical attention.

The most common indications of opioid overdose include:

  • pinpoint pupils
  • loss of consciousness
  • severe respiratory depression
  • blue lips, skin, or nails (from lack of oxygen)

Overdosing on stimulant drugs may have the opposite effect, such as:

  • rapid breathing
  • irregular heartbeat/heart attack
  • tremors or convulsions
  • vomiting or diarrhea

Any type of drug overdose can cause a person to seem confused and may lead to a coma or death.

Who Is At Risk Of Overdose?

Drug overdose can occur for many reasons. It may be done on purpose by someone with suicidal intentions, but often it’s an accident.

An overdose can happen the first time a person tries a drug because they take too much or aren’t used to its effects. It may result from mixing a substance with alcohol or other drugs, which can have unexpected consequences.

People who struggle with drug addiction are at a high risk of overdosing because they tend to take drugs often and in high amounts. Injection drug use is especially dangerous because it pushes the substance directly into the bloodstream for an immediate and intense effect.

Almost 70 percent of U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2018 involved an opioid. Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, have caused a dramatic spike in overdose deaths since 2013.

Many people who overdose on fentanyl don’t even know they’re taking it. It’s been found laced into street drugs like heroin and cocaine, as well as in counterfeit prescription drugs like Xanax.

Even people who take prescribed medications can overdose.

They may increase their dosage without their doctor’s permission because they think it isn’t working well. They may accidentally take a double dose or drink alcohol without thinking about how it will mix with their prescription.

Someone who is weaning off a prescription drug may overdose if they resume taking it at their usual dose.

Because of the many possible causes of drug overdose death, the stigma surrounding needs to stop.

Most states in the U.S. have Good Samaritan laws that protect people who overdose or the person with them who calls 911, but this isn’t the case everywhere. People are often punished for drug misuse when they need mental health treatment.

Preventing Overdose Through Mental Health Treatment

Overdose often results from a person using drugs in an improper or unhealthy way. Self-medication and using drugs to deal with stress can lead to addiction, a mental disease that usually requires treatment.

International Overdose Awareness Day encourages people to ask for help with substance use before it’s too late. By dealing with mental health issues that lead to drug use, an individual can not only avoid overdose but also live a healthier, happier life.