Substance Abuse and Addiction

Recently Answered

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    ADavid Vittoria, MSW, Addiction Medicine, answered on behalf of Baptist Health South Florida

    There are many human conditions which can seriously affect our health, our happiness and the quality of our lives. All of us are familiar with the signs and symptoms of coronary artery disease, cancer, stroke and the potentially devastating disabilities caused by physical and emotional trauma. Addictive illness can produce physical, mental/emotional, social, family, legal and financial consequences just like any other serious, chronic, relapsing disorder.

    Addiction does not come about overnight. At the outset, the person with an early-stage addiction might look normal in every regard; might be above average in intelligence; might have potential for a happy and successful life; may be highly productive, charming and talented.

    As the addiction progresses, the physical health, mood, judgment and behavior will gradually deteriorate. A substance (such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or a variety of pills) or a compulsive behavior (such as gambling, spending, aggression and stealing) may be identified as contributing to an unexpected downward spiral in the person’s former stability and level of function.

    When the addiction is fully active, life does not look balanced and happy. The effects of the repeated alteration of brain function cause loss of control, loss of values, loss of self-esteem, loss of position in the family, and loss of standing in the community.

    Life through the eyes of the addicted person looks dark, depressed, tense, anxious and afraid. It is at this point that the individual can no longer help themselves. The organ system with which healthy decisions are made is itself impaired.

    There is hope for the person’s recovery if the signs and symptoms of addiction are recognized and professional help in concert with family support is sought.

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    • Avoid in people with a known allergy or sensitivity to tobacco or any of its components (e.g., cocoa, menthol, licorice, colophony, and formaldehyde).

    • In general, allergic reactions to natural tobacco leaves are rare. However, some research suggests that secondhand tobacco smoke may increase allergic responses. Tobacco smoke should therefore also be avoided in people with any known allergy.

    • Limited evidence suggests that exposure to tobacco smoke may increase the likelihood of developing a food allergy, asthma, or allergic diseases.

    • Allergic contact dermatitis (allergic skin inflammation), lip coloring, lip scaling, skin redness, and tissue swelling have been seen following exposure to various components of cigarette filters, paper, and tobacco.

    You should read product labels, and discuss all therapies with a qualified healthcare provider. Natural Standard information does not constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.



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    AGeorge Joseph, Addiction Medicine, answered
    Humility is a vital part of recovering from addiction. Here is how Webster defines humility: “The quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people; the quality or state of being humble.”

    Author and historian John Dickson called it, "The noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself.”

    How does this apply to recovery? Those under the spell of addiction must surrender and accept they are powerless over their addiction. This surrender is both emotional and intellectual in nature. The power of addiction is unrelenting. The surrender process is a major form of humility.

    Humility is also a willingness to learn and to be open-minded. This characteristic is so important for those dealing with addiction because it is a matter of life or death that they gain the tools and understanding needed to progress. Addiction is an illness that doesn’t want you to expose it or deal with it. Addiction’s main symptoms are denial and isolation. The humility of learning and helping others is one of the main reasons people enjoy sobriety and recovery though the Twelve Steps.

    Typically, only severe consequences lead to humility. The consequences of addiction help lead us to humility. It gives us a sense of wonder and creates a lack of drama that is needed for those who battle addiction.

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    AGeorge Joseph, Addiction Medicine, answered
    Who do you forgive and for what? Why is it important for an alcoholic or addict to forgive to stay sober? These are all very important questions that need answers and action for someone to overcome addiction and find recovery.

    Who do you forgive? First and foremost, you forgive yourself. You are the one who got in so much trouble to begin with. Addiction is a disease that affects your body, mind and spirit, and you are the one who ingested the substances. However, once you cross the line of addiction, all bets of self-control are off. It is kind of like having an out of body experience and not realizing it. A sense of powerlessness takes over and does remarkable damage to your body, mind and spirit, and you often have no clue to the damage it is doing to you or those around you.

    Once you start recovery, you are made aware of the havoc your addiction has caused. This awareness can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. Does forgiving yourself take you off the hook for your responsibilities? Of course not. Forgiveness hopefully helps you heal so that you can take responsibility for your recovery and your need for help. You must not lose sight of the damage you have done, but forgiveness allows you to make peace, to learn that you are afflicted with a deadly disease that could have killed you. You learn you have to work hard to keep it at bay.

    You must also forgive others around you that you think didn’t treat you fairly. Why? Refusing to forgive is like poisoning yourself, even though you are mad at someone else. Sure, some of your anger is justified, and those around you may have exhibited inappropriate behavior -- but how much of it was a reaction to your addiction?

    A new life means a clean slate. Forgiveness is rolled out in The 12 Steps (especially steps eight and nine). When you make amends and ask that you are also forgiven, sometimes doesn’t happen and you need to move on and hope that, in time, your sober actions will help in that process. The best amends you can offer is to lead a wonderful and caring live, living the principals of recovery every day.
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    AGeorge Joseph, Addiction Medicine, answered
    When people think about getting sober, one of their biggest fears is: Can I ever have fun again? Most people think sobriety is boring. Well, the newly sober person needs to adjust his or her perspective. Yes, being sober won’t involve death-defying police chases or risky actions that can really hurt them or those around them. The definition of fun changes: The longer people stay sober, the deeper and more enriching their joys become!

    If someone gets sober and doesn’t learn to relax and have fun, their chances of long-term sobriety are very limited. They must insist on learning to have fun. It can be a matter of life or death for some. This is a very critical component of recovery, along with developing a deep spiritual connection and working the Twelve Steps
     
    Why are addicts and alcoholics afraid to let go and have fun? They had to ingest serious amounts of drugs or alcohol to let go of their fears and insecurities. The more they used, the more fear they would have before getting high to relax. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that the need only gets worse the longer one uses. The fear of being vulnerable that newcomers experience in the early stages of sobriety is so intense that some can’t get past it. Working the Twelve Steps helps to reduce the fear by creating a fellowship with others in recovery, which can also help teach what the “new fun” looks like. The beauty of recovery is that, if you reach out enough, you will find others who have the same interests as you, and often even the same sense of humor. But first it takes reaching out.
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    AJoel Fuhrman, MD, Family Medicine, answered
    A cup of coffee may make you feel better temporarily, but any stimulating substance that makes you feel better quickly or gives you immediate energy is hurtful, not healthful. Any substance that has that immediate effect is toxic and called a stimulant. Healthy foods do not induce stimulation.
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    AJoel Fuhrman, MD, Family Medicine, answered
    Discomfort after stopping an addictive substance is called withdrawal, and it is significant because it represents detoxification, or a biochemical healing that is accomplished after the substance is withdrawn. Uncomfortable sensations are very often the signals that repair is under way and the removal of toxins is occurring. Though it may be difficult to adjust to this way of thinking, feeling ill temporarily can be seen as a sign that you are getting well.
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    AJoel Fuhrman, MD, Family Medicine, answered
    When a heavy coffee drinker stops drinking coffee, he feels ill, experiencing headaches and weakness, and even feels nervous and shaky. Fortunately, these symptoms resolve slowly over four to six days. Discomfort after stopping an addictive substance is called withdrawal, and it is significant because it represents detoxification, or a biochemical healing that is accomplished after the substance is withdrawn. It is nearly impossible to cleanse the body of a harmful substance without experiencing the discomfort of withdrawal. Humans have a tendency to want to avoid discomfort. They continue their toxic habits to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.
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    AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    A conservative estimate on the number of "problem" or compulsive gamblers in North America is around 1% of the population (between 3 million and 4 million people), but some say that number may now be as high as 7% -- up to 28 million men and women. Online gambling poses a unique risk because of how available it is. You sit back in your recliner wearing your PJs, turn on your computer, and -- bingo! -- you've got 24/7 to lose your savings account. As online gambling sites have increased in number from 15 in 1995 to more than 2,300 in 2010, so have revenues. The people who run the games took in $24 billion in one year. That's how much is being lost.
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    AEdward Phillips, Physical Therapy, answered
    Illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and even medicines prescribed for sleep, pain, or anxiety have long been recognized as potentially addictive substances. Excessive gambling, shopping, sex, and overuse of an array of electronic media represent another side of this coin.