For family members and whose loved ones are struggling with addiction it can sometimes be difficult to understand how a person becomes addicted to these substances. It can be even harder to know what to do to help them once they have become addicted. With drug abuse becoming more common, it’s important to understand some of the reasons behind the problem to be better able to help those you love.
Perhaps one of the most common reasons that a person might start abusing drugs or alcohol is to help them overcome the feelings of suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Taking drugs or drinking alcohol can temporarily relieve the pain associated with the suffering, helping a person feel more “normal” for a period of time.
Another common reason people start taking drugs or drinking alcohol is simply being exposed to it in their daily lives. When friends, family members, and others around them are participating in these activities it is easy to rationalize the activity as completely normal. When a person is younger it’s called peer pressure, but it can happen at any age.
Teens and young adults who abuse alcohol might start to do so out of sheer boredom. Since they are less likely during this time to have steady jobs, bills to pay, and other obligations, it’s a time when they might be inclined to try something that seems exciting.
In recent years some of the most commonly abused drugs are those prescribed by medical professionals—prescription drugs. The most popular are opioids, such as OxyContin® and Vicodin®; depressants, such as Valium® and Xanax®; and stimulants, such as Adderal® and Ritalin®. People often mistakenly believe that a drug prescribed by a doctor and legal to consume is safer than illicit drugs, so they engage in dangerous behaviors like mixing drugs and alcohol, or sharing drugs prescribed to others. Getting hooked on prescription drugs can also be unintentional, following a legitimate reason that they might be taking these drugs, such as chronic pain or a serious injury.
Drugs and alcohol are also commonly used to try and forget or overcome trauma from things that happened in the past, both physical and emotional. When other options—such as speaking with a psychologist—are not available or do not seem to help, a person might turn to substance abuse as a way to bury their painful memories.
A person doesn’t necessarily have to do drugs for a long period of time to become hooked. Since they overload pleasure sensors in the brain, it can be one of the highest highs a person ever feels, but can also be one of the lowest lows when they are not on the drugs. This cycle often leads to “chasing” the feeling you had that first time, and is extremely hard to overcome. If someone you know is addicted to these substances, there is help available through recovery programs in Utah.
Exercise has been shown by many studies to be beneficial to your health, but this is especially true if you are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Even if you have never been involved in an “exercise program” before, starting some type of exercise can be extremely beneficial in your rehabilitation journey.
If the idea of “exercise” makes you think of sweating in an aerobics class or running outside, keep in mind that there are many different ways you can get exercise. It could be as simple as taking a daily walk or playing ping-pong with your kids, or it could be joining a local gym or attending a boot-camp-style program in your area. It could even be running or attending an aerobics class if you would like that.
The Health Benefits
Drugs and alcohol are harmful to your body, and most people who fall into a cycle of drug or alcohol abuse find that they neglect to take care of themselves in other areas. Not only does this cause physical damage and lead to a body that has more difficulty overcoming illness and participating in daily activities, it also has a psychological impact on your health. Regular exercise has been shown to provide:
The Stress-Reducing Benefits
Many people who discover that they have a drug or alcohol addiction find that they did not begin just because they wanted to. For many it starts as a way to reduce tension and “take the edge off” of stress before it evolves into something that causes even more stress. Exercise has therapeutic benefits that include a release of endorphins that make you feel happy (the same thing that used to make you feel good when you used drugs or alcohol), which can help reduce stress and calm you down. Plus by undergoing physical exertion and releasing emotional energy, you can avoid looking for other negative ways to release those things.
The Routine Benefits
Another benefit of exercise is its ability to replace bad habits with healthier ones. For many people drug or alcohol use is simply part of their routine, and when they decide to quit, the time they have that used to be consumed with drug or alcohol use can feel empty. The more healthy routines you can create to fill that time, the less likely you will be thinking about resorting to your drug or alcohol addiction.
The Connection Benefits
Exercise is also something you can do with friends and family, which means it can be a way to build a support group. Plus people have been shown to be more likely to participate in exercise routines when they do them with someone else, so whether it’s a friend from your neighborhood, church group, or even from your support group, find someone who enjoys the same activities as you and will help you stay committed to exercising.
When you combing drug and alcohol rehabilitation with exercise, the results can be long lasting and amazing. Find an addiction recovery program that incorporates exercise and discover for yourself the benefits.
It has been called “an invisible epidemic”, but the abuse of drugs and alcohol among elderly patients has become one of the fastest growing health problems in the country in recent years. It’s a situation that is not often studied or identified as a problem, so it remains under the radar, but it can have a significant impact on your family and the health of your loved one.
A report published as part of the Treatment Improvement Protocol Series from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment details this growing epidemic and its impact on individuals, families, and treatment centers. The report identifies that as many as 1 in 5 older adults suffer from alcohol and prescription drug misuse, but healthcare providers often overlook it and miss the signs of dependence and addiction in older adults—especially since the symptoms can look a lot like other conditions, including diabetes, dementia, and depression—and many older adults take a high volume of prescription and over-the-counter medications anyway.
Misconceptions About the Elderly
Perhaps one of the main reasons that this growing problem has been so under-diagnosed and remains for the most part unaddressed is the fact that there are a lot of misconceptions about the elderly that contribute to our ability to overlook the problem. For example, we might expect that older adults should have a different (and lower) quality of life, or that a person who is getting older will not be alive very much longer anyway, and therefore we don’t need to worry about their personal habits. These often unspoken but pervasive assumptions that it’s not worth treating older adults can lead to the disease going un-diagnosed for years.
Concerns About Health and Quality of Life
Perhaps the biggest reasons that adult children, friends, and family should be concerned about grandparents and aging parents who are self-medicating with prescription drugs or alcohol is the fact that these habits can have a significant and detrimental effect on the elderly, often more so than in a younger population. Elderly patients who take drugs or abuse alcohol often experience psycho-social issues related to isolation and depression that can be amplified with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as biological challenges that change the way drugs and alcohol are processed in their body, putting them at higher risk for injury, severe illness, and a decline in socioeconomic status that will make an independent lifestyle all but impossible.
Identifying Drug Abuse in the Elderly
The retirement and aging of the “Baby Boom” generation has already begun, but the vast majority of older adults are expected to reach retirement age between 2010 and 2030. It’s important for family members to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the problem so they can get help for parents or loved ones if needed. Signs of drug or alcohol dependence include:
It’s important to note that many of these signs are often attributed to normal aging processes and other diseases, so you can also look for signs like illegal drug paraphernalia, a parent or grandparent who takes more than the prescribed drugs because the regular dose isn’t working anymore, someone who complains that the doctor won’t write them prescriptions for addictive substances, or who is “shopping” for new doctors to get multiple prescriptions.
If you notice these signs and are concerned about your loved one, don’t dismiss it. Getting them the help they need from a drug rehabilitation facility or medical professional could save their life.