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Dopamine's yin-yang personality: It's an upper and a downer

Posted on December 16, 2018 at 12:04 PM Comments comments (0)
For decades, psychologists have viewed the neurotransmitter dopamine as a double-edged sword: released in the brain as a reward to train us to seek out pleasurable experiences, but also a "drug" the constant pursuit of which leads to addiction.                                
According to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, that's only one face of dopamine. The flip side is that dopamine is also released in response to unpleasurable experiences, such as touching a hot tea kettle, presumably training the brain to avoid them in the future.
The yin-yang nature of dopamine could have implications for treatment of addiction and other mental disorders. In illnesses such as schizophrenia, for example, dopamine levels in different areas of the brain become abnormal, possibly because of an imbalance between the reward and avoidance circuits in the brain. Addiction, too, may result from an imbalance in reactions to pleasure and pain.
"In addiction, people only look for the next reward, and they will take a lot of risk to get the next shot of drugs of abuse," said Stephan Lammel, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of molecular and cell biology and the senior author of a paper describing the results in the journal Neuron. "We currently do not know the neurobiological underpinnings of certain high-risk behaviors of individuals with addiction, such as sharing drug paraphernalia despite the proven risk of mortality and morbidity associated with it. An understanding of how drugs change neural circuits involved in aversion may have important implications for the persistent nature of drug-seeking behavior in the face of negative consequences."
Although some neuroscientists have long speculated about dopamine's potential role in the signaling of aversive events, its dual personality remained hidden until recently because the neurons in the brain that release dopamine in response to rewards are embedded in a different subcircuit than the neurons that release dopamine in response to aversive stimuli.
Johannes de Jong, the first author of the study, was able to simultaneously record from both dopamine subcircuits by implanting fiber optic cannulas in two brain regions—separated by just a few millimeters—using a new technology called fiber photometry.
"Our work delineates for the first time the precise brain circuitry in which learning about rewarding and aversive outcomes occurs," Lammel said. "Having separate neuronal correlates for appetitive and aversive behavior in our brain may explain why we are striving for ever-greater rewards while simultaneously minimizing threats and dangers. Such balanced behavior of approach-and-avoidance learning is surely helpful for surviving competition in a constantly changing environment."
The newly discovered role for dopamine aligns with an increasing recognition that the neurotransmitter has quite different roles in different areas of the brain, exemplified by its function in voluntary movement, which is affected in Parkinson's disease. The results also explain earlier conflicting experiments, some of which showed that dopamine increases in response to aversive stimuli, while others d
"We have moved away from considering dopamine neurons as just a homogeneous cell population in the brain that mediates reward and pleasure to a more defined, nuanced picture of the role of dopamine, depending on where it is released in the brain," Lammel said.
Reward prediction errors
Most of what is known about dopamine has been inferred from studies in rodents and monkeys, where researchers recorded from cells in a specific region of the brain that only contains reward-responsive dopamine neurons. It is possible, Lammel said, that through sampling biases, dopamine neurons that respond to aversive stimulation had been missed.
According to the reigning "reward prediction error hypothesis," dopamine neurons are activated and produce dopamine when an action is more rewarding than we expect, but they remain at baseline activity when the reward matches our expectations and show depressed activity when we receive less reward than predicted.
Dopamine changes neural circuits and trains the brain—for better or worse—to pursue the pleasurable and avoid the unpleasurable.
"Based on the reward prediction error hypothesis, the established tendency has been to emphasize dopamine involvement in reward, pleasure, addiction and reward-related learning, with less consideration of the involvement of dopamine in aversive processes," Lammel said.
To dissect the different dopamine subcircuits, de Jong and Lammel collaborated with the laboratory of Karl Deisseroth at Stanford University, who developed the fiber photometry technology a few years ago.
Fiber photometry involves threading thin, flexible fiber optic wires into the brain and recording fluorescent signals given off by neurons and their axons that release dopamine. The fluorescent markers are inserted into the neurons via a virus that targets only these cells.
In previous experiments in monkeys, Lammel said, scientists had recorded from dopamine cells without knowing where in the brain the cells' axons reached, which could be areas millimeters from the cell body. Working with mice, de Jong recorded simultaneously from dopamine axons in the lateral and medial regions of an area called the nucleus accumbens, considered an integral part of the brain's reward circuits. He thus captured the activity of cells whose axons reach into these regions from the dopamine areas in the midbrain, specifically the ventral tegmental area.
To their surprise, axons in the medial area released dopamine in response to an aversive stimulus—a mild electrical shock to the foot—while those in the lateral area released dopamine only after positive stimuli.
"We have two different subtypes of dopamine cells: one population mediates attraction and one mediates aversion, and they are anatomically separated," Lammel said.
He hopes that these findings can be confirmed in monkeys and humans, and lead to new approaches to understanding and treating addiction and other brain maladies.
 

Pulling Ourselves Out Of Issolation and Loneliness

Posted on November 18, 2018 at 7:02 PM Comments comments (0)
Alone no more.
"We gradually and carefully pull ourselves out of the isolation and loneliness of addiction and into the mainstream of life."
Basic Text, p. 37
Many of us spent much of our using time alone, avoiding other people-especially people who were not using-at all costs. After years of isolation, trying to find a place for ourselves in a bustling, sometimes boisterous fellowship is not always easy. We may still feel isolated, focusing on our differences rather than our similarities. The overwhelming feelings that often arise in early recovery-feelings of fear, anger, and mistrust-can also keep us isolated. We may feel like aliens but we must remember, the alienation is ours, not NA's.
In Narcotics Anonymous, we are offered a very special opportunity for friendship. We are brought together with people who understand us like no one else can. We are encouraged to share with these people our feelings, our problems, our triumphs, and our failures. Slowly, the recognition and identification we find in NA bridge the lonely gap of alienation in our hearts. As we've heard it said-the program works, if we let it.
Just for Today: The friendship of other members of the fellowship is a life-sustaining gift. I will reach out for the friendship that's offered in NA, and accept it.
Corresponding page Sixth Edition
Basic Text, p., 37
This is our road to spiritual growth. We change every day. We gradually and carefully pull ourselves out of the isolation and loneliness of addiction and into the mainstream of life. This growth is not the result of wishing, but of action and prayer. The main objective of Step Seven is to get out of ourselves and strive to achieve the will of our Higher Power.
If we are careless and fail to grasp the spiritual meaning of this step, we may have difficulties and stir up old troubles. One danger is in being too hard on ourselves.

Mac Miller died of an accidental overdose, coroner finds

Posted on November 6, 2018 at 10:41 AM Comments comments (0)
Rapper and producer Mac Miller died from "mixed drug toxicity," according to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner.
The drugs in Miller's system included fentanyl, cocaine, and ethanol, the coroner found.
His death was ruled an accident in a report, the results of which were released Monday.
Miller, whose real name is Malcolm McCormick, died in September at age 26.
He started his journey in music as a teenager by putting out mixtapes in his native Pittsburgh. In 2012, his first album, "Blue Slide Park," became the first independent debut album to hit the top of the Billboard chart in more than 16 years. Miller was 19.
He released his fifth studio album, "Swimming," in August.
Miller's family and friends paid tribute to the musician with a concert last week at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.
Performers included John Mayer, SZA, and Chance the Rapper.
Miller's ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande also recently honored him in a song called "Thank You," calling him "an angel."
 
CNN's Stella Chan contributed to this report.

Opioid Epidemic

Posted on August 28, 2018 at 2:06 PM Comments comments (0)
It is sad to see so many young people passing away due to the opioid crisis. It shows how hard it is to give opioids up for good. Many addicts are clean for awhile, then go back out. Please, if you have relapsed, don't be ashamed. Get help! Go to 12 step meetings, go to detox, reconnect with those who helped you get sober to begin with. Your families and friends need you. You need to be around to help others. Don't give up and give in. You can do it!

Addiction and Sleep

Posted on June 1, 2018 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (3)
Anyone who’s gone through addiction, or cared for a loved one with addiction, knows firsthand the devastating effects it has on a person’s life. Addiction disrupts all areas of your life, and sleep is no exception.
According to one estimate, individuals with addiction are 5 to 10 times more likely to have comorbid sleep disorders.
Sleep and addiction are intricately linked. Many people use alcohol or other drugs to help them fall asleep and treat their insomnia, and accidentally become addicted as a result. Even if one didn’t have sleep problems before their addiction, long-term substance abuse physically changes your brain’s sleep architecture, disrupting your sleep patterns and sleep quality. Then, just as they come to rely on the addiction substance to function during the day, they also can’t sleep without it. Things only get worse in recovery, with sleep problems being one of the longest-lasting symptoms of detox.
Fortunately, there is some hope: addiction, and many of the sleep problems along with it, is treatable. The better you sleep, the lower your risk of relapse. Master your sleep, and it’s much easier to stick to your recovery plan.
If you or a loved one are dealing with addiction and seeking help, please visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration online provider directory or call 800-662-4357 (available toll-free 24/7).
Keep reading to understand how different addictions affect sleep, the common sleep disorders associated with addiction and recovery, and how you can sleep better during recovery.
 
How Different Addictions Interfere with Sleep
 
We mentioned in our introduction that certain addictions actually alter one’s sleep architecture. Below we review how different addictions – drug, alcohol, and behavioral – negatively affect sleep.
 
Sedatives: alcohol and marijuana
 
Alcohol is a depressant, which leads many people to mistakenly view it as a sleep aid. Between 20 to 30% of Americans with insomnia report turning to alcohol to help them fall asleep.
As a depressant, alcohol does help you fall asleep, but alcohol-induced sleep isn’t restful sleep. Alcoholism or not, people who sleep after a night of drinking increase their risk of nightmares, bedwetting, night sweats, snoring and sleep apnea.
Much of alcohol’s disruption to sleep has to do with how it affects your core body temperature. Your body temperature is just one of the many mechanisms involved in regulating whether you’re asleep or not. In the evening your body temperature begins to drop, making you feel drowsy as your brain releases melatonin. In the morning, your body temperature begins to rise again, waking you up for the day. Alcohol drops your body temperature, which is why it helps you fall asleep, but as the alcohol wears off, your body responds by increasing your temperature, which leads to night sweats and early waking.
Alcoholics also spend less time in REM sleep, the stage of sleep where we dream, process learnings from the day and commit them to memory. Scientists have linked daytime cognitive performance with sufficient REM sleep. Without it, our creativity and mental performance suffer.
Alcoholics also experience alpha and delta brain waves together – rather than separately, leading to disrupted sleep. Insomnia and sleep deprivation are present throughout alcoholism and recovery.
Like alcohol, marijuana is another substance people often use as a sleep aid. It doesn’t cause early waking like alcohol, but it still interrupts with sleep, decreasing the user’s amount of REM sleep. The effect on REM sleep is so strong that marijuana users who quit are prone to vivid, odd dreams for months afterwards.
 
Stimulants: cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA and hallucinogens
 
Stimulants like cocaine, amphetamines, and MDMA are all energizing drugs, so it’s easy to imagine how they interfere with sleep.
Users of these drugs become addicted to the energizing high they create by flooding their brain with dopamine. During their high, they’ll experience insomnia, so energized that it’s tough to fall asleep, followed by periods of hypersomnia during withdrawal.
Just as a night of casually drinking alcohol affects REM sleep, so does a low dose of cocaine. Chronic use of cocaine and ecstasy both reduce REM sleep, causing sleep deprivation that has a noticeable impact on their daytime cognitive performance.
MDMA has a special effect on the brain and sleep architecture because it gradually eats away at the brain’s serotonin levels. Since serotonin is part of the melatonin production process, ecstasy users experience sleep deprivation symptoms sooner than users of other types of drugs, especially in regards to their cognitive performance (“Percent Correct” in the chart below on the left) and impulsivity:
Even once they’ve gone through recovery, especially heavy MDMA users display apparently permanent changes to their sleep architecture. Heavy users of cocaine and amphetamines also appear to permanently alter their circadian rhythms and may experience disrupted sleep forever.  Additionally, cocaine withdrawal is associated with nightmares as well.
 
Opioids
 
Our bodies are not equipped to handle intense levels of pain on our own, which is why opioids like methadone, oxycodone, and hydrocodone are available in prescription form. These drugs help individuals cope with the severe or chronic pain associated with surgery, cancer, or other health procedures and issues. Opioids work by attaching to the dopamine receptors in your brain, enabling your brain to better handle the pain.
Unfortunately, when abused – or not used as directed – opioids create a similar euphoric effect to cocaine, due to the way they interact with your dopamine receptors. If a person continues to abuse opioids, the more reliant they become on them in order to deal with even lesser amounts of pain. This results in addiction.
Like the other addictions on this list, opioid abusers experience less REM sleep. Their REM sleep is cut in half, as is their deep sleep (the stage of sleep where your body repairs and restores your muscles and body tissue). More of their time is spent in light sleep, which, while important, is much less restorative. They also get less sleep overall, and incur an increased risk for central sleep apnea.
All these effects combine to cause sleep deprivation that affects opioid addicts mentally and physically during the day, worsening their memory and their tolerance for pain. Even without abuse, chronic as-prescribed use of opioids interferes with your sleep architecture to such an extent that it causes fatigue.
Like most forms of addiction, opioid withdrawal is intense, but opioid addicts in particular are at increased risk for restless legs syndrome (RLS).
 
Sleep medication
 
Like opioids, prescription sleep medications like Ambien, Sonata, and Lunesta are another common and legal form of medication people become addicted to. Because it’s a legal drug, sleep medications seems safe, so people take liberties with their dosage without consulting their doctor first. They may increase their dosage or take it more often than prescribed, increasing their risk for addiction.
Like a glass of wine before bed, people think nothing of taking sleep medication before sleep. However, these drugs are not approved or intended for long-term use. Unfortunately, the more often people take them, the more likely they are to come to rely on them to fall asleep just as opioid abusers need their drugs to manage their pain.
The moment they have trouble falling asleep, people go straight back to sleep medication instead of trying other behavioral methods. This results in overuse and abuse of the medication that’s especially dangerous and associated with a tripled mortality risk, cancer, and driving while asleep.
 
Behavioral addictions
 
Behavioral addictions like gambling and internet may not initially have the devastating physical effects of other drugs, but they do interfere with sleep and worsen one’s emotional and mental health. When you consider the correlation of poor mental health with outcomes like suicide, the physical risk becomes clear.
Addictive gamblers and internet users alike are at increased risk for anxiety and mood disorders that often cause, co-exist with, or contribute to insomnia. The worse their sleep, the worse they feel about their addiction – fueling a vicious cycle.
For example, studies of college-aged smartphone addicts show a direct relationship between high smartphone use and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and associated daytime dysfunction. The sleep deprivation caused by behavioral addictions like internet addiction leads to depression and a significant increase in suicide attempts:
 
Addiction-Related Sleep Disorders
 
You probably noticed a common theme as you read the above section. Across the board, addictions reduce REM sleep, which is a problem in itself. However, many addictions are associated with specific sleep disorders as well.
While many people turn to alcohol, drugs, and other substances to help them sleep in the first place, these addictions exacerbate existing sleep problems and cause new ones of their own. Sleep problems caused by the addiction are known as substance-induced sleep disorders.
 
Substance-induced sleep disorders include:
 
  • Insomnia: Chronic insomnia describes regular difficulty falling or staying asleep, perhaps waking up too early or multiple times during the night. Insomnia is an extremely common symptom of both addiction and recovery, for sedatives, stimulants, prescription drugs, and behavioral addictions alike.
  • Hypersomnia:Hypersomnia describes excessive daytime sleepiness, or a lack of feeling unrefreshed from sleep. Often, it occurs with insomnia. People who can’t fall asleep tend to demonstrate symptoms of hypersomnia as well, frequently oversleeping or falling asleep during the day.
  • Parasomnias: This is a catch-all for abnormal sleep behaviors, such as sleepwalking or night terrors. Parasomnias are a common experience of hallucinogen abuse, and may create further insomnia, as individuals become afraid to fall asleep and experience the behavior. Nightmares are a frequent occurrence for those in marijuana or cocaine withdrawal.
  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a form of sleep-disordered breathing where the individual stops breathing momentarily during sleep. It may be caused by a relaxation of the throat muscles (as occurs with alcohol abuse and obstructive sleep apnea), or from a miscommunication with the brain (as with opioid addicts and central sleep apnea). The brain has to “wake up” in order to get you start breathing again, reducing the quality of your sleep even if you don’t remember waking up. Sleep apnea is experienced by over half of people with addiction.
  • Restless legs syndrome (RLS):RLS is a disorder where individuals experience an uncomfortable sensation in their lower limbs that can only be relieved by moving them. It typically occurs when the individual is lying down, as one is when you’re lying in bed. The constant need to move the legs in order to calm the sensation makes it difficult to relax sufficiently to fall asleep. RLS affects a third of addicts and is particularly common among opioid addicts.
  •  
    Sleep deprivation
     
    Each one of these sleep issues contributes to the sleep deprivation that makes one more reliant on their addiction to sleep, focus, or just feel okay – and makes it that much harder to stick to a detox plan.
    Whether they’re not getting enough sleep overall, or the sleep they’re getting is just lower quality, people experience the same effects of sleep deprivation. These include difficulty focusing, trouble remembering things, poor decision-making, emotional volatility, decreased reaction time, and in the long-term, increased risk for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
    Sleep deprivation is often linked with substance abuse, as both a symptom and a cause. Among adolescents, poor sleep is itself a predictor for marijuana and cigarette use. Chronic sleep deprivation reduces your dopamine, and since addicts may already be damaging their dopamine receptors, this makes them even more dependent on their addiction to regulate their emotions and response to pain.
     
    Sleep Problems During Addiction Recovery
     
    The beginning stages of detox are rough for all types of addiction. The first few days to a week see physical symptoms that are extremely uncomfortable, such as shakes or tremors, fever, vomiting, and headaches. Emotional symptoms understandably accompany these, including poor mood, depression, anxiety, and irritability.
    Symptoms vary by individual, addiction, and the severity of their addiction. For instance, some people withdrawing from sleep medication may experience seizures, and 5% of alcoholics may experience delirium tremens (DTs). DTs describe a group of additional symptoms such as hallucinations, heavy sweating, and increased heart rate.
    Because symptoms can vary, it is important to seek medical help and guidance as you begin recovery. While some can succeed with a cold turkey approach, for others it can be dangerous. Individuals with addictions to opioid and sleep medications are often advised to go slowly and taper their dosage down to minimize the severity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce their risk for relapse.
    By the end of your first week of detox, most of the physical symptoms either disappear or significantly decrease in severity. Remaining symptoms will continue to gradually diminish in the following months.
     
    Insomnia during detox
     
    However, one pesky symptom that stays ever present seems to be sleep problems. Insomnia is one of the most common, and persistent, symptoms of withdrawal. Between one to three-quarters of people in detox experience insomnia.
    Insomnia is challenging enough to deal with when you’re not in detox. As we noted above, it’s so challenging that it’s what drives many people to sedative drugs and alcohol in the first place. When you’re in withdrawal, however, you’re experiencing a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, sensations, and feelings that you haven’t encountered before – and you’re having to face them without the crutch that got you by before.
    Many of the drugs we described above, such as cocaine, ecstasy, opioids, and amphetamines, upset your brain’s dopamine production. During your addiction, your brain became used to a new level of “normal” – which relied on those drugs to help you deal with pain and stay balanced emotionally. During the first few weeks of withdrawal, your brain slowly stabilizes back to normal dopamine production. While that’s happening, however, physical pain and negative emotions like stress and anxiety are much harder to bear.
    It’s not just physical, either. People who drank or smoked marijuana before bed trained their mind to recognize those activities to precursors to sleep. Without them, your brain is suddenly left wondering when it’s time to go to bed.
    Meanwhile, you’re running on less or poor quality sleep thanks to your detox-induced insomnia. This causes sleep deprivation that further reduces your tolerance for pain, and makes you quick to lash out at others or get irritable.  
    Insomnia is one of the biggest predictors of relapse, and the risk is doubled for those who develop a sleep disorder. This is why experts recommend that individuals include sleep as part of the treatment plan. Research shows that treating insomnia improves both sleep quality and symptoms of depression in those with alcoholism.
    Depending on the severity of your addiction, sleep problems associated with recovery can last for years. Fortunately, once you start sleeping better consistently, you can take it as evidence that you’ve fully detoxed.
     
    Tips for Improving Sleep During Addiction Recovery
     
    One of the best things you can do to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of recovery and ensure your ultimate success is to get good sleep. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
     
    Follow these tips to get better sleep during addiction recovery.
     
    1. Get help from others.
     
    It takes a village to recover from addiction. Open yourself up to others and ask them for help during this difficult time. Your loved ones care about you and want you to succeed; chances are they will be happy to help. Ask if you can spend the night with them during rough periods, or coordinate times for them to check in on you and see if you need anything.
    Consider joining local support groups, too. Speaking with others who have gone through addiction recovery, or are currently going through it  like yourself, can be helpful because they understand just how you feel. This website lists resources for various addictions, including 12-step groups, online forums, and treatment center locator tools.
     
    2. Try cognitive behavioral therapy.
     
    You round out your support system further with professional therapy and medical help. Recovery.org and SAMHSA both offer online directories to help you find treatment centers and health professionals who specialize in treating your addiction.
    Cognitive behavioral therapy in particular may be helpful. It’s a psychotherapy technique that involves 6 to 12 sessions. A therapist works with the patient to help them recognize the negative thoughts and behavioral patterns contributing to their problem. CBT treats a variety of issues ranging from addiction to mood disorders and insomnia.
    CBT-I is a subset focused specifically treating insomnia. In CBT-I, therapists work with individuals to educate them about sleep hygiene (more on this in the next tip), adjusting their sleep environment to promote sleep instead of prevent it (more on this in the tip after that), and practice different therapies such as relaxation exercises to induce sleep, sleep restriction to retrain the body to follow a specific sleep schedule, and more.
     
    3. Improve your sleep hygiene.
     
    Sleep hygiene describes the behaviors and thoughts you have around sleep. Having good sleep hygiene is often as simple as learning what it is, and adjusting your behaviors accordingly.
    For instance, good sleep hygiene includes following a regular sleep schedule, keeping your bedroom cool and dark, not eating or exercising before bed, avoiding alcohol or caffeine later in the day, and turning off your electronics before bed. Electronics energize the mind, flooding your retinas with strong blue light that tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime and time to be up and awake.
     
    4. Turn your bedroom into a sleep-promoting environment.
     
    Devote your bedroom to sleep and sex only – this trains your mind to associate it as a place of relaxation only. Avoid doing work or hobbies in your bedroom.
    Make this goal easier to achieve by removing stressful clutter, work items like a computer or desk, and even fun distractions like a TV from your bedroom.
    Invest in a comfortable mattress that feels great to sleep on. Keep your bedroom dark and cool with blackout curtains. Force your mind to focus on sleep alone with eye masks that block out light and white noise machines that drown out the noise.
    If you have difficulty falling asleep due to the feelings of anxiety that accompany the recovery process, try keeping a diary. You can write your thoughts down in there, freeing them from your mind so you can focus on sleep and leave your worries for another day.
     
    5. Follow a regular sleep schedule.
     
    Set a regular sleep schedule and follow it daily, even on weekends. You want to train your mind to naturally tire and wake up at the same time each day. Sticking to a schedule makes it easier to stick to other parts of your treatment plan.
    Avoid taking naps if possible, but if you absolutely must, limit them to 30 minutes and don’t take them past the afternoon. Otherwise, it will only be harder to fall asleep that night.
    Consider pairing your sleep schedule with a nightly bedtime routine. In the 30 minutes before bed each night, follow the same set of calming activities to teach your brain that it’s time for sleep. You might practice meditation, read a book, or listen to some relaxing music.
     
    6. Try bright light therapy.
     
    Bright light therapy involves sitting in front of an artificial light box that’s specially designed to mimic the strength of sunlight without the UV rays.
    Exposure to this light in the morning helps reset your circadian rhythms and can offset the fatigue of sleep deprivation and hypersomnia.
    Alternately, boost your energy levels by getting lots of natural sunlight. Go for a walk in the morning outside, or position your work desk to be by a window.
     
    7. Watch your diet and exercise.
     
    Speaking of walking, exercise is a great way to get out excess energy and physically tire your body in preparation for sleep later that night. Just be sure to do it in the earlier part of the day, or you’ll be energized to go for another run when you need to be falling asleep.
    Watch what you eat as well. Avoid heavy meals before bed, and try to eat healthy generally. Healthier foods promote better mood and better sleep. Limit your caffeine intake, and satisfy your thirst with water instead.
    Avoid taking melatonin or natural sleep aids. While these are generally considered safe, individuals in recovery are prone to addiction and would do best asking their doctor first.

    What Is Dry Drunk Syndrome?

    Posted on April 22, 2018 at 11:56 AM Comments comments (5)
    Many know the answer to the question “what is dry drunk syndrome?”, but sometimes the family members or close loved ones do not.
    So what is dry drunk syndrome? It is when an alcoholic is not drinking, yet they are still exhibiting the same behaviors they did while drinking. For example, a dry drunk can be someone who is a violent person while drinking, but remains violent even after the drink has been removed. Though the alcohol has been removed, the family is still experiencing chaos, if not even more so than before.
    There tends to be more arguing and turmoil, much to the dismay of the family. How can this be when the drinking has stopped? This occurs when the alcoholic is not working a program of recovery. Many times the family is perplexed because they think that the drink problem has been removed, so all of the following negative characteristics should be gone, too. Why does dry drunk syndrome happen?
    The disease of alcoholism centers in the mind of the alcoholic and is followed by a physical allergy.
    This means that in no way are we ever able to safely consume alcohol. When the mental craving is followed by the actual taking of a drink, the allergy kicks in. This makes it virtually impossible for us to stop unless we either run out or pass out. Because the disease centers in our mind, the simple removal of the substance is not enough to create a balanced mind. We must commence on a path of vigorous action in the form of a spiritual program.
    When someone is in the midst of dry drunk syndrome, it is because they are not working a program that removes their defects of character. Our defects, along with an array of other attributes, are what tend to propel us into alcoholic drinking in the first place. Sure it is great to remove the drink, but working a spiritual program of recovery is actually so much more than just not drinking.
    It teaches us how to live and behave with others in mind.
    Our selfish and self-centered way of thinking is replaced with a need to be of maximum service to others. These things are not achieved by merely putting the drink down. They are achieved by proper treatment, a program of recovery such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and staying plugged into the recovery community.
     

    Addiction

    Posted on April 8, 2018 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (3)
    A lot of people don’t know, a lot of people can’t imagine. I have a disease that you can’t see. Some people don’t think it’s a disease. Some people think it’s u...sed as an excuse. Some people think I had a choice or could just STOP. I fight stigma every day. I experience death more than the average person. I also experience compassion more than the average person. I am insecure and fearful more than most. I have a past due to animalistic behavior and survival. I have a future due to finding freedom from my disease. My disease is deadly. My disease is in my mind and my only defense is self-awareness and total abstinence. My disease has been medically proven to exist. There’s no magic pill that will ever cure me. I am grateful for how far I’ve come. I am grateful to get to see others with the disease come back to life. There are people who don’t believe, who think they’ve got it all figured out. We are selfish, we are criminals, we are losers. They would rather hide from the truth and throw stones. That’s okay. I will still fight. I will still live my life and support others in my predicament. One day others may see. We are worth our breath. We are suffering. We are many. We are human and deserve love. It’s okay that they don’t believe right now. They don’t have to live with the disease and for that I am grateful too. They never have to experience the darkness the way we have. I choose hope. I choose compassion. I choose the trenches. Where there is so much darkness, on the other side, there’s much more light. Ignorance can change into understanding. All things are possible. Today I will keep fighting. Tomorrow too. For those suffering from this disease, Addiction...Keep fighting, there is a way out and we are waiting for you. No judgment, just open arms.

    The Brain Chemistry Of Overcoming Addiction

    Posted on March 24, 2018 at 5:55 PM Comments comments (2)
    The Holy Grail of addiction science is to fully understand the neurological structures and processes that cause addiction and shape addicts’ behavior.
    Traditionally, this task was left to psychology, which laid down the core theories based on the symptoms displayed and the behavior exhibited. This is analogous to determining the likely issue with a malfunctioning car based on the sounds emitted from the engine or how it reacts when you push the brakes.
    Advances in imaging technology — notably through the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) — have enabled scientists to delve deeper into what’s going on inside the brain and develop a robust understanding of the neurology and biochemistry of overcoming addiction. This is like popping open the hood and seeing what’s really going on with the engine.
     
    The brain — broken down
     
    The brain can be split into three sections, based on its evolutionary history. First, you have the brain stem (the reptilian brain), which controls core functions like breathing and the regulation of temperature. This was developed during the earlier stages of human evolution, and is shared with reptiles. Then the limbic system (the mammalian brain) developed along with the first mammals, and controls emotions and the motivation for your behavior.
    This makes the limbic system central to the development of addiction, as does its role as the connection between the brain stem and the neocortex, which is the typically “human” part of our brain that is only shared with other higher primates. The fact that ours is much more developed is what separates humans from the other species on the planet in terms of intelligence. The various structures in these three parts of the brain, and the interplay between them, determine who we are.
     
    Addiction and the reward system
     
    The “reward” system of the brain is the area hijacked by addiction. This is an important region for the brain because rewards are what motivate us to continue to take necessary action. The neocortex may enable us to ask complex questions about the reasons for our behavior, but the lure of the reward system’s neurochemical of choice — dopamine — is enough to ensure we continue to eat food and reproduce. In response to these vital activities, the brain releases dopamine into an area of the limbic system known as the nucleus accumbens, which gives us a feeling of pleasure and thereby establishes some motivation to complete the action again.
    Drugs of abuse, and activities such as gambling which are known to be addictive, also stimulate the release of dopamine into this area. This creates a pleasure much more powerful than the natural dopamine surges produced by the brain, and effectively short-circuits the reward system, providing a “shortcut” to the dopamine we’re all motivated by. The reason that only roughly one in10 people is susceptible to addiction is thought to be related to genetic or environmental factors which alter the reaction of the reward system to a behavior or substance that stimulates the release of dopamine.
    However, the strong grasp of addiction isn’t explained through this pleasure-seeking mechanism of the limbic system alone. In fact, the interplay between dopamine and another neurochemical, glutamate, is thought to contribute to learning related to seeking a reward. The brain effectively “learns” that the best way to get a hit of dopamine is to take a certain substance or repeat a behavior through these two neurochemicals. The person remembers the positive experiences associated with the drug or activity, and in times of stress this motivates the individual to take the substance or repeat the behavior.
    Since the limbic system underpins the motivations and emotions of the entire brain, the higher-level functions of the neocortex can’t easily overcome that desire. The intelligent portion of the brain may be aware of the negative consequences of continued use, but its underlying motivation still comes from the reward system of the limbic region. In other words, behavior is determined by the desire to take the substance when an individual is addicted; always driven by the memory of the pleasure it initially created.
     
    Developing drug tolerance
     
    The change that occurs within the brain during addiction causes the development of tolerance. Because the brain is unequipped to deal with such an onslaught of dopamine, it reduces the sensitivity of the reward system. As HelpGuide.org explains, this is analogous to turning down the volume on a loudspeaker when the noise becomes unbearable. As a result, the impact of the drug or activity is reduced, because the dopamine it stimulates no longer has as notable an effect. However, the learning process (associating the drug or activity with pleasure) is long established, so the individual still continues with the behavior, often to greater excess in order to achieve the same dopamine hit.
    Ultimately, this means the brain is literally dependent on the substance or activity for its feelings of pleasure. The reduced sensitivity to dopamine means that the naturally produced quantities have very little effect, which contributes to a generally negative mood during times of “withdrawal” (when the substance isn’t taken). This is the final piece in the puzzle that makes drug or process addictions such a challenge to break. The brain has to re-adjust the structure and activity of the reward center yet again before some form of normality is re-established.
     
    Overcoming addiction
     
    These factors mean that overcoming addiction is very difficult indeed, and explain why relapses are so common. The brain’s ability to restructure and adapt, however, means that it is wholly possible, and moreover that it gets easier as you go along. The more the brain “unlearns” the association between the drug or activity and pleasure, the more it restructures itself and the more its naturally produced pleasure chemicals have an impact. Deeper understanding of the neurology of addiction may lead to a medical treatment for addiction in the future, but for now, it shows us that overcoming addiction is achievable.

    Indiana man fatally overdoses after taking anti-diarrhea pills to get high

    Posted on March 5, 2018 at 7:09 PM Comments comments (1)
    INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTTV) – A disturbing trend shows people will take pretty much anything to achieve a high. This comes after a 40-year-old man died after overdosing on anti-diarrhea medication.
    “It is a derivative of a synthetic opioid,” said Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting.Taking a large dose of anti-diarrhea drugs like Imodium is just one of the ways Hoosiers are now trying to get high. Officials say abuse of the drug has led to overdose deaths across central Indiana.
    “They are seeing more and more of the Imodium overdoses coming in,” said Nolting.
    Nolting says his county just had its first loperamide overdose. Loperamide is the generic name for Imodium, a drug which can lead to fatal cardiac rhythms.
    Now, Nolting is warning the public of the dangerous and growing trend.
    “If I get the information out there people will say ‘oh look there is a new way to get high,’ but I’m trying to educate people,” said Nolting.
    As the nation continues to battle an ongoing opioid epidemic, officials say they have seen a spike in people turning to the over-the-counter drugs which are readily available and cheap.
    “I can buy as many as I want. There is absolutely no limit to what you can buy, besides what is on the shelf,” said Nolting.
    The Food and Drug Administration is working with manufacturers to limit the access. The FDA says they have asked companies to use blister packaging or single dose packages, which may help prevent abuse of the medicine.
    “If we start getting more and more of it, then it is something that needs to be talked about and discussed,” said Nolting.
    A few counties around central Indiana say they have had some loperamide overdoses and expect to see more.

    10 Defeating Attitudes in Early Sobriety and How To Combat Them

    Posted on January 26, 2018 at 8:54 PM Comments comments (0)
    Getting sober is one of, if not the hardest thing that us addicts will ever have to do. The journey to long term recovery is a hard one, often bumpy and filled with difficult personal and emotional challenges. Here are some thoughts and belief systems that commonly come up for us amongst early sobriety to be aware of, watch out for, and discard when they creep in!
    1. The Non Sober People Are More Fun
    Addicts in general, myself included spend our time trying to do WHATEVER we can to “feel good” in the moment.  Sometimes life is not going to feel good and that is when we do not know how to handle it. That being said, the guys and gals that are goofing off, not working on themselves and acting out in negative self-defeating behaviors may appear to be having more fun…but talk to them when they relapse, get arrested, or end up back in treatment or at a 12-step meeting getting another new comer chip and ask yourself if that looks like fun? No judgment here, the thing is nothing changes until something changes and you must do things you have never done to get where you have never been period – simple as that.
    2. I Am Not Ready To Be Sober Yet
    You have hit your bottom once you have quit digging. Some people lose everything, die, get locked up.... Some other people end up realizing it much quicker and don’t lose much. They can see where their life is heading and make the effort to change it quicker. So please don’t let your mind give you this excuse; it’s not true!
    3. This Won’t Work For Me
    Here is the thing…how can we know something that we don’t know…we can’t. Just because my mind is telling me that I know something does not mean it’s true. Find a mentor that has been where you’ve been and be open minded to having a new experience. Do what they say and great things will follow.
    4. I’m Unique and Worse Than Everyone
    This one always gives me a laugh because I can relate so strongly. Almost every addict I’ve had the pleasure of working with at one point or another experiences this thought. I have found out that I am not special or different and when I look for similarities instead of differences I can relate to some people I would never have expected to be able to.
    5. I can do this on my own
    In my experience this was not true. However, I will say if you truly believe that you can give it a try. If it doesn’t work, then try a treatment center and entering into a 12-step program.
    6. Thinking The Answer is on the Outside, Not on the Inside
    I need to quit smoking, get a job, enroll in college…TODAY !”. Relax, Rome wasn’t built in a day and we have to crawl before we can walk. You do not have to conquer all of your problems today. Keep it simple and make small realistic goals for yourself and overtime the upheaval and redemption of your life will be astonishing! Give yourself some time to really work on you in the beginning the rest will follow.
    7. I Don’t Deserve A Better Life
    This is not true for anyone – ever. Period. There is a little bit of good in the worst of us and a little bit of bad in the best of us. Take it easy on yourself, learn to forgive and love yourself. This is a process that is difficult and takes time but I promise you can do it and we will love you until you love yourself!
    8. Nobody Cares About Me Anyway
    I felt this way coming into recovery and what I found was the exact opposite. It was amazing how many people put their hand out to help me when all I did was simply become willing and ask for the help.
    9. I’ve Tried Everything And Nothing Has Worked
    No one has tried everything. There are variables to consider here. For instance, something I may have “tried” could work if I changed my perspective, applied myself and engaged in it with an open mind if I was closed off the first time. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh perspective.
    10. I will control my use… it will be different this time!
    If you are really an addict or alcoholic your own experience is the best test here.  Did you ever “just do one”?  Were you able to easily stop all substances at once at any time without any difficulty?  If you’re truly an addict or alcoholic all you have to do is be honest with yourself and reflect on your experience to see that this not true.  You’re not alone here we have all fallen victim to this way of thinking and it keeps us in addiction much longer than necessary.

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