Stress on the Road to Recovery

April is Natiroadonal Stress Awareness Month. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), medical specialists believe that stress is the leading cause of relapse back into drug use. Research shows that the brain of those with substance use disorder is more hypersensitive to stress, which may provoke them to relieve their stress by returning to drugs.

 

 

For those in recovery, many stressors arise such as family/relationship conflicts, work, money and health concerns. It is important to pay attention to the signs your body is giving you to recognize stress.

  • Headaches
  • Neck or back pain
  • Stomach upset
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Stress is often unavoidable. However, you can take a proactive role in acknowledging and calming the stress to avoid relapse. There are many healthy and practical ways to reduce stress and increase your chance of staying sober. Among these are: Exercise, talking it out (or write about it), breathing with purpose (yoga/meditation), and of course good old laughter.

Most important is to recognize when you are experiencing stress and find your most healthy way to cope with it.

The Role of Nutrition in Recovery

Substance Use Dnutrients and substance abuse recoveryisorder (SUD) and poor nutrition often go hand-in-hand. Nutrient imbalances can intensify the cravings for alcohol and drugs. Poor nutrition can also have an effect on co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety. According to an article in Today’s Dietitian SUD is known to lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that threaten physical and mental health, damage vital organs and the nervous system, and decrease immunity.

“A well balanced diet rich in nutrients is needed for cognitive repair, processing and critical thinking; which are all compounding factors to a healthful and lasting recovery,” said Jayne Chatzidakis, Gateway’s dietitian consultant with Cynthia Chow & Associates.

The recovery process at Gateway Foundation includes encouragement for proper nutrition through collaboration with the dietitians from Cynthia Chow & Associates. The dietitians provide the highest standard of dietary consultation for the specialized needs of Gateway clients.

Proper nutrition aids in ridding the body of toxins and restores the nutrients that have been lost as a result of substance use. What does proper nutrition look like? “Eat more nutrient rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish,” encourages Jayne Chatzidakis. “Stay away from overly prep
ared, frozen, processed, or prepackaged foods. Also, drinking plenty of water throughout the day is vital to hydrate the body and assist in the detoxification process.”

“Overall, it’s about achieving a healthy lifestyle that is drug free, nutritious and active,” said Jayne Chatzidakis.

A Doctor’s Note: How Self-Medicating Spirals into Addiction

By Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director, Gateway Treatment Centers

 

John Larson Gateway Treatment Centers

Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director
Gateway Treatment Centers

For many, addiction unwittingly begins with self-medicating, which is when a person uses substances, like alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or prescription medication, in an attempt to appease symptoms related to physical pain, social anxiety or depression.

For example, take social anxiety—in modest doses alcohol may initially produce a sense of relief because of the effect it has on brain chemistry. However, since alcohol metabolizes in the body very quickly, it soon loses its effect.  Plus, as tolerance develops, drugs or alcohol will become less and less effective. Indeed, with regular, continued use of alcohol or other drugs of choice, the chemistry of the brain will gradually change, worsening feelings of anxiety when alcohol and/or drugs aren’t present—even if an individual is not in a stressful social situation.

Once the occasional drink escalates in frequency and volume to appease the aggravated anxiety symptoms, physical dependence can develop.  Attempts to stop or cut back only result in symptoms of withdrawal, which results in an increased preoccupation with obtaining and using alcohol (or one’s drug of choice).

Actually, when an individual tries to cut back, the rebound of the original symptoms only intensifies the discomfort experienced during withdrawal, making it very difficult to stop using.  This often occurs with drugs, such as Valium and Xanax, sleeping medications and drugs used to treat acute and chronic pain.

depression, social anxiety, addictionUnfortunately, many are under the mistaken impression that addiction issues will disappear if the underlying problem is treated:  “If I can find some other way of treating my social anxiety, my alcohol problem will simply go away.” This is seldom the case.  When it reaches this point, the drug or alcohol use has a life of its own and the individual needs to be specifically evaluated and treated for addiction as well as for the underlying psychiatric or medical problem. Failure to treat both inevitably results in continued suffering and worsening health complications.

Wondering if you may have a problem with alcohol addiction? Take this Alcohol-Dependency Self-Test.

For more information about substance abuse treatment, call 877-505-HOPE (4673) or visit RecoverGateway.org.
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