Spot Symptoms of the Other, High Functioning National Crisis

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The opioid crisis has been staking headlines across national and local media, but another substance has been quietly taking lives by the thousands for years: alcohol.

In 2016, more than an estimated 64,000 people died from drug overdose; meanwhile, an average of 88,000 have died from alcohol-related causes every year.

Alcohol use has been more normalized compared to other substance use. Because alcohol has become ingrained in mainstream American culture, it has become harder for people to distinguish between someone who enjoys having drinks in moderation and a person who is suffering from alcohol addiction. Further, the stereotype of an “alcoholic” at rock bottom who drinks all day and can’t hold a job does not reflect the vast majority of people living with alcohol use disorders.

One of those people could be your boss, who comes to work on time every morning, cleanly shaven and impeccably dressed, and finishes every task—then goes home and drinks bottles and bottles of beer. Or your neighbor down the street, who juggles raising kids and working a full-time job while never missing a single one of their games, but drinks an entire bottle of wine after putting them to bed.

The reality is that we all most likely know someone struggling with or affected by alcohol addiction. About 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder, ranging from mild to severe. However, less than 15 percent of people receive any treatment.

Alcohol does not affect everyone the same way and every addiction story is different, but these 11 questions can help you distinguish whether enjoying drinks in moderation has turned into a problem:

1.) Are you drinking more alcohol, or for longer, than you originally intended?

2.) Are you having unsuccessful efforts to cut back or quit?

3.) Are you spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking?

4.) Are you experiencing cravings for alcohol?

5.) Are you having issues with carrying our roles at home or at school or at work because of alcohol?

6.) Have you continued drinking even though it was causing problems with loved ones?

7.) Are you getting into dangerous situations (like driving intoxicated or having unsafe sex) while or after drinking?

8.) Have you continued to drink even after experience negative side effects, such as depression, anxiety, and memory blackouts?

9.) Have you stopped participating in activities that were once enjoyable and drink instead?

10.) Do you have to increase the amount of alcohol consumed to feel the same effects as before?

11.) Do you have withdrawal symptoms after the effects of alcohol wear off, including shaking, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, nausea, or restlessness?

There are three categories for severity of alcohol use disorder: mild, moderate, and severe. Even if you or someone you care about is experiencing a mild case—the presence of two to three symptoms—seek out professional help.

And this April, Alcohol Awareness Month, let’s all reconsider the use of alcohol in our lives.

Gateway Expert Discusses Robitussin DM Abuse or “Robo-Tripping”

gateway foundation clinical director, mindfulness trainingAsk the Expert:

Dr. Phil Welches
Clinical Director, Gateway Foundation

Question:

How can you help someone who is abusing Robitussin DM in liquid and pill forms?

Answer:

Abuse of Robitussin DM is not rare, especially among teenagers but also some younger adults.  It’s sometimes called “Robo-tripping.”  The “D” in the “DM” refers to dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant), and that’s what causes the “high.” Robitussin DM is available over-the-counter and it’s not very expensive.  That, along with the effects users seek, make this a high potential drug for abuse.

The effects of Robitussin DM vary a little from person to person, but commonly they include altered time perception and visual hallucinations. Signs of abuse include: anxiety, excitability, slurred speech, sweating and obvious altered perception of reality in speech content and response. For some, the effects can include relaxation or drowsiness.

Finally, as to your question, what can be done to help someone stop abusing Robitussin DM? This will depend on the person. Since the drug is over-the-counter, some mistakenly believe that it is harmless. Some individuals, when they learn the risks, are motivated to stop using it. For others, even ones who are motivated to stop, actually quitting can be a struggle.

There can be serious side effects when one uses more than the suggested amount and even for some who use the suggested amount of Robitussin DM. These side effects can include: difficulty breathing, allergic reactions (sometimes with swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat), dizziness (which can be severe), anxiety/restlessness, confusion and shallow breathing.

If the person has been using high doses fairly regularly, there can be withdrawal symptoms, much like from narcotic drugs, and these can include: restlessness, insomnia, muscle and bone aches, diarrhea and vomiting.  If the person’s addiction is severe, then the withdrawal process may need to be medically monitored as, in some cases, it can be life threatening.

From your question, I don’t know the extent of this person’s Robitussin DM use pattern: how much, how frequently and how long? If learning the risks isn’t enough to cease abuse, I recommend that you encourage him/her to be evaluated as to the most effective kind of treatment, such as outpatient drug treatment, residential substance abuse treatment or hospitalization with medical monitoring.

This person can get a free and confidential assessment at a Gateway Foundation Treatment Center by calling us at 877-505-4673. Thanks for your question and your concern for this individual.

Have a Question? Ask the Expert.

Visit RecoverGateway.org/Alumni and click on “Ask the Expert.” Fill out the short online form and your question will be submitted to one of our staff experts. If we choose your question you may see it answered on our blog.

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