What is a Dry Drunk?

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For many of us, alcoholism is characterized by excessive alcohol use. Most of us associate that with chemical use disorder or chemical dependency – chalking up all problems to that chemical dependency.

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Drugs and Alcohol on Campus

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Going to college or university is, for many people, their first real time spent away from home, away from rules and restrictions of parents, and their first time on their own.

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The Link Between Vaping and Drug Addiction

photo of a man vaping

The Link Between Vaping and Drug Addiction

photo of a man vapingVaping or vaporizing is an increasingly popular habit, in which liquid solutions, normally tobacco, are vaporized and inhaled as steam. Vaporizers were originally marketed as a safer and cleaner alternative to cigarettes and are today used by an estimated 9% of the U.S. population, or 35 million adults. This upswing in popularity is concerning, not just because vaporizers have only been on the market for a decade, but also because they consistently function as a sort of “gateway” drug, in that high vaporizer usage is associated with drug and alcohol usage. While this is correlation and not likely causation, easy access to large quantities of nicotine may play a role in forming addictions – which eventually lead to other addictions.

That’s especially critical as 1 in 5 high school students now uses a vaporizer, according to the CDC. With an estimated 1 in 5 middle school students doing the same, “vaping” is quickly being picked up by the populations who are most vulnerable to drug addiction and abuse.

What Are Vaporizers?

Vaporizers rapidly heat a liquid medium to turn it into a gas or steam. This liquid, which is normally sold in cartridges, can contain anything from no nicotine to extremely high doses of nicotine, equivalent to several cigarettes at once. For example, some are intended to contain a single cigarette of nicotine in a puff – supposedly with the intent of reducing the needed volume of “smoking”. Unfortunately, this efficiency rarely results in the intended effect. Instead, people consistently enjoy puffing on a vaporizer. In fact, following vaporizers being introduced to the market, cases of nicotine poisoning rose from an average of 1 per day to over 215 per day.

Vaporizer cartridges are also sold with flavor, marijuana, or other substances – meaning that someone using a vaporizer might be inhaling sugar, nicotine, or a stronger drug.

Vaporizers and Cannabis

Vaporizers are very commonly used to smoke marijuana, especially in the medical community. Vaporizing marijuana preserves more of the active ingredients than smoking – meaning that cannabis can be better dosed and better controlled. That’s while reducing contamination from tar and smoke, which can greatly reduce short-term lung pollution. At the same time, it makes cannabis products more accessible and more discrete for those abusing the drug – making it easier to pass off as tobacco or a flavored e-liquid.

So, vaporizers make it somewhat safer for people to use cannabis. At the same time, they introduce risks in the same manner they introduce risks for tobacco products. If it’s easy to inhale 20 inhales in a row – it’s easier to take significantly too much and to start having problems. For example, while marijuana has a very low addiction profile, about 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 users will start to show signs of addiction over time – with vaporizers, it’s much easier to escalate to the kinds of quantities that result in addiction.

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Do Vaporizers Lead to Heavier Drug Use?

photo of two friends vapingMany people use vaporizers for recreational usage. That can result in attempting to add other drugs, which are less safe. In fact, 85% of all vaporizer users occasionally put something other than tobacco or marijuana in their vaporizer. However, these incidents are experimental and incidental at most.

On the other hand, some meth and DMT users are actually switching to using vaporizers rather than glass pipes. For the most part, that’s a very good thing – considering glass pipes result in hundreds of injuries every year. Vaporizers are unlikely to explode or break from the heat. In addition, they’re less likely to burn hands or to start fires. Yet, most research shows that their usage is fairly incidental. Therefore, there is currently no evidence of widespread usage of vaporizers for heavier drugs.

Do Vaporizers Contribute to Addiction?

Vaporizers allow someone to have near-unlimited access to cannabis or nicotine, through a cartridge. For example, most nicotine cartridges contain anywhere from 400-600 doses of nicotine. A 1ml cartridge of “normal” rather than “strong” or “extra strength” e-liquid is normally equivalent to 3-7 cigarettes. A 3ml cartridge can equate to as many as 21 at normal strength, or as many as 70+ at extra strength. With nothing to stop you from going through that at any pace, there’s nothing to stop you from inhaling tobacco at a rate that would be difficult to impossible with traditional cigarettes.

That ability to quickly and easily get a hit of something, without regards to being indoors or out, and without the restrictions of cigarettes, can make it easier to become addicted. That’s especially true for those who already have a problem with tobacco or who have a history of relying on substances to get themselves through the day.

Eventually, vaporizers offer a lot of harm reduction over smoking cigarettes or joints. Without the smoke and tar, they reduce lung pollution. Often, that means it’s safer and easier for people to use the substances they want. However, vaporizers also result in risks for people who have poor impulse control or who have strong habits to puff and smoke. That can be especially dangerous for those with a long history of smoking or those with addictive personalities.

Vaporizers aren’t bad. However, if someone doesn’t’ smoke, it’s always better to avoid starting altogether. If you do smoke, it’s better to use quantity control when switching to vaporizers – because the amount of nicotine or cannabis you inhale can greatly increase when you switch to a cartridge. Buying smaller cartridges, only using a certain number of cartridges per week, etc. Keeping track of how much you’re smoking and when is important if you want to stay in control.

And, of course, people with a past history of substance abuse, minors, and individuals with documented issues with quantity control should never use vaporizers. They’re too easy to abuse and too easy to escalate into an addiction, even with tobacco. If you have a therapist, you can always ask how they feel, although, in most cases, it’s just better if you don’t start.

Vaporizers are not a cause for alarm. However, they are easy to abuse, they can result in addiction, and people with addiction or addictive personalities can rely on them. In some rare cases, people use them to smoke stronger drugs – but in almost every case, those people were smoking stronger drugs using more dangerous methods first. At the same time, millions of teens and young people are using vaporizers, which could lead them to nicotine addiction and reliance on substances.

If you or your loved-one have any questions about our drug rehab or alcohol rehab programs please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors. We’re here to help you recover.

7 Warning Signs of Alcoholism

photo of a male alcoholic drinking beer from glass at night, alcohol addiction

7 Warning Signs of Alcoholism

photo of a male alcoholic drinking beer from glass at night, alcohol addictionAlcohol use disorder, commonly as alcoholism, affects some 5.3 percent of the American population. That means 14.5 million Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder. At the same time, this disorder, which is characterized by seeking behavior, inability to quit, and uncontrollable drinking, results in over 95,000 deaths in the United States each year. While most of these are indirect, with alcohol resulting in road accidents, liver failure, and heart disease – others are direct, with an average of 6 people dying of alcohol poisoning every single day.

Alcohol is accepted, sometimes expected, and extremely common in social situations. It’s also an intoxicant which can cause addiction, mental health problems, and physical health problems. If you or a loved one is drinking too much, their life could depend on getting help. While the signs and symptoms of alcoholism can vary depending on the person, their health, their personality, weight, etc., alcohol is always bad for you and your health.

1. Tolerance Forces You to Drink More

Whether you’re drinking to have fun, drinking for stress relief, or drinking to be sociable, it’s important to pay attention to how much you have to drink. For example, if you find yourself having to drink more to achieve the same results, you might want to cut back. Tolerance happens when you have alcohol at a frequent enough pace that your body adjusts. If you keep having to escalate how much you drink to achieve a desired effect, you’re drinking too much. Of course, some tolerance is normal. Nearly everyone likely remembers the first time they had a beer and were tipsy. But, if you find yourself consistently adding more alcohol into drinks, you’re likely setting yourself up for addiction and physical health problems.

If you’re drinking regularly during the week, it’s probably a bad idea. Most adults should have more than half to a full beer a day depending on gender, age, and weight. If you’re drinking more than four servings of alcohol in as many hours, you’re binge drinking. And, if you’re doing so regularly, you’re definitely causing yourself health problems.

2. You Hide Alcohol Usage

Almost everyone in the United States drinks. It’s accepted, it’s common, and some people find it shocking when you don’t drink. So, if you find yourself hiding drinking, you’re probably drinking in ways outside the norm. That is always a bad sign for yourself and for your ability to put alcohol down.

For example, if you drink in the morning or during the day. If you drink and drive. Or, if you hide alcohol at work and drink to cope with stress there. You also likely have a problem if you find yourself engaging in behavior like refilling bottles, hiding bottles, or switching to cheaper brands of alcohol so you can continue affording your habit. The more you feel ashamed of drinking, the more likely it is that there is a very real reason for that – and the more likely it is you should reevaluate your drinking habits and consider quitting.

That also holds true if your loved one is hiding drinking. Drinking and then hiding the bottles is not part of normal alcohol use. That holds true whether it’s refilling bottles, so alcohol use goes unnoticed, if it’s hiding bottles behind a couch or another obstacle, or secretly purchasing alcohol and sneaking it into the house. This is not normal or healthy behavior and is almost always indicative of a problem.

3. You Can’t Quit

If you’ve tried and failed to quit, you have a problem. If you’ve considered quitting and keep putting it off, you probably have a problem. And, if you realize that your alcohol use is harmful to you or your relationships but keep finding excuses to keep drinking, you probably have a problem. Alcoholism normally means developing symptoms of substance seeking, compulsive drinking, and cravings. If you stop, you’ll find yourself picking up alcohol out of habit. You’ll experience cravings. Or you’ll keep finding reasons not to quit just yet – even if they’re trivial. E.g., you’ve’ been invited to an office party and you don’t want your coworkers to know you want to quit.

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4. You Drink More than Intended

photo of a woman sitting at the table and holding a bottle while pouring wine, binge drinking1 in 6 Americans regularly binge drinks. That’s inherently unhealthy. However, if you frequently find yourself binge drinking when you didn’t intend to, you likely have a problem. This is best exemplified by the idea that you go into a bar or into drinking with the intention to have a few beers or drinks and then go home. You eventually do not and drink significantly more than intended. You might black out or have memory gaps. If you do this consistently when drinking, it’s a very big sign that you want to get help.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with occasionally drinking too much. But those incidents should be once or twice a year at most.

5. You’re Preoccupied with Drinking

It’s normal to occasionally look forward to going out drinking with friends. But the alcohol should never be the primary attraction of doing so. If you spend significant amounts of time planning to drink, thinking about drinking, or craving alcohol, it likely means you have a problem. Normally, people will spend some attention on alcohol, especially if they are into craft or other special alcohol, and then will enjoy it, typically with friends. If you’re set on drinking, no matter what it is, that is a completely different story. For example, if you skip meals so you can drink more without impacting your diet or so that you get drunk faster. If you spend significantly more on alcohol than intended. Or, if you drive out of your way to acquire alcohol.

People with alcohol use disorders spend time thinking about alcohol when stressed, when at work, when in social situations, etc. People without alcohol use disorders will rarely think about alcohol during these situations.

6. You Allow Alcohol to Harm Your Life

Drinking is a social activity, and it should be a way to have fun or to relax when used correctly. If you find yourself drinking to the point where you’re experiencing negative consequences, that is unlikely to be the case. For example, if you drink to the point of having a hangover that impacts performance at work. If you drink at work or before driving. If you drink to the point where family and friends are upset at you. If drinking causes your mood to change, which impacts your relationship with family members.

Eventually, if you realize alcohol is negatively affecting your life and you continue drinking anyway, you have a problem.

7. You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms

If you fee hungover, sick, or down when you don’t drink, it’s likely withdrawal symptoms. People who drink regularly often confuse these symptoms with a hangover. Then, they drink more alcohol too quickly for symptoms to escalate or for them to notice the symptoms don’t go away. But, if you consistently experience general malaise, cold and flu symptoms, tremors, and anxiety when you don’t drink for any period of time – you have a problem. These symptoms require medical evaluation and often medically supervised alcohol detox. In fact, if there is a case in which you find it unusual that you don’t drink for any period of time, you likely have a problem. 

Millions of Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder. Millions more abuse alcohol regularly. If you’re struggling, there is help and it is accessible, covered by insurance, and available in formats designed to fit into your lifestyle. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism ruin lives, they ruin your health, and they create risks for you and your family. Getting help works – allowing you to get treatment for underlying problems, to build coping mechanisms, and to build a better and healthier life for yourself.

If you or your loved-one struggles from alcohol abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors. Our alcohol treatment programs are modern and effective. We’re here to help you recover.

How to Live with an Addict in the House

How to Live with an Addict in the House

photo of man avoid looking or speaking to female after family conflictIf your loved one is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, it can be devastating to your home and family life. That’s true no matter how old they are, whether you have kids, or what their relationship to you is. If you’re reading this article, chances are, you’ve also made up your mind to stay and to attempt to continue living with them as much as possible. While that won’t always be possible, taking the steps to make that work out in a way that is mutually beneficial and healthy is important.

Today, an estimated 18.5 million Americans struggle with drug and alcohol abuse. That means that 1 in 16 couples has a spouse who is addicted to drugs or alcohol. And, 1 in 8 children lives with a parent or parents with a substance abuse problem. If your child, parent, or partner is addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re far from alone.

Hopefully, these tips get you started on making a healthier life for yourself with your loved one.

Making Space for Mental Health

Living with someone with a mental health disorder like a substance use disorder is exhausting, emotionally draining, and potentially traumatic. People living with others who struggle with a substance use disorder experience significant elevations in stress, mood disruption, increased housework and chores, and in domestic disputes. Someone with a substance use disorder is unlikely to hold to commitments, unlikely to be reliable, and highly likely to lie or manipulate. They’re also more likely to behave irritably and with anger, even to small provocations, making it more and more difficult to live in a way that is comfortable for either. In some situations, they may even blame their substance abuse on fighting or nagging them to stop using or drinking. All of this can result in significant stress and significant deterioration in mental health. Many people cope in different ways. For example, many people struggle with codependency, where they throw themselves into taking care of their partner and it becomes an addiction in itself. In other cases, you might be overwhelmed with trying to pick everything up for your partner and to continue “business as usual”. If nothing falls through the cracks, nothing is really wrong – even if you’re doing anything. That can be exhausting and can result in a burnout, without the constant drain of having someone in the way constantly. And, that’s even worse if you have children.

Making space for mental health means setting aside time to do nothing, it means learning to walk away instead of having fights, and it means to ask for help. You can do that by reaching out to a therapist and discussing your and their problems. You can also join and attend meetings by AlAnon or a similar group. Al-Anon is designed to provide support to the family members of addicts, so that you have an outlet, peers who understand experiences, third-party perspectives, and assistance should you need it.

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Setting Boundaries

photo of a father talking to his son who is suffering from substance abuseBoundaries are a crucial part of living with anyone. But, when your loved one is struggling with a substance use disorder, it becomes more important. Individuals with drug or alcohol use problems are much more likely to engage in manipulative, abusive, and exploitative behavior. In fact, they may deliberately manipulate you to get you to continue staying with them while they use. They might also do so non-deliberately by lying but also while in denial to themselves.

Setting boundaries can help you to live in a way that is less stressful, that requires less work, and which puts less responsibility on you. For example, you might decide that you are not willing to accept being talked to in a certain way. You might decide you are not willing to pick up after their chores. You might decide you are not able to tolerate them spending rent or mortgage funds on drugs or alcohol. Boundaries should include hard and soft boundaries with repercussions, and when those boundaries are broken, the repercussions should happen.

Things to set boundaries around include:   

  • I will not spend money on you and I will get a separate bank account if we don’t have one already
  • You will transfer money you owe towards rent and bills immediately on receiving your paycheck
  • I will not lie for you nor will you ask me to
  • I will not tolerate being yelled at. If you approach me aggressively, I will leave the room. If you behave in an angry fashion, I will leave the house. The same applies to angry or aggressive behavior at children
  • You will not drink or use around children. If you take opioids, you will do so with Naloxone on your person
  • You will not bring friends home to drink or do drugs, or myself (and children) will stay at a hotel
  • If you do not handle your chores, you will hire a maid to take care of them so I do not have to

The idea is to remove stress from yourself, to limit behavior that causes hurt and upset, and to create repercussions when those boundaries are crossed. For example, if you have a clear alternative action when things are bad (e.g., go stay with parents), you have a way out that has been communicated and shared.

Ask them to Get Help

Chances are, you’ve already asked your loved one to get help. Make sure you keep trying. On your side, that often means committing to learning about addiction. It means checking with insurance and making sure your policy covers the drug addiction treatment you want. It also means researching a rehab clinic so that you know where to go and how to get your loved one there if they do decide to go.

Sometimes asking someone to get help will result in denial. That can mean lies, it can mean tears, it can mean manipulation. It can also mean anger and violence. Choose your time and your moment carefully based on what you know about them. And, if you have no luck on your own, consider staging an intervention with friends and family.

Take Care of Yourself First

Your mental health and safety should always take priority over taking care of your loved one. That’s important, both because only you can take care of yourself but also because if you burn out or start to struggle, neither of you have anyone to help. It’s important to stick to your boundaries, to make time for yourself, and to create opportunities to have fun and to enjoy life anyway. That can be immensely difficult when you’re literally watching someone you love fall apart. But, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of them.

Living with someone with a substance use disorder is not easy. You may eventually decide to move out, even temporarily. You may also decide to ask them to move out, at least a few days a week. And, you should always have the option to ask for help, with housework, childcare, and with getting your loved one into treatment.  

If you or your loved-one struggles from substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional treatment team. We’re here to help you recover.

What is Naloxone (Narcan)?

photo of a bottle of naloxone

What is Naloxone (Narcan)?

photo of a bottle of naloxoneNaloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is a drug used to counteract the effect of opioids. It is most often used to reverse overdoses, giving people time to make it to the hospital and emergency care. Naloxone, which was first approved in the 1990s, is estimated to have saved tens of thousands of lives in the United States. It’s also available for free or at a low cost, via the drug’s distribution website and through many pharmacies. In most cases, you don’t even need a prescription.

An estimated 1.6 million people have an opioid use disorder. A further 10.3 million abuse prescription pain pills, heroin, and other illicit opioids. Naloxone exists to give those people the opportunity to recover from an overdose and to get the help they need to live. That’s crucial, considering over 70,000 people in the U.S. die from opioids each year. The CDC and the World Health Organization recommend Naloxone as first line treatment, marking it among the safest and most effective drugs in its type.

History of Naloxone

Naloxone or Naloxone Hydroxide was first patented in 1961. It quickly hit markets and was used in clinical trials of efficacy across North America. In a 20-year study, the drug reversed over 10,000 overdoses, giving patients time to get to the hospital. This study was crucial in opening Naloxone available to the “take-home” public, resulting in legislation that now allows families and addicts to pick up doses or order them online. In 2017, take home naloxone had been available for 20 years, with a consensus that it saved lives where available – but with too few people educated in using naloxone, more effort in education and availability would have to be done.

Today, Naloxone is available in most pharmacies and at most clinics for a low cost. In addition, you can get it for free at many shelters and drug shelters. Availability, of course, depends on region. However, you can always look for pickup options on the Narcan website.

What is Naloxone and How Does It Work?

Naloxone is an opioid agonist. It prevents opioids from binding to the brain. This means that when taken, the drug can actually cause the individual to go into withdrawal. That can be dangerous on its own, so it’s important to call 911, even if you have Naloxone on hand. In most cases, Naloxone is administered using a nasal spray which should successfully pull the individual out of an overdose within about 2-5 minutes. If it doesn’t, you’re recommended to give them a second dose.

Naloxone typically works for 20-30 minutes. After this, the individual may need a second dose. However, many people simply don’t call 911 for drug emergencies. While that often relates to the police showing up with ambulances, doing so could save a life. Currently, ambulances are called just 10-56% of the time during overdoses. Simply calling an ambulance after administering Naloxone ensures that the dose is enough, that follow-up treatment is handled, and that the person overdosing is monitored until they are out of the window of danger.

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Medication Assisted Treatment

photo of a man and doctor during Medication Assisted TreatmentWhile Naloxone is primarily used to reverse overdoses, it’s also used in Medication Assisted Treatment of MAT. Here, it is commonly administered with Buprenorphine. The idea is that someone using naloxone cannot get high off of an opioid. Buprenorphine includes a 1:20 mixture of Naloxone and Methadone. This allows the individual to take the methadone to relieve cravings and to reduce withdrawal symptoms, while preventing them from getting high. Naloxone is also poorly orally absorbed and is poorly absorbed through a patch. So, if the patient attempts to inject the methadone, the Naloxone takes effect, and they go into withdrawal instead.

This has allowed Buprenorphine to be used as a maintenance therapy, with little supervision by doctors.

Naloxone may also be used as a maintenance therapy on its own. However, in most cases it is not. In addition, taking Naloxone while addicted can cause significant problems, such as paranoia, cold and flu symptoms, and spasms. Therefore, it’s important to seek out therapy and behavioral treatment when starting Naloxone therapy.

Does Naloxone have Side Effects?

Naloxone, like any other drug, has a full list of side effects. They are:

  • Pain at injection site
  • Burning sensation at injection site
  • Hot flashes
  • Sudden onset withdrawal
  • Sweating
  • Arrythmia (low chance)
  • Allergies (low chance)

Naloxone is also completely non-addictive. Long-term users experience only slight increase in tolerance. However, with no other addiction profile, this drug is safe to take long-term with buprenorphine. However, buprenorphine is usually recommended for 3-6 months – so extremely long-term usage should never be a consideration.

In addition, with no overdose risk, Naloxone is safe to use, even by amateurs. In fact, if someone is not responding to a first dose, the recommendation is to give them a second one. And, if your ambulance does not show up within 20 minutes, it’s recommended to monitor the affected person and administer a new dose if symptoms of overdose start to reappear.

Essentially, Naloxone is one of the safest and most effective drugs for treating overdose, as listed by the World Health Organization.

Who Can Get Naloxone?

Naloxone is sold over the counter and for take-home use across most of the U.S.

It’s also FDA approved as a pill, a patch, an injection, and a nasal spray. The nasal spray is the most recommended, as it is the easiest to administer, even under stress. It’s also easier to use without complications than an intramuscular shot. However, both are readily available under two major brands. Narcan and EVZIO. Both are low-cost, widely distributed at pharmacies, shelters, and drug shelters, and easy to use. You can check online on Narcan.com to see where you can acquire the drug in your area.

Eventually, Narcan is a safety device. You have it on you to ensure that yourself or a loved one is safe in case of an opioid use disorder. If you’re already getting opioid addiction treatment, Narcan is a lifeline to prevent you from relapsing. In either case, the drug is safe, readily available, and it will help.

If you or your loved-one struggles from substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about the drug rehab admissions process. We’re here to help you recover.

7 Signs of Denial in an Addict

photo of depressed man with alcoholism problem sitting in dark rehab center

7 Signs of Denial in an Addict

photo of depressed man with alcoholism problem sitting in dark rehab centerToday, an estimated 18.5 million Americans struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, yet, in 2019, just 20.4% of us ever got help. That’s often because of factors like denial, in which we literally lie to ourselves about whether we have a problem and whether we can quit on our own. Most of us associate addiction with significant personal shame and personal failure. While that isn’t true, addiction is a mental health disorder that some of us are more vulnerable to than others, we feel that way anyway. As a result, we lie to ourselves, convincing ourselves that we drink or use because of specific reasons, and we could easily regain control “if we wanted to”.

Denial is also incredibly normal. Most addicts are more prone to denial than they are to acknowledging that they have a problem. And, that’s important, because acknowledgement is one of the first steps to getting help. You can’t go to rehab and get treatment if you’re not yet ready to go “I have a problem and I want to get better”.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, chances are, they are in denial. These 7 signs of denial in an addict will get you started on how to recognize and respond to that denial.

1. “I can quit anytime I want”

If your loved one constantly acts as though they can stop at any point in time, but doesn’t, they are likely in denial. Phrases like:

“I can quit anytime I want”

“I’ll quit next week”

“I’ll think about if I want to and if I want to I will”

Are all fine if they are followed by quitting or a reduction in alcohol intake. But, when they are empty bluster and the person does not decrease alcohol, does not attempt to quit, and continues on as they are, it’s likely a case of denial. Here, they are using a mental tactic to avoid acknowledging to themselves that they can’t quit. And, chances are, deep down, they’re afraid that they can’t. So, if they say it out loud or try to for real, they will have to acknowledge that they can’t.

This is especially common when substance use started out small and got to be a big thing over a period of time. E.g., someone abusing sleeping pills, someone drinking, or an occasional habit of recreational drugs like cannabis became a daily thing. They can easily pretend they’re still in a state from several months or even years ago, when they were in control and they could quit. Acknowledging that that is no longer the case is painful and most people will avoid it at all costs unless forced to face it.

2. “It’s Not That Bad”

“So? I’m not doing heroin”, “It’s just a glass of vodka after work”, “I don’t even drink as much as X person” are all phrases you might here when someone is trying to minimize the extent of their problem. Chances are, they might not realize how much they drink or use themselves. That’s especially true when they get into sneaking habits. For example, they have a bottle of whiskey on the table, they start drinking too much of it, they start filling it up to hide how much they’re drinking, and before long, they can’t even keep track of how much they’re drinking themselves.

This is most common with prescription medication, because people take one and then another, and hide the results – and don’t notice how much they’ve gone through until the prescription is out. Then, they get more and the cycle starts over again. If they’ve gone doctor shopping and have more than one doctor, they’ll even pretend that they’re not using that much, they just need more because their original prescription doesn’t cover their needs.

This sort of denial is especially insidious because they’ll likely have no idea how much it is they’re actually taking. That can be difficult to deal with, because you’ll have to force them to realize how much they’re drinking or using as part of the discussion.

3. “I didn’t drink/use anything”

Outright lying is something that few of us expect as a denial tactic, but it is. This is exacerbated by the fact that substance use affects memory. Someone using might not have any actual memory of drinking or using on that date. They might be acting self-righteous because they actually believe you’re accusing them falsely.

Here, you’ll most commonly get lies about how much someone drank. E.g., “I only had two beers”, when they came home and blacked out.

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photo of a male patient talking to his psychologist about his addiction4. “I need to relax”

If someone is validating their substance use through excuses, they are likely in denial. Here, you’ll often see things like:

  • “I need a drink after work, commute and my boss are so stressful”
  • “Just until I get a new job, I’ll quit after, I promise”
  • “I’m in pain, I’ll stop when this prescription is out”
  • “I can’t function without it, I’ll finish this big task at work and then I’ll quit”

   People who have experienced a traumatic incident, such as a car accident or death in the family, are very likely to lean on this type of denial. It means shifting the reason for using substances to an external event. The problem is, the goal post is almost always moved.

5. “If you wouldn’t nag”

People who blame others for their substance use disorders are normally trying to evade personal responsibility and personally feeling bad. They can weaponize that to anger against others, essentially blaming the other for causing their need for substance use.

  • “Dealing with a baby is so stressful, I can’t manage without the valium”
  • “If you wouldn’t nag”
  • “If my boss would quit riding me all day”
  • “Carolyne broke up with me I need this”

This sort of blame can range from the relatively understandable to simply accusing someone else of causing problems. It’s always a bad sign, because reasons for drinking are always internal. If someone is looking externally, they’re looking for someone to blame so they don’t have to be accountable themselves.

6. “And who’s fault is that?”

If someone turns conversations around and blames others or manipulates you into changing the subject when you bring up drugs and alcohol, they are in denial. Drug and alcohol addicts often use manipulation to cover their addiction, both to others and to themselves. For example, if they redirect the conversation, change the topic, or twist the conversation around to be about you or your behavior. This is a strong sign that they are evading the topic, and usually that means to themselves as well.

7. Hiding Substance Use

The most telling sign that someone is in denial is when they hide signs of substance abuse. For example, if they tuck bottles into the bottom of the trash. If they hide pill packages. If they use pills from a container other than the one you see them taking daily prescriptions from. If they’re using illicit drugs, it’s understandable they’d hide that as well, but anyone taking an illicit drug also has a problem as well.

Denial is common in addicts, because most of us don’t want to admit that we have a problem. We want to be healthy, in control, and able to stop whenever we want. But, addiction catches everyone unaware. There’s no shame in acknowledging that you have a mental health disorder and no shame in getting help. The first step to getting help is recognizing the problem and reaching out.

If you or your loved-one struggles from substance abuse please contact us today and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors. We’re here to help you recover.