Study finds that cannabidiol (CBD) reduces drug craving and anxiety in patients recovering from heroin use disorder
The widespread use of heroin and prescription opioids in the United States during the past decade has resulted in an unprecedented epidemic of opioid addiction, and few treatments for heroin use disorders are currently available. In this study, authors conducted a clinical trial to test whether cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that is found in the cannabis plant, could reduce drug craving and anxiety in recently-abstinent individuals with heroin use disorder. The study found that, compared to those who received a placebo, individuals who received a dose of CBD medication showed a reduction in craving for heroin as well as reduced anxiety, which lasted for about a week after taking the CBD medication.
Some studies have focused on the “big picture” of addiction rather than specific mechanisms.
We’re currently in the middle of creating our next new article about the use of CBD & CBG products to help those who’re struggling to stop using or drinking and how it may be used to benefit those in recovery and we want to know what you think about using CBD or CBG products to help overcome drug and alcohol addictions, to help those in recovery, those in rehabs or those with mental health conditions?
Would you use it if it helped?
Do you currently use it or have you previously tried it?
Would you give it to someone if it was proven to help with mental health issues and they were currently struggling?
Let us know what you think by commenting below or joining us on our social media pages to join in with others in this discussion!…
Water is essential for the body to function. The human body is made up of 65% water, which is needed for various processes and reactions such as circulation, metabolism, body temperature and waste removal. If the body doesn’t have enough water, these physiological processes can be impaired.
The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are about 83% water, the skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79% and even your bones are made up of 31% water! You can now see why it’s so important to keep yourself hydrated if you want your body and mind to function optimally and as healthily as possible.
The average adult loses more than 80 fluid ounces of water every day through bodily functions such as sweating, breathing and eliminating waste products when you go to the toilet.
How Important Is Water In Active Addiction & Recovery?
When we use or drink multiple times daily, we deprive our body of the essential hydration and minerals that our body needs to function normally. Not having enough water causes a multitude of problems, some of which we will look at further down in this article.
Not only that, but when we do decide to leave active substance use (drugs and alcohol) behind and enter recovery, we don’t think, nor appreciate just how much damage our bodies have sustained from the constant, long term, ongoing bombardment of drugs and alcohol that you’ve used or drank over numerous months and years. Neglecting your body of the vital ingredients that it needs to function “normally” takes a toll, and it can only go on that way for so long before it can’t function normally anymore, and so physical and mental health conditions may begin to appear.
Think of your body like a car, if you don’t look after it, give it regular maintenance, provide fuel, water, oil, and ensure that it’s driven responsibility and safely, then it’s bound to break down, or cause ongoing and ever worsening problems before too long, and your body is no different!
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More times than not, a person cannot make the important changes that they need to make until they recognise what they’re missing. Water is most often just one of the missing ingredients, however it is a really important one that people don’t think about and neglect.
Even those without addiction issues tend to neglect this important aspect of bodily care as they prioritise a busy work, personal and social life, and forget to ensure that they take small breaks to look after themselves, their bodily needs and sometimes, personal hygiene too.
Organs such as the lungs, skin, kidneys, bones and brain need water to work in a fully functioning and healthy way. Water deficiency causes problems with sleep, memory, energy levels, mood, depression, healing the body after years of abuse, as well as many other bodily functions that need water to function fully and optimally.
Just as water is imperative for overall health and wellness, it is integral to addiction recovery and treatment too. In addition to functioning bodily systems, mood changes, longevity and energy also helps those going through the withdrawal, detoxification and abstinence process from intoxicants of any kind. You can’t function properly mentally, physically, emotionally or spiritually if you are dehydrated; are you drinking enough water?
Will Drinking More H2O Really Help Me?
Regardless of the drug and alcohol detox method used, whether you’re in recovery already, or whether you’re still using or drinking, hydration is critically important during all phases of your lifelong journey.
Not only that but maintaining a decent intake of fluids, mainly water or natural fruit juices for example will help to ensure that your body will run as effectively as it can, improve health conditions that you may have gained such as ulcers that may have developed from chronic injecting for example. ulcers also tend to ooze fluids continuously, so ensuring that you remain hydrated will also help to ensure that you don’t become dehydrated because of the slow, yet constant fluid loss from the ulcer.
Water Flushes Away Toxins & The Remanence Of Drugs & Alcohol
Drinking plenty of water helps to flush away the toxins and byproducts of substance use that has built up during active drug and alcohol addiction, which is integral when withdrawing from substances. The faster the toxins leave the body, the faster you’ll feel better and the quicker you’ll stop craving substances, or feel unwell as a result of the withdrawal process. Make sure to supplement your water consumption with electrolytes which are also lost during the detox process. This is especially true with an alcohol detox, the body can experience an electrolyte imbalance that makes dehydration more likely.
Dehydration in early recovery and detox isn’t uncommon. During detox, your body is attempting to adjust to functioning without having the substance on which it has become dependent on for so long. This results in a slew of physical and mental side effects as this adjustment period takes place. For many people, these physical side effects can include sweating, vomiting and diarrhoea can cause dehydration as water is being removed from the body at a faster rate and may not be replaced as quickly as it’s lost. Lethargy, low mood, low motivation or depression may also be experienced. However these symptoms can be improved or avoided completely if you ensure that you drink enough fluids.
Especially if you attempt to detox on your own, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of complications, some of which can be life threatening if they aren’t managed properly, one of which as we’ve already mentioned is dehydration. For this reason and many others, it’s not recommended that you try and detox without proper medical supervision. This includes going “cold turkey”.
Once you enter recovery, looking after yourself (mentally and physically) should be one of your top priorities. For so long, we neglect ourselves, our personal hygiene, a balanced diet, exercise, socialising with those who are either in recovery or haven’t experienced addiction at all, along with other aspects of your daily life.
All of these newly found priorities will cause some form of fluid loss to a greater or lesser extent. Remaining hydrated will help to ensure that you can do all the things that you want to do, and all of the things that you’ve been putting off over the years because of active substance use. If you’ve kept a bucket list, being in recovery and free of substances is a great time to work your way through your list.
What Is Dehydration?
Dehydration basically means that your body loses more fluids than you take in. If it’s not treated, it can get worse and become a serious problem.
Did You Know: If you feel thirsty, you’re body is already dehydrated. No one should experience being the sensation of being thirsty if you are consuming enough fluids to remain properly hydrated.
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If you’re recovering from alcohol dependence, you will need to ensure that you fend off dehydration during detox. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, so your body is losing vital bodily fluids each day when you go to the toilet and excrete bodily fluids when you urinate or pass stools.
Being dehydrated may make it even more difficult to abstain and recover from addiction for the long haul as it impacts your mental and physical health. Take in more fluids, primarily water than you lose through sweating, tears, vomiting, diarrhoea and going to the toilet.
Did you know that being dehydrated can hurt? It makes aches, pains and joint pain worse than it otherwise would otherwise be.
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It is integral to get adequate hydration to prevent or reduce body aches, heartburn, migraines, ulcers, kidney stones, backaches and joint pain that can rear their ugly head during the detox process.
We will all get sick from time to time, whether it be from a common cold, injury or health condition, remaining hydrated will help you to overcome these issues more quickly than if you remain under hydrated. It will also boost your immune system, meaning that you can fight off infections, viruses and illnesses, especially at the moment with the high prevalence of Covid-19.
Reducing/Eliminating The Symptoms Of Dehydration
Do you know what dehydration looks like? Would you recognise it if you became dehydrated? If you’re dealing with the effects of detox and withdrawal, you may not pick up on the signs and symptoms quickly enough which may include:
Dry pasty mouth
Confusion/issues with memory
Inability to sweat
Decreased, dark colour or smelly urine
Worsening mental health conditions
Worsening physical health conditions
Adequate Hydration… So, What Is Adequate Hydration During Recovery & Detox?
In a recent survey by Britvic, 62% of people admit to not drinking enough water.
According to further research by the National Hydration Council, 13% of women don’t drink their recommended daily amount; while 20% of men are also not drinking enough water.
Typically, the NHS recommend that you should consume 6 to 8 cups or glasses of fluid a day, however you can work out how much water you should drink using a simple calculation in the above infographic.
Drinking lower fat milk and sugar-free drinks, including tea and coffee all count. Depending on your output, especially if you are detoxing, you likely will need more than this. Keep in mind that hydration and your daily intake comes from more than the water that you drink; it is estimated that around 20% comes from the food that you eat too.
In 2017, almost one-third of young adults reported mixing alcohol with energy drinks in the previous year. Unfortunately, there is a downside to mixing alcohol and caffeine. In particular, people who mix alcohol and energy drinks are up to six times as likely to binge drink as those who do not and are at much higher risk of problems related to alcohol use. Therefore, mixing alcohol and caffeine may be much more dangerous than it seems.
Centre For Disease Control And Prevention
For some time, it was believed that drinking caffeine-containing beverages as part of a normal lifestyle may dehydrate you rather than hydrate you, however recent research shows that caffeinated drinks don’t cause fluid loss in excess of the volume ingested. While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect — meaning that they may make you want to pee more often — they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration.
Drinking Caffeine During The Detox Process
During the detox process, consuming caffeinated drinks may provide you with a slight energetic lift, however it’s also important to remember that caffeine is a type of mild stimulant. Even though most people don’t think of it as a drug, it does cause notable psychological and physiological changes in the human body when ingested.
As it is a stimulant, caffeine accelerates the functions of the central nervous system. While caffeine speeds up several processes within the central nervous system, its specific ability to increase thermogenesis (increasing your body temperature) of the body is the primary reason that caffeine causes people to sweat.
Thermoregulation, the ability of the body to regulate its internal temperature, is the reason why humans sweat. When sweat is released from the body it carries heat away from the surface of the skin in a process called transpiration. As caffeine accelerates thermogenesis, or causes the body to create heat, the temperature of the body exceeds its natural setpoint in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain which controls hunger, thirst, body temperature and many others.
Did You Know: Caffeine has no effect on the metabolism of alcohol by the liver and thus does not reduce breath or blood alcohol concentrations (it does not “sober you up”) or reduce impairment due to alcohol consumption.
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The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that regulates physiological processes and it acts as a natural thermostat. So, when the hypothalamus alerts the body that it is too hot, it activates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes physiologic changes like sweating and vasodilation. This is why it’s important to decide whether you want to consume caffeinated drinks during your detox phase or not.
If you’re unsure, speak to your therapist, drug and alcohol Keyworker, GP, community drug and alcohol service or rehab centre about this.
Try These Tips To Stay Hydrated, In Recovery Or Not
Add other fluids to your daily intake, like:
Squash and flavoured waters
Foods high in water content such as fruits and vegetables
Pasta and rice
Ice cream and sorbets
Other Tips Include:
Drink more when you exercise as you will sweat more when you exercise
Start a routine of drinking a full glass when you wake, drink a full glass with each meal, and again before you go to bed
Invest in a reusable bottle to increase your intake wherever you happen to be
Infuse your water to enhance the flavour, but also to add a vitamin kick, such as a wedge of lemon, lime or orange for added Vitamin C
If it is a hot day, ensure that you continually sip water or fluids throughout the whole day to prevent dehydration from setting in
If it’s hot outside, you’re going to be in a hot environment or going to be excepting yourself, as a good general rule, you need to double your fluid intake. For every glass or bottle of fluid you should drink, you should double it and drink 2 glasses or bottles of fluids instead
Get your friends and family to do the same thing. If they’re drinking fluids regularly then you’re also more likely to drink more fluids as well. It also improves your family and friends general health too!
HALT & Think
The acronym HALT refers to situations that can trigger relapse: feeling Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired can put you in a position where you may be more likely to relapse. Drink water when you feel these emotions can help you to fend off the possible relapse whilst also staying hydrated.
Adopt a Holistic Approach to Recovery. Take tips from a variety of methodologies and begin to build your own recovery toolkit. A recovery toolkit is a range of techniques such as journaling, mindfulness, gratitude, hot and cold baths and showers, along with many more, and contact information for family members, friends, your sponsor or acquaintances from fellowship or group meetings for example, who you can contact if you feel like you may relapse or are struggling to cope emotionally with the days events.
From acupuncture to exercise, borrow tactics, tips and tricks from various schools of thought to find out what works for you and what you can do to maximise your efforts to stay in recovery and remain free from drugs and/or alcohol. Also, using mindfulness techniques may also help you to become “immune” to temptations.
Dilutional hyponatremia, also known as water intoxication, is a potentially life-threatening condition which occurs when a person consumes too much water without an adequate intake of electrolytes alongside.
To put it simply, water in your body needs to contain enough salts, minerals, and other vital ingredients such as ions, often called electrolytes to keep the body’s cells functioning properly. If you take in too much water without enough electrolytes, the water can move into the cells of the body, causing them to swell.
How you’re treated for overhydration depends on how severe your symptoms are and what caused the condition in the first place. Treatments for water intoxication may include:
Cutting back on your fluid intake
Taking diuretics to increase the amount of urine you produce
Treating the condition that caused the overhydration
Stopping any medications causing the problem
Replacing sodium in severe cases
To prevent this from occurring, consider using a sachet of rehydration salts in your drinks on an occasional basis, for example when you get to drinking your 10th drink each time. they come in child and adult formulations, as well as different flavours.
Dehydration & Memory Loss
New research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found for the first time, that the functioning of our brains can be compromised by just a minor degree of dehydration.
Previous studies have found when there is a water loss of around 2% of body weight then memory, attention and mood are adversely affected. This is typically associated with periods of extended physical activity or lack of regular consumption of fluids – and much dehydration research has focused on this area, rather than the everyday water loss that they examined.
Water makes up nearly two-thirds of our body and is an essential nutrient, necessary for all aspects of bodily functioning including the distribution of oxygen and other nutrients, the removal of waste products, and the regulation of temperature. Its importance is illustrated by a person dying within as little as three to five days if they do not drink fluids of any kind. However, the body can be affected by dehydration well before the point of death.
Studies show that you only need to be 1% dehydrated to experience a 5% decrease in cognitive function. A 2% decrease in brain hydration can result in short term memory loss and cause problems with simple things like basic math computations, memorising simple things daily tasks to do, cause you to forget to take medication or even forget to attend important appointments. Prolonged dehydration causes brain cells to shrink in size and mass, a condition common in many members of the elderly community who’ve been dehydrated for years. Lack of mental clarity is sometimes referred to as “brain fog.”
The brain itself is made up of approximately 85% water. Water gives the brain energy to function including thought and memory processes. Water is also needed for the production of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain.
Since the brain cannot store water and you are constantly losing water through perspiration and other normal bodily functions, it’s essential that you continuously hydrate yourself. You’ll be able to think faster, focus more clearly, improve your memory, improve your mood and energy level, and experience greater clarity when your brain is functioning on a full reserve of water.
How & Where To Start Drinking More Water In Your Daily Routine
There are some simple steps to get moving forward with making sure a person takes in enough water in recovery. Including specific water/fluid intake breaks in your daily routine will help you to ensure that you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day.
The brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79% and even your bones are made up of 31% water!
In adult men, about 60% of their bodies are water. However, fat tissue does not have as much water as lean tissue. In adult women, fat makes up more of the body than men, so they have about 55% of their bodies made of water. Whether a women is pregnant will also alter the amount of water that the mother and unborn child are made up of, Thus:
Babies and kids have more water (as a percentage) than adults
Women have less water than men (as a percentage)
People with more fatty tissue have less water than people with less fatty tissue (as a percentage)
If you drink enough fluids each day, you’re more capable of riding out cravings or temptations, managing mental health conditions more effectively, overcoming difficult/stressful situations, and preventing a possible relapse from occurring as you will be able to think more clearly, and your physical health will also be improved too.
Drink ‘n’ Drugs
Water is not just about what a person drinks, but about how well they care for themselves. Some key places to begin:
Drink ice cold water in the morning to wake you up and warm water before you go to bed to settle you down
Add lemon, lime or other fruit to water to balance the PH in the body (and make drinking fluids more tasty
Spend time quieting the mind each day and the body, without trying to push through the exercise
The body and mind function better when hydrated, so keep a log of how much water is being drunk each day. A good place to do this is in your journal
Find meditation space to rest and get enough sleep each night as being overtired is dehydrating
Get out on the water or near water to get a feel for how it emboldens the senses and creates a sense of space and flow in the mind and body
The role of water in recovery is healing and promotes an ongoing healthier lifestyle. The healing properties of water and fluids are waiting to be bestowed on people in recovery who are looking for opportunities to thrive.
The mind and body want to heal, but it takes time. Drinking enough water or fluids is not the only thing that will help. Eating enough healthy foods, exercising and watching salt intake and lowering sugary snacks will also help alleviate dehydration and lead to a more clear mind and focused intention on recovery.
Summing It Up
Eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of fluids regularly are one of the best things that you can do for your body and mind in early recovery and for the rest of your life.
Remember not to overlook the importance of staying hydrated. Water is best, but fruit juices, flavoured waters and herbal teas are also good choices as well. You can also get water by filling out your diet with broths, soups, vegetables and fruit, as well as ensuring that you drink water with each meal can help to improve your health and keep current physical and mental health issues under control, whilst also improving your chances of avoiding further physical and mental health conditions in the future.
Everyone experiences a lack of motivation from time to time and when it comes to addiction or recovery, we often put off doing certain things because they may seem to hard to do, we become too scared or fear certain things, we procrastinate, or we maybe even feeling that we aren’t actually worth changing or improving ourselves.
For example, not making a particular phone call or attending a certain appointment with a drug and alcohol service because your brain knows that it will mean the end of continued using or drinking, avoiding certain appointments. Your brain may then act like a toddler and have tantrums or fight back in the form of cravings, temptations, thoughts or feelings because it wants to carry on in active addiction. This only one, very simplified example.
There are many other reasons why we put off doing certain things, and I’m sure that you could come up with a list as long as your arm! Some symptoms that may help us to realise that we are stuck in this situation may include any of the following:
Not attending group meetings or appointments
Avoiding to use certain coping strategies or mindfulness techniques
Avoid reaching out for help or advise
Telling yourself “I’ll do it in an hours time or I’ll do it tomorrow”
Telling yourself that something won’t work for you without even trying it
These are just a tiny segment of the things we may tell ourselves or choose to do. Our brain learns what to say to you in order for it to get what it wants, which more often than not is to continue using or drinking. Our brain can be a great alley or an enemy when it comes to certain issues like addiction.
Our brain simply wants to continue our current way of life/active addiction because it is chemically used to living that way. The science behind addictions are a long, complicated thing, with new discoveries being made on a daily basis.
On days like this, you might feel tired, irritable, come up with reasons (genuine or imaginary) why we can’t do something now or within a realistic time scale, or even just unable to stir up enough energy, motivation or interest to do the things you typically know that you are putting off or are avoiding doing.
MUST READ: The things that you’re putting off or avoiding doing are often the exact things that you need to be doing now in order to make the necessary changes you need in order to move onwards and upwards!
Your brain subconsciously knows that if you do those certain things then your circumstances will change and take you away from the current life that you’re living now. If you want to make real, meaningful changes in your life, you MUST do the things that you’re putting off or avoiding!
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However occasional periods of feeling this way are perfectly normal. It might mean that you’re under extra stress or trying to deal with something out of the ordinary in your life. These feelings are temporary and usually nothing serious. They can sometimes be a sign that you need to step back, take a break, and let your mind and body rest and do things in a stepwise manner.
This is however, totally different from purposely avoiding to do the things that you need to do to achieve change.
At other times, these lingering feelings where you don’t feel like doing anything or certain things can be symptoms of more serious problems such as depression or some other type of mood disorder or mental health condition. If you’re experiencing a loss of interest or enjoyment in the things that you usually find pleasurable, or a sense of apathy about life in general that lasts for more than two weeks, talk to your GP, Therapist, drug and alcohol Keyworker or healthcare professional about this.
If these feelings seem like a more temporary state of mind or you just can’t muster up enough energy to do the things you realistically know that you should be doing, there are some things you can do to feel better and regain your motivation to make real, lasting change.
Take A Break To Reassess Your Situation Or Plan
Feeling like you don’t want to do anything or certain things can be a sign that you’re stressed or burned out. Sometimes taking a short rest to look at your situation, what you’ve already done or tried so far, and what physical and mental changes can you make to overcome particular issues.
Consider giving yourself a “mental health day” where you let go of your personal expectations and instead, focus on doing the things that help you feel restored, comforted, and valued as an individual who’s trying to make important, life saving and life changing alterations in your life.
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Let yourself enjoy a nap or lounge about watching a funny or positive movie with a cozy blanket or maybe you can go to a safe space (a place where you can feel calm and safe. It is better if possible that this place be outside somewhere) and just read your favorite book or write in your journal.
The key is to spend this time relaxing and letting your mind and body rest. This however is to be enjoyed occasionally and not an excuse to do it daily and avoiding other daily commitments, responsibilities or other important daily tasks.
Sometimes some fairly simple self-care can help to put you in a better frame of mind to take an objective look at what’s not working or holding you back from achieving your goals. This may help you to reassess your situation and help you to get to where you want to be. Try taking hot and cold showers or baths, do some simple stretching exercises, practice some easy meditation or mindfulness techniques and try to drink a glass of water at regular intervals throughout the day.
Having a daily recovery routine/schedule and a relapse prevention plan when you’re trying to get clean and sober are absolutely amazing ways of building a new life that encompasses all of the important things we need to ensure we do in recovery, whilst also having fun, socialising and maintaining responsibilities. You can find our ultimate guide to creating and implementing your own daily recovery routine here. We would also highly suggest that you also create a relapse prevention plan if your healthcare professional or drug and alcohol service haven’t already helped you to create one.
Managing The Stigma & Labels Surrounding Addicts Wanting To Get Clean & Sober
Sometimes the labels, stereotypes and stigma that surrounds addiction is still unfortunately still more prevalent than it should be baring in mind that we as one big society are now more accepting of LGBTQ+ community, women’s equal rights and opportunities, black lives matter, disabled persons rights and opportunities, those who have a higher body weight compared to others, those with physical abnormalities and those with mental health issues. So why should those suffering with substance addiction be any different?
We all need to ensure that what we say is truly what we mean. Using labels and terms in addiction can have a negative impact on your recovery effort. Likewise the way that we misjudge or prejudge people also negatively impacts them. Treat yourself fairly, yes you have an addiction, and yes you are a drug or alcohol addict. However this isn’t you, it’s simply an issue that you’re trying to overcome. You wouldn’t say “Hi I’m John and I’m a diabetic” or “hi I’m Lucy and an epileptic”. Try not to attach labels to yourself and simply focus on the fact that yes you have this issue presently, however you’re currently in the process of working to overcome this recognised medical health condition and this is a positive thing that should be praised and respected for, and seen as such.
Treat Yourself Kindly & Fairly
Self-compassion involves not only being kind to yourself but also understanding that your experiences and making mistakes are part of being a human being, and being mindful of your own emotions, both the good and the bad.
REMEMBER: It’s like peeling back an onion, once you red rid of the protective layers (deceptive coping strategies) and allow yourself to see the true inside, accepting that it is what it is, and that it’s those parts that often need the biggest changes and ongoing work to make lasting change.
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Showing yourself some compassion, consideration and self respect can have huge mental health benefits that also have knock on effects that help to also increase your physical health too. Research has found that when people show compassion to themselves, it can help alleviate the negative effects of stress, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and lower overall levels of psychological distress.
So if you’re having one of those days when you really don’t feel like doing anything, treat yourself with a little kindness. Accept it, understand that it is a natural process that all addicts have to contend with, and allow yourself the space, time and things that you need to do in order to make those vital lifestyle and personal changes.
Showing yourself such self-compassion has actually been found to help improve motivation when you are struggling with doing the things that you really don’t want to do.
It is important during this process to also important to give up the addict identity that you’ve carried around with you over the months, years or decades that you’ve been using or drinking.
Go For A Walk
Taking a stroll combines the benefits of exercise and it’s natural feel good chemicals that your body produce when you exercise and spend time outdoors. It is also where your body can absorb important vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D is sometimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in your skin in response to sunlight. It’s a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D-1, D-2 and D-3.
Exercise has been shown to be effective in both the treatment and prevention of depressive symptoms as well as being helpful to improve your physical health and help to heal the years of damage that you’ve inflicted upon your body when you actively used or drank.
Research suggests that spending time outdoors has a wide range of mental health benefits. One 2019 study found that contact with nature was linked to better well-being, better mood, more positive social interactions and increased levels of overall happiness.
So if you’re battling a low mood and poor motivation, taking a walk outdoors might go a long way toward helping you feel better, whether it’s a casual stroll around the block or a hike on a local trail through a forest or along a beach.
Talking To Someone Else
When you’re in a funk, reaching out to another person can be a great way to break out of an uninspired mindset. Think about who might be a good source of support in moments like this.
Who can you talk to who might understand how you are feeling and may be able to empathise about your situation? Are you looking for someone who can just listen, or do you want someone who can inspire you to get moving with supportive, yet firm support?
People you may want to consider talking to may include:
Close, trustworthy friends
Fellowship groups/ individual fellowship members who you can trust and are inspired by
Charities that provide talking therapies by trained staff who are strangers to you (sometimes this can be easier initially)
Talking to pets, nature or religious deities
If you aren’t in the mood to hang out with a friend, or if your friend is unavailable, sometimes just getting out and just being in the presence of other people can be helpful. Whether it may be on a high street, shopping centre or other types of highly populated areas (where safe social distancing allows).
Speaking to a trained, professional Counsellor or Psychotherapist can also be helpful in releasing pent up thoughts, feelings and emotions, gain a new perspective on life and benefit from a wide range of therapeutic techniques that these healthcare professionals can use to help you and your current situation.
Enjoying a cup of coffee, iced tea or milkshake in a busy coffee shop, smiling at people in the grocery store or saying hi to a neighbour are all simple social experiences that have been proven to help shift your mood.
Even if you don’t have the motivation to work on something at the moment, that doesn’t mean you can’t start making plans for what you might like to do in the future.
Research suggests that mental imagery, or visualising things that you want to do helps to increase your motivation, expected pleasure and anticipated reward of those planned activities and goals. We’d highly recommend that you do these using SMART goals and make sure that no matter what, you stick to the deadlines and timeframes that you set. If you don’t, planning like this will be a pointless and unproductive technique to use. If you know that this technique won’t work for you, it’s best to try a different type of technique than plan using this method and fail to meet the goals you set for yourself which may cause you to become even more de-motivated and unproductive.
Doing something like planning a trip or an experience day or a physical purchase of something that you’ve wanted for some time can give you something to look forward to and something to get excited about. You can use these rewards when you manage to meet and achieve the goals that you set for yourself. It provides a great source of motivation and teaches your mind that when it does positive things when they are to be done by means that it will get a positive, healthy reward (obviously drugs and alcohol aren’t to be used as rewards!).
Thinking about a future projects, goals and dreams often involve doing things like visualising the outcome and provides a mental image that a life free of substances can, is and will be even more productive, prosperous and even more enjoyable than any substance can provide. planning out the steps involved, or even creating a mood board or brainstorm for inspiration and provide you a good way to see a different perspective about your situation or current circumstances.
Start Small & Work Up From There
When it comes to finding the energy to do something, especially if it’s the last thing that you want to do, getting started is often the hardest part. So if you’re struggling with the doldrums, starting with something small can help to get you going.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by a mountain of tasks that are stacked up to the ceiling, you don’t have the mental or physical energy to tackle, pick one small thing that you can do—then do it. Once you’ve completed one task, doing another becomes easier the more you do them.
Clearing out & safely getting rid of any drug paraphernalia you may have
Write someone a letter to tell them how you feel and talk to them about things that aren’t drug or alcohol related
Make an appointment to see your local community drug and alcohol service, rehab, therapist or GP surgery to begin getting help to overcome your addiction
Talk to one person, the one who you trust and feel most comfortable with who you know won’t judge you, and tell them about your addiction and how you feel
Reducing the amount of substance(s) you use or drink per day by one ml, mg, pint, glass, hit, smoke, pipe, bong etc
Making a list of what you may need to do in order to overcome your addiction, or at least get the help you may need
Go for 1 walk per day to somewhere you like and feel comfortable being at and just enjoy some time in nature
Drink 1 extra glass of water
Chores can be boring, but even the easiest tasks can start to feel overwhelming if you let them pile up or get behind (I’m sure that we’ve all experienced this in our emotional/mental health!). Starting with one small task is sometimes enough to just get that important, recovery sized ball rolling! Once you get done with that easy chore, you might think that tackling one more might not be so bad.
Starting one small task is sometimes just enough to get that recovery sized ball rolling!
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And if you decide to stop after just one, that’s fine too! Give yourself some grace and do what you can, when you can. Remember that recovery isn’t a race, it’s a lifelong marathon that we must taken steadily and with
When you are struggling with difficult emotions or thoughts, it can sometimes be helpful to get your thoughts and feeling physically written down on paper, computer document or phone app. Some research suggests that getting your pent up thoughts and feelings out of your mind and written down in some form of journal can a useful and positive mental health tool.
Journaling also has the following 5 benefits, some of which may come as a surprise to you!
Often described as expressive writing or writing therapy, this approach has been shown in various case studies and addiction research to help decrease blood pressure, relieve anxiety symptoms, reduce depressive symptoms and improve recovery optimism.
DID YOU KNOW: It has been shown in clinical research that the majority of those who live successfully in addiction recovery use some form of journaling in their daily routine.
For example, in one study, 10,000 people were chosen, 5,000 were dependant upon alcohol and the other 5,000 on drugs. At the end of the study of those who managed to enter recovery and remain so after the study had finished for 1 year, 86% were still using journaling in their daily routine.
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Spending some time writing in a journal can be a great opportunity to reflect on what you are feeling and explore some of the reasons you might be feeling that way. Journaling also provides other benefits including:
Provide an opportunity for you to review your life previously to show you how far you’ve come
Provide you with an opportunity to work out which parts have been working for you and which bits haven’t
Allow you to see things from different perspectives
Being grateful has a huge positive impact upon your outlook on your current situation and where you want to end up. It has been scientifically proven that being grateful has knock on effects into other areas of your life too.
Find What Works For You
If these ideas aren’t working for you, start looking for something that is right for your situation and what you are feeling. Some strategies that might help inspire you on those difficult days where you don’t feel like doing anything can include:
If you’ve tried these and other things and still feel lethargic and listless, it might be time to take a look at your symptoms and decide if the problem might be something that your GP, Doctor or healthcare professional may need to look into as feeling chronically lethargic, unmotivated and negative can be symptoms of other medical conditions that you may also have. Keep this in mind.
Your Thoughts Are Just That, Thoughts & With Time Comes Healing
Our minds can be a powerful force which can try to push us to do either good or bad things. Our minds know just what to say to you or do, and at just the right time for your mind to achieve whatever it’s focused on and wants.
As addicts, we know this extremely well in the form of cravings and temptations. However, the good news it that if we remind ourselves that our thoughts are simply that… thoughts, and without a physical action attached to that, they will simply fade away after a short while. This is where positive coping strategies and techniques come into play.
REMEMBER: Just because you think of something, get a craving or temptation doesn’t mean that you have to act on them. Without physical actions, thought remain only thoughts!
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Once you come to realise this, staying in recovery allows you to take better control over your actions once thoughts have been bombarding you over and over again. The longer you remain in recovery, the more chance your body has to heal itself from the months, years or even decades of abuse that your body has had to go through. Taking baby steps in the right direction to slowly work through those issues you’ve been putting off for a long time and yet, they’re the exact things that you need to do in order to improve your situation, enter recovery and remain there.
Get Advice From Drink ‘n’ Drugs
On our help and support link, you will find a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you to overcome your addictions from multiple angles of attack. You can find our help and support page by clicking here.
You can also find professional help with our range of professional, specialised and effective therapeutic services, these include counselling, hypnotherapy, acupuncture and guided mindfulness & meditation sessions.
Assess Your Symptoms
If your symptoms and is accompanied by other symptoms, it may be a sign of depression or other types of mental health condition. Some other symptoms to watch for include:
Changes in sleep patterns/insomnia
Changes in appetite (increased or decreased)
Persistent low mood
Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or suicidal/self harm intentions
Loss of interest in things that are normally enjoyable
Breaking promises, commitments or responsibilities
If you do get feelings of hopelessness that are accompanied by thoughts or intentions of harming yourself or committing suicide, it is vital that you reach out and call 999 immediately, contact your mental health team if you have one or speak to your drug and alcohol team. If you have already self harmed, overdosed or attempted suicide, you must call 999 straight away.
Reaching out to your Doctor, therapist, drug and alcohol service or healthcare professional for more help. This might involve certain specialised types of therapy, taking certain medications, making lifestyle changes or a combination of all of these approaches along with others depending on your personal circumstances, current health conditions and circumstances.
Some of the volunteers were at Drink ‘n’ Drugs are students studying a wide range of courses that are somehow related to addiction and recovery. Plus, all of them have had issues with substance misuse or psychological and physical dependency to various substances. That means we know what it’s like to be in your shoes as you work your way through school. Our combination of real life experience and professional training and clinical experience makes it possible for us to provide you with reliable information about drugs, alcohol and addiction for students.
To get you started thinking in that direction, we have put together this student guide to alcohol, drugs and addiction.
Now You Have Freedom
Going to university is as much about experiencing your first taste of freedom and independence as it is about preparing for your career and any other postgraduate training you may need to do for your job of choice.
For many young adults, going to university is the first opportunity they have to live away from their parents. It can all be very exciting. Yet all of this new freedom and the experiences that you’ll shortly face means being suddenly faced with a lot of unfamiliar choices and new possible temptations, some involving the temptation or social pressure to use alcohol and drugs.
If you haven’t already been faced with such choices, you most likely will be at some point in your university life. We want you to be as well prepared as you can be so that you make good choices and avoid the negative consequences that come with drug and alcohol misuse or addiction.
We hope you will take the time to educate yourself about drug and alcohol misuse and addiction, including facing the reality of how harmful substance use can be. These include taking other peoples prescribed medications, over the counter medicines and others.
The University Drug Culture
For example, it is natural for a student to want to relax and chill out for a while. One might go for a few beers with friends at a local pub or student bar as a normal social exercise for this very purpose. But students can unwittingly start down the road of addiction if they don’t control their drinking, begin dabbling in drugs or become reliant on substances in order to relax and feel “normal”.
Once started, it can often be difficult to stop. This is combined with the pressures of exams, assignments and deadlines can also inadvertently lead them to seek relief from substances to help them cope.
Since the 1960s, the universities and colleges that have taught multiple generations of students that also have had a culture of drug and alcohol use. Students tend to be attracted to this culture inasmuch as they have free time they need to fill with something other than studying.
University is supposed to be a special place to enjoy a great educational experience, as well as a unique time in your life. Don’t throw it away by embracing the drug and alcohol culture. Your life and future are worth far more than the temporary relief or enjoyment that you may get from drug and alcohol use.
Classes of Drugs Commonly Misused At University
An important part of avoiding the alcohol and drug culture is understanding what kind of substances people are using. To that end, there are different classes of drugs commonly found on university campuses and the surrounding town or cities. The most often misused are listed below.
Stimulants are drugs that affect your central nervous system to increase alertness and energy levels. In many cases, stimulants also produce feelings of euphoria as well. The most prevalent stimulant drug is caffeine, a drug most of us take for granted. More dangerous stimulants also include cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and methamphetamine.
Students tend to gravitate toward stimulants out of a desire to want to party all night long or want to stay up all night cram in extra study time before important exams. They want to maximise their time away from studies, and stimulants make that possible.
Along those same lines, other students may use stimulants to help them stay awake for long periods so they can finish assignments or prepare for an exam. What students often do not understand is that stimulants are highly addictive.
Even using them 2,3 or 4 times can lead to a psychological and physical dependency upon these types of substances. This is even more so at universities that are located in big towns or cities, and those that have a large “party scene” like nightclubs and others. This can be where some students decide to try a line of cocaine because everyone else that they’re with is also doing it. This peer pressure can then lead to a heap of other issues associated with substance use.
Depressants have the opposite effect of stimulants. In other words, they tend to slow everything down. These drugs can reduce energy levels and alertness; they can produce mellow feelings, encourage relaxation and cause feelings such as contentment.
If you use alcohol, you already use one of the most commonly misused depressants in the world. Alcohol and other similar drugs are dangerous in that they can trigger depression and anxiety, in addition to damaging vital body tissues such as the liver and kidneys.
Other substances in this category also include anxiety medications such as Pregabalin or Gabapentin or other prescribed medications or natural substances like mushrooms.
Hallucinogenic drugs take their name from the fact that they have the ability to induce hallucinations. LSD is probably the most well-known in this class during these modern times. Hallucinogens are experimental drugs at universities, presumably due to the mindset that university is a place to explore new ideas and to try new experiences.
Other substances in this category include magic mushrooms which are becoming more and more popular in the last 5 years. However using magic mushrooms can be extremely dangerous because most people experience either positive “trips” or negative ones. Negative trips can seem so real and frightening that they can actually trigger psychotic episodes or worsen any pre-existing mental health conditions that you may already have.
The good news about hallucinogens is that they do not tend to be physically addictive. However, they can be psychologically addictive and physically dangerous. They can induce terrifying hallucinations that can lead to violent or risky behaviours. Many of them produce harmful side effects such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature.
Other kinds of drugs you need to be aware of include cannabinoids, benzodiazepines, and legal highs. Each of these classes involves different drugs with varying levels of addictiveness and the potential to harm human health. Make yourself familiar with the possible dangers before you are tempted to use them.
Opioids are mainly used for the treatment of severe acute pain and for long term chronic pain (however this isn’t best practice, but it is still being done). These drugs include: heroin, fentanyl, codeine, morphine, oxycodone and tramadol.
They produce a feeling of contentment, relaxation and peace. They also suppress your central nervous system which means they lower your blood pressure and breathing. They are highly addictive and should only be used in extreme circumstances and for the shortest possible time in order to mitigate most of the risk of becoming addicted to them. However this is still possible as it is with any substance.
No Drug Is Safe & Free From Risk
The last thing we want you to know before closing this guide is a very simple truth: no drug is safe. You will undoubtedly hear people tell you that there are certain substances you can take that are completely harmless, drugs that can be used indiscriminately and with no serious risk. Do not believe them.
Every substance you put into your body affects you in some way. Is that not why we consider taking them in the first place, or why we sometimes look down on smoking or drug use? Of course it is. If smoking cigarettes is bad for your health, does it not stand to reason that smoking marijuana is equally bad? Absolutely.
In addition to the damage that can be caused to your physical health, you also need to consider your mental health. Any drug that has psychoactive effects is capable of creating psychological dependence. And whether you know it or not, psychological dependence can be harder in certain situations to break than physical dependency.
Your time at university should be a time marked by learning new things and gaining new experiences. You don’t need the experiences related to the drug and alcohol use. If you already have a problem that you are trying to deal with, it is important that you reach out to your universities mental health team who will be able to provide some extra support for you so that you can get the most out of your time studying at university.
Never take anyone else’s medication, even if you take the same medication and the same dose as someone else if you’ve ran out of your own. Using medications that aren’t prescribed to you can have serious, or even life threatening consequences!
Most students will end up having one too many drinks on nights out, especially during freshers week. We’ve all experienced those moments when we feel like death warmed up! And we know that they aren’t pleasant to go through. To find out how hangovers work, check out our article on the topic here.
If you can avoid experiencing hangovers, your body will thank you for it!
TIP: Set yourself a drink limit and stick to it. If you say that you’ll only have 4 alcoholic drinks, then stick to 4 no matter what. The fun doesn’t have to stop, you just need to swap to nonalcoholic drinks!
You could also only take enough money with you for those 4 drinks, food and a taxi home if you don’t feel that you will be able to stick to it.
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Also, don’t forget that when you’ve drunk alcohol, your inhibitions and decision making will be affected. This leaves you at risk of getting into fights/assaults, falls, theft/loss of property, rape and others. To help reduce the risk of these incidents happening:
Try to stay in a group if a few of you are going out.
Set a drinking limit and stick to it.
Have an emergency plan in place should something go wrong whilst your out.
Only take out the absolute bare minimum you need so reduce the risk of things being lost or stolen.
Tell someone else who isn’t out with you and who aren’t drinking where you’re going and what time you’ll be back. keep these people on speed dial or in your favourites list so that you can call them easily in an emergency.
Using Substances To Cope With Home Sick & Exam Stress
All students experience feelings such as home sickness, exam stress and nerves during graduation ceremonies throughout their time at university. It may be all to easy to turn to a substance to provide an instant chemical change to alter the way that they feel. We’d highly recommend that if you’re struggling with your mental health, stress or home sickness, that you speak to others at your university, including student welfare officers, those who run the student union or your universities welfare team.
Don’t feel ashamed, they are there to help you and you’d be surprised just how many people are also experiencing similar feelings or issues as you! Don’t put off seeing them until tomorrow, make sure that you speak to them today. After all, why suffer for longer than you have to!?
Mental Health Conditions & Self Harm
If you have a diagnosed mental health condition, it is important that you declare it when you apply to your chosen university, or as soon as you become diagnosed so that they can provide the most appropriate support for you to maximise your time and experience whilst at your university.
If you have prior instances where you have self harmed, overdosed or intentionally tried to take your own life, it is also vital that you let your student welfare team know, as well as the current mental health team that helps you before you leave for university. They can then provide you with the best advice and support before you leave and ensure that support from local mental health teams near to your chosen university can then take over your care.
If you have a diagnosed mental health condition then we would highly recommend that you avoid experimenting or taking substances whilst your at university as it may have unintended consequences when it’s mixed with your medication and cause harmful or even a life threatening situation.
You can learn a load of new coping strategies and techniques that you can use to help you when times get tough on our blog here.
REMEMBER IF YOU DO OVERDOSE, SELF HARM OR FEEL SUICIDAL, CONTACT YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TEAM OR CALL 999 AND ASK FOR AN AMBULANCE IMMEDIATELY!
Mixing Alcohol & Cocaine
Mixing alcohol with cocaine (including crack cocaine) causes a third chemical to be produced in your body. This chemical is called cocaethylene.
People who use cocaine often combine it with alcohol. When looking at substance-related emergency department visits, the combination of alcohol and cocaine has been historically common.
Drinking alcohol can also intensify feelings of euphoria due to cocaine use, while simultaneously helping to ease the discomfort of “coming down” from the high. Unfortunately, users often don’t understand the deadly combination of the two substances and the life-threatening effects it can have.
The combination of both alcohol and cocaine produce a new third substance called Cocaethylene. This new substance is highly toxic, harmful for your body and may even be fatal, even when you’ve only tried cocaine combined with alcohol once!
Risks of harm from Cocaethylene include:
Increased Toxic Effects.
Increased Risk Of Cardiovascular Issues, Including Heart Attack.
Increased Risk For Stroke.
Increased Potential For Liver Damage.
Increased risk of instant death.
Prescribed & Un-prescribed Medications
It is important that you have enough of your medication to hand so that if you’re moving into halls of residence or away from home, that you have enough of your medication to last until you can register with a new GP practice and get new repeat prescriptions set up.
Medications are for thousands of different medical conditions and come in different form and strengths. This why you should never take someone else’s medication, even if you’re normally prescribed the same dose and it has ran out.
Medication can have known side effects which vary depending on the medication. Taking medicines that aren’t prescribed for you may do more harm than good as unintended side effects can occur as everyone’s physiology, list of medications they take, the health conditions they have and others.
If in doubt, contact your local GP practice, NHS 111 or your campus medical practice if it has one.
TIP: Remember to put your medications in a safe, secure location away from others who may want to abuse it. If you take controlled medications (CD’s) like morphine, codeine, tramadol, methadone, subutex or buprenorphine for example, you are entitled to a free lock box to keep your medicines locked away.Simplyask your pharmacy or local drug and alcohol service for one.
If you don’t take controlled medications, we’d still recommend that you buy a lockbox of your own to keep your medications in one place that’s safe and secure. These can be found cheaply online or bought from your local pharmacy for a relatively cheap price.
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Combining other substances like benzodiazepines (diazepam or temazepam ect), opioids (codeine, morphine, heroin ect) combined with alcohol can also be fatal, even in small amounts. Contact your GP if you feel that you will be unable to stop drinking whilst taking medication so that they can prescribe an alternative that may have less risks when combined with alcohol.
Smoking Marijuana/Nicotine Or Vaping
Smoking cannabis may seem like a harmless thing to do with others when you want to relax and have some fun. However marijuana, also known as weed is still a drug just like heroin or cocaine is. If you continue to smoke drugs at university, you may get into trouble with the university or police which may have an effect on your future career or educational prospects. Is it really worth it?
If you can stop smoking it before you start at university then you will be much better off both emotionally and physically. Other benefits for quitting can be found below. Most universities or local doctors surgeries offer free smoking cessation help if you want to quit. Contact your GP practice or on campus medical centre for more information.
Accessing Help At Your Uni
If you already have been diagnosed as having an addiction, attending university provides you with a great opportunity to start afresh, better use your time, gain friends that aren’t solely there when you use or drink and allows you to study a subject that you’re passionate about.
It is important that you let your university know if you currently have, or previously had an addiction to drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, gambling, food, adrenaline sports/activities or any others as it may mean that you would not be an appropriate candidate to do certain professions.
For example those who have a history of addiction with prescribed opioids like codeine or heroin, would be unable to become a paramedic since they are responsible and carry controlled drugs, including morphine.
Your university can also ensure that you get the most appropriate care and support possible to get the most from your time at university.
Making A Fresh Start At Uni & Continuing Your Recovery Plan
Going to university provides you with a great opportunity to start again and leave your previous life in active addiction behind in which you developed your addiction by being around certain places or people that were triggers for you to use or drink. Find some of our tips and tricks below, and for those who are already in recovery.
Survival Tips & Tricks
Here are some of our tips and tricks to help you while you’re at university:
Let you university know about your addiction. Unless you tell them, they won’t know and can’t provide any help and support you need. It may also affect your eligibility to study certain courses or content such as Paramedic science, medicine, pharmacology, midwifery or others, however speak to your university about this as they may be able to put certain things in place so that you can still do the course safely.
Make sure you give your current community drug and alcohol service (if you have one) enough time to transfer you to a new service that is closer to your chosen university. This will also include transferring any medication assisted treatment (MAT) medicines such as methadone or acamprosate to the new service/pharmacy.
If you don’t already have a daily recovery plan/routine in place, we highly recommend that you create one. This allows you to create a daily schedule that ensures that you have enough time in each day to take care of personal hygiene, food, hydration, recovery activities such as attending fellowship meetings such as AA, NA, CA ect, hobbies and sports/exercise without leaving you feeling overwhelmed. You can find our comprehensive guide to creating an implementing your own daily recovery plan here.
Likewise, having a relapse prevention plan in place is just as important, if not more so. A relapse prevention plan provides you with a plan to recognise your personal warning signs or triggers that may cause you to relapse. These plans also include a structured plan which tells you what to do if you feel that you’re likely to relapse imminently. You can find our ultimate guide to creating and using your own relapse prevention plan here.
Know your limits and don’t push them. These include knowing that you need around 8 hours of sleep per night, eating a balanced diet and exercising, even if it’s just a walk for an hour or so each day.
Find yourself a “safe space”. This safe space could be under a particular tree, library area, room, chair, bed or anywhere else that you can go when you feel like things are getting too much and provides you with a place to slowly relax and calm down.
Try to implement some mindfulness or meditation exercises into your daily routine. They provide you with a great opportunity to relax from stressful situations, illnesses and also if don’t once in the morning and once at night, provide you with a good way to mentally prepare yourself for he says ahead, and then unwind and process the days events before you go to bed.
Make the most of all of the various opportunities that will present themselves over your time at university. These include sports, clubs, hobbies or days out. These provide excellent ways to socialise and meet new people that isn’t solely planned around drugs or alcohol.
Consider ongoing therapies such as counselling, hypnotherapy, massage or acupuncture to help with physical or emotional problems. They can also help with spiritual problems (if you’re religious). Many of these types of therapies can be stress relieving, reduce emotional and physical pain as well as improve your mood, sleep and focus.
Don’t take any drug or alcohol paraphernalia with you such as bongs, crack pipes or needles (unless you’re diabetic and on insulin). If it isn’t there, you can’t be tempted to use it.
Listen to your body. Your mind is great at getting what it wants via coercion, suggestion, anxiety or cravings ect. if you tell yourself that no matter what, drugs and alcohol is out of the question, your body may kick and scream like a toddler does. This is normal and over time, your body won’t keep sending you these signals as it knows that it won’t get what it wants. After all, your body can’t argue or convince you when you say “I’m having nothing, zero, ever again, no matter what, end of, case closed!”
Consider including candles, aromatherapy or incense sticks in your meditation/mindfulness sessions (where safe and permitted to do so obviously) these provide an extra sensory bonus which can be calming, especially if you used them at home and they remind you of home if you are homesick.
Try using various addiction and recovery apps, podcasts, blogs and articles, these are easy to use and can be helpful, especially in these technological times.
For Recovering Addicts Continuing With Your Recovery Whilst Studying
If you are already in recovery by the time you start university, it’s important that you carry on doing the same recovery activities that you were doing before. Just because you’re moving to a new university or away from home doesn’t mean that you should suddenly stop doing the things that you were doing so successfully before.
If you were attending fellowship meetings such as AA, NA, CA ect and have a home group, it is highly advisable that you carry on doing so at a meeting nearby your new home or university if it’s a long way from home for you to commute to each time a meeting is taking place.
If you have a sponsor, make sure that you keep in regular contact with them. If most of your meetings were face to face, you may want to consider moving to online meetings using apps such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. If this won’t work for you, you may wish to consider getting a new sponsor at your new home meeting group.
Make sure that the new friends you make at university won’t pull you back down again and risk a relapse. If you do end up relapsing at university, try to see them as learning experiences. If you’re struggling with making new friends and feel lonely, remember that there are 24/7 online fellowship meetings that you can join at any time of the day or night if you feel that you’re struggling at times. It’s better to get things off your chest than allow them to fester and cause emotional/psychological harm in your recovery efforts.
If you have/carry a naloxone kit with you, make sure that you get a newer one before you move. That way you know that the new naloxone kit will be in date when you arrive at university should you need to use it.
Other people at university may want to use drugs or drink to excess, but that doesn’t mean that you have to, especially if you have a history of substance use. Learning to say no in polite ways can really help. In a previous article that we wrote, we looked at 60 different ways that you can say no without leaving you feeling guilty, embarrassed or upset, or causing offence to others in your group. You can check that out here!
TIP: Remember, ultimately you are solely responsible for the things that you put into your own body, and you ALWAYS have the right to say no thank you!
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Remember, ultimately you are solely responsible for the things that you put into your own body, and you ALWAYS have the right to say no thank you!
The Effects That Addiction Can Cause
Developing an addiction doesn’t just suddenly make you aware that you’re an addict. It tends to creep up on you over time as you need more and more of the same substance to feel the way you did when you first took it, this is known as developing a tolerance. However with certain substances, individuals have been known to become addicted to the substance in as little at 2-3 uses, sometimes even after just 1 use in certain cases!
You can find out more about addiction, and whether you may be prone to developing an addiction, or whether you are already addicted without even knowing it. By reading our article and taking the addiction test here.
Overdoses, Naloxone & What You Should Do In An Emergency
Drug use always carries the risk of serious side effects, including overdose and death.
Whether you use alcohol, an illegal drug such as cocaine, heroin or medications prescribed by a doctor—such as opioid painkillers, anti-psychotics, neuropathic painkillers, benzodiazepines or any other type of medication, developing an addiction will always be a real concern and possibility each and every time you choose to use drugs or drink alcohol.
In many cases, if substance use behaviours persist, there remains a real possibility of a drug and/or alcohol overdose, death from combining multiple substances and ultimately, death from an overdose or from the physical & mental damage you do to yourself when you use or drink!
Naloxone is an emergency medicine that some addicts carry just in case they overdose on an opioid based drug (illicit or prescribed). It works by blocking certain receptors in the brain to stop anymore of the substance entering the body, whilst also reversing the immediate dose of drugs that were taken immediately before. ewufh
Have you considered who you would want to be your next of kin should you become unresponsive and unable to give emergency services workers or hospital staff information? This is something to think about, especially if you’re moving far away from your family and friends for the first time. You can learn more about that here.
Coping With The Withdrawal Symptoms When You Decide To Stop Using Or Drinking
All addicts who become physically or psychologically dependant upon drugs and/or alcohol will have to go through some form of withdrawal process. This could be more minor if you’re only psychologically addicted to a substance in order to help with specific things like creativity. In this case, replacing substance use with other practical coping strategies may be enough to break the habit.
However on the other hand, you may find that you’re both physically and psychologically dependant to a particular substance or substances. When you try to stop using or drinking, you find that you experience certain withdrawal symptoms. These can range from minor or annoying to life threatening depending upon which substance you’ve become addicted to. We would highly recommend that you never go through a home detox or go cold turkey. Depending on whether you have any pre-existing medical conditions, the medications you take, along with other contributing factors can quickly turn a “simple” detox into an emergency situation should something adverse happen.
If you’re addicted to alcohol or benzodiazepines, never go through a home detox or go “cold turkey”. Alcohol or benzo withdrawal can cause life threatening symptoms that must be properly managed and supervised by trained and experienced professionals to ensure that the risks are minimised, that you have the relevant psychological and medical support and equipment in place should something happen.
Reducing The Harm You Could Cause To Yourself Or Others
The longer you use or drink, the greater your chances are of developing a tolerance to the substance in question. For example, if you take 2 co-codamol tablets twice a day, 6 months later you find that the only way you can manage your pain is to now take 4 tablets 4 times a day, this is known as a tolerance. You can learn more about tolerances here.
If you do decide to either experiment with drugs or alcohol for the first time, or are carrying on your habit whilst you’re at university, it’s important that you try to minimise any of the risks or harms as best you can. This is known as harm reduction. You can learn more about harm reduction in our article on the subject here. There are many ways that this can be done to avoid some of the most harmful issues that addicts or substance users face during their time using or drinking substances.
How Do I Know If I Have A Problem With Drugs & Alcohol?
If you feel that you may have an issue with drug and/or alcohol use, you can use this very short, quick addiction quiz to see where you rank based over the last 12 months looking at 11 different criteria.
If you’ve come to the realisation that you have an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, you’ve crossed the first hurdle and that is admitting that you actually do have a problem with substances.
We’d generally recommend that you initially follow our rules:
Prescribed Medications That Are For you – If you have an issue with prescribed medications that are prescribed to you, begin by talking to your GP or prescriber and explain that you have an addiction issue with the medicine that they’ve prescribed for you. They are there to help you and they’ll do their best to help you! It may be that they’ll slowly taper your dose back down to a meanable dose at which point they swap to a different medication that have less addictive properties.
Prescribed Medications That Are Prescribed For Someone Else – Let you GP or Doctor know that you’ve been taking a particular medication that you’ve now become dependant upon. They will work with you to get you off of them at a quick, yet comfortable reduction rate.
Illicit Drugs – If your symptoms are minor, first contact your GP and let them know. They my be able to prescribe you some form of MAT (medication Assisted Treatment) medication to help manage the withdrawal symptoms that you experience. This also allows you to swap to a substance that is clean, you know what it contains, how strong it is and where it comes from. You can’t guarantee any of this with street bought, illicit substances! Secondly, if your withdrawal symptoms or addiction is more severe, we’d recommend that you just go straight to your local community drug and alcohol service. They can provide you with a range of therapies, MAT programs and other helpful programs to get you off drugs and into recovery. You can find your nearest on our help and support page here.
Alcohol/Benzodiazepine Addiction – We would highly recommend that you follow the steps in number 3. However when it comes to going through a detox, make sure that it is a specially designed detox program for alcohol or benzos. In a ideal world, your detox would be a residential detox program in a specific detox facility. Your local drug and alcohol service can help you with this.
The first big hurdle, admitting that you have a problem. After all, you can’t change something if you don’t think that you have a problem with it!
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Some Useful Coping Strategies To Get You Started
Below are some of the time tested coping and recovery techniques that many addicts use to cope with the daily stresses and strains of life:
Try Journaling – If you’ve never tried to put your thoughts or ideas down on paper, it’s a great way to release pent up tension and stress. If you’ve never journaled before or want to improve your journaling, check out our article about journaling here.
Meditation & Mindfulness – We’re not asking you to stand on one leg, repeating the words “ummmmm”. There are a wide variety of techniques you can use when you’re alone, when you’re around other people and need a few seconds to yourself to refocus or to manage cravings or temptations when they arrive. Find out more here.
Changing Your Environment – Changing your bedroom, flat, house or garden can give you an opportunity to start afresh and get rid of bad memories and feelings when you look around and become reminded of prior negative events. This doesn’t have to be expense or time consuming. Discover how here with our top 10 tips.
Exercise – Exercising is an important aspect to everyone’s life, whether they have an addiction or not. However for addicts, exercise can allow your body to get used to creating it’s own natural feel good and other healthy chemicals that have been long supressed via substance use as these provide artificial chemicals, so this means that your body stops producing it’s own if it knows that it will get them artificially.
Being Grateful – Being grateful helps your mind switch from thinking negatively to positively. This is a great step that many addicts struggle with when they want to get clean and sober. Most addicts have an inner voice that says things like “you’re not worth it, you won’t be able to maintain it, you’re worthless, you only deserve this life and not a clean or sober one” ect. However being grateful helps to combat this thinking pattern. Find out how to incorporate gratitude in your daily routine here.
Sharing Your Halls Or House With A Recovering Addict?
Are you sharing your halls of residence or student house with a recovering addict? You may be without even being aware of it, and it is something that you should keep in mind. Knowing how to support a friend or loved one with their addiction is beneficial for them and you. Find out how to support an addict by clicking here.
I Want To Know More
You can find a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you on our help and support page here. You can also learn more about addiction, substance use, coping strategies and recovery techniques and treatments on our blog here.
To keep upto date with the latest news, techniques and treatments, make sure you follow us on social media. Our links are below.
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Prof Heilig said: “I had not expected such a small group of nerve cells would be so decisive for this complex behaviour. And I could not have imagined it would be possible to demonstrate so clearly – by manipulating these cells from outside – they cause it.”
The Swedish team pinpointed a mechanism in the middle of the amygdala – an area of grey matter linked to reward – known as PKC. The enzyme PKC played the key role – offering hope of developing medications that target it.
The protein fuelled alcohol consumption in susceptible rodents despite negative consequences, a phenomenon called ‘compulsive use’. Making decisions, such as whether to take another drink, is complex.
The brain has a system that values pleasures such as tasty food, sex and drugs – and drives us to seek more. It also contains a ‘brake’ to balance the pros and cons – that fails in heavy drinkers. When the neurons were turned off using state-of-the-art molecular methods, the animals’ ability to refrain was restored.
How The Study Worked
In the study, published in Science Advances, rats learned they could press a lever to obtain a small amount of alcohol. After a period, the conditions changed, such that they received an electric shock together with the alcohol.
In this case, most rats stopped. But the brake failed to function in around 1-in-3 rats, and they continued to self-administer the drink. This was despite it now being associated with discomfort. A marker that forms in triggered nerves lit up cells across the brain.
Rats have been used in scientific research for decades now. Find out what science has learnt about drugs from research involving rats in the video below.
The hub was tracked to the central amygdala which is involved in learning mechanisms coupled with fear.
Three years ago the researchers showed choosing alcohol in preference to another reward is also controlled by it. The scientists could switch the behaviour on and off by manipulating molecular mechanisms in this part of the brain.
What Does This Mean For Their Human Counterparts?
Recent research by other scientists suggests that humans and animals be split into two groups regarding reward-seeking behaviour. They can either put the brake on it when it may have negative consequences – or not.
Prof Heilig called for further investigations into clinical markers that can reveal whether a person has an individual vulnerability to addiction. Like all other treatments and therapies that are employed in addiction recovery, early discovery may make it possible to use preventive measures and early access to treatment improves overall success rates.
We must understand the inability to break behaviour that is becoming detrimental is an important risk factor and also maintains addiction once it has developed and taken hold.
She goes on to say, “We must reinforce the ability to brake alcohol-seeking activity in people who run an increased risk of developing addiction, not only by working with their behaviour, but also by developing new medications and medication assisted treatments (MAT) that target the molecular mechanisms behind the behaviour.”
There were 7,423 deaths from alcohol misuse in England and Wales last year – a rise of 20% from 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found.
Deaths increased from March 2020 onwards when the UK’s coronavirus epidemic forced the first national lockdown. Most deaths were related to long-term drinking problems and dependency. The ONS defines alcohol deaths as those directly caused by misuse of alcohol.
Around 80% were from alcoholic liver disease, 10% from mental and behavioural disorders, and 6% from accidental poisoning. The were also a rise in poly-pharmacy overdoses and deaths in 2021 (when more than one substance is taken at the same time).
UK guidelines advise people to drink a maximum of 14 units of alcohol – equivalent to six large glasses of wine, or six pints of beer a week, and to spread any drinking over a three day period or more if possible.
Drinking too much alcohol can damage the liver, an increased risk of developing a number of other chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, the development of mental health issues as well as increasing your risk of having a stroke.
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If you’re struggling with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, we can help! You can find out all about our great addiction and recovery therapies, by trained, experienced therapists and healthcare professionals by clicking here.
You can also add a fantastically powerful tool to your recovery arsenal by using our Recovery Oil products. They benefit addicts and it also helps the homeless and rough sleeping communities by doing nothing else than simply looking after yourself. You can learn all about Recovery Oil and our Healing With The Homeless Project by clicking here.
How you look at your situation, circumstances and life generally will determine how you overcome obstacles and whether changes you make will stick for the long haul.
Thinking positively will breed positivity, even when things may not work out just the way you hoped it would. Negative thinking only breeds more shame, guilt, anger and depression. Certainly not traits that you’d want to take across into recovery with you!
Want To Learn 2 Recovery Techniques?
1 – Positive Self-Talk
If you want more help to improve your positivity and ways to help banish the negative aspects in your life, start by checking out our article which looks at the use of positive self talk and the benefit of using daily affirmations in your recovery, or on your journey to leave active drug and alcohol addiction behind by clicking here.
2 – Being Grateful
Likewise, being grateful for the things you now have or the things that you left behind will also benefit your daily life when you’re trying to get free from the shackles of addiction, or finding your recovery efforts becoming more of a chore, rather than a beneficial and productive skill that will compliment your other daily activities? Try looking at our article on gratitude and how it can give you a serious boost in the proverbials! You can check our the article by clicking here.
Although we need the help of other addicts, healthcare professionals and therapists to show us that there is an enjoyable life to be lived in recovery, and to realise that healing from active addiction is possible, only we can change what happens to us today, tomorrow, next year or over the next decade.
If you don’t like your current situation, only you, and you alone have the power and creativity to shape it into whatever or whoever we want to be, what we want to do or how we go about getting there…