Category Archives: Get Help Now

Alcohol-Related Emergency Department Visits on the Rise in California

Alcohol Related Emergency Department Visits On the Rise

Across the country, emergency departments (EDs) have experienced greater influxes of alcohol-related incidents, including incidents that result in patients being admitted to the hospital for further treatment. 

Each year EDs find themselves dealing with critical and noncritical cases alike. One of the most common reasons to visit an ED, for example, is chest pain. Nevertheless, amidst the myriad of reasons people seek help from an ED, the rising numbers of cases for alcohol-related incidents cannot be ignored. According to a publication from NPR,  alcohol-related ED visits were up 61% in 2014 when compared to 2006.  

California is no stranger to this phenomenon with its rates of alcohol use disorder on the rise amidst a variety of other misused substances. A report published by the California Health Care Foundation titled “Substance Use in California: A Look at Addiction and Treatment” finds that “alcohol use disorder was more prevalent than other types of substance use disorders.”

Alcohol related emergency department visits up 64%

So, the question remains: Why have ED visits seen such a large jump in the past decade or so? And why is alcohol an increasingly prevalent misused substance?  

Rates of Alcohol Use Disorder and ED-Related Incidents 

The California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) published a release that assessed the rates of any alcohol-related ED visits between 2008 and 2017. One existing study, published in 2018, examined the rates of alcohol-related incidents across the country between the years of 2006 and 2014. That national study found a 50% increase in such visits, prompting the OSHPD to pursue a more localized study.

Not only are people visiting the ER more frequently, but are also staying longer.

As it turns out, this national trend was also apparent in California. In about 10 years, from 2008 to 2017, California witnessed a whopping “66.7% increase in alcohol-related ED visits.” Not to be outdone by national trends, there was also a “36.9% increase in alcohol-related admissions.” Although many people might come to an ED for assistance, not every patient is admitted to the hospital for further treatment or observation. However, the worrisome data indicates that not only are more patients coming into emergency departments, they’re staying longer to be treated.

54% of adults 18-25 reported alcohol use in 2015

It’s true that not every person who visits an ED for an alcohol-related issue has an alcohol addiction. However, it is undeniable that from 2015 to 2016 in California, 54.1% of individuals aged 18-25 reported alcohol use. Alcohol use in this case refers to “— multiple drinks on a single occasion — in the past month.” Of that same age group, 36% reported binge alcohol use. Meanwhile, 53.9% of individuals age 26 and older reported alcohol use with 24.2% of individuals reporting binge alcohol use.

36 % reported binge drinking

The California Health Care Foundation’s publication noted that “Alcohol accounted for more nonfatal emergency department visits than all other drug diagnoses combined.” Between 2012 and 2014, the comparison between ED visits for alcohol compared to other drugs is extraordinarily apparent, especially when viewed in a bar graph.

Fatal ER visits statistics

 In addition, that same report explains that out of the population of individuals age 12 and older who have an alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence, 93% did not receive any treatment. Sadly, the report also notes that the “state’s rate of treatment for alcohol use disorder is similar to the national average.” It is clear that while many people of diverse backgrounds and ages are struggling with alcohol use, not enough are receiving proper treatment.

Why Are the Alcohol-Related Incidents Increasing?

Naturally, the burning question behind all this is: why? Citizens, government officials, and scientists and researchers alike are all curious to know the answer. With a comprehensive answer, steps can be taken to try and head off these increasing ED visit rates and support an overall healthier population.

Why are ER visits increasing

Unfortunately, finding a clear answer as to why these kinds of alcohol-related hospital admissions or ED visits are rising is difficult with so many factors to consider. As a result, any answers about why women, especially, are catching up to men’s rates of ED visits remains largely shrouded in uncertainty.

Without any definitive evidence, concrete statements are difficult to make. Nevertheless, there are some factors that are put forth as possible explanations.

As it turns out, women catching up to men in terms of alcohol consumption seems to be a worldwide phenomenon, although it is certainly more evident in some countries than others. The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Australia (NDARC) suggests that “in many countries around the world we have seen substantial developments in broader social, cultural, and economic factors for women and increasingly accepting societal norms around female drinking.”  

In combination with these evolving social norms and factors, you can take into account the ease of access that many people have to alcohol. Alcohol is an easily acquired substance in the United States and many other countries. Here, liquor is found not just in homes, but in drugstores, dedicated liquor stores, restaurants, and grocery stores.

As the culture becomes more accepting of cultural norms surrounding drinking, rates of alcohol consumption could be expected to rise. Additionally, the United States’ attitude towards drinking, especially in younger people, is often used as a contrasting example to Europe’s attitude toward alcohol. Oftentimes, the U.S. is viewed as having a “drink to get drunk” culture whereas many European countries view alcohol as a staple part of a meal.

Although there is no singular reason we can point to and definitively declare is the reason that alcohol-related incidents are rising, there seem to be numerous factors and variables that mix together and create these phenomena that we then identify through statistics.

What Can Be Done To Help?

Two main ideas emerge as useful tools in combating the rising alcohol-use incident rates: identifying the proper groups that need treatment and providing resources to better connect people with professional treatment facilities.

What can be done to help?

Who Needs Help?

When healthcare providers, rehab facilities, and even state and local governments are identifying where to best allocate their resources, focusing in on very narrow, specific demographics can help those who need help the most. Nationally, alcohol-related ED visit numbers rose especially high among women.

While men ultimately rack up higher national numbers, women are quickly catching up. A research study published in “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research” made note of the exorbitant rates of alcohol-related ED visits and the seemingly unanswerable question concerning higher rates of these incidents in women. One of the authors of the paper, Aaron White, a neuroscientist and Senior Scientific Advisor with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), discussed the findings in an NPR article.

Arron White PHD Quote

White is described as being “puzzled by a higher rate of increase in alcohol-related ER visits year to year among women, who are catching up with men nationally in overall drinking as well as in binge-drinking, drunk driving, and deaths from cirrhosis of the liver.”

He further elaborates in a blog published by the NIAAA that “The larger increase in the rate of ED visits among females compared to males provides further evidence of narrowing gender gaps in alcohol use and related harms.”

Nevertheless, although we may not be able to identify exactly why women are heavily contributing to the rise of ED visits, knowing that women’s rates have gone up is already valuable information that can help guide appropriate steps forward. And, of course, there are many social and cultural factors to consider when it concerns women and alcohol-related incidents, as previously mentioned.

Although the scientific community would surely prefer to have solid answers about the “why” of the situation, the ability to identify which demographics are trending upward in ED visits remains helpful.

Even without a clear explanation for rising statistics, it is clear that women in our state and across the country could benefit from some professional support and treatment. Identifying women as a group that requires more assistance and resources for alcohol treatment helps our state move forward to assist women who need help.

Connecting People To Resources

In addition to women, the NIAAA seems to be interested in tackling alcohol use from a young age. This approach has the potential to head off more serious health complications down the road and assist more young people in leading a healthy life. Although youth in California use alcohol at a lower rate than those 18 and older, there is still a significant portion that reports alcohol use. The California Health Care Foundation’s report states that 9.1% of youth age 12 to 17 use alcohol. Within that same group, 5.1% binge-drink.

1 in 3 children start drinking by 8

In an attempt to address the concerns of youth alcohol use across the nation, physicians and other medical staff are needed to identify alcohol use earlier in a patient. The NIAAA published “Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth: A Practitioner’s Guide” as a resource to better screen children for alcohol use. The publication opens with a sobering remark that “1 in 3 children starts drinking by the end of 8th grade.”

Making it easier to get treatment

Access to quality treatment is the last piece of the puzzle. By making it easier for people who need addiction treatment to connect with information and evidence-based treatment programs, more people can get the help they need. In order to address this need, the NIAAA launched an online treatment navigator called the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator. The Navigator is intended to help adults find professional alcohol addiction treatment for themselves or loved ones.

Making Progress Through Connections

There are many questions that remain concerning California’s large spike in alcohol-related ED incidents. At the same time, there are many theories and great suggestions put forth from researchers and government health agencies about this growing nationwide trend.

We may not be able to identify exactly why this is happening, but we do know that it is happening. Now, all we can do is properly react to the situation at hand. We know that people in our state need help. By looking at the data and paying attention to which groups of people are being affected by these incidents, both addiction treatment centers and government agencies can respond with proper resource allocation.

Together, we can support one another in seeking help and gaining the opportunity to make a difference in lives.

Pathways Alcohol ER visits cta

Get Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder at Pathways Recovery

At Pathways Recovery, we care deeply about each client who comes into our program and treat them as the unique individual that they are. We know that in our state, there are clearly many people struggling with alcohol addiction and dependency, and we’re here to support our local community every step of the way.

Our facility is created to be as home-like as possible to ensure the comfort of every client and welcome every person as if it were your own home. In addition, our holistic approach to treatment takes into account the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of our clients. Our well-rounded approach to treatment is not rigid, but flexible and invites our clients to actively participate and engage.

If you have any questions or are ready to take the next steps towards getting alcohol addiction treatment, give us a call at (916) 735-8377.

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Alcohol-related ED Visits Infographic

A Simple Guide To Meth Mouth and Treatment

A Simple Guide to Meth Mouth and Treatment

When you go to the post office you try to avoid smiling at the clerk as you purchase some stamps. When you go for a walk around your neighborhood you worry neighbors might think you’re rude since you never smile at them. Maybe you feel very relieved that current events let you hide your smile behind a mask.

Meth addiction has many consequences, and meth mouth is just one way your life can be affected by meth use.

If you find you are overly critical of yourself and feeling highly insecure about your smile and interactions with others, recovery is always possible. Meth mouth often receives lots of negative press and there is a lot of stigma around it. For example, you might recall being shown pictures of meth mouth in your middle school drug education class. These photos and curriculum tracks built up lots of fear around discussing these issues.

At Pathways Recovery, we approach addiction treatment in a holistic manner. We’re not concerned with labels or judgments about what your current dental health looks like. We know all our clients are unique, worthy individuals who deserve the opportunity to start living a healthier life and building a future they look forward to.

One of the best ways to tackle misinformation and snap judgments about this condition is to get a better understanding of what meth mouth is and how it happens.

So, What Exactly Is Meth Mouth?

Not all substance use incurs such obvious physical changes in an individual, but frequent methamphetamine use does. Frequent meth use can cause one’s face to age, becoming more sunken and wrinkled than other people of the same age, and also create meth sores that are picked at and infected.

Continued use also causes rotting of teeth and gums, sometimes eating away at teeth until they become small black nubs or fall out completely. As you might imagine, rotting gums and teeth open up an individual to a higher chance of contracting a gum disease. This wasting away of gums and teeth is what is referred to as meth mouth.

Common signs and symptoms of meth mouth include

  • Dry mouth (xerostomia)
  • Cracked teeth, missing teeth, teeth that fall out
  • Gum disease
  • Lockjaw
  • Teeth grinding or clenching the teeth
  • Cavities, including micro-cavities
  • Black, rotting teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen gums

A publication from the Journal of the American Dental Association, which studied a group of 571 meth users, reported that

  • 6% of older meth users had fewer than 10 teeth
  • 23% still had all of their natural teeth
  • 31% were missing six or more teeth
  • 40% admitted that they were embarrassed about their dental appearance
  • 96% had tooth decay

From these reports, it is evident that a significant portion of individuals who use meth will likely experience some degree of tooth decay and put themselves at risk for more serious decay. The seriousness of this condition explains why proper medical attention and treatment is necessary to help a person improve both their dental and overall health.

When dealing with primary physicians and dentists, you should strive to be as open as possible about meth use. This way, your medical team can better understand your situation and react appropriately with treatment.

Now, let’s examine why meth mouth exists at all. What exactly is it about meth use that causes this dental decay?

Why Meth Addiction Leads to Meth Mouth

There are a variety of reported reasons that explain why this condition can occur in an individual who uses meth. One proposed reason acknowledges that many of the common chemicals in meth are toxic and damaging to the teeth.

Meth is made from a variety of ingredients, including some ordinary household items. However, these items can also be toxic and are not items you would want to ingest. For example, meth ingredients can include chemicals extracted from matchboxes, fertilizers, or battery acid. These toxic substances can destroy the surface of your teeth.

Dry mouth is another common side effect of meth use. When someone uses meth and experiences dry mouth, that means their saliva production has been compromised. Saliva is important because it can neutralize your mouth’s natural acids. Without as much saliva available, your body’s natural acids and bacteria begin to eat away at your teeth and gradually wear them down. Dry saliva glands can also encourage increased bacterial production, thereby making the situation worse.

Because meth can inhibit your body’s ability to heal itself, the damage can quickly add up. Tooth decay leaves your teeth more vulnerable to cavities. Many people dismiss cavities as not being that big of a deal. However, meth can also create a desire to eat sugary foods, grind teeth, and neglect proper dental hygiene practices. When a poor diet, cavities, and bad hygiene are put together, these problems only speed up and support more extreme tooth and gum decay.

Additionally, meth causes your blood vessels to shrink, making it more difficult for blood to properly flow to damaged areas of the body. For example, getting a small cut might hurt and bleed for a little bit, but a healthy individual’s body will eventually create blood clots at the injury site. This is why your small cuts don’t just keep bleeding. The body reacts to stop more blood loss and begin healing itself. You may notice that some movies or TV shows make use of characters who get worried when they get a small cut because their body can’t properly clot blood. This condition is known as hemophilia.

In a frequent meth user, shrinking blood vessels means less access to heal areas like the gums and other oral tissue. Gradually, these begin to deteriorate from a combination of bacteria, acid, and lack of blood flow to the area.

Are The Effects of Meth Mouth Reversible?

The next question many people ask at this point is, is it possible to reverse the consequences of meth mouth?

Although we wish it were very easy to treat or even reverse the effects of meth mouth, the reality is that it is a bit more complicated. However, you ought to approach this situation with a cautious optimism. A complete reversal and restoration of teeth and gums may not be possible, or achievable in a short period of time, but there are treatment options that can help. You won’t have to walk around the rest of your life feeling self-conscious about your smile or worrying about continued decay.

Now, the steps toward treating meth mouth depend on each individual case. Those who are already experiencing tooth and gum decay are unlikely to be able to reverse these effects. The damage is usually done in this case.

Unfortunately, adults only have one set of teeth, so losing teeth will require artificial replacement. But this also means that you won’t have to go around with gaps in your teeth. A dental professional can advise you on the best route of action.

If your teeth and gums are just beginning to exhibit symptoms of decay, you may be able to reverse the effects by practicing good dental hygiene and also quitting meth use.

It’s common for treatment to involve the removal of any teeth that are in a state of decay. Once the affected teeth are removed, a person can focus on trying to return to normal saliva production and ensuring future dental health through proper care.

It is always recommended to seek dental assistance as soon as possible. Addressing tooth and gum decay early on is always easier than addressing it later, especially given that the effects of meth mouth are notoriously hard to reverse once they have developed.

Seeking assistance before teeth begin to fall out will maximize your chances of heading off the really foul effects of meth mouth. By getting care earlier, you’re helping your health and taking charge of your recovery experience.

So to sum up: no, meth mouth cannot always be reversed. It is a possibility if the decay is only just beginning, though. Keep in mind going forward, quitting meth use will also be a big help to saving your smile.

As you continue moving forward and seeking to make positive and healthy changes in your life, know that taking charge of your health and recovery journey is the best thing you can do for yourself. Whether you are seeking assistance for meth addiction for yourself or a loved one, options are available to you, and we’re here to help!

At Pathways Recovery, we know that the physical side effects of an addiction to meth can also cause emotional harm. If you are experiencing tooth or gum decay because of a meth addiction, you may feel embarrassed and find yourself pushing others away. We’re here to welcome you into our holistic treatment program that is all about helping you regain control over your life. You have the power to turn your life around. Make the call today to help yourself move towards a healthier future. Call (916) 735-8377 to speak with one of our qualified counselors.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get meth mouth?

The ADA reports that it is possible for a user of meth to go from normal, healthy teeth to decaying teeth (“meth mouth”) within a year.

How to get rid of meth mouth?

If the decay has not progressed very far, it may be possible to reverse the effects of meth mouth by stopping meth use and focusing on practicing very good dental hygiene. If the decay is more severe, treatment usually consists of removing rotting teeth and installing artificial teeth in their place.

What does meth mouth look like?

Depending on the stage of decay, meth mouth can make teeth appear stained, blackened, or rotten. As the teeth become more damaged, they can be worn down into nubs as they are eaten away by bacteria and acid.

Benefits To Quitting Drinking

What Are the Benefits To Quitting Drinking

The Benefits of Quitting Drinking: Living Out a Healthier Life

It starts out with just one drink at night to wind down from a stressful day at work. Then over time, a stash of alcohol is always available in the house. During busy days, drinking helps to get through the day and make everything more tolerable. During slow days, drinking is just a tool to pass the time. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “In 2019, 25.8 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge-drinking in the past month.” At the same time, the report concludes that “6.3 percent reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month.”

The NIAAA estimated in 2019 that approximately 14.1 million adults, meaning individuals 18 and older, had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the United States. These large numbers are an indication of a widespread problem and struggle for many people across the country. 

An alcohol use disorder can have grave consequences. From financial troubles to maintaining healthy relationships, alcohol can negatively impact diverse areas in a person’s life. 

However, alcohol use disorder does not have to be a death sentence. In fact, each year plenty of people are taking the necessary steps to get the help and support they need to stop letting alcohol control their life. 

The benefits are numerous, and though it may sound stereotypical, turning away from alcohol as a crutch or solution has given many individuals a new chance and an opportunity to actively set fresh goals and build a healthier life.

What Does an Alcohol Use Disorder Look Like?

Before even considering cutting back on alcohol consumption or quitting it entirely, one might consider reflecting on how much alcohol they typically consume and how dependent they are on alcohol. 

There are many reasons for wanting to quit drinking alcohol that range from wanting better skin to lowering the risk of some cancers. For some people, especially those struggling with an alcohol use disorder, quitting drinking is something that marks the beginning of a new chance at life. 

So, what exactly does it look like for someone to experience an alcohol use disorder?

Firstly, it can be helpful to know that alcohol use disorder can have different levels of severity ranging from mild to moderate to severe, depending on the individual. Factors that determine the severity of an alcohol use disorder include the level of dependency on the substance and the number of symptoms experienced by a person. The greater the dependency and the more numerous the symptoms, the greater the severity.

Some common symptoms of an alcohol use disorder can include

  • Inability to cut back on amount of alcohol consumed despite wanting to
  • Difficulty limiting the amount of alcohol 
  • Strong urge to drink
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol
  • Spending lots of time drinking
  • Using alcohol in dangerous situations

Meanwhile, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy drinking as having five or more drinks in one session or 14 a week for men and four or more drinks in one session or seven a week for women. 

One drink is defined as

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor
  • 5 ounces of unfortified wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor

Understanding the Health Risks of Heavy Alcohol Consumption

Over time, heavy drinking can really begin to take a serious toll on a person’s physical and mental health. Excessive drinking can reduce an individual’s ability to make proper judgments and can lead to risky or even dangerous behavior that can put an individual and surrounding people in harm’s way. Examples include drunk driving and an increased risk of attempting suicide.

Many physical problems can also be related to an individual’s heavy drinking. These issues include

  • Increased cancer risk
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Liver disease
  • Heart troubles
  • Congenital disabilities
  • Miscarriage

As we will explore below, these, among many others, are some of the physical risks that one can avoid or reverse by quitting drinking. 

Making a Change: Deciding To Quit Drinking

So, you’ve decided to quit drinking.

Deciding to quit anything that has been carried on as a habit for a long time is an important decision and is often admirable. However, the catch is that no matter how admirable or beneficial this decision may be, it does not mean that quitting drinking will suddenly be accomplished overnight. 

In fact, for someone who has been drinking heavily for a long period of time, it will likely be very challenging to quit, but it will not be impossible. Although millions of people struggle with their drinking habits, few of them ever seek professional treatment and support. A proper substance use treatment program can make a world of a difference for those serious about quitting and desiring long-term sobriety.

At Pathways Recovery, we offer a range of services that include alcohol detox, residential treatment, and an outpatient program. Our approach to treatment includes embracing the healing of mind, body, and spirit in all of our clients as they learn about tools and strategies to utilize in living out a long-term recovery.

Quitting drinking, or any substance, is often best accomplished through professional treatment programs. Learning more about addiction, relapse prevention techniques, and other lessons such as healthy stress management, all work to provide a structured system of support. These additional tools, alongside medical supervision, often yield better long-term results than going it alone.

Nevertheless, professional alcohol misuse treatment is no guarantee that recovery will be a walk in the park. In fact, part of the reason that quitting alcohol is so difficult is due to changes and interactions that occur in the brain when it interacts with alcohol.

First, alcohol can encourage the stimulation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate pleasure. When this chemical is released, the brain’s reward system is affected. When drinking, this can encourage people to keep drinking or feel like drinking is a rewarding experience. Consequently, some people come to associate these positive feelings they have with drinking.

However, as a person continues to drink, encouraged by these rewarding feelings, the brain becomes more accustomed to these higher levels of dopamine. As the brain becomes more tolerant, the feeling of pleasure is harder to experience. In order to combat this, people will begin to drink more frequently, and in increasing amounts, to experience the same amount of pleasure.

Lastly, the more a person drinks, the more the brain needs to balance the effects of the alcohol as a depressant. As a depressant, alcohol slows the body’s systems. In order to counteract this, the brain will increase levels of glutamate activity. Glutamate is an excitatory chemical. The result of this interaction is that the brain becomes excited in the presence of alcohol and can remain in this excited state, even if the individual isn’t drinking in that moment.

Although there are many challenges to quitting drinking, for many people, the health benefits and feeling as though they’ve gotten a second chance at life is worth it. 

Learn About the Benefits of Quitting Alcohol

Quitting alcohol can result in numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Read on to discover some of the most notable health benefits from quitting alcohol. 

Better-Looking Skin (Look Younger!)

Alcohol is well-known for causing dehydration. But dehydration isn’t just something that affects your unseen bodily systems and functions. Dehydration can result in apparent outward side effects through things like dry skin. Without proper hydration, skin loses some of its elasticity. Once someone stops drinking, skin can bounce back to some degree, especially the younger a person is. 

Alcohol can also cause some body tissue inflammation. Inflamed skin gives off a red flush, a condition that usually indicates someone has been drinking. Generally, flushed skin vanishes after alcohol leaves the body, but over time, this inflammation can damage skin.

Consistent, heavy drinking can also cause skin to sag and become loose. This is due to alcohol’s ability to lower a person’s collagen levels. Collagen is a protein that is known for its ability to strengthen tissue and connect skin cells. It’s also the most abundant protein in the body.

Individuals who have rosacea may also find their rosacea becomes very irritated and flares when consuming alcohol. In less common cases, alcohol may intensify the effects of rhinophyma, a condition colloquially known as “alcoholic nose” and an effect of very severe rosacea. Individuals with rhinophyma experience a red, bulbous nose.

Get Better Quality Sleep

Since alcohol is a depressant, it can make people drowsy. This drowsiness along with a lowering of proper motor function and coordination is why activities such as driving while intoxicated are illegal. 

However, when consumed often and in excess, alcohol can also lower the quality of sleep a person gets and can induce insomnia. Excess alcohol consumption can lead to more interrupted sleep, potentially causing daytime drowsiness.

Individuals with an alcohol use disorder often experience some type of insomnia symptoms. As alcohol interrupts REM cycles and causes sleep disruptions, people accustomed to using alcohol at bedtime can find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle. First, alcohol is used to fall asleep, but due to the poor quality of sleep, daytime fatigue sets in. In attempts to combat this fatigue, stimulants like caffeine are used during the day to combat tiredness. At the end of the day, an individual once again turns to alcohol in an effort to combat the effects induced by stimulants. 

In addition, individuals with sleep apnea may also find that their condition is exacerbated by excessive alcohol use. 

Achieve a Healthier Weight

Did you know that alcohol is actually very high in terms of calorie content? The calories in alcohol are called “empty calories,” meaning they provide little to no nutritional value to the body. Empty calories besides alcoholic beverages include calories that primarily come from sugar or solid fats. For example, empty calorie foods include treats such as cookies, cakes, muffins, and donuts. 

Oftentimes, these empty calorie foods and drinks are items that seem appealing and are often classified as desserts or something “extra.” Nobody truly needs to consume these types of items for nutritional purposes, but their sugar and fat contents make them delicious to eat. 

The calories from alcohol that the body processes are stored as sugar before being converted to fat. Just as people trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight make an effort to limit the amount of sweets they consume, individuals who give up or limit their alcohol consumption may find themselves losing weight. 

Reap Mental Health Benefits

Generally speaking, there is a prominently recognized link between heavy drinking and the existence of another illness, including mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. In fact, some individuals may turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication for their mental illness struggles. 

Unfortunately, it’s known that alcohol can actually worsen symptoms of mental illness. This can also cause a vicious cycle to form where people will try to self-medicate their symptoms of mental illness with alcohol, only to then realize they are still feeling poorly. To remedy this, they turn back to alcohol use only to find the symptoms getting worse, thus continuing this self-destructive cycle. 

Heavy drinking also causes a particular effect in people called a “moral hangover.” This term refers to feelings of uneasiness, regret, and guilt that can occur after doing something a person wishes they hadn’t done. People who struggle with an alcohol use disorder are more prone to carrying out poorly informed actions due to a warped sense of judgment that comes from excessive drinking.

Save Money

This benefit might seem a bit out of place amidst a long list of physical and mental benefits, but this benefit is certainly true! When someone drinks a couple of beers or goes through a bottle of wine in a week, the cost doesn’t seem to be too much. 

But when someone is drinking heavily every single day, the cost of continuously replenishing an alcohol supply can add up quickly and begin to take a financial toll. The prices can quickly add up when a person often frequents bars. Ordering cocktails and other mixed drinks at a bar tend to be more expensive overall when compared to just buying a six-pack of beer at the local grocery store.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism created an alcohol spending calculator that lets users input information about their drinking habits and find out how much they spend on average per week on alcohol.

Improve Nutrition

People who are chronic heavy drinkers are more likely to be at least a little bit malnourished. As previously mentioned, alcohol is full of empty calories that don’t really offer any significant amount of nutrition to the body. Instead, those calories are processed as sugar and later turned into fat. 

Excessive drinking can cause a person’s body to become depleted of important nutrients. When someone is a heavy drinker, there is a tendency to not pay as much attention to eating healthy, balanced meals with any kind of regularity. Instead, drinking takes up a lot of the time spent eating and comes to serve as a substitution of sorts. However, alcohol is hardly enough to sustain a person. 

As a result, individuals who struggle with an alcohol use disorder don’t receive the amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and vitamins they need. Substituting alcohol for carbohydrates, for example, less energy is obtained from the calories, which can lead to weight loss and malnourishment.

Low blood sugar is just one condition that follows malnourishment. Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, can cause harm to a person if left untreated. The brain and various tissues require glucose to function properly, but individuals with hypoglycemia may experience injury in some form due to this lack of glucose.

Lower Risk of Some Cancer

Among populations of people who are heavy drinkers, certain types of cancers are more common. These include mouth and throat cancer, liver cancer, esophagus cancer, colon and rectum cancer, breast cancer, and larynx cancer. 

The National Toxicology Program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists alcohol as a known carcinogen, a substance that has the potential to cause cancer in tissue. It should also be noted that carcinogens such as alcohol do not necessarily mean that a person who drinks will automatically get cancer because of excessive alcohol consumption. 

There are a variety of factors that can increase a person’s risk for developing an alcohol-related cancer. These factors include things such as how much time a person spends drinking, how long a person has excessively consumed alcohol, and how much a person will drink at a time. 

Avoiding alcohol altogether is a good option that can eliminate the potential for any alcohol-caused cancers to develop in the future, sparing a person’s physical and mental health, time, and money. 

Save Your Liver

It’s common knowledge that heavy drinking is very bad for the liver’s health, so it comes as no surprise that quitting drinking can put a person on the path to good liver health. 

Alcohol is processed through the liver and is not exactly the easiest substance for the body to process. When a large amount of alcohol is consumed at once, the liver works extremely hard to try and process it all. When this excessive consumption is repeated, the liver will eventually get tired from having to work so hard all the time. The liver was not meant to handle frequent, heavy periods of drinking, so over time, individuals who are heavy drinkers can develop various liver problems.

These problems can include hepatitis, fatty liver syndrome, and cirrhosis. All these conditions can result in worse overall health to an individual. 

However, choosing to quit drinking can prove to be a great move to keep your liver healthy. The liver is regenerative, meaning it can repair itself if given enough time. The liver constantly generates new cells to keep itself healthy. Alcohol can interfere with this regenerative process and obstruct the liver’s ability to create new cells. 

When a person quits drinking alcohol, the liver can repair itself in a matter of weeks to months on average. In some extreme cases, it may take a year or several years for the liver to fully rid itself of any unwanted byproducts. In even rarer cases, some damage is just too much for the liver to bounce back from, although most people generally experience a reversal of the damage in a matter of months or weeks. 

Strengthen Memory and Thinking Capabilities

Heavy alcohol usage has been linked to memory loss and increasing difficulties in focusing and remembering even recent events. In some cases, a person could experience a kind of permanent memory loss. With heavy alcohol usage, both short-term and long-term memory loss is possible.

Because alcohol is a depressant, it slows down the body’s systems. This means it also slows down how nerves communicate with one another, including in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is responsible for helping create and store memories. When alcohol slows the process down, short-term memory loss can occur. 

Over a long period of alcohol consumption, the hippocampus can not only slow down, but it can suffer damage. Prolonged use of alcohol can destroy nerve cells, affecting both short-term and long-term memory. 

Some types of dementia, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome has been connected with long-term heavy alcohol use. However, generally a person must be consuming 21 or more drinks a week for four years or more to experience long-term memory loss. Memory loss is a condition that will progress the longer a person has used alcohol in excess.

Maintain More Stable and Positive Social Relationships

When someone is a heavy drinker and is struggling with an alcohol use disorder, drinking takes up a lot of that person’s time. Their thoughts might be consumed with thinking about when they’ll have their next drink, and they might spend lots of time indulging in those drinks. 

As people begin to realize that the amount of alcohol they are consuming seems excessive, they might become anxious and fearful of having an alcohol addiction. Although supportive relationships with family and friends are very helpful to those struggling with an addiction, many individuals feel ashamed and push away their close relations. 

Some individuals with an AUD may also begin drinking as an answer to a lack of meaningful connection in their lives. Drinking and the drunken stupor that comes with it can be used as a safe space for some people. Drunkenness can be a means of avoiding painful emotions and create a temporary connection to something, in this case alcohol. 

However, this connection to alcohol is never as fulfilling as healthy, personal relationships with others. By quitting alcohol, a person can move away from the unfulfilling and shallow connections with drinking and begin to create meaningful, lasting relationships with peers.

Explore Personal Interests and Find New Hobbies

Drinking takes up a lot of time. People who find themselves addicted to alcohol will often spend most of their time thinking about the next time they will be able to drink, stockpiling their alcohol supply, and drinking. Then there are the consequences of heavy drinking to deal with: hangovers, illness, and general moodiness. 

Personal and professional relationships can suffer as a result of alcohol overconsumption. Some people struggling with AUD might find they are closing themselves off from others and pushing other people away. Instead, comfort and safety is found in getting drunk and detaching themselves from conflicts. 

Venturing beyond one’s comfort zone can be intimidating and even embarrassing, especially for individuals who feel guilty or have a very negative view of themselves due to their struggle with alcohol use. 

However, upon quitting alcohol, a person suddenly has an entire world of possibilities open to them. Time that was once spent drinking and feeling sick can now be spent on interior reflections and really taking the time to discover interests in the world beyond alcohol. After someone quits drinking, they can try out new hobbies they’ve always wanted to do like knitting, playing chess, starting a vegetable garden, or finally dedicating 20 minutes a day to exercise.

In the midst of AUD, it might seem as though the whole world has become so narrow that alcohol is the only path, but the truth is, there is a whole world out there waiting to be discovered. Finding interesting and meaningful hobbies and interests can put you on the path to living a fulfilling life without needing alcohol as a crutch or time waster. 

At Pathways Recovery, we are dedicated to helping each of our clients live out a healthier, better future. As an alcohol and drug residential facility, we help clients start their journeys toward long-lasting sobriety. Quitting alcohol won’t be easy, but with our comprehensive care, clients will find themselves surrounded by encouragement every step of the way. We know that the journey to long-lasting sobriety doesn’t just include not drinking. We’re committed to treating each client like the unique individual they are. Our treatment consists of treating mind, body, and spirit. 

Are you ready to turn your life around and quit alcohol? Call 916-735-8377 to speak with one of our compassionate team members and get started on a treatment plan that works for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to my body when I stop drinking?

If you are a heavy drinker, when you suddenly stop drinking you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include cravings for alcohol, sweating, trembling, moodiness, insomnia, nausea, anxiety, and headaches. 

On the more positive side, your body will gradually become healthier when you stop drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption can take a toll on your liver, heart, skin, and memory, to name a few. Over time, your body can recover from some of the damage that occurred due to heavy drinking. 

How long after you stop drinking does your body heal?

The timeline for the healing process will depend on the part of the body in question and the individual’s history with alcohol consumption. Individuals who have consumed alcohol at greater quantities for longer periods of time will likely take longer to heal than others. 

The human body, meanwhile, is remarkably adaptive and is incredible at bouncing back from injury. Liver damage caused by heavy drinking, for example, can repair itself in a matter of weeks to months, depending on the person. 

Damage to neural networks in the brain can potentially heal, but the timeline is longer and ranges from five to seven years. Of course, this process can also be slower or faster depending on the individual case.

Does skin clear up after quitting drinking?

Better skin is a benefit of quitting drinking. Alcohol can dehydrate the skin, causing it to lose elasticity and sag. It can also inflame the skin, making it appear red. Over a period of time, and with prolonged exposure to excessive amounts of alcohol, this inflammation can cause damage to the skin. 

Quitting alcohol can allow skin to remain better hydrated, and some inflammation can also calm down, leading to overall improved skin.

Can your body heal if you stop drinking?

Yes, in many ways your body can recover if you stop drinking. It’s common for individuals who quit drinking to note that they have more energy, are better focused, and just feel better overall than when they drank heavily. 

The body is amazing at adapting to its situation and can reverse some of the physical damage caused by drinking. Liver damage, for example, is reversed by the liver’s natural production of fresh cells, helping eliminate any unwanted byproducts in a matter of weeks or months.

Drugs That Cause Dilated Pupils

drugs that dilate pupils

Drugs That Cause Dilated Pupils and Why It Happens

Most people are usually familiar with what dilated pupils are, and chances are you are as well! When you were younger you might have shone a flashlight into one of your eyes and watched your pupil shrink before moving the light away and watching it dilate again.

You might also recall your most recent visit to the eye doctor where your doctor put some special eye drops in your eyes to dilate your pupils. By opening up your pupils, eye doctors can take a better look at your eyes and examine them more closely for any abnormalities.

In regular lighting your eyes also adjust. When you walk into a dark room after being in a light-filled room, it can be difficult to see. However, when you give your eyes time to adjust, the pupils dilate (expand) to take in more light and you can see.

Similarly, when you walk out of a dark theater into a sunny parking lot, you might feel blinded by too much light. That’s because when you’re sitting in a dark theater, your pupils dilate, but the sudden move from a dark theater to a sunny area is faster than your eyes adjust. After a few moments in the parking lot, your eyes soon adjust and you don’t feel as blinded anymore.

These situations are ones that a lot of us are familiar with, but what about other instances that cause dilated pupils?

Did you know that certain drugs can cause dilated pupils? In today’s blog, we’ll explore why pupils dilate, what substances cause dilated pupils, potential risk factors of dilated pupils, and managing dilated pupils.

What Are Pupils and Why Do They Dilate?

Pupils are the black circle in the center of your eye. Pupils shrink (constrict) and grow (dilate) in response to varying light levels. Their function is to let light in and direct that light to your retina, which are the nerves at the back of your eye, allowing you to see.

Pupils constrict and dilate through muscles in your eye that are located in the iris. The iris is the colored ring of your eye. The iris is what people will look at to determine what color eyes you have. For example, people with a blue iris have blue eyes and people with a brown iris have brown eyes. Each iris contains the muscles necessary to manipulate the pupils.

Under normal conditions, pupils are usually the same size. According to healthline, a normal pupil measures approximately 4 to 8 millimeters when fully dilated and 2 to 4 millimeters when constricted.

A Variety of Reasons for Pupil Changes

There are a variety of reasons why pupils dilate or appear to be different sizes that go beyond changes in light levels. These range from everyday occurrences to mental conditions and even substance use.

  • Distance of objects you’re looking at
    • Pupils also naturally dilate or constrict based on distance in addition to light levels. Focusing your gaze on something closer to you will cause your pupils to constrict. Casting your gaze towards something farther away will cause your pupils to grow.
  • Concussions
    • You’ve probably heard of concussions before. Maybe you’ve even experienced one before. They’re especially discussed a lot in the realm of contact sports. A concussion is a brain injury that usually results when a hard impact or blow to the head causes the brain to smack into the skull. This can result in a person’s pupils becoming asymmetrical, with one pupil noticeably larger or smaller than the other.
  • Anisocoria
    • Anisocoria is the name used to describe the condition in which pupils happen to be different sizes that aren’t a result of injury to the head. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1 in 5 people naturally have anisocoria. Many of these people have absolutely no problems that stem from their pupils being two different sizes.
    • However, we should caution that sometimes, anisocoria can sometimes be a sign that there is a more serious eye problem. See an eye doctor if you are concerned about this condition. The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains that people with anisocoria could have
      • A nervous system problem
      • A history of eye damage
      • A risk of having a stroke
      • An infection
      • Adie’s tonic pupil (a condition in which one pupil doesn’t respond to light as well as the other)
  • Cluster headache
    • A cluster headache refers to a specific kind of very intense headache that affects one very focal point of the face. Typically, cluster headaches take place behind the eye and can be very painful. The name “cluster headache” refers to the multiple headaches that occur within an episode. Some people may experience up to eight headaches in one day. The pupil can shrink throughout the duration of these headaches.
  • Iritis
    • Iritis is a condition in which the iris, the colored ring of your eye, experiences some inflammation. Inflammation can occur for a variety of reasons including infection, trauma, and autoimmune diseases. Because the iris contains the muscles necessary to control the pupil, problems with the iris in cases like iritis can cause abnormally sized pupils.
  • Horner’s syndrome
    • Horner’s syndrome is a condition in which an individual has a disrupted nerve pathway or a nerve pathway that has been damaged. This nerve pathway runs from the brain to the face and eye. Injury to that nerve pathway can cause pupils to constrict.
  • Your emotions
    • It might sound a bit strange, but your emotions can affect how your pupils look! The International Journal of Human-Computer Studies published a 2003 study that found the dilation of pupils as a reaction to emotional stimuli such as laughter or a baby crying.
  • Illicit substance use
    • Illicit substance use is one of the prominent side effects from a variety of different drugs. Substance use can both constrict and dilate pupils depending on the substance. We’ll take a look at which drugs do what in our next section.
  • Prescription medication
    • Although illicit substances get most of the attention when it comes to pupil dilation and constriction, prescription medication or medication that you can get over the counter can also affect the iris’ muscles. The next section will cover which prescription medications can affect pupil dilation or constriction in more detail.

Illicit Substances and Prescription Drugs That Affect Your Pupils

A variety of drugs have the power to affect pupil size because drug interactions in the body often affect neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in your body. The interactions and messages between neurotransmitters are key in operating your body’s central nervous system. The interactions between neurotransmitters help control your bodily functions and enact proper functions.

Many drugs, due to their chemical makeup and the chemical reactions they cause in your body, can cause neurotransmitters to be affected. Because neurotransmitters play a role in your pupil size, a variety of medications and illicit substances affects the appearance of your pupils.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs that can affect pupil size include

  • Anticholinergics
    • Blocks acetylcholine, a compound in the central nervous system that functions as a neurotransmitter
  • Anticonvulsants
    • These medications are often prescribed to treat epilepsy and seizures. In order to limit the severity or frequency of epilepsy and seizures, anticonvulsants alter neurotransmitter activity and nerve impulses.
  • Antidepressants
    • Many antidepressant medications target serotonin and norepinephrine. These two are chemical messengers that control many bodily functions.
  • Antihistamines
    • Antihistamines are often used to help relieve the symptoms of a variety of allergies. They work by blocking the immune system’s response to allergy symptoms like sneezing or an itchy or closing throat. For example, Benadryl® is a well-known antihistamine.
  • Benzodiazepines
    • Although they are often associated with substance misuse, benzos can also be legally prescribed. There are, however, some unfortunate cases in which individuals become hooked on benzos and begin to misuse them. Benzos impact a particular neurotransmitter that relaxes muscles.
  • Decongestants
    • Decongestants typically shrink blood vessels in order to address swelling and inflammation.
  • Dopamine precursors
    • Dopamine precursors boost levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the body. Since dopamine is responsible for many bodily functions, pupils can also be affected.
  • Mydriatics
    • Mydriatics are also known as the eye drops that dilate your eyes. When you go to the eye doctor or need to undergo a particular eye surgery, these eye drops are used to take a better look in your eyes.
  • Stimulants
    • Prescription stimulants are used in the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants are well known for causing pupils to dilate.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
    • SSRIs are often used in treatment for depression since they boost serotonin. Low levels of serotonin can cause depression, anxiety, and sleep trouble.

Commonly misused drugs that dilate pupils include:

  • Amphetamines
  • Bath salts
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Cocaine (including crack cocaine)
  • Crystal methamphetamine
  • Ecstasy
  • Ketamine
  • LSD
  • MDMA
  • Mescaline

Commonly misused drugs that constrict pupils include:

  • Oxycodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin

Are There Permanent Side Effects To Dilated or Constricted Pupils?

When you experience dilated or constricted pupils as a result of substance use, you might wonder if your pupils could permanently remain in such a state. The good news is that pupils usually return to a normal functioning state after the side effects of drug use have worn off.

You should note, however, that some drugs can cause pupil dilation during the withdrawal period. Opioids in particular can cause pupil dilation during withdrawal.

There are not many long-term studies of the effects of whether consistent drug use can cause permanent changes in pupils. More ongoing research will be able to give a clearer answer in the future.

Managing Your Pupil Dilation: Asking For Help

When your pupils are dilated as a result of drug use or any other reason, they can cause you discomfort. Remember: dilated pupils let in greater amounts of light. When you take in more light, normal light levels like an average sunny or semi-cloudy day can seem overwhelmingly bright to you.

You will probably be very sensitive to any light sources while your pupils are dilated. To help make yourself more comfortable, you can wear protective eye gear to help shield your eyes from light levels.

For example, many people use either photochromic lenses in their glasses or wear sunglasses. Photochromic lenses adjust to the light levels automatically, darkening and lightening in response to sunny or dark environments. Sunglasses, of course, help block glare from the sunlight and can keep your sensitive eyes well protected from the sun’s rays.

If you ever have any major concerns about abnormal pupil sizes, consult with an eye specialist to ensure you remain involved and aware about your health.

At Pathways Recovery, we understand that illicit substance use comes with many side effects and can heavily affect your life or your loved one’s life before you realize how severe everything has become. Our holistic and individualized treatment approach can help you turn your life around. Don’t delay your journey. Call us today at 916-735-8377 to get premier addiction treatment today.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which drugs make your pupils smaller?

Opioids generally make your pupils smaller. Smaller pupils are also known as “pinpoint pupils.” Commonly misused opioids include oxycodone, fentanyl, and heroin.

Can medication cause dilated pupils?

Yes, both prescription, over-the-counter, and illicit drugs can all cause dilated pupils. Drug interactions in the body often affect neurotransmitters in your brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in your body. The interactions and messages between neurotransmitters are key in operating your body’s central nervous system.

What drugs dilate and constrict pupils?

Drugs that can dilate pupils include: antihistamines, anticonvulsants, anticholinergics, antidepressants, benzodiazepines, decongestants, dopamine precursors, mydriatics, stimulants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, amphetamines, bath salts, cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy, and ketamine.

Drugs that constrict pupils include: oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, codeine, and heroin.

Codependency in Recovery

codependency in recovery

Getting Through Recovery With Codependent Relationships

Recovery is a journey that can have ups and downs every day. Each day in recovery is something that requires a patient’s strength and the ability to count on support from caring treatment staff. Perhaps most overlooked is just how important strong, positive relationships with family and friends are in the phase of continued recovery.

We know that relationships with our loved ones may not always be healthy or happy, especially during the turmoil and challenges of recovery. But we believe that engaging in education about the best practices and information in the addiction recovery sphere are important for both patients and loved ones.

Today we’re taking a close look at codependency, including what it is, how it affects recovery, and what to do if you think you’re in a codependent relationship.

What Is Codependency?

Codependency is a particular behavioral condition that affects a relationship. This condition can contribute to an unhealthy relationship that is generally characterized as one-sided and may be emotionally destructive.

A co-dependent relationship can be frequently experienced by individuals struggling with substance use and the loved ones of the individual. Usually, the condition itself will affect family members, friends, and other individuals close to the person struggling with substance use.

Codependency is a relationship in which one party, usually the individual who uses, has many physical and emotional needs, and the other party, a family member or friend, devotes most of their time and energy trying to fulfill those needs. The second party is referred to as the codependent. Oftentimes, the codependent spends so much time and energy assisting the loved one that the codependent’s own life, activities, and relationships suffer in the process.

This behavioral condition can be detrimental to both parties involved in the relationship. The codependent’s individual life will suffer and the loved one might have a more difficult time with recovery and maintaining a life away from destructive, unhealthy behaviors. Usually, a codependent individual is overly attentive and can enable the challenges faced by the loved one, making the recovery journey more complicated.

There are recognizable symptoms of a codependent person. These include:

  • Believing they can care for themselves without any help
  • Low self-esteem
  • Seeking recognition and praise from others
  • Difficulty setting or maintaining healthy boundaries
  • Feeling a need to be a caretaker for others
  • Remaining extremely loyal, even in harmful situations
  • Obsession with relationships, even if an emotional connection is lacking
  • A need to please others and ensure others have a positive opinion of themselves
  • Poor communication
  • Difficulty handling change
  • Often doing more than their share of work/responsibilities

Because of the low self-esteem that codependent individuals have, they may look for some kind of activity to keep themselves engaged and make themselves feel better. When a codependent person takes on the role of caretaker for someone going through addiction, the intentions are good. But eventually, the desire to take care of this person becomes a compulsion.

codependent recoveryCodependent individuals take on this role as a protector and martyr for the other individual. They may cover for or give excuses on the behalf of the people they are taking care of. For example, a husband might make excuses for his alcohol-dependent wife.

These kinds of behaviors often “rescue” the individual with an addiction and allow them to continue on a self-destructive path. In addition, the repeated “rescue attempts” encourage the vulnerable individual to depend more and more on the codependent and the unhelpful style of caretaking.

As we can see, codependency adds another layer of difficulty to the challenges of dealing with addiction and addiction treatment. Codependency can affect both parties on either side of addiction treatment: the individual with a substance use disorder and the close relations of that individual.

In the next section, we will explore in greater depth the negative consequences of codependent relationships on the various groups involved.

Negative Consequences for the Codependent

When a codependent partner is engaged in the codependent relationship with an individual who uses, the risks and negative consequences are increased for both parties. These consequences can take a toll on physical and mental health, as well as strain any external social interactions or relationships.

codependency recoveryThe codependent individual can experience a higher risk of developing an addiction. This addiction could be substance related or it could manifest in behaviors like excessive shopping, gambling, or eating.

A codependent will also become overly devoted to the codependent relationship, thus experiencing a loss of any external relationships. All the codependent partner’s time and energy are devoted to this relationship with a loved one, and any responsibilities or activities that are not a part of this relationship will suffer as a consequence. A codependent may struggle to keep up with other tasks and work outside of the relationship.

Negative Consequences for the Addicted Individual

A codependent relationship can serve as an enabling presence in an addicted individual’s life. This can make treatment more difficult because the codependent may not provide the kind of support needed to obtain effective addiction treatment. Because codependent partners feel compelled to engage in a role as a caretaker, they can subconsciously worry about no longer being needed if an addiction habit is treated.

Attempts to seek treatment and actively engage in the recovery process may be hampered by the codependent partner. This obstacle leaves the addicted individual to continue on without receiving proper treatment for their addiction. Even if accessing treatment is a success, the risk of relapse may be higher due to the codependent relationship.

When an individual struggling with addiction enters into a treatment program, any codependent relationships should be discussed and treated alongside the substance habit. In this way, an individual can have a better recovery process and be more equipped to maintain good habits in the future.

Dealing With Codependency

There are multiple ways to handle codependent relationships. These tactics look for ways to help both parties in the relationship handle a change and evolution to a healthier status.

Get Professional Help With Codependency Recovery

An individual with substance use disorder should bring the concerns of a codependent relationship with them to treatment. Knowing that an individual has experienced this kind of relationship can be very helpful for therapists and staff to know. A treatment plan can be better individualized if behavioral conditions like codependent relationships are openly discussed.

If the case of the codependency is particularly severe, the codependent partner may also wish to consider seeking professional treatment. Mental health specialists can assist the partner in gaining a better sense of self-esteem and work through a variety of social skills that can be helpful in creating healthy relationships.

Setting Appropriate Boundaries

Establishing healthy boundaries is beneficial for both parties in a codependent relationship. Boundaries are key in maintaining a healthy relationship and can help both parties work through the challenges of codependency and addiction.

Healthy boundaries are characterized by the following traits:

  • Naming limits
  • Understanding that having different needs and wants is OK
  • Practicing self-awareness
  • Recognizing one’s individual needs
  • Being assertive and consistent with boundaries
  • Respecting the boundaries of others as well as your own

Is Tough Love an Appropriate Solution?

recovering codependentTough love is sometimes thought of as the opposite of codependency and thus, incorrectly identified as a complete solution to the problem.

There are many different sources and organizations that suggest handing out ultimatums to a loved one with a substance use problem. In order to avoid enabling, these suggestions include backing out of the loved one’s life and refusing to be involved while the addiction habit remains. It may seem like this will surely prevent you from participating in any fashion as an enabler, and it will. However, it’s been observed that individuals in addiction treatment who have healthy, strong support from family and friends have a smoother recovery journey.

Because of how important positive support is in recovery, simply defaulting to the tough love method is not the most beneficial manner of supporting a loved one through addiction. Instead, try a healthy rewards system. You can support your loved one in constructive ways and actions like driving them to a job interview, offering encouragement, and spending quality time with them.

Make sure to also set boundaries as you seek to encourage your loved one. Don’t tolerate any substance use in the house or completely shut them out of your life. With the proper support and positive encouragement, sobriety can be maintained.

Here, at Pathways Recovery, we know that recovery is a process. Part of that process involves educating yourself and your loved ones about addiction and its challenges to transform lives. We can help if you are experiencing a codependent relationship during your recovery. Give us a call today at 916-735-8377.

Codependency Recovery FAQs:

What are the signs of a codependent person?

A codependent person suffers from low-esteem. They often feel compelled to seek praise from others and highly value the opinions of others. They may feel as though they should be a caretaker. If the codependent relationship involves an individual struggling with addiction, the codependent partner may enable the addiction and hamper recovery efforts.

What is a codependent behavior?

Codependent individuals often make excuses for the individual they are the “caretaker” of. For example, a codependent might cover for their partner’s alcohol dependency or pull strings to prevent any consequences for poor performance or behavior.

What causes codependency?

Codependency is a learned behavior. This means that a codependent person learned to behave in this manner by watching and imitating others, usually family members, who were also codependent. This type of behavior can be passed down from different generations.

What is an example of codependency?

If an individual with an addiction misses several days of work, the codependent partner will cover for them with a story or excuses.