Like in most countries, drug abuse is rampant and an alarming problem in Canada. According to recent findings of the Council of British Columbia’s Health Officer, around 47000 Canadian deaths are linked to drug and substance abuse annually. It costs about $22.8 billion to rehabilitate and give drug abusers the proper treatment they need including therapy as well as hiring the proper law enforcers and health equipment.
In response to these worrying statistics, Canada has given prompt and adequate response to its drug abuse problem. Recent data from the Canadian Centre for Addictions has shown a declining rate of drug abuse cases since 2006. However, despite this improvement, the country still remains to be one of the major suppliers of Methamphetamines and Ecstasy in the world.
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Developing an addiction to certain drugs is not a character flaw or indicates a lack of willpower. It is the body’s natural response to certain mood-altering substances that take place in the brain where hormones are also involved.
Coincidentally, most drugs tackle the brain’s “reward circuit,” which triggers a feeling of happiness and satisfaction. This indescribable feeling is made possible when the brain is flooded with the chemical called dopamine–an important neurotransmitter responsible for attention, learning, emotional responses and most importantly, reinforcement.
To put it simply, drugs such as Marijuana, Methamphetamines, Ecstasy and the like pinpoint both of the nervous system’s reward and reinforcement receptors. When this happens, your brain becomes entangled in a deep sensation of euphoria, which traps the limbic system leading to dependence.
When an individual continues to use drugs, the brain eventually adapts by reducing the ability of cells in the reward circuit. This, in turn, diminishes the sense of elation a person feels as compared to the first time they experienced the mind-altering effects of drugs.
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What happens to the body when under illegal drugs?
Different types of drugs affect your body in a number of ways, and their full effects can vary from person to person. Illegal drugs, on the other hand, can influence almost all the organ systems in our body. These substances heavily alter your mood and sensibilities while others may induce certain emotions–most of which are related to the human body’s desire for satisfaction, attainment of rewards and happiness.
The most affected organ is the brain. When you inhale, snort, inject or ingest these substances, they target the brain’s framework and alter how your neurons work. Drugs like Marijuana and Heroin disguise themselves to impersonate your body’s natural neurotransmitters, which make the brain send abnormal messages throughout the entire nervous system.
When this happens, the brain’s natural chemistry becomes polluted, causing intense cravings and compulsive actions. On the other hand, Cocaine causes the neurons to release an abnormally large amount of neurotransmitters while preventing the brain’s normal recycling of the chemicals. Once this happens, this abnormal chemical composition triggers a chaotic disturbance among neurons, making you feel paranoid, hostile, and anxious.
Going deeper, illicit drugs have an adverse effect on your endocrine and immune system. Once these harmful substances get inside your body, they disrupt hormone production, which causes substantial and observable results. A good example of this occurrence is Cocaine and Marijuana’s ability to change the natural hormonal balance in your body.
This includes the interference in the production of hormones necessary for sexual function such as Testosterone, Progesterone and Estrogen. Moreover, substances such as Amphetamines and Benzodiazepines can eventually harm the pituitary gland, which can affect metabolism, growth and the body’s response to adrenaline. Overstimulation of the adrenal gland also leads to the feeling of paranoia and aggression.
After getting a good glimpse of the repercussions of drug abuse, it’s safe to say that recovery and sobriety are very much needed to reverse the effect of illicit drugs. Some might even recommend detoxification to flush out the chemicals plaguing your organ systems.
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It’s not like there is no way out of drug abuse. Countless survivors have lived long enough to tell their tale on how they conquered the scariest dragons while recovering. They can be your perfect source for inspiration to boost your determination and in time, rise above and break free from the shackles of addiction.
After deciding to quit drug abuse, experts highly recommend going into rehabilitation centers. Here in Canada, there are two viable options: government-subsidized programs or private alcohol and drug treatment. The main difference between the two lies in the costs since the former option is fully subsidized by the State. Factors such as waiting list, staff ratio and aftercare also come into play.
Falling prey to drug addiction is a deep rabbit hole one might find difficult to climb back up. Getting past your urge to go back to substance abuse is part of the process towards your full recovery. But you’ve already done the hardest part of your journey–making a conscious decision to say no to drug abuse.
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How to Stay Sober?
Upholding your sobriety is a methodical and continuous process. Even though you’ve already been detoxified and completed the rehabilitation treatment, much work still needs to be done. Consciously changing your lifestyle and incorporating healthy habits prove to be the easiest and most successful ways of maintaining your sobriety.
Keep in mind that your body and brain had been in the tight grip of drug dependency. And like a device geared to function in a specific way, it takes hard work and a drastic change in behaviour to reprogram the body towards a healthier and sounder state. Although, you can also see results in improving your mental state when doing even the easiest and less stressful activities in your day-to-day routine.
Breaking free from the clutches of drug addiction is no joke. If you’ve succeeded in doing this, you deserve all the pats on the back this world can give. But the journey to sobriety does not end here. As human beings, we are subject to the various temptations of worldly things, illicit drugs included. But do not fret, there are ways to shrug yourself off of these urges.
Put change into your first priority
Before doing anything, make sure you know the weight of your own actions. Putting everything into perspective will help you build a stronger sense of independence and accountability. Try listing the advantages of maintaining your own sobriety. Surely, you’re not just doing this for yourself. You have your loved ones and family counting on you to win the battle someday. Change is a conscious decision you need to choose at every step of the way. Try digging deeper to find your deep “why.” Use this to fuel your gears on the road to sobriety.
A few of your favourite things
Whether it be raindrops on roses or stubborn snowflakes that settle on the tip of your nose, indulge yourself in the activities and things that make you feel whole again. If theatre arts is your cup of tea, watch your favourite play –or better yet, act it out yourself! If you’re known for having a green thumb, plant away!
Even for those without prior experience, creative activities such as art, drama, creative writing and music can help you discover hidden talents lying dormant for a long time. Furthermore, exploring new hobbies and recreational activities are helpful means through self-discovery.
Some might even find it easier to resist withdrawal symptoms when they go back to their previous hobbies. If you’ve always planned a fishing or hiking trip in the past, maybe now’s the best time to explore unfamiliar territories and let your body experience the thrill and adrenaline without relying on drugs.
Write it out
Studies show that writers make use of the same areas of their brain athletes also use during physical activities. Writing requires your mind to function in a unique way to let you process emotions and uncharted thoughts you’ve never explored while you’re still knee-deep in your addiction. You cannot write your way to recovery and sobriety, but it can make the journey more bearable and productive.
You can make use of writing as an avenue to release your emotions–even vent out your anger. You don’t even have to check your grammar along the way. Simply go through that blank piece of paper and let your pen follow your thoughts.
This powerful exercise will help you open your subconscious and document authentic responses from your mind. Afterwards, try reading what you’ve written. You might even be surprised by what you’ll see. Writing helps you better understand what you feel without the fear of judgement from anyone.
Make use of writing prompts and journaling to keep you grounded. Writing prompts are a great tool for self-discovery and goal-setting. Along with journaling, you’ll be able to track your progress and let yourself see how far you’ve come since day one. Here is some writing prompts to help you get started:
- I am happy because…
- I will stay sober because…
- I feel connected with my inner self whenever…
- In five years, I would like to…
- I’d be the happiest person in the world if…
- No matter what happens, I will…
- Someday, I’ll be…
- I laugh whenever…
- I feel validated when…
- If I have free time, I’ll consider starting…
- If I can talk to my previous self, I will tell him/her…
Keep that support system, and keep it strong
Now that you’re free from drug addiction, you must know by now that having people to give you motivation in any way possible is of vital essence. When you feel like you’re doing no good, they’re there to catch you. In times of withdrawal, they were there to help you through it.
Support groups are effective and proven tools in achieving long-term addiction recovery. Being in touch with your inner feelings and fears is much easier when you don’t have to go through it alone. You may try reaching out to family members and friends whom you truly trust and value.
Some even try going to anonymous meetings to discover new peers where they can share similar experiences and build a sober network. In the long run, you’ll be able to keep track of not just your own progress but also of other people undergoing the same journey as you. After all, victories are sweeter when achieved together.
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Be active and eat right
As we established earlier, the body and brain suffer a hampered and abnormal state of brain chemistry when you’re under the influence of drug addiction. Drug addiction eventually hijacks the brain for reprogramming. Drugs similar to Heroin have a distinct structure similar to the synapses in our Nervous System.
Through continuous use, these substances reach the Limbic System which contains the body’s reward circuit. Upon your decision to stop taking drugs, the brain has already been flooded with dopamine which leads to a lesser creation of the same neurotransmitters. Since dopamine is linked to feelings of pleasure, once you stop, the body takes time to naturally replenish these receptors.
The best way to do this is through exercise and introducing a healthier diet into your life. Eating lots of protein is a good way to go. One of the amino acids present in protein is Tyrosine. This acid plays a critical role in the production of dopamine.
Enzymes in the body are capable of turning Tyrosine into dopamine, so maintaining prescribed levels of protein is advised. Including protein-rich foods such as turkey, beef, eggs, chicken, dairy, soy and beans will aid your body to naturally reproduce the dopamine you need to get away from the shackles of drug abuse.
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Why not spend some time trying out new recipes in the kitchen using these ingredients? You can even do some meal-preparations if you plan on going on long trips.
In addition to a healthy diet, exercising or performing an old favourite sport can replace the effects of the drugs through the help of endorphins’ natural “high”. Endorphins are natural pain relievers wired in our bodies in response to pain and stress.
These hormones are also released whenever we eat, exercise, and yes, even during sex. Engaging in physical activities release endorphins to trigger a positive feeling. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts generally refer to this term as the “runner’s high”.
In this state, these hormones are released in response to the brain’s neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors bind with endorphins to fully activate the hormone’s natural pain and stress-relieving capabilities without the added risk of addiction or dependence.
Pay it forward
Sometimes, the best course of action towards sobriety is through helping others figure their way out of drug abuse. As a fellow survivor, you know how difficult it is to be stuck in the same loop.
You’ve experienced a sense of alienation from people who couldn’t understand your health problem. This also results in a feeling of isolation. When no one can fully understand your situation, regaining self-confidence and positivity needed to start anew becomes more far-fetched.
In a study performed by the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are most likely to receive physical and mental health benefits from their volunteer activities.
The data gathered in the study also reported impressive findings from a number of studies exploring the relationships of volunteering and health. In addition, older volunteers have reported positive effects on their moods closely linked to their newfound sense of purpose.
On separate research in Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, sober alcoholics were found out to be significantly more helpful to others, at home, work and in 12-step programs than they had been while drinking. The study also proved to be a piece of substantial empirical evidence on the harmful effects of ego-centrism as the root cause of addiction.
When you help others, you remove the focus from yourself for a brief moment. This will help you redirect your own energy towards another individual in need. Performing volunteer work also helps you in socializing with fellow volunteers and distracting yourself from your own problems and worries.
In the same manner, sharing experiences of drug use and strategies in staying faithful recovery plans can be beneficial for you and your peers in preventing possible relapse.
Visiting sober living houses
Sober living homes are where a group of people live together while recovering from addiction. In this type of household, all the occupants must follow the same rules and regulations while being assigned specific tasks and chores to contribute.
Most importantly, all the residents must stay sober throughout their stay under the same roof. Compared to rehabilitation centers, sober living homes do not offer intensive recovery provisions especially when medications are involved. However, residents are given enough freedom and autonomy–even to the extent of letting individuals come and go whenever they want.
Rules under these kinds of facilities vary from one home to another. But essentially, people living in sober living homes must stay sober and look after themselves the same way they would when they’re living in a regular household.
They also ban certain items such as alcohol and certain food ingredients that might trigger false positives during the frequent drug tests they perform. In some facilities, you might have to pay your own rent, buy your own food, and resume your daily tasks during the day.
Living in sober homes help drug users adapt to their regular routines while keeping their urges in check. Living with fellow peers also creates a sense of accountability between each other while giving you a healthy support system without the fear of being judged and mistreated.
Eventually, fellow residents can even become friends while in the midst of maintaining sobriety. This living arrangement also works if you have work and school to attend to. Sober homes encourage tenants to continue their normal routines so long as they follow the rules.
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Indeed, drug addiction is a downward spiral. No other condition compares to the gruelling experience of wanting to break free from this state of mind. The very fact that you managed to escape from it speaks volumes of what you and the people around you are capable of –positive change. So, gather your loved ones and yourself a treat, bring in the feast, and celebrate this life-changing milestone.
Like all the recovery stories you’ve come to know, yours also has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Your journey towards sobriety will soon be a success story told to others who want to enjoy the same triumph you’ve experienced.
Through these simple and effortless steps, you can finally get back on track from where you left off. Keep in mind that these activities are not fool-proof solutions to recover from drug abuse. Make sure to seek appropriate medical attention and find as many health resources as you can.
You’re going to need as much help as you did in battling drug addiction, maybe even more. Mere determination in quitting drug abuse is an achievement in itself. Allow yourself to feel victorious. You’ve already won the first half of the battle, and you deserve to bask in that success.
As soon as you’re through, buckle up and brace yourself because the battle isn’t over yet. With the right mindset and the right people, the phases that come immediately after drug addiction can be overcome.
When doubt shrouds around you, always remember that no matter how hard these next stages will be, you’ve already made it this far in the race. You can take these victories even further. Just trust in the process you’re going through. In the same thrust, trust yourself and the people around you that you can break free from what’s left of drug addiction. You’ve conquered this mountain before. You can conquer even more in the chapters to come.
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