Meth and Pregnancy
Methamphetamine use has increased in the United States since the 1980s 1, and today is the most commonly used drug behind alcohol and marijuana in a large number of states 1. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 1.6 million people reported using meth in the past year and that 569,000 people were currently using meth at the time of the survey 2. One of the reasons meth is so prevalent is because it can be made with relative ease from legal (yet toxic) ingredients, such as Freon® and paint thinner 3.
As use of the substance continues to rise, so do treatment and hospital admissions. In 2012, meth ranked first in drug-related treatment admissions in Hawaii and San Diego 4. Females have also been found to start using meth at a younger age and intake higher amounts of meth compared to men 5.
With increasing numbers of methamphetamine users, meth abuse during pregnancy is a growing public health concern 6. One study of meth-related emergency room visits found that more than 400,000 reproductive-aged women reported using meth in the prior month 6. Another study found that meth was the primary substance requiring treatment during pregnancy between 1994 and 2006 6.
As a stimulant, meth is extremely potent 7. When a person uses this substance, they may experience a range of feelings, such as 8:
Increased energy levels.
The negative health effects that may occur from meth use include 1,8:
Tachycardia (abnormally rapid heart rate).
Hypertension (high blood pressure).
Hyperthermia (high body temperature).
To date, the medical community’s knowledge of meth’s effects on a child in utero is limited. Conclusive evidence about the potential effects of methamphetamine use during pregnancy is lacking, as much of it comes from animal research or from studies with difficult to control variables such as the presence of polysubstance use in the maternal population being examined. While we cannot draw definite conclusions about how meth affects a baby’s development, there is evidence to suggest that meth is harmful to a developing fetus 9.
Effects of Methamphetamine on the Mother
Meth is a dangerous substance that can harm a woman’s body and put her at risk for maternal complications. For example, women who abuse meth tend to have a significantly lower body mass index (BMI). This can make her pregnancy riskier. One study found that lower BMI increased a woman’s chance for pregnancy complications, including more frequent hospitalizationsand longer hospital stays 10. The anorectic effects of meth can also result in intrauterine growth retardation (poor growth of the fetus in the womb) 11.
Using meth during pregnancy can also reduce a woman’s placental blood flow. This can cause fetal hypoxia, an insufficient amount of oxygen to the fetus 12.
Since 2003, meth has been the most common substance that women are admitted with for treatment at US federally funded health centers. To complicate matters, meth is often used in combination with other substances 6, such as prescription painkillers, marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol 11. These substances can have additional devastating effects on the fetus. For example, alcohol consumption can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which is irreversible.
Effects of Methamphetamine on a Baby
How many pregnant women use meth?
Meth use during pregnancy can harm the way a child develops in utero. Meth use can put a woman at risk for having a baby that has 1:
A low birth weight.
Small size for gestational age.
An increased risk for neurodevelopmental problems.
Most of what we know about the effects of meth on a developing fetus come from animal studies. In rats, prenatal exposure to meth caused 11,13:
Increased mortality in the mother and her child.
Malformations of the ribs.
Slowed physical growth.
Delayed motor development.
These include 11,14:
Higher rates of preterm birth.
Smaller head circumference.
Fetal growth restriction (at rates similar to those for pregnant women who use cocaine).
One study found that only 4% of babies exposed to meth were treated for withdrawal after birth. However, the study was unable to control for a mother’s use of drugs other than meth 7.
There are reports that meth can lead to long-term adverse health outcomes. These include negative impacts on a child’s behavior, cognitive skills, and physical dexterity.
In a Swedish study, children who were exposed to meth in utero were tested at birth, at 1 year, and at 4 years. Researchers found that females exposed to meth were significantly shorter and lighter than the males.
At age 8, there was a significant correlation between how much meth a fetus was exposed to in utero and the level of aggressive behavior and social maladjustment. When the children were tested at age 14 and 15 years old, they performed significantly worse than their peers on math tests. However, this study was also confounded by variables outside of the researchers’ control, such as maternal polysubstance use, stress levels, environment, number of siblings, and foster care placements 11.
Some studies suggest that the use of meth during pregnancy can result in fetal abnormalities 8. Other studies have reported that meth use during pregnancy can increase the risk of cleft lip in babies 8. A case control study found that mothers who used drugs during the first trimester had over 3 times the risk of having a baby with gastroschisis 8. Gastroschisis is a birth defect in which the baby’s intestines stick outside of the body from a hole near the belly button 15.
When babies are exposed to meth for at least two-thirds of the pregnancy, certain brain structures were more likely to be smaller than those in non-exposed fetuses 8. It is important to note, however, that overall, exposure to meth during pregnancy is not consistently associated with birth defects. More studies are needed in order to control for confounding variables such as maternal polysubstance use, small sample sizes, and recall bias. It is important to note, however, that overall, exposure to meth during pregnancy is not consistently associated with birth defects. More studies are needed in order to control for confounding variables such as maternal polysubstance use, small sample sizes, and recall bias 8.
Quitting Meth While Pregnant
There is a common trend of women experiencing “turning points” during pregnancy. Being responsible for the life of another human helps many women stop using drugs.
If you are currently using meth and you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant talk to your doctor about your options for meth addiction treatment. Your doctor may recommend entering a treatment facility.
The two main types of treatment you will encounter are outpatient and inpatient treatment.
Outpatient treatment is an option for women who have less severe addictions and who aren’t additionally contending with serious medical or mental health issues. In outpatient treatment, you will periodically check in with your doctor and counselor for medications and therapy, while still being able to live at home.
Inpatient treatment programs offer an immersive treatment environment, with 24/7 supervision and access to medical services, when needed. In inpatient treatment, you will be free of distractions and able to focus fully on your journey to recovery. As a pregnant woman, you will be monitored closely to ensure the health of you and your baby.
In treatment, you may participate in group and individual counseling. Some examples of therapy may include:
Group and individual counseling. You can engage in group and/or individual counseling as part of your treatment. Counseling can offer you support throughout your recovery.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you understand the triggers and situations that contribute to your use meth. People who struggle with addiction often have underlying issues that drive their addictions. CBT can help you address these issues in a healthy and productive way. In CBT, you can learn how to cope with life’s challenges without meth.
Family involvement. Family is important to the recovery process. As a pregnant woman, you may or may not have a partner with whom you would like to engage in therapy with. No matter what your situation is, involving your family in your recovery can help you get sober. Family members can offer invaluable support, often providing encouragement and motivation. Note that some individuals do not have healthy relationships with members of their family, so it’s important to do whatever feels right to you and invite those who are positive forces in your life to be part of your treatment.
Addiction support groups. 12-step programs are available to help you receive peer support. Groups can help you create a community of people going through the same situation as you. Having this type of support can help prevent relapse. Attending support groups can help ensure a woman’s long-term success.
Contingency-management: This is a strategy used to enforce positive and healthy behavior change. When you meet treatment goals, your therapist may give you a tangible reward in exchange for maintaining sobriety. Incentives could include money, vouchers, or special privileges.
Overall, there are many tools that can help you turn your life around. Pregnancy can present a window of opportunity to improve the health of you and your baby. Call us today at 1-800-980-3927
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2013). Committee Opinion: Methamphetamine Abuse in Women of Reproductive Age.
- Hedden, S. L. (2015). Behavioral health trends in the United States: results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
- US Department of Justice. (n.d.). Meth Awareness.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). What is the scope of methamphetamine abuse in the United States?
- He, J., Xie, Y., Tao, J., Su, H., Wu, W., Zou, S., … & Guo, J. (2013). Gender differences in socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of methamphetamine inpatients in a Chinese population. Drug and alcohol dependence, 130(1), 94-100.
- Terplan, M., Smith, E. J., Kozloski, M. J., & Pollack, H. A. (2009). Methamphetamine use among pregnant women. Obstetrics & Gynecology,113(6), 1285-1291.
- Hudak, M. L., Tan, R. C., Frattarelli, D. A., Galinkin, J. L., Green, T. P., Neville, K. A., … & Bhutani, V. K. (2012). Neonatal drug withdrawal. Pediatrics, 129(2), e540-e560.
- Viteri, O. A., Soto, E. E., Bahado-Singh, R. O., Christensen, C. W., Chauhan, S. P., & Sibai, B. M. (2015). Fetal Anomalies and Long-Term Effects Associated with Substance Abuse in Pregnancy: A Literature Review. American journal of perinatology, 32(05), 405-416.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2013). What are the risks of methamphetamine abuse during pregnancy?
- Denison, F. C., Norwood, P., Bhattacharya, S., Duffy, A., Mahmood, T., Morris, C., … & Scotland, G. (2014).Association between maternal body mass index during pregnancy, short‐term morbidity, and increased health service costs: a population‐based study. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 121(1), 72-82.
- Wouldes, T., LaGasse, L., Sheridan, J., & Lester, B. (2004). Maternal methamphetamine use during pregnancy and child outcome: what do we know. NZ Med J, 117(1206), 1-10.
- Derauf, C., LaGasse, L. L., Smith, L. M., Grant, P., Shah, R., Arria, A., … & Liu, J. (2007). Demographic and psychosocial characteristics of mothers using methamphetamine during pregnancy: preliminary results of the infant development, environment, and lifestyle study (IDEAL). The American journal of drug and alcohol abuse, 33(2), 281-289.
- Smith, L. M., Diaz, S., LaGasse, L. L., Wouldes, T., Derauf, C., Newman, E., … & Della Grotta, S. (2015). Developmental and behavioral consequences of prenatal methamphetamine exposure: a review of the infant development, environment, and lifestyle (IDEAL) study. Neurotoxicology and teratology, 51, 35-44.
- Hudak, M. L., Tan, R. C., Frattarelli, D. A., Galinkin, J. L., Green, T. P., Neville, K. A., … & Bhutani, V. K. (2012). Neonatal drug withdrawal. Pediatrics, 129(2), e540-e560.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Facts about Gastroschisis.
MDMA (Ecstasy) Abuse While Pregnant
Ecstasy is an illicit drug that is frequently abused among a young adult demographic. This drug (chemical name: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA for short) is structurally similar to amphetamine and has both stimulant and hallucinogenic effects.
Effects During Pregnancy
People who take it may experience a wide range of effects, including euphoria, a sense of openness, and increased energy. However, heavy, chronic use is associated with depression and problems with memory. Among pregnant women, ecstasy can lead to hyperthermia (elevated body temperature) and anorexic effects—both of which may directly affect the developing fetus 1.
When pregnant women use drugs like ecstasy, it can cause serious harm to their babies, including 2:
Developmental issues including delayed growth.
Cardiovascular issues (e.g., heart problems, increased stroke risk).
What If I Took Ecstasy Before I Knew I Was Pregnant?
Ecstasy is widely used by young people, including women of reproductive age. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 1.8% of young adults aged 18 to 25 years old were current users of hallucinogens, including ecstasy. Approximately 166,000 women of childbearing age (15 to 44 years old) reported past month use of the drug 3. With so many women of reproductive age experimenting with ecstasy, it is common for women to have used the substance prior to finding out they were pregnant.
If you are worried because you took it before you knew you were pregnant:
Take a deep breath and try to relax.
Schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible and let them know about your concerns.
Stop taking ecstasy and any other illicit drugs.
If you are unable to stop using ecstasy and/or any other drugs, call us today at 1-800-980-3927 to learn about your treatment options.
Ecstasy’s Effect on the Mother
One study found that women who used ecstasy during pregnancy had the following characteristics 4:
Higher rates of unplanned pregnancy.
Higher rates of therapeutic abortion.
More likely to report binge drinking during pregnancy.
More likely to report smoking cigarettes during pregnancy.
More likely to use other illicit drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, and ketamine during pregnancy.
In addition, the use of ecstasy can adversely affect the mother’s physical and mental health. Ecstasy causes an increase in an individual’s stress hormones and this can lead to overstimulation and hyperthermia (i.e., high body temperatures). Also, after using ecstasy, a person can experience a number of changes that affect their behavior, mental state, and routine that include 5:
Decrease in appetite.
Another serious danger of using ecstasy during pregnancy is that the drug often contains adulterants. A person may think that they are taking pure MDMA when in reality they are ingesting a number of unknown chemicals. One study found that a single ecstasy tablet contained over 14 compounds other than MDMA 6. One of the most concerning adulterants is the powerful opioid fentanyl, which can be deadly even in very small doses.
When a mother is healthy and abstaining from harmful substances like ecstasy, it goes a long way to ensure the safety of the baby both in utero and after birth. If you need help for an addiction to ecstasy, give us a call today and speak to a qualified rehab placement specialist about available treatment options.
Effects on the Baby After Birth
Using ecstasy during pregnancy may have a negative impact on your child’s health after birth. Clinical studies have shown that MDMA exposure in utero in the first trimester may lead to behavioral changes down the line, such as long-term memory problems and impaired learning 1.
In addition, a handful of case studies in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands found the following effects in babies who were exposed to ecstasy in utero 7:
Increased risk of congenital defects.
Some studies have also found that babies who are born to mothers who use ecstasy have increased odds of 1,5:
Reduced birth weight.
Alterations in gender ratio (more likely to have boys).
Motor development delays.
Poor milestone achievement at 4 months.
Quitting Ecstasy While Pregnant
If you are pregnant and addicted to ecstasy, the safest choice you can make for you and your baby is to seek professional treatment. In a rehab program, you can learn the skills to help you cope with stress and triggers that fuel your use. When you are pregnant, your safety and health are extremely important, and there are programs designed specifically to help ensure that you carry your baby to term in the healthiest manner possible. Give us a call today to learn more about your options for professional treatment at 1-800-980-3927.
If you are currently using ecstasy and you are thinking of quitting, there are ways to do it safely. Recovering from an ecstasy addiction can take time, but you do not have to do it alone. There are a multitude of treatment options that can help you learn how to address the underlying reasons for using substances.
Treatment for ecstasy addiction is often based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions. Cognitive behavioral interventions help teach individuals new skills such as how to find healthier ways to cope with life problems and how to modify negative behaviors that may have led to the development of addiction.
Treatment program options may include:
Inpatient or residential treatment: Inpatient treatment programs typically last 30 to 90 days and allow you to live on-site while you move through treatment.
Outpatient treatment: Outpatient treatment requires you to visit the facility for a set number of hours per week. You will meet with a therapist to develop a treatment plan and attend group therapy with other people who are being treated for an addiction to ecstasy.
Luxury or executive treatment: These inpatient programs offer flexibility to work while living at the center and a number of amenities not normally available in standard residential programs.
It’s not too late to make a change that can positively influence you and your baby. Give us a call today to speak to a trained treatment support representative 1-800-980-3927 so you can start your journey to recovery.
- Singer, L. T., Moore, D. G., Min, M. O., Goodwin, J., Turner, J. J., Fulton, S., & Parrott, A. C. (2012). One-year outcomes of prenatal exposure to MDMA and other recreational drugs. Pediatrics, 130(3), 407-413.
- National Institutes on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2013). Using Drugs When Pregnant Harms the Baby.
- Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2016). Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.
- Ho, E., Karimi-Tabesh, L., & Koren, G. (2001). Characteristics of pregnant women who use ecstasy (3, 4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine). Neurotoxicology and teratology, 23(6), 561-567.
- Singer, L. T., Moore, D. G., Fulton, S., Goodwin, J., Turner, J. J., Min, M. O., & Parrott, A. C. (2012). Neurobehavioral outcomes of infants exposed to MDMA (Ecstasy) and other recreational drugs during pregnancy. Neurotoxicology and teratology, 34(3), 303-310.
- Green, A. R., King, M. V., Shortall, S. E., & Fone, K. C. F. (2012). Ecstasy cannot be assumed to be 3, 4‐methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDMA). British journal of pharmacology, 166(5), 1521-1522.
- McElhatton, P. R., Bateman, D. N., Evans, C., Pughe, K. R., & Thomas, S. H. (1999). Congenital anomalies after prenatal Ecstasy exposure. The Lancet, 354(9188), 1441-1442.
Xanax Addiction and Abuse Treatment
What is Xanax Addiction Treatment?
Up to 40 percent of people who take benzodiazepines like Xanax every day will develop an addiction to those pills. Recovery moves on two fronts: the physical and the psychological. Medical detox allows the body to become accustomed to the lack of Xanax, while rehab allows for skill-building and relapse-prevention planning.
In 2011, doctors wrote more than 47 million prescriptions for Xanax, making it the most popular psychiatric medication in the United States.
This is partly because Xanax (the brand name of the drug alprazolam) is used to treat a wide range of anxiety and panic disorders, and the effect of depressing the central nervous system has made Xanax the drug of choice for other ailments like sleep disorders and stress.
This has also opened the door to Xanax being abused by patients who are desperate for relief from their conditions, as well as recreational users looking for an easy high.
Fortunately, treatment for Xanax addiction can help bring individuals back from addiction to a life of health and happiness.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax comes from the benzodiazepine family of drugs. Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effect of the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain. The GABA neurotransmitter is very important for controlling the electrical excitation in the nervous system; lower GABA levels translate to more symptoms and feelings of anxiety, explains Everyday Health. Benzodiazepines boost the release of GABA throughout the individual’s nervous system, producing calming and sedating effects.
The calming and sedating effects of benzodiazepines make them very useful for those suffering from a number of conditions, not just anxiety and panic attacks. The Royal College of Psychiatrists lists some of the other conditions that benzodiazepines like Xanax are used to treat:
- Muscle spasms
- Withdrawal from alcohol
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feeling compelled to take more medication, even beyond prescription limits
- Needing increasing amounts of Xanax to feel the same effect
- Experiencing unpleasant withdrawal effects if Xanax intake is discontinued, such as dizziness, insomnia, mood swings, and blurred vision
- Trying to get more Xanax without a valid prescription
What makes Xanax so inherently addictive is that its effects are felt almost immediately upon consumption (as fast as 25 minutes, according to The Fix), but dissipate after just a few hours. This makes people compelled to take more Xanax, even if it means violating the boundaries of their prescription. But the effect of consuming more Xanax means that the patients’ tolerance for the Xanax builds up, leading them to take larger and larger doses. Over time, this gets them hooked on the Xanax.This is also why the ideal Xanax prescription should be for as short a period of time as possible (no more than four weeks, at most), to minimize the risk of the patient’s body getting acclimatized to the drug. Even if the patient requires a long-term Xanax plan, it is better for the treatment to be staggered with intermittent stages of consumption and tapering off, than for the person to receive continuous Xanax. The doses should also be as low as possible.Once dependence is in place, the fear of withdrawing from the Xanax kicks in. Individuals may genuinely want to stop taking Xanax if they recognize the unhealthiness of their situation, but the symptoms of opiate withdrawal are often so bad that they go right back on the Xanax for fear of experiencing those symptoms again.
Treatment for a Xanax addiction involves countering the addiction on two fronts: the physical compulsion for the client to take Xanax and the mental craving for more of the drug.To address the first front, a client will undergo medical detox, with the goal of weaning off Xanax with as little distress as possible. Since the effects of withdrawal can be very painful and traumatic, treatment center staff might prescribe a course of anti-anxiety and anticonvulsant medication. Ironically, benzodiazepines are “effective in the treatment of withdrawal symptoms,”in the words of American Family Physician.
Due to the administration of anti-anxiety drugs being performed by trained staff members in a controlled environment (who have a full understanding of the client’s medical history and toxicology), a client can be put on a drug regimen to ease the withdrawal process, while incurring as minimal risk as possible. This is also why withdrawal should never be attempted alone, as the risk for relapsing and seizures (a danger pointed out by an article published in the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association) far outweighs the remote chance of a successful DIY detoxification.
Detox is only the first part of the treatment process; the second part involves addressing the mental damage done by Xanax addiction. To that effect, the Journal of Clinical and Consulting Psychology says that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has shown considerable effectiveness in helping clients taper off benzodiazepine use. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a system of counseling whereby a client is helped to see how patterns of thought and behavior led to Xanax abuse and addiction. A therapist works closely with the patient on devising healthier and more positive ways of dealing with the root issues behind Xanax abuse, and also shows the client how coping skills and methods for dealing with the lingering compulsion to seek out Xanax.
A treatment model like CBT can also address the presence of a co-occurring disorder ” a client who has both an addiction to Xanax and a mental health disorder at the same time. Addictive Behaviors published a study where researchers examined the effectiveness of CBT in treating those who presented with both post-traumatic stress disorder and a substance abuse disorder. While conceding that their study was not a comprehensive one, the researchers reported that their findings provided support for using CBT to treat co-occurring disorders.
Despite the effectiveness of Xanax, its risks have led doctors and patients alike to investigate alternatives to alleviating anxiety and stress (as well as the other conditions treated by Xanax). Some of these alternative treatment methods, according to Mental Health Daily, are:
- Meditation, which helps reduce the stress response in the brain that triggers feelings of anxiety
- Yoga, which helps reduce the levels of arousal that a person feels when experiencing anxiety or a panic attack
- Essential oils that depress the nervous system and cause relaxation
- Lifestyle changes, such as leaving a stressful job or starting an exercise routine
New York Magazine calls Xanax “the most popular anti-anxiety drug in America,”but that popularity comes with a price. As much as Xanax has become known for treating anxiety and stress, it has also become synonymous with the epidemic of prescription medication. Fortunately, numerous therapies and strategies exist to help individuals emerge from the shadow of Xanax addiction.
Barbiturate Overdose: Symptoms, Effects, and Risks
What are Barbiturates?
Barbiturates are a group of depressant drugs that can have a wide range of effects on a person’s central nervous system. These drugs are most commonly used as sedatives, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, but have also seen use as anesthetics and anticonvulsants. Methods of use include ingesting in pill form and injecting in liquid form, though the former is significantly more common. Barbiturates have a sedating effect on a user, causing mild euphoria, drowsiness, and relaxation. Barbiturates range from Schedule II to Schedule IV under the Controlled Substances Act, depending on the specific drug.
Many barbiturates are prescription drugs and can be obtained legally. As is the case with most substances with similar effects, barbiturates see illegal use and abuse throughout the United States. Barbiturate abuse peaked in the 1970s and has been in significant decline since, but it has not disappeared completely. Barbiturates remain a dangerous class of drug when used improperly.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 3 million people in the United States reported using barbiturates for a nonmedical purpose in 2014 alone. It’s clear that barbiturate abuse remains a problem in the US despite its decline in the last four-plus decades.
A barbiturate overdose occurs when someone consumes too much of a barbiturate for their system to handle. Overdose is known to happen both accidentally and intentionally. Intentional overdoses are often suicide attempts. Accidental overdose is most common among those with a physical dependence on the drug. People who have obtained the drug illegally rather than through a prescription are more likely to abuse the drug and develop physical dependence.
Barbiturates are addictive, and prolonged use can result in a physical addiction to these drugs. Barbiturates are especially dangerous in regard to accidental overdose because a person often develops a tolerance to the mood-altering effects of a drug much more quickly than they do to the lethal effects, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This means that a person with an increased tolerance will often seek a higher dosage in order to produce the desired mental effects, which puts them at a high risk for overdose.Women are more likely to overdose on barbiturates than men, as they receive more prescriptions for these drugs. This is because women are generally more likely to seek medical help regarding issues with depression and anxiety.
Polydrug use is commonly associated with barbiturate abuse, and this increases the risk for overdose significantly. Mixing barbiturates with substances like alcohol and heroin is common in cases of overdose due to polydrug use. These substances can increase the potency and potentially lethal effects of barbiturates, making them especially dangerous to consume in conjunction. Alcohol can have similar effects to barbiturates, and combining these two substances can have a compounding effect on some of the more dangerous outcomes of each drug, such as respiratory failure. Heroin and other opioids are very common in polydrug use involving barbiturates, and their potential for overdose when used alone makes mixing these drugs very unsafe.
Symptoms of Overdose
Barbiturate intoxication and overdose are usually accompanied by some of the following symptoms:
- Altered consciousness
- Extreme drowsiness
- Judgement issues
- Coordination problems
- Clouded thinking
- Slurring of speech
In more extreme cases dealing with certain powerful barbiturates, a user may exhibit various symptoms, such as memory loss, increased irritability, lack of alertness, and a general hindering of one’s ability to function. Many of these symptoms are very noticeable, which can allow for somewhat easy recognition by others. This can be key in alerting someone to the need for medical help.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, one in 10 people who experience an overdose on barbiturates or a mixture of barbiturates and other drugs will die as a result of the overdose. This figure shows how dire the consequences of abusing this class of drugs can be. Death is usually the result of lung or heart issues.
Even those who survive a barbiturate overdose can suffer significant consequences. Due to the depressant effects of barbiturate intoxication, it is not uncommon for someone to experience a serious head or neck injury due to a fall of some kind. Neck and spinal injuries can cause temporary or even permanent paralysis, having a dramatic effect on a person’s quality of life going forward.
Pregnant women can do damage to the fetus they are carrying, and overdose can even result in miscarriage. This kind of event can have a devastating physical effect on a woman, but it can also have drastic mental and emotional effects as well.
Barbiturate overdose can also cause a person’s gag reflex to be depressed, which can lead to aspiration. In this event, an individual’s lungs fill with fluid due to the gag reflex being unable to stop the flow down the bronchial tubes. This can also lead to pneumonia.
There have been serious cases of muscle and kidney damage as well as a result of an intoxicated or overdosed individual being seriously incapacitated and remaining on a hard surface for a prolonged period of time.
Responding to an Overdose
In the event that someone suspects a barbiturate or mixed overdose involving barbiturates, they should contact 911 immediately, especially in the event of any breathing problems. The presence of medical professionals on the scene can improve the chances of surviving the overdose, which can be deadly. One can also contact the National Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) for further instructions.
Keeping a person suspected of an overdose immobilized on a soft surface is recommended to avoid injury. Knowing whether or not an individual mixed a barbiturate with an opioid can be helpful for professionals when they arrive on the scene, as naloxone may be a viable immediate treatment. This drug can help the person regain consciousness and reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Those who experience a barbiturate overdose may need the assistance of a breathing machine until the drug exits their system completely.
The best way to prevent a barbiturate overdose is to avoid taking these drugs completely. Many people who overdose do not have prescriptions for the drugs and have obtained the substances illegally from someone with a prescription. Nonmedical use can be very dangerous, as it often leads to addiction and a dramatically increased risk for overdose.
For those with a prescription, an open line of communication with their doctor is key to avoid falling into abuse. All questions or concerns need to be voiced with a medical professional. Keeping the medication properly labeled and stored safely is a good way to avoid abuse by others, especially children. Mixing barbiturates with other substances, especially depressants and opioids, is incredibly dangerous for any user, whether they are using barbiturates legally or illegally.
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For someone who is physically dependent on barbiturates, withdrawal can be a painful and dangerous process. Going “cold turkey” and abruptly cutting out the drug can turn life-threatening in severe cases. This means that detoxification done without professional assistance is especially hazardous.
Detox should be done in a designated facility that includes 24-hour monitoring by medical professionals. Residential rehabilitation facilities are often a good option for detox, and a client can remain there following this period to begin therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Barbiturate Addiction
An inpatient residential treatment facility is often a viable avenue for someone who has experienced a barbiturate overdose. Treatment at these facilities is fulltime and usually last at least 30 days. In some instances, stays can last 90 days or more, but most clients are able to transition to outpatient treatment after a month or two. Sometimes transition into a sober living facility can be beneficial.
Even after the physical dependence on barbiturates is overcome, the addiction remains. This is more of a mental addiction to the substance that is accompanied by negative thinking and patterns of behavior. One of the most common forms of therapy to combat these factors is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. CBT examines the connection between feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, and how they influence each other.Changing beliefs that may lead to distressing thoughts is a key component of CBT. Thought patterns can become dangerous and result in triggers to use. CBT’s goal is to help people develop coping mechanisms for these occurrences and replace their old way of thinking with a new, healthier form.
Anxiety is often something that drives an addicted individual to relapse, and it can happen years into their recovery. CBT helps them to deal with these instances without the use of self-medication. Relaxation exercises, problem-solving techniques, and stress relief strategies are often part of the CBT process as well.
As depression and anxiety in the wake of barbiturate overdose are common, CBT becomes extremely useful in many cases. Medication may be used in conjunction with therapy in order to combat more severe cases. Some people may need CBT for a short time period while others require several months of therapy. One of the best aspects of CBT is that the strategies learned in therapy continue to help individuals long after their sessions have ended. This makes it extremely effective in aiding long-term recovery.
Ativan Addiction Treatment
What is Ativan Addiction and Treatment?
There are no medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of addictions to benzodiazepines like Ativan, but there are other therapies that can help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy, and Contingency Management are all therapy techniques that can help people with addictions to identify and change the thought processes and beliefs underlying substance abuse. Twelve-step programs can reinforce those lessons, too, helping to sustain recovery.
This category of drugs is also called sedatives or tranquilizers. Like other benzodiazepines, Ativan works by attaching to GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors in the brain. One effect of Ativan is to slow down the chemical messages nerve receptors receive, which causes an overall calming effect ” and usually without impairing the cardiovascular or respiratory system.
Ativan is mainly used to treat anxiety; however, in medical practice doctors have discovered that Ativan can have therapeutic effects across a range of different conditions.
- Manic bipolar disorder (as an adjunctive treatment)
- Vomiting associated with cancer drugs and chemotherapy
- Chronic sleep problems
- Muscle spasms
- Symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal
- Psychosis associated with abrupt withdrawal from alcohol
Ativan is highly addictive. For this reason, prescribing doctors should inquire with patients about their history of drug abuse, if any, or whether addiction issues are common in their families.
To avoid addiction taking hold, many doctors will only prescribe Ativan as a short-term treatment for 3-4 months.
Dependence and Addiction
Ativan, like many drugs, can cause physical dependence. There are two main hallmarks of physical dependence on Ativan. Firstly, over time, the Ativan user’s body will develop a tolerance to this tranquilizer and require increased dosages to get the desired therapeutic effect or recreational “high.”Unfortunately, as tolerance builds and dosage increases, the margin of risk increases. In other words, drugs begin to operate more dangerously in the body. Secondly, due to increased tolerance, Ativan abusers will often experience withdrawal when they cease taking this prescription sedative or significantly reduce the familiar amount.Physical dependence is distinguishable from addiction. Dependence is a component of addiction; all individuals who are addicted are physically dependent, but not all persons who are physically dependent will become addicted. A person who becomes addicted to Ativan will generally display psychological and behavioral signs. For instance, there is generally an increased amount of time, energy, and resources dedicated to getting and taking Ativan, which negatively impacts work, family, school, and/or personal obligations.
Ativan withdrawal symptoms include:
- Short-term memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Hallucinations and delirium
Withdrawal symptoms from Ativan can be particularly dangerous. For this reason, high dose and/or long-term users are strongly encouraged to undergo medically supervised detox. In general, withdrawal from Ativan requires a tapering process, as suddenly stopping this drug can lead to the above symptoms as well as more severe complications.
Harrowing personal accounts of benzodiazepine withdrawal abound online. Sophie Saint Thomas, a freelance writer, shared her Ativan withdrawal story with the drug abuse informational site The Fix. She recounts how she was working on her yoga teacher certification when she abruptly stop taking her daily 1 mg pill of Ativan. Despite her overall good health and advanced daily yoga practice, Saint Thomas experienced a severe panic attack that she mistook for a heart attack. Saint Thomas shares that she initially received a prescription for Ativan to treat her general anxiety. After this experience, she resumed taking Ativan but only to avoid withdrawal. After another cold-turkey detox attempt, she ended up in the emergency room with seizure-like symptoms. Ultimately, Saint Thomas accepted that she could not be impulsive about ending her Ativan dependence and instead needs to taper off the drug.
Recognizing substance abuse is not always easy or straightforward. As Ativan is a prescription medication, a person who abuses the drug may fall into any one of the following relevant categories:
- Has a legitimate need and prescription for Ativan
- Has feigned symptoms to procure a prescription for Ativan
- Sources Ativan from individuals with prescriptions
- Buys Ativan illegally on the street
- Engages in “doctor shopping”to get multiple prescriptions
In most of the above cases, Ativan derives from a prescription, which means prescription bottles may be in evidence in the person’s home, car, or workplace. A person who is using Ativan in compliance with a doctor’s orders will only have one prescription per month (and generally not for more than four months) from one doctor. If you see multiple prescription bottles, with overlapping months, that is a strong indication that Ativan abuse is occurring. In addition, when Ativan abusers go “doctor shopping,”they also fill prescriptions at different pharmacies to avoid detection. It is helpful to pay attention to where prescriptions are being filled.
Ativan abuse can also have recognizable physical side effects. For this reason, it is helpful to learn about the side effects associated with high doses of benzodiazepines, such as:
- Poor decision-making ability
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of coordination
- Cessation of breathing, leading to death
- Slurred speech
In some cases, Ativan abusers may not consume a high dose but rather a heavy dose over a long period of time. These individuals are considered to be chronic abusers. Symptoms of chronic abuse of Ativan include:
- Memory problems
Even still, there is another layer to benzodiazepine abuse. Many individuals who abuse benzodiazepines like Ativan do so as part of a more expansive drug abuse routine. These individuals are considered to be poly-drug users who consume a varying range of drugs at once. A research paper published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reviewed 200 research studies related to co-occurring benzodiazepine and opioid abuse. It appears that these two drugs are a popular combination not only in the US, but also around the world. The researchers attempted to understand why these two drug types are often paired together.
Among their conclusions, they noted that benzodiazepines are mainly abused for their recreational value. In other words, opioid abusers who also abuse benzodiazepines may not be trying to self-medicate insomnia, mania, or anxiety. Rather, co-users of these drugs reported that they liked benzodiazepines because of their ability to enhance the effects of the opioid “high.”The researchers urged further study in the area of the interaction between opioid and benzodiazepine abuse, especially because the combination can be particularly lethal and present greater challenges in the treatment context.
A comparative review of drug rehab centers will reveal that there is a core set of treatment services and also complementary services designed to support the core recovery plan.
In Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment, a National Institute on Drug Abuse publication, core services include pharmacological interventions and psycho-behavioral therapy. Pharmacological intervention refers to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved certain drugs for the treatment of addiction to certain drugs of abuse. Today, most MAT services center on opioid abuse. At present, there are no medications specifically approved to treat benzodiazepine abuse (other than using benzodiazepines in the tapering process). However, it is important to take note of MAT for opioid abuse in the Ativan abuse context because of the high co-occurrence of abuse of these two drug types.
Although MAT is not generally available in the Ativan treatment context, a core set of services focused on psycho-behavioral therapy is a pillar of rehab. Different psycho-behavioral therapy techniques are based on varying theories about what causes psychological stress leading to addiction, and the most effective approaches to achieve and maintain a drug-free mind.
Some of the most commonly used psycho-behavioral therapies in drug rehabs are:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Community reinforcement approach
- Motivational enhancement therapy
- Contingency management interventions
- Dialectical behavior therapy
In rehab, psychotherapy is provided on both an individual and group level. For instance, in a one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) session, the therapist will work with the recovering individual to identify the thought processes and beliefs underlying the substance abuse. CBT has a strong focus on learning processes and posits that drug abuse is a maladapted form of coping with stress. After the underlying causes of the Ativan abuse are acknowledged, the next step is to develop new drug-free strategies to cope with stressor (e.g., triggers that cue the person to abuse drugs rather than engage in other behaviors, such as taking a walk or calling a friend for support). CBT has proven to be effective and long-lasting; even after sessions end, recovering persons report they still use the strategies they learned in CBT to maintain abstinence and make healthier life choices in general.
Twelve-step programs are such an integral part of the rehab landscape that these meetings are often considered to be synonymous with recovery. Twelve-step programs may be considered ancillary treatment options, although many would argue that they belong at the core of all rehab programs. These programs are different from psychotherapy group work. In a 12-step program, the members organize and lead the group, not a psychotherapist. For this reason, a drug rehab center can serve as a host of a 12-step group but does not actually control it. Also, the sober sponsors who work with members of 12-step groups are not compensated by a rehab center, as their role is entirely voluntarily. Twelve-step work is not only instrumental to the recovery process during inpatient or outpatient treatment, but also after graduation, as part of an effective aftercare program.
The importance of family therapy, when available, cannot be overlooked. Families and other concerned individuals are often credited with the being the interventions who got the substance abuser into treatment in the first place. Drug rehab centers offer different types of family-oriented services, including, for example, group therapy for the family, drug education for family members, and on-site “family day”social events. Family members and other loved ones are encouraged to explore individual psychotherapy to heal from co-dependency (if present) as well as the painful ripple effects of a loved one’s drug abuse.
There are numerous examples of complementary ancillary services available at drug rehab centers. Much of the time, the level of complementary services depends on funding. A large subset of ancillary services revolve around wellness. Some examples of ancillary wellness services on offer at drug rehabs include:
- Animal-assisted therapy
- Adventure therapy (such as hiking)
- Art therapy
- Equine-assisted therapy
- Physical training at an on-site gym
Even a recovering person with a supportive family may need additional help from public systems that offer help with housing, free or low-cost legal services, transportation, public benefits, childcare, and/or job placement.