The Importance of Stimulating Environment

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The Importance of Stimulating Environment

Environmental factors play a large role addiction

A few decades ago, the Rat Park experiment done by Alexander made a big splash in the scientific community, especially in regards to addiction research. Since then, the validity and implications of the study have been explored significantly. Despite the many questions that may be associated with this study, it did bring an important topic into the discussion of addiction that had been, until then, focused mainly on the biological elements of addiction. This was the concept of stimulation or having a stimulating environment. This is a key concept for addiction prevention and recovery. So, let’s talk about the importance of having a stimulating environment.

The Rat Park experiment found, among other things, that when rats were given an environment in which they could thrive, they preferred to drink water and not morphine-laced water, even if morphine had addictive properties. When rats who were put from a restricted and isolated environment into an environment that had everything a rat needed to be happy, the rats stopped drinking the morphine-laced water, albeit they preferred it before that. Now, people are not rats and have more complicated preferences and desires. While rats needed only places to run and explore, as well as the opportunity to eat, mate, and interact with other rats, what constitutes a stimulating environment for a person is more complex to define.

What does it mean to have a stimulating environment in general? It means to have an environment that allows the person to thrive and grow, as well as to stay busy with different activities that are interesting, engaging, and satisfying.

How does this environment connect to addiction? A more stimulating environment contributes to a higher well-being and makes the individual happier and more satisfied. It reduces their distress and provides them with new tools to manage their negative emotions and structure their time.

What might we include in a stimulating environment? There are many different things that may also vary depending on the individual’s preferences and tastes. However, there are some key aspects. The first one is the need to have opportunities for work and education. Some small cities suffer from this, as there are limited opportunities for work or study within the town. An example of this is a town that depends, primarily on a single source of jobs, like a factory or a mine, that quickly goes downhill when the source closes down. A lack of opportunities for education and work lead to a lack of development and financial resources. Secondly, one might consider the need for relationships. All people, even introverted ones, need to have meaningful and close relationships. An environment that contributes to isolation might promote addiction because people feel lonely and depressed. The next aspect of a stimulating environment is access to different types of activities. For instance, having green spaces around to walk in and opportunities for physical activity, having courses or cultural centers, having libraries and movie theaters and even malls are all aspects of a stimulating environment. A lot of attention in the prevention of addictive behaviors in latter years has been focused on creating, for instance, urban environments where young people can entertain themselves and engage in sports or artistic activities.

When talking about not just prevention but addiction recovery, it becomes very important to create a new, more stimulating environment for the person who is struggling with addiction. This means that the person should find new and better ways to occupy their time and foster all aspects that promote their well-being, for instance, positive relationships, hobbies, volunteering, artistic activities, sports, and others. This allows the person to find new ways to feel happy and satisfied without needing to resort to drugs.

A stimulating environment has lower levels of distress as well as different things that promote positive emotions, enjoyment, connectedness, and other things. People have needs beyond the basic ones: needs to be entertained, need to be close to other people, need to grow and practice their abilities. By creating an environment that is more in line with these needs, individuals with addiction can more effectively stay sober.

The Rat Park experiment remains controversial and has had limited testability with people, as opposed to rats. However, interestingly, some support for the finding came from war veterans. When veterans came back from Vietnam, many came back with drug problems. However, at home, at environments that were free of distress and much more stimulation, most kicked the habit with little issue despite the addictive properties of the drugs. It may be important to create a stimulating environment to promote well-being and recovery from addiction.

 

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction reach out to the professionals at Valley Spring. If you want to learn more about our sober community 0r you’d like to learn more information, we can help you take the next step. Feel free to read our previous blog about what is the opioid epidemic.

What is the Opioid Epidemic?

Hearing a lot recently about the opioid epidemic? Read on to learn more

If you or someone you know is battling with addiciton, please reach out to Valley Spring Recovery Services. We will be happy to provide any needed referrals, if you are interested in learning more about halfway houses in nyc or are interested in sober living in Manhattan, we will be happy to help you! Also, please feel free to read our previous about co-occurring disorders 


When someone talks about addiction, it usually brings to mind illegal drugs or, indeed, alcohol. However, in recent years, one of the biggest public health crises associated with addiction has been opioid addiction. Opioid addiction has become one of the biggest addiction
-related issues in the history of the U.S, and their impact has been tremendous. Let’s examine the opioid epidemic and what it teaches us concerning addiction.

 

What are opioids? Opioids are a type of drugs that are usually used to manage pain. There are licit and illicit opioids. The legal versions might be used to manage pain in chronic pain patients or people with other health conditions that need pain relief. The illicit drugs tend to be more powerful than the legal drugs and, while they also might have pain relieving effects, their primary benefit is the feeling of pleasure, euphoria, and relaxation that they induce. Opioids are a highly addictive drug that also are associated with a high risk of overdose. Every day, over a 100 people just in the U.S. die of an opioid overdose, and even within a medical context, this drug can frequently be misused. Opioid addiction represents a public health crisis because it contributes to a high number of deaths by overdose, healthcare costs, the need to provide addiction treatment, and is also associated with productivity losses and criminal justice system costs. It represents a big problem for people with chronic pain issues who find their painkiller use restricted. It is a problem for families, for organizations, and for people with addiction as well.

 

The opioid epidemic became a hot button issue in the past few years. So, what happened? There have been several factors contributing to this development. Firstly, since the 90s, there was a tendency among the medical community to prescribe opioids at a high rate because these medications were not considered to be as addictive as they turned out to be. This led to a significant growth in addiction rates and also to the sales  and manufacturing of opioids. But this was not the only reason. At this time, there also was a significant growth among synthetic and illegal opioids. Opioids were easier to get on the street than other types of drugs, and they were also more affordable that many of the alternatives, so this also led to an increase in the amount of people who used them. To a point, it has been argued that there is still the issue of over prescription of opioids and the availability of illicit drugs or legal drug sold illegally continues to be high.

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What has been done to address the epidemic? The main measures have been associated with attempting to monitor the prescriptions for opioids, which has provided mixed results. On one hand, the current strict guidelines for physicians and patients concerning opioids might help prevent misuse but it has also been argued that it might impose an unfair burden on the lives of people who need these drugs for a good quality of life. It has also been argued that many of the people with addiction are not only people who get it because they need it but, primarily, people who abuse other drugs and buy them off the street. The success of the measures taken against the opioid epidemic has been mixed, and there have been other proposed measures to help alleviate the problem. One proposed solution for the frequent overdoses, recently suggested, has been that people should have a higher access to the drug naltrexone, which can prevent death from overdose. Making this drug accessible and common enough for people to have on them is expected to reduce the number of opioid-related deaths. Still, the issue remains.

 

What does the opioid epidemic show us about addiction? It shows that it can be a complex issue. NIH outlined plans for $500M to combat the opioid epedemic. Opioids may be addictive but they are also very necessary for many people. People with chronic pain may not always be able to go without opioids even if they have an addiction, for instance, so is it fair to restrict their access to these drugs? The second issue associated with this epidemic is that it shows that restrictive measures to deal with addiction might not be enough by themselves to reduce addiction rates. It also shows that there is still a lot that we do not know about drugs and that the use of specific medication and substances can have unexpected consequences in terms of addiction.

 

Overall, the opioid epidemic is a serious issue that represents a public health crisis in the U.S. It might be important to see how it develops and what can be learned from it.

Co-occurring Disorders

Mental Health deserves center stage alongside Addiction

Addiction is a serious issue on its own. It requires a  significant effort on the behalf of the person to seek treatment and go through a rehabilitation and recovery process. Any addiction can significantly affect the individual’s quality of life and can be difficult to treat. However, one of the issues associated with addiction is that it often doesn’t occur alone. Individuals with substance abuse problems frequently have co-occurring disorder, usually other mental health issues, that can make the treatment for addiction much more complex.

What are some common disorders that occur together with addiction? The first category is mood disorders. Problems like depression are very common among individuals who have addiction. Some people with this disorder may also have undiagnosed (or diagnosed) bipolar disorder. Another common category is anxiety. Many individuals who have addiction also have anxiety disorders, like generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder, which is characterized by the presence of panic attacks. One particular problem that is significantly associated with addiction is Post-Traumatic Stress disorder. Many people with addiction can also have other mental health issues, which might range from problems like personality disorders to disorders like schizophrenia.

Why do these issues occur together with addiction? This may be because they precede it or occur (or become worse) due to substance abuse. Let’s take a closer look at this.

First, mental health disorders may occur with addiction because they precede it. Frequently, a person can have a mental health issue that remains undiagnosed or untreated. In this case, the individual can use different ways to deal with their symptoms. Someone with depression, for example, can use alcohol to numb themselves or take a stimulant to feel euphoric and happy for a while. A person with an anxiety disorder can use alcohol to relax in social situations and cope with their anxiety. Someone with post-traumatic stress disorder might abuse substances to cope with the symptoms. For people who do not know about treatment options, have never received a diagnosis, or who have limited  funds to afford proper treatment, drugs and alcohol might serve as ways of dealing with the symptoms on the short-term, which can lead to addiction. While not all people with substance abuse problems start using because of untreated mental health disorders, this is true of many individuals.

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However, substance abuse is, at best, a temporary solution for problems associated with mental health issues. Most substances can make the symptoms worse on the long run and may also contribute to the development of mental health issues. For example, there is some evidence that in people who have a predisposition for different conditions, like schizophrenia, using certain drugs, like marijuana, can trigger a psychotic episode. For most, substances can make their symptoms significantly worse or lead to the appearance of new issues even if there were none previously. Why does this happen?

Substances have an effect on the brain. Many drugs change the way the brain functions because they alter the neurochemical balance or the way in which the brain operates. For example, one can take a look at heroin. When a person becomes dependent on heroin, it means that their brain operates normally when there is heroin in their system but abnormally when there is not. The brain becomes accustomed to the presence of heroin and releases a certain amount of a neurotransmitter that is excessive when there is no heroin to deal with it. This neurotransmitter, noradrenaline, can make the person feel anxious and induce symptoms of withdrawal that harm the individual’s well-being and mental health. Other substances act upon the brain reward system. This means that the brain does not release the neurotransmitters associated with reward anymore unless the person is using. This means that the individual can no longer  enjoy other activities, which is associated with depression and make this problem worse.

Additionally, it can be difficult to treat addition when there is another disorder present. It means that this disorder also needs to be addressed, because kicking an addiction puts strain on the brain and the body and can temporarily worsen the symptoms of the disorder. This makes the person more distressed and might make them more likely to use again to relieve the symptoms, especially if the substance was used as “medication” for the disorder previously.

An effective type of treatment for addiction will need to address and accommodate the other disorder as well. In many cases, providing treatment for the co-occurring disorder can be very beneficial for the person and can lead to significantly better results.

Co-occurring disorder are an important feature of addiction. It is essential to see if the person is experiencing the symptoms of other mental health disorder and address it as well as the addiction.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and battling mental illness, Valley Spring can help get you connected to the appropriate professionals! We offer a sober community in NYC and provide recovery services to those struggling with addiction. If you’d like to learn more about the damaging effects of alcohol or learn more about sober homes <– Click here. And please feel free to read our previous blog about if media depictions of drug use have an impact of real-world drug use.

The Importance of Sober Homes

Explore the benefits of sober living

For the benefit of those of us that may not have heard of sober homes — sometimes commonly referred to as halfway homes–is a place free from drugs and alcohol that is set aside for victims recovering from addiction. These residencies are home to sober individuals trying to recover at their own pace while remaining within a structured environment before being re-introduced into independent living. These homes are usually privately owned and not covered by insurance.

When substance abuse users decide to stop the negative addiction and cleanse their system, depending on the particular drug, the individual is likely to need  detox followed by rehabilitation. After rehab is completed, it will usually be recommended the individual continues their treatment at outpatient.  This is where sober homes come into play. These homes accommodate individuals seeking recovery–they will work with them at their own pace until they are better positioned to go back into society and begin independent living. Usually sober living houses only accept new residents that come straight from rehab. The sober living home offers many benefits to residents such as a safe, comfortable and recovery oriented atmosphere, surrounded by like-minded individuals all (hopefully) seeking self-improvement.

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After gaining admittance to a sober home, there are rules and regulations which are promoted internally, so that residents can benefit from the full experience each home has to offer. Of course, rules vary from house to house but here are some typical rules:

  • No drugs or alcohol of any kinds
  • Patients are to submit to a drug test whenever they are called forth
  • Patients are to attend a 12 meeting group therapy sessions
  • No violence allowed
  • Participation in school work and school fees paid on time.
  • Guests are not allowed to spend the night. Patients are allowed to go out anytime and come back, but they must adhere to the rules.
  • These homes are very vital in an addict’s life because:

Professional guidance and help:

  • Most sober homes are staffed with professionals that are in-house that have become sober and remained sober. They can understand the addicts and hence offer sincere help with guidance for them to recover and remain sober

Basic life skill:

  • Being in a sober home does not mean that rehab is all you do there; basic home skills are also taught to help you live well when you eventually leave home. They learn basic skills such as patience, self-suffiency, working in a team, etc.

Peace of life for the family:

  • Having to cater for an addict can be a lot of stress on family finances and relationship. The sober home installs some much-needed peace back into families and helps them work together with the sober homes to get their loved ones back on track.

Guarantee recovery:

  • Difficult as it may seem, recovery and living a healthy life after drugs and alcohol is very possible. In fact, millions of people around the globe have doe it! The sober house is one place that can help get your life back on track — only if you are ready to follow through with all that is on the table.

Sober homes are have been around for quite some times and they play a critical part in the recovery process by providing a space for individuals to transition back into the “real” world to independent living.

 

Valley Spring offers terrific NYC sober living and recovery services. If you’d like to read more information about the topic of sober houses do so by clicking hyperlink.  Or feel inspired to read our previous blog post about 5 reasons why using drugs to suppress rage is bad.

There For Friends Who Suffer In Addiction

Good friends are key to happiness and health

Battling with addiction can be very difficult and requires a lot of love and support from family, friends and loved ones to help the person come out a survivor. Addiction can be in different forms, it could be addiction to substance, addiction to drugs, addiction to alcohol, addiction to porn, etc. There is a very wide range of addictions a person might be battling with.

A lot of people carry the opinion that you need to dissociate yourself from people who have addiction issues for the sake of your own self. A lot of people go with the belief that the best way to help addicted loved ones is by letting them be. However, contrary to this belief, research has proven that partners of those who battle with a type of addiction or another can actually play a very important role in bringing them to change.

friend helping another friend deal with addiction and sober livign nyc

In 2008, Debra Jay and her husband Jeff Jay co-authored a book, ‘love first: a family’s guide to intervention’ which challenged the popular opinion that you can’t help an alcoholic until he wants to help himself by saying “it’s a completely different story if you say “If you can’t help an alcoholic until he wants help, what will get him to want help? Now that opens up the door to possibilities, I can start looking for solutions and answers”. Here are a few reasons why you need to be there for friends who suffer addiction:

They Are Stronger With Your Support:

  • This is a natural human phenomenon, when you are aware of your loved ones’ support for you, it pushes you to be strong and more confident in yourself. This feeling can help give addicts a boost as they battle their addictions. Always be there to encourage him physically and emotionally even when he falls or make mistakes. Make him understand that you believe in his ability to fight and conquer the addiction.

Your Constant Love Can Make Them Seek Help:

  • If you continue to love a family or friend irrespective of his addiction, it pushes such person to have a rethink about his addiction and even if not because of himself to seek help because of your love for them.

Your Guidance Can Help Him Find His Way Out:

  • Once a person who is battling with addiction decides to stop, he needs someone to him and walk him through the fight against the addiction. This is where a friends guidance comes to play a very important role, you should make sure to learn as much as you can about addiction because this will help you in guiding him accurately.  Take him to a psychologist. You also need to stay with him whenever he needs your support. Help him find support groups for addicts and register him.

 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and unsure how to proceed, Valley Spring will help get you connected to quality recovery services and even to sober living if necessary. Feel free to learn more general information about sober houses and to read our previous blog article about why a sober living plan is a good idea