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Addiction and Alcoholism: The Vicious Cycle of Stress, Substance Abuse and Side Effects

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Addiction and Alcoholism: The Vicious Cycle of Stress, Substance Abuse and Side Effects

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substance abuseSubstance abuse is an integral factor in many cases attorneys handles. A drunk off-duty policeman crashes into the back of a car, killing two people. An inebriated roofer falls off a roof. An impaired physician performs surgery and causes a devastating injury to a patient. A man with substantial orthopedic injuries is so depressed by his limitations that he begins drinking heavily. A woman with chronic pain makes the rounds of her physicians, asking each to prescribe an assortment of pain relievers. Nurses at Med League have assisted attorneys with these cases, and more involving substance abuse.

It is natural to want relief from stress. When people try to find relief by using mood altering substances like alcohol, prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, or food, they may not know that this can make the problem worse.

Distress happens when people feel out of control in a situation. Uneasiness, anxiety, depression and other feelings are normal reactions to stressful events. One quick way to take control and calm the reaction is to take a drink, tranquilizer or antidepressant, smoke a cigarette, or eat some sweet, salty, or high-fat comfort food. While these solutions might offer fast short-term relief, they can also backfire over time.

Vicious cycle
Even though substances can seem helpful on a short-term basis, the problem has not gone away. When people relieve symptoms without addressing the cause, the distress is still there. They just don’t feel it anymore. Once the calming effect wears off, they need to use the substance to get relief again. At least 38 million adult Americans drink too much and most are not alcoholics.

Over time, the body adapts to the substance, so people need more to get the same effect. This is called, “tolerance.” Feeling stress and using short-term relief from mood-altering substances is a vicious cycle that can lead to dependence and addiction.

Side effects
Plus, each substance has side effects or consequences. The increasing use of alcohol, mood-altering drugs, salt, sugar, nicotine, and caffeine are proven to increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other chronic conditions. There is also the downside of intoxication: accidents, obesity, and even death due to overdose. The recent overdose of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is one tragic example.

Alcoholism

Alcoholism, Substance abuse

Additive effects
While used as directed, many drugs are safe; using two or more together can have dire results. Adding even small amounts of alcohol to tranquilizers, for example, increases the effect of each, which can quickly lead to overdose, poisoning, or death.

Keep in mind that people still have the original stress plus the side effects or complications of the short-term solution. This ends up being a vicious and dangerous cycle that leads to higher stress. They have now added the problems created by the mood-altering substances to the original stress.

Symptoms of addiction include:

  • Not meeting work, family, or school responsibilities
  • Tolerance leading to higher need
  • Inability to stop despite added problems
  • Hopeless, powerless and depressed feelings from loss of control
  • Needing more relief from the added stress

Substance abuse is not the original problem. It is the solution to stress that creates a second problem. This is what makes it so hard to recover from substance abuse, dependency, and addiction. The person must still take care of the cause for the original stress in order to finally get true relief. There are many safe ways to relieve stress. Using mood-altering substances as the main solution is not one of them.

Don’t count on the patient’s healthcare provider to raise the subject of alcohol use. A new Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only one in six adults said a health professional ever discussed alcohol sue with them. CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH said, “Alcohol screening and brief counseling can help people set realistic goals for themselves and achieve those goals. Health-care workers can provide this service to more patients and involve communities to help people avoid dangerous levels of drinking.” (NJ Health Matters, New Jersey Department of Health, January 2014, page 9)

About The Authors
Aila Accad, RN, MSN is an award-winning speaker, best-selling author and certified life coach, who specializes in quick ways to release stress and empower your life. Get her bestselling book Thirty-Four Instant Stress Busters: Quick tips to de-stress fast with no extra time or money. Sign up for De-Stress Tips & News and receive a gift, “Ten Instant Stress Busters” e-book.

Contact us for assistance in interpreting medical records for evidence of substance abuse, intoxication, blood alcohol levels, and urine toxicology reports.  Med League provides Addiction Expert Witness to review cases involving toxicology, suicide, opioid overdose, tobacco addiction, smoking and mental illness.

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