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Monday, November 30, 2015

Gambling Addiction & The Brain

gambling addiction and the brainFor many people, gambling is just a diversion. Unfortunately, like other addictions, it can quickly progress into a compulsion that robs people of their financial security and drastically changes their behavior, relationships, and priorities. In recent months, mental health professionals and scientists have begun classifying gambling as an addiction, placing it in the same category as drug and alcohol abuse.

Research indicates that gambling shares many diagnostic criteria with drug dependence, such as tolerance, withdrawal, and radical disruption of one’s life. Gamblers also report significant urges and cravings when they are unable to place a bet.

According to Jon Grant, addiction researcher at the University of Chicago, “People will get inured to the high of gambling at a certain point and need to gamble with bigger bets and riskier betting options. When people try to stop, they go through withdrawal, with insomnia, agitation, irritability, and a feeling of being ill at ease, similar to what we see in some substance abuse disorders.” Gambling problems also seem to run in families, alongside street drug, prescription drug, and alcohol addictions. So—if your family is prone to addictive behaviors, you may be driven to impulsivity and reward-seeking behaviors, too.

Symptoms of Gambling Addiction 
If you’re not sure when betting for fun has turned the corner toward a gambling addiction, watch for these signs:

• Lying or being secretive about financial decisions
• Borrowing money from credit cards, banks, or family members
• Gambling when you cannot afford to make house or utility payments
• Always betting “more” to get a gambler’s high
• Experiencing depression & anxiety that results in sleep deprivation or health problems
• Exhibiting restless or irritable behavior when you can’t get your fix
• Returning to bet more in order to “chase a loss” from a previous day
• Prioritizing gambling over eating, sleeping, or socializing

When study participants watch videos depicting gambling, or participate in virtual gambling games during brain scans, there are changes in blood flow to certain areas of the brain. Gambling has thus been reclassified as a behavioral addiction because these imaging studies show that the brain’s reward system “lights up” during gambling just as it does during substance use. These types of studies tell us that behaviors can impact the brain just as powerfully as chemicals—and that it is important to seek help before any type of addictive behavior takes over your personal life, relational connections, and financial well-being.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Letter to the Future Me: Visualizing Recovery Success

letter to your future self recoveryVisualization is a technique often used to aid personal achievement in sports and career goals. It helps an individual focus on goals in a concrete and more meaningful way. It stands to reason, then, that visualization would also be a useful tool for someone just beginning the journey to sobriety and recovery.

When you reached a point where alcohol and drugs disrupted your life and sidetracked your dreams, you had the courage to get help. Now that you are in treatment, you are finally able to look forward again. It is time to start reconnecting with those waylaid dreams and setting new goals.

Write a Letter to Yourself 
An interesting visualization exercise involves writing a letter to your future self. In rehab, you are getting insights into the aspects of your life that led you to substance abuse. In recovery, you will still need to deal with such problems, but you will have new strategies, support, and motivation to aid you. Such empowerment will make you a different person. What will that person be like?

• Will the new you want to return to school?
• Will you continue with the same occupational goals, or will you want to branch out into a new field? • Where will you want to live? With a roommate, or would you prefer to live alone?
• Do you want to reconnect with anyone? Will you be making new friends? In what situations?
• Do you see yourself participating in activities: mountain biking, yoga, theater, art class, gardening, or volunteering?
• Will your personality be different? Has your time in rehab helped you mature? Will you be more confident?

Share Your Letter with Your Therapist
As you share dreams, goals, and thoughts with your future self, you will be creating a vision of the life you are hoping to live. You may also be revealing your apprehensions and self-doubts. Rehab is a great time to examine these uncertainties. Share your letter with your rehab counselor or support group. Their input will give you perspective and help you achieve the new life you have envisioned for yourself.

The Gateway to Your Recovery
At Hope Academy you’ll find innovative rehab programs to help young adults like you find new meaning in life. When drugs and alcohol have put your future on hold, you need a substance-free way back to school, work, and social activities. Our peer-based programs offer career counseling and college prep, in addition to rehab therapy. Our admissions team at 866-930-4673 is waiting to assist you with insurance verification and enrollment. Call now to begin the journey to a better future for yourself or your loved one.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Handling the College Social Scene as a Sober Student

staying sober in collegeKnown for its emphasis on partying, alcohol, and social substance abuse, the college scene can be a scary place for a recovering drug or alcohol addict. According to the Alcohol Policies Project, binge drinking is the most serious problem on college campuses. It is believed that over 44% of U.S. students participate in this pastime.

A 2014 National Institutes of Drug Abuse study shows that 6% of college students smoke a joint every day. For the first time, this number is higher than the number of students who light up a cigarette every day (5%). “It is clear that for the past seven or eight years there has been an increase in marijuana use among the nation’s college students,” says study leader Lloyd Johnson, a researcher from the University of Michigan.

While these statistics are alarming for those trying to stay clean while they pursue higher education, there are sober college opportunities that make it easier. Saddleback Community College, for example, is a fully accredited community college offering more than 300 associate degrees and certificates. Hope Academy partners with Saddleback College to provide a college experience that helps students stay focused on sobriety while taking on the responsibility of college coursework and job planning.

Tips for Staying Sober at College

• If you are immersed in an atmosphere that encourages partying and substance abuse, the first thing to do is shore up your defenses. Stay in regular contact with your sponsor, pastor, therapist, or addiction counselor. Build a sober community of likeminded individuals who choose to replace partying with game nights, movies, bowling, and other social alternatives.

• Go to coffee houses or the student union instead of the bars. You’ll still find a vibrant social scene, but you won’t subject yourself to triggers you may not be able to resist.

• Join a group committed to a physical training program and plan for a 5K, half marathon, or triathlon. Begin a yoga practice or become a certified instructor. Many students say that when they are focused on a physical goal, it’s easier to stay away from unhealthy substances.

For many students, college life would be nothing without a party atmosphere. For the recovering alcoholic or drug addict, steering clear of the party scene can mean the difference between life and death. If you are in recovery and are dedicated to furthering your education through college coursework or vocational training, Hope Academy welcomes you. Our sobriety college allows students to live in Hope by the Sea’s college home while enrolled in classes, and students continue to participate in therapy, support groups, and relapse prevention planning while they attend school. To speak with our team about how you can afford drug rehab and sobriety college, click here. To learn more about Hope Academy, call our team at 866.930.4673 today.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Marijuana Use & Increased Ischemic Stroke Risk

marijuana increases stroke riskYoung cannabis users are at higher risk for ischemic strokes than those who don’t smoke marijuana, according to a recent University Hospital of Strasbourg study. The French team studied 334 patients under the age of 45 who had suffered this type of stroke, which is caused by an obstruction in blood flow to the brain. Fifty-four of the study participants were marijuana users.

While prior research has reported links between pot use and stroke incidence, the French study is the first of its kind to compare stroke differences between users and non-users. Findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Marijuana & Ischemic Stroke: Study Findings

• Arterial narrowing (stenosis) was the stroke cause in 45 percent of cannabis users while stenosis was the stroke cause in only 14 percent of non-cannabis users.
• Blood clots that shifted from other body regions to the brain were the most common causes of stroke (29 percent) in non-marijuana users.
• Marijuana users who experienced a stroke were younger than other stroke patients. 
• The marijuana-stroke patients were more likely to be male, more likely to smoke, and more liable to exhibit additional lifestyle risks.

“The effects of cannabis have been considered benign for a long time; however, evidence continues to build about the relationship of its use with stroke,” said journal editor-in-chief Dr. Valentin Fuster. The French study did not find that marijuana use causes strokes, but it is another indicator of the concerning link between the drug and this particular type of brain attack.

“This is an important study because it helps change the public mindset about marijuana,” said Dr. Richard Libman, vice chair of neurology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY. According to Libman, marijuana is “not as safe as many would like to think of it, including from the stroke standpoint.”

Get Help for Marijuana Dependency

If you’ve fallen prey to the belief that marijuana is a harmless social drug, you may need help. Hope Academy serves young adults struggling with marijuana addiction, marijuana abuse, drug addiction, alcoholism, and other unhealthy dependencies. To learn more about our drug rehab, sober college, and aftercare services, reach one of our team members at 866.930.4673 today.

*For the latest information on ischemic stroke causes, symptoms, and treatments, visit the National Stroke Association website.

Source article:

Full study findings: Valérie Wolff, Ielyzaveta Zinchenko, Véronique Quenardelle, Olivier Rouyer, Bernard Geny. Characteristics and Prognosis of Ischemic Stroke in Young Cannabis Users Compared With Non-Cannabis Users. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2015.
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