Women And Addiction

Over the course of the last hundred years in the United States, women have been encouraged to self-medicate for emotional and physical symptoms of the estrus cycle, which were formerly labeled as hysteria. In the early 1900s, physicians regularly prescribed opiates for moodiness, pain or fatigue. Coca-Cola®, which contained cocaine as an ingredient in those days, was advertised as an afternoon pick-me-up for ladies.

In the 21st century, women are prescribed twice as many psychotropic medications by their doctors as are given to men and these may be prescribed over a very long time. It cannot be expected that a woman takes a psychotropic medication for years, which was originally prescribed for a temporary anxiety problem, without the risks of addiction and dependence.

There are many complicated factors involved in the development of addictions in women, including genetic predisposition. Clinical research and experience also show that women may experience not only expansive mood shifts, but also strong cravings during menses.

In the throes of addiction, not only does a woman have no power over her disorder, but she can lack a sense of her own self. Addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, gambling or sex always provides a release, not particularly because it is pleasurable, but because it is a way of coping or escaping, obscuring a woman’s true feelings about herself and emotional pain.

The addicted woman may attempt to engage in micro-management to ward off anxiety and feel in control, while she actually has little real control at all. Women are truly adept multi-taskers in daily life; but often women feel they must also be the person who keeps her own and others’ emotions under control and who must keep things running smoothly.

At Journey to Wellness, we understand what women go through in addiction, and how their experiences and needs can differ from those of men. All factors are taken into account, to provide the recovering woman a personalized and successful addiction treatment experience.

What Everyone’s Raving About (Club Drugs)

Club drugs are a category of recreational drugs which are associated with discothèques in the 1970s, and dance clubs and raves from the 1980s to the present day. Differing from other drug categories, which are established according to their pharmacological properties, club drugs are a “category of convenience”, which includes the popular MDMA (“ecstasy”), the lesser known 2C-B, inhalants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. All-night party-goers use these drugs for their stimulating or psychedelic properties, to enhance the overall experience.

MDMA can be a danger to personal health and sometimes lethal. MDMA can have many of the same physical effects as other stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines, which include increases in heart rate and blood pressure and other symptoms such as muscle tension, involuntary teeth clenching and gnashing, nausea and vomiting, blurry vision, fainting, and chills or sweating.

The effects of stimulant (cocaine, methamphetamine) consumption include increased energy, sleeplessness, appetite abatement, excessive talking and paranoia, plus constriction of blood vessels, dilation of the pupils, and increased body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. They can also cause headaches and gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain and nausea. As stimulants tend to decrease appetite, chronic users can become malnourished as well.

Hallucinations and other effects of hallucinogenic drugs include changes in the perception of distances, relative scale, color and time, as well as a slowing of the visual system’s ability to update what the user is seeing. At high doses sounds can be out of sync with the user’s visual field. Colors can also turn to sound and sound into color.

For many “club drug” users, recreational use of these substances can lead to addiction and dependence. Journey to Wellness offers addiction treatment services that will help affected people escape the addiction trap and return to happy and fulfilling lives.

Trauma And Relapse

Experts in addiction and the mental health field have long known of the links between trauma and the subsequent use and addiction to alcohol or other drugs, as well as the link between trauma and relapse. Research has found that victims of trauma are four to five times more likely to be affected by alcohol or substance abuse than the general public.
Studies performed after 9/11, of the Columbine incident, the Oklahoma City bombing, combat veterans and PTSD, and research involving survivors of other catastrophes have shown there is a very strong correlation between experiencing a traumatic event and the subsequent use and abuse of alcohol, cigarettes, illegal substances, and prescription medications.
Often the natural thing to do is to cope with trauma, is to self-medicate, to feel less of the grief, the fears and the anxieties. However, use of any controlled substances following trauma is not recommended, unless used under medical advice. The consequences of alcohol or substance abuse can re-traumatize the person, or subject the person to secondary trauma.
Trauma is often at the core of addictions, compulsive behaviors, and chronic relapses. The common aspects of trauma include feelings of complete helplessness in the face of real or perceived physical or emotional danger. Recent research has recognized that even a perceived threat can also be traumatic. Addictive behaviors are essentially dysfunctional coping mechanisms used as a way to medicate and escape from pain, shame, and trauma.
At Journey to Wellness, the relationship between trauma and relapse is recognized, and treatable by way of our individualized substance addiction treatment program.

Trauma And Addiction – Treatment Priorities

Today, when one hears the terms ‘trauma’ or ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (PTSD), one might be inclined to think first of a disorder suffered by some people in or out of military service who have been exposed to combat in the field. On the contrary, trauma or PTSD is hardly limited to the men and women who have bravely served their country. Survivors of natural catastrophes, victims of street crime or animal attack, and children of abusive parents are all survivors of trauma, and may suffer from PTSD.

Researchers and experts in the mental health field continue to make new discoveries regarding the role that trauma and PTSD play in the development of substance abuse disorders, drug addictions and alcoholism. Surviving trauma or being affected by PTSD does not automatically result in abuse or addiction to alcohol or drugs; but it has been shown to be a contributing factor in those cases involving abuse of or addiction to alcohol or drugs. The reason for this is many survivors of trauma turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to self-medicate or to numb themselves to physical or psychological pain. Unfortunately, this self-medication (which can amount to alcohol or substance abuse) eventually aggravates any physical or mental condition already in evidence, and in some cases creates additional health issues.

Research over the past 25 years has made it possible for a trauma survivor with an alcohol or drug dependency challenge to successfully recover from both afflictions, as part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program. This type of condition is also referred to as a dual-diagnosis case, and needs to have both disorders diagnosed and an individualized treatment program devised. If the alcohol or drug addiction is addressed, but the trauma is not, this will endanger any possible positive outcome of treatment. Fortunately, trained professionals are qualified to make the diagnosis, and program appropriate treatments.

The Brain Disease Of Addiction

All drugs, whether from a natural or laboratory source, are chemicals, and as such they network into the central nervous system (connected to the brain by the spinal cord) and change the way nerve cells process information.

Some drugs, for example marijuana or heroin, can activate nerve cells by mimicking the chemical structure of a natural neurotransmitter. The similarity deceives the nerve receptors, permitting the drugs to attach to and activate the neurons. Since these drugs have a similar structure, but a dissimilar process, they activate neurons differently from the manner of a natural neurotransmitter, use of these drugs appears to result in abnormal messages being sent via the brain and the nervous system.

Other drugs, for example amphetamine or cocaine, can cause neurons to release unprecedented amounts of natural neurotransmitters or to inhibit their normal life cycle. This artificially-induced release of bio-chemicals results in a message greatly amplified or distorted, which ends up overwhelming the nervous communication channels, producing the well-known associated physical and psychological reactions.

All drugs of abuse directly or indirectly target the brain and central nervous system by releasing from twice to ten times the usual amount of dopamine that natural stimuli would generate, and the effects of such a prodigious emission can last much longer than those produced naturally.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter found in those parts of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and pleasurable sensations. The over-stimulation of the brain in this manner is what creates the euphoric effects sought-after by people who use drugs for recreational purposes, and can teach them to repeat the behavior again and again.

The impact of the release of normal levels of dopamine on the reward circuit of a drug user’s brain, due to the manipulation of its level so many times, can become abnormally low, and thus the ability to experience any natural or ordinary pleasures is reduced. This is why addicts begin to feel dull and lifeless, before entering a kind of numbness, and a state in which only the drug of choice brings any degree of pleasure. Beyond this stage, the addict requires increasingly greater amounts of the drug just to bring their dopamine function up to normal. This is referred to as drug tolerance.

Chronic exposure to drugs or alcohol negatively impacts the way the brain interacts with control behavior, which is behavior specifically related to drug abuse and addiction. In the same way that continued abuse leads to tolerance, it may also lead to addiction and dependence.

Substance Abuse Emergencies



The term drug overdose (or simply overdose or OD) describes the ingestion of a drug in quantities greater than are recommended, prescribed, or generally practiced. A drug overdose is widely considered harmful and dangerous as it can result in death.

What should be done if one is with someone who has overdosed?

  • Remain calm.
  • Try to find out what was taken.
  • Get help. CALL 911 and give the operator all required information.
  • Keep the victim warm, lying on the side if possible, and maintain a clear space around them.



Withdrawal can be a more serious medical issue depending on the substance of addiction.

Withdrawal from heroin can begin almost two hours after the last dosage, giving the addict a daily re-occurring withdrawal nightmare, if the supply of the drug runs out. It gets only worse for the addict brave enough to put down heroin. From 2 to 3 days after the last ingestion of the drug, withdrawal enters a more acute phase: intense feelings of restfulness and insomnia take over the addict’s body. Heroin withdrawal causes the addict stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, chills and goose flesh.

Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome is the set of symptoms which occur when a dependent person reduces or stops alcohol consumption after prolonged periods of excessive alcohol intake. Abuse of alcohol can lead to tolerance, physical dependence, and results in alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The withdrawal syndrome is largely due to the central nervous system being in a hyper-excitable state. Unlike most withdrawals from other drugs, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. The withdrawal syndrome can include seizures and delirium tremens.

The best one can do for oneself or for a loved one who is caught up in an addicted lifestyle is to get help from an addiction treatment facility.

Sex Addiction

“Sex addiction” is descriptive of the behavior of someone who has an unusually intense sex drive or obsession with sex. Sex and sexual thoughts dominate the sex addict’s thinking, making work or engaging in healthy personal relationships difficult at best.

The sex addict engages in crooked thinking, often justifying their actions and blaming others for their problems. Generally, they deny they have a sex addiction and make excuses for their actions, just as people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs do.

Sex addiction is also associated with risk-taking behaviors. A person with a sex addiction may engage in various forms of sexual activity, despite the potential for negative or health-compromising consequences. In addition to damaging the addict’s relationships and interfering with his or her work and social life, sex addiction can also cause the addict to place him or herself at risk of emotional and physical injury, or to likewise injure others.

A person with a sex addiction generally obtains little satisfaction from the sexual act itself and forms no emotional bonds with his or her sex partners. Also, the issue of the sex addiction itself can lead to guilty and shameful feelings. A sex addict also may feel a lack of control over his or her behavior, in spite of negative consequences suffered.

Most sex addicts live in constant denial of their addiction. Since treating an addiction is dependent on the person accepting and admitting that he or she has a problem, this is the first obstacle to be overcome. In many cases, it can take a significant life event to force the addict to admit there is a problem.

Treatment of sex addiction is centered on controlling the addictive behavior, and assisting the person in developing a healthier sexuality. Journey to Wellness’ sex addiction treatment program includes:

  • education about healthy sexuality
  • individual counseling
  • marital and/or family therapy

External support groups and 12-step recovery programs for people suffering from sex addiction also are available.

Partial Care Program

Journey to Wellness is pleased to offer its Partial Care/Partial Hospitalization Addiction Treatment Program to our community.

Partial care provides group-based, customized, intensive, structured outpatient treatment. This is accomplished by comprehensive outpatient substance abuse treatment program in a therapeutic environment. The service is offered to addicted people who are able to function at school, work or home; but need a level of treatment services beyond the traditional outpatient program.

The definition of “partial care” also embraces an intensive treatment schedule. Usually partial care, or partial hospitalization, is done for 20 hours or more, from 5 to 7 days per week.

This program allows our clients to return home daily after treatment, and begin the transition back to everyday living situations and challenges. Clients are provided with short-term treatment that is customized to their respective levels of functioning, yet fully addresses the nature of their addictions.

The program is considered to have been completed when:

  • the client has met treatment plan goals and objectives
  • the client’s condition is stabilized, such that his or her condition can be managed without professional intervention
  • the client is well-associated with external support systems, to help maintain stability of recovery

Outpatient Treatment Center

The transition from an addicted lifestyle, to alcohol or drug abuse treatment, and back to a normal daily routine can often be very difficult for the addict. The successful outpatient drug and alcohol recovery program is comprised of both group and individual therapies.

Outpatient and intensive outpatient programs provide non-residential treatment in a clinical environment, which means the person lives at home or elsewhere, and not at the clinic.

Outpatient treatment is offered in a number of places: health clinics, community mental health clinics, counselors’ offices, hospital clinics, local health department offices, or residential programs with outpatient clinics. Treatment can be scheduled in the evenings and/or on weekends, in order that the program participants can continue to attend school or go to work. Outpatient treatment programs have different requirements for attendance, but most usually it will be up to 9 hours per week. Outpatient programs last from about 2 months to 1 year.

Intensive outpatient treatment requires a person to attend between 9 and 20 hours of treatment activities per week. The only difference between outpatient and intensive outpatient has to do with the number of hours required for treatment.

People who are the most successful in an outpatient program attend counseling sessions regularly, can count on support from friends and/or family members, have a home, and have a method of transportation to get them to and from treatment sessions. Some clinics may provide transportation, if needed.

Outpatient treatment programs very often provide access to sober-living advisors, and network with 12-step and alternative support groups, for the benefit of both the addict and the addict’s family. Participation in a 12-step program or other similar support system, in addition to, and after the course of treatment is strongly advised. If 12-step recovery does not suit, there are other options available that are known to be successful and offer the added support that people in the recovery process need.

Medication In Addiction

For many drug addicts, including alcoholics, the most effective rehabilitation programs consist of a combination of behavioral therapy and medication in addiction treatment.

A form of treatment known as “maintenance therapy” is commonly used for rehabilitation of people addicted to opium-based drugs (opium, morphine, heroin, etc.). A drug with comparable effects is prescribed which produces milder withdrawal symptoms. For years now, methadone has been used to take the place of heroin. In the methadone maintenance model of treatment, the dosage of methadone administered is gradually reduced, until the addict no longer needs heroin. Most recently, this has been done as an outpatient treatment.

Buprenorphine, a medication which has been shown to be effective in blocking cravings for opiates, has been steadily increasing in number of prescriptions since it was approved by the FDA in 2002. During this time, it has been found that buprenorphine use can result in addiction and in withdrawal syndrome when use is halted; yet, it continues to have major advantages over methadone or naltrexone, both medications in extensive use at the time buprenorphine was first marketed. In actual use, it was noted that buprenorphine is only needed once every two days compared with methadone’s daily administration; and that the risk of overdose from buprenorphine is measurably lower than that from methadone.

Two commercial preparations of buprenorphine have so far been approved for use. One, Subutex®, contains as its sole ingredient buprenorphine, and is used at the outset of treatment. The other, Suboxone®, includes buprenorphine and naloxone. Naloxone is another opioid blocker, and can easily cause strong physical withdrawal symptoms if abused. Suboxone® is prescribed for ex-addicts undergoing maintenance drug therapy.