Addiction Treatment and Life Expectancy

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When we abuse drugs and alcohol, we are shortening our life expectancy by potentially untold amounts. (Lightspring/Shutterstock)

When we abuse drugs and alcohol, we are shortening our life expectancy by potentially untold amounts. (Lightspring/Shutterstock)

It’s no secret that life expectancy is a lot higher these days than it used to be. And while we usually compare the expected longevity of today’s populace to what it looked like centuries ago, we are still increasing at a slow yet steady rate. In fact, between 2000 and 2014, we added another two years to our grand total. But while natural causes of death may be largely on the decline, there are still less natural risks that are increasing their foothold on America. We’re talking, of course, about opioid-related overdose deaths.

Overdose deaths due to drugs such as heroin and fentanyl might make national headlines when the victim is a famous personality such as Philip Seymour Hoffman or Prince, but the tragic reality is that there are deaths occurring every day that you may never hear about. Our staff knows four people who have died in the past week alone due to excessive abuse of the very same drugs we mentioned above. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is now the primary cause of accidental death in the United States alone. In 2014, there were more than 47,000 deaths due to drug overdose in the US, with over half of these caused by heroin and opioids. The Washington Post notes that “unintentional poisoning,” which covers all overdose deaths, has increased dramatically whereas most other unintentional causes of death are actually on the decline. We have written about rising rates of opioid addiction before, but to juxtapose these rates with a generally rising life expectancy presents a shocking view of the manner in which we are becoming drug addicted and diseased in what should be a privileged society.

It is time for us to reclaim our life expectancy and do what we can to avoid a tragic death by unintentional poisoning. There is no telling who may be next, but it is possible to ensure that it isn’t you. Below, we’ll detail how Amethyst Recovery can help extend our patients’ life expectancy by helping them kick the deadly habit of opioid abuse.

Getting Through the Withdrawal Phase

Some people will use to the point of overdose just to get over their withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal simply cannot be experienced alone. (PrinceOfLove/Shutterstock)

Some people will use to the point of overdose just to get over their withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal simply cannot be experienced alone. (PrinceOfLove/Shutterstock)

Opiates are known for creating some of the worst withdrawals ever experienced by drug users. When an addict goes a while without getting their fix, they will begin to exhibit a number of symptoms. Some of these are behavioral, such as anxious or agitated moods and behaviors. The user may then begin to sweat while experiencing muscle aches and a runny nose. Yawning may also be quite common, as is insomnia.

It can take around twelve hours for the above symptoms to begin occurring. As time marches on, the symptoms will grow worse. These may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and goose bumps. These sound like general and possibly mild symptoms, but anyone who has gone through them will tell you otherwise. The same applies to those who have experienced the extreme abdominal cramping associated with late withdrawal. Furthermore, many of the early symptoms will persist while growing worse in terms of intensity.

On the whole, opiate withdrawal (or any drug withdrawal, for that matter) can be a profoundly miserable experience. This is why many addicts will revert back to their habit the moment they begin experiencing severe symptoms. But as noted above, prolonged opiate abuse can have an extremely negative impact on your life expectancy. If addicts are to safeguard their health, they must find a way of pushing through these horrendous withdrawal symptoms until their bodies have had a chance to detox fully.

Those who are at risk of severe withdrawal will find that Amethyst is a safe place to detox. We are just as dedicated to the medical components of care as we are to the psychological ones. We know which withdrawal medications work, and a few of our staff even know precisely what it feels like to go through withdrawals. It’s tough to make it through—but once you’re on the other side, you may never want to abuse opiates again. This is a boon to your life expectancy. Just let us do the hard work of keeping you safe and drug-free while you go through withdrawals, and you should feel a great sense of relief once they have subsided and you are able to begin our true continuum of care.

Building a Solid Relapse Prevention Plan

This is at the heart of every relapse prevention plan, but it may take more than just a little resolve. (Krasimira Nevenova/Shutterstock)

This is at the heart of every relapse prevention plan, but it may take more than just a little resolve. (Krasimira Nevenova/Shutterstock)

Withdrawals are just the initial step of recovery. If we truly wish to extend our life expectancy, we have to plan for the future. Even long after the physical cravings are gone, we may encounter temptations that tickle our mental obsession and lure us into thinking that we can get away with using again. Giving into these temptations can be incredibly dangerous—especially if we’re talking about life expectancy.

The link between relapse and life expectancy is stronger than you might imagine. It might seem safe to use once your body has had sufficient time to heal and detoxify, but this is not quite the case. The problem is that many opiate addicts who have been in recovery will try to use the same amounts during their relapse as they were using before they became sober. But their mental tolerance isn’t the only thing that’s lowered—their physical tolerance has lowered as well. When trying to overdo it under these conditions, it is simply all too easy to overdose.

This is why following tried and true relapse prevention tips can be fundamental to ensuring life expectancy. If you don’t know how you will react to certain given situations, it becomes all too likely that you may react in dangerously unhealthy fashion. Addicts must understand their triggers, and to some extent they must prepare for triggers they have not encountered in the past. Part of this boils down to having a strong support network of people you can call when you are in a bind. Many of these individuals will be encountered in our programs and our sober living facilities, as we strongly encourage our patients to embrace the concept of teamwork and stand alongside one another to fight the disease as a fellowship rather than as individuals. But to some extent, we have to find our own strength in recovery as well.

Amethyst will help you, through individual and group therapy, to discover which situations may act as the greatest triggers for you. As is often the case, you may find that it is suggested for you to avoid certain friends from your past. This can be hard to do, but what’s more important—life expectancy, or loyalty to people who aren’t looking out for your health? If you don’t think you could say no when offered your drug of choice, you will definitely have to land on the side of life expectancy.

Other Ways of Extending Life Expectancy

Something as simple as a healthy diet and exercise plan can work wonders. (udra11/Shutterstock)

Something as simple as a healthy diet and exercise plan can work wonders. (udra11/Shutterstock)

We can help you extend your life expectancy by more ways than simply helping you to avoid an untimely overdose disaster. Most of the ways we do this revolve around our personalized care, specifically the manner in which we offer life skills education to those who are in need of it. Throughout active addiction and alcoholism, we are often quite unhealthy. When we become sober, we reach a point where it is not only beneficial but practically necessary to begin changing some of our core habits.

It is certainly not a rule at Amethyst Recovery that patients obsess over nutrition, but those who wish to eat more nutritiously will definitely be given the chance. This is necessary for those who find that they have developed eating disorders while in active addiction, or who simply ate too much or too little as a result of their particular drug of choice. In addition, the food we ate was likely not too healthy, regardless of quantity. Couple this with the already extreme toll that drugs and alcohol can take on the body, and we are in need of better nutrition if we wish to see some changes in ourselves. Nutrition can be good for mental health as well, so life expectancy is only one of the benefits we may experience when choosing to eat healthier.

We do not make reference to mental health for the sheer joy of it. The truth is that mental health affects our life expectancy in ways we may not even realize at first. We have treated many patients with co-occurring disorders such as depression. Add that to our own experiences with addiction, and we are highly aware that mental health has the potential to impact one’s longevity. So many lives have been lost due to depression, and many of us have experienced that loss ourselves. At Amethyst, we embrace the concept of dual diagnosis so that we may help lessen the number of lives needlessly lost when addicts and alcoholics suffer from mental or emotional disorders that may go undiagnosed at other facilities.

Playing fast and loose with drugs and alcohol is dangerous to our life expectancy, as well as our overall enjoyment of life itself. It is time that we stop taking life for granted and begin living it to its fullest. But in order to do that, we must remain sober. For more information about how Amethyst Recovery can help you to do this, contact us today.

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