Guest post: 5 Tips to Survive Opiate Withdrawal by Bill Weiss

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Bill Weiss shares his knowledge about drug and opiate addiction and how to recover, talking us through the withdrawal process in a safe way. It must be done under medical supervision.

An addiction to heroin or one of the many prescription opiates, such as Vicodin or Percocet, comes with intense withdrawal symptoms. For many, the withdrawal symptoms are what drive them into an early relapse, in hopes of ending the symptoms rather than enduring them.

 The withdrawal process can be unbearable, but there are ways to make it easier. In order to prevent early relapse, let’s break down the opiate withdrawal timeline and how a person can alleviate some of those symptoms.

The Opiate Withdrawal Timeline

One thing that’s important to keep in mind is that each person’s withdrawal process will be a bit different from the other. Withdrawal symptoms fully depend on the individual, his or her habits while using, and the addict’s brain chemistry. Opiate withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to severe and debilitating.

 The reason opiates cause such intense withdrawal symptoms is because of the effect they have on the user’s brain. Opiates impact the opioid receptors, which are found in the central nervous system. By targeting the opioid receptors, they adjust the brain’s response to pain while the drug is in the user’s system. This causes both physical and emotional effects, numbing the pain both physically and emotionally. Medically, this is why many doctors prescribe opiates as a pain killer.

 Unfortunately, if a person uses opiates long enough, it alters the chemistry of the brain. Eventually, the brain relies on the drug to control any amount of pain, big and small. When a person abruptly stops providing this supply of opiates to the brain, everything suddenly becomes unbearably painful as the body is no longer able to regulate pain. This sudden onset of pain signals flooding the brain is withdrawal.

 The early stage of withdrawal typically lasts for 24 to 48 hours, and it can start anywhere from a few hours to 30 hours after the last use of the drug. This can include muscle soreness, irritability, trouble sleeping, sweating, a rapid heartbeat and a lack of appetite.

 Fortunately, that earliest stages are the toughest. Later withdrawal symptoms can also be difficult, though, as cramping, shaking, nausea and vomiting may continue. The worst of these later withdrawals usually ends within a few days of sobriety, though for some may continue on for several weeks.

 Most people find that the majority of their withdrawal symptoms are gone after about a week. There may be some lingering anxiety and nausea afterwards, which can lead to a lack of appetite. Cravings for opiates, however, often last much longer.

Getting Through the Withdrawal Process

Opiate withdrawal is no picnic, but finding the right strategy to get through it can help. These are five of the best ways to get past those withdrawals for a successful detox and recovery.

1. Try Tapering

A popular method for people to stop using opiates is the taper technique. As the name suggests, it involves the person slowly tapering down the amount of opiates he uses. The benefit of this technique is that it causes less severe withdrawal symptoms than if the person simply decided to quit abruptly. However, it requires the mental discipline to keep reducing the amount of opiates used and eventually stopping use entirely.

 Just like a user will develop a tolerance for opiates and keep needing larger doses to get high, that process also works in reverse. If he can cut those doses down gradually, he’ll need less of the drug and his brain chemistry will start getting back to normal. For many, another option is to supplement the detox with Vivitrol. Vivitrol breaks the cycle of opioid addiction by lessening the symptoms of withdrawal.

2. Join a Support Group

One of the hardest parts of withdrawal is going through it alone. They can break a person down mentally and physically. A great way for the person to get support and stay on the right track is finding an addiction support group in his area.

 There are many ways that a support group can help with opiate withdrawal. Other members of the group can provide suggestions on what helped them get through the withdrawal process. Support groups also offer constructive activities, such as boosting self esteem during addiction recovery. These activities are crucial to surviving the withdrawal process and preventing relapse.

 Most importantly, being part of a group lets the person know that he is not alone in his struggle. If he has felt down on himself, a group of people who understand what he’s going through can help him maintain high self esteem.

3. Try Over-the-Counter Medications

Many of the most common symptoms of opiate withdrawal can be reduced by using popular over-the-counter medications. Tylenol and ibuprofen are two options that can help a person deal with the fevers, muscle aches, chills and sweating that come with withdrawal. Keep these medications on hand so that you can take them as needed.

4. Keep Getting Nutrients

Because of the nausea caused by opiate withdrawal, it’s often hard to eat or drink. This can make withdrawal even more difficult due to the lack of nutrients being consumed.

 Stocking up on foods that are easy to eat is a smart move before detoxing. Bananas are one option that tend to go down easy, or the person can purchase meal-replacement shakes. Multivitamins are a great choice for ensuring the person gets all the nutrients he needs even during withdrawals.

5. Set Up a Schedule in Advance

As the withdrawal process is an intense one, it is best to clear your schedule in advance. There are two key points to clearing your schedule during withdrawal.

 First, clear your schedule of any important responsibilities. Besides the fact that the symptoms will prevent you from doing anything at all, anything that you do during withdrawal will likely be of very low quality. If you are working then take time off of work, if possible. Find a safe, quiet, and secluded place in which you can focus on getting through the detox without any added stress.

 Second, is to set up a different daily routine. Routine is a problem when it comes to drug use because people often get used to their drug habits based on their daily routines. Many grow accustomed to using at a specific time of day, such as before bed or after getting home from work. Adjusting that daily routine can help the person avoid specific triggers that make him crave opiates.

 It may not be possible to avoid withdrawal symptoms entirely, but you can at least make them more bearable. With the right approach, you will be able to get and stay clean of opiates, rebuild your life and develop better coping habits to deal with life.

 Bill Weiss is an advocate of long-term sobriety. As a member of the recovery community, he feels it is important to spread awareness of alcohol and drug misuse in America and beyond. Being personally affected and having family members struggling, it is a personal quest of his to get the facts about substance misuse to light, ultimately enlightening people about this epidemic.

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Summer Heat Wave and Mental Health Wellbeing

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(painting by Yvonne Coomber)

Here in England, we have been experiencing a heat wave of over 30 degrees (yesterday was 34 and the hottest day in England for decades). Needless to say, we are not really set up for this type of weather and most homes don’t have air conditioning, just fans and open windows!

I have decided to write about this because heat and its effects can very much affect mental health wellbeing.

Heat can make you feel sluggish, tired and overwhelmed. It can make you more vulnerable to pressures and less able to cope. Add to that a mental health or physical health condition or  concern and you will find that many people struggle in this type of weather.

There are also the physical concerns of dehydration, exhaustion, sun stroke, sun burn and the impact this has on wellbeing and mental health. It is so important to keep out the sun and keep hydrated. The intense heat can also affect sleep- and stop one from falling asleep and getting adequate rest. Again this will impact on our overall wellbeing, making one feel low or anxious or extremely tired or in the case of mood disorders, has multiple implications.

I find that when its this hot and there is no air conditioning, I feel less able to cope and more tired. However I am proud of myself for doing my best in this weather.  Luckily, its going to cool off a bit now too.

On the positive side, the sunshine brings much needed Vitamin D and can be a mood booster too! Just make sure you stay safe in the sun, summer is well and truly here 🙂

Changes: Hopes and New beginnings

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Sometimes in life, changes occur rapidly and you have to just go with them and the flow. These past few weeks I have been having a lot of positive changes in terms of employment and meeting new people. Its this that can provoke positive mindset but also fears and worries too. Change can be the most wonderful motivator or you can sink under pressures.

I am lucky that in my work, I have a good support network. Additionally, as Spring is here and the sun shines more, with lighter evenings, it is a very hopeful time.

I was reminded this week that Hope truly is the most important factor. Without hope, we are nothing. I have also found that getting adequate rest and relaxation time is key in keeping me feeling well and able to cope with lifes challenges.

Looking forward to a peaceful, sunny  weekend.

Guest Post by Juno Medical: 9 Things People with Anxiety Disorders Would Rather not Hear You Say

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Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and social anxiety disorders. 1 in 12 people suffers from anxiety globally, and women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety.

If you feel overwhelmed by the behaviour of a person with anxiety, try to put yourself in their shoes, and show understanding, not stigma.

For more see www.junomedical.com

 

Full Circle- From Bipolar and Mental Illness to Recovery

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It was summer 2014. I sat on a sadly impersonal green NHS couch in a quiet side room , my feet dangling over the edge, holding my wordsearch book and counting down the hours until I could leave the Day Unit. I had been feeling exhausted from my new medication, wobbly, teary and lacking in confidence all day and I had just started taking Lithium as a therapeutic medication. As such I had weekly blood tests as the Lithium level in my blood fluctuated between 0.4 and the optimum dose of 0.8, where you start to feel much better.  Lithium has to reach a certain amount in the blood to work on your brain (where it stops or tames mania and mood disorders).  They also had to check it didn’t become toxic in my blood and so weekly tests were needed which were exhausting at the time.

I had just received test results that day informing me that I was feeling a bit fragile because the Lithium was only at 0.4 in my blood. All I wanted to do was hide away from the rest of the therapy group in that little room, peacefully colouring in photos and doing wordsearches to keep me occupied. All I really wanted to do was go home, to where I felt safe and I didn’t have to face the reality of being ill.

This was at the beginning of my recovery journey in 2014. I had left hospital as an in patient after a manic episode and was a voluntary patient at an Acute Day Unit specialising in group therapies. Eventually, I grew to love it and the other people there- although I always wanted to leave faster than the Doctors thought I was ready! I stayed there 3 months in total and some people stay there 2 weeks. I very much needed the healing nature of the therapies even though I didn’t feel it at the time.

I realised these past few weeks how far I have come in my journey- from ill service user needing the support of my psychiatrist, nurses and OTs, to not needing that support currently (on 6 monthly psychiatrist meetings) and helping others in a similar setting in my new job.

I really have come full circle. There may be times when I am ill again in the future or not feeling at my best. I may need more support again. I may get panic attacks or mania or depression. However, for now I am feeling positive and hoping I stay well for a long time on my medication.

Recovery is possible. I am so thankful to all who have helped me on my journey and continue to provide guidance and love.

Guest Post by Richie: Dealing with anxiety, Live Your Now

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(image:weheartit.com)

I was honoured to be asked to write a piece on anxiety for this wonderful blog.  I’m Richie, and I’m a mindfulness coach – one who happens to have had anxiety for as long as I can remember.  The thing is, I didn’t always know I had it.  I’ve been researching positive psychology methods etc for many years, but I wasn’t coping so headed to see a counsellor who referred me for a course of CBT after having pointed out – Sir, you have bad anxiety.

Me?

Yes I’d had panic attacks, people would describe me as quite reactive, amongst other things – and after all these years, to discover it was my “fight or flight” mechanism going into overdrive & attaching to situations in had no business being in, well, I was not impressed to say the least! How did I miss this? I felt initially extremely put out by this, I saw myself as a “fighter” – I got on with things, my panic attacks were just “stage fright” (I was in radio/music performance etc), my OCD a quirk of creativity and all that jazz! Right?

Wrong.

This is when I began to understand more fully the stigma associated to “mental health”. A somewhat wishy-washy term to people not familiar, or plain ignorant of the facts (as I myself was), as it’s often attributed to needing to just “chill out” or, “stop being so depressed” etc. At some point in life, many people will experience bouts of some kind of mental illness – after traumas, disappointments, or for some no seeming reason at all! But then, even the most healthy people can catch a cold.  And that’s the issue. Mental Health is a physical issue, that cannot be seen, and therefore for some is like trying to see oxygen.

My advice is simple on this matter; for brevity.

Acceptance & ownership

Firstly, accept it’s a physical thing, and take ownership and understand the physical things in the mind that are taking place. This helps separate you from the thought that you ARE your anxiety/depression etc. This is simply not the case.

If you catch a cold, you don’t say you ARE your cold. CBT helped me understand the mechanics of it, and have useful approaches, but for me (and we’re all different), I find mindfulness to have been the most helpful because it teaches to not identify as “being” depression/anxiety etc. This begins a process of dissociation of identifying as “being” depressed/anxious, and instead acceptance of what it is, how it functions, learning how it feels, and gradually gaining a level of understanding and feeling of when it’s occurring – and how it can shape/affect our feelings/emotions and therefore behaviours/reactions.

Experiment with techniques

Secondly, experiment with ways that can help you day to day – of course, seek professional help, but there’s also much that you can do independently. Breathing exercises (massively effective!), reminding yourself that the depression/anxiety doesn’t make you who you are, try things like mindfulness which teach us to detach from thought.

I also personally use meditations, guided or technological, hypnosis, even things like “EFT” (emotional freedom technique – or tapping), reading positive books, listening to uplifting music, and actively managing thought processes as and when I can.  Using mindfulness to compliment allows for being more in touch then, with which techniques are being more effective for you in the moment.

Is anxiety still there? Oh yes! But the more I practice these techniques (and you will find what works for you) and indeed, share them with others, the more aware I become of “anxiety”.

Reframing

Lastly; I have also reframed my anxiety, because without that fight or flight mechanism, our species would not likely still be here! So it’s important! It’s evolved in our species to protect us – and there are times that flood of adrenaline etc is critical. We certainly would not wish to be without it, but the chances a tiger is going to jump out and eat us are hopefully not too prevalent in your neighbourhood…

My experiences prompted me to begin @LiveYourNow & @Rmindrs on Twitter where I post daily mindfulness reminders, engage, and encourage others to talk – and hopefully create a few laughs too! (Laughter releases great neuro-chemicals!)

Be forgiving of yourself, understand you’re on a journey, and when you find things that help you, share them with others. The more we speak openly, the less stigma is attached, and the more others who may be suffering in silence may feel comforted and confident to speak out and seek assistance.  I have been witness to that now multiple times, and it’s truly a wonderful thing when we accompany each other, in compassion, on our healing journeys.

Thank you for reading! I hope it brings even just one person comfort/hope.

To your greatest life,

Richie – @LiveYourNow

Article for the Monologues Project- ‘People don’t always understand’

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Be Ur Own Light has teamed up with the amazing Monologues Project for this months #showandtell feature. In it they interviewed us about our journey with mental health and asked questions about our lives.

It is such a pleasure to be working with them. Thank you Monologues Project!

To read the in depth article, click here: http://www.themonologuesproject.org/features/003

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Guest Post: How Deepdene Care helps support people with psychosis.

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by Rhona Mackenzie, Clinical Director, Deepdene Care

For more please clink link above or see http://www.deepdenecare.org.uk/

Be Ur Own Light is happy to partner with Deepdene Care,a health provider in the UK


At Deepdene  we support people with severe mental health issues such as psychosis.

 

As mental health problems are often complex and involve an array of factors, the best course of action for any case is structured, multi-faceted approach that is rolled out over months and possibly years with the primary objective of reducing the impact of the condition on an individual’s life.

 

As a service provider we have to look at the bigger picture:

 

Staff have a deeper understanding

A high level of staff training is an intrinsic part of any treatment and care plan.

 

We train staff to understand and increase their knowledge of all mental health conditions. In the case of psychosis, they are taught to be aware of what hallucinations and delusions are, so that they can act in a proper, effective manner, and are also taught how brain chemicals can affect people. This gives them an educated insight, which not only helps with treatment, but allows them to understand what an individual is going through, ensuring empathetic responses.

 

In addition, staff have to have an understanding of the side effects of medication. So, again, they are properly equipped to be able to help the service users and approach them with understanding.

 

Therapies and activities

Therapies and activities are also a key factor in the recovery process, especially occupational therapies, where service users are able to fill their time with meaningful activities. This helps individuals gain routine in their lives, bringing a sense of direction back into what they do and acting as a representation of everyday life.

 

Getting to know the person and their symptoms 

It is essential that anyone with psychosis under our care is supported and treated as an individual, as each case is completely different from another and symptoms can vary quite dramatically. This is why we place a great deal of focus on listening to patients, observing their behaviours and supporting them in every way possible.

 

We also promote therapeutic relationships between staff and service users, with the central goal being to build trust and respect among them.

 

Destigmatising mental illness

As a mental health provider, we have to advocate and educate people to destigmatise mental illnesses and accept the person the way they are – promoting empathy among team members and throughout the service as a whole.

 

If a person has had a mental illness they are usually more understanding and empathetic towards another mental health sufferer. If a service user/person is being discriminated against, we may need to support them on how to deal with that.

 

Outside support

We also support those with psychosis through outside professionals like psychologists.

 

But, and we can’t stress this enough, none of our work would be effective, if we don’t support, respect and accept the individual for the way they are.

 

Mental Health Recovery

Our ultimate goal is to have individuals be responsible for their own behaviours, which is why we look to educate them to self-support their own physical, emotional and social needs, while we are on hand to offer support when necessary. Almost like a safety net to cushion any falls individuals may have on their personal journey to recovery.

 

It’s important to dispose of any one-size-fits-all solution. This is about treating the person as an individual, accepting their illness as part of their individuality while at the same time seeing them as a whole person and not just defining them by their mental health condition.

 

Self-belief is a huge part of the recovery process and we’re able to help individuals develop their esteem, empowering them by educating them on relationships, finance, occupation, choices, diet, exercise and lifestyle. Placing control back into their own hands through guidance and advice.

 

It’s important to understand individuals so that we know when they are at their best, at which point we can work with them to develop crisis and relapse plans and find out exactly how they’d like to be treated. Essentially it’s a two-way street, and we place a great deal of importance on working with individuals to find the best path.

 

 

Dark nights and Brighter Days: Music and Writing

It feels like ages since I just sat down and wrote my heart out about my own life, which is how Be Ur Own Light started. In fact this blog was a diary and once called Diary of a Nearly Thirty Year Old (as I am 28!) The level of interest in mental health writing and my blog is growing which is wonderful and I love sharing everyone’s stories and featuring guest posts from brave mental health warriors. Today though I want to update you on my story.

Thank fully, I am not depressed or too anxious these days. I have been able to go out more, see friends and family and just enjoy myself. This week my Dad and I ran two charity events at Jazz after Dark, a teeny little club in Soho, Central London. Jazz after Dark is where Amy Winehouse walked in and began her career and where she wrote part of Back to Black. Our event was in aid of a young girl who passed away this year aged just 20. Many professional singers and musicians gave their time for free for us to raise money for an ambulance , which was the dying wish of the girl who passed away.

We managed to raise £3,500 for the charity supplying the ambulance through ticket sales, a raffle and auction. My Dad put so much of it together and on the nights we worked so hard. It was a thoroughly enjoyable 2 nights and I had the chance to watch live music and meet acquaintances and see old friends. I was so thankful to feel comfortable doing this and for feeling so happy at what we all achieved.

Additionally, my cousin got engaged last weekend which was lovely, we had a family party for him.

I am also contemplating a new career in writing professionally. I have always written, journalled, wrote poetry and did English at university.. I always have used writing as an outlet. However, I want to share my story in overcoming adversity and living with mental health issues. I have been so lucky to already have collaborated with people and 2 big mental health charities. So this journey is new and exciting and rewarding. I thank you for reading here in my little corner of the internet and for following the journey together.