How to Identify an Addiction & 6 Steps to Overcome Bad Habits

Many patients and friends have asked me this question over the years: when does drinking or drug use become a problem?  The easy answer is when someone feels like they NEED the substance to relax or to over come anxieties.  But there are many other signs that I will outline below.

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Depression and addiction is incredibly common among Canadians.  In fact, in any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem.

Who is affected?

  • 70% of mental health problems have onset during childhood or adolescence.
  • Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.
  • People with a mental illness are twice as likely to have a substance use problem compared to the general population!
  • At least 20% of people with a mental illness have a co-occurring substance use problem. For people with schizophrenia, the number may be as high as 50%.

Is that glass of wine really a problem??

Using alcohol in moderation may not be a problem at all.  However, for some, drinking or using drugs gets out of hand and begins to affect work, school and relationships.  Below are the signs of substance abuse and are often indicators that the use of drugs or alcohol has gone too far.

Signs of substance abuse:

  • Loss of Control: Drinking or taking drugs more than a person wants to, for longer than they intended, or despite telling themselves that they wouldn’t do it this time.
  • Neglecting Other Activities: Spending less time on activities that used to be important (hanging out with family and friends, exercising, pursuing hobbies or other interests) because of the use of alcohol or drugs and/or a drop in attendance and performance at work or school.
  • Risk Taking: More likely to take serious risks in order to obtain alcohol drug of choice.
  • Relationship Issues: People struggling with addiction are known to act out against those closest to them, particularly if someone is attempting to address their substance problems; complaints from co-workers, supervisors, teachers or classmates.
  • Secrecy: Going out of one’s way to hide or lie about the amount of drugs or alcohol consumed or one’s activities when drinking or drugging; unexplained injuries or accidents.
  • Changing Appearance: Changes or deterioration in hygiene or physical appearance such as lack of showering.
  • Family History: A family history of addiction can significantly increase one’s predisposition to substance abuse.
  • Tolerance: Over time, a person’s body adapts to a substance to the point that they need more and more of it in order to have the same reaction.
  • Withdrawal: As the effect of the alcohol or drugs wear off the person may experience symptoms such as: anxiety or jumpiness; shakiness or trembling; sweating, nausea and vomiting, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue or loss of appetite and headaches.
  • Continued Use Despite Negative Consequences: Even though it is causing problems (on the job, in relationships, for one’s health), a person continues drinking and taking drugs

 

If you think that either you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction, it is never too late to get help.  Below, find 5 important steps for recovery (adapted from Dr. Jonathan Prousky, 2013).

Step 1: Getting help

The most important first step in recovery is to admit there is a problem and help is needed. This usually means reaching a major low point (hitting rock bottom). However, if the desire to change is there, many organizations can be contacted for help.

Step 2: Rehab

Successful recovery often involves completing some type of addiction program, such as a rehab facility or an outpatient program. These programs are associated with reductions in drug use and criminal behaviour and better employment status.

Step 3: Peer support

Involvement in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) helps to maintain sobriety and provide essential peer support. These groups are free, incredibly accessible, and provide unlimited support.

Step 4: Wellness

For long term success, focusing on wellness is key.  Certain therapies that are associated with stress and anxiety reduction are very helpful when dealing with addictions.

Yoga
Yoga is excellent at calming the nervous system. According to a 2011 study, yogic practices “promote recovery from and treatment of addiction; reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain; improve sleep patterns; and enhance overall well-being and quality of life.”

Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps people to focus attention on the present and encourages a positive attitude toward that experience. People with addictions tend to have difficulty staying in the moment and often struggle with anxiety and depression. Mindfulness training insulates one’s thoughts to be more present, positive, and life-affirming.

Exercise
Recent scientific research reveals exercise’s amazing impact on addiction. Benefits of exercise include reduced cravings for cigarettes and managed withdrawal from nicotine dependence, reduced urges for alcohol, decreased anxiety and depression among problem drinkers, and even reduced withdrawal and anxiety among heroin users on morphine.

When treating depression, often associated with addiction, regular physical exercise might be as effective as psychotherapy and is perhaps more effective than other behavioural interventions. No pill has more therapeutic value than regular physical exercise!!!

Step 5: Healthy Diet

Focusing on a healthy diet is incredibly beneficial for those in recovery.

High amounts of sugar consumption increases inflammation within the body and may reinforce addiction. In addition, it is believed that excess sugar stimulates food or drug addiction. Fast foods and packaged foods are also devoid of important nutrients that are critical in recovery.

Those who are in recovery benefit from a  diet moderately high in good sources of protein and fat, such as lean chicken, lamb, organic beef, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Including more healthy sources of protein and fat should stabilize blood sugar, decrease sugar cravings, and also reduce compulsive behaviours. Choosing natural sugars such as fruits is much preferred over refined sugars.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! Addiction and depression is much more common than most people realize and recovery is possible.

 

Yours in Vitality,

Dr. E

 

Works Cited

Center for Addictions and Mental Health, 2016

Smetanin et al (2011). The life and economic impact of major mental illnesses in Canada: 2011-2041. Prepared for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Toronto: Risk Analytica.

2Government of Canada (2006). The human face of mental health and mental illness in Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.

National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, 2016

Dr. Jonathon Prousky, 2013

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Natural Ways to Decrease Estrogen

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Estrogen dominance has become common amongst many woman today. We are constantly exposed to toxins and pesticides that can disrupt on hormone balance, namely by increasing estrogens (or “xenoestrogens”) in our bodies. Read below to find out ways to naturally decrease estrogen/

 

 

  1. Increase Fiber Intake

A low-fiber diet causes estrogen levels to be higher, while a diet high in fiber results in decreased estrogen levels in the bloodstream. This is because excess estrogen is excreted in the bowel. When stool remains in the bowel for a longer time, as in constipation, the estrogen is reabsorbed. Studies have shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. High fiber foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, chia seeds and flax seeds.

 

  1. Avoid Toxins (Xenoestrogens)

Xenoestrogens, such as PCBs, phthalates, pesticides and DDT, cause estrogenic effects. Although banned in 1972, DDT, like its breakdown product DDE, is a xenoestrogen, which is still present in the environment. Chlorine and hormone residues in meats and dairy products also can have estrogenic effects. In women, it may lead to an epidemic of female diseases, all traceable to excess estrogen/deficient progesterone. It is critical to incorporate a pure, clean diet consisting of organic foods whenever possible in an effort to decrease exposure to harmful xenoestrogens. Additionally, it is important to avoid these harmful chemicals in beauty care products, detergents, perfumes and deordorants. Do not use plastic containers to store food in.

 

  1. Increase Indole 3 Carbinol

Many studies have demonstrated that specific compounds isolated from these cruciferous vegetables—including diindolylmethane (DIM) and its precursor, indole-3-carbinol (I3C)—have unique cancer-fighting benefits and help to lower xenogenous estrogens. I3C appears to be effective in shifting the metabolism of estradiol from the dangerous 16-alpha-hydroxylase pathway to the 2-hydroxylase pathway.43-46 As a result, consumption of I3C boosts the ratio of 2-OHE1:16a-OHE1, which correlates with reduced risk of breast and other cancers, including cervical, prostate, and even head and neck cancers. Cruciferous Vegetables: Broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale. Supplementing with 13C may also be beneficial.

 

  1. Decrease Alcohol Consumption

Drinking too much alcohol can impair liver function. Since estrogen is metabolized by the liver, failure of the liver due to excess alcohol consumption may lead to increased estrogen levels. It is best to limit one’s alcohol consumption to one glass per day or even less.

 

  1. Perform Aerobic Exercise.

Research shows that physical activity curtails overproduction of estrogen. Walking and swimming are great forms of aerobic exercise.

 

 

 

 

Why Heat Can Help Ease Menstrual Pains

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I have countless patients that come to me to help them have more tolerable periods. A great deal of woman suffer from monthly menstruation pain and many are looking for alternatives to conventional oral pain killers.

Applying heat to the tummy to ease menstrual pain is advice women have passed down through the generations.

Now scientists have proved your grandmother really was on to something when she told you to use a hot water bottle.

Scientists say that placing a warm water bottle on the abdomen can not only alleviate menstrual cramping but can also relieve pain caused by cystitis. They say placing something warm on the skin above where the pain is felt can alleviate abdominal pain in a similar way to painkillers for up to an hour.

The scientists, from University College London, found that heat treatment works by blocking pain messages to the brain.

According to Dr. Brian King, when presenting his findings to the Physiological Society’s annual conference, ‘The heat doesn’t just provide comfort and have a placebo effect – it actually deactivates the pain at a molecular level in much the same way as pharmaceutical painkillers work. We have discovered how this molecular process works.’

The scientists found that if a warm temperature over 40 degrees Celsius is applied to the skin near to where internal pain is felt, it switches on heat receptors at the site of injury. These heat receptors in turn block the effect of chemical messengers that cause pain to be detected by the body”

Unfortunately, the relief from heat is only temporary, and many woman may need other solutions (like our many tips on periodmakeover.com or completing our Period Makeover Detox, that will be available on the Period Makeover  site soon!).

Lying down and using a hot water bottle can be very helpful, but sometimes our busy schedules do not allow for this! Luckily there are many over the counter, convenient, “on the go” heating pads available at drug stores that can easily be used under your clothes at work or throughout the day.

I would love to hear from you- have you found heat an effective way to decrease period pains?

In Health,

Dr. Emily

SPRING DETOX

Happy First week of Spring!!

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Despite the snowfall in Toronto at the moment, it is in fact SPRING!  And, spring time means cleansing time 🙂  I am excited to be giving a talk on the ins and outs of detoxing on APRIL 10th at 7:30 at ECOEXISTENCE, located at 766 ST. CLAIR WEST TORONTO.  It is free to attend so just show up if you would like to learn more about why we need to detox, how our bodies detox and the best medicines, supplements and lifestyle tips for detoxing !

I recently wrote a guest blog for the wonderful Kristen Ma of Pure + Simple on detox.  If you would like to read what I will be talking about April 10th find it here:

http://www.holisticvanity.ca/detoxification-debunked/