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Addiction Archive

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Is your habit getting out of control?

Updated July 1, 2020

Stress can raise your risk of developing a substance use disorder. Here's how to get help when you need it.

In recent months, Americans' collective stress level has risen in response to the pandemic and economic fallout. Many people are looking for ways to help themselves feel better. Unfortunately, stress can trigger a number of unhealthy coping strategies — drinking alcohol to excess, bingeing on junk food, engaging in drug use, or other harmful behaviors. If you've ever had a substance use disorder, a bout of significant stress may even put your recovery at risk.

This is likely due to the shift the human brain makes in times of trauma. Instead of focusing on long-term goals, your brain zeroes in on short-term objectives.

Looking past the pandemic: Could building on our willingness to change translate to healthier lives?

Published April 28, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that people are capable of changing their behavior— surprisingly fast—when the stakes are high. Can we apply that resolve to other persistent issues that affect our health and quality of life?

A tale of two epidemics: When COVID-19 and opioid addiction collide

Published April 20, 2020

In our inner cities, the COVID-19 pandemic comes on top of another crisis that has plagued our country for years: the opioid epidemic. The combined effects of these two events are immense, and highlight already-existing problems with our society and our health care system.

Recovering from addiction during a time of uncertainty and social distancing

Published April 3, 2020

Because the very nature of recovery support involves face-to-face interaction, whether in support group meetings or dispensing medication, it is at odds with the need for social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis, creating barriers to receiving support and maintaining recovery.

Can mind-body therapies help reduce reliance on opioids?

Updated February 1, 2020

News briefs

A large study published online Nov. 4, 2019, by JAMA Internal Medicine offers hope for people who want to reduce their reliance on opioids. The powerful prescription painkillers, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), are typically used to treat severe pain after surgery, pain with terminal illness, and chronic pain. But use of these drugs comes with the risk of dependence, addiction, overdose, and death. So researchers set out to determine if mind-body therapies (such as meditation or hypnosis) could help ease pain. Scientists reviewed 60 randomized trials with more than 6,400 people taking opioids for reasons such as surgery, burns, cancer, or chronic pain. Researchers noted moderate to large improvements in pain among people who added meditation, hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or therapeutic suggestion to their pain control regimens. Meditation, hypnosis, and CBT were so effective that people were able to slightly reduce the amount of opioids they were taking. Two other therapies — relaxation therapy and guided imagery — did not have a significant impact on pain. The great news: you have nothing to lose by adding one of these mind-body therapies to your regimen, and it may even help.

Image: FatCamera/Getty Images

Are you drinking too much alcohol?

Updated November 1, 2019

Here's how to tell if you may have a drinking problem.

Alcoholic beverages are a "social lubricant." At holiday and other parties, bouts of excessive drinking can seem like part of the celebration. But here's something to think about as you raise your glass: drinking too much alcohol at a party — or at any time — can be a sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

What is AUD?

AUD is the umbrella term for problem drinking that stems from alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence. While both are marked by problems stopping or controlling alcohol use, they're not the same.

E-cigarettes: Hazardous or helpful?

Updated August 1, 2019

Their efficacy as a tool for quitting regular cigarettes and their long-term safety remain concerning.

Even if you never touch cigarettes, you probably know someone who does (or did) smoke. Nearly half of Americans smoked in the mid-1960s, compared with just 14% today. Still, cigarette smoking is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States, and about one-third of those are due to heart disease.

What about electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), the latest smoking trend? These battery-operated devices heat up a liquid, creating a vapor that users inhale and exhale, a practice known as "vaping." Although e-cigarettes were initially targeted to young people, more recent ad campaigns feature middle-aged, long-time smokers who have switched to vaping. Is vaping safer than smoking, especially from a cardiovascular perspective? And can these products help people quit regular cigarettes?

Understanding the language of addiction

Updated June 26, 2019

People allude to addiction in everyday conversation, casually referring to themselves as "chocolate addicts" or "workaholics." But addiction is not a term clinicians take lightly. Addiction is defined as a condition characterized by the loss of control over the use of a psychoactive drug or the participation in an activity, such as gambling. People with an addiction also crave their activity and continue to pursue it even though they experience adverse consequences as a result of doing so.

There are a few key terms surrounding addiction that people tend to use interchangeably. The words tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal can sometimes be confused with each other. These terms are related but not interchangeable.

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