The Science of Environmental Triggers of Relapse

While South Florida rehab centers that treat people for substance use disorders understand that environment plays a significant role in people who’ve undergone substance abuse treatment and relapse prevention, much of the public still holds onto the belief that a person relapses because either they’re morally incapable of making the ‘right’ decision or they simply lack enough willpower to overcome their habit. The more competent and holistic south Florida rehab centers work with patients over the long term to handle the stressors of environment that lead to relapse because they have an understanding of this phenomenon, but a lot of the scientific research as to the ‘why’ this occurs is still under study.

A recent study by the University of Guelph has uncovered a little more of the mystery that connects behavior triggers to the environment of a person recovering from substance use disorder. The study’s co-author, Professor Francesco Leri, says that memory processing is stimulated from certain drugs like cocaine, associating in the brain a location and general environment to use. Thus, if an addict frequently used their drug in their home, say, at sundown, then someone recovering from cocaine use disorder will face extra challenges of resisting cravings, despite being chemically free of the drug, when the sun goes down and they are in their home.

Professor Leri says, “Stimuli in our environment such as buildings, objects and places are fairly innocuous. When they’re associated with drugs of abuse, they can become modifiers of memory function.”

Study co-author Boyer Winters, also a psychology professor, adds, “That learning’s going to be stamped in better and probably be stronger and more persistent.”

The study performed involved rats in two groups. Initially, they were all drug free and then environmentally stimulated with lights and location. Then the groups were given cocaine, one group away from that location and one group in that location. They were then allowed to dispense drugs freely, but the stimulation was returned to both groups. The group that had received the drugs within the simulated environment used drugs at a higher rate and almost exclusively when the environment was stimulated, despite both groups being exposed to the stimuli.

“Those cues acquire powerful cognitive effects,” Winters added. “They could be used to enhance learning of the recovery process.”

As more studies discover just how addiction works, much of the work to be done with them involve reversing the ‘intuitive’ understanding of the public that has been dispersed regularly to the public through War On Drugs-related propaganda, which places high emphasis on drug use tied to morality, due to the illegality of drug use itself. However, the actual nature of addiction is not only completely disconnected from morals, but is far more complicated than ‘him good’ vs. ‘him bad’. Studies like this one are ongoing, with the ultimate hope that substance use disorder can be treated reliably for everyone much like a doctor can treat a physical wound with stitches.

Substance use disorder is a serious illness that requires professional treatment. If you or someone you care about might be suffering from an addiction, First Step Behavioral Health can help. Call (866) 319-6126 today to learn more about treatment options available to you or a loved one.

Parents Reveal Their Mistakes

South Florida rehab centers often have teens and young adults coming through their doors, but due to the stigma of addiction and the dynamics of family, some don’t have the luxury of finding a substance abuse treatment center in Florida because they lose their lives to the drug.

Recently, parents who lost their children to substance use disorder shared their stories and, more specifically, the signs they missed which, had they known what they were seeing in their child, would’ve allowed them to at least try to help them.

One couple, Sheila and Rich Craumer, failed to notice Briana’s actions that were indicating something more than just general teenager shenanigans. She slept all day, stayed up all night and frequently had mood swings and a lack of patience.

Rich recalls a Saturday afternoon when Briana was nodding off in the living room, “I thought it was so cute, and I was taking pictures of her. I had no idea she was high on heroin.” Briana died at age 18 from a fentanyl overdose.

What Sheila emphasizes is that a lot of the signs are of normal teen behavior like moodiness, spending a lot of time in their room and asking for money. “I was so clueless. If you don’t know anything about it, you are clueless.”

After the incident, they started a support group for other families going through the days of living with a child who’s abusing narcotics, with many of the members sharing signs that tipped them off that something might serious might be going on:

  • Misplaced spoons for heroin use
  • Things around the house go missing because they are being sold for money
  • Constant stuffy nose from snorting substances
  • Spending lots of time in the bathroom dealing with constipation from opioid use
  • Lack of appetite that accompanies drug use
  • Tearing up certain brands of cotton swabs to use as a nasal straw for snorting
  • Lack of hygiene

When confronting children whether they may be using drugs, it’s important to never take an adversarial or judgemental role; the problem is shared by both the parents and the child. Accusations tend to turn a problem of tackling the substance use disorder into one of trying to ‘chase down’ the teen in order to get to the real problem of getting help. Sometimes, the parents themselves will have played some part in the child’s life that lead them to use yet will inadvertently and instinctively blame the kid entirely, which usually has the opposite effect of what simply reaching out with a helping and loving hand can do. ‘Tough Love’ tends to exacerbate the situation rather than diffuse it, and can sometimes end up with speeding up the child’s pathway towards an early grave.

It’s a delicate situation that needs a delicate approach, but with the intent to help rather than judge, you’re already on the right path.

First Step Behavioral Health, drug rehab in Ft. Lauderdale, helps those with substance use disorder take back control of their life. Call (866) 319-6126 for personalized treatment options.