What Are the Long-term Effects of Cocaine Use?

woman sitting on couch deep in thought

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant. The plant commonly grows in Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, and other South American countries. Among the indigenous people of that region, it was used as medicine and in religious ceremonies. Beverage company Coca-Cola, named for the plant, initially used it in production. Coca is a stimulant. If you chew the leaves, you’ll feel energized. Hunger, thirst, and fatigue will also go away for a time.

At one point in history, the coca plant may have had legitimate, beneficial uses. But cocaine, the synthesized form of the plant, is highly addictive. On the street, it resembles a fine, white powder. You might hear it referred to as blow, coke, snow/snow white/snow cones, flake, or bianca. Users may either snort it, dissolve it and inject it, or rub it into their gums. When injecting, some users mix cocaine with heroin. This is referred to as a speedball. “Crack” is a type of cocaine in rock form. It is most often smoked. The name is taken from the sound the rock makes as it burns.

How Does Cocaine Work in the Brain?

Cocaine mostly affects the brain via the neurotransmitter dopamine. Though dopamine is often associated solely with pleasure, its role in the brain is more nuanced. Dopamine affects our attention, motivation, and our sense of satisfaction. A neuron transmits dopamine to another neuron. This transmission occurs across a gap called a synapse. Dopamine transmission ought to end by the dopamine binding to a receptor and being recycled. Cocaine works by binding to dopamine receptors. This prevents the dopamine from being reabsorbed by the neurons. In this state, a user will experience euphoria, the feeling of being “high.”

In the short-term, a user might feel happy and charged up. They might become more aware of sensory input – what they touch, hear, see, and taste. They could also be hypervigilant, and even paranoid. This increased level of energy might help a user focus and be more alert.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

Unfortunately, speeding up the brain’s processes has adverse consequences. Cocaine use makes you irritable and unable to sleep. It will make your muscles twitch and shake. It elevates your heart rate and constricts your blood vessels at the same time. This puts you at risk for high blood pressure. You could even have a heart attack.

The way you consume cocaine also influences what kind of long-term effects you experience. If you snort cocaine, you might suffer frequent nose bleeds. Or even lose your sense of smell completely. Smoking crack can damage your lungs, leading to asthma. It can also increase your risk of respiratory ailments. Oral consumption can rot the gums, as well as the bowels. Injecting cocaine can collapse veins. Injecting also puts a user at a much higher risk for diseases like hepatitis and HIV. Since cocaine suppresses hunger, users can easily become malnourished. As a result, muscles can atrophy. Paranoia worsens with prolonged use, contributing to auditory and visual hallucinations. In 2019, over 15,000 people died from a cocaine overdose. That’s up from about 3,800 in 1999.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction to cocaine, don’t wait. There is hope! Call Harmony Recovery Center now at 704-970-4106.

Can You Get Addicted to Tramadol?

black and white portrait of man with Tramadol addiction

Tramadol, often sold under the brand name Ultram, is an opioid pain medication usually used to treat moderate pain. It is often prescribed for patients with fibromyalgia, arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. Because Tramadol has a different pharmacological makeup than most commonly prescribed narcotic pain medications there is some misunderstanding about it’s potential for abuse and the associated dangers. In fact, when it was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1994 it was not considered an opioid. It was not until further study that the FDA designated it as an opioid and a controlled substance in 2014. (1) While it is classified a synthetic opioid, Tramadol also acts as a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). This second quality resembles the action of many popular antidepressants. It is also why Tramadol is contraindicated in patients who already take an SNRI or a Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) as it can lead to dangerous interactions.

Tramadol is classified as a Schedule IV drug by the DEA, which means it is considered to have a lower potential for abuse than some of the more conventional semi-synthetic opioid pain medications containing hydrocodone or oxycodone. However, this should not be taken to mean that Tramadol use is without risk for dependence or that people do not abuse it. (2) The fact is, taken as prescribed it may be safer than some other narcotic pain medications. But it can create some physical dependence as do all opioid compounds. Whether you are prescribed Tramadol or you have taken it recreationally, you should understand that abruptly quitting may lead to withdrawal symptoms and psychological cravings, much like any other opioid. (2) Furthermore, if you are taking it without a prescription you may be putting yourself at risk of a seizure or other serious reaction with other medications.

Instances of Tramadol abuse are well-documented. However, your physician may not be aware of this or what your history is. It is important to be honest with your doctor if you have any history of alcohol or drug dependence as well as letting them know about any other medications or supplements you are taking if Tramadol may be prescribed to you. Reduced risk of dependency does not mean there is no risk. Abruptly quitting Tramadol after a period of consistent use can lead to withdrawal symptoms that include anxiety, panic attacks, profuse sweating, insomnia, chills, nausea and diarrhea. The fact that Tramadol acts similar to an antidepressant can further complicate these effects.

The purpose of all this information is not to alarm you, but simply to encourage you to remain informed. When taken as prescribed by a doctor with a full knowledge of your medical history, Tramadol can be safe and effective. However, any person with a history of substance use disorder should be especially wary of any controlled substance, including Tramadol. If believe you or someone you care about is abusing Tramadol and/or dependent on it, give us a call. We will be happy to discuss the options for treatment and care.



(1) https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-tramadol-a-risky-pain-medication-2019061416844
(2) https://www.livescience.com/41174-tramadol.html

Medication Assisted Treatment for Opioid Addiction

group of MAT patients outside

Medication-Assisted Treatment or MAT is a blend of counseling and medication designed to improve outcomes. MAT has been used for opioid addiction since the 1960s and 70s, beginning first with methadone programs focused primarily on heroin addicts. However, the MAT method has evolved far beyond its humble roots. Today, MAT has gained newfound acceptance in a broader portion of the treatment spectrum than ever before. The main reasons for this are simple. MAT has grown more effective with time as new medications have become available and there have been more results to study and learn from.

The biggest reason for the growth in the popularity of MAT though is that it delivers results. As the U.S. has undergone an explosive opioid abuse epidemic over the past 20 years, the demand for effective treatment has grown alongside it. The potential lethality of opioid addiction makes getting it right all that more important. Many may only get one shot at recovery, so they need absolutely every advantage available. When lives are at stake, there is no time for pious condescension or judgment. The fact is that MAT works and it saves lives.

Efficacy of Medication-Assisted Treatment for Opioids

Research shows MAT is effective. It substantially improves a patients’ chances of staying in treatment and continuing recovery. (1). MAT programs help in early recovery. They can subdue cravings and lower the chance of relapse, especially when opioid blockers are included. Perhaps most importantly, they buy the patient time and breathing room to grow in their recovery.

The most common medications used in MAT for opioid addiction today are buprenorphine and naloxone, usually in combination, sometimes known by the brand name, Suboxone. Buprenorphine is a long-acting synthetic opioid that lacks the powerful euphoric effect of opioids which are often abused. It is this component that helps abate withdrawal symptoms in detox and control cravings when used in an MAT setting. Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that helps prevent buprenorphine from being used in ways other than prescribed. Naloxone is also the active agent in the lifesaving medication Narcan, which is used to arrest opioid overdose.

Is MAT Enough?

MAT for opioid addiction does not begin and end with buprenorphine though. Promising results for lasting recovery have been seen with patients who are also prescribed antidepressants and/or non-narcotic medications for anxiety. The combination of medications, if any, which is used will depend on each patient’s profile. Opioid addicted people who have a co-occurring mood disorder like depression are more likely to be prescribed a psychiatric medication as well. However, benefits have been seen with psychiatric medications prescribed for a limited period in early recovery with other patients.

Opioid addicted people tend to have more successful early recovery with MAT programs than without. This does not mean recovery without MAT isn’t possible. But there is research supporting the use of MAT. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are currently conducting a study of over 1,000 patients at more than 60 sites across the U.S. to research MAT outcomes for opioid addiction. (1) This will be the largest study of its’ kind. Final results will be published in Summer 2021. Whether or not MAT is right for you or your loved one is a decision that should be made with medical and professional advice.

If you have more questions about Medication-Assisted Treatment for opioid addiction, please contact us.


(1) https://www.cdc.gov/opioids/Medication-Assisted-Treatment-Opioid-Use-Disorder-Study.html

Signs You Need Treatment for Meth Addiction

woman sitting by a window smoking meth

The numbers surrounding meth addiction in the United States paint a truly frightening picture. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse statistics, well over 1.5 million people used crystal meth in the year 2017, including some 775,00 who had used it in the last 30 days.

Things get even uglier when it comes to people suffering from a methamphetamine use disorder. According to the same national statistics, almost a million people over the age of 12– yes, 12– were experiencing definite health and other consequences because of meth addiction.

Fortunately, there’s hope. There’s hope for those who have already developed a meth addiction and for those who have just used it a few times. The key is knowing when you or a loved one needs help. In this post, we’ll discuss 10 signs that you or a loved one needs treatment for meth addiction.

Signs You Need Treatment for Meth Addiction

We’ll begin with some tell-tale external signs of meth addiction. These are things you might notice simply by looking at yourself in the mirror or glancing at a loved one you suspect might have a problem.

1. Sudden weight loss or frailness
2. Advanced tooth decay
3. Facial sores or acne
4. Hyperactivity and/or twitchy movements
5. Unexplained burns on the lips or fingers

Meth addiction takes an obvious physical toll, so this is far from an exhaustive list. However, if one or more of these physical signs begins to appear, the person in question might need professional help. This is especially true if they appear alongside some of the following behavioral signs of meth abuse.

Behavioral Changes Associated With Meth Addiction

Here are five behavioral changes to watch out for if you fear that you or a loved one is becoming dependent on crystal meth. Some of these signs are apparent to an outside observer, whereas others might only be noticeable to the user themselves. Either way, if the following signs appear consistently, it might be time to ask some difficult questions:

1. Meth addiction can induce feelings of paranoia.
2. It also often causes the user to develop erratic sleep habits. This can include staying up for long periods of time and/or sleeping for excessive periods after a binge.
3. Even short term use of crystal meth can lead to extreme mood swings or unusual emotional outbursts.
4. Once the user reaches a point where it’s difficult to get ‘high’ off of crystal meth, they often begin to experience things like confusion, irritability, and extreme depression.
5. Consistent use of crystal meth can lead to extreme agitation and even violent behavior.

Preventing the Damage

Methamphetamine is an extremely dangerous and addictive drug. It stays active in the body longer than most other stimulants and can do severe damage to the pleasure centers of the brain. It can also lead to convulsions, heart failure, stroke, and death.

In the final analysis, however, meth addiction is much like any other form of substance use disorder. Despite the horror stories you’ve heard, meth addiction is a very treatable condition. The first step is recognizing there’s a problem. If you or someone you love starts to manifest the signs we’ve discussed above, please seek help immediately.

Understanding Codependency and its Role in Addiction

Codependency and addiction

Codependency is a type of dysfunctional, one-sided relationship. In a codependent relationship, one person relies on another to have their mental, physical, and emotional needs met. It is very common among addicts, who need the relationship to continue to function while continuing their addiction behaviors. 

Whether you find yourself expending all of your energy in meeting another’s needs– a partner, a parent, a child– or you are the one demanding things of others, it is important to know more about this destructive pattern. Read on to learn more and see how you can take steps to minimize its effect on your life and relationships.

Codependency Early in Life

Codependency is a term that has been around for decades. It was originally a label for spouses of people who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. However, the definition often applies to relationships which do not operate in this partnership dynamic.

Studies suggest that if you were raised in a dysfunctional family or had an ill or addicted parent, you likely have codependent tendencies in relationships. Here are some symptoms to help you decide if you are at risk:

Symptoms of Codependency

A person does not need to have all of these symptoms in order to display codependent tendencies. However, any of these symptoms is an indicator that you need to more closely examine your relationships. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Low self esteem– you frequently base your feelings about yourself based on what you can do for others
  • A need to please others– saying no to others causes you to feel guilty and anxious
  • An inability to set boundaries– you frequently have an issue defining which problems are yours and which belong to others
  • A tendency to become reactive or argumentative– feeling angry and resentful about what you “have to do” for others, so you overreact to words and situations
  • A need to take care of others– feeling a need to shield others from pain and adverse circumstances, often taking them on yourself
  • A need to control situations and people in your life
  • Difficulty with communication– you have an inability to express your true thoughts and feelings
  • A tendency to obsess over people, problems, or circumstances
  • Denial– you may be not even aware that there is a problem with the way you relate to others around you
  • Problems with intimacy– you experience a push pull when it comes to spending enough time being authentic with others


When Codependency Takes Over

Once conditions in your life have become unbearable, or if you realize that these patterns present in any relationship are holding you back from being your most authentic self, it’s time for some pattern-breaking interventions. Depending on the length of time that you’ve spent living in these relationships, you may require the help of a therapist to provide an outside perspective on your situation. Often, an outside perspective is what it takes to begin the process of looking at your relationship patterns objectively and beginning to implement new, healthier ways of living, being and relating.


Codependency and its Relationship to Addiction

Codependency is the perfect breeding ground for addiction to flourish. Enabling behaviors such as covering up for another person, making excuses for their behavior, or giving money to them will keep both people locked in a cycle of addiction. In some cases, a relationship addiction can develop in which both the abuser and the observer are so accustomed to their current status quo that they refuse to look outside for help.


Breaking the Cycle

Realizing that codependent and enabling behaviors exist is the first step to changing those patterns. Once you’re aware of the problem, you can being working towards solutions. Mainly, stopping the enabling behaviors and getting to the root of the codependent dynamic. 

The enabler needs to realize that the problems in the relationship are not solely theirs to fix. While the addicted individual needs to take responsibility for their actions. Typically addicts will require professional treatment in order to break the cycle of addiction. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with codependency and addiction issues, there is hope. The first step is seeking treatment for the addicted individual. This process will also mean re-establishing healthier ways of relating to each other and creating boundaries for both parties. At Harmony Recovery Group we treat addiction in both the individual and family through family and relationship therapy. Find out how we can help, call us today

What is Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction?

Benzodiazepine Abuse and Addiction

Benzodiazepines are a family of medications often referred to as tranquilizers. Well known names include Xanax and Valium. Doctors prescribe them for numerous conditions including anxiety, insomnia, seizure control, muscle relaxation, and to relax patients before procedures. However, the relaxing effects of the drugs make them a popular target for people without prescriptions who seek to use the drug recreationally. Benzodiazepine abuse is common and carries a high risk of dependence. 


How do Benzodiazepines work? 

Benzodiazepines work by depressing the Central Nervous System, slowing activity in the brain, relaxing muscles, and easing anxiety. They increase the effect of the brain chemical GABA (gamma amino butyric acid). GABA reduces brain activity which manages rational thought, memory, emotions, and essential functions such as breathing. Therefore, this slowing process creates a sedative effect in the brain and body which can down-regulate panic attacks or induce restfulness to combat insomnia. 


Benzodiazepine Tolerance and Dependence

Benzodiazepine medications create tolerance if taken continuously. While great in the short-term for acute situations like panic attacks or stressful periods, if taken for more than a few months your brain becomes used to their effect. For this reason, Benzodiazepines carry a high risk of dependence. 


Benzodiazepine Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Stomach upset or Diarrhea
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle cramps
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Hallucinations


Signs of Benzodiazepine Overdose

When taken at normal, prescribed doses Benzodiazepines are relatively safe. However, when taken at high doses, as is common recreationally, more dangerous side effects can occur. High doses of benzodiazepines can lead to overdose and even comas. From 2004 to 2010, emergency department visits in the US for Benzodiazepine abuse and misuse increased 139%. 

Furthermore, when Benzodiazepines are combined with other depressants such as alcohol or narcotics, the risk of complications increases significantly. 

Signs of an overdose may look different from person to person but can include: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Confusion
  • Fingernails and lips turning blue
  • Extreme dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Stupor
  • Coma

If someone you know is showing any of the above signs of Benzodiazepine overdose, seek medical attention immediately. Hospitals can help through either stomach pump, administering activated charcoal, or in severe cases, injecting flumazenil (Romazicon). 


Benzodiazepine Addiction

Although it is a competent of addiction, physical dependence is not the same as addiction. Someone who is addicted to Benzodiazepines will not only be physically dependent but also engage in drug-seeking behaviors. Addicts prioritize their drug use above everything else, despite the negative consequences of their actions. 

Signs of Benzodiazepine Addiction include: 
  • Drug-seeking behaviors such as seeking the drug from multiple doctors or acquiring it illegally
  • Cravings
  • Withdrawal when not using the drug
  • Obsession with obtaining the drug
  • Abusing the drugs for pleasure or intoxication
  • Inability to function without it or inability to carry on regular life functions because of it
  • Inability to stop using despite multiple attempts

Furthermore, long-term abuse and addiction to Benzodiazepines carries health concerns, including placing users at a higher risk of developing Dementia. 


Getting Help 

Recreational abuse and addiction to Benzodiazepines can have dangerous results. Detoxing from Benzodiazepines in a clinical setting can offer the safest and most manageable way to come off them. Likewise, a treatment setting can help get to the root cause of addiction and offer the best chance for long-term recovery.

If you or a loved one are struggling with Benzodiazepines, contact us today. We’re here to help and can advise you regarding your specific treatment needs. 





Marijuana Use Disorder and Addiction

Marijuana Use Disorder and Addiction

Marijuana use is legal both recreationally and medically in many states. But, just because something is legal doesn’t mean it can’t be problematic for some people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Alcohol and gambling are both legal but they still carry risk of abuse and addiction. While marijuana is approved in many states for medical purposes, this does not make it medicinal for everyone. Its use can greatly help people in severe pain or experiencing nausea from cancer treatment or autoimmune conditions like Multiple Sclerosis. But, for less severe conditions, the research is less convincing.  

Furthermore, studies now show that marijuana is in fact habit forming and does carry significant risk of dependency. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) states that approximately 1 in 10 people who use marijuana will become addicted. 


Marijuana Dependency 

Although marijuana isn’t thought to be addictive in the traditional sense of physical dependence and dangerous withdrawal symptoms when not used, it does carry risks of psychological dependence. During the past ten years, marijuana use disorders have increased among all age groups in the United States. Marijuana is much stronger today than in the past and contributes to the development of marijuana use disorders.

Signs of marijuana use disorder includes an inability to stop use of the drug even when it interferes with everyday life. Further signs are withdrawals like irritability, mood and sleep difficulties, and restlessness when quitting the drug. 


Marijuana Use in Youth

People who use marijuana before the age of 18 are between 4 and 7 times more likely to develop marijuana use disorder than adults. 

Because the brain is still developing until a person is 21 years-old, alcohol and drug use in youth can have more damaging effects. In the case of marijuana, use in adolescence is linked to lower IQ (as many as 8 points can be permanently lost) and impairments in memory and cognitive performance. 

Marijuana use in youth has also been linked with mental health disorders, further explained below. A recent study followed 2000 teenagers into adulthood and found that the young people who smoked marijuana were twice as likely to have developed psychosis over the next ten years as those who did not smoke. 

Lastly, a “gateway drug,” marijuana often precedes use of other illicit substances and addiction to them.


Marijuana and Psychological Disorders

Marijuana is known to exacerbate symptoms of people with psychological disorders. In those with a genetic predisposition to Psychosis, including disorders such as Schizophrenia, the use of marijuana can bring forward diagnosis by an average of 2.7 years. The risk of developing Schizophrenia increases with the duration and dose of marijuana use, with regular users having double the risk of non-users. In the case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, of which medical marijuana is sometimes prescribed to treat, marijuana can actually worsen symptoms. 


Adverse Effects of Marijuana Use

Acute Negative Effects
  • Impaired short-term memory
  • Coughing
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Increased Heart Rate 
  • Impaired motor skills such as coordination and balance
  • Sleep problems
  • In rare cases, psychosis
Long-term Potential Effects
  • Marijuana addiction
  • IQ loss in people under 18
  • Impairments in learning and memory
  • Respiratory issues, including increased risk of chronic cough or bronchitis
  • Increased risk of other drug and alcohol use disorders
  • Increased risk of schizophrenia in people with genetic vulnerability. 

Marijuana also carries significant risks for pregnant and nursing mothers.  This is because marijuana use can cause developmental risks to a fetus or nursing baby. 


Getting Help 

If you or a loved one are struggling with marijuana addiction or any substance use disorder help is available. Contact us today to see how we can support you through your or your loved one’s addiction.








Making Amends With Your Mother For Step 9 of the 12 Step Program 

Making Amends to Mom 12 Step Program

Each May we are reminded of our relationship with our Mother when Mother’s Day comes around. For many, it’s a wonderful day to celebrate. Then others, it is a challenging time– those whose mothers are no longer around, mothers who have lost children, and those with strained mother-child relationships. 12 Step Program calls for making amends. If your mother is on your list of amends, here’s how to start. 

Take Time to Evaluate What Went Wrong 

Reflect on the past and the circumstances that led you here. How did you wrong her? What role did you play in what went wrong? Look at things from her point of view and try to empathize with how she might feel. 


Take responsibility for your actions and apologize for hurting her. Address the mistakes you made and tell her that you understand why she is upset. It is a good idea to plan this ahead of time. 

Listen Actively 

One of the most magical parts of practicing a 12 step program that may come in handy with making amends is learning to listen. Practice active listening without thinking about what you’re going to say next. Just listen to what she has to say and answer thoughtfully. 

Avoid Being Reactive

Conversations about wrongdoing can be triggering for a lot of us. It is hard to keep from getting emotional and upset. Try your best to remain calm and take time to consider your words before you say them, 

Communicate Openly

If it feels right, have a real heart-to-heart. Access your feelings and respond honestly to your mother’s words. Share a memory of her from when you were young. Thank her for bringing you into this world. Tell her that you love her. 

Talk About How To Move Forward 

Suggest ways in which you can repair and rebuild the relationship. This isn’t always an overnight process and may require hard work and patience. Maybe you can arrange a regular time to meet or talk on the phone. What are the ways in which you can continue to show up for her? 

What We Can Learn about Addiction and Depression from Kurt Cobain’s Suicide

What We Can Learn about Addiction and Depression from Kurt Cobain’s Substance Abuse and Suicide

On April 5th, 1994, one of the most talented artists of a generation, Kurt Cobain, took his own life. He was at the height of his fame and had reached levels of success most could never dream of, so why did he end it all? The answer has roots in both addiction and depression. 

Suicide, depression, and addiction have a closely connected relationship.

Over 90% of people who complete suicide suffer from depression, have a substance abuse disorder, or both. The two create a vicious cycle that can lead to suicide. Kurt Cobain’s final days are a saddening insight into the mental health issues that surround addiction.

People suffering from severe depression, caused by ailments such as Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder (which Cobain was diagnosed with), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and other conditions, often turn to substance abuse to numb their pain. 

For Cobain, his depression started young, he claimed his parent’s divorce when he was nine had a strong effect on him.

He spent his teenage years taking drugs and living out acts of teenage rebellion. In his youth his personal phrase, “I hate myself and want to die” was written in his journals and carried into his music career where he said it to journalists and even planned to use it as an album title. Later, in his adult years, his depression would become diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder.

Cobain’s depression and chronic pain from an undiagnosed stomach condition led him to start using prescription pills and ultimately pick up heroin in 1986, from which he struggled with addiction for years before finally getting help in 1992. Unfortunately, his sobriety did not last long and he relapsed just a few months after leaving rehab. The following year he survived a heroin overdose that nearly took his life. 

On March 3rd, 1994, he overdosed again.

This time from taking large amounts of Rohypnol. He was in Rome and was rushed to the hospital, where he spent five days in a coma. Friends believed it was a failed suicide attempt but his management insisted it was an accident. 

Later that month, his wife along with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, and several friends staged an intervention at his home in Seattle. Cobain agreed to go to rehab and checked into a center in Los Angeles five days later. But he only spent two days there before he told staff members he was stepping outside to smoke a cigarette, scaled a six foot high brick wall and disappeared. 

He was not seen again until his body was found on April 8th, 1994 at his home in Seattle, having committed suicide three days earlier. The coroner found large amounts of heroin and valium in his system. 

Remembering Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain’s tragic death shows us how addiction, depression, and suicide can affect anyone. It does not discriminate by class, race, or creed and no amount of success, fame, acclaim, or wealth can make these challenges disappear. For Cobain, the addiction/depression cycle became too much to bear. 

Stopping that vicious cycle can start with breaking out of active addiction. Getting the help you need can stop the common feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, and frustration that typically come with active addiction and help you on the path to healing.

If you or a loved one are struggling with active addiction, please do not hesitate to contact one of our representatives at Harmony Recovery Center. Our kind and supportive staff are here to help. Call us at (704) 970-4106


 Kessler RC, Borges G, Walters EE. Prevalence of and risk factors for lifetime suicide attempts in the National Comorbidity Survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1999;56:617-626.

Harris EC, Barraclough B. Suicide as an outcome for mental disorders. A meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry. 1997;170:205-228.

Cavanagh JT, Carson AJ, Sharpe M, Lawrie SM. Psychological autopsy studies of suicide: a systematic review [published correction appears in Psychol Med. 2003;33:947]. Psychol Med. 2003;33:395-405.

Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment: June 2019 – Volume 18 – Issue 2 – p 99-104 doi: 10.1097/ADT.0000000000000155 

What Happens When You Overdose?

What Happens When You Overdose? | Harmony Recovery Center


An overdose on drugs or alcohol can result in life-threatening effects. These effects can vary somewhat depending on the substances used. Still, in general, an overdose will cause confusion and disorientation, profoundly slowed breathing and heart rate, and can result in heart arrhythmia, heart attack, or respiratory arrest that leads to brain damage or death.

There is an unknowable number of substances that can cause an overdose, but we do know that different types of substances have different effects. While hallucinogens and stimulants can contribute to an overdose, the vast majority are not fatal. Currently, most overdoses in the U.S., particularly those that are life-threatening, are related to opioids and other sedatives. Furthermore, many of these overdoses happen when a person combines multiple drugs or alcohol.

Anyone can overdose, and it’s not always easy to tell who is at a higher risk than others. However, there are several sets of circumstances that seem to be thematic when it comes to an overdose. For one, people who have detoxed and returned to drug use may mistakenly believe they can tolerate the same amount they did before. Secondly, people who abuse multiple substances in conjunction are a higher risk of interactions and an amplification of effects. And finally, people who either knowingly or unwitting use incredibly powerful substances, such as fentanyl.

Warning Signs of Overdose

A person who is on the verge of an overdose on depressants may not realize the severity of what is happening despite the many warning signs, which include the following:

  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Slipping in and out of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

  • Slowed or labored breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • A bluish tint to hands and feet
  • Slow and/or weak pulse

What Happens When You Overdose? | Harmony Recovery Center

When a substance is consumed orally, such as a pill or alcohol, it is first filtered through the liver and stomach before it travels through the bloodstream and into the brain. This method of use slows down the process of intoxication, but with repeated use of substances, an overdose can still occur.

When a substance is snorted, smoked, or injected, it travels to the brain much faster and in a higher amount. These methods of administration cause more intense effects and are also more dangerous and likely to lead to overdose. But, as noted, many other factors affect this process.

Eventually, the blood that contains drugs and/or alcohol pumps the substances through the body, where they land on receptors that are responsible for feelings of reward and well-being, such as dopamine, serotonin, adrenaline, or GABA. These neurotransmitters, which occur naturally in normal levels, are given a boost by these substances and produce euphoria, in addition to several other effects.

When the high subsides or as more substances are used, the person affected can start to get very drowsy, and experience altering states of wakefulness and alertness. If a person has combined the used of stimulants and depressants, known as a speedball, this process may take longer. But ultimately, excessive depressants in a person’s system are going to win the battle and can cause confusion, paranoia, heart arrhythmia and heart attack, profound central nervous depression, or death.

A Word on Depressants

When a person uses a high amount of depressants, their breathing and heart rate will begin to slow. At the base of the human brain is a respiratory control center that controls breathing, and reacts to the level of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your blood to encourage you to breathe. During an overdose, however, the slowed breathing that occurs with opioid, sedative, or alcohol ingestion becomes perilously slow and can lead to a complete stop.

As a person’s heart rate slows, oxygen levels may fall low enough that the heart starts having abnormal rhythms and is not functioning properly. At this point, some overdose victims experience a sudden cardiac arrest.

Those who do not continue to suffer from problems related to having an overwhelming amount of drugs in the brain and the body will stop receiving the correct signals that tell it to breathe. Lungs and heart may be barely working. At this point, the brain damage can occur from a lack of oxygen. Irreversible brain damage can occur after four minutes of oxygen deprivation. If a person receives CPR during this period, brain damage can be limited or reduced.

Then, the victim may foam at the mouth or choke caused by fluid leading into the lungs’ airspaces. This effect can result in aspiration as the body’s natural gag response is suppressed by CNS depression. As the person continues to lose consciousness, natural secretions in the throat pool and cause asphyxiation. Persons who throw up can also choke on their vomit and die.

An overdose that gets to this point can cause seizures due to a lack of oxygen to the brain, causing further damage. Occasionally, people who have suffered an overdose like this can end up paralyzed and unable to speak.

Medications to Stop Depressant Overdose

If administered promptly, a drug known as naloxone (Narcan) can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. This drug is widely available and typically carried by first responders. Most major pharmacy chains sell it without a prescription for about $20.  However, it is important to note that sometimes overdose sufferers require multiple treatments of Narcan, depending on the amount of opioids in their system.

Narcan use should always be attempted if the patient is still alive, and can be administered intranasally or given through an IV. Narcan removes opioids from receptors in the central nervous system and replaces the opioids without activating the receptor. In second to minutes, a life can be saved.

A Word on Stimulants

What Happens When You Overdose? | Harmony Recovery Center

As noted, stimulants, such as Adderall, cocaine, or meth, are less likely to cause an overdose, but it can occur. When a stimulant is mixed with a potent depressant, conflicting effects on a person’s body can lead to severe complications and heart attack.

When too much of a stimulant or multiple stimulants are used, a person may experience extreme effects that are basically the opposite of an overdose on depressants, which may include the following:

  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Hyperthermia
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Rapid pulse
  • Heart palpitations

  • Chest pain
  • Dehydration
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Compulsive or repetitive behaviors
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Trembling and shakiness

If a person overdoses on a stimulant, the most significant risks to their health are dehydration, hyperthermia, stroke, seizures, and heart attack. Even if the person does not die, they can suffer from long-term problems related to these adverse health outcomes. Like all overdoses, when this occurs, it is a medical emergency. Call 911 immediately.

A Word on Alcohol Poisoning

Compared to other substances, alcohol poisoning unrelated to other drugs is relatively rare. Of the 77,000 overdose deaths identified in 2017, only 2,200 were associated with alcohol use alone. It’s not easy to die from alcohol use, but it does indeed happen. The symptoms of an alcohol overdose are similar to those of other depressants. If a drunk individual is exhibiting them, this is a medical emergency, and professional help should be sought immediately.

Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse

An addiction to opioids or potent sedatives is a very dangerous condition that can cause a myriad of severe health complications, up to and including brain damage and death. We urge those who are suffering to come forward and ask for help before it’s too late.

Harmony Recovery Center offers comprehensive programs and a full spectrum of care, including detox, partial hospitalization, outpatient services, medication-assisted treatment, aftercare planning, and more.

If you are ready to take the first step on the road to recovery, contact us today! We have specialists waiting who can design an effective treatment plan that is right for you!

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