When you or a family member returns home after undergoing drug or alcohol recovery, you need to plan so that your home will be conducive to recovery and not an ongoing source of temptation. When someone leaves a rehabilitation center, they will have left a very clean, supportive, nurturing, environment that was free of temptations. The daily routine had structure and positive activities. There was always someone to talk to. Venturing back into the real world with its everyday problems and stresses can be overwhelming. A person alone in their home can get into trouble with everyday items. Because they used drugs and alcohol for coping in the past, they might be drawn to those substances again. Relapses following rehabilitation aren’t unusual, but by keeping certain items out of your home, you can reduce the chances. There are a many items recovered addicts should avoid, and substitutions that you can make for them.
The Need for Family Support at Home
It might be obvious to you that maintaining drug paraphernalia and bar equipment in your home isn’t a good idea during recovery. Artisans and manufacturers create stunning barware that might appear decorative to you, but to a recovering alcoholic, those items can be a reminder of past behaviors. They can be an invitation to indulge in social drinking or drug use. Social drinking is never a good idea, because it can quickly spin out of control. Before the person comes back from rehab, you should lock up or completely remove alcohol and recreational drugs from the house. You aren’t trying to send a message of mistrust. You’re trying to help someone succeed.
Family gatherings and alcohol go hand in hand for many people. Wine and cheese before a family dinner, or beer and pretzels while watching a big game together in front of the TV might seem like harmless fun, but it’s too risky for a recovering addict. Try to think of it like this. If you had a family member just released from the hospital following serious asthmatic complications, you wouldn’t insist that everyone hang out around a campfire together in the name of tradition would you? Or would you have a huge dessert spread set out when one family member is recovering from critical blood sugar issues?
But the addict made choices, you might argue. The asthmatic and the diabetic couldn’t help themselves. Maybe so. The addict did make choices, but they have a disease just like someone with respiratory or insulin problems. It’s harder for them to consume alcohol or drugs casually. Your compassion is required. Reserve the tempting items for yourself if they don’t cause problems for you, but don’t make the road to recovery hard for your loved one.
Items to Avoid During Recovery
You might expect to find items in the medicine cabinet that are concerning for a recovered addict, but there are plenty of household items and products that can be abused. Let’s start with bath salts. After all of the pressure you’ve been under, it might seem like a great idea to relax in a hot bath after the ordeal of getting your loved one through and out of a rehabilitation center. But many bath salts contain mephedrone or methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV). MDPV is an ingredient that can elicit a high similar to that of meth. Users can have hallucinations, elevated heart rate, elevated blood pressure, suicidal thinking or suicidal behavior. Typically, users eat, smoke or inhale MDPV. Consider having other bath products in your bathroom such as bubble bath or fragrant soaps and lotions. You definitely deserve to pamper yourself after what you’ve been through, and the recovering addict needs to find ways to maintain their stress levels, too. By taking a few minutes to make sure you have the safest products in your home you can both relax.
Readily Available Prescription Drugs
Prescription medication can be a good substitute for someone looking to get high or to escape reality. Common anti-anxiety medications like Xanax or Valium and pain medications like Vicodin can help a stressed out person to calm down or shut off for a while. As you can imagine, a person leaving the comfort and safe environment of a recovery center might find the return to normal life challenging or downright frustrating. The easy availability of prescription medication can take the edge off. You definitely don’t want to give up prescription medication that you need. Invest in a small safe to store your medicine and keep it out of sight. There’s no reason to make a big production to your loved one about this. You aren’t trying to shame them. If you cannot keep medicine in a safe, store it in a discreet location. Just remove the temptation to increase their chances of success with their recovery journey.
Over the Counter Medications
Drugs from a legitimate provider are not the only threat to rehabilitation. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications can be just as threatening to a person’s recovery. OTC medications are fairly inexpensive, easy to purchase and can frequently be found in everyone’s home. Because they are so easy to purchase you might be surprised to learn how dangerous they can be.
OTC cough syrups and similar remedies containing Dextromethorphan (DXM) are safe and have no side effects in the small doses recommended by the manufacturers. However, for a recovering addict looking to get high, DXM can cause a disorienting and potentially dangerous high similar to phencyclidine (PCP) in larger doses. Users who abuse DXM in combination with other drugs or even alcohol can experience out of body sensations or psychosis when repeatedly misused. The side effects can last for up to six hours.
If you must keep cough syrups around, you should transfer them to your locked safe. If a safe isn’t available, it’s up to you to monitor the levels in your supply on a regular basis. Don’t stock up on them just because there are sale prices. Buy them only has you need to. Common names of products that contain DXM are Robitussin-DM, TheraFlu, NyQuil, Day Quill, Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold and Cough, Tylenol Cold, Dimetapp DM, Drixoral, Coricidin and St. Joseph’s Cough Suppressants. Mucinex is a safe product for recovering addicts.
If you’re uncertain whether your OTC cough remedy has DXM, read the labels on the product. If you no longer have the ingredient packaging, It’s best to discard it down the drain. Get immediate medical help if you suspect someone has been abusing DXM. Signs of DMM abuse include:
- Trouble breathing
- Dramatic change in blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
- Stomach cramps
- Blurry vision
- Heart palpitations
- Twitching muscles
- Blue fingernails
- Blue lips
Anti-allergy medications are another OTC drug that you might have in your medicine cabinet. Diphenhydramine, a common active ingredient in antihistamines, is in products such as Benadryl. One of the common side effects for people using them is drowsiness. Someone who has a drug addiction problem might abuse an antihistamine in order to calm themselves down or to sleep, but it can cause unusually heavy sedation when used repeatedly or at high doses.
Here are some potential side effects to watch for:
- Struggle To Wake Up
- Dry Mouth
- Ear Ringing
- Blurry Vision
- Dilated Pupils
- Dry Mouth
- Extreme Sleepiness
- Overall Weakness
Studies have shown that long-term diphenhydramine abuse can lead to an enlarged prostate, dementia, cardiovascular disease, seizures and glaucoma. Parents tend to stock up on this medication during cold and flu season, which isn’t a good idea when you have someone going through recovery in your home. If you like to have anti-allergy medications on hand for legitimate reasons, you should keep them in a locked safe and periodically monitor the amounts on hand. Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec are much safer options for OTC allergy control.
When You Need Medications
There are times when everyone needs medication, even recovering addicts. Suffering from a headache, cough or common cold doesn’t mean you need to be uncomfortable just because you’re in recovery. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your problems, but be sure to let them know that you have just completed rehabilitation. Sometimes doctors don’t understand the full process of addiction and will be reluctant to prescribe you what you need. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable to deny you medication that you truly need. Extreme discomfort will only increase your stress and make it harder for you to stay on track.
Many OTC drugs are perfectly safe to use. Eye, skin, vaginal, anti-diarrheal, tooth, antifungal and antacid products are generally safe. Be very careful of mouthwashes. Many of them contain alcohol to kill germs. Other mouthwashes on the market are alcohol-free, so there is no reason to keep the alcohol types on hand in your home. You just need to read the labels. When in doubt ask your physician or do some research yourself. The information you need is available so there’s no excuse for ignorance. Keep in mind you set a goal to get clean and be healthy.
If you have pain, you can try a heating pad or ice packs. Many OTC pain relievers are perfectly safe. Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, Motrin, Midol and aspirin are fine. Avoid any OTC drug with PM in the name, but anything that says Extra Strength is okay. Drugs with PM in the title contain diphenhydramine, as found in Benadryl, and can be habit forming for you. When taking, just follow the dosage directions on the back of the package.
If you need to have surgery or if you have a serious injury, your doctor might want to prescribe a narcotic. Don’t worry, they’re prescribing it for you because they don’t want you to be needlessly in pain. The important thing is to make sure that you will have support while you are taking this medication. It’s best if somebody else hangs on to it for you, and gives you the exact amount you need at each dose. You definitely don’t want to keep unused medication when you no longer need it. It’s too tempting to have on hand.
While you were in recovery, your rehabilitation physician may have prescribed you something for mental or behavioral health problems. If they prescribed you something for depression, anxiety, insomnia or ADHD, you can trust that they have your overall health and recovery in mind. Take the medications as directed. Never take OTC or prescription medications for trouble sleeping. Always talk to your doctor if you’re having a problem with insomnia.
Maintaining your mental health is an important component of a successful recovery. If your primary care physician wants to prescribe you something for your mental health, be sure to tell them that you are recovering, so they can avoid giving you a drug that is going to interfere with your goals to be free from addiction.
Inhalants can be a particularly cheap and easy way to get high by using common products found around the home. These items are harder to keep locked up because of the sheer volume you’re likely to have in your home. You should consider getting rid of any of these that you can do without and not buying anymore unless you will be able to use them up immediately after purchase.
Inhalants are quite dangerous because they interfere with the cardiovascular system, which can be fatal. The name for deaths that occur immediately after sniffing these products is Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome (SDDS). When a person gets high from inhaling, it can create an adrenaline rush in their system. If they become too excited or suddenly startled after sniffing, the adrenaline can cause cardiac arrest, collapse and death. They also might die from asphyxiation, because the air in the lungs has been replaced with toxic inhalants. Inhalants are most popular with middle schoolers and teenagers, but adults use them, too. Nitrite inhalers dilate the blood vessels, enhancing a person’s sexual experience in addition to the high.
Some common products that function as inhalants include:
- Rubber cement
- Nail polish remover
- Paint thinner
- Aerosol cans of whipped cream
- Canned air for computer cleaning
- Sharpie pens
- Spray paint
- Cooking spray
- Model glue
This isn’t an exhaustive list. More than 1400 products qualify as inhalants. Any product that comes in a pressurized can has the ability to be an inhalant for someone desperate for a high. If you have any concerns that something in your home can be used as an inhaler, do some research on the Internet.
What should you look out for when you suspect that someone has been using inhalants in your home? The person may appear intoxicated, drowsy or dizzy. Other symptoms include slurred speech, rapid heart rate, excitement, trouble concentrating, nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness or lack of interest. You might also notice a chemical odor on the person, paint stains on the body or clothing, soaked rags in the person’s room or about the home, redness or rash around the mouth or nose, and persistent runny nose and head cold symptoms.
The long-term damage from abusing inhalants can include irreversible damage to the central nervous system, the heart, bone marrow, liver and kidneys. Inhalants are incredibly addictive. If you have to keep these items in your home, be sure to monitor the quantities that you have on a regular basis.
Interestingly, most nasal sprays are safe to use, even though they are inhaled. Don’t use nasal sprays that end in the letters “ine.” Also avoid Alllergen, Afrin and Vicks Inhaler.
You might be questioning some of the items in this article. Canned whipped cream and cooking spray seem like just harmless food products, right? But there are more dangerous foods that could be lurking in your cabinets, too, especially in your spice cabinet.
Vanilla is a wonderful scent to add during baking, but it contains ethanol, which is similar to alcohol. In fact, vanilla contains 35% ethanol. The content is high enough that drinking it can lead to terrible stomach pain and even respiratory distress when consumed in large doses. Other signs of “vanilla abuse” are vomiting, low blood pressure and dilated pupils.
Nutmeg is another potential problem. If a person consumes 5 teaspoons of nutmeg, they can experience a high that can last up to two days! One of the complicating factors of abusing this warm, woodsy spice is that it can be several hours before the nutmeg takes effect and auditory hallucinations start. Someone eager to experiment with this item can easily overindulge while waiting for the high to occur, because they will think that they haven’t taken enough and consequently consume even more. Here are the side effects of a nutmeg abuse:
- Tingling skin
- Rapid heart rate
- Severe stomach pains
Think vitamins and herbs are safe? Vitamins can be a great part of a recovery regimen, and good nutrition can help your body have the energy and building materials it needs to heal. That said, herbal supplements are an entirely different matter. Some herbs have stimulant or sedative properties. Valerian root and St. John’s Wort are herbs you should avoid but most herbs can be quite beneficial. Again, do your homework and research them.
When You Suspect Abuse of Household Items
What can you do if you suspect the person recovering in your home has begun abusing household items? This is a sign of a relapse and you should contact the counselors at the recovery center that the person just left. The team will be able to address your concerns and help you encourage the person to contact their counselors or members of their 12-step recovery program. If you think there is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
At JourneyPure Emerald Coast, we understand relapse. We know that there can be warning signs of a pending relapse and we can help you spot them. You want to watch for problems like insomnia, irritability or glamorizing the glory days of drug and alcohol abuse. Remember, relapse isn’t uncommon. An estimated 40 to 60% of recovering addicts will seek treatment for relapse of drugs or alcohol.
Understandably, it can be difficult to avoid the temptation when everyday is hard to deal with and your home is filled with products that can be easily abused. If you indulge in alcohol or drugs at a family gathering or while hanging out with old friends, it doesn’t make you a loser or a failure. It just means you need to get back in touch with your goals. Remember that you went through detox and rehabilitation in order to free yourself from addiction and have a better life. You just need to get back on track.
At JourneyPure Emerald Coast, we care about your goals and we want you to succeed. After you have gone through recovery with us, you have a year of aftercare available to you. We know that this time can be challenging for you and we want to help you through it. We have counseling available for you as well as your family. You can even download a mobile app, JourneyPure Coaching, to help you. You are definitely not on your own! If you need us you can contact JourneyPure Emerald Coast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.