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Addiction is defined by the National Institute of Drug Abuse as a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. Addiction is the most severe form of substance use disorders, and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse/abuse of a substance or substances.


My Friend Logan

I met Logan during the summer of 2019. At the time, I wasn't immediately aware of his substance use but later on I discovered he was recreationally using marijuana. I've never strongly supported the recreational use of any drug; however, I wasn't very concerned about his use of marijuana—I thought marijuana was a common substance being used by high schoolers and had been told countless times that it wasn't dangerous or an addictive substance.

We quickly became friends as he shared many stories about his life, family, and passions. He enjoyed writing poetry, cooking, performing magic tricks, and was an extremely kind-hearted person. He had a special ability to make you feel heard and loved, a gift that very few have. I saw true potential in him as he had gone through such heartbreaking experiences that gave him a deep desire to make others feel happy and accepted. Later on, Logan's marijuana use became more frequent; I remember the time I asked him the reason why he used marijuana in the first place to which he replied, "It makes me feel normal." As time passed, he started to explore other substances which led me to feel uncomfortable and cease my communication with him.

Logan Rachwal died on February 14th, 2021. He was 19-years-old and a student at UW-Milwaukee. Logan struggled with depression and anxiety; he also had abused drugs before his tragic death. On the day of his death, Logan had been fighting with his girlfriend and took what he thought was oxycodone, that he'd purchased from a drug dealer. Oxycodone is an opioid prescription pain-reliever.

However, a toxicology report later revealed the pill was laced with fentanyl. "Logan's toxicology showed three different forms of fentanyl and also metabolized fentanyl," Mrs. Rachwal said. That means he had taken a drug enough times, for a long enough period of time, for it to metabolize in his system. Mrs. Rachwal stated she did not think he knew he was taking fentanyl. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain his family continues to go through each day; I sympathize with their loss and wish them the best on their journey of healing their hearts.

After hearing about his death, I had a strong feeling of disbelief. I never would've thought that someone I knew would die from a drug overdose. As I looked through my phone, I discovered a message from him just a 2 days before he died. I felt guilt and regret for not doing something and also blamed myself for losing contact with him; however, I was also angry. I was angry that he wouldn't be able to experience the joys of parenthood, graduating college, the graceful process of aging... but most importantly not living to use his previous life experiences to create goodness in the world. However, I've now realized that I can use Logan's story to do good for the world by motivating people to not use drugs, seek out support, and to stay strong in their battles with addiction. From this experience, I also learned that if someone you know is using substances (either illegal or potentially dangerous ways) to step in and encourage them to stop and seek help.


National Institute on Drug Abuse

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 92,000 persons in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdose in 2020, including illicit drugs and prescription opioids.

These death-rates continue to rise, "Drug overdose deaths rose from 2019 to 2020 with 91,799 drug overdose deaths reported in 2020.

Deaths involving synthetic opioids other than methadone (primarily fentanyl) continued to rise with 56,516 overdose deaths reported in 2020." It's important to be aware of the dangers and risks of substance abuse/addiction because it can help prevent potential overdoses and encourage people who struggle with substance abuse/addiction to seek help and support on their journey to recovery!


SAMHSA’s National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) is in English and Spanish and is available for individuals/family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service also provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.


Rules of Recovery

A common fear of recovery is that addicts are not capable of recovery. The fear is that recovery requires some special strength or willpower that you don’t possess. But people just like you, with strengths and weaknesses, with determination and self-doubt, have recovered from addiction.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven to change negative thinking and treat anxiety, depression, and addiction. The basic idea of cognitive therapy is that negative thinking is learned thinking and therefore it can be unlearned and replaced with healthier thinking. If you can change your thinking, you will improve your life.

1. Change Your Life So that it’s Easier to Not Use

You don't recover from an addiction by simply stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use.You don't have to change everything in your life; however, the few unhealthy behaviors and/or negative thinking patterns will continue to get you into trouble until you strive to change these harmful patterns of behavior and cognition.

Avoid High-Risk Situations

Three things that contribute to personal struggles while recovering from addiction: People, Places, and Things.

  • People. (People who you used with, or people who encouraged you to use are common triggers for relapse.)

  • Places. (Places where you used, or places where you went to get drugs or alcohol are common triggers.)

  • Things. (Things that you used with, such as drug or alcohol paraphernalia are powerful triggers.)

You many not be able to avoid all high-risk situations. But if you're aware of them, you won't get caught off guard, and you will have a chance to prepare yourself.


The acronym, HALT contains important and common high-risk situations:

  • Hungry

  • Angry

  • Lonely

  • Tired

Substance cravings are usually the strongest at the end of the day.

You may be hungry because you haven't eaten well. You may be angry because you've had a tough day at work or a tough commute. You may feel lonely because you're isolated. You also may feel tired. All of these situations lead to experiencing strong substance cravings that occur at the end of the day.

Make a list of your high-risk situations.

Sometimes you won't see a high-risk situation until you're right in the middle of it. That's why it's important to make a list of them and go over it with someone in recovery. Make the list and keep it with you. Some day that list may save your life.

Change Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is a risk factor both for developing an addiction and for relapse. Common types of negative thinking are negative self-labelling and all-or-nothing thinking.

  • If people new the real me they wouldn’t like me.

  • I don’t think I’m likeable.

  • Life is hard, and I can’t handle it without using sometimes.

  • Life won’t be fun without using, and I won’t be fun.

  • Recovery is more work than it’s worth.

  • My cravings will be overwhelming, and I won’t be able to resist. So why bother.

  • If I stop using, I’ll only start up again; I have never finished anything.

  • I worry that I am too damaged to recover or be happy.

"Negative thinking leads to anxiety, depression, and addiction. If you think you are not likeable, you will be anxious because you’re worried that you will be found out. If you think you will fail therefore why bother trying, you will feel trapped by life, which leads to depression. If you feel anxious or depressed, you may turn to drugs or alcohol to escape."

2. Ask for Help and Develop a Recovery Circle

Addiction is isolating. Your world gets smaller as you give up more of your life to make more room for your addiction. Recovery involves learning to reach out and ask for help.

Develop a recovery circle. The stronger your circle, the stronger your recovery. A recovery circle should include, at least the following:

  • Close family members

  • Close friends

  • Health professionals

  • Counselors

  • Self-help recovery groups

Self-Help Groups

Joining a self-help group has been shown to significantly increase your chances of recovery. The combination of a substance abuse program and self-help group is the most effective strategy.

Some self-help groups include: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Marijuana Anonymous (MA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA), Adult Children Anonymous (ACA), Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, and Smart Recovery.

Benefits of Belonging to a Self-Help Group

  • You feel that you’re not alone.

  • You learn what addiction and denial sound like by hearing them in others.

  • You learn what strategies have been successful in recovery.

  • You have a safe place to go where you will not be judged.

Guilt and shame are common emotions in addiction.

Guilt and shame are obstacles to recovery, because they make you feel like you have been damaged and that you don’t deserve recovery or happiness. Self-help groups help you overcome guilt and shame, by seeing that you are not alone. You feel that recovery is within your reach.

How to get the most out of a self-help group.

Attend meetings regularly, have a sponsor, read twelve-step materials, and have the conscious goal of abstinence.

3. Be Completely Honest with Yourself and Everyone in Your Recovery Circle

An addiction requires lying. You have to lie about getting your drug, using it, hiding its consequences, and planning your next relapse. An addiction is full of lying. By the time you've developed an addiction, lying comes easily to you. After a while, you are so good at lying that you end up lying to yourself. That's why addicts often feel that they don't know who they are.

Recovery requires complete honesty. You must be one-hundred percent honest with the people in your recovery circle. If you can't be completely honest with them, you won't do well in recovery.

4. Practice Self-Care

There are only a few reasons why people use drugs and alcohol. They use to escape, relax, and reward themselves. In other words, people use drugs and alcohol as a form of self-care and self-medication.

Self-care means finding better ways to do escape, relax, and reward yourself. If you don't find better ways to take care of yourself, you will eventually feel irritable, exhausted, and discontent. If you have those feelings for too long, you will begin to think about using just to escape.

Self-care is essential for mental well-being. Self-care doesn’t have to be fancy trips or frivolous shopping. It begins with healthy eating and sleeping habits. Develop better sleep habits so that you're less tired. Eat a healthier lunch so you're not as hungry at the end of the day. Learn how to relax so that you’re not filled with fears and resentments.

Mind-Body Relaxation

The evidence is overwhelming that various forms of mind-body relaxation (yoga, mindfulness, meditation) are effective in reducing the use of drugs and alcohol. Mind-body relaxation has also been shown to prevent relapse. If people use drugs and alcohol to relieve tension, then learning to relax is one of the most important skills if you want to change your life.

5. Don’t Bend the Rules or Try to Negotiate Your Recovery

Your addiction has given you the opportunity to change your life. Changing your life is what makes recovery both difficult and rewarding. Use this opportunity. Don’t resent your addiction. Don’t try to negotiate your recovery. Embrace your recovery, and you will be happier in life. Recovery is difficult because you have to change your life, and all change is difficult, even good change. Recovery is rewarding because you get the chance to change your life.

Your addiction has given you an opportunity, and if you use this opportunity correctly, you'll look back on your addiction as one of the best things that ever happened to you. People in recovery often describe themselves as grateful addicts because their addiction helped them find an inner peace and tranquility that most people crave.

Recovery isn't about one big change. It's about a few little changes that can change the path of your life.


DSM-5: Substance Use Disorders/Addiction

The DSM-5 describes substance use disorders as a problematic pattern of use of an intoxicating substance leading to clinically significant impairment or distress occurring within a 12-month period. The diagnostic criteria are as follows:

  1. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.

  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.

  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance, occurs.

  5. Recurrent use of the substance results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.

  6. Use of the substance continues despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.

  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance.

  8. Use of the substance is recurrent in situations in which it is physically hazardous.

  9. Use of the substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.

  10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:

    1. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect

    2. A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:

    1. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for that substance (as specified in the DSM-5 for each substance).

    2. The use of a substance (or a closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Those who have two or three criteria are considered to have a “mild” disorder, four or five is considered "moderate," and six or more symptoms, "severe."

If you are experiencing any of the previously mentioned symptoms of substance use disorder, please reach out to your loved ones and seek treatment.

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