Dr. Tola T’Sarumi is a psychiatrist in charge at McLean Hospital's Division of Depression and Anxiety Disorders. She earned her medical degree from Xavier University School of Medicine and is fellowship-trained in addiction psychiatry. Her specialty is treating patients with mood disorders, suicide, and addiction, as well as those with substance use disorders and co-occurring conditions such as anxiety and personality disorders.
Self-care is key for managing stress and anxiety. Make sure to get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat healthy. Reduce notifications from apps and stay connected with family and friends. If none of those work, seek professional help. Transcript: "How do you help people manage their stress and anxiety? I think the first thing you want to think about is self-care. You've got to be intentional about taking time for yourself, prioritizing your health, knowing that you only have one body and you want to make sure you give it the best that you can. We talk about sleep, exercise, eating healthy as a go-to factor. So the study shows that you should be sleeping at least seven hours to eight hours a day. So that would really help you in replenishing and get into a really good reset. Healthy eating, exercise, and even if it's 30 minutes, exercise a day. That's very key and important. Lately, we're seeing a lot with internet and social media, so you definitely want to pay attention to that. With notifications from all your apps, reduce that as much as you can. Connect with friends, loved ones. That's very important to stay connected with family and loved ones who will support you on your journey. And definitely seek professional help if none of those are working for you."
To prevent relapse, stay engaged in recovery-oriented activities, be aware of the stages of relapse and take appropriate actions to address them, prioritize self-care, seek help when feeling overwhelmed, triggers or any one of those things, be honest with yourself and identify any maladaptive habits. Transcript: "Hi, so what steps can people take to prevent relapse if they've been in recovery for a while? I'd say the first thing is staying engaged in recovery-oriented activities. Be aware of the stages of relapse. Those are very important when it comes to emotional signs. You want to pay attention to that. What does it look like, whether it's mental, those physical relapse. And taking appropriate actions to address them. Self-care. We've got to prioritize self-care. It's so essential, eating healthy, dieting, sleeping, taking your medications, seeking help when you're feeling overwhelmed, triggers, any one of those things. You want to seek help right away. Don't wait until it's about to burst. Be honest. Honesty is so important and key. With yourself, it plays a role. I'm not feeling good. I'm feeling more triggered. Identify that. Adhere to the rules and structure and then modify maladaptive habits. Hopefully that answered the question."
To help someone stay sober, identify triggers, develop stress management skills, promote healthy living, build a strong support network, encourage participation in recovery activities, celebrate their milestones and achievements in recovery, and be there to support them. Transcript: "So do you have any tips for helping someone stay sober? Absolutely. First is identify the triggers. Is it emotional? Is it relationship? Is it financial? Basically whatever the trigger might be, let's identify it and address it. Develop stress management skills, stress management skills such as yoga, you know, meditation, you know, breathing exercises, nature walks, this could be very helpful. Promote healthy living, you know, nutrition is very key. Quality sleep is important. You want to build a strong support network. That is a really good way to help the patients, you know, who get sober. Encourage participation in recovery activities. That's very important. Celebrate with them their milestones, with their achievements in recovery. These are really key things. And a lot of times they might have pain. So kind of be there to support them, to prevent them from actually going to use substances when they're having those discomforts. Thank you."
Yes, addiction has a genetic component, which increases the risk of exposure to addictive substances. Studies show that if a parent has a substance use disorder, their child is more likely to be exposed to it due to the inherited levels of dopamine in their brain. Transcript: "Does addiction have a genetic component? Absolutely. The research and studies actually show that there is a 40 to 60 percent risk of addiction. And that kind of, you know, when you have a parent, if a mother or father have a substance use disorder, it increases the chances that the child will be exposed to that. Again, because there's the gene that just sort of plays its effect there. We talk about the dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for the reward and pleasure. And so that there is that risk when the levels are elevated. It leads to an inherited levels of dopamine that actually could lead to the exposure to the addiction, the substances that the child might eventually kind of be exposed to."
Potential risks associated with taking medications to treat addiction include dependence, withdrawal symptoms, tolerance, physical side effects, mental health side effects, risk of relapse, and drug interactions. Transcript: "What are some potential risks associated with taking medications to treat addiction? There could be a few. The first you think about is dependence. A lot of times you take a medication, you can become dependent on it for like sleep medications. We have withdrawal symptoms that might present for a patient. If you stop abruptly a lot of times, that could lead to severe consequences. You might need a medical intervention or even require hospitalization in that case. Build intolerance. There is increase in tolerance and that just means over time you require a higher amount of dose of the medication to achieve the best effects of it. And so that could present as a problem sometimes. We see that some patients could have some physical side effects. You could present with like a change in appetite, uncoordinated movement at times. That could present as a problem. When you think about mental health side effects, there could be also some issues with anxiety, some depressive episodes that could occur as a result of the medication. There's a risk of relapse and it's a reality because if you abruptly stop this medication and unfortunately find yourself taking back to the street drugs, you can lead to overdose risk. And when we think about drug interactions as well, that could really affect the individual. Thank you."
Techniques for managing cravings for alcohol or drugs include distraction, meditation, mindfulness, relaxation techniques, medication, physical exercise, saying no, healthy habits, and a healthy support network. Transcript: "Are there any techniques for managing cravings for alcohol or drugs? Absolutely. Distraction is a good way to kind of occupy the mind, get your mind occupied, or doing something different, either reading a book, going for a walk, just engaging in different activities could definitely be a beneficial way approach. We talk about meditation, mindfulness, relaxation techniques such as yoga, either meditation, learning a way to just refocus because that could really help in terms of the cravings, distracting your mind through that process. We talk about medication which can help with intense cravings that you might feel or persistent cravings that could really be instrumental. With physical exercise, you know, we say endorphins are really great in terms of just getting you from that situation or whatever is happening with the cravings that you're feeling at that point in time. We cannot run away from, you know, the ability to just say no and so we have to, there are learned skills that must take place and part of doing that is just being, working with your mind to distract yourself and definitely we talk about healthy habits, so sleeping, healthy eating, these are good ways to really keep your mind in a better and much, much more balanced state. And finally, a healthy support network can really be helpful to discuss and be encouraged by others."