• What is addiction? (Use vs. Abuse vs. Dependency)

    If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug(s) despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, family problems, or physical problems brought on by drug abuse, then he or she probably is addicted. And while people who are addicted may believe they can stop any time, most often they cannot, and will need professional help—first to determine if they in fact are addicted, and then to obtain drug abuse treatment.

    A person may be using a drug recreationally or as prescribed. This is not considered dangerous or an imbalance. If the use of the substance becomes maladaptive (meaning it is hurting the person’s ability to evolve and adapt to life’s changes), then the using has moved into a dangerous territory of substance abuse. If the abuse progresses in a way that the person becomes dependent on the substance to function or feel “normal”, then the person is suffering from substance dependency. For example, a person that is initially using a pain-killer to help with pain after a surgery is using a drug. Once the pain is gone and the person still takes the medication, the person is abusing. When the person cannot go through the day without the medication, the person has become dependent. Substance abuse and substance dependency both require professional treatment in order to help the person create balance in their life.

  • Who can become addicted?

    Addiction can affect anyone.

  • What is a holistic approach to healing addiction?

    A holistic approach to treating addiction means that the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual components are taken into consideration in the creation of a treatment plan. Whereas most treatment programs rely heavily on cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), our program integrates somatic (body-centered) interventions with CBT in order to help our clients have a deeper understanding of the root causes that have brought on the patterns of substance abuse.

  • What are “root causes”?

    Underlying psychological, physiological, neurochemical, and behavioral imbalances are potential “root causes” of addiction. When these areas are out of balance in life, a person may reach for drugs and/or alcohol as a way to deal with the pain associated with the imbalances. By helping identify, understand, and rectify “root causes”, we empower our clients to deal with what is really causing the abusive behavior.

  • What are the physical and emotional signs of addiction?

    The physical signs of abuse or addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug being abused. For example, someone who abuses marijuana may have a chronic cough or worsening of asthmatic symptoms. Each drug has short-term and long-term physical effects. Stimulants like cocaine increase heart rate and blood pressure, whereas opioids like heroin may slow the heart rate and reduce respiration.

    The emotional signs of addiction also vary by person and by the substance being abused. Substance abuse is often concurrent with anxiety and/or depression. Irritability, instability, and fragmentation (not being able to focus) are often emotional precursors to substance abuse. When substances are added to these emotional states (usually in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort), they are often amplified and exaggerated.

    The following list provides general examples of signs for each of the major substance categories:

    Cocaine Addiction: Dilated pupils, exuberant/fast speech, high levels of energy and activity, irritability, restlessness, elevated mood, supremacy, anxiety

    Heroin Addiction: Dilated pupils, dry mouth, flush skin, thin/emaciated body structure, constipation, nodding off, memory loss, loss of decision making, loss of ambition

    Marijuana Addiction: bloodshot eyes, mucous-filled cough, hunger (“munchies”), rapid heart beat, dry mouth, poor memory, paranoia, anxiety, slow reaction time

    MDMA (Ecstasy) Addiction: Dilated pupils, exaggerated sensual perceptions, increased anxiety, rapid heart beat, clenching of jaw, grinding of teeth, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, high blood pressure, high levels of energy and activity

    Methamphetamine Addiction: increased attention, decreased fatigue, increased talkativeness, decreased appetite, rapid heart beat, increased respiration, hyperthermia, skin picking, skin crawling, tooth decay, hair loss, psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations, repetitive motor activity, aggression, violence, agitation

    Opiates Addiction: dilated pupils, nausea, stomach cramping, sweating, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, irritation, agitation, anxiety, muscle aches, insomnia, bone pain, tremors, delirium

  • How does it affect family/friends?

    Drug and alcohol abuse not only negatively affects the abuser and his/her life, but also the lives of family members and friends. The negative effects within the family may be conflict with your partner and/or children, conflict over money, emotional trauma, violence, cheating, and other destructive patterns. In short, substance abuse issues amplify disconnection, discord, and unhappiness within the family system. Friendships will be affected as well. Friends may feel that a person is unreachable, disconnected, or out of touch with reality. When someone you know or love is stuck in addiction, the whole family and friends system feels the negative effects.

  • How can family/friends help the individual?

    Alcoholism and substance abuse may be viewed as a family systems phenomenon. Often, discord within the family can drive one or more family members to abuse substances as a way to deal with family dysfunctions and imbalances. When the entire family is taken into account, there is a larger potential for healing and maintaining constancy because the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

  • How can I start the road to recovery?

    If you are suffering from an addiction call 416.921.CARE (2273) or email info@helixhealthcaregroup.com/spectrum.

    If you are concerned about a loved one, we can help either via phone or in person. Getting someone in to treatment is the first major step towards recovery and a healthy life. Often times, people stuck in the throws of addiction are resistant to getting help. Sometimes they are in denial. An intervention is a loving, yet assertive, means to confronting a loved one or friend about their destructive behaviors in hopes that they will agree to receive help. Family members, as well as friends, may be part of an intervention. Additionally, professional assistance may be needed or wanted to help improve the effectiveness of the intervention. Our team is qualified to assist in creating a loving, assertive, and effective intervention so that your loved one can get their life back.

  • What is detoxification or “detox”?

    Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is often the first step in a drug treatment program and should be followed by treatment with a behavioral-based therapy and/or a medication, if available. Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.

  • What is withdrawal? How long does it last?

    Withdrawal describes the various symptoms that occur after long-term use of a drug is reduced or stopped abruptly. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug. For example, physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and hot/cold flashes. These physical symptoms may last for several days, but the general depression, or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria), that often accompanies heroin withdrawal may last for weeks. In many cases, withdrawal can be easily treated with medications to ease the symptoms, but treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.

  • If a pregnant woman abuses drugs/alcohol, does is affect the fetus?

    Many substances including alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs can have negative effects on the developing fetus because they are transferred to the fetus across the placenta. For example, nicotine has been connected with premature birth and low birth weight as has the use of cocaine. Heroin exposure results in dependence in the newborn, requiring treatment for withdrawal symptoms. It is often difficult to tease apart the confluence of factors that go with drug abuse during pregnancy—poor nutrition, inadequate prenatal care, stress, and psychiatric comorbidities—all of which may impact fetal development.


Helix Midtown
164 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 400
Toronto, ON M4P 1G4
416.924.CARE (2273)


Phone: 416.921.CARE (2273)

Fax: 416.921.2237

43.671271 -79.392700
43.707908 -79.393316

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