Wednesday, March 20, 2013

SPECT Scans & Your Brain on Drugs- Part 2

In our previous post we shared what some of the most commonly abused substances will do to your brain.  This post will continue with other substances that are much abused as well as the amazing regenerative power of the brain to heal itself.

                            Effects of Long Term Alcohol

38 y/o – 17 years of heavy weekend use

Alcohol Abuse and Brain Trauma


         Effects of Heavy Nicotine & Caffeine Abuse

45 y/o — 27 year history of heavy use
Smoking 3 packs of cigarettes and drinking 3 pots of coffee daily

Now at this point, if I’m showing these images to a substance using client in my office I’ll often ask “So what stands out most for you seeing these images?” (usually the client is a bit wide eyed with jaw dropped).  I’ll then see if I can pick an example of what the client’s brain might look like, for example.

“So you’re in your late 20’s and you say you smoke pot really “just on weekends”.  Oh, here is an image of what a late 20 year old’s brain looks like who smokes just on weekends…. this what your brain looks like? Client, still a bit wide eyed with jaw dropped often with a response of "Whoa". "I guess maybe you hadn't heard the concentration of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) is way more potent now than it was in "hippy days".
I will often leave the client hanging with the reality and consequences of their choices for a little bit and then segue way to something a bit more optimistic.
The brain is quite adaptable and “plastic” and will regenerate once healthier (non-substance) choices are made. For example, here are some images of what the brain looks like while still using (left image) and when not using a year later (image on the right).

Hope for Healing Alcohol, Drug Abuse, Cocaine & Meth On and Off Drugs and Alcohol

Effects of drug abuse and alcohol abuse vs one year substance free

There is hope!  The brain will regenerate given the proper conditions.  These images are often a powerful motivator for a person to realize the consequences of their choices and begin to think twice the next time they use.  I usually get a comment of...
“I DON’T want my brain to look like that!”
Best of health and warmest regards, Paul Radkowski
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Thursday, March 14, 2013

SPECT Scans & Your Brain on Drugs- Part 1

It is often a big wake up call is to see the visual impact and images of what drugs can do to the human brain  (part 1 of 2).

This is some of the latest functional brain imaging available called SPECT scans (short for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography).

You’ll see in this first image a SPECT scan view of a healthy human brain. Notice the smoothness of the surface area, looks like everything is connected and intact and the bright yellowish colour means greater brain activity throughout

Now, this is where we get into “darker” territory (literally).

Effects of Smoking Marijuana

Now compare these last few images to a healthy brain scan (as seen with first image).  Notice the darkened colour of the image of the scan and perforations (holes) of the tissue area (appearing as if someone poured acid on the brain).  Now these images are not actually photographs of brain matter, but are showing the holes or gaps in functioning of brain activity.  The holes you are seeing is where connectivity is impaired and reduced brain volume and activity results.  All these substances are “vasoconstrictors” i.e. they shrink brain cells! 

It’s been said, you blow your brain, you blow your life because your decision making, emotional world, social relationships etc often all take a turn for the worse.

Here is an overview of the effects of other substances.

Long Term Effects of Heroin & Methadone

Long Term Effects of Cocaine & Methamphetamine

Stay tuned for more images of various substances and the remarkable capacity for the brain to heal and regenerate.

Best of health and warmest regards, Paul Radkowski

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Saying "NO"- Can Save a Life

Recovery and mental health is about having healthy boundaries. Sure we can all be emotionally impacted by the people we spend time with and the moods of others. It is a problem when you feel helpless, hijacked and taken over by the requests and moods of others.

Here are some signs of NOT so healthy boundaries-

1. Having one’s self-esteem and mood decreased and negatively affected by other’s anxieties and worries

2. Measuring self-worth by outside validation.

3. Being controlled by thoughts such as: “What will they think? Am I doing it right? Do they like me?”

4. Reacting (often unconsciously) out of childhood conditioning/teachings/trauma: sudden, unexplainded flashes of intense hurt, anger resentment, shame.

5. Fear that is unequal to current reality. Fear of “hurting other’s feelings” by sharing truth.

6. Seeing the world/people as “doing it me” rather than seeing our part and exercising our power.

7. Constantly needing to soothe others, or needing others to constantly soothe you.

We need boundaries for every part of our lives. Yet when you attempt to set a boundary for the first time it can feel quite uncomfortable. You may even feel a bit ashamed or afraid to hurt someone else’s feelings when setting boundaries.

Do it anyways! Why? Because often times the people around us have no idea that they are trespassing on your feelings, thoughts, core beliefs, personal space or even your big toe unless you say something.

When a stranger bumps into you most often they will say, “Excuse me.” Why? Because they recognize that they have stepped over the limit, they have touched you without asking permission. That’s someone recognizing that they have crossed your boundary.

Often times the people who are closest to us, may not recognize or even know what your boundaries are so it’s important for you to share that with them. Otherwise you may find yourself feeling used, resentful, angry or hurt.

Did you know that nobody respects a person whom they can use? People use people they can use, and respect people they can’t use. So, setting boundaries means letting people know what your limits are so that they don’t end up accidentally or purposefully using you. It becomes win-win and a satisfying relationship for you both. Both of you will experience a sense of personal worth, value, respect and trust as you now communicate your needs more honestly and directly.

Saying "NO"- can save a life.
Find out how this mom learned to say "no" to her drug abusing son and not only saved his life, but their family as well...

This week take time to pay attention and think about and practice setting boundaries with people in your life. Start by simply learning how to honour your needs by saying NO, rather than yes every time someone asks something of you. Write them down, jot down your feelings about setting boundaries and why it’s important for you to do so. Practice this until it becomes a more natural and comfortable feeling.

Best health and warmest regards, Paul Radkowski

-Saving and transforming lives and families 24/7