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Just Because it’s Legal Doesn’t Mean it’s Good For You 

health shopping -- vitamins

Often people in early recovery develop a new-found sense of health, wellness and a strong drive to finally treat their bodies well after ravaging it through years and years of substance abuse. Weight lifting, exercise, weight loss, physical healing and mental wellness commonly become priorities where a single thought had not been paid to such things in the person’s recent past. I have seen individuals in early recovery be the pinnacle of health and wellness, spending a lot of free time in the gym, being concerned about losing or gaining weight, researching the latest supplements and herbs and seeking out new methodologies to establish mental wellness. While physical and mental health are surely important, I believe this can unknowingly reawaken old demons.

Let’s take up weight training and exercise. The amount of supplements, thermogenic metabolism boosters, fat burners and concoctions of short-chain amino acids that promises to get me off the couch and inspire me to go to the gym is mind boggling. We live in a day and age where people will take the word of the 6 foot 3, 230 lb. guy behind the nutrition store counter rather than read the 7 warning labels and laundry list of un-pronounceable substances on a bottle of work out supplements as long as it promises to get them “fit” and “healthy.” This is the danger zone in my eyes. Why? Because for an addict in early recovery heeding the advice of those warning labels and understanding what exactly it is that they are about to consume is vital. Way more important than losing 10 pounds in 3 days or getting an energy boost. A common misnomer is:

“Well I bought it in a vitamin store so it can’t be bad for me.”

What the vitamin store employee doesn’t tell you is that this particular substance is banned in the entire European continent, has a high incidence of heart arrhythmia and stroke associated with its use and contains multiple ingredients that can be intoxicating and prove addictive.

Unknowingly or purposely pulling the wool over his eyes, the addict purchases the supplement, takes it home and can hardly wait to get to the gym so he can use his new “Super Supplement!” So the next day, he gets ready to go to the gym and takes the supplement. Within 10 minutes, his pulse races, his muscles swell with blood and he feels completely pumped and energized to rearrange the entire gym. He gets a great workout, lifted 10 more pounds than usual and within a week he’s lost 10 pounds.

“Hey, this stuff is pretty good!” he says and assigns a lot of value to this supplement.

“Where has this stuff been my entire life?” he asks himself (not remembering that he asked that same question to himself the first time he did OxyContin).

Soon, he finds himself taking the supplement outside of gym workouts. He takes it to get up in the morning. During the workday, he doses himself up just to get through the rest of the day. Now he’s buying 2 containers a week and 1 is supposed to be an entire month’s supply. Boom, his addictive behavior is taking hold again.

After a really hard workout, he wakes up and his muscles are very sore. So he goes back to the vitamin shop and says:

“That workout supplement you recommended was awesome. What do have for muscle soreness?”

The vitamin store employee reaches behind the counter and produces a bottle of a new herb called Kratom, which is used “specially used for pain and muscle soreness.”

“Don’t worry. It’s all natural herbs, so it can’t hurt you” he says.

Here is an article about Kratom:

Excited about his new find, he gets home, opens the bottle and swallows a few capsules. Within minutes he feels the slow, warm, intoxicating wave that is all too familiar to him. Unaware, he has just consumed an all-natural, legal herb that acts in the brain identically to heroin.

Once the Kratom supplements lose their efficacy, he’s back to Oxy. Completely relapsed, destroying his life and finds himself shooting up with a dirty water puddle yet again.

What happened here?

The person’s endless search for a “magic bullet” or a “cure-for-what-ails you” can led a them down the same rabbit hole that once found them sucking up water from a dirty puddle to shoot their next fix of heroin.

This is an all-too familiar situation where a person in early recovery falls victim to “natural” and “safe” herbs and supplements that are just as dangerous and intoxicating as illicit drugs. If you are going to take herbs and supplements please do your research. Know what you are taking and what peril may await you should you choose to consume it. Read labels, educate yourself and never compromise your new found life with quick-fixes and pick-me-ups.  Get advice from a medical practitioner who knows your substance abuse history.  Above all, find out so that you are smart through your recovery.

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