Understanding the Relationship Between Heat Exhaustion and Relapse

Jul 8, 2021

heat exhaustion

It’s July, which means regardless of where you live, the temperature is much warmer than usual. If you live deep down in the south, the weather is not only warmer — it is a scorcher! While warm weather brings advantages — the sweet nostalgia of favorite summertime memories, the chance for beach trips and lake days, the opportunity for barbecues, ice cream socials, and all the fun food — the heat packs a punch that can be quite the disadvantage. Warm weather can potentially be challenging for someone in the process of healing from addiction

Throughout treatment, you learn how to spot your triggers: certain places, people, and settings that tempt relapse, and often, those triggers are easier to spot. You know the people, you know places, and you know the atmospheres that welcome bad choices. 

Unfortunately, some triggers are a little less obvious, a little less visual, and much more subtle — all components that can make for unexpected danger and a tragic ending. Often, we do not consider how changes to the weather can impact our overall mental health. For those who resorted to using alcohol and other substances to self-medicate for underlying mental health issues, the warmer months of the summer can increase the likelihood of relapse.

Overheating and Mental Health

Changes to the weather and heat exhaustion can play an unhealthy role regarding relapse because overheating causes a negative impact on your mental health. Heat impacts our moods, behaviors, and those taking psychotropic medications might be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Once mental health is threatened and unhealthy emotions such as anxiety, fear, and panic settle in, those in recovery from addiction can be vulnerable to a relapse. 

Check out these facts about the relationship between heat exhaustion and relapse to stay cool and protected against unforeseeable triggers. 

The Connection Among Mental Health Crises, Substance Abuse, and Heat

According to Ken Duckworth, medical director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health crises and substance abuse are often a duo. During the summer months, the heat adds to the group and creates a trio of danger. 

His interview with NPR states, “Often, mental health patients are struggling with more than a mental illness. Studies have linked heat and increased drug overdoses, as well as heightened effects of alcohol poisoning — and the Howard Center found calls relating to substance abuse more than doubled during dangerous heat in the summer of 2018.”

Psychotropic Medications and Heat-Related Illness

Knowing that these components create quite the tornado, make sure you dodge the heat, continue to prioritize your mental health, and give action to all the practices you have been taught at your treatment facility. In addition, some psychotropic medications might have an adverse reaction to heat, which threatens overall health — including the addiction recovery aspect of health. 

Dr. Ken Duckworth further notes that if someone is on mental health medications, such as antipsychotics, that particular type of medication can thwart the body’s natural ability to regulate heat. So, when humidity and heat reach all-time highs in the summertime months, it’s easy for the body to dehydrate quicker. Dehydration can then lead to more dangerous medical conditions, such as heat stroke. 

In light of addiction recovery, those who already take medications, particularly for mental health, need to understand how heat impacts their medicines, further understanding that their chances of relapse might increase if their medicines are affected. 

“Heat is hard on human beings,” Dr. Ken Duckworth says. “Extreme temperatures are hard on human beings. The particular vulnerability is if you’re taking psychiatric medicines, that can actually make the condition higher risk for you.” 

Talk with your doctors, therapists, and treatment facility staff about your medications. Prioritize understanding their side effects and how the heat can play a role in their performance. 

Staying Two Steps Ahead of the Heat

Sure, understanding the relationship between mental health, heat, and substance abuse is not exactly a hands-on way to combat triggers, but staying two steps ahead of summer’s heat game can help you dodge some of these triggers altogether. It’s essential to understand how your body works, to listen to staff, doctors, and nurses who have the experience to explain how the physical body reacts, all so you can create the best strategies for avoiding specific triggers. 

When you understand your medicines and how heat can impact their reactions inside your body, you have the opportunity to prioritize your physical and mental health, paving a healthier path as you continue your addiction recovery journey. 

Here at Renaissance Ranch, we value not only your addiction recovery, but we value the knowledge that you gain regarding your mind, body, and spirit. While this journey can be intimidating and scary, the knowledgeable staff at Renaissance Ranch can help you map out solutions to some of your biggest challenges. You put in all the hard work, took all the necessary steps to make recovery such a vital priority in your life, and now, we celebrate this next step with you. It’s important to be mindful of your medications and triggers, as well as how something as simple as heat exhaustion can impact your health and overall recovery process. With programs ranging from alumni retreats to family recovery treatment, you are sure to find the support that suits your individual needs at Renaissance Ranch. For more information on how we can support you in your journey, call us today at (801) 308-8898.