Know the Dangers of Sober January

Know the Dangers of Sober January

It’s a New Year and you’ve resolved to stop drinking alcohol and/or using drugs. It’s a great decision to take control of your actions and your body. Being that we are only a few days into the New Year, many of you are taking on the Sober January or Dry January mantra. However, if you have been a consistent drinker or user of drugs, quitting cold turkey may be dangerous for you. You may view yourself as a casual drinker or recreational drug user and not know the damage alcohol and drugs have already done to your body and/or brain.


As our understanding of addiction and substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder, have evolved, both are now classified as chronic diseases. Diseases require medical attention and a medical plan. They are not about moral failings or decision making, but rather physiological and psychological changes to a person’s body.


Why is quitting cold turkey dangerous? While your will says you want to stop drinking and/or using drugs, your body, including your mind, is working on its own. Addictive drugs and alcohol change a person’s brain chemistry. Alcohol, for instance, is a depressant and to compensate for the effects of alcohol, the brain will produce large amounts of stimulants, such as norepinephrine. When a person stops drinking or using drugs, the brain will continue to produce large amounts of these stimulants. This production can lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms.


When is the most dangerous time for someone detoxing? The most dangerous period is within the first 48 hours of someone consuming their last drink of alcohol or consumption of drugs. Initial symptoms may feel like the flu, a bad cold, or Covid. Initial symptoms may last for up to a week before delirium tremens (DT’s) occur (reduced blood flow to the brain and other body systems).


What are the symptoms of withdrawal? Withdrawal symptoms may include, but are not limited to, hallucinations, tremors, seizures, nausea and vomiting, psychotic episodes, nightmares, and insomnia.


Why does someone need medical supervision? Quitting alcohol and drugs without proper medical supervision can be dangerous to a person’s health. Doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and counselors who are trained in addiction medicine can create personalized treatment plans, which may include prescriptions to counter-balance the withdrawal symptoms, as well as counseling to discover the underlying reason for the alcohol and/or drug use. Additionally, a long-term medical plan can help with a successful, long-term recovery.


We applaud your decision to take control of your health and want to do all we can to help you be successful. At Pathway Healthcare we create patient-centered treatment plans on an outpatient basis. We have fourteen locations throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. Call today to schedule your appointment 844.728.4929 or visit

Co-Occurring Disorders and Domestic Violence

Co-Occurring Disorders As It Relates to Domestic Violence

October is domestic violence awareness month and it is important to bring to light the issues that cause domestic violence. Domestic violence is much more than physical assault. Domestic violence can also include non-physical behaviors such as: emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, and elder abuse.

As a society, we are doing a much better job at not turning a blind eye to domestic violence and the stigma associated with it. However, it is simply not enough to focus on the actions of the perpetrator, but we must also understand what causes the behavior and what the outcomes might be. As we continue to study things such as trauma, PTSD, mental health disorders and substance use disorders, we are continuing to find the relationship between domestic violence and co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders.

As we begin to better understand the correlation between the co-occurring disorders, we can see how there is hope in treating both those who are victims of domestic violence and the people who commit domestic violence. As we study the disease of addiction and mental health, we can determine what genetic and environmental factors contribute to these diseases and how they may present in each person. For instance, a child who was brought up in a home that experienced violence and/or active substance use (drugs or alcohol), would be at an increased risk of becoming a victim or a perpetrator of domestic violence (based on ACE scores).

“The World Health Organization reports that women who reported partner violence at least once in their lifetime are nearly 3 times as likely to have suicidal thoughts and 4 times as likely to attempt suicide. Compared to those who have never been abused, survivors are 6 times as likely to have a substance use disorder.”[1]

Therefore, it is important for a person who has experienced or is experiencing domestic violence to undergo an evaluation by a psychiatrist or licensed counselor to determine the amount of trauma one has experienced and how that may be affecting or could affect decision making or one’s mental health. Additionally, simply incarcerating the offender without properly treating the offender, may result in a re-offense because underlying issues have not been addressed or dealt with.

If children are involved as witnesses to the domestic violence or are also suffering some level of the violence, they will also need evaluation and treatment so to not perpetuate the cycle of abuse (whether as a victim or a perpetrator).

It is important to note, however, that domestic violence isn’t necessarily caused by the substance use, but it can contribute to the violence. Some perpetrators may use drugs or alcohol before committing an act of domestic violence. Substance use and mental health disorders affect a person’s control in some way. Not being able to clearly control one’s behavior and not being able to comprehend the consequences of one’s behavior contributes to domestic violence. Additionally, because people often act differently when under the influence of drugs or alcohol or during a mental health episode, the domestic violence issues can look different for different people, and different from past situations.

The only way to end the cycle is to admit there is a problem and get help. Both parties are affected and one party cannot fix the other by staying in the situation when there is danger involved. Professional help can help determine what is triggering the need for drugs and/or alcohol, as well as diagnose any underlying mental health issues. Once these issues are discovered, a plan of action can be put in place to help everyone involved.

There is hope and we help people. If you are experiencing domestic violence or have experienced past domestic violence, we want to help you find healing and get on a healthy path. We offer individual treatment plans on an outpatient basis to find what is best for you. We also offer family counseling. We have a team of professionals who can help with medical needs, including treatment for substance use and alcohol use, and mental health needs, including psychiatrists and licensed counselors.

We have offices in four states (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas) spread across fourteen locations. We accept most insurance plans, Medicare, Medicaid and cash pay. We are accepting new patients in all our offices. Call 844.728.4929 or visit www.pathwayhealthcare.comfor more information.

If you are not the one suffering from domestic violence but you know someone who is, please share this with them and let them know there is help and hope available.


The Five Leading Mental Health Issues Veterans Face and How Pathway Healthcare Can Help

The Five Leading Mental Health Issues Veterans Face and How Pathway Healthcare Can Help

More and more veterans are returning from duty carrying more than just physical wounds. While the VA is doing a better job of increasing awareness for mental health and accessibility for services, there is still much work to be done. The top five issues veterans face are depression, PTSD, substance use disorder, anxiety and SMI (serious mental issues such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder).

Currently, the VA system has approximately 170 VA medical centers. Because the locations are often not close to every veteran, the VA has over 1,000 authorized medical centers throughout the United States. These authorized medical centers encompass different levels of care. At Pathway Healthcare, we are honored that we are one of the authorized medical centers and able to treat veterans, as well as their families, for mental health care, addiction and substance use disorder care, and primary care through the VA Choice Program and Champ VA.

We are grateful for the sacrifice and service of our military men and women and their families. Our psychiatrists, licensed counselors, and medical doctors are available to discuss a treatment plan with you on an outpatient basis.

If you or a loved one are suffering with a mental health issue or a substance use disorder, please know there is hope and help. Contact us today at 844.728.4929 to find a location near you.

A Statement From Our CEO for Our Military Members and Their Families


I know that these are hard times for everyone and our veterans and active duty military, and their families, have not been immune from difficulties. Fear, anxiety, depression, anger, and despair are rampant, and an urgent crisis.

I want to remind you there is hope. Please do not struggle alone.

If you need help, call someone – reach out to one of our Pathway Healthcare offices, or some other mental health resource. Help is available and hope remains.

With all sincerity,

Scott Olson

Co-Founder/CEO and United States Air Force Veteran

Summer Days and the Dangers of Alcohol


Summertime is all about outdoor BBQ’s, lounging by the pool, being out in the sun by the beach or at the lake, hanging out with family or friends…all with a cool drink in your hands. A lot of people think about and consume beer, canned or fresh cocktails, spritzers, hard seltzers, hard teas and lemonades, and wine coolers. There are unlimited options and advertisers do their best to convince you these drinks are “cooling”, “refreshing” and/or “relaxing.” What could possibly be better? 

However, combining the summer heat and alcohol can be dangerous. It can lead to anything ranging from a really bad day to a downright deadly one if you don’t understand how summer and alcohol mix. 

Summer heat is the first danger to be alert to. Most people are not drinking any or enough water to stay safely hydrated. When someone is not hydrated enough, several things start to happen: 

1) You get hot in the heat and begin to sweat, which is totally normal. This is how the body cools itself off. But this loss of fluid is a problem if you don’t have fluid going in to make up for what is going out. 

2) You grab an alcoholic drink to hydrate, but alcohol is a diuretic. Basically, it makes you urinate more so in turn, you lose more fluid. 

3) After sweating and urinating, you are more dehydrated than when you started. Add in a little buzz from that beer or other alcoholic drink (or two, or three), and you also don’t particularly care or realize you are dehydrated. 

4) If you happen to vomit for any reason, the fluid loss is even worse. 

5) Every drop of sweat and alcoholic drink is creating a vicious cycle. 

Eventually, your cooling system is going to breakdown in this scenario. Your body only works in a small temperature range. Alcohol can mess up your ability to know that you are in danger. As it gets worse, the warning signs of severe illness can be ignored. Heat stroke can occur which is life threatening and requires immediate emergency medical attention. (The signs of heat stroke are: headache, dizziness, disorientation, confusion, loss of consciousness, hallucinations and seizures). During a heat stroke, your body temperature is high, and your organs are “cooking”. A lot of these symptoms seem like how a drunk person might act so your friends may not notice a problem, especially if they have also been drinking. 

Another summer alcohol danger is the lack of safety awareness that comes with alcohol intake. Otherwise normal summertime activities can become dangerous when alcohol gets mixed in. Alcohol can decrease you gag reflex. Suddenly you can’t clear your airway as well in the water and you can get water in lungs easier and drown. This is compounded when your judgment is impaired and you are less aware of your limits and distance and swim out farther than you should or can’t find your way out of the water because the alcohol has you a bit confused or disoriented. Boating accidents, car accidents, slips, trips, and falls all increase with alcohol leading to injuries as severe as paralysis and death. 

If you are struggling to control your alcohol consumption, please call us at Pathway Healthcare for an assessment and treatment plan. We can help you reduce or completely eliminate your alcohol intake which will lead to better health overall. Thankfully, there are many alternatives to alcohol on the market that actually hydrate the body so you can enjoy the summer heat outdoors safely.

Pathway Healthcare – 844.728.4929 or visit find a location near you.

Author: Shelly Southworth, BSN RN 


The Effects of Summer Heat on Mental Health 

Summer…the sun, the fun, the warmth and the heat. It seems like that’s all you hear as soon as the first snows start to melt. It’s a traditional time for vacations. School is out for families. Flexibility and relaxation are the name of the game.

However, for some people, summer is not fun. Research shows that summer heat is correlated with increased emergency room visits and hospital admissions for mental health issues. So, the question is, why? If summer is so warm and relaxing, why are there so many problems with people’s mental health?

There a lot of different reasons that summer, and the heat that comes with it, can be a big concern for mental health issues. Changes in schedules and routines that come with vacations and school breaks can lead to feeling overwhelmed and out of control, more than usual in some in cases. It can also mean parents have no break from the kids when school is out. Parents can quickly become exhausted. Kids who have lost their routines and structure from school might be anxious and can have more behavior issues.

Additionally, some medications, especially mental health medications, have specific warnings about being in the sun, heat, or fluid consumption to avoid dehydration, as well as warning about not drinking alcohol. This can be a lot to remember and can cause feelings of isolation. It also puts the spotlight on someone’s private health issue. A lot of people feel uncomfortable having to discuss their medical issues with friends and co-workers.

Summer heat also can mean less clothing…shorts, short sleeves and bathing suits. For a person with body image issues, being overweight or underweight, or someone with self-harm scars, this can be literally terrifying. The pressure to be outside and socialize more in the summer can also be very scary for someone with mental health issues. Additionally, if the above issues cause someone to isolate more, it can affect normal routines and make support systems less available. 

Memories of less than ideal childhood summers may also be a problem for a lot of people struggling with mental health issues. Summer is supposed to be a carefree time, at least that is what movies and television want us to believe. But for many, summers took them from the safety of a school environment and put them at home more with abusers, unstable parents, food insecurity, access to drugs and alcohol, and less accountability. People who have not worked through these triggers with professional help may not be aware that summer itself is the trigger of the decline in their mental health.

We can’t avoid summer. It comes every year whether we want it to or not. There can even be a seasonal-type depression associated with summer just like there is with winter. Some of the signs to watch for can include weight loss, minimal appetite, anxiety, irritability or insomnia.

So how can a person cope with the inevitable summer and all that it brings? Do your best to make a summer routine. Even if your normal routine is disrupted for a few months, get a new one started as soon as possible which includes some exercise, outdoor time (early or late in the day when its cooler and out of the direct sun). Drink plenty of hydrating fluids that are not filled with high levels of sugar. Wear cool, loose fitting, cotton clothing. Keep a healthy sleep schedule. Limit or abstain from alcohol consumption. Do not use illicit drugs.

Most importantly, do not isolate. Start a conversation. Talk to your doctor or mental-health professional if you have new or worsening problems with any part of your physical or mental health, including any restrictions your prescriptions might have as it relates to summer activity. NEVER STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATIONS WITHOUT DISCUSSING WITH YOUR DOCTOR.

At Pathway Healthcare, we have medical doctors, psychiatrists and licensed counselors who care about your well-being. We do our best to help you discover the source of your depression, anxiety, or other mental health condition(s), identify triggers, and find solutions to help you feel better. There is hope.

We have 14 locations in 4 states (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas) and have appointments available now. Call today 844.728.4929 or visit

Author: Shelly Southworth, BSN RN 


Stivanello, E., Chierzi, F., Marzaroli, P., Zanella, S., Miglio, R., Biavati, P., Perlangeli, V., Berardi, V., Fioritti, 

A., Pandolfi, P. (2020) Mental Health Disorders and Summer Temperature –Related Mortality: A Case Crossover Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(23)9122

It is important to take care of yourself so you can care for the people you love better.


Anyone who has flown before has heard the emergency instruction recording say, “Put on your oxygen mask first before helping others.” The reason? If there is a decrease in oxygen and you have not put on your oxygen mask, you will quickly realize that by helping someone else put theirs on, you’ve run out of oxygen yourself.

Thankfully, most people never experience this scenario on an airplane trip, however, many people experience this in daily life. A lot of people occupy the space of caregiver. You might be a mom raising young children, or parents raising a child with special needs, or a child taking care of a sick parent, or an adult child caring for an aging parent. You might also find yourself in the roll of taking care of a teenager or adult child who is battling substance use disorders, alcohol use disorders or mental health disorders. You may be the spouse caring for your husband or wife battling these disorders as well. You could also be a sibling or a child of someone struggling. And, it can happen at any moment and continue for a lifetime.

The longevity of the season may be unknown, but the amount of stress one is put under is not. Caring for others well requires that you first take care of yourself. You must know how to understand how to identify stress and how to take time for self-care. Many caregivers feel guilty for taking time for themselves because they are busy taking care of others. However, taking time to care for one self, helps reduce stress, alleviate burn out, and makes it so you can care for others better.

If you are a caregiver, know that it is okay for you to seek help. Stress affects people both physically and mentally. Exercise, rest, a healthy diet (food and drink), and support are all great ways for you to care for yourself. Talking with a professional counselor can help.

You care and love people well. Make sure you are also caring for and loving yourself well.

If you need to speak with someone, we are here to help. We have psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and licensed counselors on staff. Call 844.728.4929 to find a location near you. We have offices in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas.

Case Management Significantly Improves Recovery Through Access to Help

Those affected by substance use disorders and mental health disorders often have significant social problems that contribute to the success of their treatment outcomes. Some of these issues are: underemployment or unemployment, homelessness, alienated relationships, incarceration/probation, legal issues, medical issues, transportation issues, food insecurity, financial issues, and limited education. To address the substance use disorder or the mental health disorder singularly without addressing the social issue needs contributes to a cycle of poverty, misuse of substances, decline in mental health, and has far reaching consequences on society at large. 

The average cost of treating one person suffering from a mental health disorder in a state-run facility in the state of Mississippi, for instance, is over $48,000 per year. This only accounts for approximately a month-long stay per individual. However, when a patient is also assisted by a case manager who helps with social issues facing this same patient, that cost can be reduced significantly.

Substance use disorders and mental health disorders are found among all socioeconomic groups, however, issues such as poverty, disease, and underemployment are significantly over-represented (SAMHSA, CSAT, 1994). By engaging those who have substance use disorders and mental health disorders with people who care and help them find the necessary resources, improved relationships between patient and provider are increased and the treatment outcomes have much better results than those who are not offered case management services or actively refuse to participate in add-on care.

Pathway Healthcare’s Targeted Case Management bridges the gap for patients with the fewest resources and greatest needs. We help by coordinating high quality medical and behavioral care and granting access to community partners with social resources like food, housing, job skills training, and education. We assess, link, plan, and monitor a patient’s progress to autonomy and recovery.

If you need assistance with a substance use disorder or a mental health disorder, or need help with social issues you are experiencing because of a disorder, please contact us today at 844.728.4929 or visit

Are You Affecting Your Gray Matter?

We’ve known for quite some time that alcohol affects a person’s health, and as more studies are done, we are discovering more of what it does to people. A recent study conducted in the UK determined that alcohol use affects the gray matter in the brain.* Why is gray matter important? It is the area of our brain where information is processed.

“The more people drank, the less the volume of their gray matter,” said one of the researchers. As we age, this becomes more important. Choosing to not drink alcohol is a choice a person can make while aging is something out of our control. The study also determined that the degree of drinking didn’t matter nor did the type of alcohol consumed matter.

Alcohol was the leading risk factor for disease and premature death in men and women between the ages of 15 and 49 worldwide, accounting for nearly one in 10 deaths in 2016 (according to a study published in The Lancet in 2018).

What we choose to put into our bodies affects our bodies. The more alcohol we put into our bodies, the less gray matter in our brains. Brain health, including mental health, is at risk for anyone who consumes alcohol because no safe level of consumption has been established.

If you or a loved one needs help to stop drinking, or at least decrease the amount of alcohol you drink, we can help on an outpatient basis. No inpatient stays are required.

We have doctors who are experienced with treating alcohol use disorders, as well as psychiatrists and licensed counselors.

Making better choices now can help increase overall brain health before too much damage has occurred.

Call us today for an appointment 844.728.4929 or visit for more information.