Alcoholism Articles

7 Common Misconceptions About Addiction Interventions

Monday, August 26th, 2013

7 Common Misconceptions About Addiction InterventionsWhen alcohol or drugs have taken over a loved one’s life, and they seem reluctant to face the facts about their addiction, sometimes we turn to an “intervention” to help them see that they need help. An intervention is when a group of loved ones — family, friends and concerned others — gather together to try and help the person see that they need treatment for their addiction.

For those who have never been involved in an intervention, the process may seem daunting and full of unanswered questions. Many people have only seen drug interventions on television or in movies, and are not sure what to expect at an actual intervention.

Here are seven common misconceptions about drug and alcohol interventions.

5 Steps to Stop Drug Addiction Before it Starts

Monday, August 5th, 2013

5 Steps to Stop Drug Addiction Before it StartsRecovering from addiction can be a difficult and taxing process. Certain people are much more susceptible to addiction, as factors such as genetics or environmental issues can make substance abuse much more likely.

There are, however, several effective ways to prevent drug addiction.

Here are some tips on how to stop addiction before it even starts.

Cory Monteith: A Wake-Up Call about Relapse

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Cory Monteith: A Wake-Up Call about RelapseCory Monteith, Glee actor, was found dead in his hotel room in Vancouver recently from a heroin and alcohol overdose. He was frank about his long history of struggles with addiction beginning as a teenager, using “anything and everything” by the time he was 16. Most recently, he checked himself into rehab just this past March.

As a doctor who treats opiate addiction every day in my office in San Francisco, I see many accomplished people like Cory who are working hard to get and stay clean.

Unlike the myth of addicts being complete train wrecks — barefoot and disheveled — my patients are high-functioning. They are lawyers, computer programmers, housewives, construction workers and entrepreneurs. They work, raise families and contribute to their communities.

I help each of them plan for relapse because the likelihood is so high and the risks are so deadly. After a period of being clean, the body’s tolerance for opiates lowers and doses previously used become deadly.

Sadly, it’s not entirely surprising that Cory’s overdose came after a recent rehab.

5 Ways to Avoid Addiction Relapse

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

5 Ways to Avoid Addiction RelapseIf you or someone you love has attended a drug rehab program and successfully completed it, it is a huge accomplishment. While in treatment tools were provided to assist in staying clean and sober, relapse prevention plans were developed, and aftercare plans were made. Although successfully completing is a great feat, successfully completing treatment is just the beginning.

Working in an inpatient setting, I applaud the accomplishments of patients. It is nice to see progress made, insights gained, and increased awareness of addiction and addictive behaviors. However, I also remind them that remaining drug-free will be a challenge because true recovery is a life-long journey. Some people will remain clean, some will relapse, and some will become what is commonly referred to as “chronic relapsers.”

There is no magic wand to help substance abusers avoid relapse; staying clean and sober takes a lot of hard work and commitment. However, there are ways to decrease relapse potential with the hopes of avoiding relapsing completely.

Myths About Addiction: “They Could Stop If They Wanted To”

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

They Could Stop If They Wanted To: Common Myths about Addicts & AddictionWhether we like to admit it or not, we all have our own ideas of what an addict looks like. We have our beliefs about why they engage in the behaviors they engage in and why they just won’t quit.

This is also true for addicts themselves. Often it is difficult to overcome addiction because of the perception of what addiction really is.

But the truth of addiction is sometimes hidden behind common, long-standing myths. So here are some of those common myths — and the real truth — about addicts and addiction.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy: Treatment For Substance Abuse & More

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Motivational Enhancement Therapy: Treatment For Substance Abuse & MoreMotivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “is a counseling approach that helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and stopping their drug use.” 

It is a method offering more to the substance abuser than simply the traditional 12-step programs of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous (AA, NA).  “This approach aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change, rather than guide the patient stepwise through the recovery process.”

MET is based on principles of Motivational Interviewing (an approach developed by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, clinical psychologists treating problem drinkers).  It elicits self-motivational statements in early discussion sessions. This is done to “build a plan for change” based on the patient’s observable commitment and verbal expressions of some level of movement toward healing surrounding the problem.

Breaking Down the Myths about Substance Abuse Treatment

Saturday, July 6th, 2013

Breaking Down the Myths about Substance Abuse TreatmentThe efficacy of substance abuse treatment and the need for treatment is an interesting topic of discussion. Some believe that substance abusers cannot truly recover without treatment, while others feel treatment is unnecessary.

We also see treatment displayed in various ways in the media, adding to the widely-varying perspectives about what it’s all about and what it really looks like.

Maybe you or someone you love has made the first step by acknowledging your substance use has gotten out of hand and you are ready to get help.

However, you’ve heard several things about attending treatment, some good and some bad. What’s the truth?

Unraveling the Secrets of Our Mysterious Brain

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Unraveling the Secrets of Our Mysterious BrainThere are many big moments in scientific discovery. Humans have explored our world and learned incredible things. We’ve discovered a giant asteroid belt circling a star 25 light-years from earth. We determined that disease comes from microorganisms.

We’ve explored the structure of an atom. And we can see bones inside our bodies as well as bombs inside suitcases.

Yet the human brain still remains very much a mystery. Recent advances in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have led to great gains in our understanding of the brain and how it functions. 

But even so, scientists have not yet discovered all the types of cells that make up the brain and don’t yet know how they all function together.

Ellen Langer on Mindfulness & Addiction

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Ellen Langer on Mindfulness & AddictionAlthough the mindfulness methods I practice are firmly set in the meditative tradition — often considered the only way — it’s refreshing to encounter a different approach. I found this in Ellen Langer’s book, Mindfulness. Langer’s comments about aging, education, creativity, and work are original and thought-provoking, with little mention of meditation.

I’d like to point out some ideas Langer brings to the treatment of substance abuse, because I believe her mindfulness approach can help people who grapple with addiction.

To Langer, mindfulness has more to do with perspective, and her reference to it relies upon the context in which a drug is taken.

Brain Chemistry Altered by Later Life Experience, Part 2

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Brain Chemistry Altered by Later Life Experience, Part 2I recently wrote of an informative NBC News article of June 2, 2013 (see part 1 here). Investigative reporter Rebecca Ruiz laid out medical research evidence pointing toward non-genetic alterations in brain chemistry — that is, organic changes in the brain’s chemistry after birth.

Specifically, Ruiz’s article was centered around the behavioral concept of resiliency. She provided medical research and testimony, as well as case study, that early formative experiences may produce structural adaptations to genes

Amazing, that early experiences can have such an impact on the developing physical brain. But what about later in life? Short of the eventual physical decline of aging in the brain structure, are there other experiences which significantly alter the actual organic brain?

Drink and drugs immediately come to mind… But these affect functioning ability, no?

Getting Clean on Addiction Policy in the U.S.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Getting Clean on Addiction Policy in the U.S.A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times Review of Books reviewed David Sheff’s new book Clean:  Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. After noting some highlights in the book, editor Mick Sussman aptly concluded that Sheff has “performed a vital service by compiling sensible advice on a subject for which sensible advice is in short supply.”

I agree. Sheff diagnoses the nation’s response to addiction as being as sick as addiction itself. His message cuts across not only the policies of criminalization but the criminalization of an addict’s character.

How to Talk to Your Kids When You Think They’re Using Drugs

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

How to Talk to Your Kids When You Think They're Using DrugsYou suspect your teen is using drugs. Maybe they’re not acting like themselves. Maybe they’re cutting school or shirking other responsibilities. Maybe their grades are dropping. Or their behavior is worsening. Maybe they’ve started hanging out with a bad crowd.

Maybe they’re being secretive and have even stolen money from your wallet. Maybe their physical appearance has changed with rapid weight loss or red eyes. Maybe you’ve noticed a change in their sleep habits, energy level and mood. Maybe you’ve actually found marijuana or other drugs in their room.

Naturally, the thought and possible confirmation of your child using drugs trigger a rush and range of emotions: anger, frustration, disappointment, sadness, fear.

If you think your child is using drugs, how do you approach them? Where do you start?

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