Alcoholism Articles

Staying Sane & Sober in Order to Survive the Holiday Season

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Staying Sane & Sober in Order to Survive the Holiday SeasonI remember when I was an active …

Are You or Someone You Know Almost Addicted to Drugs?

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Are You or Someone You Know Almost Addicted to Drugs?Just because someone doesn’t meet diagnostic criteria for substance abuse or dependence doesn’t mean drugs aren’t damaging their world.

There’s a space between normal behavior and an official diagnosis called “almost addicted” that has serious consequences, according to Dr. J. Wesley Boyd, MD, Ph.D, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and author of the book Almost Addicted: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Drug Use a Problem?

People who are almost addicted still struggle because of their drug use. They may have problems in their personal or professional lives. They also might meet criteria for drug abuse or dependence in the future — at which point it becomes tougher to treat. Intervening now can lead to healthy changes and prevent a full-blown crisis, said Dr. Boyd, also a staff psychiatrist at Cambridge Health Alliance.

Why is it So Hard to Curb Your Cravings?

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Why is it So Hard to Curb Your Cravings?What’s your weakness?

Is it cupcakes, potato chips, bread, a big bowl of pasta, cheese fondue, fried chicken, pizza, ice cream or something else?

Do you crave something creamy that melts in your mouth or a salty crunch that takes the edge off?

If you do, you’re similar to 100% of women and 75% of men who reported food cravings in the last year, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Cravings, once considered the body’s way of signaling that we’re missing important nutrients, are now understood to be something quite different.  If they were merely a signal that we were short on, say, magnesium (a nutrient found in chocolate), then why do we tend to crave salty and sweet snacks, rather than healthier options of nutrient rich foods?

Label Me, Please

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Label Me, PleaseFor a long while I was afraid to write things such as “I am mentally ill” or “I am bipolar.” I was afraid of labels.

By calling myself a manic-depressive would I trap my psyche in “sick” mode? By accepting my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, would I prevent healing? By writing the words “I am mentally ill,” was I holding myself to a place that I was, but not where I am now, or where I could go?

I spent a fair amount of time pondering this (I’m a natural ruminator)…. I thought about attracting bad karma by writing about my illness, about feeding my anxiety by connecting with others who also struggle with depression, about stifling my spirit by posing all of my questions and frustrations online in an effort to figure out and assemble this humongous, Anchisaurus (a kind of dinosaur) 500-plus piece puzzle of mental illness.

And then I arrived at this guess (because there are no answers): No.

Be Careful Driving on Super Bowl Sunday

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Be Careful Driving on Super Bowl SundayAs folks get ready to watch the Super Bowl on television this Sunday in the U.S., many of us will be joining or attending Super Bowl viewing parties. If you’re like most Americans, you’ll probably drive to get to that party.

But unlike most Sundays, when you drive this Sunday coming home from your Super Bowl Party, be especially careful. Why?

Because unlike other Sundays when a football game is televised, researchers found that both non-fatal and fatal car accidents increase 41 percent on average. The risk is highest within an hour of the game’s end, when most people are driving home.

What causes this rise in automobile accidents? Not surprising, alcohol was involved in most fatal injury accidents, as well as a majority of non-fatal accidents. Inattention and fatigue are two additional factors implicated.

Introducing Addiction Recovery

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

Introducing Addiction RecoveryRecovering from an addiction is probably one of the most difficult tasks a person can do in their lifetime. There is a whole industry that specifically addresses helping people overcome an addiction, whether it be from a drug, alcohol, or now, even a behavior.

Drug and alcohol addiction remain a serious problem in this country, as well as many others. Surprisingly, nearly 75 percent of all adult illicit drug users are employed, as are most binge and heavy alcohol users, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In the United States, it’s estimated that companies and organizations lose up to $100 billion a year due to employee alcohol and drug abuse, according to the The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. The destruction to a person’s private life, relationships, friends and family is often immeasurable.

Substance abuse and alcohol abuse treatments are effective and do work. Not only does it help the abuser, it also begins the recovery process to help them repair their relationships with others.

9 Ideas for Coping with the Holidays When You Have a Mental Illness

Monday, December 5th, 2011

9 Ideas for Coping with the Holidays When You Have a Mental IllnessStress can throw anyone off-kilter. But when you have a mental illness, you might be extra vulnerable. “The demands, pressures and expectations of the holidays can be felt more intensely by people with mental illness,” according to Darlene Mininni, PhD, MPH, author of The Emotional Toolkit, who works privately with individuals and speaks nationally on topics related to emotional health and well-being.

“Having a mental illness is the same as having any chronic illness,” said Elvira G. Aletta, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and founder of Explore What’s Next, a comprehensive psychotherapy practice. So it helps to have a plan and take good care of yourself.

Here are nine tips for coping with the holidays.

Why Sugar Is Dangerous To Depression

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Why Sugar Is Dangerous To DepressionYou don’t have to be a rocket scientist to appreciate the link between sugar and depression.

Anyone who doubts the relationship need only to spend a night in our house and see what type of behavior happens when two kids consume 12-ounce cans of Coke or Sprite — and the demonic demonstrations that happen after a 7-11 slurpee, especially if it’s red or blue, or God forbid, a mix.

People who suffer from depression are especially vulnerable to sugar’s evil power. I am so sensitive to white-flour, processed foods that I can practically set an alarm to for three hours after consumption, at which time I will be cursing myself for inhaling the large piece of birthday cake at the party because I am feeling so miserable. That doesn’t stop me from eating dessert at the next gathering, of course, but the awareness between sugar and mood does help me better understand some of my crashes.

What, exactly, is going on inside our brain when we take a bite of that fudge cheesecake?

Is Anyone Normal Today?

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Is Anyone Normal Today?Take a minute and answer this question: Is anyone really normal today?

I mean, even those who claim they are normal may, in fact, be the most neurotic among us, swimming with a nice pair of scuba fins down the river of Denial. Having my psychiatric file published online and in print for public viewing, I get to hear my share of dirty secrets—weird obsessions, family dysfunction, or disguised addiction—that are kept concealed from everyone but a self-professed neurotic and maybe a shrink.

“Why are there so many disorders today?” Those seven words, or a variation of them, surface a few times a week. And my take on this query is so complex that, to avoid sounding like my grad school professors making an erudite case that fails to communicate anything to average folks like me, I often shrug my shoulders and move on to a conversation about dessert. Now that I can talk about all day.

Here’s the abridged edition of my guess as to why we mark up more pages of the DSM-IV today than, say, a century ago (even though the DSM-IV had yet to be born).

The Interventionist: An Interview with Joani Gammill About Addiction




Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Today I have the honor of interviewing a friend of mine who has just written a compelling memoir, The Interventionist, about addiction from the perspective of both an addict and an interventionist.

You begin your book with the quote from Khaled Hosseini’s book, The Kite Runner: “And that, I believe, is what true redemption is … when guilt leads to good.”

Do you believe your work with other addicts is partly what keeps you clean and sober? Why compels you to enter into such hopeless situations and try to fix things?

Joani: I think as the quote infers “when guilt leads to good,” my work with addicts and alcoholics assuages my own continued ambivalence about my responsibility about having this disease. It is not at all logical. There is no “choice” about having this disease. That has been proven by medical science.

But the behavior that is manifested during the active state of addiction is not pretty and I think that is where the lingering guilt comes from. So sometimes my frenetic work with other alcoholics is an atonement of sorts, turning guilt into good!

Are Gambling Problems More Common than Drinking Problems? Maybe Not

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Are Gambling Problems More Common than Drinking Problems? Maybe NotResearch out of the University at Buffalo by John Welte and colleagues suggests that gambling problems — pathological gambling, to be specific — are more problematic than alcohol dependence in older adults. Some of the findings are interesting.

But one finding stood out for me as being a bit sensationalistic. That finding was that pathological gambling — something other studies have consistently pegged in the 0.8% to 2.0% range of adults (see Stucki & Rihs-Middel, 2007) — is more common than alcohol dependence (which studies put in the 3.8% range, see Keyes et al., 2009). Past research has shown that alcohol dependence (also known as alcoholism) is something that occurs in the adult population at twice the rate of pathological gambling.

In Welte’s (2011) study, however, the researchers found something different altogether. They found that from age 22 onwards, pathological gambling is more prevalent than alcoholism. And in the age 31 to 40 group, they found it nearly 3 times as prevalent (at over 5 percent of that age group)!

So what’s going on here? What could account for this significant discrepancy between this new study and much of the previous research?

7 Reasons Charlie Sheen May Hate Alcoholics Anonymous

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

7 Reasons Charlie Sheen May Hate Alcoholics AnonymousIn one of the myriad interviews he gave over the last week, Charlie Sheen said clearly that he hates AA.

A lot of people have trouble with Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is full of people and people can be messy and flawed.

The human train wreck formally known as Charlie Sheen is a common sight in the AA meeting halls. The only difference between Mr. Sheen and other self-absorbed, delusional, frantic addicts is the size of the audience to which they rant. These people do not last long in AA. They mock the Fellowship and the 12 Steps (PDF) as too religious or simplistic. AA is beneath them.

Here are a few possible reasons why Charlie Sheen might hate AA so much.

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