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Alcoholism Articles

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.

Myths and Facts About Alcohol

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Myths and Facts About AlcoholWhat’s the truth about alcohol? Does food help absorb alcohol? Does it really kill brain cells? Or does it protect your body against a multitude of diseases, like heart disease?

One of the key factors that helps us process and breakdown alcohol after it enters the body is the production of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. A lot of why your body does or doesn’t do a good job in breaking alcohol down and sobering you up has to do with the production (or lack thereof) of this important enzyme.

This enzyme works better in younger men than in either women of all ages, or older men. Why, we don’t know, but it seems to stop working as effectively in men ages 55 and older, bringing them closer to women in their alcohol breaking-down ability.

LifeHacker recently published an article that helps to separate out more alcohol fact from fiction, and explaining how it all works. Excerpts below…

Alcohol the Most Dangerous Drug? Probably Not

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Alcohol the Most Dangerous Drug? Probably NotResearchers using their own classification and rating system in order to try and assess a drug’s overall harmful effects — not to oneself, but to society as a whole too — recently published their findings. Here’s what they found, according to various news outlets:

    The Most Dangerous Drugs? Alcohol, Heroin and Crack—in That Order
    TIME – Catherine Mayer

    Alcohol is more harmful than heroin or crack: study
    New York Daily News

    Study: Alcohol ‘most harmful drug,’ followed by crack and heroin
    CNN International

    Experts: Alcohol More Harmful Than Crack or Heroin
    WebMD – Tim Locke

If you just read the headlines, you’d think the study showed that the most dangerous drug available today is alcohol, based upon clinical or government data.

It’s easy to say that, too, because that’s what the authors also said in their study (published in The Lancet medical journal):

[H]eroin, crack cocaine, and metamfetamine were the most harmful drugs to individuals, whereas alcohol, heroin, and crack cocaine were the most harmful to others. Overall, alcohol was the most harmful drug (overall harm score 72), with heroin (55) and crack cocaine (54) in second and third places.

Ah yes, that little thing we like to call complexity rears its ugly head. And oops, did we mention there’s no actual research data in the study?

A 12-Step Meeting On the Air: An Interview with Denise McIntee

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

Denise McInteeEarlier this year, I had the privilege of being interviewed on “Steppin’ Out Radio” by WABC-TV Sports Anchor and Reporter Scott Clark.

Producer Denise McIntee formed her company, Powerful Radio Productions, to communicate true stories of inspiration and recovery from substance abuse. Denise lives in Sparkill, New York with her twin daughters, Danielle and Dominique, and her husband Mike who works for the Late Show with David Letterman. To find out more about her work, please visit their website at

Question: How is Steppin’ Out like a 12-step meeting anywhere in the world?

Denise: Steppin’ Out is like a 12 step meeting anywhere in the world because we tell the true stories from real people who have overcome their problems and who unselfishly and freely share with our audience their experience, strength and hope in how they were able to achieve success. You can walk into a 12 step meeting in Manhattan…. or Madrid…. and you will hear the same stories of experience, strength and hope!

Getting Sober: Hope In the Rooms and Online

Saturday, October 2nd, 2010
Getting Sober: Hope In the Rooms and Online

Recovering alcoholics say there is magic to be found in the rooms of their support groups. I have experienced and benefited from that, but, like others can’t name the exact ingredient of the meetings that has healing faculties.

Tara Handron, a playwright and actress, does as good of a job as anyone I’ve known, at uncovering why and how recovering alcoholics are able to stay sober when they spill their guts between four walls.

The other night I attended her one-person performance, a 60-minute play, that discards clichéd portrayals of recovery and relies on complex characters and richly layered stories to expose the raw emotions so many alcoholic women experience. Tara’s back-to-back portrayals of over 20 female alcoholics of various ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic backgrounds come out of her own thesis research on the subject, in face-to-face and computer mediated recovery meetings, as part of her Master’s degree program at Georgetown University. She challenges the role of technology, specifically online recovery meetings, is playing in the rehabilitation of alcoholics in the new millennium.

Treating Chronic Depression and Anxiety With Hallucinogens and Marijuana

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Treating Chronic Depression and Anxiety With Hallucinogens and MarijuanaJohns Hopkins just published an interesting summary of the research recently on treating mood disorders with hallucinogens. In the most recent Depression and Anxiety Health Alert, the author chronicles the history of hallucinogens and how they affect the central nervous system to release the right kind of neurotransmitters. As per the Johns Hopkins report:

Hallucinogens (also called psychedelics) were a promising area of research in the 1960s and early 1970s, when they were being developed as possible treatments for a number of conditions, including depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. These drugs were banned in the ’70s and ’80s, however, after their recreational use became a widespread problem.

In 1990, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) again began allowing researchers to study the effects of drugs like MDMA (also known as the street drug “Ecstasy”), psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”), and ketamine (“Special K”). These drugs are thought to change the way the brain normally processes information and may provide people with mood disorders a new way of looking at the world and their problems

Statistics About College Depression

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Statistics About College DepressionSince it is going back-to-school season, I thought I’d educate you on some alarming statistics about depression among college students. Here are the facts, just the facts:

One out of every five young people and one out of ever four college students or adults suffers from some form of diagnosable mental illness.

About 19 precent of young people contemplate or attempt suicide each year.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24, and the second leading cause of death in college students ages 20-24.

Over 66 percent of young people with a substance use disorder have a co-occurring mental health problem.

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