Alcoholism Articles

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?

Habit Formation and the Rat Race

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Habit Formation and the Rat RaceIn October 2012, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) set out to find if they could exercise complete control over habitual behaviors in mice.

By inhibiting a small region of the prefrontal cortex — region of the brain responsible for planning and thought — the scientists were able to break the mice’s habits, but, to their surprise, the mice immediately began forming new behavior patterns.

Until now, psychologists and behavioral therapists believed that habits were hidden in the illusive “subconscious.”

But the MIT study shows that the brain is not just aware of habits: it controls them completely, moment by moment. And no matter how long the habits have existed, we can now shut them off, as by the flip of a switch.

Addiction and the Holidays

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Addiction and the HolidaysAh, the holidays: Candy canes, cozy slippers, festive lights, family peace, marital joy, and grateful children.

Or not.

The holidays are stressful. There are the challenges of too much family, not enough family, not enough money, continual exposure to food and alcohol, and perhaps worst of all, the gap between our actual life and our fantasy life. As if gazing into the perfect happy scene within a snowglobe, we might fall into a trance of how our life should be.

We might feel torn apart by nostalgia and grief over the good times and good people of the past, and wracked with guilt and inadequacy for failing to create a more wonderful life for ourselves. We might feel scared about our dissatisfaction and hypnotized by the promise of fulfillment just beyond the hard glass.

Addictive and codependent behaviors thrive during this season of fantasy.

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?

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