Alcoholism Articles

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?

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.

Recent Comments
  • Pam: I disagree that it’s ok to have a crummy holiday experience. I lived in a small town after a divorce and...
  • Ann: I lose everything! I know the joy of finding things. However, I am tired, very tired. I wish I was not what I...
  • Josh: Great article, I could really use active conditioning on learning to control my emotions (I am known as a...
  • brokeandblue: I am someone that prides myself on being non-judgemental. At all. In fact I get complimented on this,...
  • Cathy Taughinbaugh: This is a wonderful list of blogs, which are so helpful to those suffering from anxiety. I wanted...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 8741
Join Us Now!