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Monday, January 15, 2018

Should Addiction Recovery be a New Year’s Resolution?


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As 2018 starts, many of us focus on how we want to improve our lives compared to last year. The start of a new year means a fresh start and new opportunities for growth and change in our lives. There’s no shortage of magazine articles and feature stories on news broadcasts and online sharing tips on self-improvement. What if the goal is addiction recovery? Should it be a New Year’s resolution?

New Year, Fresh Start

It’s tempting to tie goal-setting to the start of a new year. The idea of making positive changes that coincide with the turn of the calendar gives us a tangible start date. It also follows the end of a traditional holiday season that is full of the indulgences that people may want to give up as part of their New Year’s resolutions: eating rich foot, spending more money than usual (on gifts, entertaining and travel) and sitting indoors.

We tell ourselves we can enjoy the holidays to the max, knowing that we have a date in the future when we have to start eating healthy, saving money or exercising regularly. Until that point, we feel free to indulge ourselves.

Should Addiction Recovery be a New Year’s Resolution?

If someone you love is living with an addiction, should going to treatment be put off until the New Year? The answer is no, and here are some reasons why.

The Stakes are Much Higher
Addiction is defined as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

“Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.” (American Society of Addiction Medicine)

If someone with a substance abuse problem doesn’t seek help, there is a real possibility they could lose their life. While other New Year’s resolutions may be health-related (lose weight or improve one’s eating habits), the same level of urgency is generally not present. Drug use also carries risks, which means each time someone consumes their drug of choice, they are putting their health (and possibly their life) at risk.

Seeking Addiction Treatment Shouldn’t Link to an Outside Event
The idea of linking going to treatment to a future time or event is a non-productive one. Some people living with an addiction will promise family members or friends that they will seek help when a certain event happens or by a specific date. When that future time comes, they come up with another reason why they can’t go to treatment “right now.”

Most New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t Successful
Most people don’t succeed in keeping their New Year’s resolutions. U.S News reports that about 80 percent of resolutions fail within six weeks.

In order to make a major change in one’s life and stick to it, proper support is necessary. Since addiction is a brain disease, willpower alone will not be enough to help someone successfully move into recovery and learn how to manage cravings. Professional treatment is needed to help an addict develop the tools needed to learn how to live a sober lifestyle.

The Best Time to Enter Treatment is Today
There is no better time for someone with a substance abuse issue to seek help than now. Waiting for them to decide that they feel ready only allows the addiction grow stronger and more challenging to treat. Don’t wait for another New Year’s Day to come along before helping your loved one to get the help they need. English Mountain Recovery offers residential treatment programs to help clients with drug and alcohol addictions.

By Jodee Redmond

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Long-term Effects of Alcohol Abuse on your Health


Alcohol is enjoyed by many people as part of part of their social life. It’s easily obtainable, acceptable and legal. But, this substance is also addictive and, when used to excess, can lead to a number of negative health consequences.

When most people think about the effects of alcohol abuse, the dangers of car crashes caused by drinking and driving are likely the first thing that come to mind. The next thing on the list is probably the health issues caused by cirrhosis of the liver. These two health risks only scratch the surface of the problems caused by heavy drinking.


Central Nervous System Damage

Most people are familiar with signs that someone has had too much to drink, such as slurred speech, difficulty retaining balance when walking and slower reaction time. All of these are indications of the short-term effects of alcohol on the central nervous system.

If a person continues to drink heavily over time, other symptoms of damage to the central nervous system can become evident, such as tingling or numbness in the hands or feet. Alcohol use can also lead to issues with long-term memory and interfere with the ability to think rationally and make reasonable decisions.

With time, frontal lobe brain damage can occur. This is the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory, impulse control and emotional control.

Cancer

Drinking regularly increases your risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, voice box, liver and esophagus. Alcohol use has also been linked to breast and colorectal cancer. The risk increases among heavy alcohol users who smoke.

Heart Disease

A history of heavy drinking, and especially drinking binges, makes platelets more likely to turn into dangerous blood clots. These can lead to either a heart attack or a stroke. Researchers have found that heavy alcohol use (six-nine drinks in a day, 19-30 drinks in one week) increases the risk of heart attack and stroke by up to six times.

Drinking heavily can also lead to heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy). This type of heart disease causes the heart muscle to become abnormally thickened and enlarged. Once this occurs, the heart’s ability to pump blood becomes weaker. Heart failure often results, and blood may backup into the lungs or other parts of the body. Cardiomyopathy can also cause arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat).

Digestive System Issues

It may not be immediately apparent to most people that drinking alcohol can negatively affect the digestive system. Drinking alcohol can cause damage to the digestive tract’s tissues, preventing the intestines from doing an efficient job of absorbing the vitamins and other nutrients from the foods we eat. Once the digestive tract has been compromised, a person is at higher risk for developing malnutrition.

Heavy drinking can lead to ulcers and hemorrhoids, which can cause internal bleeding. Ulcers can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.

Cirrhosis of the Liver

The liver breaks down harmful substances and helps to remove them from the body. Alcohol is a substance that is toxic to liver cells, and heavy drinkers can develop cirrhosis, where the liver becomes scarred and has difficulty functioning normally.

It’s difficult to predict which people who abuse alcohol will develop this condition. Some people can drink heavily for years and never develop cirrhosis, while others who don’t drink very much alcohol will get it. Women are more likely to develop cirrhosis than men.

Sexual Health and Fertility Problems

Alcohol has a reputation for lowering inhibitions and putting couples in the mood for intimacy. While having a glass of wine may help you to relax before getting cozy with your partner, heavy drinking can kill desire by interfering with sex hormone production.

Most men have probably experienced erectile dysfunction at some point. Heavy drinkers are more likely to have difficulty getting or keeping an erection.

Women who drink heavily may stop having menstrual periods, which puts their fertility at risk. Heavy-drinking women who become pregnant are more likely to miscarry, go into labor early or have a stillbirth.

Increased Risk of Infectious Disease

People who are heavy drinkers are more susceptible to infections, including pneumonia, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Their alcohol consumption suppresses their immune system, making it easier for them to become infected.

Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol addiction is certainly not the least of the concerns for someone who has been abusing this type of drug over a long time. Alcohol creates a physical and emotional dependency among users, and trying to stop drinking “cold turkey” is not recommended for long-term alcoholics.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s long-term alcohol use, English Mountain Recovery offers gender-specific residential inpatient treatment for alcohol abuse. We can provide a treatment option based on a client’s specific needs and treatment goals.

By Jodee Redmond

Sources:
https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/features/12-health-risks-of-chronic-heavy-drinking#1
https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol/effects-on-body
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160303204139.htm


Friday, December 22, 2017

What is a Dry Drunk?


Have you ever heard the term, “dry drunk?” It sounds funny, doesn’t it? How can someone who is not drinking still be a drunk? The answer may surprise you.

Alcoholism is Not Just About Drinking
Alcoholism is about more than just drinking. Some people can stop the activity on their own and get on with their life. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most people with a drinking problem. They need help to stop drinking. 

When an alcoholic stops drinking, are they cured of their problem? No, they aren’t. If taking away an addict’s drug of choice doesn’t cure them, there must be more to the disease of alcoholism than drinking. 

What is a Dry Drunk?
Someone is a dry drunk if they have stopped drinking but still behave in the same types of dysfunctional ways they did when they were drinking. Someone who is behaving in this way is also at high risk for a relapse. 

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome
Someone who is a dry drunk may experience one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

Thinking about good times associated with alcohol
The dry drunk thinks constantly about drinking and how good it felt. Even though there were negative experiences associated with alcohol use, the person focuses only on the good times. 

Irritability and anger
There may be feelings of anger about having to “give up” drinking and never being able to drink like a “regular” person. Without alcohol to act as a buffer to deal with everyday stresses and the expectation that people in the dry drunk’s environment should comply with their wishes, the person experiences conflict, which escalates the anger. 

Impatience
Things need to happen right away for someone who is a dry drunk. A person in this state doesn’t want to wait for anything.

Impulsive actions
Impatience and the need for instant gratification may lead to impulsive acts as a way to deal with strong emotions, stress, or restlessness. The person will likely ignore the consequences of their actions. 

Denial
A dry drunk may deny that they need to make permanent lifestyle changes going forward. They may tell themselves that they are fine and don’t need any further help. 

Sense of overconfidence
A dry drunk may feel as though they can start drinking again without becoming addicted to alcohol. They may tell themselves and those around them that they can “handle it this time.” 

What to Do if a Loved One is a Dry Drunk
A dry drunk may have stopped drinking, but they haven’t received alcohol abuse treatment. That person is still carrying around whatever underlying reason made them turn to alcohol initially. They haven’t learned any new ways to deal with life stressors instead of taking a drink, done any work to improve their self esteem, or healed broken relationships left in the wake of possibly years of alcohol abuse. 

The only thing that has changed is that the person has stopped drinking. Their alcohol use hasn’t been replaced by something more positive. Unless something new is put in place to balance what is being given up, the person who was using alcohol is setting themselves up for a relapse. It won’t be because they weren’t trying or because they are a bad person; it will be because they didn’t have the right kinds of tools in their tool box. 

Talk to your loved one about the situation. Tell them you are pleased that they have stopped drinking but that you still have concerns. Use specific examples of incidents you have observed to point to an issue that can be addressed in treatment (impulsivity, romanticizing drinking, irritability, angry outbursts, etc.). Offer to help your loved one find a treatment program where they can get an assessment. 

Get Help for Dry Drunk Syndrome
English Mountain Recovery offers alcohol treatment programs for severe or long-standing addictions.

By Jodee Redmond

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Friday, December 8, 2017

What is a High-Functioning Alcoholic?



To many people, the image of an alcoholic brings to mind someone who is drunk all the time. This may be a person who is homeless or living in substandard housing, isn’t well-educated and either has difficulty holding a job or does menial work.

Alcohol Use Disorder Statistics

The truth is much more complicated. Alcoholism, or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) as it is now known, exists in all socioeconomic groups. It doesn’t respect a person’s age, gender or level of education. The following facts and statistics were provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:

  • 15.1 million adults in the U.S. aged 18 and over had AUD in 2015
  • This figure includes 9.8 million men (8.4 percent of men in the age group) and 5.3 million women (4.2 percent of women in the age group).
  • Less than 7 percent of adults with AUD received treatment (7.4 percent of men and 5.4 percent of women).
  • Approximately 623,000 youth between the ages of 12-17 (2.5 percent of the age group) had AUD. This figure includes 298,000 young men (2.3 percent of young men in the age group) and 325,000 young women (2.7 percent of young women in the age group).
  • Approximately 1 in 5 college students meet the criteria for AUD.

AUD is defined as the inability to stop or control alcohol use in spite of negative health, social or employment-related consequences. AUD can range from mild to severe, depending on the person affected. Recovery from AUD is possible, even in severe cases.

High-Functioning Alcoholics Don’t Fit the Stereotype
Someone who is well-educated, holding down a good job, and carrying on relationships with family members, friends and peers may not seem as though they have much in common with the stereotypical “drunk.” Don’t be fooled by appearances. That person who looks as though they have everything together could be a high-functioning alcoholic.

The person could be performing well in his or her job or running a business. If he or she is doing exceptionally well, others at work may overlook the drinking.

Denial is a Factor. Since a high-functioning alcoholic is appearing to manage really well on the surface, the person is more than likely in denial about the seriousness of his or her drinking. They may think that as long as they are able to work and pay their bills, they don’t have a problem. Some people justify their behavior by saying to themselves that since they “only” drink expensive alcoholic beverages, they can’t be an alcoholic; they want to distance themselves from the “garden-variety” person with a drinking problem.

Signs of a High-Functioning Alcoholic
How would you know that a loved one is a high-functioning alcoholic? Here are some signs to look for:
1. Excessive Interest in and Consumption of Alcohol
A high-functioning alcoholic has drinking on their radar more than the average person. They don’t stop at just one or two drinks when they go out for a social occasion. Instead, they drink heavily at every opportunity, and may even forego eating a meal to drink.

2. Alcohol Use Rarely Causes a Hangover
High-functioning alcoholics get used to having some level of alcohol in their system all of the time, which means they never really “come off” of it. They can go on binges without waking up hung over.

If your loved one starts the day with a drink or is drinking on his or her own, it may be a sign of high-functioning alcoholism.

3. Mood Swings When Alcohol Isn’t Available
Your loved one may become irritable if his or her alcohol supply isn’t readily available. Psychologically, he or she needs to know that there is a steady stream available. If prevented from drinking for a day or two, your loved one will feel depressed and nervous. They start to experience feelings of alcohol withdrawal, such as anxiety, sweating and shaking.

4. Hiding Alcohol in Secret Places
Alcoholics will hide their drink at home, at work or in their vehicle so they can access it easily. They may not want anyone to be aware of how much they are really drinking, so they drink on their own. Some people don’t want to be “caught” with their bottle, since that could mean having to have a confrontation with a family member, friend, supervisor or coworker.  

5. Makes up Excuses for Drinking
People with substance abuse problems, including alcohol issues, go through all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify using their drug of choice to themselves and others. In the case of drinking, they may explain that they have to drink because of job stress or because it’s expected in their social group. They may say they need to have “just a little” to lighten their mood or to help them relax or that an older relative use to drink, too, and it “never did them any harm.”

6. Experiences Periods of Memory Loss
If your loved one is drinking to the point where he or she is experiencing blackout episodes, it’s a sign that he or she has developed a serious problem. Memory issues are not something that occurs when someone is using alcohol in moderation (defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men).

High-functioning alcoholics need professional help. English Mountain Recovery offers customized residential alcohol treatment programs for men and women, tailored to a client’s specific needs.

By Jodee Redmond

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