Thursday, November 29, 2007

More time needed to evaluate mandatory detox for youth conference

The effectiveness of locking up addicted teens against their will appears to be successful, but more time is needed to evaluate the programs, say officials from the three Prairie provinces that offer the service.

Legislation on mandatory youth detoxification has been in effect in Alberta and Saskatchewan for more than a year, and for almost a year in Manitoba.

"Youth detox quicker than adults and so this isn't treatment, this is simply getting the drug out of their system and getting them somewhat stabilized in order to move on to another treatment," Lorri Carlson of Regina Qu'Appelle Health Region said Tuesday after a session at a national substance abuse conference.

The legislation came about mainly due to pressure from parents of teens who abused crystal methamphetamine and who felt they had no other way to get their children help.

"It was largely parent-driven," Beverly Mageau of Manitoba Health and Healthy Living told delegates.

Since Manitoba's program began last December, Mageau said only about three per cent of the 57 teens forced into detox have reported crystal methamphetamine use. In Saskatchewan, of the 142 teens that have been in the safe house, only 12 reported using crystal meth.

All three provincial programs have found the substances most abused by teens are marijuana, alcohol and crack cocaine.

"It was a big concern, everyone was concerned about crystal meth," Mageau said in an interview.

"We had a lot of discussions and a big crystal meth strategy and maybe that had something to do with it, I don't know, but the result now is crystal meth has not become the problem that was anticipated."

Susan McLean of the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission, which runs the safe houses for youth ordered into detox, agreed, saying the numbers for crystal meth are similar in Alberta.

Between July 2006, when Alberta started the program, to April 2007, 351 youth were ordered into safe houses, and 49 per cent continued treatment voluntarily after being let out.

McLean said further evaluation is needed to find out why the other 51 per cent did not want to voluntarily get further help for their addictions.

All three provincial programs target teens under 18. While the legislation is worded differently, all essentially allow parents and guardians to apply to the court to have their child assessed and ordered into secure detoxification for a specified period. Saskatchewan is the only jurisdiction to allow police to apply for the order.

In Alberta and Saskatchewan, it's up to five days, while in Manitoba it's seven days.

Saskatchewan can have more time to help teens because their certificates, or orders, can be renewed up to three times, for a total of 15 days," Carlson said.

"The longer that they're in youth detox, we find, the more willing they are to go voluntary treatment, so if we see some growth we actually can keep them a little longer."

Heather Clark of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse told delegates that they have found some obstacles to the programs.

They include community opposition to having a safe house in their neighbourhood; transporting youth to and from the safe houses; having enough addictions specialists to perform assessments; and high turnover of staff.

A health worker from Nova Scotia told people at the session the legislation is a great idea.

"When I first heard of this a year and a half ago, I cheered. I'm a parent, this makes total common sense to me as a parent," said Blair Gallant of Capital Health in Dartmouth.

"I wish I was in one of these three provinces, where I would have somewhere to turn. In the province I currently live in, I don't.

"My son would just run the streets, which is unfortunate, because a lot of people think he should just run the streets because he has rights," he said to laughter from the crowd.

Clark said all three provinces are collaborating to share information and to evaluate their programs so as to make it better.

"When these facilities first opened, there were a lot of questions, like, OK, does it work? Right now we actually need to learn about our target group, assess them and make sure we have the services in place before we start to ask those questions, and that takes time."

author: Mary Jo Laforest

source: The Canadian Press

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Setting Boundaries

Drug Up Your Teen Today!
This just in: Prozac is a better treatment than talking to your kid. Isn't life fabulous?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist

Is your teenager depressed? Throwing things? Sulking like she hates you and only speaking in monosyllabic grunts and playing her Staind or Avril Lavigne or Hoobastank MP3s way too loud? Sure she is. Damn kids.

Are they slouching way too much and wearing low-slung clothes and locking the door to their bedrooms and masturbating chronically, and then racking up huge cell-phone bills as they complain endlessly to their best friend about their unrequited loves and horrible parents and how much they hate life and how they're always despondent and put upon and pimply and miserable?

Solution: You need to give them drugs. Lots of drugs. Expensive ones with nice little corporate logos on them. This is the only way.

Haven't you been reading the papers? Watching the commercials? Drugs are in. Drugs are the new black. Drugs rain down from the sky like pretty purple Skittles. Drugs are mandatory and the most important advancement in child rearing since the invention of the cane and the padlock and the Catholic priest.

No, not the bad drugs. Not the drugs that cool people take and that make your kids party hard and dance all night and that make their eyes all red and mushy and makes colors swirl and skin feel like honey and makes them horny or hungry or feel really really good for awhile, until they don't. Not the ones that are cheaply produced and impossible to regulate and as easy to get as degrading sexual misinformation in public schools is. Not those.

No, your kid needs the other kind of drugs. The good kind. The kind prescribed by overpaid shrinks after the kid's umpteenth $300 visit. The kind that run about seven bucks a pop and are made by Pfizer or GlaxoSmithKline or maybe Eli Lilly, and which are roughly three times more toxic and 10 times more synthetic and a thousand times more spiritually debilitating than the "evil" street stuff, given how they're totally legal and corporate sponsored and therefore radiate this sinister venomous aura of happy culturally approved doom.

Behavioral modifiers. Prozac. Paxil. Zoloft. Effexor. Xanax. Et al. You name it, your kids can have it, and probably should. Millions are already addicted. Millions more will be by the end of this year, if not by the end of this column. Maybe you're one of them, yourself. Hi. Isn't the sky lovely today? Yes, it sure is.

Just look at them, the well-drugged teens of America, all calm and happily narcotized, walking around with their eyes glazed over and their shirts untucked and their souls drained of all vital juices. God bless America at its world-record 25 percent mood-disorder rate! The most-drugged nation on the planet! We're No. 1! So proud.

Don't you want your child happy and well-adjusted and violently, chemically torqued, his or her entire body ravaged by enough synthetic compounds and serotonin reuptake inhibitors and mood enhancers to numb a horse? Of course you do.

Hey, they've done studies. Studies that finally prove once and for all that Prozac is much more effective on your depressed miserable slouchy door-slammin' punkass teen than merely talking to him and loving him well and teaching him to appreciate life and sex and spirituality and fine artisan cheeses. So you know it must be true.

And do you know why? Why the Prozac is more effective? Because it's a potent chemical narcotic, silly! It rewires their brains and poisons their little juvenile blood vessels and kills any pesky burgeoning testosteroned sex drive once and for all!

Imagine! No more worries! No more teen pregnancy! It's just like neutering your dog! Or getting a catalytic converter on the car! Or laying down beige shag carpeting everywhere! Everything calm and soft and nonirritating, all edges filed right down. Isn't pharmacology fabulous?

Never you mind the pesky lawsuits. Like the one just filed by the New York attorney general against Glaxo over how they supposedly suppressed a bunch of studies that proved how their beloved zim-zammer brain-slammer Paxil made a bunch of kids even more twitchy and despondent and, whoops, suicidal.

Shhh. Hey, it was only a handful of kids, all right? Maybe, like, 10. Or 50. Who knows? "Acceptable losses," as they say in military parlance. Small price to pay for a whirling nation of numb smiling partially lobotomized teens who will open the door for you and say yes sir and no ma'am and wash you car for a dollar. Am I right? Goddamn right.

Never you mind, furthermore, that we have become a nation of sweetly drug-addled automatons begging at the hand of the giant pharmcos, and that only a fraction of the kids whose parents now have them sucking down behavioral meds like M&Ms actually need them, actually has severe enough brain issues and chemical imbalances and psychoemotional traumas that these drugs are small miracles.

Nossir, never you mind that the rest of those millions of nubile doe-eyed Prozac/Zoloft/Xanax teen addicts are merely being medicated to death for no viable reason whatsoever, other than the fact that they're just a bunch of angry depressed miserable angst-ridden teens and their parents are sick of trying to cope with it.

But, wait, isn't the angry-teen thing a part of life? Isn't that a mandatory stage for just about every kid nationwide, right before they evolve past it and their skin clears up and they finally get laid and then get old enough to drink and buy a minivan and have kids and finally join AA like good Christian adults?

And is it worth noting, again, that most of our drug-happy nation is merely seeking sad, silver-bullet relief from what has become a truly staggering and vicious array of social and government-sponsored ills, and are merely poisoning their bodies and numbing their minds simply because they're stressed and bored and overworked and undersexed?

Whoops, sorry. Got carried away there. Let's stay focused on the kids. Happy, happy kids. Let's not get away from the frightening fact that the U.S. now harbors millions -- millions! -- of Prozac-addicted teens and no one blinks an eye, and yet one kid ODs on ecstasy at a rave due to rampant insulting misinfo put out by the CDC and suddenly it's furrowed brows and pointing fingers and scrunched imbecilic senators railroading the moronic RAVE Act through Congress as they suck down another fistful of Vicodin with their fourth martini. The simpering hypocrites.

Whoops, sorry again. No name-calling. That never gets us anywhere. Guess I'm just getting a bit angry. Maybe a little frustrated at the rampant wholesale corporate-sponsored government-enhanced parentally condoned drugging of kids in this country, and what that means for our future, and theirs, and the future of their attitudes and perspectives and the deterioration of their brains, penises, souls, karmas, love lives, vibration, evolutionary status.

Maybe I'm just getting a little too goddamn depressed by it all. Maybe I just need a pill. And a drink. Ahhh, there now. Much better. Thank you, Eli Lilly. We're No. 1!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Recovered vs. Recovery

ddiction - recovered vs. recovery
The words "recovered" and "recovery" in addiction mean different things to different people and can cause some confusion. I've had quite a bit of email over the years on this point, so I thought it time to write an article on the subject.

For some addicts, they never consider themselves recovered, but on a continual recovery - whether they've been clean and sober for a few months or decades. For these people, they see themselves as being in recovery until they die. There's nothing wrong with that at all - whatever it takes to keep a person sober (as long as it doesn't harm anyone else) is a good thing. As addicts, we need to play all sorts of mind games on ourselves to act as reminders about our condition - I certainly do.

I use the term "recovered" and sometimes I'm asked how I can consider myself as such. Am I any different to those people who consider themselves in recovery? Not at all - I have the same disease and I can never drink or use again; it's that simple. I do many of the things that others in recovery do in order to keep away from that what threatens my survival.

The way I explain being "recovered" is comparing it to having another sort of serious injury, for example, a broken neck. You recover, but the neck is never as strong again - push it past its limits, it will break again. The more it breaks, the weaker it becomes until the injuries either kill you or totally incapacitate you - and you can never know which injury will be the last straw.

We can also recover from a heart attack, but the heart is weakened and the next attack is more likely to be fatal. Steps must be taken to decrease the likelihood of another attack. Once you've had a heart attack, a doctor will never tell you "well, I think you've got 5 coronaries left in you before The Big One". Rather, they emphasize you must avoid another incident at all costs as the next one may be a life-snuffer.

This site is sometimes the first brush with recovery an addict or their family has and they aren't familiar with all the terminology.

"Recovered" is a term people new to dealing with addiction are more comfortable with than "in recovery" because of the hope factor, the light at the end of the tunnel. They might compare "in recovery" as someone convalescing in a hospital bed, or suffering the remnants of the flu. It can tend to indicate that if they are feeling the bite of withdrawals, those feelings may never subside to a manageable level; and as all of us know who've been clean and sober for a while, they do.

I do try to make it very clear throughout my writings though that recovered doesn't mean ever being able to use or drink again. There's a big difference between recovery vs. cure - and the latter is something I never allude to as I don't believe a cure exists.

While I'm recovered, I'm certainly not cured - I'm just one drink away from the gutter and the hell I left back in the 90's. I am so convinced that there is no cure that I don't even bother reading articles about "breakthroughs" in curing alcoholism. I certainly wouldn't put my hand up to test these cures - there's just so much at risk. I just prefer to focus on being "recovered" and thankful each day I remain that way.

Michael Bloch

Copyright information.... This article is free for reproduction but must be reproduced in its entirety along with the authors' name and web site link. This copyright statement must be also be included. (c) 2001 - 2007 Michael Bloch, World Wide,. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2001 - 2007 Taming the Beast -

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Language of Confidence

The language we use programs our brains. Mastering our language gives us a great degree of mastery over our lives and our destinies. It is important to use language in the best way possible in order to dramatically improve your quality of life.

Even the smallest of words can have the deepest effect on our sub-conscious mind. It is like a child, it doesn’t really understand the difference between what really happens and what you imagine. It is eager to please and willing to carry out any commands that you give it – whether you do this knowingly or not is entirely up to you.


It is a small word yet it has an amazing impact upon us. If someone says, “I’ll try to do that” you know that they are not going to be putting their whole heart in to it, and may not even do it at all. How often do you use the word try when talking about the things that matter to you? Do you say “I’ll try to be more confident” or “I’ll try to do that” or “I’ll try to call”?

Think about something that you would like to achieve, and say it to yourself in two different ways. Firstly say, “I’ll try to …” and notice how you feel. Next say “I will do …” and see how you feel.

The latter made you feel better than the first one didn’t it? It gives you a sense of determination; a feeling that it will be done. Listen to the people around you and when they say they will try notice if it gets done or not. Eliminate the word try from your dictionary and see how your life improves.


This is another small word with big impact. It dis-empowers us, makes us feel week and helpless, and damages our self-esteem. It limits our infinite abilities and stifles creativity. Rub it out from your internal dictionary and replace it with something that makes you feel great.

Instead of saying you can’t, why not say something like “I choose …” or “I choose not to …”. Using words like this allows you to take back your power and to be in control of your life.

Words may appear small and insignificant, yet they can have a deep and lasting effect on us. Mastering your language gives you the power to live whatever life you desire.

What words do you use a lot that dis-empower you? Make a list of words you commonly use and then write next to them some alternatives you can use. Make these alternatives words that make you feel fabulous, not only about yourself, but about life and what you are doing!

The language we use programs our brains. Mastering our language gives us a great degree of mastery over our lives and our destinies. It is important to use language in the best way possible in order to dramatically improve your quality of life.

Even the smallest of words can have the deepest effect on our sub-conscious mind. It is like a child, it doesn’t really understand the difference between what really happens and what you imagine. It is eager to please and willing to carry out any commands that you give it – whether you do this knowingly or not is entirely up to you.


It is a small word yet it has an amazing impact upon us. If someone says, “I’ll try to do that” you know that they are not going to be putting their whole heart in to it, and may not even do it at all. How often do you use the word try when talking about the things that matter to you? Do you say “I’ll try to be more confident” or “I’ll try to do that” or “I’ll try to call”?

Think about something that you would like to achieve, and say it to yourself in two different ways. Firstly say, “I’ll try to …” and notice how you feel. Next say “I will do …” and see how you feel.

The latter made you feel better than the first one didn’t it? It gives you a sense of determination; a feeling that it will be done. Listen to the people around you and when they say they will try notice if it gets done or not. Eliminate the word try from your dictionary and see how your life improves.


This is another small word with big impact. It dis-empowers us, makes us feel week and helpless, and damages our self-esteem. It limits our infinite abilities and stifles creativity. Rub it out from your internal dictionary and replace it with something that makes you feel great.

Instead of saying you can’t, why not say something like “I choose …” or “I choose not to …”. Using words like this allows you to take back your power and to be in control of your life.

Words may appear small and insignificant, yet they can have a deep and lasting effect on us. Mastering your language gives you the power to live whatever life you desire.

What words do you use a lot that dis-empower you? Make a list of words you commonly use and then write next to them some alternatives you can use. Make these alternatives words that make you feel fabulous, not only about yourself, but about life and what you are doing!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Positive Self-Talk

Your self talk, the conversation that you carry on with yourself almost continually, is a vital component of your mental state. If your self talk is predominantly negative – “I can’t do…”, “I’m unhappy” – you will be unhappy, have low motivation and low self esteem.

If you self talk is mainly positive, the opposite will be true. You can use mental self help to change your self talk from positive to negative…

You talk to yourself and lot. It has been estimated that up to 1500 words per minute pass through your mind expressing an enormous number of thoughts that shape your view of the world, determine your mental state and just sometimes are part of your thinking process!

Much of your self talk is the result of thoughts coming from your subconscious mind and is a result of your past conditioning, your memories and other factors that affect your subconscious thought processes. It feels as if much of your self talk is out of your conscious control. Yet your self talk exerts a tremendous influence on your conscious mind and the results that you are able to achieve in life.

The good news is that psychological studies have shown that, with a little persistence, you can make your self talk more positive. When you do this you will benefit from a more positive mental attitude. If you talk to yourself about the way that you want your life to be, the chances are greatly increased that it will turn out that way.

Talk to Yourself to Improve Your Self Talk

There are a number of routes to more positive self talk. You can undergo extensive programs of self analysis to eliminate past traumas, you can use will power to stop yourself and so on. All these methods can take a long time and be quite difficult to apply to yourself.

One of the most effective ways to improve your self talk is to use positive affirmations. This is a remarkably simple way to change your self talk - you talk to yourself in a positive way and with a bit of persistence, your subconscious mind changes it’s habits and your self talk becomes more positive!

You may even be doing it already. When you’re faced doing something that you find a bit daunting, you may already be using simple affirmations such as “I can do it” to encourage yourself. This simple technique can be extended to anything that you want to achieve – greater happiness, greater success in life, kicking negative habits…

Affirmations have been proven to work by many successful people. However to get them to work, you have to do them correctly. Your affirmations need to be positive statements of what you want. Negative statements of what you don’t want will just add to your negative self talk and condition your mind to achieve what you don’t want. Affirmations also have to be charged with emotion and used regularly to be effective.

Negative self talk leads to negative mental attitudes and poor results in your life. One of the most powerful mental self help techniques for overcoming negative self talk is positive affirmations. If carried out regularly and correctly, positive affirmations can make your self talk more positive and improve your results in life.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Alcoholism Symptoms

Alcoholism Symptoms

Alcoholism is a disease. It is often diagnosed more through behaviors and adverse effects on functioning than by specific medical symptoms. Only 2 of the diagnostic criteria are physiological (those are tolerance changes and withdrawal symptoms).

* Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are associated with a broad range of medical, psychiatric, social, legal, occupational, economic, and family problems. For example, parental alcoholism underlies many family problems such as divorce, spouse abuse, child abuse and neglect, welfare dependence, and criminal behaviors, according to government sources.

* The great majority of alcoholics go unrecognized by physicians and health care professionals. This is largely because of the alcoholic’s ability to conceal the amount and frequency of drinking, denial of problems caused by or made worse by drinking, the gradual onset of the disease, and the body's ability to adapt to increasing alcohol amounts.

* Family members often deny or minimize alcohol problems and unwittingly contribute to the continuation of alcoholism by well-meaning behaviors such as shielding the alcoholic from adverse consequences of drinking or taking over family or economic responsibilities. Often the drinking behavior is concealed from loved ones and health care providers.

* Alcoholics, when confronted, will often deny excess consumption of alcohol. Alcoholism is a diverse disease and is often influenced by the alcoholic's personality as well as by other factors. Therefore, signs and symptoms often vary from person to person. There are, however, certain behaviors and signs that indicate someone may have a problem with alcohol. These behaviors and signs include insomnia, frequent falls, bruises of different ages, blackouts, chronic depression, anxiety, irritability, tardiness or absence at work or school, loss of employment, divorce or separation, financial difficulties, frequent intoxicated appearance or behavior, weight loss, or frequent automobile collisions.

* Late signs and symptoms include medical conditions such as pancreatitis, gastritis, cirrhosis, neuropathy, anemia, cerebellar atrophy, alcoholic cardiomyopathy (heart disease), Wernicke's encephalopathy (abnormal brain functioning), Korsakoff's dementia, central pontine myelinolysis (brain degeneration), seizures, confusion, malnutrition, hallucinations, peptic ulcers, and gastrointestinal bleeding.

* Compared with children in families without alcoholism, children of alcoholics are at increased risk for alcohol abuse, drug abuse, conduct problems, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders. Alcoholic individuals have a higher risk of psychiatric disorders and suicide. They often experience guilt, shame, and depression, especially when their alcohol use leads to significant losses (for example, job, relationships, status, economic security, or physical health). Many medical problems are caused by or made worse by alcoholism as well as by the alcoholic’s poor adherence to medical treatment.

If you need help among people who understand now please visit us at Sober Village

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Asking For Help

Asking for help is not something we do naturally. We often find it painfully difficult to do because it makes us feel vulnerable, weak or ashamed; and so our fears of rejection and embarrassment get in the way.

In reality, the only real weakness is NOT asking for help. The smartest people I know understand that they do not know everything, and seek to fill those gaps in their knowledge or ability with people who do.

Life is about learning and growth � and in the process, we all need help from time to time along the tricky patches. Beyond each challenge awaits an opportunity for growth; and by asking for help when we need it, we discover solutions, gain new insights, and ultimately empower ourselves.

Why It Is Smart To Ask For Help

If you reach out and ask, you will find that help does arrive and your needs are met, often exceeding your highest hopes! Just take a look at some of the reasons why it is smart to ask for help when you feel stuck:

� The help you need is more likely to arrive if you ask for it! Keeping your problems under wraps does nothing to resolve them, so why not do something positive about it?

� Asking for help lets you manage your energy more effectively. Life balance is all about managing your energy. When you ask for help with a difficulty, it frees up more energy for other areas of your life.

� It opens opportunities to connect to others in new ways. Asking for help makes others aware of how they can support us and strengthens interpersonal ties.

� When we ask for help, we open the door to learning. By opening up to input from others, we expand our own growth and awareness.

� By breaking through fear and facing the challenge of asking, we reclaim our power! Our greatest gifts lie just beyond the things we fear the most � so ask for help even when you fear the repercussions and you will reclaim your power!

How To Ask For Help

Another important aspect of finding help lies in knowing how to ask for it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you need help:

� Ask for help as soon as you realize you need it. Ignored problems often escalate and become huge issues that drain energy and resources.

� Recognize that everyone (including you!) deserves a helping hand, for it is in supporting one another that we all benefit and grow.

� Accept that you have nothing to lose except your fear. If the person you approach can help, you'll learn from the experience. If they turn you down, you can approach another.

� Go to someone you trust. If they don't have the answer, they'll likely know someone who does.

� Be clear on what you need. The proven words are, "I need your help." Simple and to the point!

� Give the person as much detail as possible. Even if you don't understand what the exact problem is, document what you know about the circumstances as well as what you need.

� Get a commitment. Ask if they are able to support you and in what capacity. Getting a commitment will set your mind at ease and alleviate a lot of stress. Even if they cannot help you themselves, they may offer valuable suggestions or refer you to someone who can help. Either way, you'll benefit!

� When you find the solution to your problem, document it for future reference. You might run into that problem again someday when no-one is around to help, or you might pass along the information to someone else in need.

Next time you feel exhausted and overwhelmed, ask for the help you need and deserve. Ask despite your fears and with a focus on the rewards. Doing so can provide you with much more than just the help you needed.
Author: Ada Porat

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sleep/Cocaine/The Brain

ScienceDaily (Nov. 8, 2007) — New research clarifies the role of drugs of abuse on sleep, why cocaine is so powerful, and the brain changes that occur due to abuse that make addiction so difficult to treat. The new findings show that:

Sleep, sleep disturbances, and circadian rhythms of our biological clock interact with such neurological diseases as drug addiction.
As a result of cocaine addiction, changes occur within the nucleus accumbens, a brain area involved in reward- and pleasure-motivated behaviors, narrowing the behavioral repertoire to drug-seeking.
Compulsive cocaine-seeking can develop in rats after extended cocaine use, and an alternative reinforcer enhances the animals' tendency to abstain from drug-seeking when punished by a mild electrical foot shock.
Intense sweetness can be more addictive than cocaine.
The changes in neural processing that are induced by cocaine can increase the influence of motor habits and decrease the influence of motivation.
"These new studies focus on three novel but exciting areas in the study of the neurobiology of addiction: the rearrangement of motivational circuits in the basal forebrain, which includes the nucleus accumbens and dorsal striatum, to convey the compulsivity of addiction; the interplay between natural rewards and addiction, with insights into how the natural reward system can be usurped or strengthened; and the profound effects of chronic drugs of abuse on sleep and how this domain is a key area for understanding protracted abstinence and relapse," says George Koob, PhD, of the Scripps Research Institute.

Harold Gordon, PhD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says, "Sleep research is an important gateway to understanding the etiology, course, and implications for improving the treatment of patients who have both sleep disturbances and neurological diseases including addiction."

"Only recently has research focused specifically on the underlying mechanisms of sleep or on natural biological clocks, or circadian rhythms, as an integral part of the disease process of addiction," Gordon says.

According to a recent Institute of Medicine report, about 90 sleep disorders are linked to such diseases as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, and drug addiction.

Studies have found that addictive drugs such as cocaine affect many circadian, or biological clock, genes including CLOCK and NPAS2, which have been shown to regulate dopamine, a brain chemical that underlies the rewarding effects of cocaine.

By administering such addictive drugs as alcohol, the narcotic painkiller fentanyl, and nicotine to animals, scientists have been able to entrain laboratory rats to perform behaviors controlled by a circadian timer, such as running on an exercise wheel. Research with human patients has also underscored the connection between sleep disturbances and addiction.

For example, in one study, human patients addicted to cocaine took much longer to fall asleep. Also, electroencephalographic (EEG) measures of their brain activity showed that they experienced much less deep sleep than did people who did not use the drug. When the subjects were sleep deprived, their immune system had a reduced ability to fight infection.

In another study, heroin patients with less than one year of methadone treatment had poor sleep, the possible cause of which could be measured at the molecular level, Gordon says. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging of these patients showed some energy-indicating molecules in their brain had failed to recover properly after sleep deprivation.

Scientists also have determined that cognitive deficits characteristic of people who regularly use the street drug ecstasy may be based on drug-induced changes in sleep neurobiology. Their altered sleep patterns, cognitive deficits, and impulsivity may be exacerbated by high levels of catecholamines, brain chemicals that the body produces in response to stress.

Studies of former cocaine users demonstrated that they experienced a combination of deficits: They were less vigilant and less able to learn. They also produced deficient sleep EEG recordings. However, these same patients reported that their sleep had improved. Gordon says this disconnect between physiological measures and cognitive self-awareness involved different areas of the brain, including reward and arousal circuits.

"Although the neurobiology underlying the sleep disturbance can be directly related to the disease process itself, it is often impossible to determine cause and effect," Gordon says. "Therefore, it is important to study both sleep and the disease simultaneously to get a full understanding."

Researchers also are trying to identify the neurobiological factors that help explain a recovering addict's vulnerability to relapse.

"Drug addiction is characterized by compulsive drug taking, which occurs even though addicts understand that the behavior is harmful to them. It is also a chronic disorder. Addicts find it extremely difficult to suppress drug taking and often relapse, even after years of abstinence," says Laura Peoples, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

"The compulsive nature of the behavior and the enduring vulnerability to relapse suggests that drug addiction is accompanied by long-lasting changes in those parts of the brain that underlie motivation and behavioral choice," says Peoples, who will chair a symposium titled "Reconciling Molecular and Electrophysiological Evidence of Cocaine-Induced Neural Plasticity."

She adds that many such changes, or neuroadaptations, have been discovered in studies of animal models of addiction as well as in neuroimaging studies of human addicts. "However, it is not clear which adaptations in which neurons are critically involved in compulsive drug-seeking behavior," Peoples says. "How the adaptations might cause the persistent and compulsive behavior is also not understood. It is thus difficult to develop effective addiction treatments."

One region of the brain that regulates behavioral choice is the accumbens. Previous laboratory animal studies have suggested that repeated cocaine self-administration increases the expression of excitatory neurotransmitter receptors in the accumbens. However, other studies have suggested that repeated cocaine is associated with decreases in activity of the neurons. Peoples says new findings may reconcile these seemingly contradictory observations.

New research also shows that the consequences of repeated cocaine on accumbal neural activity and receptor expression can be either excitatory or inhibitory, depending on the history of cocaine use, duration of abstinence, the level of activity of the neurons during acute cocaine exposure, and the presence or absence of a recent re-exposure to cocaine.

Recent findings have led to a new working hypothesis, that experience- and activity-dependent adaptations cause a progressive and persistent increase in the response of accumbal neurons to excitatory signals that promote drug-seeking relative to the signals that facilitate other motivated behaviors.

This persistent shift in the activity of accumbal neurons would be expected to chronically promote drug-seeking and -taking and could underlie compulsive drug-taking and the enduring vulnerability to relapse, Peoples says.

In other studies, scientists have developed a model system that provides both positive and negative incentives capable of turning animals away from the pursuit of drugs, says Yann Pelloux, PhD, of the University of Cambridge.

To develop new therapeutic strategies for drug addiction, scientists must study animal models that are not based on simple drug self-administration, Pelloux says. Although data from studies with humans are limited, he says they suggest that the negative consequences of drug abuse persuade individuals to abstain from cocaine. Thus, a wide spectrum of social and nonsocial rewards might help people to shift their focus from illicit drugs, he says.

In the study, rats self-administered cocaine and concurrently worked for sucrose. However, when their self-administration was intermittently punished by a mild foot shock, most of the laboratory animals consumed less drug. The presence of sucrose facilitated this punishment-induced suppression of cocaine-seeking. But even though punished, some rats did not decrease their drug use.

"These rats represent a good model of addiction, defined as persistence or compulsive drug-seeking despite its adverse consequences, even in the presence of alternative reinforcers," Pelloux says. "This new model may in the future facilitate the development of novel treatments that promote abstinence."

In another study, scientists determined that a large majority of rats preferred the sweet taste of saccharin when they were allowed to choose mutually exclusively between water with the intense calorie-free sweetener and intravenous cocaine. "The preference for saccharin was not attributable to its unnatural ability to induce sweetness without calories, because the same preference was also observed with sucrose, a natural sugar," says Magalie Lenoir of CNRS, the French National Center for Scientific Research, in Bordeaux. Increasing the doses of cocaine did not lessen the animals' preference for saccharin, which occurred when the animals were intoxicated by cocaine, sensitized to the drug, or when their drug intake escalated. A hallmark of cocaine addiction is increased drug consumption.

"Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals," Lenoir says. "We speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet taste types."

In most mammals, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars. Thus, rats and humans are not adapted to high concentrations of sweet taste types. Lenoir says that the supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a much higher than normal reward signal in the brain. This increased reward signal potentially could override self-control mechanisms and thus lead to addiction, she says.

Lenoir points out that these results suggest that the current, widespread availability of sugar-rich diets in modern human societies may provide an unsuspected, though highly costly, shield against the further spread of drug addiction.

In other research, scientists found that cocaine-induced changes in neural processing in the striatum increased the influence of motor habits while reducing the influence of affective or motivational information.

Scientists at the University of Maryland at Baltimore examined the effect of previous cocaine-exposure on cue processing in two regions of the striatum, a brain area that plays a critical role in promoting habitual behavior.

Prior cocaine exposure had divergent effects on the processing of reward/punishment-predicting cues in the two striatal regions: It abolished neural activity evoked by these cues in the ventral striatum while marginally enhancing such activity in the dorsolateral striatum.

"This somewhat surprising result suggests that rather than generally enhancing striatal processing of cues, consistent with a generalized effect on habit learning, prior cocaine exposure actually shifts the balance of striatal processing from ventral to dorsal regions," says Yuji Takahashi, PhD.

It has been suggested that repeated exposure to psychostimulants such as cocaine produces long-term changes in the structure and function of several brain regions, including the striatum. Because of the putative role of the striatum in promoting habitual behaviors, changes within this brain area could play a critical role in the development of compulsive or uncontrollable drug-seeking, Takahashi says.

In this study, Geoffrey Schoenbaum, MD, PhD, and Takahashi recorded activity in both the ventral and dorsolateral striatum of two groups of rats: normal, or control, rats and rats previously exposed to a two-week course of cocaine. The control rats were treated with saline while the other rats received cocaine.

Then, between four and 12 weeks after the end of drug treatment, neural activity in the dorsolateral and ventral striatum was recorded while the rats performed a simple odor-guided decision-making task. In this task, a positive odor cue predicted the delivery of a rewarding sucrose solution at a nearby fluid well and a negative odor cue signaled the delivery of an aversive quinine solution. Rats had to use the cues to decide whether to respond at the well on each trial. After the rats learned to respond correctly, the scientists reversed the odor-outcome contingencies to determine whether their decision-making was flexible or habit-like.

"Our finding suggests that drug exposure causes regionally specific effects on neural processing in striatum," Takahashi says. "This would increase the influence of motor habits while decreasing the influence of affective or motivational information."

Adapted from materials provided by Society For Neuroscience.

MLA Society For Neuroscience (2007, November 8). Sleep, And How Cocaine Changes The Brain To Make Treatment So Difficult. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 19, 2007, from­ /releases/2007/11/071106121733.htmAds by GoogleAdvertise here

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How to Identify Alcohol Abuse

Because of the guilt and shame that many addicts feel about their compulsive dependencies to drugs and/or alcohol, many will go to great lengths to conceal their activities in, frankly, strange and bizarre ways. Inside of toilet tanks and under the lids are a common hiding place. A person can indulge in privacy and return to the office, the TV sofa, homework or childcare with few making any connection to their alcohol consumption. The tank water keeps the liquid cool, it is removed, consumed and replaced with practiced expertise. This is also a common drop spot for drug transactions, so as crazy as it may sound, if you suspect drug or alcohol abuse in your home but can not easily snoop out the materials, check in and under the most unlikely places you can think of and if you say to yourself there is no way it would be in there…that’s the place to search.

As for the behavior of a person abusing alcohol, there are distinct patterns that are impressively consistent such as mood swings and a sudden change in attitude, poor attendance at school or work, loss of interest in things the person normally enjoyed, grades or work performance significantly decline without obvious cause, having friends and associates that the person will not introduce you to, secrecy, depression, confusion, alcohol missing or disappearing including cooking sherry and vanilla and withdrawal from family and well known friends not involved in a new circle of associates.

Or CALL TOLL FREE 24/7 1-888-227-9193

To help determine if someone may have an alcohol abuse problem or suffreing from alcoholism, many psychologists and drug counselors will use questions such as the following listed below in their initial interview and assessment. How many may apply to you or someone you know?

Do you attend school or your workplace intoxicated?
Do you crave a drink at the same time every day?
Do you start your day with a drink?
Do you make excuses for having another drink?
Does drinking interfere with your home life?
Do you forget problems?
Do you feel guilty after drinking?
Do you drink because you are shy?
Do friends, employers or family criticize your drinking?
Have you suffered memory blackouts?
Do you drink alone?
Do you drink to escape loneliness?
Have you driven a car while drunk?
Does drinking interfere with your sleep?
Have you come into conflict with the law because of drinking?
Has drinking affected your reputation?
Do you want a drink the morning after a drinking bout?
Do you undergo dramatic personality changes after drinking?
Are you less efficient or less ambitious because of increased drinking patterns?

One yes is a warning flag and three or more is a definite indicator that help and intervention should be sought without delay.

If you wish to go a step further in your identifying process, there are diagnostic drug testing materials available such as portable breathalyzers, blood alcohol tests, the well known urine test and controversial hair analysis diagnostics.

Lastly, do not ignore what you may perceive as a potential alcohol abuse situation. The best way to identify the problem is to address it.

If you would like live help, visit a wonderful forums community now!

Retrieved November 17, 2007 from

Friday, November 16, 2007

What's in your Coping Tool Box

Life consistently presents us with challenges and changes and at times this can lead to us feeling stressed. Planning how to manage and cope in various life situations, and finding out which coping skills work best for you, is the key to succeeding with stress rather then experiencing distress. When clients come to see me for NLP and CBT therapy in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, it is a big part of therapy that they develop and become confident in employing coping skills. This article contains ideas for coping with stress and also acute emotional crises. If you are experiencing stress or emotional imbalance, CBT and NLP is available in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire.

Here are some ideas for coping with stress:

1. Understand more about stress – this involves recognising your sources of stress and how stress affects you personally. Plan for stressful periods.

2. Problem-solve – what is the problem, be specific and break it down into realistic achievable components. Then set goals on how to deal with each problem. Make sure you include how to begin your plan of action.

3. Develop new behaviour – if you take on too much or have problems saying no, learn to be assertive. There are plenty of courses at local colleges or you may prefer to see a therapist 1:1. Learn to manage your time more effectively and delegate wherever possible! Avoid procrastination; whilst you are not doing it, you’ll only be spending energy worrying about it.

4. Make sure you develop a support network – deliberately develop good supportive relationships. Ask for help when needed and accept it when offered. You must also be prepared to do the same for others.

5. Make time to relax and enjoy yourself – how many of us know we should do more of this but don’t make the time? Set aside time each day to relax and build this into your routine. Develop hobbies and leisure activities that help you too switch off.

Can you imagine yourself doing any of these activities when you need to cope?

Asserting yourself - Contacting one of your supports - Listening to music
Exercising- Taking a break - Going to a movie -Reading a book -Laughing/crying - Taking a walk - Taking a nice long bath - Writing a letter or a journal - Learning something new - Eating something healthy – Helping someone else.

It is important to identify and practice using coping tools if you want to be able to deal with your stress successfully. Obviously, it is not always possible to plan for stress as situations can happen that we do not expect. If you find yourself experiencing a period of crises, or intense painful emotions there are still coping strategies that you can employ in that moment.

Ideas For Coping with Acute Emotional Distress

1. Use of distraction – the aim of this is to limit the time you spend in contact with the emotional stimuli, the things that are causing you to feel emotional. The stimuli could be anything from another person to the thoughts that you are having. Distraction involves doing something else to absorb your attention.

2. Imagery – think of safe and soothing images. This involves imagining images that make you feel good, it may be a favourite place, person, pet or scenes from nature.

3. Relaxation – learn a simple technique like using peripheral vision to induce relaxation. Peripheral vision is effective at switching on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system responsible for making us feel calm. It’s not possible to feel anxious or distressed whilst fully relaxed in peripheral vision.

4. One thing in the moment – as adults we tend to spend much of our time stuck contemplating what went wrong in the past or what may go wrong in the future. Try and just focus on the ‘moment’. Perhaps this may involve thinking something like ‘I’m in my house in my favourite chair, I’m warm and comfortable and I have a good book to read’.

5. Exercise – physical activity can help to disperse the chemicals released in your body by the stress response. It also releases feel good chemicals known as endorphins.

6. Sooth yourself - do something to nurture your 5 senses. Be kind and gentle to yourself.
Retrieved November 16, 2007 from

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sobering Stats


Alcoholism is common, serious, and expensive. Physicians encounter alcohol-related cirrhosis, cardiomyopathy, pancreatitis, and gastrointestinal bleeding, as well as intoxication and alcohol addiction, on a daily basis. Alcoholism is also associated with many cancers. Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff psychosis are also important causes of chronic disability as well as dementia. Fetal alcohol syndrome is a leading cause of mental retardation. In addition, accidents (especially automobile), depression, dementia, suicide, and homicide are important consequences of alcoholism.

Alcohol-related diseases are discussed in separate articles. The focus of this article is screening, diagnosis, treatment, and new research findings on the natural history and heritability of alcoholism.


Alcohol affects virtually every organ system in the body and, in high doses, can cause coma and death. It affects several neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including opiates, GABA, glutamate, serotonin, and dopamine. Increased opiate levels help explain the euphoric effect of alcohol, while its effects on GABA cause anxiolytic and sedative effects.

Alcohol inhibits the receptor for glutamate. Long-term ingestion results in the synthesis of more glutamate receptors. When alcohol is withdrawn, the central nervous system experiences increased excitability. Persons who abuse alcohol over the long term are more prone to alcohol withdrawal syndrome than persons who have been drinking for only short periods. Brain excitability caused by long-term alcohol ingestion can lead to cell death and cerebellar degeneration, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, tremors, alcoholic hallucinosis, delirium tremens, and withdrawal seizures. Opiate receptors are increased in the brains of recently abstinent alcoholic patients, and the number of receptors correlates with cravings for alcohol.


United States

These statistics are based on the US National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Study. Alcoholism is prevalent in 20% of adult hospital inpatients. One in 6 patients in community-based primary care practices had problem drinking. The following apply to the US adult population:

  • Current drinkers - 44%

  • Former drinkers - 22%

  • Lifetime abstainers - 34%

  • Abuse and dependency in the past year - 7.5-9.5%

  • Lifetime prevalence - 13.5-23.5%

Alcoholism is slightly more common in lower income and less educated groups. Vaillant studied the natural history of alcoholism and the differences between college-educated and inner-city alcoholic persons. He followed 2 cohorts (over 400 patients) of alcoholic patients over many years.1

According to Vaillant's research, inner-city men began problem drinking approximately 10 years earlier than college graduates (age 25-30 y vs age 40-45 y). Inner-city men were more likely to be abstinent from alcohol consumption than college graduates (30% vs 10%) but more likely to die from drinking (30% vs 15%). A large percentage of college graduates alternated between controlled drinking and alcohol abuse for many years. Returning to controlled drinking from alcohol abuse is uncommon, no more than 10%; however, this figure is likely to be high because it was obtained from self-reported data. Mortality in both groups was related strongly to smoking. Abstinence for less than 5-6 years did not predict continued abstinence (41% of men abstinent for 2 y relapsed).


The World Health Organization examined mental disorders in primary care offices and found that alcohol dependence or harmful use was present in 6% of patients. In Britain, 1 in 3 patients in community-based primary care practices had at-risk drinking behavior. Alcoholism is more common in France than it is in Italy, despite virtually identical per capita alcohol consumption.


Alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States (after smoking and obesity). Annually, 85,000 deaths are attributable to alcohol at a cost of $185 billion.2, 3 Almost half of these deaths are attributable to alcohol-related injury.

Four percent of the global burden of disease is attributable to alcohol. This figure rises to 7% in North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia and to 12% in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Worldwide, alcohol is responsible for a percentage of a number of conditions, as follows:

  • Cirrhosis - 32%

  • Motor vehicle accidents - 20%

  • Mouth and oropharyngeal cancers - 19%

  • Esophageal cancer - 29%

  • Liver cancer - 25%

  • Breast cancer - 7%

  • Homicides - 24%

  • Suicides - 11%

  • Hemorrhagic stroke - 10%

Below are the statistically significant relative risks from a study by the American Cancer Society for men and women who consume 4 or more drinks daily. A drink is defined as one 12-oz beer, one 4- to 5-oz glass of wine, or one mixed drink containing 1.5 oz of spirits (80 proof). The relative risk for the noted maladies with consumption of 4 or more drinks daily is as follows:

  • Cirrhosis - For men, 7.5; for women, 4.8

  • Injuries - For men, 1.3

  • Ear, nose, and throat cancer; esophagus cancer; liver cancer - For men, 2.8; for women, 3

Moderate alcohol consumption (1-2 drinks/d) reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women by approximately 30%.4, 5, 6 The effect of heavy alcohol consumption on the risk of cardiovascular disease varies in different studies. The person's drinking pattern appears to have an effect on cardiovascular disease. Drinking with meals may reduce the risk, while binge drinking increases risk (even in otherwise moderate drinkers).

Moderate alcohol consumption appears to increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Total mortality is reduced with moderate alcohol consumption but not with heavy alcohol consumption; the cardiovascular benefit is offset by cirrhosis, cancer, and injuries. The amount of alcohol associated with the lowest mortality appears to be 2 drinks per day in men and 1 drink or fewer per day in women. Moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of developing diabetes, but heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk. The cardiovascular benefit becomes important in men older than 40 years and in women older than 50 years. The risk of hypertension is increased with 3 or more drinks daily.

No benefits are noted in people at low risk for coronary disease (men <40>7 This effect was exacerbated by binge drinking.

Of men aged 18-25 years, 60% binge drink. (Binge drinking is defined as 5 alcoholic drinks for men [4 for women] in a row.) Binge drinking significantly increases the risk of injury and contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Women who binge drink at this age are at higher risk of becoming pregnant and potentially harming an unborn child. (Any amount of alcohol consumption during pregnancy is risky.)

More than three quarters of all foster children in the United States are children of alcohol- or drug-dependent parents. From 60-70% of reported domestic violence incidents involve alcohol. Half of all violent crime is alcohol or drug related.

Overall, morbidity and mortality are related strongly to smoking, and people who drink heavily are less likely to quit smoking. Additionally, persons who begin smoking early are more likely to develop problems with alcohol.

With regard to pregnancy, fetal alcohol syndrome is the leading known cause of mental retardation (1 in 1000 births). More than 2000 infants annually are born with this condition in the United States. Alcohol-related birth defects and neurodevelopmental problems are estimated to be 3 times higher. Even small amounts of alcohol consumption may be risky in pregnancy. A 2001 study by Sood et al reported that children aged 6-7 years whose mothers consumed alcohol even in small amounts had more behavioral problems.8 In a study from 2003, Baer et al showed that moderate alcohol consumption while pregnant resulted in a higher incidence of offspring problem drinking at age 21 years, even after controlling for family history and other environmental factors.9 All women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should avoid alcohol.


The 2 largest studies, the US National Comorbidity Survey and the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Survey, both showed a lower prevalence of alcoholism in African Americans than in white Americans. The prevalence was equal or higher in Hispanic Americans compared with white Americans.

Studies of Native Americans and Asian Americans are smaller. These studies indicate the prevalence of alcoholism is higher in Native Americans and lower in Asian Americans when compared with white Americans.


Alcoholism is at least twice as prevalent in men as it is in women. In the National Comorbidity Survey, it was 2.5 times more prevalent in men than in women. The lifetime prevalence was 20% in men and 8% in women. For alcohol abuse or dependence in the past year, the rates were 10% for men and 4% for women.

Women do not metabolize alcohol as efficiently as men. Hazardous drinking (not alcoholism) is greater than 1 drink daily for women and greater than 2 drinks daily for men.

Problem drinking in women is much less common than it is in men, and the typical onset of problem drinking in females occurs later than in males. However, progression is more rapid, and females usually enter treatment earlier than males. Women more commonly combine alcohol with prescription drugs of abuse than do males. Women living with substance-abusing men are at high risk.

Alcohol problems are less likely to be recognized in women, and women with alcohol problems are less likely to be treated. This may be because women are less likely than men to have job, financial, or legal troubles as a result of drinking.


The prevalence of alcoholism declines with increasing age. The prevalence in elderly populations is unclear but is probably approximately 3%. A study of the US Medicare population found that alcohol-related hospitalizations were as common as hospitalizations for myocardial infarction.

Among older patients with alcoholism, from one third to one half develop alcoholism after age 60 years. This group is harder to recognize. A recent population-based study found that problem drinking (>3 drinks/d) was observed in 9% of older men and in 2% of older women. Alcohol levels are higher in elderly patients for a given amount of alcohol consumed than in younger patients.

Author: Warren Thompson, MD, FACP, Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Medical School

Beginning to quit: Great American Smokeout event to be held Thursday

It’s tough to be a smoker these days. State and local laws, as well as individual company policies, have severely restricted when and where a person can smoke.

The resulting aggravation may be enough to make some smokers want to kick the habit. And this week they’ll have the perfect opportunity to throw away those coffin nails.

Thursday marks the American Cancer Society’s 31st annual Great American Smokeout, during which smokers are encouraged to give up cigarettes for at least one day.

It’s the first step toward a healthier lifestyle, though the average smoker will attempt to quit several times before achieving permanent success.

"We tell people, ‘You learned how to smoke, and you have to learn how to quit,’" said June Deen, spokeswoman for the Georgia chapter of the American Lung Association.

Different methods work for different people. Some quit cold turkey; others taper off. Some rely on nicotine-replacement products or prescription medications; others fight off the cravings by finding something else to focus on.

What those who succeed all have in common is that they really want to become nonsmokers.

"You’re more likely to quit if you do it for positive reasons, such as you want to improve your health, or save money, or be a good example to your grandchildren," Deen said. "You’re less likely to be successful if you feel that someone is forcing you to quit."

Registered nurse Wanda Edwards, who teaches smoking cessation classes at Northeast Georgia Medical Center based on the Lung Association’s seven-week "Freedom from Smoking" course, said self-motivation is critical.

"The ones who don’t have the best success rate (in our classes) are those whose employers paid them to come," she said.

But if outside pressures don’t motivate smokers to quit, it’s debatable whether anti-tobacco laws can deter people from smoking.

Since Georgia’s Smokefree Air Act went into effect in July 2005, smoking has been banned in almost all indoor places open to the public. Eric Bailey, a spokesman with the American Cancer Society’s Atlanta office, said while the law has reduced nonsmokers’ exposure to secondhand smoke, it does not seem to have decreased the number of smokers.

"Smoking rates in both youth and adults (in Georgia) have either remained stagnant or gone up," he said.

But that trend may be due to something unrelated to the smoking ban. Bailey said since 2004, Georgia has not been using its share of the national tobacco settlement money to pay for smoking prevention.

"Those programs are basically nonexistent now," he said.

There is some evidence that in the long term, anti-smoking laws can have an effect on smoking rates. The prevalence of smoking in New York City dropped by 11 percent after a strict local ordinance was passed in 2002. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites numerous studies showing that workplace smoking bans increase the number of employees who try to quit.

Deen said when circumstances force a smoker to abstain for most of the day, "it creates more opportunities to practice non-smoking behaviors."

And that’s the theory behind the Smokeout: If a person is able to go for 24 hours without smoking, he may become more confident that he can do it for another 24 hours.

On Jan. 1, 2006, Northeast Georgia Medical Center made its entire campus tobacco-free, both indoors and out. Employees were warned about the change a year in advance, and were offered free smoking cessation classes.

Hospital spokeswoman Katie Dubnik said there are no statistics on how many employees still smoke. But the ban has definitely made life more difficult for those who continue to light up.

"To smoke, employees must leave campus, and to do that you have to clock out," she said.

If nothing else, smoking employees are getting a bit more exercise, because they have to walk all the way out to the edge of the parking lot, grab a few drags on a cigarette, and hurry back inside before their 15-minute break ends.

In May 2003, Gainesville State College became the first school in Georgia’s university system to declare a tobacco-free campus. GSC spokeswoman Sloan Jones said the change did not stir much dissent among students or the school’s approximately 600 full- or part-time employees.

"We have free (smoking cessation) counseling available for both students and employees, though not many have taken advantage of it," she said.

At the medical center, spokeswoman Cathy Bowers said free cessation classes are no longer offered to employees. "That was an incentive at the beginning (before the new policy went into effect)," she said.

However, anyone can take the Freedom from Smoking course that Edwards teaches. It costs $100, but participants get a $25 rebate if they attend all eight sessions.

Edwards said the classes are offered on an as-needed basis, and a new class will probably begin within a few weeks.

"The last class I taught had 12 people, and all of them completed the entire course," she said. "When we followed up six months later, six of them were still not smoking."

In the field of addiction treatment, a 50 percent success rate is considered very high. The Freedom from Smoking class addresses smoking as both an addiction and a habit.

"We recommend going cold turkey," Edwards said. "But if people need something to help them get through the cravings, (the prescription drug) Chantix seems to have been successful for a lot of people recently."

She starts the course by showing videos of old TV commercials advertising cigarettes, which helps longtime smokers understand how their addiction was marketed to them.

Then she has the students add up how much they’ve spent on cigarettes over the years. "For most people, the cost of smoking is a big factor in wanting to quit," she said.

Just as each person in Alcoholics Anonymous has a "sponsor," Edwards pairs up each class member with a "buddy" whom they can call if the nicotine cravings get bad.

That helps prepare them for "quit day," which takes place in the third week. Students are told to bring in all their ashtrays that day. And though the class normally meets only on Mondays, that third week there is a second session because it’s such a critical period for the participants.

"After the third week, we start referring to them as non-smokers, because that’s how we want them to identify themselves," Edwards said.

In the fourth session, she brings in a panel of former smokers who can answer questions and show the class that it is possible to quit for the long term.

Realistically, she knows that many of the students will backslide. "When people relapse, it’s usually because of stress," Edwards said. "So we teach them other ways of dealing with stress, such as listening to a relaxation therapy CD."

Those who are unable to attend a cessation class or can’t afford it may use the Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking online program (, which Deen said many people have found helpful.

The American Cancer Society’s Web site,, also offers extensive resources for smokers who are trying to quit.

And if the online approach seems too impersonal, you can pick up the phone and talk to a real person. The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line, a partnership between the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Georgia Department of Human Resources, is open from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday.

By Debbie Gilbert

Monday, November 12, 2007

Binge drinking in context

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 42 percent of college students qualify as binge drinkers. These numbers are based on a definition of binge drinking popularized by Harvard professor Henry Wechsler. While this number may seem staggering, it is misleading when put in context.

The Wechsler definition of binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks within an hour if you are a female and consuming five or more drinks within four hours if you are a male.

It is important to note that this definition is not a medical definition. Prior to Wechsler, binge drinking was considered continuous heavy drinking over two consecutive days. This is closer to the medical definition for binge drinking.

There is a great deal of data on binge drinking, but a lot of the information is incorrect or misleading.

For example, Ralph Hingson, a former Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) board member, estimated tha 1,400 college students die each year as a result of alcohol (binging, car accidents, etc). "USA Today" evaluated his data and found that on average only 620 students die each year. Out of that number only 36 were alcohol related.

What happens if you apply the Wechsler definition to adults? According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 70 percent of binge drinking episodes involve adults over the age of 25. In fact, the CDC reports that 75 percent of alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinking.

The concerns of parents over binge drinking are understandable, but what do students think?

When presented with this information, second year mathematics major Lourdes Gonzalez said, "I thought the number would be a little higher than 42 percent, especially considering that definition. I know several people who drink more than that, but are never drunk."

This is why the Wechsler definition is misleading. A person of average weight will not be legally drunk (defined as a Blood Alcohol Content of .08) with Wechsler's definition. Under the traditional definition, only .005 percent of college students qualified as binge drinkers.

"I have had more than five drinks over the course of an evening and have not been drunk. I think this definition is creating a problem that didn't exist before," said Ramon Acosta, a third-year electrical engineering major.

"This definition is unfair to college students. I've been told to be careful of college and drinking because people hear data like this," said Gonzalez.

While binge drinking may not be the pandemic some would make it out to be, the dangers of binge drinking are undeniable. High school health classes or warn students about the long-term effects of alcohol, but rarely do they tell students about what extreme amounts of alcohol can do to a body in one sitting.

Alcohol poisoning is a real disorder that can be fatal. Many know that inebriation is in part due to dehydration, but the symptoms of inebriation - like loss of motor skills or passing out - is the body shutting down the various parts of the brain the alcohol is affecting. People pass out because their body is stopping any more alcohol from entering. The final stage of alcohol poisoning is the body shutting down the last possible functions, your brain and heart.

Acosta said. "I've heard stories of people dying from alcohol, but I didn't know that being drunk was my body shutting down parts of my brain."

For the average male (160 pounds), taking that 21st shot on your birthday will put your BAC past .4, which can kill you. For the average woman (130 pounds), over 16 drinks in a short period of time can kill you.

"I've known friends who have passed out because they were drunk. It's kind of scary to think they were could have died," said Gonzalez.

This information is not intended to scare anyone. The purpose is to inform people about binge drinking and the dangers associated with it. For more information on binge drinking and the effects binge drinking on the brain, visit the Wellness Center.


Friday, November 9, 2007

Drinking to oblivion: why alcohol policy needs reform

As Australia's Peak national advocate for the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector, the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA) is calling for significant reform and attention to the growing health care crises which are directly related to alcohol.

ADCA encourages all political parties, governments, industry and community leaders to acknowledge and understand the urgency of addressing the problems and economic/ social impacts on the community through alcohol misuse, excessive consumption, pricing and availability, accessibility and promotion.

Alcoholic beverages are deeply entrenched in Australian society, and there are substantial economic interests in their production and distribution. Alcoholic beverages also cause substantial health and social harm to the drinker and to others.

Three thousand people die annually in Australia and some 10 000 others need ongoing medical treatment through alcohol-related harm.

Furthermore, the annual cost in alcohol-related absenteeism is some 7.5 million working days, and economic impart of alcohol-misuse/abuse equates to $15.3 billion.

The World Health Organisation finds that alcohol is the third most important avoidable cause of death and disability in developed societies like Australia. Given this finding, alcohol is not an ordinary commodity, and should not be treated as one.

Public policies should aim to reduce the harms of drinking. Australian governments have led the world in doing so. This is evident through its approach to issues such as drink driving and reduced taxes on low-alcohol beer. Unfortunately, in other areas, Australian governments have lagged behind.

ADCA recommends there are four key priorities needing urgent attention to reduce alcohol-related problems in Australia.

Alcohol tax rates

Wine taxes need to be based on alcohol content and equalised with beer taxes per unit of alcohol. Cheap wine is taxed very lightly, and so cask wine is often the preferred drink of marginalised heavy drinkers. Wine should be taxed on the basis of alcohol content in the same way as regular beer.

Raising alcohol taxes across the board is also an effective method of reducing rates of alcohol-related problems. An increased price affects the drinking of heavy drinkers, at least proportionally to its effect on other drinkers. This means there is a greater effect in reducing the number of drinks consumed.

ADCA advocates for progressive increases in the tax rates over several years, beyond the adjustments to the current CPI. Revenue from increases in taxation should be earmarked to support increases in treatment services and prevention programs for alcohol problems.

Advertising & marketing

Alcohol advertising and promotion is currently self-regulated by industry bodies, rather than by governments. ADCA believes this is ineffective and does not accord with many community views on when and how alcohol advertising and marketing restrictions should be applied.

ADCA calls for a system of government regulation of advertising and promotion of alcoholic beverages which aims to reduce the health and social harm from alcoholic beverages.

Advertisements in any medium for alcoholic beverages should be required to include a series of warning messages about the potential harms of use - similar to what has been carried out within the tobacco industry.

ADCA strongly recommends that alcohol advertising and sponsorship of major sporting events needs to be reviewed to discourage excessive or binge drinking at these events.

Restriction of underage drinking

Underage drinking to intoxication is widespread in Australia. Sweetened, spirits-based Ready-to-Drinks (RTDs) are being widely promoted to the younger generation. As a result, RTDs have become a very substantial part of the under-age drinking market.

Binge drinking is on the increase with alcohol being responsible for the deaths of more young people under 35 than any other drug.

ADCA calls for a sustained campaign and the use of taxation policies by Australian governments to drive down rates of underage intoxication

Control of the market

The National Competition and Consumer Commission recognises that restrictions on the alcohol market are legitimate in the interest of public health.

Unfortunately, in practice liquor licensing controls in Australia appear to have been eroded. Why?

This is due to substantial increases in availability of alcohol in terms of number of licensed premises and their hours of sale, on the mistaken assumption that increased competition in alcohol sales has a positive outcome.

ADCA believes that local planning authorities should be disciplined to consider issues of outlet density and community amenity, setting limits on the number of alcohol outlets, and conditions of sale.

Excessive use of alcohol to celebrate major sporting events, such as this week's Melbourne Cup, sends the wrong message to the general community, particularly the younger generation, that you need alcohol to have a good time.

David Templeman is chief executive officer of the Alcohol and other Drugs Council of Australia (ADCA).


Thursday, November 8, 2007

It may give you wings, but mixing with booze puts drinkers in danger

YOUNG drinkers could be putting themselves at risk by downing alcohol mixed with energy drinks, new research suggested yesterday.

Mixing drinks such as Red Bull (slogan: It gives you wings) with spirits has become a popular way of boosting energy levels to keep clubbers dancing all night.

But a new study, involving more than 4,000 students, found that drinking cocktails of alcohol and energy drinks doubled the risk of clubbers getting hurt or taken advantage of sexually.

Campaigners warned that more information was needed on the potential risks of mixing alcohol and energy drinks, which often contain high levels of caffeine and other ingredients.

As well as Red Bull, which sold more than three billion cans worldwide last year, popular energy drinks in the UK include Irn-Bru 32 and Lucozade.

The latest study, which was carried out by researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Centre in the United States, questioned 4,271 college students about their drinking habits and the consequences.

They found that of those who had drunk alcohol in the previous 30 days, a quarter (24 per cent) said they had consumed energy cocktails.

Compared with students who did not mix alcohol and energy drinks, this group were twice as likely to be hurt or injured after drinking, twice as likely to need medical attention and twice as likely to travel with a drunken driver.

They also faced double the risk of either taking sexual advantage of someone else, or being taken advantage of themselves.

The cocktails also seemed to affect the amount they drank.

In a typical drinking session, those on mixed drinks drank up to 36 per cent more than the other students. They also reported twice as many episodes of weekly drunkenness.

Dr Mary Claire O'Brien, lead researcher on the study, said: "We knew anecdotally - from speaking with students, and from researching internet blogs and websites - that college students mix energy drinks and alcohol in order to drink more, and to drink longer.

"But we were surprised that the risk of serious and potentially deadly consequences is so much higher for those who mixed energy drinks with alcohol," she continued, "even when we adjusted for the amount of alcohol."

Dr O'Brien said that mixing caffeine with alcohol was like "getting into a car and stepping on the gas pedal and the brake at the same time".

"Students whose motor skills, visual reaction times, and judgment are impaired by alcohol may not perceive that they are intoxicated as readily when they're also ingesting a stimulant," she said. "Only the symptoms of drunkenness are reduced - but not the drunkenness.

"They can't tell if they're drunk; they can't tell if someone else is drunk. So they get hurt, or they hurt someone else."

Dr O'Brien said some energy drinks could contain as much as 300 milligrams of caffeine.

The researcher, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in Washington DC, called for students to be informed of the risks of mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

Frank Soodeen, spokesman for the charity Alcohol Concern, said there was a growing popularity in mixing energy drinks with alcohol.

But he added there was currently very little information on the consequences.

"There isn't a great deal of information on what levels of drinking are doing to young people, including the impact of mixing alcohol with energy drinks.

"We need clear guidance for young people and parents over what impact different levels of drinking can have.

"We have heard that people do often mix alcohol with these energy drinks and if that is a concern, we need to find out more about it."

• ENERGY drinks often contain a mixture of ingredients, such as caffeine, vitamins and herbs.

Some products also include guarana - extracts from the guarana plant - ginseng and ginkgo biloba.

Many have high levels of sugar to help boost energy levels.

But caffeine remains the main energy-boosting ingredient, with an average energy-drink serving containing about the same amount as a small cup of coffee.

Last year, research showed that about 65 per cent of energy-drink users were under the age of 35.

But there has been criticism over the potential health effects of drinking large amounts of caffeine.

France banned the sale of the popular Red Bull brand following the death of an 18-year-old who played basketball shortly after consuming several cans of the drink. An inquest ruled that he died from Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

Denmark has also banned the drink.


Alcoholism stalks college students

Party habits can quietly become lifelong

Young people going off to college and getting drunk a lot is a national problem. Now comes finding a solution.

Rendie Skaggs, 19, part of a student group working to reduce alcohol abuse among college students, agrees that student culture encourages drinking.

“There is more of a set culture in college towns,” she said. “There are more parties and more drinking.”

As secretary and senate representative with the NSU chapter of BACCHUS (Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students), Skaggs said her group tries to equip students with social tools.

“We know we can’t stop college students from drinking, so we inform them about handling alcohol safely, about how much alcohol will cause you to get drunk depending on your body weight, about having a designated driver, and about never going out drinking by yourself,” she said.

Dr. Aaron M. White with Duke University in North Carolina said in a Web page on Duke’s Web site that the college environment promotes, or at least supports, higher than normal levels of alcohol consumption.

“Interestingly, if one looks at the drinking levels of high school students, those bound for college tend to drink less while in high school, but then quickly begin to out-drink their non-college peers once arriving at college,” he said. “Alcohol use then tapers off again once college students graduate.”

White said African-American students drink the least and are more likely to be abstainers than Caucasian students. Latino and Asian students typically fall somewhere in-between.

Skaggs said she has seen students get away from their parents and “go crazy” with partying. But she has seen an equal number who have behaved that way since high school.

“I don’t think they take it seriously,” she said. “They tell themselves ‘When I get out of college, I’ll stop doing this.’ It can be the basis for alcoholism.”

Leslie Crow, director of the John Crow IV Memorial Foundation in Dustin, said their program focuses on environmental strategies.

“The last few years in the prevention field have led up to this way of dealing with environmental factors that make it easier for college students to abuse alcohol,” she said. “In a lot of college towns, it’s easier to buy alcohol. If the student is underage, they are more likely to know someone a couple of years older than them who will buy the alcohol for them. It’s also easier to go to parties and other events where there is no one there to tell you not to abuse alcohol.”

Crow said the foundation works with campus administrators, bars, law enforcement, and city leaders.

“For example, one way for the city to help is to pass a noise ordinance that makes it easier for neighbors to report a loud house party where there may be illegal use of alcohol,” she said.

Crow said they also work with the police so they know all the laws concerning alcohol that might be broken. But, the police need help from the courts.

By Keith Purtell Phoenix Staff Writer

Push to help prisoners beat their addictions

Four out of five prisoners have alcohol or drug problems but only a fraction have access to treatment, says outgoing Corrections Minister Damien O'Connor.

The Drug Foundation says a fresh approach is needed to stem drug abuse among offenders, giving them treatment when they first arrive behind bars and keeping it going after they leave.

Speaking at an addiction conference in Auckland yesterday, Mr O'Connor cited research showing 89 per cent of serious offenders were under the influence of drugs or alcohol leading up to their offence, and 80 per cent of inmates have had a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives compared with 13 per cent of the general population.

"Despite the significant relationship between substance abuse and crime, only a small proportion of offenders with substance abuse problems actually receive treatment."

However, the Government was taking the problem seriously, by expanding drug treatment units in prisons, he told the combined Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs and Cutting Edge addiction conference.

A new treatment unit was opened at Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt last month and another is due to open at Spring Hill Prison in Waikato in July 2008, boosting the system's capacity to treat about 500 people a year. There are 8000 prisoners nationally.

In a pilot programme, health professionals will work at police stations and in courts to identify offenders with substance abuse problems and help refer them for treatment.

"Currently there is no national framework or standard for court-ordered AOD (alcohol and other drug) assessments, but work to develop this is nearly complete," Mr O'Connor said.

Drug Foundation senior policy adviser Keriata Stuart said the Government had to address the "huge problem" of drug abuse among offenders.

She said more "seamless care" was needed: assessing people when they first entered the criminal justice system, giving them the full range of rehabilitation services and following them up after they left prison.

Prison at least offered a captive market, she said.

"It's not an ideal place to create a therapeutic environment but it is an opportunity - people are very focused on making changes and if they have access to assessment and rehab services and continued support, they can succeed."

The foundation is also pushing for more harm-reduction programmes (including needle exchanges and extending the prison methadone programme to new clients) and more specific interventions for young people, women and other groups.

source: Dominion Post