Author: Justin Mckibben
I came across an article the other day that asked a very interesting question- what if the media covered alcohol the way it does other drugs. To be clear, I’m not writing this to shame people who drink alcohol. This is all about perspective.
More recently the conversation about the drug epidemic in America has been focused on opioid abuse and addiction, of course with good reason. The rate at which opioid abuse, opioid overdoses and related deaths have risen immensely in the last few years. The alarming numbers prove that both prescription opioids and illicit opioid drugs are a very real threat. Thousands of people die every day, and experts see no sign that it will not get worse before it gets better.
And yet, similar statistics associated with alcohol are nothing short of staggering if you look at them the way we look at heroin or methamphetamine.
So, let us imagine for a moment a world where we treated alcohol like the drug it truly is. What if we treated drinkers like we do addicts?
Alcohol Drug Addiction
For decades a devastating and potentially fatal drug has wreaked havoc across the country, ending countless lives and altering countless others. This insidious substance can be found in pretty much every neighborhood in America. You can find it on almost every street corner, and the overwhelming majority of adults have consumed this substance at least once.
Alcohol has many aliases, include:
- Giggle Water
The drug comes packaged in a long list of names, with a variety of mixes that can be more or less potent depending on the source. Some use massive labs to concoct their drinks, while others brew out of secret unregulated areas in their homes.
The Alcohol Epidemic
No matter where you go, there will be a prominent presence of alcohol users. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):
- 86.4% of people 18 or older report to have drank this dangerous drug at some point in their life
- 70.1% of people report to have consuming this substance in the last year
- 56% of people admit to have taken the drug in the last month
Looking closer at the drug, we see that many users go from recreational consumption to excessive use. The NSDUH shows:
- 7% report to heavy use in the past month
- 26.9% of people 18 or older admit to binge drinking in the past month
As with most other drugs, this substance also leads to sometimes debilitating addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). NSDUH reports:
- 1 million Adults age 18 or older suffered from AUD in 2015
- 8 million of them were men
- 3 million were women
- 623,000 adolescents age 12-17 years old had AUD
All 50 states in America have been hit hard by the alcohol epidemic at some point or another. One reason the outbreak of this drug has been so tragic is because in so many places it has become social acceptable for people to consume alcohol!
In fact, many have minimized the use of alcohol or even celebrated it! In several communities around the country there are all-out events where drug use is actually publicly promoted! Events like “Craft Beer Fest” or the infamous “Oktoberfest” have become hotbeds for excessive abuse of this incredibly hazardous substance. Young adults often talk about getting “wasted”, “tipsy” or “turnt” as slang for ingesting such high levels of the drug they are inebriated.
Alcohol Related Deaths
According to data collected by the federal government, alcohol is the second deadliest drug in America. If you combine:
- Heroin- connected to almost 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015
- Prescription opioids– 22,598 overdose deaths
You still have less than half of the deaths of alcohol. In fact, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol related causes every single year!
Because of binge drinking and other risk behaviors, mild to moderate alcohol overdose has almost become far too common. Beyond that, there are numerous ways this deadly drug has contributed to an inordinate number of deaths over hundreds of years! On a global scale, the alcohol drug is the leading risk factor in premature death and disability.
- In 2012, 3.3 million deaths in the whole world were alcohol related
- 2013, 45.8% of liver disease deaths for individuals 12 and older were alcohol related
- In 2013, 47.9% of all cirrhosis deaths were alcohol related
The health effects of the alcohol epidemic are very real.
Alcohol Epidemic Hurts Others
It isn’t just the people who use this lethal drug that suffer from the adverse effects of the alcohol epidemic. Even the people are the users are often put in serious danger. For example, driving while under the influence of the alcoholic drug has been a very severe problem for a long time.
- In 2014, over 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related- 9,967 deaths
Also, public health officials from all over America have stood up to expose other terrible effects of alcohol use. Alcohol use also has a great deal of influence on:
- Domestic abuse
- Sexual assault
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves alcohol use by the victim, the assailant or both.
To that point, in 2010 sources indicated that more than 4.6 million emergency room visits were alcohol related.
- 40% of violent crime is alcohol related.
- 37% of current convicted offenders in jails admit to being on alcohol during their arrest
The War on Alcohol?
So with such glaring instances of the impacts of alcohol use on Americans, and young people in particular, surely drug policy officials and politicians are aggressively pursuing legislation to engage in a full on War on Alcohol, like they have with the War on Drugs, right?
Well… not so much.
It may come as a shock, but U.S. federal and state officials seem to think banning alcohol is out of the question! Citing the past attempts at alcohol prohibition as a major failure that instigated higher crime rates, while also claiming the vital part alcohol production and sales play in the economy, lawmakers seem content with allowing the drug to remain in circulation.
Thankfully officials are still willing to provide emergency response services to individuals who have overdosed on alcohol or been injured in alcohol-related accidents. While city officials are fighting for the option to deny the overdose antidote Narcan to opioid users who overdose multiple times, none of these officials seem to believe alcohol related illness or drunk driving accidents should be ignored the same way.
Drunk driving in many areas on multiple occasions does constitute jail time, but it seems being in possession of one of the deadliest drugs in America still doesn’t come with a mandatory minimum sentence. The Alcohol epidemic seems to have avoided a lot of the stigma that other drugs are held to, yet experts insist more should be done to decrease the astonishing rates of alcohol abuse and addiction.
Alcohol may be legal, and it may be more mainstream than most drugs, the alcohol epidemic in this nation is still a very real threat. The fact it is legal and easily accessible makes the problem so much more serious. This article isn’t meant to demonize alcohol, but it is meant to point out the severity of alcohol use and the damage that comes with it. Maybe this kind of perspective can also diminish the stigma attached to other illicit addictions, if we are willing to acknowledge the similarities.
Alcohol is more dangerous than people give it credit, and alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous.
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Estimates show that in America roughly 10% of the population is addicted to alcohol or drugs. At first you might think 10% doesn’t sound like a lot. How does 33 million people sound? And if overdose and death rates have taught us anything, it’s that this problem is a serious and lethal one. But not only do we see the pain and turmoil of those who struggle, but we have to see what the families go through. The individual suffers deeply, but we cannot forget the children of alcoholics.
These numbers show that millions of parents, spouses and children are destructively impacted as they live with a person suffering from addiction.
National Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week started on February 12th and went to the 18th. This observation is to help spread public awareness about the impact of alcohol and drugs on children and families. While the official week of observation has ended, we encourage people to take the chance this month to continue the conversation. We don’t just acknowledge the issue for 7 days a year, right?
The Truth about Children of Alcoholics
Alcoholism is a chronic disease with a far-reaching impact.
- In America, experts estimate 6.6 million children under 18 live with at least one alcoholic parent
- One in four children in the U.S. are witness to alcoholism or addiction to drugs regularly
According to The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), children of alcoholics experience many hardships that have a profound impact on their futures. Children of alcoholics typically:
- Have poorer language skills
- Have more absences from school
- Are more at risk for mental health disorders
- Higher risk of physical health issues
- Are at a significantly higher risk of becoming alcoholics themselves when they grow up
How to Help Children of Alcoholics
Most people have the knee-jerk reaction to insist a child should be removed from a detrimental environment. To many it makes sense that if the child is put in danger, they should be taken from their home to be kept safe. If we can’t always help the alcoholics, at least the children of alcoholics should be protected, right? The idea is the children of alcoholics can then have a stable environment while the parent gets treatment.
However, others would argue against such an approach, saying it not only breaks up the family unit, but it could also create a more instability. Removing the children of alcoholics from their homes and putting them in unfamiliar environments might only make things worse. Sometimes this process can create new stress and fear in a child, and ultimately be counterproductive.
So the unique difficulty in helping children of alcoholics is finding a way to maintain stability while still addressing the issues in the home, specifically those connected with the addiction.
Family Programs Part of Holistic Healing
Thankfully, complete removal from the recovery process is not the way it has to be for the families of those who struggle. Newer, more holistic treatment modalities make it a point to incorporate the children of alcoholics and their families in the treatment process.
An effective family program, such as the Palm Healthcare Family Program, can help to support the spouses, parents or children of alcoholics and addicts in many ways. Communicating with families and involving them in the recovery plan tends to make the living environment less dysfunctional.
A key element to assisting the family and children of alcoholics is education. Understanding the individual’s difficulties, they are able to provide an elevated level of support to the patient from home. These kinds of family involved programs can help the children of alcoholics get a better perspective on their parent’s behavior. At the same time, it gives families a chance to heal in tandem with their loved one.
We would like to offer you the FREE GIFT of a checklist to help decipher if you are helping or hurting a loved one who is struggling with addiction.
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The Family for the Future
As innovation and education provide lasting results, treatment is beginning to grow in ways that have a stronger impact. Even elected officials and policy makers are now focusing on the impact of the family of the person addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The reality is, every person suffering from addiction issues eventually has to return home. Taking children away from their parents does not solve the issues, because eventually we want the individual to be able to live in their home environment. Recovery is about to reuniting families, not tearing them further apart. A more supportive family environment will go a long way in helping people in recovery maintain lasting sobriety.
This is why welcoming the family is good for the future. Programs like Palm Partners Recovery Center believe in keeping the spouses, parents and children of alcoholics and addicts connected to the person who needs their support the most. Overcoming the isolation and having love and connection in your corner can change the game. So even though National Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week ended, we still want to challenge everyone to bring their kids or their parents closer together.
Thousands of people everywhere are growing and changing their lives through programs of recovery. Along with them, thousands of families are rebuilding and sharing their strength and hope. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call. We want to help. You are not alone.
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Alcoholism is a term that has been around for quite a long time, but over the generations it has been understood and treated in a variety of ways. Perhaps as the world and society evolves, so does the average alcoholic.
Either way you look at it, alcoholism is a very real threat. National surveys of recent years indicate:
- Nearly 19 million people in the US abuse alcohol, or have an addiction to it.
- In Europe, it’s estimated that 23 million people are dependent on alcohol
- Estimates say more than two million deaths resulting from alcohol consumption a year internationally
History of Alcoholism
The term “alcoholism” was first used by a Swedish professor of medicine, Magnus Huss (1807-1890). Huss turned the phrase in 1849, to mean poisoning by alcohol. While today “alcohol poisoning” is a more direct classification, alcohol-ism is still a poison in the lives of those who is touches.
Huss distinguished between two types of alcoholism:
Huss’s definition says this is the result of the temporary effects of alcohol taken within a short period of time, such as intoxication. Basically, it is having too much to drink.
This Huss calls a pathological condition through the habitual use of alcoholic beverages in poisonous amounts over a long period of time. A pretty innovative idea, and something that would be debated for over a century.
Since 1849, the definition has changed endlessly.
Establishing a definitive “alcoholism” definition is difficult as there is little unanimity on the subject. The reason for such a variety of definitions is the different opinions each authority holds, and the year the definition was formed. We have the strictest definition the dictionary provides:
- An addiction to the consumption of alcoholic liquor or the mental illness and compulsive behavior resulting from alcohol
We also have the concept presented by the book Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which gives stories of struggle and strength, experience and hope; the lives of many alcoholics who developed a manner of living through a plan of action rooted in 12 Steps. Here alcoholism is often described as a “physical compulsion coupled with a mental obsession”. The disease model of alcoholism has evolved overtime.
Early on 12 Step fellowships like AA were cautious about trying to label the medical nature of alcoholism. However, many members believe alcoholism is a disease. In 1960 Bill Wilson, one of the founders of AA, explained why they had refrained from using the term “disease,” stating:
“We AAs have never called alcoholism a disease because, technically speaking, it is not a disease entity. For example, there is no such thing as heart disease. Instead there are many separate heart ailments or combinations of them. It is something like that with alcoholism. Therefore, we did not wish to get in wrong with the medical profession by pronouncing alcoholism a disease entity. Hence, we have always called it an illness or a malady—a far safer term for us to use.”
These days, the classification of disease is commonly applied to alcoholism or addiction. Some have called them brain disorders. While some dispute the disease label, many believe it is the truest portrayal of alcohol addiction in the most severe form. The idea of alcoholism being a disease has been around since as early as the 18th century.
Many of the more up-to-date medical definitions do describe it as a disease. These definitions say the alcohol problem is influenced by:
- Social factors
Treatment of Alcoholism
When asking how treatment for alcoholism is important, there are a few specifically important elements to consider. When it comes to health risks of trying to quit cold turkey, it can be a lot more painful or dangerous than you think. Also, lasting recovery has a lot more to do with learning new coping skills and behaviors than just giving up the substance.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome occurs when the central nervous system (CNS) becomes overly excited. Alcohol suppressing the activity in the CNS, so the abrupt absence of alcohol causes the CNS to jump into overdrive. In essence, your system starts overcompensating.
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome symptoms include:
The severity of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome can range from mild to very severe and even life-threatening.
Most treatment programs understand the importance of therapy at different levels. Group therapy helps people fighting addiction receive peer support. Individual therapy lets you work more intimately on these issues with a professional.
Holistic programs such as Palm Partners Treatment Program help you develop a personalized recovery plan to guide you in your treatment, setting benchmarks and goals while you are in treatment.
Some groups are more educationally-structured in order to teach you very important aspects for understanding the nature alcoholism, as well as ways to make major lifestyle changes. Holistic recovery is about more than surviving your struggle, but actually outlining a way you can thrive and move forward with healthy life skills. Finding the right treatment option can make all the difference in how you define your alcoholism, versus how you let it define you.
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Author: Justin Mckibben
This definitely isn’t the first time we have asked questions about the concept of forcing someone into alcohol or drug addiction treatment. We have examined in the past whether or not this is an effective way to address addiction and we have evaluated whether or not it is a good idea to try and force your loved ones into treatment.
While some still think that forcing someone who refuses to stop using drugs or drinking to go to treatment is the only way from saving themselves, there are still a lot of people out there who think “tough love” approaches such as this just flat out down work. A lot of people in recovery will tell you most people won’t make the necessary changes in their life until they are ready and willing to make those changes, but others will tell you that a lot of people don’t realize how serious the issue is and need to be hit with a strong dose of reality before it is too late.
Now the conversation has been brought up just in time for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS), which hasn’t met since 1998, and some new research may put this whole concept to bed once and for all. But it doesn’t just say that forced treatment is ineffective, but goes as far as to say it can be a violation of human rights.
Compulsory Addiction Treatment
Compulsory Addiction Treatment, also sometimes referred to as Involuntary Addiction Treatment, refers to the mandatory enrollment of people into drug treatment programs, typically forced inpatient treatment.
This method of treatment is still used today, and in some places in the world it is used a lot more aggressively than others. Sometimes the individuals forced into compulsory addiction treatment are not even necessarily drug-dependent.
Now there is of course a big difference between compulsory addiction treatment and coerced addiction treatment, which is when individuals are given an ultimatum to either attend an addiction treatment facility of serve jail time. Drug courts often court order this kind of treatment, but it is still an option and not forced onto someone who doesn’t want it.
New Study Stats Do Not Satisfy
When the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP) introduced its recent research to the UNGASS they showed their studies had found that compulsory addiction treatment does NOT seem to have any real benefits, and after treatment compulsory addiction treatment does not reduce:
- Drug use
In a press release given after the findings of the study were announced it was stated:
“This consistent with growing calls from experts to replace the use of compulsory treatment with voluntary, evidence-based, and human rights compliant health and social services to address drug dependence,”
The study’s principal investigator from ICSDP, Dr. Dan Werb stated:
“The evidence clearly indicates that forcibly enrolling individuals does not result in sustained, positive outcomes.”
Dr. Werb explained that this new investigation raises serious questions about the growing dependence on compulsory approaches to drug addiction, particularly in places like:
- Southeast Asia
- Latin America
The researchers thoroughly studied and revised current scientific literature available in order to assess the efficacy of compulsory addiction treatment, and in doing so they claim to have two key discoveries concerning compulsory addiction treatment.
- Compulsory addiction treatment is less effective than non-compulsory methods at promoting long-term abstention or reducing criminal recidivism
- Compulsory addiction treatment actually has negative impacts on drug use after treatment, as well as on arrests or incarcerations, compared to voluntary methods.
Human Rights Violations
When it gets down to this part, I think back to an article I wrote about forced addiction treatment in Guatemala where a team of head-hunters would be dispatched by families members to wrangle and addict and drag them off to a dingy crowded building to detox in huddles like cages animals at the slaughterhouse… So for me it wasn’t too much of a surprise when the investigators of this recent study said there is strong evidence of human rights violations in compulsory addiction treatment programs, including torture and other forms of punishment for drug dependent individuals.
Mr. Rick Lines, executive director of Harm Reduction International, made his own statement condemning the conduct of some compulsory addiction treatment centers, stating:
“The routine use of physical violence, sexual abuse, and forced labor in compulsory treatment centers seriously undermines the human rights of detainees,”
The center I wrote about in Guatemala actively forced internees to clean the floors or to work at night as forms of punishment. The treatment plan consisted only of chores, religion and sometimes violence, and individuals were often tied up in the streets and brought there to be kept behind barred windows for months or years at a time.
The team who put out this recent study recommended that evidence-based methods of treatment should be implemented as they have been found to reduce drug use and repeated criminal offenses after treatment. The more humane, compassionate and public health-oriented addiction treatment archetype will be front and center at this year’s UNGASS, and hopefully even more progress will be made in revolutionizing treatment of addiction on a global scale.
Forcing someone into treatment may seem like a last resort for a lot of families frantically trying to stop the ones they love from causing more havoc or hurting themselves, but usually the solution lies in working together to make a choice for change.
As the stigma of addiction fades away and the worlds of science, psychology and politics grow a better understanding of addiction our world changes and how we treat those who suffer changes. Effective and holistic addiction treatment saves lives with compassionate and personalized treatment, and Palm Partners believes in providing the incredible treatment to help create change for life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Alcohol abuse is a problem more than common in our world today, and more often than not it results in disastrous forms of disease that can completely alter the quality of an individual’s life, sometimes bringing that person’s life to an abrupt end.
Most people are familiar with some of the risks associated with alcohol abuse and with the illnesses that can result from prolonged alcohol abuse, such as cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and kidney damage. But what about all the other issues that can be created with long-term alcohol abuse that people frequently wouldn’t think to connect to alcoholism or abusing alcohol?
There are several other health problems you might not know are directly linked to alcoholism, so here are 6 of those alcohol abuse related diseases you might not know.
Anemia is a condition that develops when your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, which is a main part of red blood and binds oxygen.
Alcohol abuse can cause the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be abnormally low, thus causing anemia. Anemia can trigger a list of other symptoms, including:
- Shortness of breath
These symptoms occur because organs in the body aren’t getting what they need to function properly.
- Cardiovascular disease
Binge drinking is a huge issue when it comes to alcohol abuse, and both can cause platelets to become more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. In a landmark study by Harvard researchers in 2005, it was found that binge drinking doubled the risk of death among people who initially survived a heart attack.
Cardiomyopathy is a potentially deadly condition which can also be caused by alcohol abuse. With cardiomyopathy the heart muscle weakens and eventually fails, as well as heart rhythm abnormalities such as atrial and ventricular fibrillation, which creates chaotic twitching in the heart’s main pumping chambers (ventricles), causing rapid loss of consciousness and even sudden death.
Dementia is not a specific disease, but term that encompasses a varied range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
As people age their brains shrink. It is considered normal to happen on average at a rate of about 1.9% per decade.
However, alcohol abuse speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting symptoms of dementia. In addition to the nonspecific forms of dementia that result from brain atrophy, alcohol abuse can also cause nutritional deficiencies that elicit other forms of dementia.
It may not be much of a surprise to some that alcohol abuse is often associated with with depression, because it is a depressant, but the debate about which came first, the drinking or the depression, still exists.
One theory is that depressed people turned to alcohol in an attempt to cope with emotional pain. But a large study from New Zealand showed that it was probably the other way around, meaning alcohol abuse actually leads to depression, with some research showing that depression improves when those who abuse alcohol actually sober up.
Gout is an extremely painfully illness caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints. It is a form of arthritis that is described as sudden burning pain, stiffness and swelling in the joint.
Although a lot of cases are largely hereditary, alcohol abuse and other dietary factors are also said to play a role in those who develop cases of gout. Alcohol also seems to aggravate existing cases of gout, so one way or the other alcohol abuse is a risk factor.
- Nerve damage
The nervous system is involved in everything the body does, from regulating breathing to controlling muscles and sensing heat and cold, so serious nerve damage is a pretty big deal. Damage can occur to nerves in your brain and spinal cord, but nerve damage can also occur in the peripheral nerves located throughout the rest of your body.
Alcohol abuse can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy, which can produce a range of devastating symptoms which include but are not limited to:
- Painful pins-and-needles feeling or numbness in the extremities
- Muscle weakness
- Erectile dysfunction
Alcohol is toxic to nerve cells, so of course alcohol abuse will sometimes lead to alcoholic neuropathy. Alcoholic neuropathy also happens because nutritional deficiencies attributable to alcohol abuse compromise nerve function. So again, not only can alcohol abuse cause these issues, but heavy drinking can exacerbate pre-existing issues with nerve damage.
While physicians around the world can give you a laundry list of the diseases and other effects of alcoholism or alcohol abuse, it is still incredibly beneficial for individuals who have drinking or drug problems to seek specialized treatment for lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135