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ADDICTION : Battling For Health


Online AA Meetings

September 10, 2013 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, HEALTHCARE

aaGo to any search engine and type in your query and you’ll get almost instantaneous results. There might be millions of results to sort through, but for most topics, you can find some hint at your answer within the first page. You can find maps, places to shop, bios on famous people…maybe even search your own name (I admit I’ve done it). There’s a new trend emerging online that most people have probably never thought of – online help for addicts and alcoholics. 

 

People go online for social networking, employment searches, dating: ways to connect themselves to the world from the privacy of their own home. Whether it’s because it’s faster, easier, more accessible or just more comfortable, most people go online multiple times a day for any number of tasks. If you can find a job online, why not an AA meeting? 

 

A lot of people who are struggling with drugs or alcohol may not be ready to face a room full of strangers and confess their secrets. Now you have access to a meeting where you can choose to simply listen without turning on your webcam. You can use a first name only or make up a name. You can choose to put up a picture or remain anonymous – pun intended. If you feel comfortable, you can turn on your camera and share you story. You may be talking to people in your neighborhood or on the other side of the world. 

 

There’s a line in the book of Alcoholics Anonymous that says “We are people who would normally not mix”.  The idea being that people from all walks of life, from every socioeconomic class, every race, religion, etc are affected by alcoholism. You take someone who you think you have nothing in common with and say “My name is ____ and I’m an alcoholic” and when they say they are an alcoholic also, you suddenly can talk endlessly. There’s a sense of camaraderie there. If you can chat with people all over the world who share this common thread, the possibilities of a connection grow exponentially. 

 

There are mixed feelings in the AA community about online meetings. Some feel it’s a great way to get people to a meeting if they can’t or won’t go to a traditional meeting. Others feel it goes against the principles of AA, that people should meet in church basements or treatment facilities. In-person meetings give you a sense of fellowship and allow for human contact such as a hug or handshake. Online meetings allow you to chat with people from wherever you are. In-person meetings allow you to read someone’s body language and offer a helping hand to someone who may be grieving and not speaking it in words. Online meetings give people a chance to attend a meeting when they may not have a car or license or babysitter. They both have pros and cons. The idea is that it gives people options and they can choose what works best for them. When online dating started it was almost risqué or embarrassing. Now it’s commonplace. Someday online AA meetings may be the same way. 

 

If you’re new to sobriety, thinking about rehab, a seasoned veteran to the AA scene or just curious about options to connect to other people in sobriety, an online AA meeting gives you the chance to reach out to others who understand your situation. Sometimes hearing a few words of encouragement is all a person needs to take the next step. 

About the Author:

Stephanie wants you to check out MyRecovery.com … They have online aa/na meetings and other recovery tools as well.


The Secret to Staying Sober on Vacation

January 16, 2013 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

On the cathedral square

Photo credit: Oleg Sidorenko

Being in recovery shouldn’t affect your ability to live a full life. For many people, however, alcohol and other drugs are a large part of traveling. Your vacation is a time to unwind and blow off steam, but there are ways to do it that won’t compromise your sobriety. In this article, we look at some ways to make the most of your time abroad without relapsing.

Stay Away From All-inclusive Resorts

For families traveling together, all-inclusive resorts are a convenient way to travel without having to worry a lot about logistics. But between the free drinks, college kids eager to party and the swim-up bars, the temptation to drink can be too much. Avoid the big resorts and stay at a local hotel or homestay. You’ll save money and see another side of life in your destination.

Take a Cultural Vacation

The best way to avoid drinking while on vacation is to fill your day with other activities. Skip the beach and visit archeological sites, museums and cultural performances. If you’re at a loss as to what to do, there are many tourist organizations, such as NYC Sober Tours and TravelSober.com, which cater to those in recovery.

Stay Active

There are few things better for your peace of mind than doing yoga on the beach as the sun rises. If yoga’s not your thing, go for a hike or rent a bicycle for an afternoon. You can also use your vacation as an opportunity to take up something new; try taking a surfing lesson or salsa class.

Have a Support Team

If you’re traveling with family or friends, let them know that you will need their help. Ask your spouse to support you by abstaining as well. Having an eager travel partner can motivate you to try new things and will give you someone to be accountable to.

Eat

You’re on vacation – you should indulge yourself! Let your diet lapse for a few days. Try local specialties, tour community markets, take a cooking lesson. Food is one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer, and experiencing all its diversity can be uniquely rewarding.

Treat Yourself

Remember, you’ll be saving money by not drinking. Why not put that toward a distinctive souvenir? Find the perfect gift for yourself – it will be a unique and memorable reward for having made it through your vacation without succumbing to temptation.

Whether you’re a week out of rehab or have been sober for years, a vacation can be a stressful time in your recovery. It doesn’t have to be, though. If you are vigilant and make an effort to fill your time with activities, not only will staying sober be easy, you also will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is far more rewarding than a boozy week on the beach.

About The Author:

Adrienne is a blogger and aspiring writer. When she’s not blogging about tech and social media, you might find her practicing her French, whipping up some recipes she found on Pinterest, or obsessing over vintage postcards and stamps.


Cocaine and Gender: It Matters

September 14, 2012 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Brain images show that stress induces women's cocaine cravings

“It’s just a matter of will power.”  If you have an addiction, how many times have you heard this?  If you’re not an addict, has this thought crossed your mind or this clause ever escaped your lips?  While using a drug does, indeed, contain some element of choice, it’s far more complicated than that.

In 2010, about 22.6 million or 8.9 percent of Americans over age 12 had used an illicit drug or misused a prescribed medication in the past month. And drugs do not discriminate.  While the largest population using drugs are people in their late teens and early twenties, people in their fifties have increased their drug use significantly in the past four years. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug-related deaths have more than doubled since the early 1980s. More deaths–one in every four--and disabilities occur as a result of substance abuse than from any other preventable health condition. Cocaine, because of the immense euphoric experience it creates, and due to its effect on the brain when used, presents unique challenges when it comes to quitting.

Cocaine affects dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a brain chemical released into the space between brain nerve cells in response to pleasurable stimuli, for instance, when the smell of bread baking reminds us of good childhood memories, or when we look at photos of our latest exotic vacation. Our nerve cells typically re-absorb that released dopamine to put us back at baseline.  Cocaine, however, binds with the receptors that the dopamine uses to re-absorb it, leaving the dopamine in the space between nerve cells, thus prolonging this pleasure. Over time, this “reward center” in our brain goes haywire.  Cocaine users (and drug users in general) need more of a drug to feel the desired effect, and most things that once brought them pleasure no longer do.

A study published earlier this year, however, notes one thing that does matter when it comes to cocaine use:  gender. The functional MRI images of more than thirty subjects who were cocaine dependent revealed that craving involves different parts of the brain for men and women.  Drug cues, such as pictures of the drug or drug paraphernalia, stimulated certain areas of men’s brains, while stress cues, such as pictures of a personally-indicated stressful situation, stimulated different areas of the women’s brains. This study has major implications in creating effective treatments for men and women who are cocaine dependent.  Women may benefit more from stress-reduction measures to reduce cravings, while men may benefit more from traditional treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or a 12-step program.

Treatment aside, the good news is that although drug use is on the rise, cocaine use declined significantly from 2008 to 2009, in children and teens, at least. Rates of cocaine use in 12th and 10th graders dropped in half within the year, and rates decreased in 8th graders by about a third. Cocaine use spurs problems like cardiovascular crisis, depression and suicide (from withdrawal).  It also encourages paranoia.  Regardless of drug used, addiction hampers performance, impairs relationships and may result in death from chronic use, overdose or withdrawal.  Discerning effective treatments will help tame this beast that robs people of effective functioning, and steals life–literally or emotionally– from those who use and from those who love them.  


About The Author

Diane Dean is a registered nurse, licensed professional counselor and professionally-trained coach who likes to write about mental and physical health, communication, personal life enrichment and non-conventional healing. Please visit the following sites for more information on additions and other health issues: www.healthline.com, www.drugabuse.gov, and www.samhsa.gov.

 


The State of Teen Drug Abuse

February 21, 2012 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

As the use of drugs and alcohol continues to plague our youth, it is the duty of not only parents, but educators, counselors, and government officials, to keep abreast of the latest trends and statistics.

 

The Positive Side

When researching the current statistics of teen drug use, we often turn to Monitoring the Future (MTF), which is a survey that measures the way teens feel about drugs and alcohol, along with their use of these substances.  MTF has been surveying teens since 1975, which gives a more reliable look at teen drug use.

The research shows that teen substance abuse is declining when it comes to cigarettes, alcohol, and methamphetamines.  Each has dropped at least 1% over the last few years.  The research has also shown the awareness level of these substance’s harmful effects has increased, thus showing that teens are receiving the message of the grave dangers of these drugs.

 

The Negative Side

On the other side, Marijuana use has increased by an astounding 6%, as well as the abuse of hallucinogenic drugs, inhalants, and prescription medications.

Because Marijuana is becoming so acceptable to society, and there is always talk of its legalization, the fact that most teens don’t even consider it a drug comes as no surprise.  We have to consider the message we are sending to our youth when we rally up to pass certain bills.

The abuse of Hallucinogens has risen alongside the attendance of all-night dance parties by teens, and has also begun to seep out of those club doors and into the realms of teenage parties.  The accessibility to these hallucinogens, such as ecstasy, has become much easier.

Inhalants are commonly abused by teens because they are easy to acquire, cost little money, and are easily hidden.  Household cleaners, gasoline, or even paint, can be quietly huffed. Most teens who abuse drugs are looking for an easy way to get high without getting caught.

Neck and neck with the rise in marijuana use, is the rise in the ever so available prescription drug.  While most people have prescriptions to treat the many ailments that seem to plague our society, a parent easily becomes the unknowing dealer to their child, or even their child’s friends.

 

What the Community Can Do

First and foremost it is important to realize that not all teens are abusing drugs and alcohol.  The message on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse is getting through, to some.  As people in the lives of children and teens, it is crucial to persevere when it comes to drug education and awareness.  We need to not only stay on top of the latest facts and trends, but also be aware of the warning signs of drug use.  Sometimes being just a little more attentive to actions and behaviors can prevent a major problem from developing.

As far as continuing to educate our youth, all community members must take an active role.  We need to continue educating at home by talking openly to our children, starting at a young age.  We also need to continue that educations in schools, not only by alerting teens of the dangers of drug use, but also by lending support to those who abstain, letting them know that they are by no means alone in their healthy decisions.

 

Where Narconon Vista Bay Stands

Narconon Vista Bay plays an active role in educating the community.  Often going into the schools and presenting tons of information to the youth, as well as attend and support many drug free community events.  By working with those addicted to drugs and alcohol, they are constantly learning new ways of preventing drug and alcohol abuse.

If for some reason, despite the efforts and education, you or someone you know becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, you must get help.  The Narcanon Vista Bay Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program has reported a 76% success rate.  This program is designed to get you off drugs, rid your body of drug residuals, and give you the skills necessary for living a life free from drugs and alcohol.

 

This post was written by Daniel Manson. Daniel is dedicated to helping those with addiction problems recover to live a fulfilling life.  A graduate of the Narconon cocaine treatment program Daniel has been sober for over 8 years.  Daniel writes for the Narconon Drug Treatment Network.

 

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10 Great Tips for Staying Sober

February 16, 2012 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Just stay sober. It’s easy for everybody to say, but it’s not that easy to do. If it were, then everybody would do it! If you or someone you know is trying to stay sober (or just get that way), then here are some tips that might help.

 

#1: Decide to do it (and really mean it).

Make the decision, and then write down all the good things that will come out of being sober. Next to each, write a reward that will come with it. Some examples:

–I’m going to be able to save money and get a new car.

–I’ll be on time for work every day; I can now work towards the promotion that I want.

–I will finally go back to painting, which will make me feel more peaceful.

#2: Do positive things for yourself – the more, the better.

Put some music on, light some candles and take a bubble bath (yes, guys can do it, too). Read that book you’ve wanted to read for a year and a half. Do something – anything – that will make you feel a little more special than you did yesterday.

#3: Get in touch with yourself spiritually.

This is something that is very important, and it’s not about religion! Connecting with yourself spiritually means finding out what makes you, you; what makes you unique. There are many ways to do this: yoga, meditating, going for a walk… Whatever it is that you have to do to get back to being you – find it, and do it.

#4: Redecorate your house.

A new place for a new you! Start with one room at a time, and go out and hit a thrift shop or a garage sale. You can get some great things at these types of places for very little money, and it’s amazing how much happiness you can find in the smallest of things.

#5: Establish new patterns for yourself.

Any positive change is good when you’re trying to stay sober. Buy some gourmet coffee (with the money you are saving by being sober), get up just a little earlier than normal and enjoy a great cup of coffee. Go to a park and have a picnic, join a league and go bowling, have a barbecue at your house and invite your sober friends and family. Do something positive that’s different.

#6: Surround yourself with people who care.

You always hear people say, “A great support system will help you, blah, blah, blah,” and you may feel like it’s just recovery garbage, but it is important to have people around you who support your decision and the progress you have made. Pick up the phone and call just one friend whom you really care about (a sober one), and try to reconnect. Having someone around to enjoy the new sober you is important.

#7: Don’t forget the music.

Seriously, music is the one thing that will always be there to make you feel good. Put it on while you’re getting ready for work. Crank it up while you’re doing the lousy dishes. Music will always make you feel better.

#8: Get outside!

Sometimes you may feel trapped inside the house, afraid to go outside (yes, even when you’re sober). Do it anyway. Run to the store, take a drive, go for a jog… anything to get yourself moving and out of the house.

#9: Clean the house!

Cleaning may be an evil, but a necessary one. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel when the kitchen is clean when you get up in the morning and how good it feels to know that you did it!

#10: Do something for someone else.

There are people out there who need you. Older people especially love company, or you can join Big Brothers, Big Sisters and be a mentor for a child. Look for ways to help people.

When you achieve sobriety, you become part of the world again, and you can make it as special and real as you want it to be. You will realize that you are worth it, and being sober is the one thing that will make you feel that way.

No matter how you choose to spend your days, all that matters is that at the end of each one, you can say, “I stayed sober. There is no other thing harder to do, and I did it!” Because you can. You are working on becoming better than you have ever been and ever could have imagined. That right there makes it all worth it.

 

This Post was written and contributed by Ricky Stanton.  Ricky has over 10 years of experience helping people with their drug and alcohol rehab programs.  He hopes to continue to help educate others about the dangers of drug and alcohol addictions.

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Flesh-Eating Cocaine Hitting the Streets of Major Cities

February 9, 2012 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

It used to be that if you snorted cocaine, you took the risk of rotting your septum. Now if you snort cocaine, you run the risk of rotting your skin.

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant of the central nervous system. Snorting, injecting and smoking cocaine are the main ways to for a person to use it. When sold on the street, it is common for dealers to “cut” their cocaine to stretch the supply and make more money. Cheap cocaine can sometimes be cut up to ninety percent. Called fillers, ingredients used for cutting cocaine include baking soda, Vitamin B12, cornstarch and talcum powder.

Recently, however, large supplies of cocaine are being cut with levamisole, a veterinary antibiotic that farmers normally use to deworm cattle, sheep and pigs. Drug cartels from South America are reportedly sending the cocaine overseas and into the U.S. already cut with levamisole, which is baffling officials.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) first reported seeing significant amounts of levamisole-tainted cocaine in 2005. A 2010 DEA report found that between October 2007 and October 2009, the percentage of seized cocaine bricks containing levamisole jumped from two percent to seventy percent. This trend has continued, and the DEA’s most recent estimate is that up to eighty-two percent of street cocaine is now cut with levamisole.

Studies in rats suggest that levamisole might stimulate the same brain receptors that cocaine does, which may explain why dealers would choose to use it as a filler; users get a more intense high for as cheap a price as if it had been cut with baking soda, making them more likely to come back for more. Why the foreign drug cartels ship cocaine already containing levamisole remains a mystery.

However, while it may be cheaper to get a better high, the user could end up paying a bigger price physically.

Los Angeles and New York recently reported outbreaks of a flesh-eating disease linked to cocaine use. Doctors discovered that the affected individuals had all used cocaine cut with levamisole. The disease follows a predictable progression: the day after exposure to levamisole, the flesh begins to rot due to an immune reaction that damages the blood vessels that supply blood to the skin. When that happens, the skin receives no oxygen, which causes it to change to a dark-purplish color and die. Necrosis—dying skin—usually occurs on the scalp, ears and face of users of the tainted cocaine. Not all users are at risk; some are more vulnerable to the levamisole-tainted cocaine than others.

“We don’t know who this is going to happen to,” said Dr. Lindy Fox, the University of California-San Francisco dermatologist who first connected the horrid skin lesions on cocaine abusers to levamisole.

The association between flesh-eating skin infections and levamisole-tainted cocaine was first identified in April 2008 from a cluster of 11 cases in New Mexico. In 2009, there were five patients in Minnesota admitted with confirmed levamisole-related infections, two of whom died. Since then, there have been numerous cases reported throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Over the past few months, cases of the flesh-eating infection have been cropping up around the country, suggesting a possible future epidemic. The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology recently described six cases where users developed ghastly splotches of dead skin after snorting or smoking cocaine laced with the drug levamisole, and more cases are reported every month.

“It’s probably quite a big problem, and we just don’t know yet how big a problem it really is,” said Dr. Noah Craft, a dermatologist with Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.

Cocaine users may experience yet another dangerous reaction when using cocaine cut with levamisole. In addition to rotting the flesh, levamisole prevents the bone marrow from producing disease-fighting white blood cells. This cripples their immune systems and leaves them open to infection.

“It’s a little bit like having HIV,” said Craft, adding that without medical intervention, the condition can be deadly. “About 10 percent of those patients will die from severe infections. They may be walking around like a time bomb.”

 

About The Author:

This Post was written and contributed by Ricky Stanton.  Ricky has over 10 years of experience helping people with their drug rehab programs.  He hopes to continue to help educate others about the dangers of drug and alcohol addictions.


Think Cocaine is Glamorous? Think Again…

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Cocaine carries with it a certain mystique. Glamorized in movies and once considered “the caviar of street drugs,” cocaine is experiencing a surge in popularity, especially among women. According to a report by the Association of Public Health Observatories, in 2003, 4.8 percent of women admitted to using cocaine. By 2009, that figure had grown to 6.7 percent.

There are several factors contributing to this disturbing trend, not the least of which is the perpetuation of popular myths regarding cocaine and its use. Below are some of the most common cocaine myths followed by the cold, hard truth.

Myth vs Fact

Myth: Cocaine is safe. Cocaine’s reputation as a party drug makes it a popular choice for the all-night crowd. A high from cocaine can make a user feel euphoric and energetic.
Fact: Cocaine is deadly. Cocaine causes blood vessels to constrict, which leads to increased heart rate and blood pressure as well as body temperature. Just one use can result in seizures, cardiac arrest and death.

Myth: You can use occasionally and not get addicted. Many people use cocaine because they think casual use will not result in addiction.
Fact: Cocaine is highly addictive both psychologically and physiologically. Addiction can occur after only a few uses.

Myth: Cocaine has no bad side effects. Feelings of supremacy and an extremely elevated mood lead a user to think there are no bad side effects when using cocaine.
Fact: Even while high, a user can have feelings of anxiety, paranoia and irritability.

Myth: Cocaine is an aphrodisiac. Cocaine is thought of as a sexual enhancer.
Fact: Cocaine actually impairs sexual function in both men and women.

Myth: Cocaine is pure. The perception is that cocaine is not cut with other drugs, making it a more pure option.
Fact: In 1984, cocaine’s purity was measured at 63 percent. This figure fell to 26 percent as of 2009. Some samples of cocaine tested that year were found to be as low as 9 percent pure. While cocaine itself is dangerous, cutting it with other drugs makes it even more so.

Difficulty Stopping

Cocaine is a particularly difficult drug to quit. One reason for this is that the drug acts directly on the pleasure centers of the brain, which at the time does feel very good. However, this results in an intense craving for cocaine. As a person uses cocaine more and more frequently, a tolerance for the drug develops. Higher doses of cocaine are needed to achieve the same desired effects. In this way, dependence and addiction quickly take over.

Disturbing Statistics

In both the US and the UK, statistics show that cocaine use is on the rise among both men and women. Consider:

•    The National Drug Treatment Monitoring System in the UK reported that in 2009, nearly 3,000 women sought treatment. That equals about eight women per day.
•    The UK’s Ministry of Justice reported a fivefold increase in the number of women found by police to be using or possessing cocaine since 2002.
•    According to WebMD, in the US, eight percent of men ages 18-25 have used cocaine in the last 12 months, while 14 percent of all adults have tried the drug.

Long Term Effects

Not only does cocaine affect the brain; it affects the entire body and all of its systems. Some of the effects on different areas of the body from using cocaine include:

•    Stroke. Constricted blood vessels in the brain cause strokes. Since cocaine also causes seizures, a person using cocaine can experience violent or erratic behavior.
•    Heart attack. Arteries supplying blood to the heart become restricted, which not only results in increased heart rate and blood pressure, but also in heart attack. Cocaine can cause the heart to beat with an abnormal rhythm, which is also potentially fatal.
•    Kidney failure. Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle fiber and the release of muscle fiber contents into the bloodstream. Cocaine can cause rhabdomyolysis, which leads to the kidneys suddenly shutting down.
•    Respiratory damage. Snorting cocaine causes scabbing and damage to the mucous membranes. Nasal perforation can eventually occur after prolonged use. Smoking crack can cause permanent damage to the lungs.
•    Gastrointestinal damage. Since cocaine restricts blood flow throughout the body, it affects the gastrointestinal region as well. The lack of oxygen-rich blood can result in stomach ulcers and, in some cases, perforation.
•    Sexual dysfunction. As mentioned above, cocaine has an adverse effect on the sexual function of both men and women. Again, this is because of reduced blood flow.

Glamorous?

Because some high-profile female celebrities use cocaine, many women view the drug as glamorous. Cocaine use is strongly linked to alcohol use, so many consider it socially acceptable. However, the truth about cocaine is that it will not only ruin your life — it could easily end it.

 

This guest post article was written and provided by Gregg Gustafson who is a freelance writer and consultant for Drug-Rehab.org. Gustafson works with individuals who suffer from drug abuse, in turn referring them to some of the most prestige drug rehab centers active today.


The Most Common Causes of Relapse

January 12, 2012 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Avoiding relapse is a common struggle for recovering alcoholics and  drug addicts. As a friend or family member of an addict in recovery, it can often be difficult to know how to best support your loved one’s recovery efforts. Being aware of the triggers and warning signs of potential relapse is an important step in helping a recovering addict avoid the temptations and situations most likely to derail a successful recovery.

Warning Signs

While it is never possible to know what is going on in someone else’s mind, there are several external warning signs that a recovering addict is in danger of relapse. These signs include:

•    Difficulties with thinking and memory.
•    Sleep disturbances.
•    Oversensitivity to stress and emotional overreaction.
•    Being easily overwhelmed and having difficulty problem solving.
•    Depression.
•    Denial — saying everything is fine when clearly it is not.

Additionally, there are several internal warning signs that may be harder to spot but are just as real:

•    Self-pity — feeling like nothing goes right and nothing ever will.
•    Feeling unhealthy and tired.
•    Blaming problems on others.
•    Cravings — yearning to drink or use drugs to feel “normal” again.
•    Thinking that just one drink or one hit will be fine and there is no longer an addiction.

Reasons

According to substance abuse counselor Carole Bennett, MA, there are four common motivating factors that drive addicts to relapse: boredom, fear, expectations and resentment. Of the many reasons addicts give for relapsing, most generally fall into one of these four categories.

Boredom

Boredom is both a state of mind and a comfort zone. It is easy to slip into a daze in front of the television or the computer or simply sleep the day away. However, this type of mindset can easily lead a recovering addict to drug or alcohol use to relieve the boredom. Signs of a bored mindset include sluggishness, a lackluster attitude and despair. Overindulgence in activities such as eating, shopping or gambling can also be signs of boredom.

What family members can do to help: Find a common interest or hobby to share. Sports or other active pursuits are especially good. Having a passion for something can go a long way toward curing boredom.

What addicts can do to help themselves: Have a schedule and a routine. Knowing where to go and what to do can provide a sense of structure and accountability.

Fear

There are many things a recovering addict may fear, including losing control, the unknown, old troubles from the past, taking chances, making decisions or facing life without drugs or alcohol.

What family members can do to help: Unfortunately, because fear comes from within, there is not much friends and family can do besides provide reassurance, support and encouragement.

What addicts can do to help themselves: Trust in life’s victories, both big and small. Take comfort in accomplishments and in the positive occurrences in each day. Let one positive experience build upon another.

Expectations

Once a recovering addict is clean and sober, there may be a sense of euphoria. A former addict may feel like taking on huge projects or have unrealistic expectations about life during recovery. If reality falls short of expectations, an addict may seek comfort through drugs or alcohol.

What family members can do to help: Manage your own expectations and be supportive.

What addicts can do to help themselves: Have realistic expectations about recovery and what you can accomplish during this period. Set realistic goals in order to avoid falling short of expectations and becoming frustrated.

Resentment

This is the number one cause of relapse. Old resentments from the past may still be simmering, or new resentments toward friends and family may develop. Either way, resentments that are left to stew are a sure path to relapse. Signs and symptoms of resentment can include intense self-pity and anger.

What family members can do to help: Be aware of the possible situation, let go of your own resentment and be supportive of therapy.

What addicts can do to help themselves: Have a strong support system in place, whether it is sponsorship and 12-Step meetings, counseling or religious or spiritual guidance. Do not place old resentments on new relationships, and try to avoid resenting yourself.

Avoiding Temptation

One of the best things a recovering addict – as well as friends and family members of recovering addicts – can do to avoid temptation is to be aware of the triggers that cause relapse. In addition to the factors listed above, there are several other common relapse triggers, including but not limited to:

•    Having drugs or alcohol readily available or being in situations where they are readily available.
•    Parties and celebrations.
•    Guilt.
•    Physical injury.
•    Impatience with recovery.

While relapses do happen, keeping these factors and advice in mind can be a great tool in avoiding temptation and continued relapse in the future.

This Post was written and contributed by Ricky Stanton.  Ricky has over 10 years of experience helping people with their drug and drug rehab programs.  He hopes to continue to help educate others about the dangers of drug and alcohol addictions.


When it comes to drunkenness, caffeine does not help

February 17, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

A strong cup of black coffee is not an antidote to alcohol intoxication. Neither are 2 cups. Or even three. Of a caffeine-rich energy drink for that matter.

Caffeine is known as a stimulant that can keep you awake and boost performance. The popular use of caffeinated energy drinks among young people during exams week attest to this.

However, the notion that caffeine is an effective antidote to the sedating effect of alcohol is completely wrong.

The appearance of caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CAB) in the market is causing concerns among health experts. Several manufacturers recalled their CAB products following FDA warnings last year but the practice of mixing caffeine with alcohol has not abated. It is as easy as simply mixing their own cocktail.

According to researcher Dr. Jonathan Howland of the Department of Community Health Sciences and Department of Emergency Medicine, Boston University:

“Although several manufacturers of caffeinated beer have withdrawn their products from the market, there is no sign that young people have decreased the practice of combining alcohol and energy drinks. Critically, CABs may increase alcohol-related risks in a number of different domains, but have been subject to very little systematic research.”

Risky behavior has been attributed to this dangerous mixture including intoxicated driving (either as driver or passenger), committing and being a victim of sexual assault and having an alcohol related injury or accident.

In order to clarify once and for all the belief that caffeine blunts the effect of alcohol, thus allowing one to drink and drive, the researchers tested 129 people ages 21 to 30 drink alcohol with or without caffeine. After 30 minutes, they were tested on a driving simulator. The results showed that all drinkers were not fit enough to drive – regardless whether they had taken caffeine or not. The take home message, according to Dr. Howland, is:

“If you’re intoxicated – whether you have caffeine or not – you shouldn’t be driving. Your performance really falls apart.”

Let us hope we can get the message across!


Love as painkiller?

February 14, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, BRAIN

Happy Valentines’ Day, everyone!

Love eases all pain. Sounds like a really cliché even on this day of hearts. But surprise, surprise. There is actually science behind this. No less than researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine who tell us – love can be a strong painkiller. Even as strong cocaine!

According to Dr. Sean Mackey, chief of the Division of Pain Management:

“When people are in this passionate, all-consuming phase of love, there are significant alterations in their mood that are impacting their experience of pain. We’re beginning to tease apart some of these reward systems in the brain and how they influence pain. These are very deep, old systems in our brain that involve dopamine — a primary neurotransmitter that influences mood, reward and motivation.”

The research was actually a collaboration between 2 scientists with seemingly contrasting fields of study. One specializes in pain, the other one.

The researchers had the perfect place for conducting their research. The university setting is full of undergraduates who are “in that first phase of intense love”. In other words, there was no shortage of willing and eligible volunteers. The prerequisite: the subject must be in the first 9 months of a romance.

“It was clearly the easiest study the pain center at Stanford has ever recruited for” said Dr. Mackey.”When you’re in love you want to tell everybody about it.”

The study entailed that each subject should take photos of their beloved person as well as photos of attractive acquaintances. The subjects were shown the photos while attached to a thermal stimulator that simulated mild pain. At the same time, an MRI took a photo of the brains of the subjects.

The results indicate that feelings of love when looking at photos of a loved one significantly reduces pain. The part of the brain in question was the “nucleus accumbens, a key reward addiction center for opioids, cocaine and other drugs of abuse. The region tells the brain that you really need to keep doing this.”

Which relates to another cliché – that love is like an addiction. Indeed, the areas of the brain activated by passionate love are the same areas targeted by analgesic drugs to reduce pain and feel good.

“When thinking about your beloved, there is intense activation in the reward area of the brain — the same area that lights up when you take cocaine, the same area that lights up when you win a lot of money.”


Is this your year to quit?

February 3, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, CANCER

So what if it’s already February. That doesn’t mean that I can’t start my New Year’s resolutions now. Or you for that matter. Especially when the resolution is for our health. Besides, the Lunar Year of the Rabbit is just starting.

If your NY’s resolution is to quit smoking, then you are looking at the right direction because quitting as soon as possible will drastically decrease your risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Here are some tips from the MD Anderson Cancer Center:

Set a date

“Picking a quit date, particularly at a time when you know your motivation is high and there will be less stress or distraction, is generally a good idea ,” according to Paul M. Cinciripini, director of MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program and professor in the Department of Behavioral Science.

Get help and support

Get all the help you can get! Free counseling is available at these “Quit Lines”:

  • Centers for Disease Control Office of Smoking and Health: 1-800-QUIT NOW
  • National Cancer Institute: 1-877-44U-QUIT

Swap habits

Identify the stimuli that trigger smoking, then replacing the smoking habit for less harmful one once the urge arises. As an example, stress is a common smoking trigger. Chewing gum or exercising that help against the stress without the smoke. But remember, do not replace one bad habit for another. “This is one of the areas where a behavioral counselor can really help,” according to Vance Rabius, another expert at MD Anderson’s Department of Behavioral Science.

Find some distraction

Find some distractions to get your mind off from smoking- a book, a video game, a stroll in the park. A friend of mine took up pottery and each time she got the urge, she went to her potter’s wheel. At the end of the year, she was smoke-free and had enough vases for Christmas presents.

Take it one day at a time

Concentrate on the short-term and just get through each day. One successful “quitter” shared her experience:

I told myself every day that I could smoke tomorrow if I wanted to, but today I wasn’t smoking. The idea that I just had to last through the day was really helpful.”

Reward yourself

Now, this is great tip. Treat yourself to something nice for every milestone, a play, a massage, a piece of jewelry, a weekend trip or even little things like going out for dinner or a film. The important thing is – pick a reward/activity that will not trigger the smoking urge.

Check out other quitting resources:


Parents are the key to prevent teen driving crashes

January 25, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, HEALTHCARE

I have twin seven-year old boys and though I look forward to the day when they leave the nest, I also dread the coming of puberty and the potential problems that come with it. Alcohol, drugs and smoking are just a few of the possible pitfalls that await them. As parents, we do our best to steer our kids clear of these dangers. Yet, risky and dangerous behaviours among teens are as common as ever.

But the situation is not as hopeless as it may seem. Studies that shown that teenagers generally would listen to what their parents have to say. Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling to all parents to talk to their adolescents about driving safety, with the firm belief that parents “play a key role in preventing teen crashes, injuries and deaths.”

Here some statistics from the CDC about teen crashes:

Here is a recommendation from Dr. Arlene Greenspan of the CDC:

Talk with your teen about the dangers of driving, and keep the conversation going over time. In addition, supervise your teen’s driving as often as possible.”

She suggests at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised practice driving over a minimum of six months and this should include different roads and road conditions and times of the day.

In addition, CDC recently launched the campaign “Parents Are the Key” with the following recommendations to help reduce the risk for teenage crashes:

I have one more tip to add: set a good example.

From the backseat, your kids are observing how you drive. By setting a good example and explaining to them the safety issues as they happen, I believe we can convey to our kids early on the principles of early driving. Here’s some of the conversation I have with my kids while driving:

“I can only drive 50 kph here. See that sign over there?”

“I have to drive slowly and carefully today. It’s foggy/snowy/raining and I can’t see as clearly.”

“See what that guy did? He turned without signaling. That’s very dangerous.”

And finally, do not drive while intoxicated! Show your kids the right and safe way.


Cigarette is out, marijuana is in

January 14, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Cigarette smoking is declining.  Isn’t that great?  After decades of campaigning against smoking, statistics show that smoking rates have shrunk in the U.S. in the last decades. The MTF (Monitoring the Future) 2010 survey released a similar finding at a National Press Club news conference in December:  there is a decrease in cigarette smoking among teens.  Not only that.  Binge  drinking has also decreased by 2% among senior high school students in the past year.  The bad news, however, is that more teens are smoking marijuana.  This is not all of it. More teens are into illicit drugs such as Ecstasy.

 The MTF survey was performed on 12th, 10th and 8th graders by researchers from the Univesity of Michigan in Ann Arbor.   More than 300 privat and public schools participated with more than 14000 students answering the questionnaires.   The results are summarized as follows:

 Marijuana use rates in 2010 among 12th, 10th and 8th graders were 6.1%, 3.3%, and 1.2%, respectively.  In 2009, these rates were 5.2 %, 2.8%, and 1.0 %, respectively.

 There is an increase in the use of Ecstasy, from 1.3 to 2.4 % among 8th graders and from 3.7 to 4.7% among 10th graders in the past year.

 The use of Vicodin, another illicit drug, among 12th graders has decreased from 9.7 to 8% this year but the use of other drugs such as Oxycodin, an opiate, remains high at 5%.  Teens obtain other illicit drugs through friends or family members or steal them.

 As MTF also monitored teens’ attitudes on drugs and alcohol, the survey also showed that there has been a decrease in teens’ perception on the harmfulness of marijuana smoking; down from 59.5% in 2009 to 57.2 % in 2010 among 10th graders and from 52.4% to 46.8% among 12th graders.  No wonder the proportional increase in marijuana’s abuse.

 The rising use of marijuana and other drugs is, of course, disappointing.  These have known negative effects on the brains and the learning process.  Success of teens’ performance in school has also been reported.  Research has also shown that these can be addictive.  It’s perhaps time to seriously reflect whether legalization of drugs or marijuana was a good thing, the authors noted.


Secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing

January 10, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Children exposed to secondhand smoke face a higher risk than adults. The variety of illnesses they might just get includes respiratory infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome. Keeping them far from smokers or living in a non-smoking apartment is not enough to keep children free from the dangers of secondhand smoke.  You have to live in an entirely smoke-free building in order to rid your children of these dangers.

A new study from the University of Rochester Medical Center, Mass General Hospital for Children and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Julius B. Richmond Center for Excellence published this January in Pediatrics the first “significant evidence of increased tobacco smoke exposure in the blood of children who live in multi-unit housing.”

The study analyzed a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey from 2001 to 2006 comprising of more than 5,000 children aged 6 to 18 to find out whether there was a relationship between smoke exposure and housing type.  The researchers used cotinine levels in the blood as indicator of tobacco exposure and tested for several cotinine cutoffs.  They found that 73% of all children were exposed in secondhand tobacco smoke and that in all cotinine cutoff levels, children living in apartments had higher rates of exposure.  Putting other factors such as poverty and age under control, children living in apartments still had a 45% increase in cotinine compared with those living in detached houses. The authors noted that although tobacco exposure may have come from smoking family members who carry in tobacco residue on their clothes after smoking outside, this may not be enough to explain all of the observed differences. Instead they concluded that this is a result of tobacco smoke seepage through walls or shared ventilation systems. There have been independent studies that showed contamination of non-smoking units in multi-unit housing systems through seepage. 

This shows how powerless parents are in protecting their children from secondhand smoke.  On the other hand, it is perhaps time to campaign for smoke-free policy buildings.  Aside from promoting a healthy lifestyle, the advantages of such buildings for landlords include “lower fire risk and insurance costs (and) lower clean up costs between tenants”.  For conscientious smokers, it’s time to rethink every time you light your cigarette in your own home. Your smoke probably creeps into your neighbor’s bedroom where a little child sleeps.

 Note: This post was written by Joyce, a colleague covering for me during my stay in NZ. Thanks, Joyce!


Underage binge drinking at New Year

January 5, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

New Year’s Eve has always been known to be drinking occasion that cost lots of lives and health care expenditures due to traffic accidents. What is less known is that many of these cases involve underage drinking. According to recent statistics, ER visits due to drunken driving by the underaged is 263% higher at New Year than on an average day – the worst day of the year, in fact. But isn’t this a sad way of starting the New  Year?

Dr. Pete Delany of the US department of Health and Human Services is urging parents to carefully watch their teens during the holidays as well set a good example.

“They need to be paying attention to what’s going on. They need to know where their kids are going, if there’s going to be alcohol served, and give good role models for making sure that the kids see what it’s like to be safe on the holiday.’’

Binge drinking is a serious public health problem; 42 % of adolescents engage in binge drinking.  Its disadvantages for the drinkers are immense which may include poor performance in college or school or other acute and chronic diseases later in life.  In the worst case, binge drinking may lead to alcohol poisoning and even death.  Non-drinkers are also disadvantaged when caught in resulting accidents, crime and violence. 

Binge drinking takes place in college campuses especially in parties.  In fact even adolescents at 18 already engage in binge drinking.  This led people like the Amethyst Initiative to toy with the idea of lowering the legal age of drinking, currently 21, to perhaps lower underage college binge drinking.  This is on the assumption that if it’s legal to drink at 18, people will start drinking moderately like social drinkers do. (Like you won’t do what isn’t forbidden). A new study that will be published in the  Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, however, says otherwise.

The study did a survey and through a mathematical model evaluated the role of the „misperception“ effect.  ‘„Misperception“ is the idea that underage students widely perceive “normal” drinking levels to be higher than they actually are and that students would adjust their own habits if they were surrounded by social drinkers rather than binge-drinking party-goers’.  This „misperception“, according to the study, seems to be very important.   Researchers found out firstly, that lowering legal drinking may lower underage drinking in campuses surrounded by bars and where identifications are not strictly checked (and therefore heavy binge drinking takes place) if „misperception“ among adolescents is present.  Otherwise, binge drinking may increase in such campuses.  Secondly, in so-called “dry“campuses, that is, where there is stricter underage drinking law enforcement, „misperception“ has to be even stronger among adolescents.  In fact for the newly concepted law to be effective, misperception level has to be extremely large in the presence of higher levels of underage drinking law enforcement, according to the head researcher. 

It looks like lowering drinking legal age won’t really solve the problem of underage binge drinking. Data supporting misperception levels on adolescents are also necessary to have any basis for such a law.

In the meantime, parents should be vigilant about their children, now only those which are in college. Because alcohol use and binge drinking can start as early as middle school!


Alcohol on New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, HEART AND STROKE

Sorry, I don’t want to be such a spoilsports and dampen your holiday spirit. But studies have shown that a lot of accidents happens at certain time of the year, especially around the 4th of July in the US and during the holiday season. Here are the reasons why

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is all part of the New Year’s celebrations. And we all know that drinking and driving do not mix. According to Dr. Thomas J. Esposito, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill., as interviewed by the New York Times:

“Any degree of alcohol increases the chances your judgment or coordination can be impaired, whether on New Year’s Eve or any other day. Alcohol is associated with 50 percent of the injuries we see in the emergency rooms.”

However, it is not only the drivers who should pay attention to their blood alcohol levels. The NYT report continues to point out that pedestrians should take care as well. In fact, a study have shown that

“January 1 (New Year’s Day) has more pedestrian crash deaths on average, plus it has the fifth largest number of deaths per day overall, also due to alcohol impairment.”

The NYT report gives the following safety advice to inebriated pedestrians on New Year’s Day:

  • Stay and drink in one place. Avoid moving from one place to another.
  • Call a cab or get a ride with a “sober” driver.
  • Walk with a “sober” buddy.
  • Walk in a large group.
  • Wear lightly colored clothes to make you visible to drivers. Reflectors are especially useful.

Weather

If you are celebrating in the northern hemisphere, you know how the weather is at this time of the year. Even a sober driver can have problems with icy streets and snowstorms. For pedestrians, icy streets are fall hazards. Combined with alcohol, it can be fatal.

Now, if you are celebrating in the tropics or in the southern hemisphere, you have to deal with other climate hazards. In Australia, barbecue parties are very popular during the holidays but the risk of bush fires is rather high at this time of the year.

In addition, alcohol and heat can be a fatal combination that lead to drowning, heatstroke, as well medical conditions such as cardiovascular events.

Food

We eat more than we are supposed to at this time of the year. It is only expected that some adverse effects can come with it.

We’ve tackled this topic many times on this site so I don’t want to say much more. Too much fat, too much calories, and too much sugar can wreak havoc with our body. However, aside from these usual culprits, foodborne outbreaks caused by such nasty bugs like Salmonella and Campylobacter have been reported during celebrations with severe and sometimes fatal consequences.

In addition, a high incidence of food allergies also needs to be reckoned with at this time of the year.

Fireworks

In many countries, fireworks are part of the New Year’s celebrations. However, fireworks can be very dangerous if not handled correctly. Injuries due to fireworks are widely reported the world over, with the highest in the age group 5 to 14 years of age in India. Injuries were serious, even fatal. In the US,  a study released in 2006 reported the following:

“An estimated 85800 pediatric fireworks-related injuries were treated in US emergency departments during the 14-year study period. Injured children had a mean age of 10.8 years, and 77.9% were male. Fireworks users accounted for 49.5% of the injuries, whereas 22.2% of the injuries were to bystanders; however, user status could not be determined in 28.3% of cases. The overall fireworks-related injury rate decreased significantly during the study period, but subgroup analysis did not indicate consistent declines among all ages and types of fireworks. Injuries were most commonly caused by firecrackers (29.6%), sparklers/novelty devices (20.5%), and aerial devices (17.6%). The most commonly injured body sites were the eyeball (20.8%), face (20.0%), and hands (19.8%), and the most common injury type was burns (60.3%). Approximately 91.6% of all children with fireworks-related injuries were treated and released from hospital emergency departments, 5.3% were admitted, and 2.3% were transferred to another institution. Bystanders accounted for 13.3% of admitted cases and 20.6% of transferred cases.”


Great tasting, zero alcohol, low calories: holiday cocktail recipes

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

Hey, wanna try some real cool cocktails this New Year without the day-after complaints and the lifetime risks? Well, that’s what we are bringing you with this post today – recipes for great tasting cocktails without the alcohol and the calories. Yuck! Mocktails, you might say. Well, let say, just give it a try. I sure did and loved it. What’s more, every can drink them – the kids, the pregnant, the alcoholics, the drivers. Perfect for family-friendly holiday gatherings where you can really drink to everyone’s health.

Here are some recipes, courtesy of the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the American Institute for Cancer Research:

Holiday Citrus Punch

The orange juice and cranberry juice in this recipe offer a healthy dose of cancer-fighting antioxidants like vitamin C. You’ll get the most vitamin C if you use freshly- squeezed orange juice, but refrigerated or frozen concentrate will also do the body good.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups 100% cranberry juice
  • 4 cups sparkling water or club soda
  • 1 orange, sliced horizontally into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 lime, sliced horizontally into 1/4-inch slices

Directions

In large punch bowl, combine juices and sparkling water or soda. Float orange and lime slices on top and serve.

Yield: 20 servings

Serving size: 1/2 cup

Each serving provides:

  • Calories: 33
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Dietary fiber: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 1 milligram

Sparkling Grape Party Punch

This recipe packs a hefty antioxidant punch. The grapes and grape juice provide a powerful dose of resveratrol — the same cancer-preventing antioxidant in red wine — with none of alcohol’s drawbacks. And, the orange juice and lemon juice in this recipe gives you a generous amount of vitamin C.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (46 oz.) 100% grape juice
  • 1 bottle (25 oz.) sparkling apple-grape juice
  • 4 to 6 cups sparkling spring water
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups 100% orange juice
  • 2 to 4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 thin lemon slices
  • 4 thin orange slices
  • 2 cups frozen grapes

Directions

Make sure all beverages are cold. Pour grape juice, sparkling apple grape juice, sparkling spring water, orange juice and lemon juice into large punch bowl. Add ice, if desired.  Top with lemon slices, orange slices and grapes.

Yield: 16 servings

Serving size: 1/2 cup

Each serving provides:

  • Calories:91
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Dietary fiber: Less than 1 gram
  • Sodium: 10 milligrams

Your guide to drinking alcohol during the holidays

December 14, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

`Tis the season to be jolly… and tipsy? Well, the holiday season is full of parties. And parties are full of alcohol.

Research studies have reported conflicting findings on the benefits and hazards of alcohol. On the one hand, low to moderate alcohol, especially red wine, is said to have cardiovascular benefits. On the other hand, even just a little sip of alcohol may increase ones’ risk for breast cancer.

So what should it be this holiday season? Complete abstinence or unlimited imbibement?

Well, in this post we give you some resources on how to drink to your health this season:

The MD Anderson Cancer Center gives the follow tips in their Guide to Drinking Alcohol:

Stick to the recommended serving size.

There may be varying opinions about the health effects of alcohol but there is one thing that every expert agrees upon: heavy drinking is to be avoided and binge drinking can kill you. So sticking to the recommended size makes sure you had enough. “The National Cancer Institute recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two drinks per day.”

Select low-calorie options.

Alcoholic drinks are literally swimming in calories. And when it comes to calorie content, cocktails and eggnogs are the champs.

Stay away from 100-proof liquor and spirits

Now, not all drinks are created equal when it comes to alcohol content. Spirits and liquors are especially strong on alcohol. So take it easy on that vodka.

Aside from the alcohol, however, liquors, especially dark ones, contain other compounds that may be toxic and cause severe hang over, according to researchers at Brown University. Thus, bourbon will probably give you worse hang over symptoms than vodka. Take note though that vodka is far from harmless. According to Brown researcher Damaris Rohsenow

“People did feel sicker the morning after bourbon than after vodka, but they still feel plenty sick after drinking all that vodka.”

Stay away from the sweet drinks.

This one’s from me. I had the bad experience once of imbibing too much white martini. It was quite sweet and quite palatable to the tongue unlike other liquors. The morning after was something I would never forget.

Sweet drinks make you forget they are still alcohol. The Spanish Sangria is another sweet and cheap drink. So are the so-called “alcopops”, a kind of alcoholic soda. Beware of these sweet temptations.

Non-alcoholic drinks are probably best.

Okay, you knew this is coming, right? But it is great to know that in every party and restaurant, there are non-alcoholic alternatives that look like the real ones. I love mocktails – non-alcohol cocktails – and alcohol-free beer. In the coming posts, I will bring you some links to recipes of the best non-alcoholic cocktails.


Warning messages on US cigarette pack: your input is needed

November 23, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

I haven’t held a pack of cigarettes in 20 years so I was shocked lately when I saw what’s in the packaging. It was not only the warnings in words but also pictures of cancer-ridden lungs that were shown. For many people, however, these pictures are not shocking enough.

Apparently this type of packaging is not true for all countries although the US seems to be going towards this direction.

According to the Lung Action Network of the American Lung Association (ALA):

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its plan to require all cigarette packages to have stronger warnings, and—for the first time ever—picture messages that would cover the top half of the front and back of the cigarette packs. That’s 50 percent of the pack!

Under the new proposal, the FDA will also require that all cigarette advertisements have warnings covering 20 percent of the ad. We at the American Lung Association think this is a great idea.

The FDA has proposed several warnings and is asking the public to help out in making the right choice. Together with graphics, here are some of the messages that the FDA is proposing:

The ALA is actively campaigning to the public to help the FDA pick the strongest and most effective warning messages. One of these is displayed in this post.

You can send the FDA an email and say what you think and which one, in your opinion, should be used in future cigarette packaging. The packaging should not only discourage young people to start smoking but also encourage smokers to quit or seek assistance for quitting. The ALA, for example, is also proposing the nationwide hotline for smokers who want to quit, “1-800-QUIT-NOW” to be displayed prominently on the pack.

The campaign is now ongoing and goes on till January 11, 2011. Take Action Now!

Photo credit: US FDA


The dark side of energy drinks, Part I: alcohol abuse

November 23, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

What is college life without energy drinks? Ask any college student and he or she will tell you.

Energy drinks are pretty “in” among young people nowadays. Increased energy and enhanced performance are just among the desirable of these drinks. However, there is a dark side to energy drinks that we might not know about.

Recent research shows links between energy drink use and undesirable and dangerous behavior. In this series, we explore the dark side of energy drinks.

Energy drinks are handy in staying up late to cram for the following morning’s exam. What is becoming increasingly common is mixing energy drinks and alcoholic drinks, with the misconception that caffeine counteracts the effect of alcohol and there avoid drunkenness. The result is a strong brew of caffeine and alcohol in the bloodstream. A recent study indicates that those who habitually consume energy drinks are at a higher risk of developing alcohol dependence and going on binge drinking.

The study looked at more than 1000 college students and data on consumption of energy drinks and alcohol of the past 12 months were collected. The findings indicate that those who consumed energy drinks at a high frequency (compared to both non- and low-frequency energy drink users) were more likely to

  • get drunk at an earlier age
  • consume more alcoholic drinks per drinking session
  • develop alcohol dependence

Kathleen Miller, research scientist from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo, warns against the common belief that

  • mixing alcohol and caffeine reduces drunkenness
  • mixing alcohol and caffeine  prevents hangovers
  • alcohol plus caffeine fools a breathalyzer test

“Caffeine does not antagonize or cancel out the impairment associated with drunkenness—it merely disguises the more obvious markers of that impairment.”

Energy drinks, popularly known in the brand names Red Bull, Monster, Rocks Star contain high amounts of caffeine – 3 to 10 times contained in a can of coke. In addition, they also contain other rather questionable ingredients. Last year, German authorities found traces of cocaine in Red Bull Cola, a product declared as 100% natural.

A big problem is the fact that energy drinks are largely unregulated, even in the US. According to study lead author Dr. Amelia M. Arria, Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health:

The fact that there is no regulation on the amount of caffeine in energy drinks or no requirements related to the labeling of contents or possible health risks is concerning.”

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.