Monday, August 4, 2014

White House Drug Reform Policy

Re-treating the War On Drugs? A New National Drug Control Strategy 

The United States "war on drugs" has produced some impressive numbers. For instance, America has the highest population of prisoners than any other nation in the world, nearly half of which are incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses. Unfortunately, though, our "war" has done little to curb the influx and use of illegal drugs in the more than 40 years of enforcement-centric drug policies.

 In July 2014, the Obama Administration released a new national drug control strategy. This approach, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, is geared toward evidence-based public health and safety initiatives. The plan also rejects what it refers to as "the false choice between an enforcement-centric "war on drugs" and drug legalization."

Reform Drug Policy

One seismic attitude shift is the administration's belief that science has proven addiction is a disease of the brain and not a moral failing. This is a giant leap from previous policies, and proponents of the president's plan feel that this alone will have a great affect in reducing the stigma associated with treatment for drug and alcohol dependency.

President Obama's plan for reforming drug policy and attacking this public health issue is centered around the following 4 initiatives: 

  1. Prevent drug abuse before it ever begins through education 
  2. Expand access to treatment for Americans struggling with addiction 
  3. Reform our criminal justice system to break the cycle of drug abuse, crime and incarceration while protecting public safety 
  4. Support Americans in recovery by lifting the stigma associated with those suffering or in recovery from substance abuse disorders 

Specifically, this new strategy will address the national epidemic of opioid abuse by, among other things, having the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fast-track an auto-injector for opioid overdose reversal. It will also release an opioid overdose toolkit created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Along with public education programs for prevention, the administration's affordable care act makes it illegal for insurance companies to refuse treatment to people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. The "smart on crime" section of the plan intends to reform federal mandatory minimum sentencing policies regarding drug offenses, and to offer alternatives, such as treatment overseen by drug courts.

The Obama administration is keen to point out that 43 percent of the nation's drug budget is spent on treatment and prevention. The amount of spending in these efforts has grown every year, and is currently at its highest level in 12 years.

Critics of this new plan, however, are countering with the fact that of the $25.6 billion requested for the drug war in 2013, $15 billion would still go to law enforcement. Some estimates put the total of a four-decade long "war on drugs" at $1 trillion out of the American taxpayers pockets.

Despite the argument that the new national drug control policies don't go far enough, there's no denying that a more rational and science based approach to drug and alcohol addiction is making its way into the hallowed halls of government. This is an incredibly positive step in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Science Behind Drunk Driving

We all know the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes we stretch the limits just a bit because some wrongs don't seem like they're all that wrong. We probably shouldn't have that extra cookie after dinner but it won't really hurt us that much. Or not coming to a "complete stop" at a stop sign when it's midnight and there's no other traffic around.  Even driving 60 mph on the highway in a 55 mph zone is technically wrong but we probably won't get a ticket for doing it. Besides, everyone else is going even faster.

Other things though, are definitely wrong, and we know they're wrong while we're doing them. Drunk driving is one of those wrongs that plenty of people do, and most of the time nobody gets hurt, and they get away with it. But the margin for error is so small, and the consequences of getting a ticket or hurting somebody make it something that needs to be addressed by everyone. Permanently.

Over the years, the national DUI limit has dropped down to .08 percent Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for every state in America. That's not very much for most people, and it only suggests the agreed upon level for being legally drunk. Impairment starts at half that point when the BAC is at .04%.

The infographic below titled, "The Scientific Effects of Drunk Driving," was created by Total DUI and contains some enlightening information about drinking and driving. You can see a larger version here.

As you can see from the image, while most people might think they're perfectly fine to drive after one or two drinks, many factors determine how alcohol affects the brain, including age, health, and how much and how long the person has been drinking before driving.

As mentioned before, impairment occurs before a person is legally drunk, and even minor impairment causes a person to have poor reflexes and coordination, as well as muscle control and driving skills. Is it really that necessary to drive when vision and brain function are impaired? It isn't when other lives are at stake.

Many people are actually quite responsible when it comes to drinking and driving. Even so, it only takes one time to slip for a catastrophe to happen. Nobody that is ever responsible for a DUI accident intends for it to happen, and every one of them would take it back if they could. But there's simply no way take back something that has already happened.

Prevention is the best policy and we need a nationwide revolution to take place where everyone who drives, agrees that driving while intoxicated is the one thing that none of us will ever do. Some of us may be tired of hearing this message, but others still haven't heard it. And until that day comes where everyone stops driving drunk, we hope to see more infographics like this one published and shared everywhere.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Gender Differences of Depression for Men and Women

It's certainly a wild exaggeration that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but the point that men and women are different holds true in a variety of ways. Sports and shopping quickly come to mind for most of us, and the way each is connected to babies on a physical and emotional level couldn't be farther apart. The list goes on but are there differences in mental disorders for things like depression?

As it turns out, there are a lot of research studies that show men and women have quite a few gender differences when it comes to depression. Several studies in the 80s and 90s have shown that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.

The differences between the sexes relating to depression also show that there are specific reasons for the variations as well as the way in which each gender deals with depression. For example, many women experience post-partum depression related to hormones, among other things, while only about 1 in 10 new fathers suffer from post-partum depression.

The suicide rate for men is four times that of women, representing one of the largest differences as illustrated in the infographic below.

However, the biggest gender differences related to depression are the ways in which men and women deal with the problem. Women more often than men feel sad, helpless, sleep more and eat more.

Men on the other hand, are more aggressive in dealing with depression, and tend to become angry, turn to drugs and alcohol, and actually sleep less. For some people, it's difficult to tell if depression leads to drug or alcohol abuse, or if the substance abuse leads to depression. Either way, the two go hand in hand, and the numbers are much higher for men than for women.

Both men and women sometimes attempt suicide, but women usually fail while men are more successful.

The inforgraphic below from About Depression Facts breaks it all down into easy to read sections to get the full scoop.

Learning about depression and some of these differences may help people understand they should seek help if they're having trouble, before they experience more serious problems.

Because depression is treatable with medication, counseling, and/or psychotherapy, there's no reason for anybody to suffer through it alone or without help.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

7 Factors That Contribute to the Risk of Addiction

It's no surprise to anyone that we might be at risk of developing cancer, diabetes or heart disease at some point in our lifetime. And most of us are well aware of the risk factors that can tip the scales in getting any of these diseases, such as an unhealthy lifestyle, lack of exercise, smoking, and eating too much of the wrong kinds of food. But most of us often overlook our vulnerability to drug or alcohol addiction, and many don't even know what factors might contribute to addiction.

Certainly there are many factors that can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction, but the following seven factors are at the top of the list for increasing the chances of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Genetic Makeup

Genes can play a part in whether or not a person is susceptible to addiction. Researchers from the Universidad de Granada, Spain noted that alcoholics are 6 times as likely to have a relative that's an alcoholic than people without the same lineage. Because of this, it's important to be mindful of how genetics can increase the predisposition to developing an addiction.

Psychiatric and Psychological

Adolescents and adults with mental disorders also have a greater probability for addiction. Some of the mental health issues that can put a person at risk include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), depression, anxiety and bipolar conditions. It’s important to note, that impulsivity and thrill seeking are two psychological factors that have been reported to have a much higher risk for drug use.


We know that female adolescents struggle with addictions more than males of the same age, but as they get older, men have more problems with addiction than women. Also, according to the CDC, 17% of men and 8% of women struggle with alcoholism, although the percentages for women have been increasing slightly in the past 30 years.

Home and Family Dysfunction

The likelihood of children using drugs and developing addictions increases significantly when they have family members abusing drugs and alcohol or engaging in criminal activity. These kinds of environments usually have a lack of close family attachments, as well poor parental supervision that contributes to addictive tendencies.

Strong Peer Pressure

It's most often friends and acquaintances that pressure and encourage a young person to experiment with drugs or alcohol for the first time. Depending on additional risk factors that the teen may have working against them, this experimentation can often quickly develop into addiction. No matter the upbringing, human nature dictates the stages of need that we all cycle through. Young children go through three stages of closeness with their parents: hold me tight, put me down, and leave me alone. During the teen years, these stages begin again with peer groups and depending on the group values, may include drug and alcohol use as a means of acceptance.

Early Use

Because a teen’s brain is still in the developmental stages, drugs and alcohol quickly affect the chemical balance causing the brain to become hard-wired for addiction much quicker than would happen with an adult. Because early use can be an indicator of continued use, the teenage years are often problematic if other risk factors are at play.

Type of Use

It's easier to become addicted to a drug much quicker if it is smoked or injected into the veins because it reaches the brain so quickly and with such powerful intensity. Scientists feel that since the "rush" fades quickly and takes the drug user to low or normal levels sooner, they are driven to continue using the drug repeatedly in an attempt to achieve the same high. This is why people can become addicted to heroin or crack cocaine in a very short amount of time.

Importance of Personal Assessment

Addiction is almost always preventable but determining the cause of addiction is complicated at best. The seven risk factors for addiction listed here are by no means the only ones, yet they are certainly the most predominant. By understanding and identifying the risks, many people can reduce their vulnerability and prevent addiction from happening before it ever has a chance to do it’s destruction.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Treating Alcohol Addiction with Nutrition

Alcohol addiction can be treated effectively with non-judgmental and compassionate treatment in an alcohol treatment center. Getting through detox and withdrawal is quite challenging however there are many ways to treat these symptoms. Ongoing treatment and support are critical to maintain abstinence and deal with relapse urges.

People who consume large amounts of alcohol typically have nutritional and vitamin deficiencies that need to be addressed immediately when entering a treatment program. Nutrition and vitamins can address some of the issues that take place when abstaining from alcohol by replacing much needed deficiencies and helping to curb those urges and keep them under control. 
Scientific and evidence based addiction treatments now typically implement nutritional guidelines into their programs.
addiction nutrition

Depression and Anxiety

People with alcohol addiction who are in the throes of addiction or in recovery have low levels of serotonin in the brain, which can cause depression, anxiety and low energy. Antidepressant drugs are available to address these but there are also certain foods that help to produce serotonin in the body.

Consuming foods like nuts, salmon or tuna, chicken or turkey, low fat milk, yogurt, brown rice, legumes, soy products and fresh fruit can help to increase a sense of well-being and reduce many symptoms of depression.


Alcohol cravings occur because of physiological responses including the discomfort of withdrawal. One symptom of withdrawal is the craving for sugar. A way to reduce sugar cravings is to avoid simple sugars such as candy, baked goods and chips. Complex carbohydrates should be an important part of the diet as these are energy foods that are converted into glucose in the blood and they provide much needed vitamins and minerals.

The vitamin B family is important to increase serotonin production and is known to be deficient in people who are in recovery. These vitamins should be taken on a daily basis while in recovery and some treatment centers may recommend a B12 shot.

Deficiency of Vitamins

Alcohol in your body can damage the stomach and intestines resulting in a low absorption of important nutrients into the bloodstream. Besides the B vitamins already mentioned, here are some other critical nutrients that should be replenished when in recovery:

Vitamin A - Regulates the immune system, promotes bone growth and vision. Good food sources of Vitamin A include liver, sweet potatoes, carrots and dark leafy greens.

Vitamin D - Strengthens bones, boosts the immune system, and is important for certain skin conditions. Vitamin D can be found naturally in sunlight or in milk, egg yolk, trout, salmon, and fortified orange juice.

Vitamin E - Helps to prevent development of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Natural food sources for Vitamin E are wheat germ, spinach, avocado, tomato sauce, eggs, almonds, and sunflower seeds.

High consumption of alcohol can have debilitating and even deadly effects on the body and considerable health problems can occur if alcohol is consumed over a long period of time. There is good news though - the human body is remarkable at repairing itself once alcohol is removed and replaced with healthy food choices.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Killing the ANTs: Automatic Negative Thoughts

No one likes to go on a picnic with a basket full of ants contaminating the food, but those of us who are afflicted with addictions have a brain teeming with ANTs of a different variety - contaminating our thoughts. We often refer to these automatic negative thoughts as “stinking thinking” but whatever you want to call them; they can fuel your addiction, make your life miserable, and keep you locked into your unhealthy ways for a very long time.

Thoughts are powerful. And, ANTs cause chemicals to be released in your brain that make you feel bad and reinforce the idea in your mind that there is no hope ... bad things happen and there is nothing you can do about it. Focusing on the terrible things that have happened and fearing what might happen is just the kind of stinking thinking that can lead you right into relapse.  

Invasion of an Army of ANTs

Automatic Negative Thoughts
To avoid risking your sobriety, you need to recognize the most dangerous, combative ANTs. Do you consistently focus on the negative aspects of situations and totally ignore the positive? Do you over generalize by saying things like “I’ll never be able to stay sober?” These kinds of statements instil in your mind that you have no control and aren’t able to make changes. And if you are someone who looks at everything as black and white or good or bad with nothing in between…this just isn’t reality.

Another unsafe ANT is having a feeling about something and assuming your feeling is always correct. You need to realize that feelings can lie, and thinking “I feel like a total screw up” will just sabotage your recovery. As will judging and labeling yourself or other people by thinking “He’s a jerk,” and “I’m a loser.”

Do you attempt to predict the future?  For example, when the thought that you will never stay sober is imbedded in your mind, you won’t work as hard to stay in recovery.  This ANT is the “self-fulfilling prophesy” at its worst.

And probably the most harmful ANTs are blame and denial.  When you blame others for your troubles, you become a victim and convince yourself that you can’t change your situation since it is really someone else’s fault.  

Counter Attack with ANT Traps

The good news is... when you stop believing your own addictive thinking and start focusing on hopeful, positive thoughts; chemicals in your brain are released that make you feel good.  And, the feel good thoughts can help keep you away from drugs and alcohol and prevent a relapse. This is backed by scientific evidence ... so don’t go thinking, “no way, this won’t work for me.”

Here’s what you need to do if you want to trap and kill these wretched ANTs.

  1. First you need to catch them in the act.
  2. Then, by writing the negative thought down on paper, you will take it out of your head and rob it of its power.
  3. And, every time you challenge an ANT by turning it into a positive thought, you are gaining control over your thinking and replacing a negative pattern with a positive one that can lead you to a sober and happy life.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dealing with Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

alcohol withdrawal
Dealing with withdrawal symptoms is one of the biggest challenges faced by people who are trying to quit drinking alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal syndrome, a potentially life threatening condition, is a major hindrance faced by alcohol addicts. Not everyone who quits drinking experiences alcohol withdrawal syndrome. However, a vast majority of people who have been consuming alcohol regularly over a prolonged period of time experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The severity of symptoms depends on the degree to which a person is addicted to alcohol. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are caused by over activity of the autonomic nervous system that is responsible for managing the body’s reaction to stress.

What is alcohol withdrawal?

When regular drinkers quit drinking or reduce the amount of alcohol they consume, they experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. If experienced in extreme, it may become a life threatening condition. It also makes it difficult for people to overcome alcohol addiction and leads to relapse.

Major alcohol withdrawal symptoms

  • irritability
  • shakiness
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • headache
  • tremor of the hands
  • rapid heart rate 

These are some of the mild symptoms experienced by people addicted to alcohol. Some of the severe symptoms experienced by people include hallucinations, confusion, high fever and agitation. A person may become restless and depressed. This can greatly hamper his ability to carry out his day-to-day functions.

Alcohol Withdrawal Treatment

Seeking medical intervention is the best way to handle alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The services offered by alcohol detox centers may prove to be immensely useful in this regard. Equipped with the best medical expertise and knowledge, a reliable alcohol detox center can make it easier for a person to dealing with withdrawal symptoms to overcome alcohol addiction. Moreover, the encouragement and support provided by a qualified professional may prove to be the deciding factor when it comes to helping a person overcome alcohol addiction successfully.

If you’re a heavy drinker and wish to overcome your alcohol addiction, availing the services offered by an alcohol detox center will prove to be very useful. In the recent years, many reliable alcohol detox centers have emerged that have made it easier for people to get rid of alcohol addiction. For more information about alcohol withdrawal click here.