Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Alcohol is a Drug

Roughly one out of 12 adults suffer from alcohol dependence and just about 10 people die every hour from alcohol-related causes. There are something like 17.5 million adult alcoholics worldwide.  By learning about why some people become alcoholics, what causes addiction and why people become addicted, this number can be made smaller.  Firstly, an alcoholic is someone who suffers from alcoholism.  Alcoholism is the addiction and loss of control regarding alcohol consumption.

Alcohol is classified as a drug, but why is it addictive?  It actually has to do with the chemical reactions in the brain that alcohol causes.  The release of gamma aminobutyric acid, otherwise known as GABA, causes a calming feeling that is often associated with difficulty walking, talking and remembering things.  As a response to the release of GABA, the body creates glutamate, an excitatory transmitter, to counter balance it. This cycle causes built-up alcohol tolerance, whereupon once regular drinkers then start to consume more alcohol for the calming effect they are seeking.

Additionally, alcohol causes the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.  Over time alcohol abuse degrades dopamine transmitters and receptors, causing a decrease in the dopamine released.  One may drink more to try to get the same effects as before the alcohol abuse began.  Some people are more susceptible to alcoholism, after all not everybody that tastes alcohol becomes addicted to it, but there are some potential risk factors that make addiction more likely.

Although alcohol causes the release of endorphins, hormones that elevate mood, it has been shown that heavy drinkers generally release more endorphins than lighter drinkers, causing some scientists to believe that people who naturally release more endorphins may find more pleasure in drinking and become addicted to it.  There is also evidence to prove that damage to the lateral habenula, a part of the brain that processes negative events and disappointment, can cause someone to keep drinking alcohol despite bad hangovers or negative events that arise out of drinking.  Psychiatric disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, increase the likelihood of addiction, as many as 20 percent of people living with depression are also alcoholics

It has long been debated whether or not genetic factors play a role in addiction, but environmental factors are also likely to foster addiction.  If it is common to drink in a household, then it is more likely that people in the household will become dependant on alcohol.  A high-stress career field can make one vulnerable to alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism. Age has to do with the likelihood of addiction as well. Those in their early to mid-20s are the most likely to abuse alcohol while those who drink as adolescents, specifically those under 15 years old, are significantly more likely to develop alcoholism.

While certain factors can cause alcohol addiction, it is important to look at why people drink in the first place. One significant reason is the sensation alcohol can cause in the brain and body. Some begin to drink out of curiosity to see what it is like, while others find themselves giving in to peer pressure.  People drink seeking a feeling of freedom or for self-exploration, and this may be linked to underage drinking during puberty. Some start to drink as a form of stress relief.  There are some personality traits associated with drinkers and possible alcoholics such as aggression, anxiety, rebelliousness, and hyperactivity.

Most of all, compared to other drugs, alcohol is accessible and has been normalized through media and culture.  While drinking may represent a form of escape, there are certainly better ways to cope with situations or have fun that do not potentially cause a lifetime of addiction and damage.  Remaining aware to the fact that alcohol is indeed a drug which can be abused and lead to dependance or addiction is a step to living a higher quality, more healthy lifestyle.

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How Not To Raise A Narcissist

Malibu Narcissist

One type of toxic people that you might want to avoid are narcissists. It’s estimated that up to 8% of the US population has narcissistic personality disorder (narcissism), which is more common in men and has its roots in childhood. Narcissists are annoying enemies for human kind. They have a personality disorder that makes other people feel bad and desperate. Believe it or not, all people actually have the opportunity to develop this trait. Moreover, with the constant and frequent use of social media to show personal branding, narcissistic qualities are being reinforced. However, the roots of narcissists lie in several aspects. Parents should understand these aspects in order to help prevent children from living within their own illusions.

Children and teenagers can be naturally selfish. They are still trying to understand themselves and they want freedom to do many things. Parents should not grant such freedoms, especially when they know or perceive their children cannot be trusted yet. Sometimes, the children understand that it is for their betterment, and they will dothings accordingly. However, there are some cases where the children start acting selfishly and without empathy. This is where you need to be concerned. There are some indicators as to whether your children will start to develop narcissism. One of them is when appear to enjoy threatening, devaluing, and scapegoating others. They also may want to win every battle with any possible means. Persistent lying is also an indicator that children may be attempting to evade personal responsibility.

Narcissistic behavior can be redirected at an early stage especially if it has not developed to an advanced level. In order to do that, you need to teach children how to see something from different perspectives. People with narcissistic traits cannot differentiate between the real world and illusion. That is why they need to know how to see the world from various perspectives. You can also help teens and young adults learn to recognize narcissists so they can avoid toxic harm from these individuals when they encounter them.

A necessary foundation for this is the ability to think critically about what someone says or does, a skill which starts to develop during adolescence. Critical thinking skills help us tell lies from truths and determine when someone is manipulating to take advantage of us. Parents and mentors can help teach these empowering life-skills that protect against deception by con artists, abusive bosses, pathological liars, friends and partners. You can infuse in your child life-long protective gifts of healthy self-esteem and critical thinking skills while squelching entitlement and narcissistic traits. If necessary, there is no shame in seeking help to get it done as seeking knowledge and help is a sign of strength and not of weakness.

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What Does Being ‘Codependent’ Actually Mean?

Malibu Codependent

So what does it really mean to be codependent?  If you ask a dozen different therapists you’re liable to get a dozen different answers, which is why codependency is so difficult to understand.  Codependents have been given a bad rap. They are often described as emotional manipulators and controlling, but the truth is codependents are some of the nicest people around. They care about others and strive to help whenever and wherever they can, the problem for codependents as you will see, is that they go overboard in their focus on caring for others. Codependents are usually good people but often stressed out by their relationships.

Codependency is a strategy developed by children usually under duress for obtaining love or approval from troubled caretakers or peers. This strategy however is composed of mistaken beliefs and rules that guide codependents in their attempts to get their needs met in relationships. Since this strategy is based on erroneous rules about how healthy relationships are created, codependents are sadly doomed to failure in their quest for satisfying relationships, which is why they often feel depressed, anxious, and stressed out. Codependency is a strategy for getting needs met in relationships, but it’s a flawed strategy because the rules by which codependents approach relationships are unrealistic.

If you visit websites about codependency you will see long lists of supposed codependent behaviors which makes it seem like everyone is a codependent. To break things down more simply, there are basically just a few beliefs most true codepentents harbor within themselves. The first is something to the effect of, ‘I must never ask for what I want because my needs and feelings are bad, wrong, a burden to others, or even dangerous. I must pretend to have no needs or feelings and instead focus on the needs and feelings others.’ Another codependent belief could be, ‘I must never say ‘no’. To do so would be selfish and mean and then no one would like me or love me.’ Yet another might be, ‘I can make a relationship work all by myself. I can fix other people and I can make them happy.’ If these beliefs sound familiar don’t panic.

Codependents are good people with a bad set of operating rules. In order to become a recovering codependent, you must change the operating system, you must change the rules by which you approach relationships. Some beliefs that foster healthy relationships that you can strive to live by could include the belief that all healthy relationships are negotiations. Thus, I must be able to identify what my needs are and then be willing to ask others to meet them, and I expect others to do the same. My feelings and needs do matter and so do the needs and feelings of others, which is why we negotiate.

An individual must be able to say ‘no’ to behaviors that are unacceptable to them and expect others to do the same. It’s important to know that one cannot make a relationship work all by oneself because it takes two people to create a healthy relationship. You cannot fix another. You can only fix yourself. You cannot make another happy. You can only make yourself happy. So if you look at these codependent beliefs you will notice that codependents are filled with distorted and unrealistic thinking. Since they avoid asking for what they want or saying ‘no’ they expect others to read their minds as to what they need, want, like, or don’t like.

In addition, codependents believe they have the ability to make relationships work all by themselves. They think they can control things they can’t control, like other people, while ignoring what they can control or advocating for their own needs in a relationship. They also feel responsible for others as if they are the only adult around and thus feel obligated to attend to others needs and problems. No wonder codependents are so stressed out. They put the world on their shoulders and think they can carry it forever, and are thus guilt-ridden because they tell themselves they have no needs of their own.

If a codependent ever thinks of doing something for themselves, their mistaken beliefs tell them that they’re a bad person for thinking that way. Being a codependent is simply no fun. They are guilt-ridden because they believe their needs and feelings are selfish. They are stressed out by feeling responsible for everyone around them. They are anxious because they can never say ‘no’ and thus feel like they have no control in their lives. They are depressed because they feel like failures when they can’t fix everyone else’s problems. They are resentful because no one is reading their minds to see what they need. “What about me?” they think, suffering in silence. The good news is that recovery from codependency is possible.

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Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral Addictions

Behavioral addictions occur when someone becomes addicted to a rewarding behavior that does not involve an addictive substance per se, such as gambling, sex, shopping or eating.  Sometimes referred to as compulsive behaviors, behavioral addictions involve compulsion to perform an action despite negative consequences.  In this way people can suffer from dependence on certain actions, they are reliant upon and/or controlled by these behaviors as their primary way of dealing with life.

The difference between behavioral and substance addiction is that behaviors affect the brain indirectly, while substances physically change neurotransmitters.  As part of our ability to survive, we naturally experience pleasure from sex and eating.  Drugs such as heroin provide a shortcut to the brain’s reward system by flooding it with dopamine, which is what makes them extremely addictive.

Addiction is a disease that is present in the brain’s reward system before an individual ever begins using drugs or repeatedly engaging in an addictive behavior. Just as most people can drink alcohol without becoming addicted, most of us engage in gambling, sex, and eating without ever developing an addiction to these behaviors. However, these behavioral addictions are more common than the public currently believes.

Some of the most common behavioral addictions are socially acceptable, and can even include necessary behaviors such as sex and eating.  This contributes to a lack of awareness that a problem is developing while negative consequences keep piling up. Gambling is the most researched and talked about of process addictions.  Consequences faced by compulsive gamblers are severe, such as financial and relationship difficulties which can frequently lead to death by suicide.  Rates of suicide by compulsive gamblers is higher than that of alcohol or drug addicts.

Sexual compulsivity has also recently received the attention of researchers and practitioners.  Addiction may occur when people become preoccupied with sex and act on sexual compulsions without concern for the negative consequences. Eating disorders can be behavioral addictions in which someone becomes addicted to the act of eating and the feelings they get from eating certain foods.  A food addiction is emotionally, physically and socially detrimental as it can cause extreme guilt, health problems, and interfere with relationships.

While most of us use the internet daily, there is a certain point in which the process is considered addiction.  When internet use is more important than real life relationships or activities, or causes problems in a person’s ability to function in daily life, they are likely suffering from internet addiction.  Compulsive spending is a form of behavioral addiction that is serious and results in similar feelings of guilt and shame, loss of control, and financial, social, and emotional consequences as other addictions.

The preceeding examples are only some of the most common and researched behavioral addictions, but behavior addictions can occur when someone loses control over any process to the point where it causes problems in daily life. Compulsive behaviors lack the physical attributes that often alert people to problems with drug and alcohol abuse, such as visible intoxication, which makes them fly under the radar more easily.  However, despite their relative invisibility, behavioral addictions can lead to serious problems in a person’s life and well-being.

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Your Brain On Drugs

your brain on drugs

Addісtіоn іѕ a nеurоlоgісаl dіѕоrdеr that affects the reward ѕуѕtеm in the brаіn. In a hеаlthу реrѕоn, the reward system rеіnfоrсеѕ important bеhаvіоrѕ that аrе essential fоr ѕurvіvаl ѕuсh аѕ еаtіng, drіnkіng, ѕеx, аnd ѕосіаl іntеrасtіоn. Fоr еxаmрlе, the rеwаrd ѕуѕtеm ensures thаt уоu rеасh fоr food whеn уоu are hungry, because уоu knоw thаt after eating you wіll fееl gооd. In оthеr words, іt mаkеѕ thе асtіvіtу оf eating рlеаѕurаblе аnd memorable, so уоu would wаnt tо dо іt аgаіn and again whеnеvеr уоu feel hungry. Drugs оf аbuѕе hіjасk this ѕуѕtеm, turning thе реrѕоn’ѕ natural needs into drug nееdѕ.

Thе brain consists оf billions of nеurоnѕ, оr nеrvе cells, whісh communicate vіа chemical messages, or neurotransmitters. When a neuron is ѕuffісіеntlу ѕtіmulаtеd, аn electrical impulse саllеd an action роtеntіаl іѕ gеnеrаtеd аnd travels dоwn thе аxоn to thе nеrvе tеrmіnаl. Hеrе, іt trіggеrѕ the release of a neurotransmitter into the synaptic сlеft – a ѕрасе bеtwееn nеurоnѕ. The nеurоtrаnѕmіttеr then binds tо a rесерtоr оn a nеіghbоrіng neuron, gеnеrаtіng а signal іn it, thеrеbу trаnѕmіttіng the іnfоrmаtіоn to thаt neuron.

Thе mаjоr reward раthwауѕ іnvоlvе trаnѕmіѕѕіоn of the nеurоtrаnѕmіttеr dораmіnе from thе vеntrаl tеgmеntаl аrеа – thе VTA – оf the mіd-brаіn tо thе lіmbіс ѕуѕtеm and thе frоntаlсоrtеx. Engаgіng in еnjоуаblе activities gеnеrаtеѕ асtіоn potentials іn dораmіnе-рrоduсіng neurons of the VTA. This саuѕеѕ dораmіnе rеlеаѕе from thе nеurоnѕ into the ѕуnарtіс ѕрасе. Dораmіnе thеn bіndѕ to and ѕtіmulаtеѕ dopamine-receptor оn thе rесеіvіng neuron. Thіѕ ѕtіmulаtіоn bу dopamine іѕ bеlіеvеd tо produce thе pleasurable feelings or rewarding effect. Dopamine mоlесulеѕ аrе thеn rеmоvеd frоm thе synaptic ѕрасе аnd trаnѕроrtеd bасk іn tо thе trаnѕmіttіng nеurоn bу a ѕресіаl рrоtеіn саllеd dораmіnе-trаnѕроrtеr.

Mоѕt drugs of аbuѕе іnсrеаѕе the lеvеl оf dораmіnе іn thе reward раthwау. Sоmе drugѕ ѕuсh as аlсоhоl, hеrоіn, аnd nісоtіnе іndіrесtlу еxсіtе thе dораmіnе-рrоduсіng neurons in the VTA ѕо thаt thеу generate mоrе асtіоn роtеntіаlѕ. Cосаіnе acts аt the nerve tеrmіnаl. It binds to dораmіnе-trаnѕроrtеr and blосkѕ thе rе-uрtаkе оf dораmіnе. Methamphetamine – a psychostimulant – асtѕ similarly tо сосаіnе іn blocking dopamine rеmоvаl. In аddіtіоn, іt саn еntеr thе neuron, іntо the dораmіnе-соntаіnіng vеѕісlеѕ whеrе іt trіggеrѕ dораmіnе rеlеаѕе еvеn in thе аbѕеnсе оf action роtеntіаlѕ. Dіffеrеnt drugs асt different wауs but the common оutсоmе is thаt dораmіnе builds-up in the ѕуnарѕе tо a much greater amount thаn nоrmаl. Thіѕ causes a соntіnuоuѕ stimulation, maybe over-stimulation оf receiving nеurоnѕ and іѕ rеѕроnѕіblе fоr рrоlоngеd and іntеnѕе еuрhоrіа experienced by drug users.

Repeated еxроѕurе tо dораmіnе ѕurgеѕ саuѕеd bу drugs eventually de-sensitizes the rеwаrd ѕуѕtеm. Thе ѕуѕtеm іѕ no longer responsive tо еvеrуdау ѕtіmulі; the оnlу thіng that іѕ rewarding іѕ thе drug. Thаt іѕ how drugѕ сhаngе thе реrѕоn’ѕ lіfе рrіоrіtу. Aftеr some time, еvеn thе drug loses іtѕ аbіlіtу to rеwаrd аnd hіghеr dоѕеѕ аrе rеԛuіrеd to асhіеvе thе rеwаrdіng effect. Thіѕ ultіmаtеlу leads tо drug overdose.

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What Constitutes A Relapse?


Relapse occurs when a once abstinent individual ingests a substance in order to get high, experience euphoria or blot out feelings and consciousness, whatever the reason. So, when it come to relapse, intent is everything. Some difference of opinion however, exists between different 12-step groups as to the precise meaning of a relapse. Two common definitions seem to exist, one held by AA, the other a commonly-held belief of people in the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous.

The organization Alcoholics Anonymous does not require any particular viewpoint. When we talk about the AA view we’re talking about a way of thinking commonly held by members of AA, not any rules or laws established by AA. In AA, only the physical consumption of alcohol counts as a relapse, commonly called a slip. When a person with any amount of AA sober time chooses to drink alcohol, they are said to have slipped or relapsed.

Narcotics Anonymous members have expressed a belief that a relapse can take place without picking up, that is, without taking a drink or a drug. The concept of a spiritual relapse is alive and well in NA. For instance, if an NA member suddenly stops attending meetings, stops calling friends from the program, or avoids their spiritual life and new ways of behaving, they can be said to have relapsed. This is in part because of tradition, in part because drug addicts tend to see their drug use are more immediately life-threatening.

However it is that you personally define a slip, it’s easy to see both sides of the controversy. Surely, taking a drink or a drug is a relapse, or slipping back into old behaviors. For many in recovery from substance abuse, displaying old behaviors or avoiding new coping mechanisms like regular 12-step meetings is an early warning sign of an eventual slip.

Despite whether you see relapse as the literal use of drugs or alcohol or conform to the popular NA belief in spiritual relapse, the problem most likely lies in the poor formation of a recovery program. Relapsed individuals should take the incident as a sign of a need for change in the way they’ve approached the process of abstaining from intoxicants and use it as inspiration for a return to recovery meetings and literature.

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