Alcohol: Worse for Women

All people are created equal, except when it comes to alcohol tolerance. Women become intoxicated quicker than men and are at greater risk of disease and injury due to alcohol consumption. Women coping with alcoholism report greater problems with both physical and social functioning, more bodily pain, and poorer physical and mental health than men, according to data Grazier and co-author Kathleen Bucholz at Washington University analyzed in a three-year, $2 million study funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. A recent study published in the journal Addiction cited two main reasons for this. The first is an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase that works at processing alcohol once it’s in your stomach. Because women don’t have as much of this enzyme as men, more alcohol is allowed to pass into their bloodstream. The second factor centers on the amount of water in the body, which works to dilute the alcohol once it enters. In most cases, women are smaller with bodies more fatty tissue, which doesn’t have as much water as muscle. Since men’s bodies tend to be more muscular than women’s, men’s bodies also tend to have more water to dilute alcohol. Even more alarming, is that even if a man and women weigh the same, they get intoxicated at different rates.

Scientists have suspected for some time that men might be more resilient to booze than women. The German research gives visible evidence of this. The University of Heidelberg team published their findings in Alcoholism. CT pictures of the brains of more than 150 volunteers revealed how women come to more harm and quicker than men when they drink heavily. Women who were heavy drinkers lost the same amount of brain volume as the drinking men, but over a much shorter period of alcohol dependence. Lead author Professor Karl Mann said although men generally drink more alcohol, women probably develop alcohol dependence and adverse consequences more readily.

The following are some of the areas in which women experience more effects than men who drink alcohol at the same rate as women:

Liver Damage — Compared with men, women develop alcohol-induced liver disease over a shorter period of time and after consuming less alcohol. Women are also more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis and to die from cirrhosis.

Brain Damage — Women may be more vulnerable than men to alcohol-induced brain damage. Using MRI, researchers found that a brain region involved in coordinating multiple brain functions was significantly smaller among alcoholic women compared with both nonalcoholic women and alcoholic men.

Heart Disease — Among heavier drinkers, research shows similar rates of alcohol-associated heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy) for both men and women, despite women’s 60 percent lower lifetime alcohol use.

Breast Cancer — Many studies report that moderate to heavy alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer, although one recent study found no increased breast cancer risk associated with consumption of up to one drink per day, the maximum drinking level reported by most women.

Traffic Crashes — Although women are less likely than men to drive after drinking and to be involved in fatal alcohol-related crashes, women have a higher relative risk of driver fatality than men at similar blood alcohol concentrations. Laboratory studies of the effects of alcohol on responding to visual cues and other tasks suggest that there may be gender differences in how alcohol affects the performance of driving tasks.

Drug-Free Childhood: 5 Signs of Possible Trouble

“I see a scared, scared woman,” said Lindsay Lohan’s father, Michael, in an interview with CNN’s Larry King, referring to how he felt watching the troubled movie star being handcuffed and taken away to jail on Tuesday. Lohan, who on July 6th was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail for missing alcohol counseling sessions in violation of her probation, will also be required to sign up for an additional 90 days in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program within 24 hours of completing her jail term. The attorney for Michael Lohan says the father had been publicly reaching out to Lindsay for months, trying to get her to go to rehab, but they couldn’t get her to listen. Lohan’s acting career took off when she played the part of identical twins in the 1998 Disney remake of the “The Parent Trap.” She has been in more than a dozen movies since then. However, Lohan’s life took a turn for the worse in 2007.

She was arrested twice, once on charges of driving under the influence, and again for cocaine possession. In a news release at the time, Lohan said it was clear that her life had become “completely unmanageable” because, “I am addicted to alcohol and drugs. “How does one go from the cute little girl in “The Parent Trap” to being trapped in a cycle of drug and alcohol abuse? The parents of children who have been through it say the warning signs can sometimes be unclear.

“I don’t think most parents go running down the path that you have an emerging addict on your hands anytime they try something,” says Jan Ligon, a member of the National Association of Social Workers. He became a specialist in crisis services to relay lessons he learned taking care of his own son, Jon, who suffered with alcohol and drug addiction. Even though Ligon knew Jon had tried marijuana and alcohol with friends, he thought it was simple experimentations. But when his son began to lose inexplicable amounts of weight and his grades began to tumble, Ligon started snooping around his bedroom. “I found scales from his school science lab, indicating that he was weighing something,” he recalls. “I said, ‘OK, this is not a good thing.’ ” It can be a real challenge separating youthful curiosity from a potential drug or alcohol problem, and experts warn against overreacting to every little detail.

Sean Clarkin, executive vice president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, recommends sitting down and having a conversation with your child as an initial step. “Say, ‘Look, I’m concerned about you, and I want to know what’s going on,’ ” he suggests. The likelihood is that they will respond with “nothing,” but Clarkin says at least this opens the door of communication. “You don’t know what to look for, unless you know to look for something,” says Dr. John Dombrowski, a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. The ASA recently issued tips and guidelines to help parents recognize the signs of robo-tripping, the abuse of over-the counter medications.

Here are 5 Signs that may indicate your child has a problem:

1. Your child has a sudden change in appearance, friends and activities.

“Teenagers try on different identities all the time,” notes Clarkin. He says to be on the lookout for patterns of change and not to freak out over one specific behavior.

For example, if your child suddenly decides to dress in grunge instead of his typical polo shirt, that is not an infallible sign of a problem. “But if over several months you see them hanging out with a bunch of different friends, getting really contentious AND dressing differently — the totality should say to the parent that something is wrong,” he explains.

2. You are unfamiliar with the language your child speaks (texts).

Do you recognize these terms: Dex, skittling, tussing, robo-tripping and triple Cs?

If this text message — G2G. P911. And I’m :#) — popped up on your child’s cell phone, would you know how to translate it? If your answer to either question is no, maybe it’s time to take a crash course in teenage lingo. Experts say familiarizing yourself with your child’s vocabulary can help you be more proactive in communicating and getting involved at the front-end of a problem. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers this , and the Office of National Drug Control Policy offers this list of street terms to help you recognize the names used to identify popular medications and controlled substances. “Parents. The Anti-Drug” is the name of a group that offers to help you decode internet lingo. The attorney general in Idaho has compiled this to help adults decipher the various terms used in chat rooms, text messages and on blogs. By the way, “G2G. P911. And I’m :#)” roughly translates to “Got to go. Parent alert. And I’m wasted.”

3. Bottles disappear from the medicine cabinet faster than they should.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 3.1 million people ages 12 to 25 have used nonprescription cough and cold medicines to get high at least once, and that medications containing dextromethorphan (DXM), an ingredient found in many cough syrups, accounted for more than 12,000 emergency department visits in 2004. Dombrowski, who specializes in pain medicine in Washington, D.C., has treated numerous young patients in intensive care for “robo-tripping,” the term many use to describe taking too much DXM. He says parents often don’t consider the cough and cold medications to be a problem.

“The tendency is to think it must be safe because these drugs are common around the house and don’t require a prescription,” he said. “It gives you a false sense of security.” Many parents are familiar with Robitussin because of robo-tripping. But the National Institutes of Health has this list of other products containing DXM. This interactive points out the potential danger zones in your home and community where young people often gain access to over-the-counter medications. Experts also suggest the website DXMstories, where adults who have abused DXM in their teenage years warn young people never to try it.

4. Another family member has an addiction problem.

An estimated 7.3 million children younger than 18 live with a parent who abuses alcohol, and 2.1 million children younger than 18 live with a parent with a drug problem, finds the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. That’s a situation that can put the children at increased risk of developing addictions. If you or someone you know has a drug or alcohol problem, please seek help, Unity Recovery Center in South Florida has someone waiting to hear from you and help you or your loved one.

Laurie Kramer, a professor of applied family studies and the founding director of the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois, researches sibling and peer relationships and says not to underestimate how brothers and sisters act as “agents of socialization” in both encouraging and preventing risky behaviors. “Parents are going to be more direct and intentional in what they want children to do, learn and experience,” Kramer said. For example, they are more likely to say, “Here’s what you do, and here’s what you don’t do.” She says it’s never going to be that straightforward with a sibling. She says even when you don’t realize it, siblings are vigilantly watching and learning based on what the other is doing, and they use this information to form judgments. They may decide not to follow in the path of a sibling who is behaving inappropriately, but the proximity means the risk is there.

“If the situation has gotten serious, it’s not out of the question to separate the children or set some limits on how and when they can interact,” she advises.

5. Your gut says something is wrong.

Ligon says he and his wife had a feeling something was happening with their son, but because they never saw him drinking or doing drugs, they thought the fears were unwarranted. They didn’t want to lose his trust. “You really struggle as a parent because you want to be nosy, but not too nosy,” says Ligon. “Kids are magnificent at hiding things, and the moment they sense something is going on, they get even better at it,” he says. If you need help talking to your child about addiction, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America has this free intervention eBook; refer to page 5 for tips on how to have the tough conversation. Clarkin says parents often think “my kid wouldn’t do that,” or they worry that approaching a child too soon without direct proof would do more harm than good. He says drug use that starts off as something experimental can quickly become a problem of dependence, so it is important to get involved as soon as possible. “It’s better your child is a little upset that you approach them and everything turns out to be fine, than to ignore your instinct and be terribly wrong,” he says. Despite years of treatment, Ligon’s son continued his addiction, and at 35, he died after taking an IV containing heroin and cocaine. “Knowing what we know now, we would have sought professional help the moment we knew Jon smoked a joint at age 11,” he says. He advises parents to get it checked out and that scheduling the precautionary appointment is no different than going to the doctor for that spot on your arm or that headache that won’t go away.

“I would have done that sooner, even if it didn’t matter in the end.”

Rice, S. (2010). Want to keep your child drug-free? Here are five signs of possible trouble. CNN Health, Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/07/22/child.drug.free/index.html?iref=allsearch

Rehabilitation Discrimination

Rehabilitation Discrimination

As we move farther away from the “good ole days” of racism and discrimination and closer to a free and open society, we would expect to see less and less discrimination; unfortunately, this is not the case. A new study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reveals that only 777 of 13,688 (6 percent) substance abuse treatment facilities surveyed across the nation offer special programs for gay and lesbian clients. The numbers are absolutely staggering. Additionally, it is more likely for a privately run treatment facility to offer special gay and lesbian programs rather than a federally funded government facility.

“People in substance abuse treatment come from diverse backgrounds and benefit from programs designed to meet their particular needs,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “The treatment community needs to work with all segments of our society to ensure that Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people, as well as, members of other underserved groups are afforded more opportunities for this kind of specialized care.”

As with many other groups, the gay community has had an increase in drug abuse in the past few years. Studies indicate that, when compared with the mainstream (heterosexual) population, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) people are more likely to use drugs, have higher rates of substance abuse, and are more likely to continue drug abuse into later life. Gay men, for example, are significantly more likely to have used marijuana, stimulants, sedatives, cocaine, and party drugs (ecstasy, ketamine, and GHB) than men in the general population. The use of crystal methamphetamine in gay and bisexual men has increased dramatically in recent years.

Finally, the war on drugs is not a war on plants and chemicals, but a war on real people and real communities. The LGBT community is not isolated from this war. Many lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people use or have used illegal drugs. Some have a friend or relative in prison on a non-violent drug charge. Many know someone who has a problem with addiction. Some have seen how their friends suffering from AIDS finally found an appetite by smoking marijuana.

Recovery and Relapse

Recovery from addiction means more than simply not using drugs or alcohol.  Abstinence is the first priority in recovery. The long-term goal in recovery is for life long abstinence.  With abstinence comes the opportunity to set and achieve new goals; such a having a spiritual life, a relationship with a higher power and serenity. 

Addiction is a disease and as such there are other components which must be prepared for and dealt with from time to time.  Most people cringe and feel sick to their stomachs when they hear the word relapse or that someone they know and love has relapsed.  Part of this reaction is because many people believe relapse is the end-of-the-world. The only thing that is the end-of- the-world is the end-of- the-world!  

“A relapse may be the jarring experience that brings about a more rigorous application of the program…..There may be times when a relapse lays the groundwork for complete freedom” (Source: Narcotics Anonymous

Relapse does not have to lead to active addiction.  Complete and continuous abstinence, close association and identification with others in NA groups, is still believed to be the best ground for growth.  There is no such thing as a complete success or a complete failure.

Florida Drug Rehab can help you or your loved one with on-going issues regarding relapse and addiction.

It’s A Race Against Time – A Losing Race

As the alcoholic progressively loses control over her drinking, she is no longer able to restrict it to socially and culturally accepted times and places. She often drinks more than intended, and the drinking continues despite extremely punishing consequences. Her drinking can no longer be disguised as normal or even be considered as heavy drinking. Her inability to stop drinking despite her firm resolution that she will stop after one or two – is striking confirmation that she is physically addicted to alcohol.

The alcoholic loses control over her drinking because her tolerance decreases and the withdrawal symptoms increase. The alcoholic’s tolerance, which was so high in the early stages of the disease, begins to decrease because her cells have been damaged and can no longer tolerate large amounts of alcohol. While tolerance is lessening, the withdrawal symptoms are increasing in severity. The alcoholic is now in the dangerous position of needing to drink because she suffers terribly when she stops drinking but being unable to handle the high levels of alcohol needed to relieve the symptoms. She has also lost the ability to judge accurately how much alcohol her body can handle. As a result, she often overmedicates herself with alcohol, drinking to the point where she either loses consciousness or becomes so violently ill that she is forced to drinking.

Loss of control does not happen all of a sudden, nor is it always characterized by the alcoholic’s drinking everything in sight. Loss of control occurs gradually and is sometimes evident in the early stages of the disease when the alcoholic occasionally overdrinks her tolerance. As alcoholism progresses, the episodes of uncontrolled drinking become more frequent and severe. Soon enough, more alcohol must be drunk to compete with the rate at which alcohol is being eliminated. It is a race against time – a losing race. At some point, alcohol is no longer capable of neutralizing the increasing anguish, tremors, and nausea, and the alcoholic is forced to stop drinking because she passes out or becomes acutely ill. The alcoholic who drinks to this extreme has clearly experienced loss of control.

Why Drugs?

Why do people get involved in drugs in the first place? What makes drug and alcohol abuse so attractive to some people? Why do some kids develop problems and others don’t?

The Attraction of Substance Abuse

What’s the motivation for initial use of drugs and alcohol? In the simplest of terms, the reason is straightforward and easily understood. People use drugs and alcohol to feel good. Plain and simple.

Drugs operate via the pathways of the brain and affect what is known as the reward center. Billions of nerve cells in the brain chemically and electronically communicate and define experiences as pleasurable or rewarding. The more pleasurable something is, the more we want to repeat it. Sex and food are naturally rewarding, and so we like to repeat them. It is similar with drugs and alcohol.

Everyone likes to feel good, including adolescents. As part of their natural development into adulthood, they engage in a variety of new activities and behaviors. They explore the world around them. Today, the opportunities present themselves to children at younger and younger ages. This is often when the real problems of alcoholism and drug addiction  may begin…

Trying drugs and alcohol is often a way for them to feel good or better. It can be a self-medicating or a thrill-seeking behavior. Teenagers are drawn to mood-altering substances out of curiosity.

Like it or not, some experimentation with drugs and alcohol is virtually inevitable. The good news is that while many adolescents will try drugs and alcohol, most will not develop serious problems with them.

What can increase the risk of an adolescent developing a drug or alcohol problem?

  • early age of first use
  • feeling unloved by family, ineffective parenting
  • chaotic home environment
  • poor social coping skills
  • affiliation with deviant peers
  • past or current drug or alcohol problems within the family
  • past or current family emotional or physical abuse or neglect
  • past or current sexual abuse

This brief list simply highlights , in a very general way, factors known to increase risk. There are more. And this is the beginning…if you or someone you love needs help with alcohol or drug addiction please contact the addiction professionals at www.unityrehab.com.