Articles on alcohol abuse

Nip It in the Bud, Things You Should Know About Substance Abuse!

Ms. Michelle Manasseh, Psychologist
I was motivated to write this article on substance abuse among college students, after my recent interaction with a distant cousin (in college) who has been in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse for the past 4 months. It was personally heart wrenching to see this young boy, go through intense mental health treatment (including, Electro-convulsive therapy) that his family wanted, with the goal of wanting him to recover and realize, the path he chose was life threatening, scary and dangerous. His experience got me questioning, if one needs to be pushed to extremities of treatment and punishments to realize, that one’s body and life is precious? If so, why, and is there a way to help before it is too late?Substance abuse in the past few years has become a growing problem in India and especially among adolescents. College students have begun to have easier access to drugs and adding to that, the high stress as a student appears to be the perfect recipe for alcohol and drug use. An article on dnaindia.com stated that there are 30% of students who are addicted to drugs in Bangalore as of July, 2012. Prior to that, in an article on rediff.com, dated August 2007, stated that, 23% of students were on drugs in Bangalore. This is a staggering increase of 7% in a matter of 5 years. Is it the responsibility of our government to better monitor and stop peddlers and illicit drug trafficking or is it the responsibility of the parents to have a better relationship with their children therefore, reducing drug and alcohol use? We can play the bystander and keep handing over our responsibilities to someone else but, we need to realize, that it is OUR problem and we all need to do our bit. The cause of the drug and alcohol abuse varies from peer pressure, familial problems, relationship problems and genetically being predisposed, to easy access to drugs. There is no doubt that the government can and should continue to be strict and more vigilant but, we need to address the other aspects as well because, if one wants to consume alcohol or drugs, he/she will find a way to do so. The only way of reducing the ever-increasing alcohol and drug abuse problem is by educating oneself of the signs and helping each other. Awareness and knowledge of the long lasting effects of alcohol and drugs and the right help at the right time has always proved to help effectively and a tremendous amount.Therefore, let us start by not turning a blind eye to people around us who might be struggling with the illness. It is important to remember, that the addicts and/or abusers have a deeper core issue, might not be aware that they have a problem and might even feel invincible. However, it is our responsibility as people who care and love them to lend a helping hand and take them for the appropriate treatment before it is too late, even if it means playing the “bad guy” for a brief period.Some signs to look for are:1) Recurrent substance use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations (work, college, school, family etc)2) Recurrent substance use even in situations where it is hazardous (drinking and driving)3) Increased tolerance to the substance therefore, needing to consume increased amounts4) Inability to function without the consumption of the substance5) Continued and frequent use of substance, despite knowledge of its persistent and recurrent negative consequences.

Get Freedom From Alcohol

Dr. Swasti Jain, Dentist
Are you concerned about your alcohol intake? Maybe you feel that you're drinking too much or too often. Perhaps it's a habit you'd like to better control.It's always wise to check with your doctor — she should be able to help you decide whether it is best for you to cut back or to abstain. People who are dependent on alcohol, or have other medical or mental health problems, should stop drinking completely.HOW TO CUT DOWN ALCOHOLThere are lots of simple ways to cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink. It can help to work out if there are particular times or situations when you tend to have a drink, whether that’s a bad day at work or a weekly pub quiz tradition, and plan what you’ll say and do differently next time.Have more alcohol-free days a week. Try agreeing on certain days with your partner or a friend and help each other to stick to it.If you are planning to drink alcohol, decide on a limit in advance and make sure you don’t go over it.Swap every other alcoholic drink for a soft one – starting with your first drink.Try shandy instead of a pint of beer, or swap some wine for soda and have a spritzer.Don’t stock up on beer, wine or spirits at home.Finish one drink before pouring another, because topping up drinks makes it harder to keep track of how much you’ve had and when you planned to stop.Avoid buying drinks in rounds, that way you don’t have to keep pace with anyone.Tell a friend or partner that you’re cutting down on alcohol, they can support you – or even join you.Keep a diary of your drinking - For three to four weeks, keep track of every time you have a drink.- Include information about what and how much you drank as well as where you were. Compare this to your goal. If you're having trouble sticking to your goal, discuss it with your doctor or another health professional.     10.Don't keep alcohol in your house. Having no alcohol at home can help limit your drinking.     11.Be persistentMost people who successfully cut down or stop drinking altogether do so only after several attempts. You'll probably have setbacks, but don't let them keep you from reaching your long-term goal. There's really no final endpoint, as the process usually requires ongoing effort.

The Ways of Dealing With Anger, Depression and Fears of Emotional Abuse

Mr. Azeem Dana, Psychologist
Emotional abuse happens to most of the women, even men, all over the world. Like physical wounds, even emotional abuse wounds are taking too long to heal. Those emotional wounds are so deep that adverse effects of it take time to wear off.It affects physical health as well as the emotional state of mind, relationship with others and behavior. Self-esteem to deal with abusersIn any Psychological Counselling we cannot generalize. The solution has to be found out based on particular situation. And it is true that every issue can be sorted out with a solution. In the case of abuse, it is nothing but part of personality or behaviour. Personality is influenced by psychological, biological and social factors and hence, we call personality is a learned behavior, and whatever a person has learned can either be re-learned or unlearned.In the case of the victim to maintain self esteem, the victim should understand the psychological, biological and social factors from both the end, of being a victim and from the end of abuser. If the Boss or a Relative is abusing, find out the cause for his or her outrage. One reason can be, that the person is not educated, i.e., not knowing what he or she does, or it can be that they are brought-up in such a way influenced by psycho-bio-social factors or it can be the pressure created by others or can be some sort of illness. As a victim, once I understand the abuser, find out what makes me a victim of abuse. Whether I do not remain assertive due to lack of communication skills - like using questions of what, where, when, how and with whom -  to know exactly what other person mean to say or what they expect me to do. Or do I have to get trained in coping skills, so that I can fulfil my responsibility in a better way and if required I can undergo the training to enhance my skills. Or find out if I have to learn time management or share responsibilities, or it can be simply that I have to voice my concern, that is to speak out rather than suffering within, so that the other person understands my concerns better. The ways of dealing with anger, depression and fearsTo deal with anger, fear and depression, I should understand that any emotion that I express is not there just because of current situation. It is a repeated pattern of expression that I have been expressing throughout my life at various situations since my childhood days. So, to deal with any particular emotion, I should know about, or write down, my complete life history and identify the various situations of my life that made me to experience this particular emotion or anger. Then I have to find out the psychological, biological and social factors that made me to experience that particular emotion repeatedly from my childhood days. Once knowing them, find out what is that inner strength or ability that I was lacking to deal with that particular emotion. Then work on to develop that quality within myself.Meditation - Practicing silence of mind by relaxing the physical body- helps to overcome any type of depression, fear and anger by strengthening our mind and will-power.Belief in abilities and self-love to get rid of effects of emotional abuseThe effects of abuse can be overcome by knowing that personality is nothing but a learned behavior, and whenever we want we can change our personality with the help of knowledge – understanding of self and others gained by using our logical mind, will power – to maintain the desire for change, acceptance – without any guilt feelings of whatever has happened in the past, patience - giving time for change, hope, determination, love for self and others. Even if we do not have control over the stressors – person, place,situations - or the abusers, still we can deal with them when we remember ourown inner abilities and strengths, when we have faith in our own self, when weare able to maintain our self respect. To remember this at the time of need,every day morning and evening, practice simple visualization or imagination ofown strengths and abilities that are appreciated by our parents, relatives,friends since our childhood days to till date. The victim can also visualize and see in their mind how they are dealing with their abuser maintaining their self-esteem.Stop being abusedInstead of dealing with the situation by seeing one as a victim and other as an abuser, focus on the cause and solutions. Instead of reacting by revenge, respond to the situations using the logical sense of mind. The points to remember is:1. Try to understand using logical mind - understand the abuser and own self.2. If the abuser is not really an abuser but has real reason, try to make him or her understand, and if required, try to improve the self.3. If you find, the abuser is really an abuser, for his/her own reasons like illness or when you feel out of your control, speak out being assertive or act finding a new job, complaining to police, complaining to mental hospital or move away from the abuser.4. Forgive the abuser by understanding and remove the victim attitude from the self, learn from the past to begin a better future by adding coping abilities to the self. 

Are You Addicted to Alcohol?

Dr. Naveen Jayaram, Psychiatrist
Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed substances in the world since thousands of years. It is also a potentially addictive substance. 30-40% of the Indian population consumes alcohol. Atleast 10% of these people get addicted to alcohol. 11-15% indulge in heavy and binge drinkingAlcohol is a brain depressant, hence it reduces our inhibitions. In small amounts, it might relieve stress and anxiety, but excessive consumption causes sedation, loss of balance etc. Alcohol addiction is a brain disease and it is a chronic relapsing condition. Prolonged alcohol use causes permanent changes in the brain structure and function, that can persist for years even after stopping.How do you know if you are addicted to alcohol?You have excessive desire to drink alcohol.You are unable to control the use, inspite of having medical or psychological complications.Nothing in your life other than alcohol gives pleasure to you.You are gradually consuming more quantity in order to get the same effect.Appearance of withdrawal symptoms due to reduction or stopping.Disturbed personal life and work functioningWithdrawal symptoms:Shaking of handsNausea/vomitingAnxiety/WeaknessIncreased pulse rate/sweatingHeadache/Disturbed sleepSevere withdrawal can cause fits, hallucination, altered sensorium.Effects of alcohol on your health:Liver damage - hepatitis and cirrhosisAtherosclerosis - thickening of blood vesselsAcute gastritis/pancreatitis - severe abdominal painDepression and other mental illnessDeath due to risk taking and reckless behaviorHow to quit drinking alcohol?Assess whether you are having problematic drinking - (physical damage to body, psychological problems, bad hangovers, blackouts etc.) Identifying and accepting you have a problem is always the first step.Understand that it is a brain disease and you might have lost control over it.Think about the pros and cons of drinking every time you feel the need to.Try to gradually reduce the quantity or number of drinking days.Avoid situations which will remind you about drinking.Keep yourself motivated. You will feel good about the change and improvement in your health.Take steps to prevent relapse once you have stopped drinking.Do not get upset if you relapse, relapse is expected.If addiction is severe and you are unable to quit alcohol, please seek consultation with professionals.

Alcohol & Athletes: Can it affect fitness & Performance?

Ms. Silky Mahajan, Dietitian/Nutritionist
A lot of people believe in hitting the gym during the day and then a bar at night. One feels there’s no harm in drinking a little amount of alcohol now and then. Actually the term “little” and “now and then” cannot even be used in that former sentence since it’s more like binge drinking every weekend! Don’t drink and drive isn’t only for behind the wheels, it’s also on the field (and the gym). First, let’s give you a list of how alcohol can affect your body, and then we can get down to details! Keep in mind these effects are within 48 hours of alcohol consumptions, that too just after 2-3 standard drinks.Decrease strengthImpair hand-eye coordinationIncrease fatigue (by impacting liver function)Mineral and vitamin depletionDisturbed sleepImpact cellular repair (since protein is affected negatively)Dehydration thus affecting the kidneysLoss of enduranceUnwanted weight gain Do you really need me to go on? Alcohol isn’t something that recommended for most people; for athlete’s it just makes matters worse.  While you’re training or competing, it's best to stay away from alcohol! Though, the best solution is to give it up completely to live a healthy lifestyle. Now let’s get down to some technical details of how it impacts your organs (just so you don’t think I’m talking in air.)So first things first. Alcohol cannot be stored as energy. This means all the alcohol in your body is converted into fat – hence the term beer belly. Alcohol’s effect on the liver can cause a problem in the production of oxygen which then interferes with the production of ATP ie a direct source of energy for the muscles. Sadly drinking alcohol before your workout hinders the circulation of glucose which is essential for energy. It has also been scientifically proven that alcohol diminishes protein synthesis which in turn stops muscle growth by preventing the repair of damaged muscles. Another thing alcohol does is increase the urge to urinate which leads to loss of electrolytes. No no, I’m not done yet. I’ve got so much more “fun facts” related to alcohol. Since alcohol is a toxin it disrupts the normal cell function. Alcohol also inhibits the absorption of essential minerals like zinc, folic acid, Vitamin B12 etc which are needed for metabolism and new cell growth (muscle cell included).  The consumption of alcohol provides only empty calories which in turn displace valuable nutrients.  That’s just a loss of essentials and an increase of fat! Do note, heavy drinking for a night can negatively affect the brain and bodily activities for 3 whole days whereas 2 nights of consecutive heavy drinking leave an impact for 5 days! Evidently dehydration, fatigue, and headaches – commonly known as hangovers – really don’t mix well with the physical demands of our body. Alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle which in turn leads a reduction in the ability to learn and retain new information. This could range from new skills to studying games or even applying strategies in a game. Excessive alcohol can prevent the secretion of human growth hormone which is essential for muscle growth as well as recovery. For an athlete, that’s bad..bad…BAD! It’s always better to prioritize a good day’s workout over a night of heavy drinking. At least the workout leaves you worn out and exhausted craving for more! Alcohol just leaves you with a bad hangover which leads to false swears of never drinking again. Eat clean, drink healthy and stay fit!

Is It Really Necessary to Admit an Addict Into a Rehab?

Ms. Raisa Luther, Psychotherapist
For an addict, there's only way to go - down.The family tries all sorts of control strategies, but usually fails. However, there's a way out. Treatment is now available for various addictions - alcohol, drugs, gambling, internet...Rehabs are not jailsIn India, rehabs are still viewed as some sort of jails. They are not. Modern rehabs are designed to help a person get over his or her devastating habits. Most are comfortable and friendly. Instead of being the last resort for the addict, they should be the first choice of a family seeking help. That way, they will avoid the pain and misery and save time.Addiction is a primary, progressive and chronic disease (DSM 5). If not treated, it can be fatal. Rehabs have evidence-based treatment programs with proven protocols to address the multiple issues arising out of addictions.Choose the rehab wiselySince addiction treatment is fairly new in India, you need to choose the rehab carefully.Check out the antecedents of the facility. Does it have adequate experience in addiction treatment? Is the staff experienced and qualified? Is the facility fairly comfortable? Does it offer comprehensive services - such as support for the family? What about Aftercare? Is there medical and psychiatric back up?Ask questions. You can assess the center by visiting and meeting with the counselors - what does your gut instinct say?Cooperate with the therapy teamOnce you have committed to recovery, give it your best shot. The therapists may suggest somethings that do not appear logical or convincing at first - but remember, your own strategies did not work. Now allow the rehab to work and go along with their suggestions. An professional rehab will have proven protocols to deal with all aspects of addiction recovery. From detox to relapse prevention - and aftercare.A rehab can be the first step toward a new life. If you do your bit, it works! And in the end, the results are really worth it!

Effects on Alcohol on Teeth

Dr. Swasti Jain, Dentist
People who suffer from alcohol dependency tend to have higher plaque levels on their teeth and are THREE times as likely to suffer from permanent tooth loss.Tooth DecayAlcohol can also lead to tooth decay, gum disease and oral cancer. Alcohol stops the body’s ability to properly fight against germs and disease. Alcohol, especially heavy use, exposes your mouth to increased levels of sugars and acids found in the drink. While occasional alcohol use won’t necessarily cause problems, you should still take precautions. When these sugars combine with natural bacteria in the mouth they form an acid that can attack the hard tissues of our teeth including enamel and break them down.This is especially true when the teeth are constantly exposed to sugars and starches in alcohol without a break.Staining"The color in beverages comes from chromogens,”Chromogens attach to tooth enamel that’s been compromised by the acid in alcohol, and stain teeth. One way to bypass this is to drink alcoholic drinks with a straw.DrynessDrinks high in alcohol, like spirits, dry the mouth. Saliva keeps teeth moist and helps to remove plaque and bacteria from the tooth’s surface. Try to stay hydrated by drinking water while you drink alcohol.The truth that we produce more saliva during the day than at night gives us the belief that drinking during the day will likely speed up the deterioration of our teeth, regardless if we brush or not. No type of alcohol is better or worse than another, it is the alcohol itself that leads to the damage, regardless of whether it is in wine, beer or spirits.After drinking alcohol, it’s important to rinse your mouth with water and brush your teeth to remove any of the alcohol from between teeth and gums.So be warnedIf you are going to drink, brush and floss as soon after as possible.

3 Common (And Frustrating) Excuses Addicts Use

Ms. Raisa Luther, Psychotherapist
It is most heartbreaking to watch a loved one succumbing to alcohol and drug addiction. For the family and close friends, it is an experience full of hurt, anger, shame, guilt and fear. And when they try and help the addict, it becomes frustrating since he tries his best to avoid treatment. The alcoholic or addict will try everything in his power - and they can be really clever in giving reasons – to convince his well-wishers why he doesn’t need to go in for treatment. Though family and friends may be tempted to believe the words of their loved ones (like once again believing in promises despite many broken ones), remember that the main goal of confronting people about substance abuse issues is getting them into a treatment program.The goal should be to somehow get the addicted person into a rehab, even if he is in denial about his problem. In such a scenario, rehabs such as Hope Trust in India have effective protocols to break the addict’s denial (with family interventions) and ultimately motivate him toward meaningful recovery.So what are the 3 most common excuses an addict uses to avoid treatment? In our experience, they are:1. ‘I can stop whenever I want to.’Despite repeated trials and promises, the addict is helpless in stopping his drug or alcohol use. He may try all sorts of controlling strategies, but all of them are likely to fail. However, he still feels, and claims, he can stop whenever he wants to.This excuse falls under the category of denial.2. ‘I know someone who went to treatment and relapsed, so why should I go?’Unfortunately, the sad truth about drug and alcohol addiction is that many who attend treatment programs relapse at one point in their lives. However, what this excuse gets wrong is that relapse is not a vote against addiction treatment programs, but a testament to how difficult it is to recover from addiction.The fact is that addiction is a highly relapse prone ‘disease’. But not seeking treatment is like saying “I know many who have taken treatment for heart disease, but still have suffered a heart attack”.Many experts believe that relapse is a natural part of the recovery process, and that people who recommit themselves to their sobriety after a relapse event are even more successful at living healthy lives than ever before. (Hope Trust’s statistics validate this). After all, just because something like addiction treatment is difficult does not mean that it is not worth doing. There are many who have undergone addiction treatment successfully and are leading happy, successful lives because of it. We need to look at the positive potential, not the negative possibilities. But then, an addict does develop a negative outlook and uses it to avoid treatment.3. ‘All my friends do drugs and drink alcohol. What am I going to do after addiction treatment?’This is a common and a genuine fear. An addict has come to believe that substance abuse and ‘fun’ are inter-related. He cannot imagine a life without alcohol or drugs. And his current social circle comprises only persons who similarly use alcohol and drugs and life without these ‘friends’ is unthinkable. This is one of the most difficult excuses to address, because people may have genuine feelings of companionship with those who they have drank or done drugs with. These friends know the struggles of addiction in intimate detail, and people may be reluctant to give them up so easily. Recovery means discovering new games to play, new playgrounds and new game mates. While in rehab, the addict begins to discover the sheer pleasure of staying clean – getting natural sleep with aid of drugs, tasting food as it should, laughing, sharing…and as they progress in recovery and other things in life begin to get settle down and get better (relationships, career, finances, respect in community, joy of service, etc) they begin to realize the true worth of sobriety and get further motivated.

Top 10 Myths About Addiction You Probably Believe

Ms. Raisa Luther, Psychotherapist
Think you know about addiction? Then these common myths may sound familiar:Myth 1: Drug addiction is voluntary behaviour.  You start out occasionally using alcohol or other drugs, and that is a voluntary decision. But as times passes, something happens, and you become a compulsive drug user. Why? Because over time, continued use of addictive drugs changes your brain - in dramatic, toxic ways at times, more subtly at others, but virtually always in ways that result in compulsive and even uncontrollable drug use.Myth 2: Drug addiction is a character flaw.  Drug addiction is a brain disease. Every type of drug - from alcohol to heroin - has its own mechanism for changing how the brain functions. But regardless of the addiction, the effects on the brain are similar, ranging from changes in the molecules and cells that make up the brain to mood and memory processes - even on motor skills such as walking and talking. The drug becomes the single most powerful motivator in your life.Myth 3: You can't force someone into treatment.  Treatment does not have to be voluntary. Those coerced into treatment by the family or the legal system can be just as successful as those who enter treatment voluntarily. Sometimes they do better, as they are more likely to remain in treatment longer and to complete the program. In 1999, over half of adolescents admitted into treatment in USA were directed to do so by the criminal justice system.Myth 4: Treatment for drug addiction should be a one-shot deal. Like many other illnesses, drug addiction typically is a chronic disorder. Some people can quit drug use "cold turkey," or they can stop after receiving treatment just one time at a rehabilitation facility. But most people who abuse drugs require longer-term treatment and, in many instances, repeated treatments.Myth 5: We should strive to find a "magic bullet" to treat all forms of drug abuse.  There is no "one size fits all" form of drug treatment, much less a magic bullet that suddenly will cure addiction. Different people have different drug abuse-related problems. And they respond very differently to similar forms of treatment, even when they're abusing the same drug. As a result, drug addicts need an array of treatments and services tailored to address their unique needs. Finding an approach that is personally effective can mean trying out several different doctors or treatment centres before a "match" is found between patient and program. The 12 - Step program has proved to be the most effective treatment (WHO); a 12 - Step rehab with competent protocols to address the individual needs of clients is obviously the best bet. Myth 6: People don't need treatment. They can stop using drugs if they really want to. It is extremely hard for people addicted to drugs to achieve and maintain long-term abstinence. Research shows that when long-term drug use actually changes a person's brain function, it causes them to crave the drug even more, making it increasingly difficult to quit without effective treatment. Intervening and stopping substance abuse early is important, as children become addicted to drugs much faster than adults and risk greater physical, mental and psychological harm.Myth 7: Treatment just doesn't work. Studies show drug treatment reduces drug use by 40 to 60 percent and can significantly decrease criminal activity during and after treatment. There is also evidence that drug addiction treatment reduces the risk of infectious disease, Hepatitis C and HIV infection - intravenous-drug users who enter and stay in treatment are up to six times less likely to become infected with HIV - and improves the prospects for getting and keeping a job up to 40 percent.Myth 8: No one voluntarily seeks treatment until they hit rock bottom.  There are many things that can motivate a person to enter and complete treatment before that happens. Pressure from family members and employers, as well as personal recognition that they have a problem, can be powerful motivators. For teens, parents and school administrators are often driving forces in getting them into treatment before situations become dire.Myth 9: People can successfully finish drug abuse treatment in a couple of weeks if they're truly motivated. For treatment to have an effect, research indicates a minimum of 90 days of treatment for outpatient drug-free programs, and 21 days for short-term inpatient programs. Follow-up supervision and support are essential. In all recovery programs, the best predictor of success is the length of treatment. Patients who are treated for at least a year are more than twice as likely to remain drug free, and a recent study showed adolescents who met or exceeded the minimum treatment time were over one and a half times more likely to stay away from drugs and alcohol.Myth 10: People who continue to abuse drugs after treatment are hopeless. Completing a treatment program is merely the first step in the struggle for recovery that can last a lifetime. Drug addiction is a chronic disorder; occasional relapses do not mean failure. Psychological stress from work or family problems, social cues - meeting some from the drug-using past - or the environment - encountering streets, objects or even smells associated with drug use - can easily trigger a relapse. Addicts are most vulnerable to drug use during the few months immediately following their release from treatment. Recovery is a long process and frequently requires multiple treatment attempts before complete and consistent sobriety can be achieved.