Alcohol Abuse

Excessive alcohol consumption costs U.S. nearly $2 a drink, CDC reports

Next time you buy a beer, glass of wine or cocktail, think of paying an extra two bucks for it. That’s about the cost per drink that society pays for excessive alcohol consumption, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Researchers tallied the costs of excessive drinking in 2006 in terms of health care, work productivity and law enforcement, and they found it reached $223.5 billion – about $1.90 per drink.
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Sponsors and Sponsorship

In the early days of AA, the fellowship was really anonymous. The only way you even found out that there was such an organization was to have someone invite and escort you to a meeting. This person was your sponsor, and became responsible for showing you the ropes, making sure that you got to meetings, and so forth. Later on, after Bill Wilson wrote the Steps and they were adopted by AA, sponsors began guiding their “pigeons” (as newcomers were called back then) through the process that has since become pretty-much standard for all 12-Step groups.

Over time, the relationship of newcomers and sponsors has changed a bit, but the essential idea behind sponsorship has not. A sponsor is a person with substantial sobriety or clean time, who agrees to help a newcomer through the steps. And that is all a sponsor is, as far as the fellowships are concerned. He or she may become a friend and mentor in other respects, but the principal responsibility remains the same — to insure that the “sponsee” makes it through the first few months of sobriety with the skills to continue on the path to recovery. [Read more…]

Alcohol Messes Up Kids’ Brains Way More Than Adult Brains

Occasionally some kid will ask, “I have my whole life to get clean, why bother now?  I'm having fun!”

Let's get real.  If you're reading stuff on this web site, you already sort of know that you or someone you know has a problem, and you may suspect that there are some important reasons why quitting now is a much better idea than waiting.

Young people's brains are designed to learn a lot, quickly.  Their brains have “plasticity,” the ability to form new neural connections as necessary in order to develop the parts of the brain needed for certain skills. This involves building billions of bridges among brain cells, and it is the continuous formation of these bridges that makes the adolescent brain especially vulnerable to alcohol. Drinking alcohol not only interferes with building connections in the brain, it also prevents the protective “insulation” on the nerve cells from developing the way it is supposed to. That prevents your brain cells from transmitting signals properly, and can cause interference in adjacent cells.  Other drugs complicate things even more.

These changes are clearly visible on brain scans.  It isn't sci-fi, and it's not just some scare tactic thought up by people who don't want you to have fun.

The fact is, when you drink heavily and use drugs in your teens, it can keep your brain from developing into a normal adult brain. The chances are good that you will never have a brain that functions with full efficiency.  The drop in problem-solving skills and other factors such as IQ is clearly measurable. This may be reversable to a degree, but the more you use, the less likely you are to end up with all the smarts you were supposed to.

Furthermore, according to Peter M. Monti, Professor of Medical Sciences and director of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, “As heavy drinking continues, the likelihood of neuronal damage increases, because the brain is no longer able to compensate for the disruption caused by alcohol.”  In other words, The damage gets worse the longer you drink.

This means that in addition to other, more obvious problems, such as behavioral difficulties, risk-taking, drunk driving and associated accidents, adolescents who drink may also be unable to learn some of the skills that are necessary to function as adults. There is even a name for this: Alcohol Abuse Disorder. It involves reduced ability to solve problems, reduction of verbal memory (the ability to find the right word for a particular meaning and use it properly), disturbed visual-spatial skills (judging relationships of objects in space, a critical skill for driving, games, and similar activities), and general memory problems.

So, on top of the “normal” problems of growing up, there are far-reaching effects of drinking that can change your life and make it much more difficult. If you are thinking about drinking, think again.  If you are drinking more than one or two drinks occasionally, cut back.  If you can't cut back, get help. Your entire life depends on how you treat your developing brain today.

The Extent of Drug Addiction and Alcohol Abuse in the United States

According to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2009), among Americans 12 years of age or older,

  • 18.6 million people abuse alcohol or are addicted to other drugs;
  • Nearly 0ne-quarter (23.7 percent) reported binge drinking at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey (5 or more standard drinks* for males, 4 for females within a 2 to 3 hour period);
  • 6.8 % (17.1 million people) reported heavy drinking (an average of more than two standard drinks a day for men, one for women).

21.8 million individuals 12 or older were current illicit drug users.

  • 16.7 million used marijuana at least 20 times a month.
  • 7 million used prescription drugs to mood alter, rather than for the reason prescribed (not including over-the-counter preparations).
  • 1.6 million used cocaine or crack cocaine.
  • 1.3 million used hallucinogens, such as LSC, PCP, psilocybin and similar drugs.
  • .6 million used inhalants, primarily youths younger than 21.
  • 200,000 used heroin, down about 75% from earlier results due to the increased availability of substitutes such as Oxycontin and similar, easily-obtained, prescription drugs.

The majority will not need treatment.  They may be able to stop on their own, influenced by a drug-intolerant social climate, and/or the threat of social, legal and employment sanctions. However, treatment will be required for those who cannot or will not stop on their own — those who have become physically or psychologically dependent.  Lacking intervention, compulsive users are usually unable to stop for more than a few days at a time, despite the consequences of their alcohol or other drug use. Their need for chemicals forces them to deny the reality of their addiction, in order to protect themselves from accepting the need to stop.

In the case of adolescents, who are still developing physically, emotionally and socially, any use of drugs outside limits prescribed for them by a doctor, is illegal and can be considered abuse — obviously true of alcohol as well. If the use is causing discernible problems, immediate intervention is warranted.  Not only can effective intervention stop the progression of abuse into addiction, but current research has shown that the development of the adolescent brain and nervous system are severely impacted by drugs, especially alcohol.  This may result in chronic cognitive and behavioral issues, beyond those associated with the drugs themselves, that may not be reversible with abstinence.

The annual economic cost of drug and alcohol abuse in the US is immense, estimated at nearly $215 billion ($651.52 a year for every man, woman and child in the country). This refers only to the monetary cost, and does not take into account the costs to individuals, families, friends and society in general of being deprived of the companionship and productivity of these people. Many studies have shown that treatment is not only essential, but is cost-effective** in terms of the price society and individuals pay for addiction that progresses.  Treatment appropriate to the needs of the individual has been shown to work in a significant percentage of cases, although more than one attempt may be necessary.
*Standard drink: One 12-oz. beer, one 5-oz. glass of wine, or one 1.5 oz. shot of 80 proof liquor.


How long does alcohol detox last, and what can I do to relieve the symptoms?

Alcohol withdrawal without medical help can, and frequently does, result in some or all of the following: extreme anxiety, disorientation, hallucinations, sleep disorders, hand tremors, nausea, sweating, seizures, blood pressure spikes, and racing pulse. Delirium tremens (DTs — physical and visual hallucinations accompanied by terror reactions) may be present. In the worst cases, untreated alcohol withdrawal syndrome can result in death related to high blood pressure (stroke) and seizures.

Because of the possibility of severe medical consequences, along with the fact that they can turn up unexpectedly at any time during detox (even in people who have self-detoxed without incident before), self-detox for alcohol and similar-acting drugs such as benzodiazepines is not recommended.

To answer your question more directly, acute withdrawal onset is usually between 8 and 20 hours after you stop drinking, and can last for up to five days. There is really nothing you can do unless you have access to certain drugs. Even then, it is dangerous if not medically monitored.

We suggest you investigate to learn what facilities are available to you for a medically-conducted detox.