Rewards Beneficial in Helping Alcoholics with Co-Occurring Disorders

Helping someone overcome an addiction to alcohol is difficult and requires a lot of effort on the part of the addict, loved ones and treatment or counseling team. However, helping someone who is addicted to alcohol and also suffering from a mental illness can be even harder.

This smaller portion of the population are often forced to receive treatment for the mental illness and alcoholism separately, which makes it more unlikely that they will actually overcome their addiction. In order to find a better solution to this problem, researchers at Washington State University conducted a study that examined a potentially better form of treatment for those that have been diagnosed with an addiction to alcohol and a mental illness.

This particular experiment centered around small rewards for submitting clean urine tests. Participants that had been identified as alcohol dependent and suffering from a severe mental illness were split into two groups. The first group, of about forty subjects, were given small prizes if they passed a urine analysis test. The other group, made up of the same amount of people, were given rewards whether they passed the test or not. The study lasted about 12 weeks. The researchers found that subjects who had been given rewards for staying clean were more likely to stay clean, even after the 12-week study. Additionally, researchers also noted that drug use and tobacco use were also diminished in the group that received rewards for passing their tests. This was not the intention of the study, but interesting because it appears that the reward system is powerful enough to address more than one addiction at a time.

“Our findings suggest that contingency management is a feasible approach for people with alcohol problems. And it may be particularly effective in those with serious mental illness – such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – a high-cost and difficult-to-engage population,” explained Michael McDonell, associate professor in WSU’s Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine.

While this particular group is not vast, mental illness paired with an alcohol addiction can be extremely dangerous and costly to the individual, family and society. Developing an effective way to treat these patients is important and may also open doors for more successful treatment modalities for non-mental health patients that suffer from alcoholism.

Social Drinking Often Fueled by Peer Pressure

Social drinking may seem harmless and acceptable, but it can sometimes lead to excessive drinking and other unhealthy habits. And while some people may rarely drink by themselves or with dinner, there is no shortage of reasons to partake in drinking when out socializing. Parties, holidays, events, special occasions, celebrations, meeting new people and sometimes even work functions are all typically times when alcohol is consumed by more people. For many people, especially middle-aged adults, it has become expected to consume at least some alcohol on a regular basis, and this form of peer pressure or expectation can be disheartening when it has negative effects.

This expectation may be ok for some people, but for others, it is the catalyst for an alcohol abuse problem or even alcoholism. Additionally, it has also been found that older adults are at greater risks for developing alcohol addictions because of a lifetime of consuming alcohol and their inability to cope with major life changes like retirement.

One reporter recently decided to challenge herself when it came to alcohol consumption. Rozalynn Frazier eliminated alcohol and sweets from her diet for one month. Her decision was fueled by the desire to lose weight, but along the way she discovered that other people had a harder time with her alcohol abstinence than she did. “One of the more interesting lessons from my little experiment is that it’s much more socially acceptable to skip a piece of cake than it is to not have a drink in your hand. I guess because so much socializing happens with the help of alcohol, being the non-drinker means being a pariah,” explained Frazier.

Many people use alcohol as a social crutch. After a drink or two they begin to ease their tensions and seem more comfortable to talk to strangers or coworkers or even friends. However, it is very hard to predict when the amount of alcohol being consumed is too much. It is difficult to stop an addiction to alcohol if everyone around the person consumes alcohol as well. Because alcohol addictions are difficult to spot, they can also be difficult to treat. Oftentimes an alcoholic has been allowed to drink heavily for years before anyone is able to realize that a problem may exist.

If you have a friend or family member who you suspect has a problem with alcohol, contact us today to find out what solutions are available.

Mayor Rob Ford Takes Temporary Leave, Citing Alcohol Problems

Toronto’s mayor, best known for admitting to the use of crack cocaine last year after the surfacing of an incriminating video, recently announced he will be taking a temporary leave to seek treatment for alcoholism. The announcement was made after a second video emerged of Mayor Rob Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.

When admitting to using the drug last year, Ford suggested that he had only done so once. The mayor acknowledged he has been drunk and out of control several times since then, but has denied using crack in that time. Last month, when asked directly if he was continuing to use drugs, Mr. Ford said: “You guys ask stupid questions.”

The second video appears to show Ford smoking crack in the basement of the home of his sister, Kathy, who has admitted to her own substance abuse problems. A self-professed drug dealer recorded the video and sold stills of the recording to The Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper.

Dennis Morris, Ford’s long-time criminal lawyer questions the authenticity of the video. Kathy Ford’s former spouse said in an interview that she smokes crack out of metal pipes that can also be used to smoke marijuana. Mr. Morris has suggested that the drug dealers are insisting the substance is crack so that they can sell the recording for a higher price.

In recent months, Rob Ford has been in the process of running for re-election in a campaign largely based on second chances. It is unclear how this video will affect his chances for re-election in October, given his past admissions of drug uses, drunkenness and other antics.

“It’s not easy to be vulnerable and this is one of the most difficult times in my life. I have a problem with alcohol, and the choices I have made while under the influence,” said the Toronto mayor in a statement last week. “I have struggled with this for some time.”

Many are calling for Ford to leave office and quit his campaign. Some are relieved that he is getting treatment, but are concerned about his enabling family. Despite the reasons for taking leave, it is safe to assume that Ford is making the right decision by facing his problems, stepping out of the spotlight, and seeking professional help.

A Short History of Alcohol Prohibition

At the end of the 19th century, the temperance movement shifted towards a more ambitious and hard-line approach and eventually pushed for outright prohibition. This shift is now recognizable to historians in parallel changes in the way people discussed the issues of their time. Social Darwinism heavily influenced the way ordinary people interpreted the world around them. To this end, alcoholism no longer threatened the sanctity of American homes, but instead threatened the very fabric of human civilization. Unfortunately, civilization had a very specific meaning in those times and was tied to racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic ideals.

Today we think of Prohibition as a failure of U.S. government policy and enforcement because people are always going to find ways to self-medicate or blow off steam. What is forgotten is how wrong-headed that policy was in the first place. With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that the major proponents of Prohibition simply reacted to the changes in American society due to onset of industrialization and urbanization. Anxiety over these changes and a crude understanding of human psychology and behavior prevented these activists from recognizing the pervasive effects of addiction across racial and cultural lines. Instead of recognizing the need to treat individuals regardless of skin color, religion, or origin, the Prohibition impulse sought to demonize those groups who were, in fact, enriching the American cultural experience.

Ultimately, Prohibition was unable to stem this cultural tide. The onset of the Great Depression gave way to the election of FDR who pledged to repeal the 18th Amendment. Americans’ approach to addiction treatment took a new course later in the 1930s with the advent of groups such Alcoholics Anonymous. A new understanding of addiction began to take shape. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all government policy cannot help individuals deal with addiction. Addicts are not the stooges of nefarious “other” groups that are looking to thwart the American way of life. They are human beings, with same kinds of weaknesses as all others. With the support of fellow human beings, they must learn to cope with their illness in a world that is constantly changing.

If you know someone in need of treatment for alcoholism, contact us today.

New Treatment for Heavy Drinkers May Be Possible According to New Study

When alcoholism or heavy drinking becomes a problem, the solution is usually to stop drinking altogether – a tough feat to accomplish on your own. Recent research shows that reducing alcohol consumption could be easy with the help of the anti-epilepsy drug, topiramate AKA Topamax.

The study included 138 heavy drinkers divided into two groups. One group took the drug for 12 weeks and the other group took an inactive placebo. Both groups participated in brief counseling to help them decrease their drinking.

After the 12-week period, the placebo group patients were five times more likely to have had a heavy drinking day compared to the patients in the Topamax group. Also, the Topamax group had twice as many patients who had no heavy drinking days during the last four weeks of the study.

Although there have been recent studies that associate anti-epilepsy drugs with alcohol recovery, this is the first that evaluates the drug as an option for patients who want to limit their drinking to safe levels, rather than stop drinking completely.

After further analysis, researchers discovered that only people with a specific genetic makeup found in 40% of European-Americans benefited from the treatment. As a result, it could be assumed that personalized treatments for heavy drinking may be on the horizon.

“Our hope is that the study will result in additional research focusing to help patients who have struggles with heavy drinking and the problems it causes, but who are unable or unwilling to abstain from alcohol altogether,” explains Dr. Henry Kranzler, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Studies of Addiction.

The results of the study not only supported the theory that the drug helps in decreasing alcohol consumption, but also point to what groups of people the drug could help. Hopefully future research will shine a light on what the use of Topamax could mean for alcoholics continuing to struggle with recovery.

Country Singer Trace Adkins Enters Alcohol Rehab

traceadkinsMultiple reports surfaced this week that country singer Trace Adkins entered a treatment program for alcoholism following a fight aboard the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship where he was to perform.

A representative for Adkins told ABC news, “As he faces these issues head-on, we ask that his family’s privacy will be respected.”

According to reports, Adkins was at a bar on the ship and wound up getting in a fight with an impersonator on board who was singing karaoke to one of his songs. After the brawl, the performer got off the ship at the next port and the cruise continued on without him. Other headliners scheduled to sing included Montgomery Gentry and Wynonna Judd.

Adkins had apparently suffered a relapse after 12 years of sobriety, which followed a rehab stint in 2002. He had recently hosted the American Country Awards and prior to that won the reality show competition “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice”, helping to raise money for charity.

The “Just Fishin'” singer and father of 5 girls will hopefully find the help he needs and continue on his journey of recovery. We wish him well.