Tag Archives: alcoholic

Addiction Research Sheds New Light

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There isn’t an alcoholic or addict who hasn’t asked him or herself, ‘why me, and not them? Why is it that when I drink, it affects me differently than most of society?’ This simple musing isn’t unique to the millions of people whose lives are turned upside down by addiction; researchers continue to probe for answers to an age-old question. What are the prerequisites for chemical dependency?

Even people with a rudimentary knowledge base of the known mechanisms for addiction understand there are many factors to consider. Three elements that are thought to play a significant part in the development of use disorders come to mind: biological, psychological, and social factors. The interaction between and an understanding of the bio-psych-social relationship helps clinicians treat those who contend with alcohol and substance use disorder.

When trying to get to the bottom of a mental illness like addiction, researchers attempt to make sense of the relationship between a person’s genetics and biochemistry; with mood, personality, and behavior; along with cultural, familial, and socioeconomic factors. All of which are worth considering, and attempting to understand these connections can help clinicians establish therapeutic targets for fostering recovery.

While making sense of the myriad factors that play a role in addiction is of the utmost benefit, such knowledge doesn’t wholly answer the question at the start of this article. It’s one thing to identify the similarities between addicts and how they differ from the general population, it is another thing altogether to pinpoint one item that all people who’ve struggled with substance abuse share. If only 15 percent of people who drink alcohol become “hooked,” mustn’t there be something under the surface consistent from one alcoholic to the next? In addiction research, whys often lead to more whys.

The Vulnerable Minority of Addiction

In short, psychiatrist Markus Heilig has a history of racking his brain about addicts and alcoholics. Helig spends a lot of time studying rats and mice, and their minds on chemicals; and he says that he and his fellow researchers have been going about it all wrong, The Atlantic reports. Markus points out that at the end of each rodent study the findings “will lead to an exciting treatment” for alcoholism. Unfortunately, Linköping University professor’s labor never bore fruit when transitioning from animal models to clinical trials; Helig became disillusioned for time, and then he made a breakthrough.

Helig excels at making rodents alcoholics; he can even treat and potentially “cure” their alcoholism. With alcohol in the cage, practically every rat or mouse develops a problem with the substance. Whereas, every human can access alcohol if they want and 85 percent don’t experience problems. Why? The answer appears to be “options.” Researcher Eric Augier, whose previous work involving cocaine and mice, gave the rodents more than just the cocaine option, adding sweet nectar to the menu. Helig, together with Augier, et al., used Eric’s technique; they gave rodents the choice of alcohol or sugar water. Eureka!

Remarkably, rodent trial after rodent trial produced results consistent with humans; only 15 percent of rats choose alcohol over sugar. Even when deterrents are in place (i.e., bitter tasting, electro-shocks accompanied doses), 15 percent of rats drank regardless.

Embedded in the criteria for diagnosing alcoholism is that people continue to take drugs despite good knowledge of the fact that it will harm or kill them,” says Heilig.

Once they were able to establish correlations between human and rodent behavior, the next task was determining why 15 percent are vulnerable to addiction. What was different in the brains of the minority?

Amygdala, GABA, and GAT3

Scientists know that there is an association between the primitive brain and addiction, and have known this for some time. Notably, the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens—regions of the brain involved in processing emotions and fight-or-flight behavior—researchers hold are underpinnings of addiction. Helig and Augier looked for gene variations in six areas of the brain thought to have a role in use disorders, according to the article. Five revealed no apparent differences; however, the researchers found something in the amygdala.

The team noticed that in the amygdala of alcoholic rats exhibited indication signs of low activity in several genes linked to a neurochemical called GABA. In the brain, particular neurons produce and release GABA into neighboring neurons to prevent them from firing. After which, the neurons producing GABA use the GAT3 enzyme to pump the molecule back into themselves for recycling. This cycle occurs in everyone's brain, but in the alcoholic’s brain something unusual happens.

Helig’s team found that the gene that makes GAT3 is much less active in the amygdala of alcoholic rats, and makes only half the usual levels of GAT3. The shortage of the pump enzyme causes GABA to accumulate around the neighboring neurons, rendering them inactive. By reducing GAT3 in the amygdala of non-alcoholic rats, Helig was able to turn them into rats that now preferred alcohol over the nectar. The researchers then looked at postmortem brain tissue samples from alcoholics and found low levels of GAT3. The study suggests GABA-influencing chemicals could lead to helping people manage their addictions.

Curing alcoholism in rats is not important,” says Helig. “What’s important is what this looks like in humans with alcohol addiction.”

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

The above research is very significant and will guide future research. A better understanding of the biological mechanisms of addiction could lead to new treatments that will aid counselors as they help clients cope with the psychological and social factors that can disrupt recovery. Alcohol use is a severe problem in the U.S., and research published this week shows a 65 percent increase in deaths from cirrhosis of the liver in the U.S. since 1999. What’s more, the most significant growth is among millennials; cirrhosis-related deaths are rising 10 percent a year among people aged 25 to 34.

Please contact PACE Recovery Center to start the process of healing if you are a young adult male living with an alcohol use disorder. Our gender-specific, addiction treatment center for men is the perfect place to begin the life-long journey of recovery.

Recovery: A Great Liberation Movement

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America has had a tumultuous relationship with alcohol since before we declared independence from Great Britain. In many ways, alcohol helped shape the nation we would become. After all, it was the whiskey drinking frontiersman that helped us achieve, at great moral costs, our manifest destiny. Over the centuries, the substance, and how it affected people, tested our humanity forcing us to take a hard look in the mirror.

The general public's perception of the alcoholic has taken many forms over the course of our history. From the godless and morally weak individual to the person suffering from a debilitating mental illness whom we see today. As with any mental health disorder, society's response to it over the decades has been anything but humane until the last few decades. But the story of alcoholism in America is as much about sobriety as it is about self-destruction. What’s more, every now and again we should pause. Take a moment, and consider the centuries’ long road to get where we are today regarding the disease of addiction in America.

We still have a long way to go, but addiction recovery in America is something to marvel over. The fact that we have recovery programs today rooted in compassion rather than punishment came at great pains. The history of which, is absolutely fascinating. It is worth remembering that Americans have been trying to recover from alcoholism since the 1700’s. We might consider this a nearly impossible task given the stigma that has long been attached to anyone who could not control their drinking. Given the terrible treatments imposed upon such people, right on into the twentieth century. And yet, in the wake of World War I, two people stumbled upon a method to achieve the goal of sobriety. Spawning a movement that would reshape public opinion about addiction.

Recovery in America, A Great Liberation Movement

You are in a 12-Step meeting today, looking around at people working towards the common goal of recovery, it can be hard to fully grasp how this all came to be. If you have spent some time reading the Big Book you know a little bit about the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. You learned what worked for people and what didn't. It is a program that works, and everyone working the program should be grateful for the thousands of people who helped make it what it is today. But there is more to the story of recovery in America than meets the eye. A subject matter that one author decided to tackle.

Drunks: An American History, by Christopher M. Finan, was published last week by Beacon Press, VICE News reports. Beginning in the 17th century, the book tells the story of the many movements over the years to encourage sobriety in America. Believe it or not, Finan found the first evidence of prohibition in America dating back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633. From Native Americans battling the grips of whiskey introduced by settlers right on through Betty Ford’s new treatment center in the 1980’s.

The author himself comes from a long line of alcoholics, according to the article. Finan points out that the modern view of addiction is the byproduct of centuries of advocates and alcoholics putting up the good fight. The book talks about the doctors who had an important role in showing that alcoholism was not a moral failing, but a disease from which it was possible to recover. Finan calls sobriety one of the "great liberation movements."

Drunks: A History of People Trying to Get Free

Naturally, it would be impossible to cover all that is included in the book in this short article. But we would be remiss if we didn’t include a few tidbits from an interview Finan gave to VICE writer Rachel Riederer. One of the more interesting points of the book includes a quote from Abraham Lincoln that the news organization asked about.

I love the Abraham Lincoln quotation that you include about the "heads and hearts of habitual drunkards." It's a warm description—very different from the way that many others talk about drunks.

"It is a constant theme, to push back against the image of them as the town drunks, the degenerates, and to make the point that alcoholism affects all classes of society and it afflicts the best and brightest. It's often a reaction to how terrible the stigma was against alcoholics: the idea that alcoholics deserved to suffer because they were bad people, they were criminals, they were weaklings, they were sinners. The tremendous humanitarianism of Lincoln is well-known, but I hadn't known until I started working on this book that it extended to drunks."

The final interview question touched on treating addiction in America today.

I'm curious about what you think about the current culture around drinking and sobriety.

"I think that a lot of the progress we've made is permanent. As long as people are staying sober and can remember what it was like for them, whether in AA or some other sobriety group, this is one of the defining experiences of their lives and they aren't about to let anybody deny or diminish the truth of what they've experienced. [But] alcoholism is still a tremendous problem, and the amount of treatment is completely inadequate…"

Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

Anyone who has been touched by the disease of addiction, or has a loved one struggling with it may want to pick up a copy of the book. It is a history that led to the effective methods of treatment that are utilized today across the country. Methods that are still being enhanced and improved upon. If you or family members are in need of help for an alcohol use disorder, please contact PACE Recovery Center today. Our highly trained staff employs scientific, evidence-based techniques to help break the cycle of addiction. In conjunction with the 12-Steps, clients have the best chance of achieving continued, long-term sobriety from alcohol. Going on to live fulfilling and productive lives.

National Recovery Month – Join The Voices

National Recovery MonthTogether, we can, and do recover from addiction. Those who suffer from substance use disorder are not lost, but rather they are living with a debilitating mental health disorder which, left untreated, can be deadly. There was a time when recovering from addiction consisted of what is known as “white knuckling” it, that is when one gives up drugs and alcohol but has nothing to replace it with. Those who fell into that category were often considered to be a glum lot, angry about being unable to use mind altering substances the way “normal” people can. Suffice it to say, they are not considered fun to be around. The advent of 12-Step recovery programs was a paradigm shift with regard to breaking the cycle of addiction. To put it simply, those living with addiction had a metaphorical hole that alcohol and drugs filled; by working the 12-Steps people could fill that hole by connecting with a higher power and helping others find recovery. Naturally, there are 12-Steps for a reason, and recovery under that model requires working them all—and reworking them in order to maintain constant contact with the higher power of each person’s choosing. Sadly, some addicts and alcoholics are unable to be completely honest with themselves and others, and work a program; maybe they will be able to surrender down the road, but it does not always happen the first time around. For those who have been able to do the work, stick to the principles of recovery and help others—the sky’s the limit. There is no cap on the amount of gifts that a program of recovery can provide—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Everyone who continues to recover from drug and alcohol abuse, day in and day out, should take a moment to be proud of how far they have come—especially since National Recovery Month happens every September.

National Recovery Month

Over the last 27 years, September has been designated as National Recovery Month. Over the next 30 days there will be recovery related events held all over the United States with several different goals. Of top concern are efforts to break the stigma of addiction, which is a clinically accepted form of mental health disorder. What’s more, bringing to the attention of those still abusing drugs and alcohol that not only is help available, recovery is possible. By acknowledging and applauding the efforts of those who have managed to get and stay sober, we can encourage others to seek help. In 2016, the theme is Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery! Which, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is about pointing out the value of family support throughout recovery.

Family Addiction and Family Recovery

Addiction is like a bomb. Ground-zero being the addict or alcoholic. And just like a bomb there is fallout, i.e. friends and family. Addiction can, and does, wreak havoc on the entire family. Recovery is as important for the person living with a substance use disorder, as it is for the family. National Recovery Month 2016 encourages individuals in recovery and their family to share their personal stories of heartache and successes in recovery they have made, with the hope that it will encourage others to seek the help they so desperately need. If you would like to Join the Voices of Recovery to help inspire others, please click here. If you would like to watch personal stories of recovery on Recovery Month's YouTube, please click here. Below is an example of one young man’s story: If you are having trouble viewing the video, please click here.

The Future of Alcoholism Treatment

dopamine-stablizersDopamine stabilizers may be the future of alcoholism treatment. The findings of two separate studies indicate that dopamine stabilizers may reduce alcohol cravings in alcoholics, ScienceDaily reports. While more clinical studies are required, researchers have found that the dopamine stabilizer OSU6162 normalized the level of dopamine in the brain reward system of rats that had consumed alcohol for a long time period. The findings come from research conducted at the Karolinska Institutet and the Sahlgrenska Academy in Sweden.
"The results of our studies are promising, but there is still a long way to go before we have a marketable drug," says Pia Steensland, PhD, Associate Professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience of Karolinska Institutet, and co-author of both studies. "The socioeconomic costs of alcohol are huge, not to mention the human suffering. It is inspiring to continue working."
Researchers examined the effect that OSU6162 had on cravings of those with a history of alcohol dependence. The participants were split into two groups, half were given OSU6162 and the other half was given a placebo, according to the article. The group that was given the dopamine stabilizer reported having less of a craving for alcohol after drinking one drink.
"At the same time, the OSU6162 group reported not enjoying the first sip of alcohol as much as the placebo group," says Dr. Steensland. "One interesting secondary finding was that those with the poorest impulse control, that is those thought to be most at risk of relapse after a period of abstinence, were those who responded best to the OSU6162 treatment." "We therefore think that OSU6162 can reduce the alcohol craving in dependent people by returning the downregulated levels of dopamine in their brain reward system to normal," says Dr. Steensland.
The findings were published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology. ___________________________________________________________________________ If you are or a loved one is abusing alcohol, please contact Pace Recovery Center.

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