Thursday, November 24, 2011

Higher Childhood IQ Linked With Higher Risk of Drug Use

Rahul always used to remind me that addiction was nature's way of harm reduction by blunting the intellect of the super-intelligent. He believed that this was how evolution kept things from getting too good for one's own good. Given that fact that I saw much of my life story as a chronicle of stupidity, I could not agree with him. However, recent findings do seem to prove his point, and add another page of erroneous views to my autobiography.

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has published a new study that studied more than 8,000 people over 30 years and found that young children were more likely to experiment with weed, speed, smack and coke later in life than the ones with lower IQ. This correlation was stronger in women than in men.

This also explains in some why addiction issues tend to persist among successful people and creative artists and performers in the face of absent attendant consequences.

Read more about it at the Hip Chick's Guide to stuff.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Clinician's Illusion: A Prescription for Relapse

Addiction is a disease of relapse, and it is our way or the highway, and the highway here is jails, institutions or death. This is one of the most commonly heard declarations in the field of addiction treatment. If you look up substance dependence recovery rates with and without treatment, you will come across a very interesting fact. 75% of people who have overcome addiction or alcoholism have done it without resorting to medical treatment (for addiction) or attending self help anonymous groups. It is a known fact that the client population in treatment centers is largely a revolving one, thereby strengthening the belief that addiction is a disease of relapse. I have always worried about the fact that a group of people who self-declare themselves to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually unwell can pronounce that the only alternative to “their way” is jails, institutions or death for the addict. Let us look a little closer at this belief that addiction is a disease of relapse, where it comes from, and what it does to the addict seeking recovery from proponents of this belief.
There are two reasons, in my opinion, that this belief flourishes. The first is the fact that those in the helping profession find meaning in their lives from being needed by those in search of help. Transference and counter-transference in the psychotherapeutic process are ideas that have been beaten to death, but what a lot of people do not pay attention to is the fact that a large number of people in the helping profession are people who are “recovering” from their own devils, and more often than not, the “helping” is a component of their recovery program, as it is in most self help anonymous groups. In addition, there is a catch-22 situation in this belief. If addicts were to not relapse, then the addiction equals relapse model would not hold true, and that would bring into question the entire belief system about addiction being a manifestation of a spiritual bankruptcy, reinforced by an obsessive-compulsive acting out. Therefore, unconsciously, every recovering person in the helping, while “praying” for the wellbeing of fellow addicts would be unconsciously praying also that all that is written in the holy books of recovery be proven untrue, which is something that even artificial intelligence routines would find challenging.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The RAPS4 Rapid Screening Test

The hallmark of addictive behavior is denial. However, every addict has insight into his or her problem at a subconscious level. There are periodic moments of clarity and honesty during which they may open out to others, or seek help for themselves. These moments are few and far between, and often very brief.

One of the most effective short tests to diagnose an addiction problem is the RAPS4 test, a test made up of four questions pertaining to remorse (R), amnesia (A), performance (P), and starter drinking behavior (S), with regard to the persons drinking or drug use over the last 12 months.

Initially the Rapid Alcohol Problems Screen (RAPS) was a five item test, but was later refined into its present form. It uses questions taken from other diagnostic tools to create a comprehensive and accurate screening test. The questions apply equally effectively to all addictive substances.

An yes to any one question is an indication of an addictive process that needs to be addressed urgently.

If you have questions about your own or a loved one's behavior, apply this short test and determine whether intervention is needed.

1. Have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?

2. Has a friend or a family member ever told you about things you said or did while you were drinking that you could not remember?

3. Have you failed to do what was normally expected of you because of drinking?

4. Do you sometimes take a drink when you first get up in the morning?

Source: Drugdetox

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test (MAST)

There are several self administered diagnostic tools that are available to determine whether your behavior falls into the category of addiction or dependence. The Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test is one that has stood the test of time. Though it addresses alcohol addiction, it can be adapted to almost any type of addiction by replacing the references to alcohol and drinking with the other type of addictive process.

The MAST Test
The MAST Test is a simple, self-scoring test that helps assess if you have a drinking problem. Answer yes or no to the following questions:
1. Do you feel you are a normal drinker? ("normal" is defined as drinking as much or less than most other people)
___ Yes ___ No
2. Have you ever awakened the morning after drinking the night before and found that you could not remember a part of the evening?
___ Yes ___ No
3. Does any near relative or close friend ever worry or complain about your drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
4. Can you stop drinking without difficulty after one or two drinks?
___ Yes ___ No
5. Do you ever feel guilty about your drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
6. Have you ever attended a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)?
___ Yes ___ No
7. Have you ever gotten into physical fights when drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
8. Has drinking ever created problems between you and a near relative or close friend?
___ Yes ___ No
9. Has any family member or close friend gone to anyone for help about your drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
10. Have you ever lost friends because of your drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
11. Have you ever gotten into trouble at work because of drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
12. Have you ever lost a job because of drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
13. Have you ever neglected your obligations, family, or work for two or more days in a row because you were drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
14. Do you drink before noon fairly often?
___ Yes ___ No
15. Have you ever been told you have liver trouble, such as cirrhosis?
___ Yes ___ No
16. After heavy drinking, have you ever had delirium tremens (DTs), severe shaking, visual or auditory (hearing) hallucinations?
___ Yes ___ No
17. Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
18. Have you ever been hospitalized because of drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
19. Has your drinking ever resulted in your being hospitalized in a psychiatric ward?
___ Yes ___ No
20. Have you ever gone to any doctor, social worker, clergyman, or mental health clinic for help with any emotional problem in which drinking was part of the problem?
___ Yes ___ No
21. Have you been arrested more than once for driving under the influence of alcohol?
___ Yes ___ No
22. Have you ever been arrested, or detained by an official for a few hours, because of other behavior while drinking?
___ Yes ___ No
Scoring the MAST Test
Score one point if you answered "no" to the following questions: 1 or 4. Score one point if you answered "yes" to the following questions: 2, 3, 5 through 22. A total score of six or more indicates hazardous drinking or alcohol dependence.

This test can help you come to a decision to seek professional help. Keep in mind that a large number of so called professionals in the field of addiction treatment, especially in countries with poor regulation of mental health care services, are often recovering people who choose to set up therapeutic communities or treatment facilities either because they are unemployable otherwise or because they find it difficult to stay sober in or fit into mainstream social life and might have unresolved treatment issues themselves.

Familiarize yourself with the credentials and track record of any addiction professional you may want to go to for help. In India, you can direct your queries regarding the credentials of addiction professionals to the International Alcohol and Drug Counselor Certification Trust For India.

Source: NCADD

Friday, September 9, 2011

National Recovery Month

In 1989, the US government decided to observe September as Treatment Works Month in an effort to recognize and encourage the work being done in the field of addiction treatment. In 1998, this was officially changed to National Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. With the growing realization that substance abuse and mental disorders had much in common, September this year is being observed as Recovery Month, a month that promotes the societal benefits of treatment for substance use and mental disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible.

In India, however, both mental disorders and addiction continue to be largely seen in poor light, in spite of government initiatives and the growing community of able treatment professionals. The tragedy lies not only in the fact that society misunderstands the challenges faced by those afflicted by these conditions, but also that these poor understanding permits a large number of people and organizations to market treatment that is inhuman, unethical, and outright harmful. For a population already grappling a life-threatening and debilitating mental condition, this is a double whammy. In spite of governmental regulations specifying that only certified and qualified professionals will be allowed into this field, these organizations are often run by addicts themselves, with their own unresolved treatment issues that manifest themselves in ways that are damaging to the therapeutic communities that they set up.

Given the trauma that active addiction imposes on the addict and those in the addicts lives, these practices are often overlooked as they offer temporary respite from the pain of active addiction. The long term damage to the addict's psyche, the reduced probability of long term recovery, and the permanently destroyed fabric of trust and relationships are marketed by these organizations as reasonable price for this respite. Typically, these organizations take refuge behind religious beliefs, fearful superstition and the threat of things getting worse if the families do not comply to get away with this mode of functioning. A sad comment on our times, indeed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Recovering from Eating Disorders

Food addiction consists of two broad but distinct behaviors, compulsive overeating and the pathological complex of bulimia-anorexia. Both of these are driven by an unnatural identification of pleasure with the act of eating beyond the normal impulse to satiate hunger. The physical consequences of compulsive overeating are obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and sleep disorders. The psychological consequences can include depression, guilt, shame, poor self worth, isolation, and even suicidality.

There has been a great deal of scientific study in the field of eating disorders and food addiction, and the reader is advised to peruse them. This blog is a layman’s guide to addictive behaviors, and views addiction from the perspective of a basic understanding of the mind. This post attempts to explain the phenomenon of food addiction in simple and basic terms, largely from the standpoint of those faced with food addiction in themselves or in a loved one, or those dealing with the process of recovery from food addiction, again, either in themselves or in a loved one. It is not a substitute for professional treatment. As a recovering addict myself who has gone through professional treatment at various points in time, I would hesitate to recommend much of what is proffered as professional treatment, but that is another story altogether.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Internet Addiction: When Gaming, Internet and Computers Become Drugs

Obsessive and uncontrolled use of the computer, gaming, internet, or other computer related activity in the face of negative effects on one’s physical, psychological, and social wellbeing is considered internet addiction.  The computer/internet addict replaces real life contact with other human beings with seeking a satisfying relationship in the cyberspace, be it with other people online, or with the act of using the computer or internet itself.

While this was dismissed as a passing fascination in earlier years, with computers and internet being a relative novelty on the scene, with the coming of age of a generation that has not seen a pre-computer, pre-internet life, and with the advent of online social media and role playing games, this has become a serious concern.  The dynamics of internet addiction is simple.  The most common ways that people use the internet are through technological interfaces that were originally meant to bring people closer, to foster connection and relationships, email, instant messaging and chat, bulletin boards, the foundations of a new socialization, the online social network.  However, in time, these have tended to replace real socialization, and ended up creating alienation, isolation, and eaten into the skillsets needed for real life social interactions.

The internet allows the addict to seek emotional gratification through what he believes to real human relationships, feeling love, friendship, gratitude, hate, fulfillment without having to undertake the journey of a real relationship.  The consequences of this alienation are an inability to function in real relationships.

The tangible effects of this addictive behavior are most commonly seen in activities like surfing for pornography, online gaming and role playing, and online gambling.  Apart from this is the anxiety that many people experience about being cut off from internet access even though there may not be any obvious reason for it.  The compulsive need for checking mail, status updates, and feeds have led to an entire industry that addresses internet distractions and behavior modification.  Digital sabbaticals (often for a day only) are becoming common.  

In the thousands of years prior to the internet, knowledge was shared among people in a socially binding manner.  If one needed to learn something, they would be able to think of someone they could go to and ask, and even if that person were not able to give you the answer, he would by and large be able to guide you to someone who would.  With the internet, this social activity has dried up, and we no longer need to depend on society to provide us answers, we can go to the internet.  While this is not an addictive behavior in itself, the reason I include it here is to illustrate the point that the internet has robbed many of us of the very activity it was meant to promote, bonding.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Warning Signs of Drug Addiction

How would you know for sure that your loved one is in the grip of an addictive process?

With drugs and alcohol, there are some common signs and symptoms that you can look out for, which are usually safe pointers that the person is really using drugs.Keep in mind that any intervention based on such an assumption is best conducted in consultation with a qualified professional. Do not ask me where you can find one. I would recommend a spiritual guide instead, or someone who will not cause further damage to happen to the afflicted person. Click on to read the full article.

Read more about Warning Signs of Drug Addiction

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When Love and Sex Become an Addiction

In recent times, sex addiction and the closely related addiction to love has attracted much public curiosity.  Many commentators have gone on to connect deviant and violent sexual behavior with sex addiction. There is reason for concern since unaddressed sex addiction can ultimately lead to unnecessary tragedy. But the worry is more than just the incidents that are making news now. Sex addiction can manifest in the most unlikely places, and go undetected and untreated for years, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

In certain cases, sex addiction is almost welcome. Alcoholics or addicts who have resigned themselves to absent libido for years may be celebrant about its return. Families might overlook the abnormal obsession with sex as long as it keeps some other destructive behavior under control. Research among recovering addicts and their families has established that after food and exercise, love and sex addiction are among the most common forms of addictive behaviors that recovering drug and alcohol addicts fall prey to, in the mistaken belief that it is helping them stay away from the habit that proved so devastating to them.

While sex is a natural and normal urge, when one experiences loss of control and seeks persistent and escalating indulgence in sexual gratification in any form in the face of negative consequence, it is termed sex addiction.  Typically, the addictive cycle of gratification and remorse is present, as are myriad physical and social consequences.  Unlike alcoholism and drug addiction, at the time of writing this, sex addiction is yet to be recognized officially as a disease, with many in the medical fraternity preferring to relegate it to obsessive hypersexuality, a recognized disorder.

The “drug of choice” in sex addiction is the gratification offered by the sexual act itself, be it through orgasm or through acting out on one’s compulsive fantasies.  Since much of sexual addiction revolves around treating the person as an object of gratification, it immediately sets off a conflict with one’s basic morality, and one falls into the trap of self loathing and blame, and it is a matter of time, hours to days, before one addresses this growing feeling of unworthiness by seeking out sexual gratification again.

Common forms that sex addiction takes range from compulsive masturbation, multiple partner sex and extramarital affairs, participating cybersex and phone sex, obsessive use of pornography, sex with prostitutes, sex with minors, exhibitionism and voyeurism, inappropriate touching and child molestation, stalking and harassment, and rape.

As a primary condition, sex addiction leads to complicating negative consequences at all levels, from broken relationships, extreme health hazards, law and order problems, mental health problems such as depression and suicidal thoughts, and exposure to other addictions.

Closely related to sex addiction but often not as tangible is love addiction, a compulsive seeking out of the feeling of being loved and in love through relationships with people that often turn out to be abusive in nature or "avoidants."  Typically, this ongoing and repetitive search for love leads to heartbreak, negative consequences, and despair, reinforcing the need to start the cycle over again.  Often, the love addict no longer finds the thrill of being in love as relationships move toward stability and they themselves indulge in behaviors that “push away” the other person.  This leads to guilt, remorse and depression, and intensifies the pain that causes them to seek love again.  The interconnectedness of love and sex also complicates the issue and the lines between love, sex and abuse usually tend to get blurred in this addiction.

There are many diagnostic tools available to help one answer the question of whether one’s behavior falls into the category of sex addiction. This article by Jennifer Schneider offers several of these tools in one place, and the reader is encouraged to visit her page in order to self administer these diagnostic tools.

Like all addictive behaviors, there is a fine line that differentiates a normal and healthy love and sex impulse and that which is obsessive-compulsive and destructive.  Hypersexuality is a condition that is frequently associated with extreme creative energy, and properly channelized can lead to the loftiest of creative expression.  Yet, the same creative drive, when denied or repressed, can manifest itself in the destructive form of love and sex addiction.

For the sex addict, the first step towards recovery comes from making a complete break from the behavior.  This may require professional help, which can come from certified professional counselors and therapists or from support groups that can easily be found by searching online.  Like with other drugs, it is not easy to abstain from addiction in the early days of recovery.  Support from family and friends is crucial, as is the enforcement of strict limits.  

It is essential for the addict to introspect and identify the belief system that falsely enhances the value of sexual gratification.  Developing coping mechanisms to deal with the pain that abstinence brings can be aided by reflecting on the negative consequences that acting out entails.  Learning to develop a healthy and realistic self image and finding meaningful pursuits can help fill the emptiness that typically sets in with abstinence.

As one gathers “clean time,” strengthening the newly acquired habits becomes important.  Bringing back discipline and meaningful structure in one’s daily life will lead to developing new values, interests, pursuits, and friends.  Having a support group of other recovering addicts can be helpful, but studies and experience shows that relapses often happen in the company of other recovering people.  The prevalence of presuppositions and preconditions of many support groups might also make them nonviable or unapproachable to many addicts.  Having family and friends who understand the condition in a non-judgmental way is a much needed support that all recovering people should have but often don't.  Trust is often difficult to build up in the family, and that can be both frustrating and damaging to the addict.  Accepting this as a consequence of one’s behavior and staying focused on one’s goal, along with reflecting on the spiritual lessons of patience and contentment can go a long way in living with this trust deficit.  

The crux of recovering from love and sex addiction is to develop a realistic understanding of the dynamics of love, the fact that sex is primarily an expression of love and bonding, and that love and bonding entail honesty, acceptance, faith, and vulnerability.  These typically do not happen overnight, and the journey forward can be hampered by depression, emotional pain, loss of faith, and even relapse.  None of these, however, is the end of the road, and one can always make a fresh start at reviewing and reworking one’s belief system with regard to relationships.

It is possible that certain damaged relationships might never return to a state of normalcy.  This can dishearten a person trying to “live sober.”  Recovering from sex addiction is not contingent on either unconditional acceptance by one’s society or full restoration of all that has been lost.  Given the nature of the sex addict’s behavior, it is very likely that many areas of his or her life might never be fully repaired, and it is wise to accept this as fair and just.  However, with baby steps, one can rebuild one’s internal and external environment to a point where one can experience the richness of life in the areas of honest and loving relationships, the reality of the myth that all sex addicts seek.

If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please feel free to leave a comment or to contact me directly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Blog For A Cause

My purpose of blogging here is to share my views on addiction, addictive behaviors, and recovering from them.  This is born out of my journey in recovery and my desire to share the way out that worked for me.  I had to struggle for a long time before I could find the way.  If only I had met the right people at the right time, or read about others who were sharing a similar journey, I would have had to suffer less.  However, I am glad for my experiences, and hope that others with the same questions about the common dilemmas that a person like me faces when processing standard treatment approaches will benefit from this blog. 

However, this post is not about addiction, or recovery per se, but about a discovery that I made in the blogosphere.  Here goes...

A frequent question that right thinking individuals are faced with is how we can make a difference to the environment beyond setting our own individual lives right. For writers, artists, bloggers, musicians, this is the driving force that makes them stick to their beliefs, striving to share and promote their vision without compromise.

I recently came across a wonderful blog set up by a team of young people who are trying to do just that. It is called I Blog for a Cause, and tries to create a community of people that are working to reverse the damage we have done to our environment and our society. A truly laudable initiative, this project promises to make a real difference to the world around us, by bringing ideas and people together. Do visit, subscribe, join as a follower, and share on your social networks.

This is what the team says about itself.

I Blog For A Cause” is a social project that provides bloggers to showcase their Social Responsibility. Everyone supports one or more social cause, everyone tries to make a difference, but that is not enough. We need a platform and a solid network of like minded people. “I Blog For A Cause” is a community where you can share a cause that you support and where the fellow members will help each other to spread the word. Just imagine how easy it becomes to spread the message when there are people who are as serious about a social cause as you are.

Here's wishing I Blog for a Cause all the best!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Musical Expression in Recovery

Eminem picks up the rap album of the year, and I remember how Rehab was stuck on my player hours before I left for a treatment a couple of years back on an august evening.

Music has been pivotal in my life, as it has in the lives of many others, and has been integral to both my addiction and my recovery.  A recent conversation led to conclude that writing and listening and making music was the perfect way to stay abstinent for habitual relapsers like me.

Anyway, I am not Mavis, neither am I close, so I will take this Monday morning off from work and couch myself like Melody Gardot or Hendrix, and bask in the music of the grammy show 2011.