Monday, February 25, 2008
Here’s a quiz. See if you can identify the underlying theme for each of these events: a) The Super Bowl, b) The World Series, c) The Stanley Cup, d) Kentucky Derby and e) March Madness. If you answered they’re all sports events and American icons you are absolutely correct.
Now see if you can identify the sports activity associated with each event. If you answered a) N.F.L. Football, b) Major League Baseball, c) National Hockey League, d) the Grand Prix of horse racing, and e) NCAA Collegiate Basketball Tournament you are correct again. Each event has its own history, mystique, and dramas associated with it. And each has captivated the imagination of generations of children, adolescents, and adults.
March Madness, often referred to as March Mayhem, has its own special place among American youth and collegiate alumni. For three weekends in March, America becomes captivated by the NCAA college basketball postseason tournament. Celebrating its sixtieth year, the NCAA championship journey has slowly evolved. It has helped etch their own memorable moments for generations of fans, players, coaches, and alumni.
The fanfare attributed to March Madness is accelerated as millions of alumni all across the United States dust off their old school sweaters and caps, wave their pennants, and attempt to relive their youth by returning to those good old college days. The exhilaration, anticipation, and frenzy of March Madness is further heightened not only by collegiate or alumni pride but also by the vast sums of money being wagered on these events.
Like many other sporting events, the NCAA tournament generates enormous interest amongst youth and adult males trying to predict the Final Four and ultimately #1. And to make this even more interesting, millions of dollars are wagered on the outcome of each game.
Although problem gambling has been primarily thought of as an adult behavior, more recent research has suggested that it remains a popular activity amongst children and adolescents. An alarmingly high percentage of children and adolescents are engaged in gambling activities. In particular, illegal sports gambling on college campuses throughout North America has become a significant problem. Prevalence studies conducted over the past decade suggests that gambling activities remain particularly attractive to today's youth and its popularity is on the rise amongst children, adolescents and young adults.
Prevalence studies conducted in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, Europe, and in Australia all confirm the rising prevalence rates of youth involvement in both legal and illegal forms of gambling. Estimates are that between 4-8% of adolescents presently have serious gambling problems with another 10-14% of adolescents at-risk for developing a serious gambling problem. Our recent data suggests that while 55% of adolescents are casual or recreational gamblers, 13% have some gambling related problems, and 4-6 % have a serious problem. Yet, for most parents and teens, gambling is viewed as an innocuous behavior with few negative consequences.
Retrospective studies have indicated that adult problem gamblers report the onset of their pathological behaviors to have begun quite early, often beginning between the ages of 10-19. A large-scale study of adolescents in Alberta, Canada found that most problem gamblers began gambling, on average, around the age of 10 with similar results being found in our study of high school adolescents and young adults in Quebec.
Problematic gambling among adolescents have been shown to result in increased delinquency and crime, the disruption of relationships, and negatively affects overall school performance and work activities. While these youth present themselves differently from adults, they nevertheless have similar characteristics. These adolescents have a preoccupation with gambling, resulting in poor school performance, strained parental and peer relationships, and an increase in antisocial behavior in order to maintain their gambling behavior.
Contrary to public opinion, our research and clinical work suggests money is not the predominant reason why adolescents engage in these behaviors. Rather, it appears as though money is used as a vehicle that enables them to continue playing. Through play, either with video poker machines, sports betting, cards, or other forms of gambling, these adolescents exhibit a number of dissociative behaviors; escaping into another world, often with altered egos. When playing, adolescents with serious gambling problems report nothing else matters and all their problems disappear. Betting on the outcome of a sports event makes the adrenalin flow, the heart rate increase, and the excitement intensify.
For an adolescent with a gambling problem, a good day is when the money he or she has lasts all day before their pockets are empty. A bad day is when the same amount of money lasts for only a half an hour. The initial claim is they gamble to make money. However, in speaking with these young gamblers, one quickly realizes money won is simply used as a means to access further gambling opportunities.
There is a progression that can often be seen with respect to amounts of money wagered. When the gambling first starts, betting $20 on the outcome of a sports event is exciting and the amount bet is enough to generate a thrill, regardless of whether they win or lose. What quickly happens is that the $20 wager quickly escalates, first to a $100, and then a $500 wager in order to maintain the same level of excitement and thrill. This is referred to as a form of tolerance or habituation, similar to the tolerance seen among drug and alcohol users who need to increase the dosage and/or frequency of use in order to maintain the desired effect.
It is not uncommon for an adolescent or college student to bet upwards of $1500 on a game, if they are problem gamblers. Often bets are placed through on-campus bookmakers who extend credit. Winnings are re-invested into other gambling opportunities. Losses are perceived as a mere detour to the inevitable win.
When the NCAA tournament is over, the NBA finals approach. For the sports enthusiast, there is always some sports event to watch, and more importantly, some event on television to wager on. Individuals with severe gambling problems often rely on people around them (family and friends) to help absorb their losses. It is a dangerous spiral to fall into, and even more difficult to stop.
For the past eight years we have been actively engaged in a program of research designed to help identify the risk factors associated with gambling problems among youth, to examine the antecedents of the problem, and to identify effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of youth with serious gambling problems.
Despite some conflicting findings, there appears to be an overall consensus:
gambling is more popular amongst males than females
probable/pathological gamblers are greater risk takers
adolescent prevalence rates of problem gamblers are 2-4 times that of adults
adolescents with problem/pathological gambling behaviors have lower self- esteem, higher rates of depression, dissociate more frequently when gambling, and are at increased risk for the development of an addiction or polyaddictions.
Research on personality traits reveals adolescent pathological gamblers are more excitable, extroverted, anxious, tend to have difficulty conforming to societal norms, and experience difficulties with self-discipline.
Problematic gambling during adolescence remains a growing social problem with serious psychological, educational, sociological and economic implications. Pathological gambling has been shown to result in increased delinquency and crime, antisocial behavior, the disruption of relationships, and negatively affects overall school performance and work activities. Given there are frequently few observable signs of gambling dependence among children and adolescents, such problems have gone relatively undetected compared to other forms of addiction (e.g., substance and alcohol abuse). The devastating impact to the individual and entire family when a member has an addictive disorder has been well documented.
While occasional gambling should not necessarily be considered problematic, the probability of children and adolescents becoming problem or pathological gamblers or engaging in other risk-taking and/or antisocial behaviors remains worrisome. Given there are frequently few observable signs of gambling dependence amongst children and adolescents, and the paucity of research in the area, such problems have gone relatively unnoticed compared to other forms of addiction.
Today, children and adolescents are informed via their school system about the dangers inherent in smoking, alcohol, and drug consumption. None, however, are informed as to the addictive qualities potentially inherent in gambling activities. Adolescents only become cognizant of this after either they or their friends develop problematic gambling behaviors. It is believed that the general acceptance of gambling and this lack of public awareness is contributing to the increasing number of children and adolescents who are currently struggling with gambling problems.
Gambling opportunities, venues and outlets continue to grow with governments sanctioning and encouraging participation in spite of the rising personal and social costs. While most gambling is illegal for minors, there is clear evidence underage youth continue to actively participate in these activities with many reporting engaging in this behavior with family members. This gambling behavior likely continues into young adult hood, as is evidenced by the growing numbers of students on college campuses who are compulsive gamblers. Sports betting has become particularly problematic among these students.
Gambling amongst our youth remains an important area in need of greater public awareness, more basic and applied research, and responsible social policy.
For parents who have sent their children off to college, or who are preparing to do so, a few words of advice. Talk to them about how gambling can become an addictive behavior, discuss how best to set limits on such activities, and emphasize the value of moderation. While your children may already understand the risks of alcohol and drug use, the risks of problem gambling are probably unknown to them. When constructing a budget for their living expenses, emphasize that gambling expenses should not be part of such a budget. Monitor how your children spend their budgeted allowances that you send. Do not provide them with excessive amounts of money if you suspect that they are the likely to succumb to the lure and glamour of gambling. Access to extra money is a very big factor in the development of serious gambling problems.
Unfortunately, our children are the first generation to live their entire lives in which gambling is not only legal but often sanctioned and endorsed by the state.
Lets do our part in preventing this by communicating the potential dangers, teaching them by example, by supporting and encouraging increased research efforts, public awareness and the development of thoughtful social policy.
Dr. Jeffrey L. Derevensky is a child psychologist; Professor, and Director of the School/Applied Child Psychology Program in the Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology; and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University.
Rina Gupta, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and Assistant Professor (part-time), in the School / Applied Child Psychology program at McGill University. She has a private practice, where she works with parents and children dealing with emotional, learning, and behavior problems. She is a frequent lecturer to parent groups and a contributor to professional journals.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Despite soaring levels of alcoholism, Wiltshire only has one in-patient bed with a six-month waiting list - and alcoholics needing a home detoxification programme face an eight-week wait before they are seen.
Now, a non-profit making organisation, Step Aside, aims to raise £6,000 to open a therapy service in the city centre and help alcoholics before it is too late.
The project is being backed by GPs and nurses throughout Salisbury who feel frustrated at the time it takes for alcoholics to get the help they need.
"The situation is just getting worse and worse and services are at breaking point," said senior practice nurse at St Ann Street Surgery, Tracey Brignall-Roe.
"It used to be relatively rare someone came to me with an alcohol problem, now it seems to be every week.
"But once people have taken the brave step to ask for help they need it straight away and, as a medical professional, you feel so helpless telling them there will be such a long wait.
"There are people falling through the net and dying as a result."
Last month, 30-year-old alcoholic Jack Croft died when he fell into the River Avon.
He started drinking at the age of 15 and his family, who are calling for more funding for services, were once told they would have to wait six months for Jack to receive help.
Step Aside was formed last year to offer counselling, support groups, detox programmes and advice with the help of a six-month grant.
When the money ran out, founder of the organisation, Thalia Shannon-Eyers, who used to work for Clouds House at East Knoyle and The Priory, and a team of volunteers pledged to carry on their work.
"We currently have about 40 people we help but with no money it is very hard to promote ourselves and keep going," said Thalia.
"But I believe everybody deserves a second chance in life and we don't want to shut the door on anyone."
Thalia's mission is to take over premises on Fisherton Street so they can help more people overcome their alcohol addiction.
"Alcoholism affects every profession, all ages, all religions and all walks of life," she said.
"And for every one person we help, there are many more suffering in silence because they feel ashamed and guilty."
The NHS, alongside a number of other charities and organisations, also runs projects to help alcoholics in Salisbury.
But as demand increases, there are calls for more to be done.
"We feel alcoholics have a right to care," said Tracey.
"They don't ask for a drink problem any more than anyone wants to get cancer or diabetes.
"This is an illness and I feel it's time we all worked together to stop more tragedies happening in Salisbury in the future."
source: This Is Wiltshire
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Many times, owning your own business is no picnic, especially in the first few years. Now I was faced with too much payroll, and not enough cash in the bank to cover it. What would I do?
Have you ever been in a hole? Are you in one now? We\'ve all been in one hole or another at various times in our lives, and many they are. One of the more common holes we can get into is a financial hole, as I did. Or, if we are in sales, we can get into a hole in the form of a sales slump. We can even get into a hole with a relationship we have.
Sometimes life throws us spinning out of control into a hole because of circumstances beyond our control, such as the death of a child, parent, or friend. And then there is living with the effects of another\'s drinking, or even childhood sexual abuse, among many others.
The foregoing notwithstanding, it could be argued that many times, if not most of the time, we alone are the ones digging the holes we get into. This being the case, we have to ask ourselves, \"Am I digging this hole with a hand shovel or a backhoe?\" Size matters when it comes to the effect a hole can have in our lives. For example, there is a big difference between a pothole in the road and a grave (which is the final hole we’ll get ourselves into!).
How Holes Affect Our Lives
Think about a time when you were in a hole—I mean really think about it. What were your emotions? How did you feel? The times I was in a hole, I felt discouraged, powerless, and stuck. I felt out of control—as if life was running me, and not the other way around. I felt clouded in my thinking and unsure of what to do to get out.
Life is certainly not easy when we find ourselves in a hole. A hole is really a form of adversity, and can affect our mental and emotional well-being. This is especially so if we remain in a hole for an extended period of time. If you find yourself in a hole now, don\'t be too discouraged. There are some things you can do to get out.
Stop Digging and Backfill
If you are in a hole now, the most important thing you can do is ask yourself, \"Why?\" What got you into a hole? Was it due to some mistake? If so, what was the mistake? What led up to it? You effectively stop digging when you discover what got you into a hole in the first place, and then learn the lesson contained therein. This means you cease behaving in the way you did when you got in the hole to begin with.
Once you identify what got you into a hole, you must learn the lesson so you don\'t unwittingly repeat it in the future. Take this lesson and file it in the \"cubbyhole\" of life-lessons learned. Revisit these lessons often so you never forget them, after all, holes come with a price, and sometimes a high price.
One of life’s realities is that it can take a relatively short time to dig a hole, but a long time to get out of it. This is why it is so important that you discover the lessons and realize all the benefits possible with your in-the-hole experience.
Now that you have stopped digging, you must set yourself to the business of backfilling the hole and climbing out. How you go about backfilling your hole varies depending on the type of hole you are in, and it can take time. If in a financial hole, backfilling might necessitate getting a second job, a higher paying job, living with fewer comforts for awhile, or all of the above. Getting out of a hole requires some creative problem-solving. Try the following I.D.D.I. method in your backfilling efforts:
1. IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM. Identify exactly why you are in a hole and what led up to it.
2. DISSECT THE PROBLEM. Tear it apart. Was it some mistake? or inexperience? or fear? or several different things? Continue asking \"Why?\" until you arrive at the core reason(s). Write the reasons down on paper for clarity. Important! Note and learn the lessons of your in-the-hole experience.
3. DEFINE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS. Outline all possibilities. Develop strategies. Don\'t forget to consider ALL possible solutions, no matter how unlikely they may seem. Then ponder the exact opposite of what you think the solution is. Confide in a trusted friend to help draw you out.
4. IMPLEMENT YOUR BEST SOLUTION. Reassess and adjust course along the way if necessary. There is no harm in readjusting your strategy if your original solution doesn\'t pan out. (For a more comprehensive discussion of creative problem-solving, see the book, The Game Rules for Life, by Doug Kelley, chapter 10, or read the article entitled, \"Using the 180 Principle for Creative Problem-Solving.\"
t will no doubt take hard work to get out of the hole, and that is why it is so important that you learn the lesson(s) so you are wiser from the experience and don\'t do a repeat performance. After all, I\'m sure you\'ll agree that you need a hole in life like you need a “hole in the head!”
Are there times and circumstances in which you are never able to get out of the hole completely? Perhaps. But if you feel this is the case, you have to ask yourself if it is really an in-the-hole experience, or simply a pothole in the road of life? Are you really in a hole? or possibly tunneling to a better place? For example, did your being in this hole make you a better person? Did it teach you valuable lessons in some area, such as business or life? Did it make you more attuned to the human condition, making you less judgmental, more tolerant, and kinder to others? Did it result in you \"adding to the woodpile of life?\" In other words, are you making a positive contribution to the world around you because of it? If so, then you have done well! You have learned the lessons contained, and grown as a result. Good for you! You have heeded \"The Last Rule of Holes: When you are in one, GET OUT!\"
Give Me Neither Holes Nor Mountains
It’s clear that getting into a hole is undesirable, so we might conclude that what we really want in life is the opposite of a hole. But is this really the way to go? Think about what the opposite of a hole really is—a mountain. And just like holes, mountains are obstacles too. Sometimes in life, we may not be in a hole, but we might be facing a mountain-like obstacle to achieving our goals and dreams.
By their nature, mountains are quite different than holes in most respects, but the effects can be similar, that is, keeping us from moving forward. Mountains are usually some real or imagined roadblock to getting where we want to go, and, similar to holes, they usually arise due to our inexperience. Once we learn how to traverse the mountain, it will cease to be an obstacle any longer.
For example, Mike, a good friend of mine, dreams of one day starting a minor league hockey team. I dare say that for most of us, this sounds like a huge mountain to get past, especially when Mike tells me that it will take up to $2 million to get it off the ground, and he will have to find investors to make it happen.
But Mike remains undaunted by this “mountain.” Consider why. He has a personal history of success in the game. He has also done his research and is very specific on what he wants, even to the point of defining every detail. For instance, he knows exactly where he wants his team located—West Palm Beach, Florida—and has even chosen the perfect arena. He has also put together a top notch Power Point presentation to attract investors. Mike has left nothing to chance and remains very positive and enthusiastic. There is no doubt in my mind that he will one day hurdle this mountain and achieve his dream.
If you are facing a mountain-like obstacle to achieving your goal, take heart! Learn what you need to know and move forward. Never let anything discourage you! Once I was discouraged about achieving my own goals in Professional Speaking and Writing, and told Mike that I felt like my objective \"was a million miles away.\" After several months passed, and I was a little closer to my objective, Mike reminded me of my earlier comment when he said to me, \"That million miles seems a lot closer now, doesn\'t it?\" What an encouragement! Keep working toward your goal and never quit! Sometimes even when you feel like you are at a standstill, you are nonetheless moving. It was just an illusion. By finding the right path over the mountain, you’ll find that what was once a huge mountain—an illusion—is now just a molehill. Now there are neither potholes in the road, nor mountains ahead, just smooth, level ground!
Doesn\'t this make sense? Things are only difficult because we haven\'t learned how to do them yet. Once we do, they become easy. Think positively, after all, how hard can it be? People just like you and me put men on the moon!
The Worst Kind of Hole
The effects of being in a hole can even lead to another kind of hole—a hole in our spirit. There is a difference between being in a hole, and having a hole inside of us. If this hole within is not mended, the essence of who we are can drain out. It can be our power, our strength, our drive and motivation, our ambition, our sense of meaning, our self-identity, and/or our enjoyment of life. If our spirit drains completely, we may find ourselves beset with depression, or even worse, we can die inside. What a tragedy it is when a person has such a gaping hole in their soul that they want to die. An open hole in the spirit can, in turn, contribute greatly to getting into a hole in other areas of life. One hole leads to another, and thus the vicious cycle of holes begins.
Granted, many things bring happiness in the world. But by the same token, so many good people are so weighed down with the anxieties of life. Social illnesses, such as drug abuse and alcoholism don’t just affect the abuser, they affect everyone around them, including an employer, or any unwitting victims in a drug or alcohol related auto accident. Additionally, victims of child sexual abuse can sustain such a vast hole inside, that they may find it difficult to ever mend the hole and heal completely.
You may have never experienced the devastation that can come from dealing with an alcoholic, or being victimized by a pedophile. Consider yourself fortunate. These atrocities can literally blow a person away. They are life changing events, and not in the positive sense. But with the right attitude and approach, positive benefits can come from tragic circumstances.
The foregoing are certainly not the only things that can throw you for a loop. Many things, such as abruptly losing a job, going through a divorce, or leaving the religion of your family can also pull the rug out from under you, leaving a deep pit where the rug was and a hole in your spirit.
If you are hurting because you have an abysmal hole within, take heart too! Be encouraged by the fact that there are others out there who really know the depth of your pain! Seek them out. Talk to them about your pain, and learn of theirs.
Where do you find these people? Many groups exist to help with a number of different issues, such as grief and loss, codependency, alcoholism, dealing with an alcoholic, and victims of abuse. Please also consider seeking the help of a professional counselor or therapist, if necessary. There is no shame in getting the help that you need to heal. Sometimes when in a hole, it is okay to ask someone to throw you a rope. Why not ask?
It is impossible to address the many different types of holes in the spirit one can have within the scope of this writing. If you have a hole in your spirit, the most important thing you can do is to mend the hole post-haste. Why? Because when a person is literally starving to death, the most important thing on that person\'s mind is NOT planting a garden—it is finding his or her next meal. Your soul is starving—give it a meal! Nothing is more important than mending the hole in your spirit! When you are not \"whole\" within, nothing else matters to you. Your job doesn\'t matter; what you own doesn\'t matter; your life doesn\'t matter. Do you see how serious this is? You simply cannot reach your full potential or find true enjoyment and meaning in life with a continual hole in your spirit.
With healing, the hole in your spirit closes. Your power, energy and essence are no longer leaking out. Now you can start to fill the void with the good stuff of life. And with a mended spirit, your outlook will change for the better. Your spirit will naturally begin to fill with more positive and optimistic feelings. Your disposition will improve and your countenance will radiate the glow of a spirit that is whole and complete.
The First Rule of \"Wholes\"
When you find yourself in an unexpected hole, remember to explore the \"Why?\" question thoroughly. And keep asking \"Why?\" until you discover the core reason(s) for getting into a hole. Along with determining a pathway out of the hole, use the lessons learned to avoid similar holes in the future.
In my own in-the-hole experience mentioned at the outset, I was able to make some last minute sales as well as borrow some money to cover my payroll dilemma. But I didn\'t stop there. I intensely analyzed the reasons why I got into that hole in the first place, learned the lessons, and made changes in the way I managed my business. This helped to make my business successful to the point that I was able to sell it a few years later for six figures.
Additionally, if you have patched a hole in your spirit, do what you need to do to fill your spirit up and make yourself whole again. And remember the \"First Rule of \'Wholes\'… when you are Whole, you have no Holes!\"
But as with everything else in life, there are choices. And it is tragic that some people never learn the lessons of life and so have one in-the-hole experience after another. For those people all I can say is if you\'re going to dig yourself into a hole, keep digging—you\'ll find blue sky eventually. And if you don\'t, then look at the bright side: you won\'t have to pay the grave diggers. Or will you?
Author: Doug Kelley, CH, CSL
Saturday, February 16, 2008
* Stand up straight and sit up straight. When your body is in alignment your energy can flow and when your energy is flowing freely, you can flow.
* Smile! Yes, just smile. Easy to do and effective. This technique can also change the way others react to you, which can further elevate your mood.
* Repeat positive affirmations. Things like "I feel good", "Positive energy flows through my body", "I see the good in all". Always phrase your affirmations is a positive way. For example, “I hate smoking” becomes “I love taking deep breaths of fresh air”. One more very important thing about affirmations, you must infuse your affirmations with emotion. This is the key to making affirmations work.
* Listen to some music that you like. It doesn't have to be anything specific, just something you enjoy. Certain types of music work better than others, so experiment and see what works for you. Studies have shown that classical music and new age music work best.
* Take some “me” time. Indulge yourself in something you enjoy, such as:
o Relax and read a book.
o Take up a hobby
o Slip into a bubble bath
o Watch a sunrise or sunset
* Meditate. Meditation is an excellent habit to develop. It will serve you well in all that you do. If you have a hard time sitting still, then try some special meditation CDs that coax your brain into the meditative state.
Just search for "meditation music" on Google or Yahoo and explore.
* Exercise. This doesn't have to mean pumping iron! Even something as simple as taking a walk will get your blood flowing. Believe me, you will feel better.
Our outside world is simply a reflection of our inside world. Remember there is no reality just your perception of it. Use this truth to your advantage. Whenever you are sad, realize that you have the power to change your perception. These tips will lift you up when you are down, but don't just use them when you are sad. Try and practice them every day, make them a habit. You will be surprised at how these simple exercises will keep the blues away. On a final note, if you are in a deep depression that you can't seem to shake, please go see a doctor. This is your life, don't take any chances.
Author: Mark McCoid
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Bartlett's team trained rats to drink large amounts of alcohol. That induced alcohol dependence, which is commonly called alcoholism.
The researchers injected varenicline, the active ingredient in Chantix, into some of the alcoholic rats. For comparison, other alcoholic rats didn't get Chantix.
The rats got roughly the same varenicline dose that rats get in nicotine studies. Those doses cut the rats' alcohol consumption by about 50%, Bartlett says.
The results came as a surprise.
Bartlett says she hadn't expected Chantix to be particularly effective in alcoholic rats that weren't also given nicotine. But the drug defied those predictions.
The rats had been drinking heavily for months, notes Bartlett. "This is not something that will just work if you have one or two drinks a week and take the drug. It's not that kind of drug," she predicts.
Chantix didn't affect other rats' taste for plain water or sugary water, the study also shows.
Why would a quit-smoking drug work on alcoholism?
Nicotine and alcohol both affect a certain brain receptor, and Chantix targets that brain receptor, Bartlett explains.
"The bottom line is they're working on similar mechanisms," Bartlett says of nicotine and alcohol. She says she had heard about Chantix about two and a half years ago, when the drug was still in development, and wanted to test it against alcoholism as soon as possible.
The study appears in the early online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Chantix is made by the drug company Pfizer, which provided varenicline for the study but didn't fund the lab tests. The researchers note no conflicts of interest.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Dying for a drink: 1.4 million of us - and that's just the bingers
You don't have to be an alcoholic to be a binger. But the effect on health and the damage to those around us are as alarming. And women are most at risk.
By Paul Rodgers
Take a sip of vodka. You may notice a burning sensation on your tongue. That's the alcohol hitting pain receptors wrapped around your taste buds, the same nerves that warn you of high temperatures. From the moment it passes your lips, alcohol is setting off alarms and, mostly, causing damage.
English and Irish women drink more heavily than any others in the world, as our front page today shows. Whatever their reasons, the science suggests they are taking more risks than men.
The latest research shows that women become drink-dependent more quickly than men. If a man and a woman drink the same amount of alcohol, her body will suffer more harm.
Women also have to worry about breast cancer, unwanted pregnancies, and causing brain damage and skeletal deformities in their unborn babies. All these are linked to drinking.
Alcohol is so popular because it lets us have more fun at pubs, clubs and parties by working on the central nervous system to suppress inhibitions. But it also injures organs in both sexes, from the brain to the pancreas.
Officially, 8,000 deaths a year in Britain are directly linked to alcohol, more than double the figure 15 years ago. And some charities estimate that the real number may be five times higher. Drink is, for example, involved in 40 per cent of fatal fires, 15 per cent of drownings and 65 per cent of suicides.
The costs are not just to individual bodies. The NHS spends £1.7bn a year dealing with the effects of alcohol abuse. Drink causes 17 million lost working days a year, costing the economy £20bn.
Beyond the physical and financial, the effects of alcohol can be felt throughout society. More than one million adults are alcoholics. An estimated 1.4 million are binge drinkers. And 1.3 million children are affected by alcohol abuse. Drink is also involved in 40 per cent of domestic abuse cases. You only have to walk through a town centre on a Saturday night to find evidence of alcohol-related violence and vandalism.
The first difference between male and female drinkers, albeit a small one, comes when that nip of vodka splashes into the belly. There, a tiny amount of the alcohol is broken down by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. A man has slightly more of this than a woman, meaning that his body is already dealing with the vodka more efficiently.
But for both sexes it is not the stomach that does most of the work, says Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of its alcohol committee. Most alcohol enters the blood through the walls of the small intestine. That's why eating while drinking is so important; it slows the movement of liquor into the bowels and hence into the blood. Alcohol is a simple molecule, small enough to cross into any cell. It is also a solvent, able to dissolve lipids, the fatty molecules that make up cell membranes. Women have more fatty tissues than men - for example, the breasts - which may be one reason they are more susceptible to drink.
From the intestines, alcohol is taken by the portal vein to the liver, the body's chemical factory and the main filter for toxins. Here, again, alcohol dehydrogenase gets to work.
The enzyme comes in several different, genetically-determined forms, called polymorphisms. These variations explain why some people - usually men - can tolerate more drink than others. But even in the most efficient males, the enzymes can break down only about one unit of alcohol - eight grams - an hour.
There is a downside to the process. It produces a poison, namely acetaldehyde, a chemical relative of the formaldehyde used by Damien Hirst to pickle his cows. This is what makes you feel sick after a heavy drinking session. It is in turn broken down by a second set of enzymes, becoming water and carbon dioxide, but the process takes time. Before the liver finishes its work, the poisons from even a single unit of alcohol may have been round the body more than 100 times.
The liver clears alcohol out of the blood, but is not immune itself to alcohol damage. About a third of heavy drinkers, such as the late George Best, end up with liver disease. Who gets it and who doesn't probably comes down to a genetic lottery. Some people are just more vulnerable than others.
As the liver cells are destroyed, they are replaced by scar tissue, a process called cirrhosis. This has two effects. First it reduces the amount of chemical processing and decontaminating that can be done by the liver. Second, it reduces the blood flow through the organ. In time, the circulatory system finds ways to bypass the damaged liver, taking unpurified blood directly to the heart. This can kill you.
Only half of heavy drinkers are physically dependent on alcohol. The others could easily cut back or quit altogether. "They're waiting for an early warning," says Professor Gilmore. But they're not likely to get one. The first outward sign of cirrhosis of the liver is a distended belly and yellowish pallor. By then, the disease has reached its end stage.
In many cases, only a transplant can save the patient. But potential recipients far outnumber donors. Eleven thousand women a year are admitted to hospital with cirrhosis of the liver, but fewer than 1,000 organs are available for transplant.
As the vodka moves through the blood from the liver to the heart, there is a shot of good news, though. Small amounts of alcohol are known to reduce levels of so-called bad cholesterol that clog and harden arteries, leading to high blood pressure and heart attacks. Unfairly, the benefits are more marked in men.
"But as a nation we're drinking well above these cardio-protective levels," says Professor Gilmore. For heavy drinkers, the benefits are quickly outweighed by the risk of cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart muscles.
Binge drinking can interfere with the sympathetic nervous system so that the heart beats irregularly, a condition that doctors call "holiday heart" because it is so common among people who spend their time off from work knocking back pints. In some cases, it can lead to sudden death.
From the heart, alcohol in the blood is pumped to every other organ, including the brain, within a couple of minutes of it entering the blood stream. And unlike many other toxins, it can slip into the brain.
The immediate effect on the brain is to shut it down. Our inhibitions are the first to be depressed, hence the pleasure. But soon afterwards, we lose the ability to make the decisions and judgements necessary for safe driving, and eventually even basic functions such as walking or standing up become impossible.
By the time blood alcohol levels reach 360mg/ml - four and a half times the legal driving limit - most people are unconscious; by 400mg/ml, all but the most hardened drinkers are dead, usually because the alcohol has depressed the part of the brain that controls respiration. The victims simply forget to breathe. Women, because they are, on average, smaller than men, reach this level with fewer drinks.
And even if they don't die suddenly, heavy drinkers can suffer from brain damage. Research using CT brain scans at the University of Heidelberg showed not only that brain mass was lower among alcoholics, but also that women suffered the same percentage decrease even though they had drunk far less.
"There is evidence for a faster progress of the events leading to dependence among female alcoholics and an earlier onset of adverse consequences of alcoholism," said Professor Karl Mann of the University of Heidelberg. "This suggests that women may be more vulnerable to chronic alcohol consumption."
Other less-well known drink-related illnesses include chronic pancreatitis, a painful condition that reduces the ability to digest food and leads to diarrhoea and diabetes. Bone marrow - where blood cells are grown - can be damaged, leading to poor clotting in wounds and reduced immunity to infection.
Osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones already common in older women, can be made worse. And skeletal muscles, like those of the heart, can be weakened. The movement of the tiny hairs in the lungs that sweep contaminants out can also be impaired, making chronic drinkers more prone to diseases such as pneumonia.
The danger of having an accident while inebriated is obvious, but other risks are more subtle. For instance, 80 per cent of women report that alcohol was involved in their first sexual experience. That lowering of inhibitions can also lead to unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/Aids. Research shows that 81 per cent of rape victims have been drinking before the attack; undoubtedly many attackers have been drinking too.
For many women, one of the greatest fears is foetal alcohol syndrome. During the first three months of a pregnancy, foetal stem cells are changing into forms specific to particular organs. Drugs such as alcohol that cross the placental barrier during this period can have dire effects, including severe brain damage and other birth defects.
For women who drink, the problem is twofold. Early in a pregnancy, they may not ever realise that they are carrying a child and should be abstaining. There is no known minimum safe level. One drink at the wrong time can damage the baby.
And then there is cancer. Areas that come into contact with concentrated alcohol, such as the mouth and throat, are more likely to develop tumours, as are organs with a high proportion of fatty tissues, such as the breasts.
People have been boozing since the dawn of civilisation - the earliest evidence is from 9,000-year-old fragments of neolithic clay pots found in northern China. Some archaeologists have speculated that agriculture itself may have been invented to provide crops for making beer. Attempts at prohibition in America early in the last century were such dismal failures that no one seriously thinks they can stop people from drinking.
Fortunately for those who enjoy an occasional tipple, the doctors aren't demanding that every woman climb on the wagon. Professor Gilmore would like to see alcohol become more expensive and harder to find, but says that, unless you are pregnant, moderate drinking is not a problem. Moderate means 14 units a week. You do the maths.
Your health: How alcohol affects the body
STOMACH: eating while drinking slows the rate at which alcohol enters the blood from intestines
LIVER: vital in removing poison, the organ is itself scarred by alcohol. Cirrhosis hits without warning
HEART: can benefit from low levels of alcohol, but heavy drinkers risk 'holiday heart' attacks
LUNGS: become more vulnerable to pneumonia. Too much alcohol and the brain will forget to breathe
PANCREAS: most cases of the painful disease pancreatitis are linked to alcohol abuse
BRAIN: women suffer the same percentage of cell death as men, but after drinking less alcohol
BONES: both sexes suffer marrow damage, but women are more prone to osteoporosis
BREASTS: women have more fatty tissues, where alcohol accumulates, raising cancer risks
WOMB: babies can suffer birth defects including brain damage if the mother drinks during pregnancy
Friday, February 8, 2008
Vicodin addiction first made big news in 1996, when National Football League quarterback Brett Favre announced he was addicted to the prescription pain pill and entered a rehabilitation program. Today, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that roughly 20% of the United States population over the age of 12 has used prescription medications for non-prescription purposes. Vicodin is one of the leading prescription drugs that are abused.
Vicodin is an opiod drug (also known as a narcotic) that dulls pain and gives a feeling of euphoria when used. Commonly prescribed for moderate pain, Vicodin is a combination of acetaminophen (often sold under the brand name Tylenol) and hydrocodone. Acetaminophen stops the production of prostaglandins, which cause the feeling of pain in the body. Hydrocodone binds to pain receptors and reduces the sensation of pain. Hydrocodone is the habit-forming part of the drug mix in Vicodin.
Vicodin attaches to specific receptors in the brain, spinal chord, and gastrointestinal tract. When used as prescribed, it can be a powerful pain reducer for those with back pain, pain after car accidents, surgery-related pain, and athletic injuries. But, Vicodin addiction can occur after just one to four weeks when not used properly. If used for a long period of time, higher doses will be needed to create the initial desired effect and physical dependence becomes an issue.
Regular, intended use of Vicodin comes with the following precautions:
* Do not take alcohol when using Vicodin.
* To avoid potential liver damage, be careful how many acetaminophen products you use while taking Vicodin.
* Do not operate vehicles or machinery when using Vicodin.
* People allergic to codeine and hydrocodone should not take Vicodin.
* Vicodin has drug interactions with MAO inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants.
Common side effects of regular Vicodin use include:
* Nausea, vomiting, or constipation
When taken in large doses, respiratory depression may also occur.
Signs of Vicodin Addiction
Both psychological and physical signs present themselves when a patient becomes addicted to Vicodin. Most addicts begin using medication like Vicodin without a prescription, for example as a recreational drug. Less commonly, addiction develops in a patient who was prescribed the medication for a legitimate reason. Some heroin addicts have found Vicodin a cheaper substitute. Warning signs of a Vicodin addiction are:
* Using more pills at intervals that are closer together than recommended by your doctor
* Shopping for new doctors to refill prescriptions more rapidly
* Stealing prescription pads or product from pharmacies
* Purchasing Vicodin pills from an Internet pharmacy
* Feeling guilty about taking too many pills
* Hiding the number of prescriptions that are refilled
* Denying there is a problem
Treatment for Vicodin Addiction
Treatment for Vicodin addiction is similar to other drug treatments. Detoxification in a medically supervised setting may be needed. Withdrawal symptoms from Vicodin include muscle or bone pain, vomiting, cold flashes, loss of appetite, insomnia, watery eyes, and runny nose.
Once detox has taken place, it is imperative that follow-up treatment occurs. Detox is not considered adequate treatment in and of itself. Therapy can be helpful to those with Vicodin addictions. Behavioral counseling has also been found to be an effective form of therapy for addicts.
Additionally, medications like methadone or buprenorphine may be given to patients during the treatment process. Use of medications depends on the circumstances of each recovering addict. Medications should only be used under close medical supervision.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step in getting treatment. Vicodin addictions can ruin lives, relationships, financial situations, and business relations. When taken in large enough doses, Vicodin can even cause death.
Initial Author: Amy Hoover
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Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Achieving permanent sobriety means rebuilding your life after addiction and creating a foundation upon which you can steadily stand. To do that, many people recovering from addiction need to rebuild their finances. If you're on the path to recovery, keep reading to learn how to take charge of your finances, budget for an abundant life and rebuild your credit.
Many people coming out of addiction are faced with depleted savings, health bills, repossessed goods, bad credit or even bankruptcy. Before the stress of these financial burdens affects your path to recovery, you need to face your financial problems head on.
First, learn to budget your money without going further into debt. Start by calculate your total family income from all sources. From there, calculate all of your expenses including rent, house payments, utility costs, groceries, debt repayments, savings and entertainment. If, after budgeting, you're unable to balance your incoming cash flow with your outgoing cash flow, then you need to start making cuts.
Whether your cuts as small as removing your cable service or as big as downgrading your apartment or home - sometimes we need to cut back in order to build back up. Remember, you can also renegotiate your credit agreements and set up payment schedules as a way to reduce your monthly payments and begin tackling your debt both responsibly and in way that's affordable.
Second, be prepared to rebuild your credit. This starts with a plan. Focus on how you're going to attack your debts, make a commitment to never miss a payment and plan out how you're going to use your future borrowing ability.
If you've had to declare bankruptcy, start rebuilding by reopening a checking or savings account. You can then rebuild your finances by always making your bankruptcy payments on time, applying for and maintaining a secured credit card, staying away from payday loans or other high interest traps and always being diligent with your payments.
It's a long and hard road to rebuilding your finances, but over time you'll get there. The first year is the hardest, but once you've proven that you can responsibly manage your finances for a 12-24 month period, you'll see your credit score improve exponentially. With time, you'll be back in a position where you can apply for a home mortgage, obtain a credit card or secure a car loan.
Author Resource:- Please visit What Is A Womens' Retreat? and Self Esteem Building
Monday, February 4, 2008
Acting on a hunch that dependence is caused by the failure of receptors for endorphins -- the body's natural painkillers -- to withdraw from the surface of neurons, the researchers bred mice with the ability to withdraw their receptors -- a process called endocytosis -- in the resence of morphine. They found that these mice enjoyed the painkilling benefits of morphine but did not become dependent upon the drug.
"As more pain medications are being removed from the market, new strategies to overcome chronic pain become crucial," said lead researcher Jennifer Whistler, Ph.D. "If new opiate drugs can be developed with morphine's pain killing properties but also with the ability to promote endocytosis, they could be less likely to cause the serious side effects of tolerance and dependence."
The study was published in the Jan. 17, 2008 issue of the journal Current Biology.