Category Archives: Information

British Comedy “Catastrophe” Portrays Lifelike Alcoholism

catastropheBefore you read this article, please be aware it contains plot-spoiling information about all seasons of Catastrophe, a British series debuted on Channel 4 and now available in the US since 2015. If you haven’t watched all of the show, or if you plan on watching in the future, you may want to choose a different one of our articles to read.

The show is about a man and a woman, Rob and Sharon, who meet in a bar, end up sleeping together, and it results in Sharon getting pregnant. Over time, they marry, have another child, and the content of the show is all of the drama that has come about as a result of this so-called catastrophe.

When they meet in the pilot episode, Rob is a recovering alcohol who has not consumed alcohol in quite some time. However, in the finale of season two, he ends up drinking the entire minibar’s worth in his hotel room. Here begins the show’s realistic depiction of alcoholism. Rob had a lot of sober time under his belt, but as can happen to any recovering alcoholic, he relapses during a hard time.

It is during season three of Catastrophe that Rob’s alcoholism begins to take his life over, for apparently at least the second time. What began as a minibar episode of relapse to end to the previous season becomes full-fledged alcoholism. The most realistic aspect of Rob’s addiction is how ‘well’ he hides it, especially from Sharon.

How You Drink and How Often You Drink

Early on in the season, Rob orders a cocktail at lunch with his former boss. He is on an unpaid leave. This is already an indication that he is drinking again, but it’s when he downs the whole thing in one gulp that it really hits home. He’s not only drinking again – he’s addicted again. See, plenty of non-alcoholics order cocktails at lunchtime. There is a way to do it responsibly. Slamming the whole thing like you’re at a college frat party is a surefire sign of alcoholism. Alcoholism is defined by how you drink, and how often.

On his way home afterward, he literally covers himself in cheese and potato chips in order to not smell like booze. Now, in the context of the show, this comes off as funny. But picture this happening in real life. This is actually desperate and saddening. Rob even lies to his wife Sharon and says he was at the movies.

In the next episode, Rob goes to a job interview drunk and the interviewer calls him out on it. He’s also been gaining weight – a possible indication of heavy drinking. Later on in the season, there are signs of a growing alcohol problem: finding a miniature bottle of vodka and being unable to not drink it, being drunk when his friend Chris randomly stops by, and even falling over drunk onto a sidewalk.

Rob eventually acknowledges his problem in a conversation with his mother, played by the late Carrie Fisher in her last role. “I know it would be a really bad thing to drink right now,” he tells her, “but I want to… a lot.” And that’s alcoholism, as real as it gets.

Rob in Real Life

As written by Mary Elizabeth Williams for Salon, the show “has from the beginning quite brilliantly communicated that whether we drink or not, we live in a drinking world. We pour wine at dinner parties. We clink glasses as work events. We meet our buddies down at the pub.”

The ability of Catastrophe to depict alcohol’s place in real life is relatively unique to television. The honesty is raw. However, there is good reason for the show to be able to realistically depict alcoholism, and it’s because of the actor who plays Rob. He is also named Rob. He is Rob Delaney, comedian, actor, writer, winner of funniest man on Twitter, and recovering alcoholic with over fifteen years and three months of sobriety.

Rob on the show is in some ways Rob in real life.

In the late 1990s, when Delaney was in his twenties, he was a self-described “disastrous, dangerous, ridiculous alcoholic.” He got so bad that he eventually began routinely wetting the bed. He attempted to order queen-size plastic sheets from a prominent mattress manufacturer, in order to be able to continue in this manner. When told they only exist in child-size, Delaney had them ordered.

Delaney wrote of this experience in 2013 for The Guardian, linked above. “In a moment of utter sobriety, I was 100% at peace with the fact that I was a voluntary, habitual, adult bedwetter and I was comfortable discussing it frankly with a stranger.” Delaney also wrote in this article about how he hid his alcoholism from his then-girlfriend. “My girlfriend at the time was bummed out by my drinking but not horrified,” he wrote. “She never really saw it all, since I’d try to keep it together around her.”

Perhaps Delaney never poured cheese onto himself in real life, but it’s easy to see parallels between the two Robs, beyond sharing a name.

Rob Delaney, Recovery Writer

Starting as early as 2010, Delaney has written in various publications about his life and his road to recovery. He has performed stand-up comedy on the topic, and has appeared on several television programs. It’s his writing that stands out as a testament to how low alcoholism can make you sink, and how it’s always possible to recover.

Tumblr

Depression is a very common precursor to drug and/or alcohol abuse. Delaney suffered for a long time from a deep depression, one he called “suicidal” and “unipolar” in a piece he wrote on Tumblr in 2010. He says that between 2003 and 2010, there were two distinct periods of extreme depression that were the two hardest experiences of his entire life. You can truly begin to see how bad depression can be when you understand what other life experiences Delaney considered less awful.

From his Tumblr piece: “To illustrate how horrible [the depression] was, being in jail in a wheelchair with four broken limbs after the car accident that prompted me to get sober eight years ago was much, much easier and less painful.” What a testament.

There’s more on the car accident later, but more important is the message Delaney is sending with the piece. He says he wrote it only so other depressed people might read it and realize help exists. He praises how far the mental health system has come, and strongly recommends that depressed people use medicine, regardless of the stigma.

Vice

Delaney wrote a rather vulgar piece for Vice Magazine that same year, this time talking about comedy and how it has helped him stay sober and happy. For this reason, we hesitate to link to the article.

It is here he mentions the car crash that changed his life. Rob Delaney was drunk, alone, and driving someone else’s car around Los Angeles when he blacked out and crashed into the city’s Department of Water and Power. He was the only one hurt, but had no idea upon coming to. He actually asked his arresting officer if he had killed anyone.

Delaney suffered “two badly broken arms that would require surgery and knees that were ripped open to the bone.” He spent his jail time in a wheelchair. It was when he would fall out of it and hit the floor, unable to support himself, that he would think about getting sober after all.

Since then, he has attended therapy, taken depression medication, and most importantly, has stopped drinking. “And therapy, plus not drinking, plus taking my little pills, allows me to put one foot in front of the other and put one word after another and produce the comedy that makes me, and often others, happy,” said Delaney in the piece. “Not only do I not want to die, but having gotten sober and treated my depression, I actually want to be happy too.”

Interview with Slate

In a spoken interview with online magazine Slate, Delaney spoke about how the next step after recovery was to do stand-up comedy. It’s wonderful that he chose this direction, as it has given us a wonderful actor who is very funny, and has even been nominated for a daytime Emmy.

Delaney talks about how entering rehab felt like going home for him – that he belonged there. He says he had to wait about a year after the accident to be fully healed, but went right on stage once he could.

Most crucially though, he talks briefly about how it felt to be an alcoholic. “I can only speak for myself, but I will say that back when I was drinking, if I had no alcohol in my system and then I added it to my system, it felt like sort of a chemical equation being completed. Like, I felt incomplete, and then, with alcohol, I almost had the thought, ‘Oh, here I am. Here’s me.’”

Feeling incomplete without alcohol is yet another surefire sign of alcoholism.

The Finale

The very end of season three of Catastrophe shows Rob (the character) searching for a parking spot. His car is then hit by another car. The bigger problem is that Rob is drunk. Now, we all sometimes draw parallels to our own lives using TV, but for Rob Delaney, this is extremely close to home. The show has taken a cue from Rob’s real life, and has shown us how devastating alcoholism can be, in the form of a car crash that started with a drink at lunch.

The show is funny, but the premise is not. Every 53 minutes, another American dies due to an automobile accident involving a drunk driver. That’s almost 30 people a day. Rob the character and Rob the actor both survived their crashes. Some are not so lucky. However, an alarming number of people drive impaired.

By self-report, according to the CDC (linked above), there are approximately 121 million instances of someone in America driving drunk every year. This means across the country, on any given day, there are 331,507 motorists drunk on the road. That’s an average of 6,630 drunk drivers in every state, every day.

Now it’s easy to see how someone dies because of it more often than every hour.

If you have feelings of depression, thoughts of suicide, are abusing drugs and/or alcohol, or any combination of these, please seek help immediately. That is no way to live life. However low you think you are, you can always climb back up, and you will. Things simply get better. They just do. If you don’t believe it, ask Rob Delaney from the past, who went from having broken limbs in jail to being nominated for an Emmy.

Predicting Future Drinking Patterns in Adolescents

What if there was a way to tell whether or not a teenager was going to grow up and be a heavy drinker? If we knew an adolescent was going to be a heavy drinker later in life, could we prevent it from happening? A research team from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) recently attempted to do so in a study published recently, and so far they’ve been successful.

Adolescent drinking is completely out of control in this country. Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among US youth, reports the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Nearly 5,000 underage drinkers die each year, and nearly 200,000 ER visits are linked to alcohol each year. That’s about 12 deaths and 518 hospital visits every single day from underage drinking. Adolescents consume more than one out of every ten drinks, 11%, and almost all of it is consumed while binge drinking.

Not enough tragedy for you? 1/3 of high-schoolers drink, 1/5 of them have ridden with a drunk driver, and 1/10 of them have driven drunk themselves. Even eighth-graders are drinking – one out of ten of them on average. Adolescents who drink are more likely to experience problems with school, social life, the law, physical and mental development, unwanted sexual activity, violence, memory issues, and the abuse of other substances.

And here’s the kicker. According to the CDC, “Youth who start drinking before age 15 years are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life than those who begin drinking at or after age 21 years.” In a way, this fact is a prediction in and of itself.

The MUSC research team took this idea further and (possibly) found a way to predict whether or not a child would drink as an adult. As noted in their study, not much significant research had been done up to this point on what’s called ‘risk determination’ for adolescent alcohol abuse. However, also noted is how important risk determination is when it comes to substance abuse prevention. Let’s talk about what they did, what they found out, what it means, and how it could upgrade current adolescent alcohol abuse prevention efforts.

The MUSC Study

A total of 137 children between the ages of 12 and 14 participated in the study, none of whom abused any substances (at the time). Every year, until each participant turned 18, the research team conducted neuropsychological testing as well as two types of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The six-year study aimed to “identify predictors of alcohol use initiation” among adolescents. Using brain testing and imaging dramatically helped achieve this goal.

According to an article on the study by the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, “By adding imaging data and neuropsychological data such as the cognition and attention tests, the researchers were able to improve the accuracy of their model beyond those that use only demographic or behavioral data.” Of course demographic and behavioral data were still included.

During the study, 70 participants started moderate to heavy drinking, defined as having at least three drinks on three separate occasions. The other 67 participants remained alcohol-free. (With almost perfectly split groups, the research team got lucky). Then, once all participants were age 18 or older, “…classification models identified the most important predictors of alcohol use from a large set of demographic, neuropsychological, sMRI, and fMRI variables,” as written in the study.

The Results

With an incredible 74% accuracy, the team identified 34 predictors of alcohol abuse in adolescents. The complete list is unavailable without a paid prescription to the American Journal of Psychiatry. What follows are some of the predictors, split between demographic factors and neurological factors.

Demographic Predictors:

– Being male

– Being wealthy

– Dating early

– Being extraverted

– Having positive expectations of alcohol

Neurological Predictors:

– Worse-than-average executive brain function

– Lower-than-average scores on cognitive, attention and memory tests

– Having thinner-than-average cortices (physical parts of the brain)

– Having less-than-average overall brain activation

As informative as it would be to learn what the other 25 predictors are, it is already clear to see how wide of a range they fall under. According to what we know, a rich and outgoing teenage boy who started kissing girls early has a much better chance of becoming an alcoholic than a poor, shy girl who has never had a boyfriend. God forbid that boy has below-average cognitive skills and thin cortices!

Forgive a little comic relief. The implications here are huge, and the conclusions drawn by the research team are exactly what you would expect. They suggest “a mix of demographic, behavioral, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging data” when it comes to “identifying youths at risk for initiating alcohol use during adolescence.” The team goes on to say: “The identified risk factors will be useful for alcohol prevention efforts and in research to address brain mechanisms that may contribute to early drinking.”

What they’re really saying is that using MRI and neuropsychological tests are going to greatly help identify predictors of adult alcohol abuse among children. This is not necessarily to say previous findings were wrong, however there do seem to be some notable differences between the MUSC study’s results and the results from a similar (and much larger) study completed back in 2008 (and without brain imaging/testing).

Previously Found Predictors

Nine years ago, the Society for the Study of Addiction (SSA) published the results of a very large long-term study aiming to identify childhood and adolescent predictors of adult alcohol abuse. It was an off-shoot of the National Child Development Study, a Britain-based comprehensive project involving one weeks’ worth of 1958 births, tens of thousands of people.

The SSA study involved a total of 16,009 participants. “Social background, family, academic and behavioral predictors measured at ages 7, 11 and 16 years [were used] to predict quantity of alcohol use at ages 16, 23, and 33 years and harmful drinking by age 42 years.” No brain imaging or testing was involved. Here are the predictors found by the SSA:

– Having “greater childhood and adolescent social advantage,” especially for females

– Strained family relationships

– Difficulty blending in

– Getting good grades

– Being a truant (late) person

– Having immediate plans to leave for college

Similar to with the MUSC study, there is a wide range of predictive factors. However, there are some differences in the two studies’ results. The MUSC study says males are more likely to become heavy drinkers, whereas the SSA study says females are, provided they are socially skilled. The MUSC study says being extraverted is a predictive factor, yet the SSA study says having trouble making friends is actually a factor. There are more clear differences, and probably even more considering the 25 unseen predictors from the MUSC study.

The SSA study acknowledges these paradoxes in an almost psychic fashion. In a section dedicated to the paradoxes, they explain how some evidence suggests that being introverted, getting poor grades, and being a social outcast all predict future heavy drinking. Yet other evidence suggests that heavy drinking patterns are formed by being extraverted, getting good grades, and being socially accepted.

Considering the MUSC study used the same data as the SSA study, plus used MRI and neuropsychological testing, it would seem that the MUSC study’s results are more trustworthy, even though the sample size was smaller. Let’s not forget, though, how the Medical University of South Carolina’s use of brain imaging and testing was relatively new in its field. More research must be done, it seems, in order to compile a totally accurate list of predictive factors. Still, from here on out let’s consider the MUSC study to be the real deal when it comes to predicting alcohol abuse in kids.

Evidence MUSC is Correct

The study is innovative and helpful in the world of addiction prevention, but some of the results are nothing new. For example, they found that boys are more likely than girls to abuse alcohol as adults. Science agrees, like the rest of us, but here’s more evidence:

  1. Men Drink More

According to the CDC, it’s much deeper than men simply drinking more than women. Men are more likely to:

– Drink excessively

– Take risks while drinking

– Be hospitalized due to alcohol

– Die due to alcohol

– Become violent due to alcohol

– Commit suicide due to alcohol

– Become an alcoholic

– Drive drunk

On top of all that, heavy drinking “can interfere with testicular function and male hormone production resulting in impotence, infertility, and reduction of male secondary sex characteristics such as facial and chest hair.”

  1. The Wealthy Drink More

The MUSC study also concluded that being wealthy was a predictive factor of future drinking among adolescents. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, the study is dead-on. Take a look at the image below and take note of the extreme differences in alcohol consumption among economic classes.

Nearly eight out of ten people who make good money drink regularly, whereas less than five out of ten people who struggle financially drink regularly. Don’t blame cost either, because we all know how cheap alcohol is when you don’t care what brand you buy.

  1. The Socially Skilled Drink More

This can tie together early dating and being extraverted. Common sense tells us that adolescents who date early are more than likely socially adept. They are probably outgoing and social as well. The same goes the other way around. The MUSC study suggests that these socially skilled kids are more likely to drink heavily later in life.

In 2012, Science Direct discovered “a statistically significant association between peer-nominated popularity and the probability of alcohol consumption…” They even went so far as to suggest a direct relationship between making more friends and drinking more.

Because the MRI and brain testing portion of the MUSC study was innovative of the research team, there is not too much pre-existing information to show how they were correct. We suppose you’ll have to take their word (or not) on the predictive factors regarding the brain.

In Conclusion

We believe any and all available data should be taken into account when it comes to something as important as preventing alcohol abuse in children. The majority of alcohol addictions begin before age 21, and underage drinking is a big problem here in the US. This basically makes this country a breeding ground for alcoholics.

Therefore, the more ways to predict future drinking patterns we have, the better off we will be. As science continues to improve, so will methods of determining predictive factors. For now, thank you very much to MUSC for the most accurate model to date.

Brain Changes in Drinking Teens

Finland is the eighth largest country in Europe, with an estimated population of nearly 5.5 million people. The Finnish people have a long and cultural history, and it shows in their country’s beautiful architecture. Finland also has a terrible alcohol problem. Medical treatments required due to alcohol have increased 30% recently, and a top health expert believes that alcohol abuse disorders affect one million Finns.

Now, this includes both alcoholics and those directly affected by them. Still almost 20% of the country feels the pain of substance abuse. Children always end up hurt most by addiction. This is surely why in the early 2000s Finland launched the Adolescents and Alcohol Study, or AAS, a country-wide series of studies aimed at reducing and preventing teen drinking.

One of the studies performed as part of AAS involved a research team from the University of Eastern Finland examining changes over time in the brains of heavy-drinking teenagers. We will refer to it as ‘the teenage brain study.’ After eighteen years research team recently published the results.

Alcohol dramatically alters the brains of teen drinkers.

We review the study itself: what they did and how they did it. Then we discuss what these brain changes are. Finally, we talk about the implications of this study’s results. Get ready for some “shocking” information.

The Teenage Brain Study

For ten years, starting in 2005, the team followed 27 participants, aged 13 to 18, all of whom consumed alcohol “approximately six to nine units roughly once a week…” reports Science Daily. None of these participants, however, had diagnosed alcoholism. (This is a very important factor, and will be brought up later on). The team also used 25 control subjects of the same age, gender, and education level. These participants consumed little to no alcohol.

Brain studies were performed on all fifty-two participants in 2005, in 2010, and in 2015. Two different tests were run each time, a TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation), and an EEG (electroencephalography). Over the decade, the tests showed some alarming changes occurring in multiple areas of the heavy-drinking teens’ brains. Here’s what the tests consist of:

TMS

TMS-BRAINDuring this test, electromagnetism is used to stimulate certain parts of the brain. The results are measured, and are used to “…examine the integrity of the fast-conducting corticomotor pathways…,” as said by Clinical Neurophysiology. Essentially, a TMS shows how efficiently whichever part of your brain being tested is working. The magnetic coil produces small electromagnetic currents in the brain, able to be measured. Here’s a picture for clarification:

Most commonly, TMS is used as a diagnostic tool to measure brain damage caused by things like a stroke, multiple sclerosis, and plenty of other brain-related injuries and ailments. It is not common for TMS to be used in an alcohol-based study.

EEG

This measures and records the overall electrical activity in the brain. Electrodes are placed on the scalp, translating brain waves into visible waves. Think of it as an EKG but for the brain. On the left is a person set up for an EEG, and on the right is an example of what normal results would look like:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using one test for brain function in exact locations and another test for overall brain function gave the research team a special distinction. This study was the first of its kind ever used to study the long-term effects of adolescent alcohol use. However, surely none of the scientists involved were happy with the results.

All 27 heavy-drinker participants displayed significant changes in the brain, and none of them for the better. None of the 25 non-drinker participants showed these changes. Five major alterations to normal brain behavior were discovered. Two of them involve specific regions of the brain, one of them involves a specific neurotransmitter, and the other two are more general effects.

Brain Changes in Drinking Teens

Before we discuss the five brain changes, there’s something important to recognize. As mentioned, the teenage brain study only used participants who did NOT have diagnosable alcohol dependence. This means two things. Number one is that for teen alcoholics, the following changes are more intense than for those in the study. That’s fairly obvious. Number two is more subtle, and more important to know.

Even light-drinking teenagers are at risk to these changes.

“The maturation of the brain is still ongoing in adolescence, and… until the twenties. Our findings strongly indicate that alcohol use may disrupt this maturation process,” said Noora Heikkinen, the lead researcher. What follows are the five ways this happens.

  1. Anterior Cingulate Cortex

‘Anterior’ simply means front. The cingulate cortex is a part of the limbic cortex, responsible for memory and navigation. The part of the brain that alcohol use damages in teens is the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC. The grey matter actually wears down in the ACC in drinking teens. This is scary because most of the brain consists of grey matter. Therefore, alcohol abuse in teens literally eats away at this part of the brain.

The ACC itself is primarily responsible for the regulation of blood pressure and heart rate, but also for decision-making, impulse control, and emotional balance. Damage to the ACC can result in “a number of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, OCD, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and autism,” according to an article published by the National Library of Medicine.

  1. Right Insular Cortex

Teenage alcohol abuse also eats away at the right side of the insular cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive function, and is believed to be at least partly responsible for consciousness. Just as with the ACC, grey matter breaks down in the right insular cortex in drinking teens’ brains.

Damage to the right insular cortex can lead to “disturbances” in all senses except sight. Also, perception, body awareness, mood, disgust, addiction behavior, and even language can be affected by insular damage. Experts believe there are several more responsibilities of the insular cortex. Therefore, damaging this part of the brain can lead to any number of disorders.

  1. GABA

Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. This means it’s responsible for calming your nerves by slowing down brain activity. This sounds dangerous, slowing down the brain, but GABA is both naturally-occurring and vital.

Basically, it prevents nerve overstimulation. Without it, we would be anxious, depressed, panicky and unable to sleep, all at once. However, too much of it can cause all of these symptoms and more. Excess GABA also causes shortness of breath, high blood pressure, increased heartrate, and night terrors.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, teen alcohol abuse leads to a higher volume of GABA in the brain. In a United Press International article about the University of Eastern Finland’s teenage brain study, author Amy Wallace mentions the effects this increase could have on teenagers: “GABA is a vital neurotransmitter that inhibits brain and central nervous system function and may cause… the pathogenesis [development] of numerous neurological disorders.”

  1. Cortical Thinning

The fourth major brain change caused by teen alcohol abuse is cortical thinning. This is when the thickness of the cerebral cortex decreases. Someone’s cortical thickness is “often taken as indicative of the cognitive abilities of an individual…” and cortical thinning is closely related to Alzheimer’s disease.

Old age brings the only natural occurrence of cortical thinning in humans. Therefore, when teens abuse alcohol, they are literally aging their cerebral cortex. This part of the brain is at least partly responsible for most of our human functions. Damaging the cerebral cortex leads to endless possible brain disorders.

  1. Overall Transmission

Simply put, overall brain function decreases in alcohol-abusing teens. Wallace mentions this in her article: “Researchers found that heavy alcohol use causes alterations in the electrical and chemical neurotransmission in study participants.” The human brain is already a near-perfect machine. Any outside ‘alterations’ cannot be good. If a normal brain is live-streaming, then the brain of someone who spent their teenage years drunk must be in slow-motion.

Parts of the teenage brain are damaged by alcohol use, but so is the connection between these parts. The University of Eastern Finland research team believes their findings to be a reason for changing how alcohol disorders are diagnosed in teens.

New Way to Diagnose?

“As is true with virtually any mental-health diagnosis, there is no one test that definitively indicates that someone has an alcohol-use disorder,” states MedicineNet.com. The current method for diagnosing an alcohol disorder actually seems primitive when compared to TMS and EEG. Plus, aside from pre-existing knowledge and screening for other disorders, doctors pretty much have to trust what their patients tell them. Let’s compare the current method for diagnosis with what could be a new way to diagnose.

Currently, health professionals begin with a patient’s full medical history, including family history. Also, a physical examination, including blood tests, is usually performed. The idea is to have the clearest possible picture of the patient’s current overall health. Also, patients are screened for any other disorders, since alcohol abuse could cause another disorder, and vice-versa.

In addition to using medical history and conducting a physical exam, according to MedicineNet.com, “Physicians may provide the people they evaluate with a quiz or self-test as a screening tool for substance-use disorders.” Several variations of these quizzes exist, and you can access them online.

In Conclusion

Doesn’t this sort of mean that doctors are relying on a combination of medical history, screening for other disorders, and trust in their patients? No part of the current method for diagnosing is an actual test for alcohol disorders. In the Science Daily article, linked again here, lead researcher Heikkinen very nicely sums everything up to this point, even adding some much-needed hope:

“The exact mechanism behind these structural changes is not known. However, it has been suggested that some of the volumetric changes may be reversible if alcohol consumption is reduced significantly. As risk limits of alcohol consumption have not been defined for adolescents, it would be important to screen and record adolescent substance use, and intervene if necessary.”

So, these brain changes are reversible, to some degree. Better yet, they can be prevented very easily. Screening and recording adolescent alcohol use, as Heikkinen suggests, combined with TMS and EEG would seemingly be the perfect method for diagnosis. We would know how much teens are drinking, how much their brains have changes as a result, and how to best reverse the damage.

Ultimately, prevention is what we’re after. If teens knew they would be screened for and tested for brain changes caused by alcohol, it might stop them from drinking. Worst case scenario, we can begin to reverse these negative effects.

GUIDE – How To Quit Drinking Alcohol

Have you’ve struggled with your drinking? Have you ever questioned your relationship with alcohol? Are you wondering if you should quit, or do you have to quit? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you know one thing for sure: it’s scary as hell, and it can be really hard.

The scariest, hardest part isn’t quitting. It isn’t even what happens on the other side of quitting that’s hardest to overcome. The biggest roadblock between anyone and sobriety is the decision to attempt it in the first place.

YOU’RE AFRAID YOU MIGHT HAVE A PROBLEM, BUT YOU’RE NOT REALLY SURE

We tend to think of drinking habits in black and white terms, focusing on whether or not we are alcoholics or normal drinkers. Meanwhile, a problem may be developing amidst all that focus.

If you find that you’re caught in this “do I or don’t I” thought cycle – comparing your drinking to your friends, taking online assessments, or otherwise trying to qualify where you fall on the range of problem drinking – give these two things a try:

  1. Quit asking yourself if you have a problem or comparing yourself to others. Rather, ask yourself if you are living to your full potential, and if alcohol is standing in the way of that. Literally EVERY TIME you start to go down the path of comparison or analysis, stop and ask yourself if alcohol is getting in the way. More so, does it prevent the life you want for yourself? If this answer is yes, that’s all you need to know. Step one is over. You’ve admitted you have a problem. It then becomes a choice of what you want out of life and what is standing in the way.
  2. Do some future-self meditation. I know this sounds a bit out there, but it works. A decade from now, you’ll have the answers to today’s questions. The meditation itself will do a number of positive things, but most importantly, it will help create a vision of what direction you want your life to go in. Become who you want to become. Chances are that person isn’t stumbling out of bars or drinking a bottle of wine in the evenings by themselves 10 years from now, even if that’s true today.

WHY STOP DRINKING?

The long-term effects of bad habits are rarely enough to motivate people to quit.  Drinking is no exception. The near-term benefits of giving up alcohol are much more useful and interesting anyway. Here are the changes I experienced:

Productive socializing. Talking to strangers is a great way to build character, but the benefits are greatly reduced when you’re drunk. The alcohol represses much of the social anxiety, yes, but this inhibits lasting change. It might seem terrifying to meet new people without being drunk, but the long-term effects of alcohol are much more terrifying.

Reclaim lost time. Let’s say you have a few drinks around the house, three times a week, and that light touch of drunkenness costs you three hours of productive thinking each time. Within a year, you’ll have shaved about one full month off your life. That’s a lot of lost time that could have been put towards reading a book, writing a speech, playing a sport, or even starting a business. And this doesn’t even count the time lost waiting for your brain to recuperate the morning after a night on the town.

Get rich quickly. You don’t have to party that hard to spend $100-$150/week or more on alcohol and related expenses. If you quit drinking today, you could reasonably expect to convert that choice into a bankroll for backpacking around the world in about six months. Telling yourself it only costs a handful of dollars to get drunk is like telling yourself you’re willing to pay $400-600 a month for health problems.

Become an early riser. I’m currently readjusting my sleep schedule to wake up at 5:30 AM, seven days a week. Alcohol, and the lifestyle that often accompanies it, work against this process. Alcohol makes me feel tired when I want to feel energetic and awake. Ironically, it also increases wakefulness during sleep, even though it’s a depressant.

You can probably think of other instantly gratifying benefits to life beyond the bottle. The important thing is to actually have a reason that is important enough to you. One must be willing to quit in order to achieve sobriety.

MAKE SOBRIETY PRIORITY NUMBER ONE

Giving up alcohol is one of the easiest and hardest changes you can make in your life.

It’s easy once you’ve established the right rules, configured your environment to support you, and set up useful boundaries of pain and pleasure to help direct you towards your goal. The hard parts are the social implications and fighting off the One Man Army that is your ego, with its barrage of self-limiting beliefs and drink requests.

Giving up alcohol must be made priority number one in your life. A partial commitment is a commitment to failure. Even if you already don’t drink that often, it will be tempting to break your own rules when your friends call you up and invite you out. You’ve got to be willing to prioritize this decision in every situation where it’s relevant, even when that means Just Saying No to pub night.

IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL, RIGHT?

Ever notice how some people act as though the end of their relationship is the end of the world? It’s as if there’s no point in living if they can’t be with that person any longer. Yet other people come along and date that person who left them, eventually break up with them, and see it as hardly more than a blip on the radar.

You may feel that it’s pretty easy to give up drinking. Or you may feel that it’s an addiction with a stranglehold on your life. Either way, there is no inherent magnitude to this task. It’s as big or as small as you make it. Turn it into a blip, and let it fade off your radar. The most effective way forward is to not only make quitting drinking a top priority, but to think, talk, and act like it can be done.

COMMIT TO 30 DAYS DRY

If you’ve never done it before, it can be hard to think of giving up drinking forever. It’s discouraging to commit to permanent change, only to back out a few days or weeks into it. Most people will face social friction and lifestyle changes for which they’re unprepared. Ninety percent of alcoholics relapse. Help lower that number, and commit to a thirty-day regimen of no alcohol consumption. Here’s two ways you can start:

Fire Your Drinking Buddies

Alcohol may be so tightly integrated into your social life that it seems almost impossible to go an entire weekend without drinking. If the only thing you have in common with your friends is that you like the same lagers, you might want to consider finding new friends. If the relationship is deeper than that, but alcohol is always involved, you need a break… perhaps a long one.

I’ve let go of people in my social circle before and I know it’s not easy — but that doesn’t make it unnecessary. This might be the hardest thing you do in choosing a life without alcohol. The key is to remember that friends are an abundant resource. Having a strong social circle is purely a function of the effort you invest into it. That includes choosing to associate only with people who are aligned with your purpose, while avoiding the energy vampires.

This is another benefit of a 30-day commitment. Instead of permanently downsizing your social life, you can choose to be busy only for the next few weeks. Observe how it affects you when you stop spending time with your beer buddies. Join a local user group for something you’re interested in to bring yourself into contact with people with whom you share more than just a bar tab.

Advertise Your Decision

I told most of my friends about what I was doing. Not only does this add accountability to your goal, it also drops the hint that if your friends are planning on going out and getting wasted, you’re probably not interested. Plus, if someone offers you a drink and you look at them and say, “I can’t. I’m a full blown alcoholic,” they probably won’t ask you again.

ISN’T IT DANGEROUS FOR ALCOHOLICS TO QUIT DRINKING?

When someone makes the decision to stop drinking, the first 72 hours are critical, as they’re in the most painful part of the recovery process. As your body flushes all the alcohol from your system, you’ll experience the unpleasant pangs of acute withdrawal. Alcoholics will experience especially brutal recoveries, and professional help is recommended for them. Regardless, the benefits of quitting drinking will soon make themselves known.

Even though it may not feel like it, the acute withdrawal stage of the recovery timeline can be the beginning of something great. The onset of the first symptoms is evidence that your body is beginning to shift into healing gear. If alcohol is used over the long term, it can actually affect the brain’s electrical potential.

The onset of withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as six hours after your last drink. You may experience:

  • Elevated temperature
  • Increased blood pressure, breathing rate and pulse
  • Excessive sweating
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia

In extreme cases, people may even have seizures leading to loss of consciousness. The body is working overtime to cleanse itself of alcohol, and the symptoms it creates can be so uncomfortable that people immediately relapse. This is why it is so important for someone attempting to overcome alcoholism to go through the withdrawal process under medical supervision

If done correctly, detox is the first meaningful step in the recovery process. At the same time, it’s also the stumbling block that can completely derail any attempts at long-term sobriety. This is why it’s important to enlist the professional services of a detox program that can ensure you’re receiving the nutrients, medication and support you need to make it through the first stages after quitting drinking.

POST-ACUTE WITHDRAWAL:  2+ WEEKS AFTER QUITTING

While the most infamous phase of recovery is the initial withdrawal stage, full detoxification can take up to two weeks in some cases. As your body is getting rid of the last remnants of alcohol, psychological symptoms can advance quickly — but so can the positive effects.

As most would expect, mixed in with the highs are periods of emotional lows. These effects aren’t as physically urgent as the ones experienced in the first stages of withdrawal, but they can take a big toll on your newly sober psyche. They may include:

  • Anxiety & depression
  • Decreased energy & metabolism
  • Feelings of aggression or hostility
  • Declined sexual interest or function
  • Sleep disruption & nightmares

These symptoms develop after the acute withdrawal period, and can last for a couple of weeks all the way up to a year depending on the severity of prior alcoholism. The name for this phenomenon is “protracted/post-acute withdrawal symptoms,” or PAWS.

The worst part of these symptoms is the formidable cravings for alcohol. Even after removing all traces of alcohol from your system, the brain will still want it to help return to the balance of chemicals it has gotten used to — but knowing the source of these symptoms is key to dealing with cravings appropriately.

In this time period, it’s crucial for people in recovery to develop and enforce new and healthy coping habits without turning back to the bottle. In effective treatment programs, you can learn how to augment the positive effects of quitting drinking with therapy, group work, and one-on-one attention from medical and clinical professionals. Building effective coping skills and getting to the root of addiction is paramount at this juncture in the quitting alcohol recovery timeline.

You might spend several days in detox. Treatment in rehab can last a few days or a few months. You’ll be in a controlled environment, so if you have any cravings for alcohol, you won’t have access to it. At treatment, you’ll be engrossed in recovery.

At this point, you should have learned some tools and coping mechanisms to keep you away from a drink.

Regardless, you should continue to see a therapist or attend some type of group meeting, such as AA. It’s always helpful to have a support system of counselors and people who understand what you’re going through. This will contribute to a happy and healthy recovery. Recovery is a lifelong process, and the post treatment maintenance is just as important as the initial treatment process.

 

A Dry January Goes a Long Way

We drink a lot during the holidays. This is especially true at the end of the year, starting with the day before Thanksgiving and on through to New Year’s Day. The day before Thanksgiving is actually the biggest drinking night of the year in the US, and has come to be called ‘Blackout Wednesday.’ Christmas brings its own rush of alcohol, and we all know how drunk Americans get on December 31st. Some may find this amusing, but really it’s not funny at all.

Holiday drinking creates an extremely dangerous period of time.

During these short five weeks, drunk-driving violations increase by 33% across the country. More than 20 people a day are injured or killed from alcohol-related causes, triple the average rate. New Year’s Eve is the most dangerous drinking day. Drunk-driving violations increase by 155% and injury/death rates nearly quadruple. As bad as it may sound, nothing’s going to prevent this from happening. Americans are going to drink more than average during the holiday season. Many of us drink problematically during this time.

So why not take a break?

In the information age, ideas spread very quickly. Back in 2006, author John Ore began writing about something he was doing at home: taking January off from drinking. His then-girlfriend and future wife first suggested it to him then, and it’s become a tradition. Ore wrote about it more and more, and the tradition came to be known as “Drynuary.” Within a couple of years, the idea went viral and people were doing it all over, using social media to brag about it.

In 2010, a non-profit organization called Moderation Management (MM) linked up with Ore to promote a non-drinking January. According to their mission statement, MM provides “…peer-run non-coercive support groups for anyone who would like to reduce their alcohol consumption.” Together, MM and Ore started a website dedicated to the practice.

Participating in the dry January is now officially known as “Dryuary,” losing the ‘n’ due to web address availability. From the website: “The goal of Dryuary is to offer a supportive environment for taking a month-long break from alcohol. It’s an invitation to give your body a break for 1/12th of the year from a diet that includes alcohol. Dryuary is not therapy; it is simply an opportunity to reset your relationship with drinking by taking a break at the beginning of the year.”

There are inspirational quotes and songs for each day, along with blogs and forums to share your Dryuary experiences. You can access Dryuary through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. Although it’s over for this year, you can sign up to participate in 2018.

While obviously healthy and positive, it’s easy to see how someone could dismiss Dryuary at first glance. It’s just a silly thing to brag about on social media, right? Very, very wrong. Yes, it’s on social media, but Dryuary has become so popular, and is so obviously healthy, that even the American Psychological Association (APA) officially recognizes the health benefits. Let’s talk about what they are.

Major Health Benefits to Dryuary

US News published an article this January about four “surprising things that happen to your body” when you participate in Dryuary. In short, you drink less, you sleep better, you eat less, and you may even lower your risk of diabetes. We want to expand on these benefits and show exactly how just one 31-day period of abstinence can go such a long way. Here are four major health benefits to participating in Dryuary:

1. You’ll Drink Less

People who participate in the dry January actually drink less for at least six months in the future. Plus they “have greater confidence in their ability to say no to alcohol…,” as written in the US News article. Science has backed this up, officially recognizing the health benefits of Dryuary.

A study published last year in Health Psychology, backed by the APA, “revealed that participation in Dry January was related to reductions in alcohol consumption and increases in DRSE among all respondents at 6-month follow-up, regardless of success, but indicated that these changes were more likely among people who successfully completed the challenge.”

DRSE stands for “drink refusal self-efficacy,” and is basically a measurement of the strength to say no to a drink. How good are you at not drinking when either offered one or surrounded by the opportunity to do so? DRSE numerically measures this.

First of all, it’s amazing that drinking rates went down even for those who did not finish the month out. Secondly, it’s incredible that one month of sobriety reduces drinking for half of a year! It’s important to note that ‘rebound effects,’ or the tendency to drink more after a dry period to ‘make up for lost time,’ do not occur after Dryuary. According to the study: “The findings suggest that participation in abstinence challenges such as Dry January… is unlikely to result in undesirable ‘rebound effects’: very few people reported increased alcohol consumption following a period of voluntary abstinence.”

2. You’ll Sleep Better

As reported by Time, a study performed recently at the University of Melbourne showed how even one drink of alcohol near bedtime can result in lower quality sleep. In the study, twenty-four people between the ages of 18 and 21 spent about a week at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences Sleep Laboratory.

One night they were each given a nightcap of vodka and orange juice, and the next night they were given a placebo: orange juice with a straw dipped in vodka. Before lying down for the night, each participant was hooked up to an electroencephalogram, or EEG. This machine measures brain activity with high accuracy.

According to Time: “Not surprisingly, on the nights they drank alcohol, people showed more slow wave sleep patterns, and more so-called delta activity…,” which occurs during deep sleep. However, alpha activity was also increased when they drank, which only occurs when the brain is awake.

The article continues: “Having both delta and alpha activity together therefore leads to disrupted sleep, since the alpha functions tend to offset any restorative efforts the brain neurons are trying to squeeze in.

So while it may seem that a drink or two before bed helps you sleep, it does not. That nightcap helps you fall asleep, but lowers the quality of the actual sleep you get. Therefore, a month of no drinking after that holiday period of bad sleep will ensure that you sleep better. More sleep means a better mood and better concentration, which overall means better performance. Thanks, Dryuary.

3. You’ll Eat Less

How much food do you eat on Thanksgiving? Are there leftovers that you nibble on for the rest of the month? When all the Christmas candy goes on sale in early December, do you buy any? How about on Christmas itself – do you eat a nice, big meal? Are there snacks out for your alcohol-fueled New Year’s Eve party? If you’re a fan of the NFL, are you eating “football food” during the playoffs in January? Are you drinking throughout all of these occasions?

Let’s face it. Holiday season is all about the eating… and drinking alcohol. Turn on the sobriety for a month starting on New Year’s and you’re guaranteed to eat less during January, which could lead to better eating habits.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition performed a five-year long study of 7,608 men, who at the end “completed a postal questionnaire on changes in alcohol intake and body weight.” The results were not so great. Body mass index, or BMI, “increased significantly from the light-moderate to the very heavy alcohol intake group…,” wrote the researchers. “Similar patterns were seen for all types and combinations of alcohol.”

The conclusion of the study was literally summed up into one sentence: “Heavy alcohol intake contributes directly to weight gain and obesity, irrespective of the type of alcohol consumed.” The bottom line is that alcohol has a lot of calories, especially beer and wine. Liquor might not have a huge calorie count, but it is often mixed with sugary drinks.

On top of alcohol causing weight gain, drinking makes you eat more in general, and usually not health food. An unnamed study, referenced in the US News article linked above, found that on drinking days, men consume 433 calories more than they would on non-drinking days. Women consume 300 more calories.

Participate in Dryuary and lose that New Year’s resolution weight!

4. Possible Lower Risk of Diabetes

Another unnamed study was referenced in the US News article, this time regarding alcohol use and liver health/glucose levels. The study involved ten regular drinkers staying sober for a five-week period. Six of the participants went the whole time without drinking. Four participants drank.

For those who succeeded, both liver health and blood glucose levels improved. Also, liver fat, (which is a precursor to fatty liver disease, which is a precursor to cancer), fell by 15% or more after five weeks. Blood glucose levels fell by 16% on average. No such improvements were noted for any of the four who drank.

This particular study is a pilot study, meaning it is in the beginning stages. As said in the US News article, “This pilot study gives no indication of how long the improvements persist, but it does lay the groundwork for larger studies.”

In Conclusion

These four benefits of not drinking for a month are backed with science, not just opinions. There are countless more benefits. For example:

  • You will save a bunch of money.
  • You will be hangover-free for a month.
  • If when you drink, you use nicotine more, that will stop.
  • You will be alert and conscious if and when the time comes.
  • You have zero chance of getting alcohol poisoning.

Many more benefits exist; all you have to do is go sober for a month and see for yourself. It doesn’t have to be January. It can be any month. It can be any thirty-day period of time. Regardless of when you choose to do it, one month of no drinking will make you drink less alcohol in the future. It will give you better sleep. It will make you eat less, and it more than likely reduces your risk of not just diabetes, but liver problems as well.

For those who are not alcoholics and only enjoy responsibly, consider this: Alcohol isn’t going anywhere. Resisting for a month won’t make it disappear forever. Just try going for a month and see how you feel.

We bet you’ll feel like a million bucks.

Harlem Church Offers Free Mental Healthcare

Mental illness has no prejudice. Whatever your race, religion, background or creed, we’re all equally susceptible to mental problems. When it comes to seeking help for such problems, some people are more reluctant than others. Perhaps a fear of being labelled as crazy holds some back.

According to Psychology Today, many members of the African-American community “continue to hold stigmatizing beliefs about mental illness.” Furthermore, a 2008 study showed that “over a third [of African-Americans] felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered ‘crazy’ in their social circles.” Not receiving help for mental illness leads to worse and worse conditions for people.

Reverend Michael Walrond of the First Corinthian Baptist Church is tackling this issue.

The H.O.P.E. Center

Rev. Walrond has a goal: to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and its treatment within the black community. Where else to start but his church? Walrond recently launched the H.O.P.E. Center, which stands for Healing On Purpose & Evolving. The program offers therapeutic services that are affordable and community-based. Located at 228 W 116th St. in NYC, the center is open to people of all ages, and offers both individual and group therapies.

“There’s a normalization of trauma in this community. We don’t engage it, we don’t address it. The traditional response was to pray about it. Not to negate that, but that’s not the same as having a mental health practitioner. Language is the biggest way to take the stigma away,” said Rev. Walrond.

the H.O.P.E. Center Harlem

Rev. Frazier (L) and Rev. Walrond (R) of the HOPE Center

NYC First Lady McCray

Last week at the grand opening of the HOPE Center, Chirlane McCray, wife of NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio, was there for support. The couple advocates for mental health, and in November of last year launched ThriveNYC, an outline of initiatives that support the mental health of New Yorkers. If anyone understands the plight of New York’s mentally ill, then it’s Chirlane McCray.

At the HOPE Center’s opening, McCray said the following: “Government cannot do this work alone and we shouldn’t expect people to travel someplace unfamiliar to deal with people they do not trust when they’re suffering. Now folks who live, work and worship in this community are only a short walk away from high-quality affordable mental health care and that care will be delivered by people who understand this community.”

What We’re Hoping For

Mental illness, especially that of drug addiction, has a negative connotation in American society. People like Rev. Walrond and Chirlane McCray want that to change. Also, through community support, we hope that people of all backgrounds begin to understand that they are not crazy. Having a mental illness, knowing it, and leaving it untreated… now that might be crazy.

If you or someone you love is dealing with mental illness, seek help today. Better yet, if you are in the NYC area, drop by and see the Reverend.

The Dangers of Drunk Driving

Why would you drive drunk? You have to get somewhere? Okay, call a cab. Download the Uber app. Get a hold of a friend. Take a bus. Walk. Other options exist, none of which kill 27 people a day.

drunk-drivingDrunk Driving is the last thing you should do. Saying you’re a good drunk driver is like saying you’re good at potentially killing someone. Still feel you need some convincing? Read on and learn about the grueling statistics regarding drunk driving and about what drinking physically does to a driver of a vehicle.

A FATAL DECISION

Cold hard facts speak volumes where anecdotes and advice sometimes cannot. The following information is absolutely designed to scare you. Over 30,000 people have died as a result of drunk driving accidents in the last 3 years. An estimated 6,000 of these victims were children under 15. Over one person per hour DIES because of this epidemic. Over a million people have been injured due to drunk driving since 2014. One in three people will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime. One-third of these deaths and/or injuries are to the non-drunk person(s). Let’s put this all together:

Approximately 1,000 drunk driving accidents occur each day. Nearly 30 people die in these accidents, and over 300 of them aren’t even drunk. There is a 33% chance you will be injured in a drunk driving accident…even if you’ve never touched a drop. Please do not become a statistic.

NOT JUST DEADLY, ALSO ILLEGAL

dui-checkpointAs if bodily harm isn’t enough deterrence, consider the fact that nearly 1.5 million arrests of drunk drivers are made annually. The annual cost of this to the taxpayers exceeds $130 billion. Each year, more sobriety checkpoints are set up across the country, reducing the amount of drunk drivers by nearly 10%. Also, the number of arrests made increases with more checkpoints.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENS WHEN YOU DRINK AND DRIVE

‘One drink’ is defined as 12 oz. beer, or 5 oz. wine, or 1.5 oz. liquor. After just two drinks, judgement loss begins, a decline in visual function occurs, and the capacity for multitasking starts to fade. After three drinks, one experiences a lack of coordination, difficulty steering a vehicle, and much less alertness. After four drinks, concentration becomes difficult, there is reduced signal interpretation, (for example, stop signs and red lights are harder to see), and perception of speed is thrown off. After five drinks, steering is severely disabled, and braking becomes erratic. After 6 or more drinks, physical control is all but impossible, attention to driving becomes nil, and visual/auditory processing is quite impaired. Whether you’ve had one, two or twelve, do not drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any other illicit substance.

HOW WE CAN PREVENT DRUNK DRIVING

Designate a sober driver. Do not let your loved ones drive drunk. If you have to get somewhere, call a taxi. Surely the fare is worth your (and others’) health. Also, on a non-personal level, the active enforcement of blood alcohol content laws, along with sobriety checkpoints and requiring mandatory alcohol abuse classes for DUI/DWI offenders, all are helping combat this problem. Just remember, if and when you decide to drive drunk, that you are deciding to put multiple lives at risk.

DRUNK DRIVING RESOURCES

National Recovery Month – Still Running Strong

Since 1989, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has turned every September into National Recovery Month. All across the country, events are held that promote substance addiction recovery, as well as a sober and healthy lifestyle. Events include but are not limited to walks, runs, concerts, plays, movie nights, athletic challenges, conferences, and even 3,000 people joining hands across a bridge. The events are created by Planning Partners, who “help promote and plan National Recovery Month, disseminate materials, and sponsor events across the country.” These materials, including banners, flyers, and logos, are available free from the Recovery Month website.

 

Aside from events, National Recovery Month offers treatment support services, a TV and radio show called The Road to Recovery, awards for the best events, and a chance to share personal recovery stories. They are on Facebook, on Twitter as @RecoveryMonth, and even have a YouTube channel. While all of these things help promote and celebrate recovery, and help make it fun, National Recovery Month is really all about the events.

Events all over America

As we near the end of September 2016, the numbers are in for SAMHSA’s 27th annual National Recovery Month: 1,074 events, 23 published proclamations of support, and 2 more personal stories shared, adding to the several that already exist. These events are spread throughout the country, from Maine to California, with some even occurring in Puerto Rico. Every year, National Recovery Month has a different theme as well, this year’s being “Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery!”

National Recovery Month events are engaging, community-based, and maintain the spirit of sobriety. Events like the following can be critical steps in recovery. “Coloring the Canal” brought citizens of Indianapolis, Indiana together to color the downtown canal purple on September 1st. “Celebrate Recovery Movie Night” brought approximately 300 people together in various cities in Iowa to watch a movie and celebrate sobriety on September 8th. “Simposio la Recuperacion es Posible” gathered nearly 400 people in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico last week for a conference on responding to drug emergencies.

Tomorrow there is free Narcan training in Amityville, New York, and the say after there is Yoga for Recovery in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Click here for a complete event list.

Making a Difference

Well over 10,000 recovery programs and/or facilities actively participate in National Recovery Month. Since 1989, the program has made a major difference in the world of substance abuse recovery. Suzanne Somers used the program in 1991 to share with America her story of recovery. A study was conducted in 1996 by SAMHSA as part of National Recovery Month that focused on the level of impact drug and alcohol treatment has. This study was released by the White House. The list goes on.

In 1999, the TV and radio show was born, providing education on drug addiction and recovery from experts. Throughout all this time, internet activity had been increasing for National Recovery Month, and in 2003 they established their own website. Seven Major League Baseball games sponsored Recovery Month events in 2004, and the next year, Times Square in NYC aired a Recovery Month PSA. The number of national events went from 767 in 2007 to currently over 1,000.

The impact of National Recovery Month is best summed up by their mission statement:

Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders, celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.”