Best Ways to Chill Out

We pay attention to our senses, which tell us about our bodies and the people and things around us. We notice our thoughts, movements, and feelings. In response to ailments or other concerns, we narrow our attention to particular body regions, organs, or organ systems—back, skin, or digestive tract, for example. But we rarely contemplate the smallest components of our bodies: the cells and molecules. Yet if you wish to chill out, you may want to take into account your brain cells and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)—a chemical messenger that quiets brain cells down—lest your preferred means of chilling leads to consternation rather than relaxation. Continue reading

Curbing Addiction Is Everybody’s Business

Addiction statistics are scary.  For example, excessive alcohol causes an estimated 88,000 deaths per year in the United States.  Deaths from cigarette smoke exceed 480,000 per year.  In 2013, about 100 Americans per day died from drug overdoses.  The annual cost to this country of addiction and other substance abuse—including healthcare, crime, and lost productivity—is over $600 billion.

Continue reading

The Way of Recovery is Not Alone – Part 1: Science

Addiction damages what matters most. Body, family, career, and citizenship are frequent casualties of the compulsive use of alcohol and other drugs. How human behavior becomes so self-defeating and how affected individuals change for the better has been described from many perspectives. Two sources we might expect to have differing views about recovery actually illumine the same path.
Continue reading

Medications for Alcohol Addiction are Underutilized

An estimated 8.9 million Americans live at the severe end of the spectrum of alcohol use disorders. Regardless of terminology – alcohol addiction, alcohol dependence, or moderate to severe alcohol use disorder – these individuals satisfy diagnostic criteria for a potentially fatal chronic disease characterized by high post-treatment recidivism. The human and dollar costs of this situation are enormous and touch everyone; yet the magnitude of our collective response fails to match the magnitude of the problem. Continue reading

Balance Is Everything: Thoughts on Our Collective Approach to Opioid Addiction

Balance Is Everything

People who are close to individuals with active addiction sometimes have to make high-stakes decisions.  Desperate situations compel them to act, and then leave them hoping and praying for a positive outcome.  Parents’ decisions may be the toughest, regardless of the age of their child.  “Will giving support right now save my child—or be enabling and ultimately destructive?”  “Will withholding support right now save my child—or precipitate disaster?”
Continue reading

Watch Your Language!

In addition to their literal definitions, the words we use can invoke powerful ideas and feelings.  The extended cognitive and emotional meanings of words are their connotations.  Words, particularly their connotations, help shape sense of self and expectations, which makes it important to choose words carefully when characterizing others and ourselves.  Affirmations enrich sense of self and set favorable expectations.  Pejorative language and labels, on the other hand, feed stigma and generate harmful self-fulfilling prophecies.
Continue reading

Ask for Help!

Ever wonder why so many of us lose our voice precisely at the moment we need to ask for help?  Credit shame, the pivotal emotion that drives self-defeating behavior, together with all-or-nothing thinking, our most common cognitive distortion.

Continue reading

Childhood Matters — Very Much

Educators and clinicians have long recognized that children and youth with social, emotional, and learning problems often experience neglect and abuse in earlier years.  Research now shows that harm associated with traumatic childhood experiences does not end when young people grow up.

Continue reading

Opioids for Pain Management: Less is More

Written by Mel Pohl, MD and Dan Mager, MSW              

Approximately 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Nationwide, chronic pain causes more disability than cancer and heart disease combined, and costs $550 million annually in lost workdays. Continue reading

Keep Your Distance!

Ask people engaged in addiction treatment for a single word to describe where they just came from—a word that sums up the experience of active addiction—and they quickly agree on “hell.”

Many years ago someone asked the then famous and now controversial evangelist Billy Sunday, “What must I do to go to hell?”  Sunday replied, “Nothing.”  In other words, make no effort; you will get there.  Beliefs about religion and an afterlife aside, Sunday’s answer speaks to people who want to get free from active addiction:  make no effort; do what comes naturally; and you will keep returning to hell.

Continue reading