The Ongoing Heroin Epidemic


The ongoing heroin epidemic

Heroin overdoses have skyrocketed. The ongoing heroin epidemic is spreading across the country. Drugs now kill more people than car accidents or shootings. It’s affecting America’s youth in disturbing numbers — from ASAM:

Adolescents (12 to 17 years old)

 In 2014, 467,000 adolescents were current nonmedical users of pain reliever, with 168,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers.

 In 2014, an estimated 28,000 adolescents had used heroin in the past year, and an estimated 16,000 were current heroin users.

Additionally, an estimated 18,000 adolescents had heroin a heroin use disorder in 2014.

 People often share their unused pain relievers, unaware of the dangers of nonmedical opioid use.

Most adolescents who misuse prescription pain relievers are given them for free by a friend or relative. 

The prescribing rates for prescription opioids among adolescents and young adults nearly doubled from 1994 to 2007.

So how does America deal with this problem? There are public information campaigns that’d be useful — the more information the better. If the information is sensational, hyperbolic and judgmental, it’ll likely be ineffective. For adolescents, straight forward information is always best. Acknowledging the allure to drugs is better than pretending heroin is a demon drug. The demonization of heroin has been tried over and over, and it’s never had much success. I suppose in the 60s, the demonization campaign had some effect on those who had never tried heroin, but the great majority of these people would never try it anyway. The demonization of heroin didn’t stop cocaine from becoming a popular drug.

It’s likely opioid use in general that’s created the current heroin epidemic. Opioids are over-prescribed. If the medical community wakes up, gets smart and slows the flow of opioids, it’ll likely slow the use of heroin. Healthcare providers need to better understand addiction — how to recognize addiction and how to deal with it. Cutting a patient off of opioids because they become addicted to them only drives the patient to the streets in search of relief from withdrawals, and this is where they’re introduced to heroin.

Heroin dealers know how to sell their product. The dealer will tell the person in withdrawal they don’t have to use a needle. The dealer will tell the person that heroin is an opiate and will give them the same relief as the Oxycodone. If the heroin is laced with Fentanyl, it won’t take much, and the powerful euphoric feeling, more powerful than prescribed opioids, will hook the person into using it again, and again, and again until, possibly, they use a little too much of a stronger batch and overdose. There are no controls on drugs sold on the street. Although the person was just as addicted to the opioids, when they start on heroin it introduces them to environmental, physical and legal dangers, and the slide down hill is faster and more dangerous. It would be best if medical professionals recognize addiction and deal with it like the medical condition it is, thus preventing the addict from getting lost in the world of drug dealers, social diseases, crime, etc.

I’m afraid that until there’s widespread knowledge of addiction and how to treat it, the ongoing heroin epidemic will continue. If you have a friend, co-worker or family member who has a problem, try to get them to talk to an addiction treatment professional — help is available. Tomorrow I’ll write about how opiate addiction treatment is no longer relegated to Methadone clinics — it’s treated with alcohol, cocaine, benzo and other drug addictions.


The Reality of Addiction Recovery

The reality of addiction recoveryMost people love a success story. With addiction, it’s always inspiring to hear that someone who had a problem with alcohol or some other drug, or a combination of drugs, stopped using drugs and turned around their life in dramatic fashion. The story of recovery is a powerful story. The reality of addiction recovery, though, is often not this dramatic or simple. Many addicts after going into treatment go back to their drug of choice, or develop a problem with a substitute drug. The addict might go to treatment several times before staying clean for a long period of time, or the addict might never put together any significant clean time.

Like the diabetic who go goes off and on a diet and stops following treatment recommendations, or like an overweight person being treated for an eating disorder goes back to over-eating, or like the person addicted to nicotine goes back to smoking, so does the alcoholic/drug addict go back to using drugs – not always, but it definitely can happen and often does at least once. It’s common to think of these people as lacking will power, and it’s usually true that addicts can’t recover just by will power. Addiction is stronger than the will to resist. But most people are trained that they should pull themselves up by the bootstraps and overcome any problems that life throws their way. This mindset that will power should be sufficient to deal with addiction has caused many a recovering addict to feel inferior and weak, thus surrendering to addiction for good in shame. Will power is highly overrated, unless by will power it’s meant that a person uses all the will power they have to utilize the help and knowledge of others to deal with a complex problem. I’m always suspicious of anyone who thinks of will power as a force of mind summoned up by strong people to overcome reality,

The reality is that a person can have very strong will power in all other areas of their life, but still not beat addiction through will power alone. The addict must use a combination of sources and tools to recover. It’s not in the nature of many of us to ask for help, especially with something like drug addiction. Because the stigma is still so strong, most people are ashamed, and even if they go into treatment, once they’re out, they don’t want others to know they’re recovering from addiction. Because of this pride and this idea they should recover on their own through will power, they don’t follow the treatment recommendations. They don’t go to AA or NA — they don’t tell their physician they have a drug problem — they don’t tell their friends that they might to do things differently for a while until they are strong in recovery — they don’t call someone when they have an urge to drink or use — they don’t follow up with an after-care plan.

The reason most people relapse is because they think their will to remain abstinent and their knowledge that they have a problem are sufficient to resist alcohol or their drug of choice. There are many reasons why people go back to drinking and using drugs, but it usually stems from not following treatment recommendations. Although a recovering addict might know she shouldn’t use drugs, after the smoke has cleared and she’s feeling better, she might let down her guard and before she knows it she’s craving the drug again. It’s difficult to follow a treatment regimen when you’re feeling good. The main focus of quality treatment should be relapse prevention. Relapse prevention entails an in-depth understanding of what leads to relapse and gaining the tools to deal with the pitfalls and triggers. If someone you know goes to treatment, have realistic expectations, and don’t look at relapse as failure — relapse can be a part of the process of recovery. Not everyone gets it the first time, although it’s possible and many people do. Recovery is an individual thing. It’s good to remember that the great majority of alcoholics/drug addicts die prematurely from the disease of addiction, so if a person is in and out of recovery, trying over and over until they get it, well I think this is inspiring.


Hispanics/Latinos & Addiction Treatment

Hispanics/Latinos & Addiction TreatmentFor simplicity I’ll use “Hispanic”, defined as: a Spanish-speaking person living in the US, especially one of Latin American descent. In the western parts of the country, there’s a concerted effort to provide treatment for Hispanics, but in the southeast and other parts of the country there’s a definite lack of effective addiction treatment offerings. There are several obstacles associated with Hispanics and addiction, such as language/cultural barriers, distrust, lack of funding and lack of awareness.

Many Hispanics are hidden from the majority. Treatment facilities are mostly geared toward treating English speaking clients. Some addiction treatment might have one or two employees who speak Spanish, but there’s no treatment alternative designed to address the problem of Hispanic addiction. Most counselors in most US cities would likely feel inadequate, even if they receive their yearly training on “cultural competence”. I don’t like this term. I prefer cultural sensitivity or awareness. Good counseling requires deep thought, going beyond the artificial surface to truly understand a client as an individual, but also the client at they perceive themselves in their community, their family, their culture, etc.

In order to provide effective addiction treatment for Hispanics who’re surrounded by a different culture and language than their native language and culture, a specialized addiction program is required. Provision of such specialized programs requires money. Most Hispanics new to the US, or even those who’ve been here for a number of years and are partially adjusted, usually don’t have insurance coverage or the money necessary to pay for treatment. This will all change in time as Hispanics become more and more a common part of the make-up of the US all across the country.

But for now, in many places, like across the southern US, Hispanics are in small communities basically hidden from the majority. Efforts are underway to change this situation, to build bridges, so that Hispanics who have a problem with alcohol or other drugs can access treatment and find a path to recovery. Hispanics & addiction pose a serious national problem that will continue to get worse without action. Counselors need not fear dealing with clients from other cultures — underneath are the human commonalities and bonds we all understand and share at a deep level — we just have to find ways to meet and talk to one another at that deeper level.


Alcohol and Opiates

alcohol and opiatesThe combination of alcohol and opiates is complicating the already serious problems of alcoholism and opiate addiction. Using both creates a synergistic effect where the combination is greater than the sum of its parts — one drug increases the other’s effectiveness. But this increased effect is dangerous and can cause overdose and death.

I don’t know if there are good statistics regarding the consequences of the combined use of alcohol and opiates – I haven’t seen any – but here are a few statistics regarding each:

According to recent statistics , 16.6 million adults in the US had an alcohol use disorder in 2013 and almost 88,000 people die every year from causes involving alcohol use and abuse.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s 2016 Facts & Figures shows that nearly 2 million people in the nation are suffering from an addiction to prescription painkillers.  The study also reports that 4 of 5 new heroin users first abused prescription opiates.

So, several problems are developing — prescription opiate use is leading to the use of heroin, and more people are mixing alcohol and opiates. Not that heroin is necessarily any worse than prescription opiate addiction, but buying heroin on the street can be very risky when you can’t know the potency.  I suspect we’ll find going forward that the combination of alcohol and opiates will be identified as a major cause of drug-related death. In the past, the separate statistics showing deaths from alcohol use or opiate use have likely missed the fact that both opiates and alcohol were used in combination to cause many of these deaths. Also, the use of drugs like Xanax and opiates have had the synergistic effect leading to overdose and death.

Now that the 60s drug explosion seems like ancient history, we’re seeing people come to treatment who use a combination of drugs. It’s not just an alcohol problem or an opiate problem, it’s a problem with multiple drugs. I would like to see better research showing the consequences of polydrug addiction or abuse, especially related to alcohol and opiates.

The challenge for treatment professionals is dealing with clients who want to give up one drug but keep the one they perceive as less dangerous, like pot or Xanax. Substituting, or “just smoking pot” doesn’t work for the addict. It doesn’t take high intelligence and great emotional stability to recover from addiction, but it takes all the intelligence and emotional stability a person can muster — altering the mood with any substance affects judgment, and when judgment is affected, then the addict makes poor decisions, and these decisions are often deadly. The exception to this is medication that has a medical purpose. Usually medication that treats a co-existing disorder doesn’t trigger relapse — it’s used for conditions that would surely lead to relapse, such as anxiety medication, depression medication, or drugs like Suboxone that remove the craving for opiates in early recovery for the opiate addict. Such medication doesn’t alter the mind in the same ways as alcohol, pot, cocaine, heroin, etc. These medication are basically regulating brain chemicals to address a dysregulation of brain chemicals.

Understanding Heroin

Understanding heroinIt’s difficult to find fundamental solutions when a problem is misunderstood as symptomatic of something else – the application of symptomatic solutions to perceived symptomatic problems leads in circles with no real resolution. Heroin, though it’s been around since at least 3400 BC, is still misunderstood. How can this be? Drug smugglers and dealers have a better grasp than our officials tasked with dealing with the heroin problem. They understand the fundamental nature of an addictive drug. They know that addicts come from all walks of life, and that once addicted will pretty much do anything to get the drug. When there’s a demand for a product there’ll eventually be supply. Government efforts to deal with addictive drugs have focused on supply, trying to stop the supply. A current Presidential candidate wants to solve the heroin problem by building a wall at the southern border. Heroin addiction is a not a problem that’s created by porous borders.

Fundamental solutions to heroin addiction, and addiction in general, will originate on the demand side. Prohibition ended in failure because the demand for alcohol overwhelmed restrictions on supply. It’s my sincere belief that if all the money now put in the War on Drugs were put into education, prevention and treatment, we’d be much further along in the development of fundamental solutions.

There are few real conversations taking place across the US that deal with fundamental solutions to the fundamental problems of addiction. Addiction is mainly misunderstood, especially heroin. Below is a list of myths and old ideas from that don’t hold true with all addicts:

Drug Addicts Fit a Stereotype

The stereotypical drug addict is somebody who:

* Spends a great deal of time in alleyways in the bad side of town.
* Have legal problems and a criminal history.
* Steal from family and friends.
* An individual who wears dirty unkempt clothing and doesn’t invest much time into personal hygiene.
* They move from low paid job to low paid job or are more likely unemployable.
* Estranged from their family.
* Sad people who have nothing good in their life.
* Drug users are stereotypically under 40 years of age.
* Junkies have no ambition in life.
* They are usually homeless and live in derelict buildings with other junkies.
* They are unable to maintain a healthy romantic relationship.
* They are usually looked upon as a lowlife in their community.

The reality of drug users can differ greatly from the stereotype. Many substance abusers have a well maintained addiction. These are often individuals who:

* Never visit back alleyways in the seedier parts of town. The person supplying them with drugs may even be wearing a suit and working in an office.
* Have never had any legal problems or be on the police radar.
* Most addicts have never needed to steal money from family and friends.
* They may wear expensive clothing and be perfectly groomed.
* They may have a successful career and by highly respected by their peers.
* Many addicts are loved and cherished by their family and friends.
* They can appear at least outwardly happy and be extremely positive about the future.
* Drug addicts can be of any age. There are an increasing number of elderly people who are abusing drugs – it has even been referred to as a hidden epidemic.
* These individuals can be highly ambitions and driven people.
* They may live in a big expensive house.
* They can have a loving partner
* Many addicts are highly respected in their community. Most of the people who know them would not even guess that they had even tried recreational drugs.

The stereotypical image of the drug addict can have negative implications. It makes it easier for people to hide their substance abuse problems. They can kid themselves that so long as they do not fit the stereotype they do not really have a problem.

Understanding the problem as one that can affect anyone, forces the realization that it can be a brother, a daughter, yourself,  a next door neighbor, a boss, a physician, etc. Education and prevention entail deep understanding and a change of mind regarding mood-altering drugs. It takes addiction away from moral judgment to a place where reason, understanding and choices play a larger role. Maybe kids should understand that they don’t have to drink alcohol or smoke pot when they grow up, that a life of abstinence is a good choice. It also means that just because someone chooses to use drugs, it doesn’t make them a terrible, immoral, weak person. If someone develops an addiction problem, it’s a medical concern that will respond to treatment. Once we take the mystery and the myths away, we can rationally, intelligently and objectively search for and find fundamental solutions. Heroin seems like a new, scary problem, but heroin addiction is an old problem – is the same as painkiller addiction to an opioid — both can happen to anyone — both are treatable.

Freedom From Opioid Addiction

I’ve written quite a bit about opioid addiction here. One of the main points I try to establish is that in order to effectively deal with this national epidemic, we must understand the problem and stop stigmatizing addFreedom from opioid addictioniction. I’ve dealt with addiction in general since 1983 — opiate/opioid addiction is perhaps the most difficult to treat. The brain changes brought about by opioid addiction are difficult to overcome. This is an excerpt from an article published at NCBI, The Neurobiology of Opioid Dependence:

Opioid tolerance, dependence, and addiction are all manifestations of brain changes resulting from chronic opioid abuse. The opioid abuser’s struggle for recovery is in great part a struggle to overcome the effects of these changes. Medications such as methadone, LAAM, buprenorphine, and naltrexone act on the same brain structures and processes as addictive opioids, but with protective or normalizing effects. Despite the effectiveness of medications, they must be used in conjunction with appropriate psychosocial treatments.

One reason the current problem with opioid addiction’s spiraling is that there’s a lack of quality treatment options. There are lots of doctors prescribing lots of medicine, but there’s very little long term treatment planning and delivery. Once the person dependent on opioids feels better by taking a medicine like Suboxone, they think they’re healed and can go on their way, but this is not the case. It takes a long time for the brain changes brought about by addiction to heal. Suboxone can give the person relief in order to treat the problem but Suboxone is not a panacea. If a person once physically, mentally and emotionally dependent on opioids is physically free of the opioid, it doesn’t mean they’re mentally and emotionally free. The mind can still crave the drug even after horrible experiences and many consequences. Obsession with a destructive drug is not rational, and herein lies the problem.

Those who don’t understand addiction apply rationality to the situation — if the drug is destructive, stop using it! Makes a lot of sense, right? To most people it does, and even to the person addicted it makes sense, and they’ll likely agree with the rational solution, even though they still crave the drug. Addiction is a medical condition that doesn’t always respond to rational solutions — I would say “never” but I’ll leave it open for other possibilities. You can compare it to a diabetic on a diet who breaks the diet even though it’s not rational. We can crave and indulge in things that are bad for us. Addiction to opioids and the craving for the drug is a very powerful craving, often overriding judgement, even after the opioid is out of the body.

To be free of the obsession and the emotional crutch of a drug like opioids, it takes time and help. Most people don’t get over the obsession by themselves. It takes a treatment plan and managed recovery. Once quality treatment’s readily available nationwide and standards of treatment are adopted based on best practices, maybe we can deal effectively with this problem and millions will know real freedom from opioid addiction.

Addiction Statistics

Addiction statisticsYes, I know that statistics are boring, but it helps once in a while to stop and look at the numbers. Statistics help put the problem of addiction in perspective. When you read about opioid addiction across the nation, you might wonder if it’s media hype. When someone says that alcohol does more damage than all other drugs put together, you might think it’s just a rationalization to make marijuana legal. Let’s just look at the numbers and let them speak for themselves.

First let’s look at the cost to society in healthcare and lost productivity:

Costs of Substance Abuse

Abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our Nation, exacting more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care.**

Health Care



$130 billion

$295 billion


$25 billion

$224 billion

Illicit Drugs

$11 billion

$193 billion


The following relate to drug overdoses, covering the major drugs used. Between these two links I’ve provided you ought to find most of the latest statistics:

Revised December 2015

The U.S. government does not track death rates for every drug. However, the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does collect information on many of the more commonly used drugs. The CDC also has a searchable database, called CDC Wonder.

National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Drugs.National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Drugs. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving prescription drugs from 2001 to 2014. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths by females and males. From 2001 to 2014 there was a 2.8-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers.National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers from 2001 to 2014. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths by females and males. From 2001 to 2014 there was a 3.4-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Benzodiazepines.National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Benzodiazepines. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines from 2001 to 2014. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths by females and males. From 2001 to 2014 there was a 5-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Cocaine.National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Cocaine. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving cocaine from 2001 to 2014. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths by females and males. From 2001 to 2014 there was a 42 percent increase in the total number of deaths.
National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin.National Overdose Deaths—Number of Deaths from Heroin. The figure above is a bar chart showing the total number of U.S. overdose deaths involving heroin from 2001 to 2014. The chart is overlayed by a line graph showing the number of deaths by females and males. From 2001 to 2014 there was a 6-fold increase in the total number of deaths.
Here’s a site with statistics on alcohol use. Below is a sample:

Family Consequences:

  • More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study.17

Underage Drinking:

  • Prevalence of Underage Alcohol Use:
    • Prevalence of Drinking: According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 34.7 percent of 15-year-olds report that they have had at least 1 drink in their lives.18 About 8.7 million people ages 12–2019 (22.8 percent of this age group20) reported drinking alcohol in the past month (23 percent of males and 22.5 percent of females21).
    • Prevalence of Binge Drinking: According to the 2014 NSDUH, approximately 5.3 million people22 (about 13.8 percent20) ages 12–20 were binge drinkers (15.8 percent of males and 12.4 percent of females21).
    • Prevalence of Heavy Drinking: According to the 2014 NSDUH, approximately 1.3 million people22 (about 3.4 percent20) ages 12–20 were heavy drinkers (4.6 percent of males and 2.7 percent of females21).
  • Consequences of Underage Alcohol Use:
    • Research indicates that alcohol use during the teenage years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing an AUD. In addition, underage drinking contributes to a range of acute consequences, including injuries, sexual assaults, and even deaths—including those from car crashes.23

Alcoholism and the Family

alcoholism and the familyFamilies of alcoholic (or other types of chemical dependence) suffer greatly through the disease’s progression. Much has been written and talked about on the subject of alcoholism and the family. Anyone who knows anything about alcoholism knows that it tears families apart and often causes long term psychological problems with family members, yet there are few resources aimed at helping family members. Alanon is the biggest self-help group – it has given comfort and healing to millions of family members. I use “alcoholism” as the example here, but it could be addiction to opioids, cocaine, Xanax, etc. Nar-anon is the self help group from most other drugs. (see below)

As alcoholism/addiction progresses, the family becomes confused, angry, afraid, disillusioned and plain heart-broken as someone they love begins to inexplicably change before their eyes. There is no easy explanation for alcoholism/addiction. It helps, though, to understand as much as possible about the disease and what causes the insane behavior. Family members begin to question themselves, when they don’t understand alcoholism — what have I done? Why is she doing this to me? Does he no longer love me? Does she want to leave because of something I did or didn’t do? The family problems surrounding alcoholism become worse over time unless someone breaks outside the disease to do something different.

Most often family members try everything they can think of to get a loved one to stop drinking, but all the efforts fail. Hopelessness sets in, and many times family members give up and move on. Other times, family members live with the alcoholism for years and years. The following is from NCADD:

Living with addiction can put family members under unusual stress. Normal routines are constantly being interrupted by unexpected or even frightening kinds of experiences that are part of living with alcohol and drug use. What is being said often doesn’t match up with what family members sense, feel beneath the surface or see right in front of their eyes. The alcohol or drug user as well as family members may bend, manipulate and deny reality in their attempt to maintain a family order that they experience as gradually slipping away. The entire system becomes absorbed by a problem that is slowly spinning out of control. Little things become big and big things get minimized as pain is denied and slips out sideways.

Without help, active addiction can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime.

Support groups such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are available for the friends and family of people suffering from addiction (alcohol and drugs, respectively). While these support services are important for making connections with others who may be trying to navigate day-to-day life with addiction in the family, so is seeking  professional therapy. Individual therapy for each family member, not just the addict, is important for the mental health of both the addict’s spouse or partner and children, and meeting with a therapist as a family can help improve communication among family members, rebalance the family dynamic and give family members a safe environment to express their anger, fear and other concerns. Family therapy may also be helpful in preventing the children of addicts from succumbing to the disease themselves.

Helpful Links for Family and Friends of Addicts

  • ( For family members of alcoholics.
  • Nar-anon ( For family members of addicts.
  • Gam-anon ( For family members of gamblers.
  • ( For co-dependent individuals.
  • ( For adult children of alcoholics and addicts.

People recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction, their families, and their children can and often do achieve optimum levels of health and functioning, but this achievement is best measured in years rather than days, weeks, or months.  In the process of recovery, families are strengthened through increased levels of genuine intimacy and families are better able to cope with life’s challenges.

Am I An Alcoholic?

Am I an alcoholic?This is a question many moderate to heavy drinkers ask themselves at some point. They might not express the concern to others but they’ll ask themselves.  There are tests which are pretty accurate to gather signs and symptoms, to help answer the question – Am I an alcoholic? The SASSI Institute is one of the major providers of screening, research and testing.

If someone has pain in their stomach for a significant period of time, they’ll likely go to a doctor for testing to find out what’s wrong. When someone has frequent headaches, they’ll likely go to a doctor for testing. When someone begins to have poor eyesight, they’ll likely go to a doctor for testing. When someone has problems related to alcohol, they’ll likely say nothing to a doctor, and they’ll likely deny it’s a problem — they’ll blame the consequences of drinking on something else.

We who work in the field of alcoholism treatment are trying to persuade people to think of alcoholism as any other medical condition. Below are some of the questions from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence you can ask yourself, then see a professional if you think that alcohol or other drugs (you can easily substitute drug using for drinking in most questions) might be a problem:

Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking?

Do you drink heavily when you are disappointed, under pressure or have had a quarrel with someone?

Can you handle more alcohol now than when you first started to drink?

Have you ever been unable to remember part of the previous evening, even though your friends say you didn’t pass out?

When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others won’t know about it?

Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available?

Are you more in a hurry to get your first drink of the day than you used to be?

Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking?

Has a family member or close friend expressed concern or complained about your drinking?

Have you been having more memory blackouts recently?

Do you often want to continue drinking after your friends say they’ve had enough?

Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily?

When you’re sober, do you sometimes regret things you did or said while drinking?

Have you tried switching brands or drinks, or following different plans to control your drinking?

Have you sometimes failed to keep promises you made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking?

Have you ever had a DWI driving while intoxicated or DUI driving under the influence of alcohol violation, or any other legal problem related to your drinking?

Are you having more financial, work, school, and/or family problems as a result of your drinking?

Has your physician ever advised you to cut down on your drinking?

Do you eat very little or irregularly during the periods when you are drinking?

Do you sometimes have the shakes in the morning and find that it helps to have a little drink, tranquilizer or medication of some kind?

Have you recently noticed that you can’t drink as much as you used to?

Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time?

After periods of drinking do you sometimes see or hear things that aren’t there?

Have you ever gone to anyone for help about your drinking?

Do you ever feel depressed or anxious before, during or after periods of heavy drinking?

Have any of your blood relatives ever had a problem with alcohol?

No Magic Pill For Alcoholism

alcholismpillFrom the time I started working with alcoholics in the early 80s, I’ve heard that science is close to a cure, a pill that might cure alcoholism. None of us really believed that alcoholism would be cured by a simple pill — we intuitively knew that alcoholism is complex. We just didn’t know how complex. Recent research shows that there’s definitely no magic pill for alcoholism on the horizon.

Research from Purdue and Indiana Universities reveals a far more complex system of genetic links to alcoholism. Here’s an excerpt from the Science Daily article referenced above:

By comparing the genomes of rats that drank compulsively with those that abstained, Purdue and Indiana University researchers identified 930 genes associated with alcoholism, indicating that it is a highly complex trait – on par with human height – influenced by many genes and the environment.

The study confirmed genes previously identified as being linked to alcoholism and uncovered new genes and neurological pathways, some of which could be promising targets for treatment. But the sheer number of genes that contribute to the trait suggests pharmaceutical treatments for alcoholism could be difficult to develop, said William Muir, professor of genetics.

“It’s not one gene, one problem,” he said. “This trait is controlled by vast numbers of genes and networks. This probably dashes water on the idea of treating alcoholism with a single pill.”

Maybe one day science will find a cure for alcoholism, but it doesn’t seem likely any time soon. The physical and the psychological factors involved in alcoholism make it a difficult brain disease to treat, but it is treatable. Although the research is revealing even more complexity, the good news is that science has more places to look for innovation in the treatment of alcoholism. Maybe there’s no magic pill, but there might be progress that helps relieve suffering, making it easier for alcoholics to get into long term recovery.