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Addiction Education Blog - www.cnsproductions.com

  • Meth Lab Reduction vs. Demand Reduction

    untreated addiction costs society and the addict $30,000 to $150,000 a year ...... intensive outpatient treatment averages just $2,500.
  • Alcohol and Religion

    A November 7, 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times by Christian Berthelsen and Said Rifai focused on the use of alcohol in Iraq. In spite of being a Muslim country, for the last several decades Iraq had a reputation as being a modern, secular society that allowed alcohol, particularly among the upper classes. Discotheques, members-only clubs, and liquor stores that sold everything from ouzo and arak, (popular local alcohols) to beer and whiskey were plentiful. In the early 1990s, in an effort to win favor with religious conservatives, public use of liquor was restricted though liquor stores remained open. The removal of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi war, and the growing influence of extremists and religious conservatives brought about the closure of liquor stores. The recent surge in the numbers of U.S. troops afforded more protection and so a number of liquor stores reopened. They are relatively anonymous (no store signs) and have not been harassed or bombed at the same rate they were just a few months ago. Still, there are reports of beatings and harassment by religious conservatives and religious extremists.

    In most Muslim countries, alcohol is banned on religious principles. The Qur’an (Koran) makes few references to wine and intoxicants. Unlike Catholic sacraments, wine is not used in Muslim services because drinking wine is frowned upon. The prophet Mohammed did not mention it directly, but he chastised a drunkard for not performing his duties. This concept was delineated by Mohammed’s brother-in-law Ali:

    “He who drinks gets drunk, he who is drunk, does nonsensical things, he who acts nonsensically says lies, and he who lies must be punished.”

    A further passage from Yusaf Ali includes all intoxicants:

    “O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling . . . . are an abomination-of Satan’s handiwork: eschew such [abomination] that ye may prosper.” -- Qur’an 590

    Many alternative substances were tried over the centuries, especially those that didn’t interfere with one’s religious duties. Hashish and opium were tried but it was stimulants such as coffee, tobacco, and khat that continued to be used because they (especially coffee and tobacco) did not intoxicate to the point of indifference to one’s religious duties.

    By contrast, the Christian bible has more than 150 references to wine, some positive and some negative. A quote similar to Ali’s admonition is

    “And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled with the Spirit speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord in your heart.” --Ephesians 5:18-19.

    Other Christian religions that forbid or discourage any alcohol consumption are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and some Protestant sects of fundamentalist Christianity. However, there is ambivalence in the Bible towards wine and its place in society.

    “God give you of the dew of the sky, of the fatness of the earth, and plenty of grain and new wine.” -- Genesis 27:28

    The Jewish religion has historically use wine as part of their religious and secular celebrations, including circumcisions, weddings, and the Sabbath. And even though wine is praised in the Old Testament, there are still warnings about over indulgence. Drunkards are not allowed to perform religious, legal, or political functions and are even forbidden from praying until sober.

    The Buddhist attitude towards alcohol and other intoxicants has similarities to both Islam and Christianity. Buddhists believe that using alcohol or other intoxicants interferes with understanding the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, which lead to an awakening or enlightenment about the true nature of reality. The guiding principle of Buddhism is known as the Middle Way, often described as the practice of non-extremism; a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and opposing self-mortification.

    Hinduism, the worlds oldest extant religion, disapproves of alcohol consumption, particularly excessive consumption, because it interferes with leading a moral life. However, certain passages in Hindu scriptures seem to condone its moderate use by certain classes such as kings, nobles, warriors and manual workers. Its use is prohibited for priests, students and those seriously following Hinduism as a way of life. India’s constitution (written in 1947) declared, "The State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption of intoxicating drinks." Prohibition was enacted in 1977 but lasted only 2 years except for a few more conservative states. Unfortunately, the written provision has not been able to prevent the rapid increase in the consumption of alcohol in India during the last few decades.

  • The Next Best Thing ...

    The Next Best Thing to Winning for a Compulsive Gambler is Losing

    The feeling I was looking for was the terror . . . that absolute sinking feeling after I hadn’t beat the spread in a football game or I had used money I couldn’t lose (like my rent). That was even better than hitting 2 races in an afternoon. Even at the poker machines, the most I could win was $600 and while it was a thrill, I knew I would put it all back in the machine but if I ended up owing $600 to friends, that was really intense. The bigger the loss, the bigger the rush.” ---38-year-old male pathological gambler

    After listening to dozens of compulsive gamblers in recovery groups, one thought keeps popping up and that is this: losing and then covering, or trying to cover, the losses the following day can give a bigger high than winning. While this thinking is prevalent in pathological gamblers (severely compulsive), it is also found in many problem gamblers (less severely compulsive).

    The development of tolerance brought about by excessive gambling is one of the main reasons for this contradictory thinking. Most compulsive gamblers had a big win early in their gambling careers that helped trigger their addiction. Over time, the likelihood of other big wins diminishes, particularly as tolerance builds. It takes bigger bets and bigger wins to get the same high. For any gambler, big wins are few and far between, but the feelings (though negative) can be just as intense when a gambler loses a lot of money. It might take weeks to hit a jackpot on a slot machine but even a good gambler can end up a loser every night.

    The neurochemistry of addiction gives a clue to this seeming contradiction. When a bet is made, the reward/reinforcement pathway is activated. The nucleus accumbens is stimulated and the user’s mind interprets this as a confirmation that what they are doing is good. The activation also urges the user to repeat the action, again and again and again. But, since the nucleus accumbens also signals relief from pain, an intense activation of this system can also be interpreted as a rush. The message that this action should be done again and again is quite similar so the pattern will be repeated.

    Since one purpose of compulsive gambling is to forget past or present memories and problems, any action that keeps the mind intensely occupied and unable to feel resentment, fear or guilt is pursued.

    While it appears to the non-user (in this example, a non-gambler) that dependence on a behavior or substance makes no sense, it often does just what the user wants it to do.

    William E. Cohen

  • Knockout Mice, the Nobel Prize, & Addiction Research

    This year's Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to three scientists for discovering principles that allow the modification of a mouse's genes by the use of embryonic stem cells. This is a reminder of the importance of mice in addiction research. "Knockout mice" were created in the 1980's; these mice were missing one or more specific genes responsible for various diseases, which enabled scientists to develop research techniques and treatment protocols for human diseases. This is possible because 95% of a mouse's genetics match that of human beings. To date, more than 500 mouse models of human ailments, including those affecting diabetes, cancer, and cystic fibrosis, along with diseases affecting the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, have been developed.

    Knockout mice were available before the 80's, but they were bred by accident. In the late 60s early 70s, Gerald Mclearen of the University of Colorado successfully isolated a strain of mice that hated alcohol and another that loved alcohol. Researchers used these mice to study the effects of stress, nutrition, and the use of alcohol on the development of alcoholism.

    Experiments showed that mice genetically bred to prefer alcohol over water would drink alcohol to excess. Even 150-proof alcohol was preferred to water. The mice would drink until they killed themselves. Other experiments subjected genetically sober, alcohol hating mice to stress which mimicked human environments where violence, abuse, fear, and stress are common. The genetically sober mice came to prefer alcohol after days of this stress, probably because it relieved their anxiety and pain. These once sober mice consumed more and more alcohol and many died.

    When researchers subtracted key essential amino acid and several types of B vitamins from the diet of another group of mice, those mice came to prefer alcohol to water. Finally, they force fed alcohol to sober mice who then continued to drink on their own and became alcoholic. Due to various combinations of heredity, environment, and psychoactive drugs, all the mice studied became alcoholics. When their brains were examined, the changes wrought by stress, nutrition, heredity, and by force-feeding alcohol were extremely similar.

    These experiments, along with the knowledge that genetic manipulation can alter one's susceptibility to alcohol abuse, led researchers Ernest Nobel at the University of California in Los Angeles and Kenny Blum at the University of Texas, San Antonio, to discover a gene (DRD2A1 allelle) that is more prevalent in alcoholics than in the general public (75% vs. less than 25%).

    For more information on the Nobel Prize winners and a more extensive discussion of their discovery go to the official Nobel Prize site at http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2007/press.html

  • Marion Jones and performance-enhancing drugs

    Thoughts on the Marion Jones admission of performance-enhancing drug use.

    From the Nixon-Watergate resignation, to the Clinton-Lewinsky censure, to the Scooter Libby-CIA conviction, what often trips those who skirt the law is the cover-up rather than the actual act. When Marion Jones pled guilty to using steroids to improve her athletic performance at the 2000 Olympics, the charge was "lying to federal investigators" not the illegal use of the drugs. On the courthouse steps, Marion Jones said tearfully, "I want you to know that I have been dishonest and you have the right to be angry with me. I have let my country down and I have let myself down." Jones admitted to using tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), a synthetic anabolic steroid. She said she believed her coach Trevor Graham had given her flax seed oil.

    THG, also known as "the clear," was developed by BALCO, a San Francisco bay area laboratory that is at the heart of a doping scandal that has tarnished the reputations of a number of high-profile athletes, the most notable being Barry Bonds who broke Hank Aaron's home run record this year. Jones testified in 2003 before a San Francisco grand jury regarding BALCO and spent the next few years defending her reputation, insisting she never used performance-enhancing drugs. Victor Conte, the founder of BALCO, testified that Marion Jones had used the drug. She, in turn, sued him for defamation of character, which resulted in an out-of-court sealed settlement.

    THG is closely related to gestinone and trenbolone, anabolic steroids which were banned years ago. THG was not banned until 2003 so the question is, "Did those who used THG before 2003 do something illegal?" It probably depends on the wording of the appropriate statutes from the IOC (International Olympic committee), the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), and professional sports organizations.

    Jones will probably be stripped of the gold medals she won at the 2000 Sydney, Australia Olympic Games in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and the 4x400-meter relay, and the bronze metals she won in the long jump and the 4x100 meter relay.

    Jones was caught almost by chance and the question is, as with most other athletes accused of cheating, "Would they have ever confessed if they had not been caught?" To her credit, when she confessed, there was no attempt to mitigate the circumstances.

    We have come a long way since Jim Thorpe was stripped of his medals from the 1912 Olympics because his amateur status was in question. (He played 2 years of semi-pro baseball for money . . . the magnificent sum of $2 a game.) Back then, amateur status was interpreted quite strictly. Performance-enhancing drugs, such as mild doses of strychnine or cocaine, were extremely rare. When the use of steroids by the Russian weightlifting team at the 1952 Olympics became known, the use of not only steroids, but amphetamines, EPO (erythropoietin), human growth hormone, and of course THG became commonplace. The various amateur and professional organizations have steadfastly limited the use of performance-enhancing drugs but the money involved in sports, not only in professional sports but also in endorsements after one's amateur career has ended, has tempted many athletes to chance exposure and expulsion to become a "winner."

    William Cohen

  • History of Amphetamine Abuse in US

    Methamphetamine was first synthesized in the late 1800's but its pharmacological effects weren't discovered until the late 1930's...

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