Thought: ‘Who cares?’

Addictions UK uses Twitter to share inspirational Thoughts every day. This article is based on one of them. Follow us at @addictionsuk.

illustrationWho cares? Well, actually, we do. Addictions UK exists to care about and help people who are trying to deal with drug addiction, alcohol addiction or any other substance or process which is taking over their lives and making them unmanageable. We care too about the families and friends of addicts and have support to offer them.

But we are surely not alone. Whoever you are and whatever your problems, there are almost always people who care about you. Maybe you owe it to them as well as to yourself to recognise their concern and to respond it.

When you are “down”, whether from the effects of addiction or for any other reason, it’s easy for self-pity to take over and part of that can be the conviction that nobody cares about you. Those feelings are understandable but not acceptable. Whatever you may think, you do matter to people and you need to be open to the help they are ready to offer you.

For a very few, however, isolation is very real and undeniable. But as part of a programme of supported recovery there are new friends and guides ready to accept you and help you. They even understand that it may be hard for you to reach out and accept their help.

So don’t be too dismissive and shrug your shoulders and say “who cares?” and slink away. We care, others care and, if you are willing, we can help you gain confidence and focus more on others so that you care about them.

Please contact us now if you need help with recovery from any addiction and especially if you are seeking home-based treatment.

There is no doubt that drink and damage go hand in hand.


In an interview for Radio Tees, Simon Stephen, director of casework for Addictions UK, asked, “Would we inhale all the toxic fumes from a car exhaust and not expect to be damaged?” He then went on to say that we run similar risks from heavy drinking. The interviewer’s response was to say, “buts it’s not as dangerous as that”. Well it might have been a bit of an exaggeration but there is no doubt that alcohol and brain damage go hand in hand.

Trouble walking, impaired memory, distorted vision, incoherent speech, slowed reaction times; whatever others say, alcohol affects the brain. Some of this damage is detectable after only one or two drinks and quickly resolves when drinking stops. On the other hand, a person who drinks heavily over a long period of time may have brain damage that lasts well after he or she is dry. Exactly how alcohol affects the brain and the possibility of reversing the impact on the brain of heavy drinking remain hot topics in alcohol research today.

It is known that heavy drinking does have extensive and far-reaching effects: re-routing neural pathways, with consequences ranging from lapses in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime care. And even moderate drinking leads to short-term impairment, as shown by extensive research on the impact of drinking on driving.

A number of factors influence how and to what extent alcohol affects the brain, including

  • how much and how often a person drinks;
  • the age at which he or she first began drinking, and for how long;
  • the person’s age, level of education, gender, genetic background, and family history of alcoholism;
  • whether he or she is at risk as a result of pre-natal alcohol exposure; and
  • his or her general health status.

Consider two common disorders associated with alcohol-related brain damage and the people at greatest risk for impairment.

BLACKOUTS AND MEMORY LAPSES

Alcohol can produce detectable impairments in memory after only a few drinks and, as the amount of alcohol increases, so does the degree of impairment. Large quantities of alcohol, especially when consumed quickly and on an empty stomach, can produce a blackout, or time intervals for which the people cannot recall key details or even the entirety of events. Prisons are full of convicted people who have no real recollection of what led them to be incarcerated.

Blackouts are much more common among social drinkers than previously assumed and should be viewed as a potential consequence of acute intoxication, regardless of age or whether the drinker is clinically dependent on alcohol.

The Effects of Alcohol Addicition

Research by White and colleagues surveyed 772 college undergraduates about their experiences with blackouts and asked, “Have you ever awoken after a night of drinking not able to remember things that you did or places that you went?” Of the students who had ever consumed alcohol, 51 percent reported blacking out at some point in their lives, and 40 percent reported experiencing a blackout in the year before the survey. Of those who reported drinking in the 2 weeks before the survey, 9.4% said they blacked out during that time. The students reported learning later that they had participated in a wide range of potentially dangerous events they could not remember, including vandalism, unprotected sex, and driving while intoxicated.

CONFUSION AND PARALYSIS

If that does not worry you, than consider Wernicke’s encephalopathy. A study in mental hospitals in Scotland showed 9% of patients suffered from this disease, caused by a lack of thiamine in heavy drinkers. The symptoms of Wernicke’s encephalopathy include mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes (i.e., oculomotor disturbances), and difficulty with muscle coordination. For example, patients with Wernicke’s encephalopathy may be too confused to find their way out of a room or may not even be able to walk. Many Wernicke’s encephalopathy patients, however, do not exhibit all three of these signs and symptoms, and clinicians working with alcoholics must be aware that this disorder may be present even if the patient shows only one or two of them. In fact, studies performed after death indicate that many cases of thiamine deficiency-related encephalopathy may not be diagnosed in life because not all the “classic” signs and symptoms were present or recognized.

All this does raise the question of why we ignore the safe drinking limits suggested by government when it’s clear that such behaviour runs such alarming risks. Well maybe it’s because, although we know about the safe limits, we largely ignore what happens in our head simply because the function of the brain remains a mystery to most of us and it’s a case of “out of sight out of mind”.

WE CAN HELP

If you are concerned that your drinking may be harming your health, please contact Addictions UK now on line or telephone 0300 330 30 40.

Anyone suffering from depression, whether or not related to addiction, should get help.

Jason Manford Tweets about Robin Willians - depression and addiction

The sad news this week of the death of Robin Williams has shocked and saddened almost everyone. It seems clear that addiction and depression dominated much of his life and, compounded by financial worries, brought about its end.

The obituary on the BBC News website gives a full account of his generosity of spirit, both in his work and among friends. The BBC also lists a few of the many tributes that have been offered.

One related contribution not mentioned there is well worth reading. Jason Manford’s post on Facebook has been widely quoted in the national press and elsewhere and shared and tweeted.

Quite simply, he pleads with those affected by depression not to “suffer in silence”.

Let’s keep this blog article quite short to give you some time to read that too and to consider whether you should be seeking help for yourself or encouraging a friend or family member to do the same.

Sometimes depression is closely related to an addiction and, if you are reading this Addictions UK blog, the likelihood that there is a link is even greater. So if you or someone you know needs help to deal with addiction before its consequences become intolerable please contact us now on line or telephone 0300 330 30 40.

This week’s Video

If you’re a heavy drinker… how do you know… if you’ve crossed the line into dependency? Take the 4-question CAGE test

The simple 4-question CAGE self-test may help you become more aware of your use or abuse of alcohol. To take the questionnaire, please visit the CAGE Test Page on our website. The questions refer to your feelings and behaviour over your whole life.

The CAGE questionnaire was developed by Dr. John Ewing, founding director of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. CAGE is an internationally used assessment instrument for identifying problems with alcohol. ‘CAGE’ is an acronym formed from the italicised letters in the questionnaire (cut-annoyed-guilty-eye).

Technology to help manage Alcohol Addiction

illustrationNo it’s not the latest getting high craze but is in fact the latest piece of technology to be brought in to help out with the British obsession with alcohol.

There are more details in a recent article in The Guardian.

The idea is that the device can be strapped to the ankle of a prolific alcohol induced offender in order to monitor whether they comply with an alcohol ban. It routinely analyses the sweat from its attached human to detect whether alcohol has been consumed and reports it findings back to base. Field tests in the USA strongly suggest it can do this with a high degree of accuracy. Not being a scientist I have no idea whether it can give false readings or be duped into giving the all clear but to my mind if this provides an alternative to prison and, allied with education and expert help, it can be a great boon to those with certain types of alcohol problems. Let’s be clear: when the Prime Minister announced this he surely had on his mind that this been seen as an addition to community sanctions to be used by magistrates and, by association, he would be seen as being tough on loutish drinking without the need to build yet more prison places.


Does it have a role in helping those with drink issues? I think in the right circumstances yes it can be an aid. It’s important to bear in mind, however, that it can never stop those with the curse of a compulsion to have alcohol; they are powerless and their only hope is to accept their addiction and get appropriate expert help such as that offered by Addictions UK.

However for those who drink too much for cultural reasons and for those whose definition of having a party is “all you can drink before passing out”, this device, along with its court order, may give those who offend when drunk the time they need to see the error of over-drinking and, with appropriate help, to amend their drinking issues and address some of their less desirable anti-social habits.

Is there a role for this device in the treatment of those with a alcohol compulsion or, as we call it at Addictions UK, a pathological dependency? Well, I am less that convinced that monitoring is a real help. True recovery has to come with the client’s absolute desire to achieve this. Addictions UK has never used alcohol testing in any form to enforce compliance because, surely, in the long term, this is a waste of time and energy. When I got sober it was for me to realise that alcohol was a “poison” and it was only my honesty with myself that would help me; and so it must be for others looking for recovery. One advantage Addictions UK has over most forms of recovery work is its one-to-one working method. If you have a relapse, then, together, we can pick up the pieces and start again over. Even in those institutions where you’re one of a group then it’s necessary for them to see it, as one rotten apple can spoil the barrel and out you go. So don’t be surprised if the alcohol sniffing device makes an appearance at a rehab near you to replace the old stand-by, the breathalyser.

So there you have it, yes it can help and, if it keeps a few unfortunates out of prison, then it must be a good thing. But for most people with alcohol problems, particularly those with a chronic pathological dependency, there is no replacement for expert help and treatment.