Alcohol one of worst drugs for health

Most people manage to drink moderately, but for others alcohol can lead to mental and physical health concerns.

According to a survey by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, nearly 80 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older drink alcohol in moderation and without harm, while 17 per cent are considered problematic drinkers.

Problematic use occurs when alcohol causes a problem in five areas of a person’s life: physical health, mental health, families and friends, work and education, and legal areas.

Heidi Furrer, adult addiction counsellor with SHARE Family and Community Services, said alcohol is one of the worst drugs when it comes to physical health.

Alcohol can damage the liver and pancreas, she said. It can also lead to heart disease and muscle deterioration.

“It affects the muscles, ulcers, impotence, impaired memory, and then there’s fetal alcohol syndrome in newborns,” Furrer said.

“It can also cause a lot of problems, which we see recently because a lot more people take prescription drugs. In combination with prescription drugs, it can cause all kinds of problems.”

Alcohol combined with anti-anxiety medications can be a deadly combination, she said. In addition, alcohol can counter the effects of anti-depressants, since alcohol is a depressant itself. As such, alcohol use can also lead to mental health problems.

“Alcohol is a depressant so long-term use will increase depression. Alcohol affects a person’s sleep and can cause anxiety when you withdraw from it. Alcohol is a downer, so it depresses the central nervous system,” Furrer said.

“If a person keeps it a secret or a person wants to stop but cannot, then you’re moving from social drinking into drinking that is attached to emotions. … When people use it as an emotional crutch, not just to be social and have fun, then it moves from recreational to problematic use. “

On April 1, B.C. became the first Canadian jurisdiction to recognize alcohol addiction as a chronic medical condition. The aim is to emphasize preventative measures while giving family doctors more resources to treat patients with alcohol problems.

“It takes a bit of stigma away from a person who says, ‘It’s a moral issue. You just have to have willpower,’” Furrer said.

“It’s a step up from the moral model to the disease model.”

Each area in B.C. has a government-funded agency that offers help for alcohol problems. Services can include individual and group counselling sessions, detox, rehab and out-patient clinics.

“We believe that recovery is individual,” Furrer said. “There are many paths to recovery.”

-ÊSHARE Family and Community Services offers adult and youth addiction services to Tri-Cities residents. For more information, call 604-936-3900 or visit

© Copyright (c) Coquitlam Now

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The fantastic Flann O’Brien

The Irish Times – Saturday, October 1, 2011


Brian O’Nolan was born 100 years ago on Wednesday. As the man behind Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen, he could have been a celebrated national treasure – but he was far too radical for that

IN THE POOR MOUTH, Flann O’Brien’s devastating parody of Gaelic-language autobiographical peasant narratives, the hero is alone at night on the seashore when he hears a terrible, unrecognisable sound. He is then assailed by “an ancient smell of putridity which set the skin of my nose humming and dancing”. He eventually sees a huge black quadruped like a giant hairy seal with legs. The following day he tries to describe the beast to his grandfather, who asks him to sketch it. The contours of the terrible creature, called the Sea-cat, appear in the text of the novel.

It is a map of Ireland turned on its side, the four major peninsulas acting as legs, the bulbous sweep of the north-eastern shoreline forming the head. In a footnote, the “editor” of the cod-memoir tells us that “it is not without importance that the Sea-cat and Ireland bear the same shape and that both of them have all the same bad destiny, hard times and ill-luck attending them.”

The ancient smell of putridity that emanates from this half-comic, half-terrifying embodiment of Ireland is not unrelated to the stink of “history’s ancient faeces” that, according to the narrator of Samuel Beckett’s First Love (written five years after The Poor Mouth in 1946) largely constitutes “the charm of our country”. If Beckett and O’Brien shared a great deal besides their belief that something was rotten in the state of Ireland, the overwhelming difference between them is that Beckett, like the majority of their literary contemporaries, managed to flee from the Sea-cat. O’Brien, almost alone among the great writers of 20th century Ireland, fell into its clutches. He stayed in Ireland and paid a fearful price in frustration and neglect.

Flann O’Brien was born into a culture of lingering, post-revolutionary dissolution. As with Beckett, his genius was to find energy, both comic and grotesque, in that entropy. The great ferment of change in the early years of the 20th century had resulted rather anti-climactically in a small, impoverished state, culturally philistine and sexually repressed, its energies drained by exhaustion and mass emigration. WB Yeats died in 1939, a month before the 27-year-old Brian O’Nolan, using the pseudonym Flann O’Brien, published his astonishing first novel, At Swim-Two-Birds . James Joyce’s last work, Finnegans Wake was published in the same year.

Frank O’Connor, writing in 1942, claimed that it was impossible to write a normal social novel in Ireland: “the moment a writer raises his eyes from the slums and cabins, he finds nothing but a vicious and ignorant middle-class, and for aristocracy the remnants of an English garrison, alien in religion and education. From such material he finds it almost impossible to create a picture of life. . . a realistic literature is clearly impossible.”

If realistic literature is impossible, the writer’s options are stark: stay quiet or invent something new. O’Brien and Beckett chose the option of making a new literature of lingering dissolution.

At Swim-Two-Birds has a strong claim to be one of the founding texts of literary postmodernism. All the markers of that baggy but indispensible cultural category – the deconstruction of narrative, the replacement of nature by culture, an ahistoric sensibility in which tropes and genres from different eras can be mixed and matched promiscuously, the prominence of pastiche, the notion of language itself as the real author of the work – are openly declared in At Swim.

This is a book that begins by questioning why a book should have just one opening, and proceeds to give us three. It is a book by a man (Brian O’Nolan) who invents an author (Flann O’Brien) who is writing a book about an unnamed student narrator who is writing a book about a man (Dermot Trellis) who is writing a book. The narrator openly declares that “a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham” and that “the modern novel should be largely a work of reference”, since virtually all characters have already been invented. Its governing caprice is that fictional characters do in fact already exist, have independent lives and are capable of revolting against the author. The novel is a treasure house of brilliant pastiches of everything from Gaelic sagas and Irish folkloric narratives to the Bible, Victorian encyclopedias, scholasticism, pub poets, cowboy novels and trashy thrillers.

Frederic Jameson suggests that “postmodernism is what you have when the modernisation process is complete and nature is gone for good”.

There could be no better illustration of this condition than O’Brien’s other major novel, The Third Policeman . Its narrator is trapped in an entirely literary Hell, from which nature is indeed gone for good, and the world is a large machine controlled with levers and knobs by strange policemen. Even the purest of natural phenomena, light, is not natural at all but “light of a kind rarely seen in this country and. . . possibly manufactured with raw materials from abroad.”

Yet – and this may account for his relative critical neglect – O’Brien does not sit easily with postmodern theory. His ideas and idioms cannot be explained, as such theory would like to suggest, as responses to the conditions of “late capitalism”. O’Brien was not responding to the completion of the project of industrial modernity, but to its failure.

He lived and worked in a largely agricultural country that was struggling to impose an ideal of cultural and economic self-sufficiency that cut it off from the mainstream of capitalist development. He poses a critical dilemma that can be resolved only by seeing his dazzling novels as paradoxical products of the conditions of mid-20th century Ireland. The paradox is that what made those conditions so strangely fruitful was the collapse of any notion that a novel could be a direct representation of the society in which it was written.

IF THE THIRD POLICEMAN GIVES US O’Brien’s vision of Hell, what is his Heaven? It is the state of lying alone in one’s own bedroom, cut off from the social world except for the occasional visit of a like-minded butty. “What is wrong with most people,” says the dilettante intellectual Byrne in At-Swim, “is that they do not spend sufficient time in bed” – a version of Blaise Pascal’s statement, used as an epigraph for the late, minor O’Brien novel The Hard Life, that all the trouble of the world comes from not staying alone in one’s room. And what does one do in bed? In a peculiar triumph for the puritanical literary censorship that deformed Irish culture during his lifetime, the bedroom in O’Brien is the locus, not of sex, but of writing. Secret and unbridled instincts are played out, not in the flesh, but in the word.

In this, O’Brien turns to advantage the great agony of being an experimental writer in post-revolutionary Ireland: indifference. In another culture, Brian O’Nolan would have made a perfect Establishment intellectual. He was a government official of relatively conservative disposition. His family background was fully in tune with the new State’s major cultural project: the revival of Irish, which he spoke and wrote superbly. O’Brien was steeped in Gaelic legend and folklore.

O’Brien ought to have been a treasured mainstream figure in nationalist Ireland, a dazzling writer, working within the State apparatus, who could synthesise Gaelic and English, ancient lore and contemporary Modernism.

Yet he was an extraordinarily marginal figure. His journalistic alter ego, Myles na gCopaleen, was celebrated in intellectual circles, but both his official and literary careers were disastrous. A combination of his gradually deepening alcoholism and his habit of making derogatory remarks about senior politicians in his newspaper columns led to his forced retirement from the civil service in 1953. (He departed, recalled a colleague, “in a final fanfare of f***s”.) More significantly, Irish literary culture, constrained by censorship, had little place for his staggeringly original novels.

O’BRIEN WAS DEEPLY DISILLUSIONED by the philistinism of the official nationalist culture. The Gaelic language revival is unmercifully burlesqued in The Poor Mouth . A German scholar receives a PhD in Berlin for his recordings of what he thinks is a native speaker, but is in fact a pig. The tendency of Gaelic writers to give themselves flowery pen-names is parodied in the nom-de-plumes of the writers the narrator encounters, among them The Bandy Ulsterman, The Sod of Turf, The Gluttonous Rabbit and Popeye the Sailor.

The Puritanism and narrowness of the official culture meant not just that O’Brien could not embrace it, but that it could not embrace him.

His scorn for the purists who saw in Gaelic and in traditional customs a barrier against modernity was boundless. “I do not think”, he wrote “that there is any real ground for regarding Irish dancing as a sovereign spiritual and nationalistic prophylactic.” He was too utterly Irish to be easily appreciated abroad and too contemptuous of official forms of Irishness to be comfortably placed at home.

Of his three important works, At Swim met with the enthusiastic approval of Graham Greene and James Joyce – it was the last novel he ever read – but got largely puzzled reviews, sold poorly and was swallowed up by the outbreak of the second World War. The Poor Mouth was published in Irish, a language with fewer readers, and was appreciated largely as a brilliant in-joke. And The Third Policeman was rejected in 1940 by the publishers, Longman’s, who explained that they wanted O’Brien to become less fantastic and instead he had become more so. Humiliated, O’Brien put about the story that the manuscript of the novel had been lost. This was, at least metaphorically, true: the novel was not published until 1967, after O’Brien’s death, by which time he had cannibalised it for the vastly inferior The Dalkey Archive .

Yet, if the conditions of post-revolutionary Ireland doomed O’Brien to neglect, they also forced him into fabulous invention. Sometimes, to take the most direct example, O’Brien’s jokes are a direct burlesque of the official censorship that disallowed any mention of sex. In At Swim, the narrator mentions student societies at his university: “Some were devoted to English letters, some to Irish letters, and some to the study and advancement of French language” – the final comic circumlocution arising from the inadmissibility of “French letters”, the colloquial term for condoms.

There is, in The Third Policeman , a parody of the kind of trashy sex scene that would undoubtedly have fallen foul of the censors, were it not for the fact that the object of desire is not a woman but a bicycle. The narrator slavers over “the prefect proportion of its parts. . . How desirable her seat was, how charming the invitation of her slim encircling handle-arms, how unaccountably competent and reassuring her pump resting warmly against her rear thigh!”

The banning of almost every serious Irish contemporary novel also created the strange literary culture in which O’Brien revelled, one in which officially approved reading was narrowed to theological reflections, Gaelic sagas and peasant narratives while the thirst for contemporary stories was slaked by imported cowboy stories and cheap crime thrillers.

O’Brien’s main novels draw much of their humour from the absurd conjunctions implicit in this unlikely mix. At Swim sets heroic and folkloric figures (Finn MacCool, Sweeny, The Good Fairy, The Pooka MacPhellimey) literally alongside the cowboys Slug and Shorty. The Third Policeman draws on detective stories and science fiction as well as Catholic theology and mediaeval Gaelic literature.

More importantly, O’Brien’s novels draw their dark energy from the sexual repression that lay behind the censorship. They are remarkable for the almost complete absence of either the nuclear family or healthy sexuality. Instead of being merely desolate, however, this absence of family and sexual fulfilment is linked to O’Brien’s great conceit in At Swim – that of literary creation as the male substitute for giving birth.

Writing is sex for an all-male, sex-averse society. Its children are conceived without all the bother and awkwardness of having to deal with women. In the bedroom that is the world of his narrators, congress with oneself generates the only life that is available – the life of words and stories.

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Bangor churches offer God-centered recovery program

BANGOR, Maine — Two local churches have joined forces to offer Celebrate Recovery, a Christ-centered recovery program.

Columbia Street Baptist Church and New Hope Church a year ago began offering the Celebrate Recovery program on Monday nights at the Baptist church in downtown Bangor. New Hope meets at Penobscot Christian School on outer Ohio Street.

Celebrate Recovery is open to all believers struggling with “hurts, habits and hangups,” according to Aric Rice, who heads the leadership team.

Rice, who attends New Hope, is a mental health counselor in Bangor.

“Those hurts, habits and hangups often are a symptom of something that has happened in your life and has left a hole in it,” he said earlier this week. “Whatever you are trying to stuff into life to fill that hole — whether it’s drugs, alcohol, food or sex — it’s never enough. In my experience. Nothing can fill that hole but God.”

Celebrate Recovery was created about 20 years ago by the Rev. Rick Warren, head of Saddleback Church headquartered in Lake Forest, Calif.

Warren is best known for his best-selling book, “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

“Most people are familiar with the classic 12-step program of [Alcoholics Anonymous] and other groups,” Warren said on the program’s website. “While undoubtedly many lives have been helped through the 12 steps, I’ve always been uncomfortable with that program’s vagueness about the nature of God, the saving power of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

“So, I began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about ‘recovery,’” he continued. “To my amazement, I found the principles of recovery, and even their logical order, given by Christ in his most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount.”

The Beautitudes are laid out in Matthew 5-7.

Many of the 40 to 60 people who participate in the program, like team leader Tracy, who asked that just her first name be used, have taken part in and continue to attend 12-step programs.

“OA worked for me at the time and it was a great stepping stone,” she said. “I had a connection with people [in that group] but in Celebrate Recovery, I have a different type of connection, a deeper connection because we all have faith in the same savior, the same creator and we are all striving to be more like him.

“Knowing now who God is,” she continued, “it’s like the ultimate peace. There is only one way, one answer and that is Jesus Christ.”

In addition to the Monday meetings, groups divided by gender meet on Tuesday nights and use workbooks to go through the 12 steps, turning to the Bible often for guidance and inspiration.

In addition to Bangor, Celebrate Recovery groups meet at churches in Bath, Houlton, Lamoine, Lewiston and Portland, according to information at

For information about the Bangor group, call 745-5521.

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Principles

Incorporating the 12 steps and based on the Beatitudes

  • Step 2: Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover.

    “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

  • Step 3: Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.

    “Happy are the meek.”

  • Steps 4 and 5: Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.

    “Happy are the pure in heart.”

  • Steps 6 and 7: Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

    “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.”

  • Steps 8 and 9: Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others.

    “Happy are the merciful.” and “Happy are the peacemakers”

  • Steps 10 and 11: Reserve a time with God for self-examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.
  • Step 12: Yield myself to God to be used to bring this good news to others, both by my example and my words.

    “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.”

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Immune System May Influence How Alcohol Affects Behavior

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Main Category: Alcohol / Addiction / Illegal Drugs
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Article Date: 30 Sep 2011 – 11:00 PDT email icon email to a friend   printer icon printer friendly   write icon opinions  

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The changes in behavior that come about under the influence of alcohol, such as difficulty controlling muscles for walking and talking, may be influenced by immune cells in the brain, according to a new study from Australia published in the British Journal of Pharmacology this month.

Lead author Dr Mark Hutchinson, Australia Research Council (ARC) Research Fellow with the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Adelaide, told the press he and his colleagues had uncovered new evidence that immune responses in the brain were involved in behavioral responses to alcohol.

“Alcohol is consumed annually by two billion people world-wide with its abuse posing a significant health and social problem,” said Hutchinson, “Over 76 million people are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder.”

“It’s amazing to think that despite 10,000 years of using alcohol, and several decades of investigation into the way that alcohol affects the nerve cells in our brain, we are still trying to figure out exactly how it works,” he noted.

For their study, Hutchinson and colleagues gave laboratory mice a single shot of alcohol and examined what happened to the animals’ behavior when they blocked their toll-like receptors. Specifically they blocked toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) because, as they write in their introduction:

” Emerging evidence implicates a role for toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) in the central nervous system effects of alcohol. “

Toll-like receptors activate the immune system when they encounter foreign substances, such as molecules derived from microorganisms (remember alcohol is made by yeast), breaching certain barriers to and inside the body, such as the skin and the gut wall.

The researchers were interested in finding out if blocking a particular pathway that was responsible for “TLR4-MyD88- dependent signalling” would interfere with the acute behavioural actions of alcohol. They also wanted to find out if alcohol could trigger certain pathways downstream of TLR4.

They used two ways to block the receptors: chemically, using drugs to inhibit TLR4 signalling, and genetically, by engineering mice with inactivated genes that code for the receptor.

They found that both methods significantly reduced the effect of alcohol and decreased the recovery time compared to controls. (To establish this they measured both sedation and motor impairment, the latter using tests called “loss of righting reflex, LORR, and rotarod).

Hutchinson said these findings show that blocking this part of the immune system, either genetically or with drugs, reduced the behavioral effects of alcohol.

He said he believes they would find similar results with humans and that they would add to our understanding of how alcohol affects us, “as it is both an immunological and neuronal response”.

“Such a shift in mindset has significant implications for identifying individuals who may have bad outcomes after consuming alcohol, and it could lead to a way of detecting people who are at greater risk of developing brain damage after long-term drinking,” he said, explaining that drugs targeting TLR4 could help treat alcohol addiction and overdoses.

Written by Catharine Paddock
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today

Visit our alcohol / addiction / illegal drugs section for the latest news on this subject.
“Inhibiting the TLR4-MyD88 signalling cascade by genetic or pharmacologic strategies reduces acute alcohol dose- induced sedation and motor impairment in mice”; Yue Wu, Erin L. Lousberg, Lachlan M. Moldenhauer, John D. Hayball, Janet K. Coller, Kenner C. Rice, Linda R. Watkins, Andrew A. Somogyi, and Mark R. Hutchinson; British Journal of Pharmacology 2011, Accepted Article available online 29 Sep 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1476- 5381.2011.01572.x; Link to Abstract
Additional source: University of Adelaide.
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Right Wing Tulsa Paper Calls Gay Appointee Perverted

Jim Roth of the Oklahoma State Election Board

The Tulsa Beacon, a right wing newspaper that makes the New York Post look like The New York Times, published a scathing indictment of Jim Roth (pictured), a recent appointee to the Oklahoma State Election Board.

Roth was recently appointed by Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin, who campaigned on her Christian values, according to the Beacon. The paper claims in an editorial that Fallin betrayed her campaign promises by appointing Roth, who they call an “outspoken homosexual.”

“The election board needs people of integrity, not those who live a perverted lifestyle, whether it be homosexuality or heterosexual promiscuity, alcoholism, drug addiction, or a host of other personal problems,” reads the editorial. “Undoubtedly, there are homosexuals who serve in state government. But someone who is open about his perverted lifestyle should not be appointed to a position of honor and integrity by a governor who wants to govern by biblical principles. Roth will serve immediately on an interim basis but his four-year post is subject to approval by the Oklahoma Senate. They should send him packing.”

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Alcohol and anxiety a risky mix for some

Many people who experience chronic feelings of anxiety about social situations, work and relationships, or other aspects of everyday life often reach for a beer or a glass of wine to quell their unease.

Alcohol may help anxious people cope in the short term, but over time this strategy can backfire. According to a new study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, self-medicating with alcohol or drugs can increase the risk of alcoholism and other substance-abuse problems, without addressing the underlying anxiety.

“People probably believe that self-medication works,” says James M. Bolton, M.D., the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg. “What people do not realize is that this quick-fix method actually makes things worse in the long term.” How to relieve the acute discomfort of anxiety disorders

Self-medication for anxiety symptoms is common. In the study, which included a nationally representative sample of 34,653 American adults, 13% of the people who had consumed alcohol or drugs in the previous year said they’d done so to reduce their anxiety, fear, or panic about a situation.

An even greater proportion, roughly one-quarter, said they had similarly self-medicated with drugs. (Detailed data on the drug use was not available, but Bolton says most people were probably using prescription sedatives — such as Xanax — without a prescription, rather than using marijuana or illegal drugs.)

Self-medication and anxiety proved to be a hazardous combination for some of the study participants. People with diagnosed anxiety disorders who self-medicated at the start of the study were two to five times more likely than those who did not self-medicate to develop a drug or alcohol problem within three years, the study found. (The increase in risk depended on the anxiety disorder.) The science of getting sloshed: how alcohol affects you

In addition, people with anxiety symptoms but in whom a full-blown anxiety disorder had never been officially diagnosed were more likely to receive a diagnosis of social phobia by the end of the study if they self-medicated. Social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder, is characterized by pronounced fear or anxiety about specific situations, such as parties or speaking in public.

“Serious consequences can develop very quickly,” Bolton says. “People can develop alcoholism and anxiety disorders within just three years, and these are illnesses that can have a devastating impact on a person’s health, their relationships, and their financial situation.”

Experts have long known that people with anxiety disorders are vulnerable to substance abuse, and vice versa, but they haven’t been able to determine whether one problem precedes the other.

The new findings are significant because they are among the first to examine the relationship of anxiety symptoms and substance use in a group of people over time, says Kristen Anderson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Reed College, in Portland, Oregon. Anderson was not involved in the new study. Is alcohol good for you? What’s right and wrong with drinking

Bolton and his colleagues reanalyzed data from a nationwide survey, led by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, that began in 2001.

Thirteen percent of the participants with an anxiety disorder who reported self-medicating with alcohol developed an alcohol problem over the three-year study period, compared with just 5% of those who did not self-medicate. Likewise, 10% of people with an anxiety disorder who self-medicated with drugs developed a drug problem, versus 2% of those who did not.

Having a glass of wine to ease the tension of a stressful day doesn’t necessarily put a person at risk for becoming an alcoholic, of course. Substance abuse is heavily influenced by a person’s genes and environment, Anderson says, but she adds that habitually relying on alcohol or drugs to ease anxiety at the expense of healthier coping strategies — such as working out, talking with a friend, or taking a hot bath — can be risky. 7 steps to instant calm

“I think all of us, whether we’re disordered or not, need to consider the reason why we choose to use alcohol or other drugs,” Anderson says. “When any of us decide to try to cope with external agents, I think it’s a very slippery slope.”

The shame some people feel about their anxiety and a reluctance to seek help for psychological problems are likely major factors contributing to self-medication, Bolton says.

“Unfortunately, people often do not seek the help they need because of the stigma around mental illness,” he says. “People are likely to stay at home and use the resources that they have at their disposal, which in this case would be alcohol or drugs.” Mental illness: the last stigma

Maureen Carrigan, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina-Aiken who studies addictive behaviors and anxiety disorders but wasn’t involved with the new research, sees widespread self-medication as a symptom of our “quick-fix society.”

Talk therapy and other treatments for anxiety are effective and can even solve the problem for good, Carrigan says, but they can be time-consuming and aren’t always covered by insurance. People experiencing anxiety may not even be aware of these treatments, she adds.

“The average person doesn’t always know that there are good psychological treatments that exist for some of these problems,” she says.


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Alcohol impairs the body’s ability to fight off viral infection

Alcohol is known to worsen the effects of disease, resulting in longer recovery period after trauma, injury or burns. It is also known to impair the anti-viral immune response, especially in the liver, including response against Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Immunology shows that alcohol modulates the anti-viral and inflammatory functions of monocytes and that prolonged alcohol consumption has a double negative effect of reducing the anti-viral effect of Type 1 interferon (IFN) whilst increasing inflammation via the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα.

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School looked at the effect of alcohol on monocytes collected from the blood of healthy volunteers. The group, led by Prof Gyongyi Szabo, focussed specifically on two disease related pathways – the first (Toll-like receptor 8 – TLR8) stimulated by single strand RNA viral attack and the second (TLR4) is involved in recognising bacteria.

Their results showed that, as expected, activation of these pathways resulted in an increase in the levels of the anti-viral cytokine IFN, however this was reduced by treatment with alcohol equivalent to four or five drinks a day for seven days. Similarly stimulation of these pathways resulted in an increase in the levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine TNFα. However, while a single treatment with alcohol decreased the amount of TNFα, prolonged treatment increased levels of inflammation.

Prof Szabo said, “Alcohol has a profound effect of inhibiting IFN production in monocytes regardless of whether the danger signal is intracellular (TLR8) or surface-derived (TLR4). Such a reduction would impair the body’s ability to fight off infection. Additionally, the fact that Type I IFN production is depressed despite increased levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine, TNFα, due to chronic alcohol exposure suggests that prolonged alcohol must change the immune balance of monocyte activation and impair host response to single-stranded virus infection like hepatitis C.”

More information: Inhibition of TLR8- and TLR4-induced Type I IFN induction by alcohol is different from its effects on inflammatory cytokine production in monocytes, Maoyin Pang, Shashi Bala, Karen Kodys, Donna Catalano and Gyongyi Szabo, BMC Immunology (in press)

Provided by BioMed Central (news : web)

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Reframing Alcoholism: Researcher Argues Against ‘Disease’ Label

For more than 100 years, alcoholism has been viewed as a disease; however, this framing has created barriers to diagnosing, treating and even understanding the condition, one psychologist argues.

“By adhering so strictly to the disease model…I think that we miss the opportunity to frame alcoholism in ways that could help some people,” said Lance Brendan Young, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Comprehensive Access & Delivery Research and Evaluation in Iowa City, Iowa.

Thinking of the condition in as a disease diminishes the moral stigma of it. However, this framing introduces the stigma of disease, Young said.

“It introduces the stigma of abnormality — of being permanently deviant in body and mind,” Young said.

While the disease model may be useful for treating people who consider themselves alcoholics, it may be harmful to people trying to determine whether their drinking is problematic, Young said. To be diagnosed with alcoholism means a person has to give up their identity as a “normal” person, and take on the identity of someone with a disease, Young said.

“Individuals are faced with this identity-threatening choice they have to make,” Young said. As a consequence, some people change their behavior so they can continue to think of themselves as normal. For instance, a person might believe “alcoholics” only drink alone, so he will try to get his friends to go drinking with him frequently. This way, he can continue consume alcohol excessively without needing to believe he is an “alcoholic,” or seeking treatment.

Young said he is not advocating eliminating the disease model, but hopes instead to move beyond it. The medical community should find away to frame the condition so it is less threatening to people’s identify, perhaps by using different words to describe it, Young said. And more research should investigate social and cultural influences on alcoholism, rather than focusing on biological causes of it, he argued.

Young published his views in the September issue of the journal Culture & Psychology.

Who is an “alcoholic?”

Alcoholism is a physical addiction to alcohol in which people continue to drink even though the drinking causes physical, mental and social problems, including problems with job responsibilities and relationships, according to the National Institutes of Health. As is the case with other addictions, alcoholism is considered a disease by many in the medical community, including the American Medical Association.

A drawback to framing alcoholism as a disease is that we tend to think of diseases as something that needs to be diagnosed by a professional, Young said. However, physicians often only meet with patients for a short time and cannot possibility have the same insight into an individual’s habits as she herself.

“I know of addicts who have been able to get a professional to tell them they are not addicted,” and then use that as justification to continue their excessive drinking, Young said.

The disease model also gives the false impression that alcoholism is solely a biological disorder, Young said, leading some researchers tend to adopt a narrow view, focusing on particular chemicals or brain cells that might be involved.

“We tend to look at smaller and smaller parts of the human body, and the human mind and the human brain,” to find the cause of something, Young said. In doing so, we lose sight of the bigger picture, including social and cultural influences that may play a role in alcoholism development. Factors including who you spend time with, how many liquor stores are near you and your religious affiliation all are linked with how much you drink, Young said.


Young said he prefers to use the word “allergy” to describe alcoholism.

“It is less threatening to consider the idea that one might have an allergy than to consider the idea that one might be permanently diseased,” Young said.

“With alcoholism, there’s a dichotomy — you either are [an alcoholic] or you’re not. And that sort of marks you as an individual — you’re either normal or you’re deviant.” Young said. “With allergies, the deviance is much less significant.”

In addition, drinkers should not feel they have to leave their diagnosis to a physician. People should give weight to their own experiences, including what they perceive their drinking is doing to their lives, Young said.

Other experts point out that the problem of disease stigmatization or identity crisis is not unique to alcoholism.

“It really doesn’t matter what illness you have; people have a sense of loss,” said Dr. Ihsan Salloum, chief of the Division of Alcohol and Drug abuse at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; who also called the Young’s article “more philosophical than scientific.”

The disease model has helped us understand alcoholism and develop drugs for the condition, Salloum said.

However, Salloum agreed there is a need to take into account subjectivity when diagnosing and treating the condition.

“When somebody is suffering, it’s not only the organ that’s suffering, it’s the whole person,” Salloum said.

If doctors want to help patients accept their diagnosis as an alcoholic, they should work to understand how the patient is processing what’s happening to him or her, Salloum said.

Pass it on: Viewing alcoholism as a disease may create problems in terms of diagnosing, treating and understanding the condition.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LivScience. Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Rachael Rettner on Twitter @RachaelRettner. Find us on Facebook.

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September is Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month

OSWEGO – The Oswego County Legislature recently proclaimed September as Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month with a presentation to the Oswego County Division of Mental Hygiene. All county residents are encouraged to embrace this year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Recovery Benefits Everyone.”

More than 13,000 Oswego County residents, an estimated 12.9 percent, have a chemical dependence service need. Education is essential to prevention, overcoming misconceptions, and achieving long-term recovery. Treatment and recovery improve a community’s welfare; provide a renewed outlook on life for those who struggle with substance use disorders and gambling addictions, and offer hope and encouragement to their families and friends.

The Oswego County Division of Mental Hygiene works throughout the county to increase public awareness of substance abuse and gambling addiction issues and recognize the achievements of those in recovery. Dedicated local agencies such as the County of Oswego Council of Alcoholism and Addictions, Farnham Family Services, Harbor Lights, and OCO Arbor House provide support to individuals with addictions as well as their families and reach out to those in need of support. Service providers are also able to offer community outreach and prevention presentations to schools, churches, community groups and organizations.

If you or someone you know is affected by addiction, or if you would like to schedule a prevention presentation, contact one of the following community organizations:

• Oswego County Division of Mental Hygiene: 315/963-5361

• County of Oswego Council on Alcohol and Addictions (COCOAA): 315/342-2370

• Farnham Family Services: 315/342-4489

• Harbor Lights: 315/963-0777

Additional resources that also offer services include:

• NYS Hope Help-Line: 1-877-8-HOPENY (1-877-846-7369)

• Alcoholics Anonymous:

• Al-Anon Family Groups:

• Alateen:

For more information, contact the Oswego County Division of Mental Hygiene at 315/963-5361, or visit the department’s Web site at


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