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Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD.  AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when the sufferer attempts to stop using.

An estimated 16 million people in the United States have AUD. Approximately 6.2 percent or 15.1 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had AUD in 2015. This includes 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women. 

Both environmental factors as well as genetics are associated with AUD or alcoholism with about half the risk attributed to each. A person with a parent or sibling with alcoholism is three to four times more likely to be alcoholic themselves.  Environmental factors include social, cultural, and behavioral influences.

High stress levels, anxiety, as well as inexpensive and easily accessible alcohol increases risk. People may continue to drink partly to prevent or improve symptoms of withdrawal. A low level of withdrawal may last for months following stopping. Medically,

alcoholism is considered both a physical and mental illness.

Some common short-term effects of alcohol include:

  • Mood swings.

  • Impaired judgment.

  • Coordination issues.

  • Trouble concentrating.

  • Memory problems.

  • Slurred speech.

  • Uncontrolled eye movements.

  • Stupor.

  • Coma

As is often the case, recreational use of alcohol gives way to compulsive misuse, and when it is used heavily and over a long period of time, alcohol can be detrimental to both physical and mental health. Some of the potential long-term effects of alcohol abuse or addiction include:

  • Cirrhosis.

  • Alcoholic hepatitis.

  • Liver cancer.

  • Pancreatitis.

  • Cardiomyopathy (stretching and weakening of heart muscle).

  • Irregular heart rhythm.

  • High blood pressure.

  • Stroke.

  • Mouth and throat cancer.

  • Breast cancer.

  • Weakened immune system.

  • Irritability.

  • Suicidal ideation

Those suffering from alcohol dependence may experience uncomfortable and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures, with cessation of use. Severe alcohol withdrawal is referred to as delirium tremens and is a life-threatening condition that requires medical care.  A licensed counselor does not provide detoxification services nor the medically necessary physiological interventions and care required for persons experiencing alcohol withdrawal.  Talk to a medical doctor or call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing alcohol withdrawals.  A licensed counselor can make referrals and recommendations, but cannot provide the medical treatment needed.  Once the individual has been through a safe detoxification process, the recovery work can begin. 

Fortunately, with the right combination of evidence-based recovery interventions and professional support, alcohol addiction can be treated successfully. Alcohol addiction rehabilitation has worked for millions of Americans, and even more globally who are looking to take their life back from alcohol use disorder. Is alcohol addictive? Yes, but help is available if you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol abuse. You can regain your health and your life while working with a licensed counselor, learning the sober living skills that will help you overcome the destructive nature of this illness. 



Prescription Drugs


The National Institute on Drug Abuse says about 48 million people (ages 12 and older) have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in their lifetime. That figure represents approximately 20% of the U.S. population.

In recent years, there has been a dramatic rise in prescription drug misuse or abuse. This increase has led to more ER visits because of accidental overdoses and more admissions to treatment programs for drug addictions.

Addiction is a chronic brain disease that often recurs if the user has not experienced a full and meaningful recovery. It causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful effects on the addicted person and the people around that person. The abuse of drugs -- even prescription drugs -- leads to changes in how the brain looks and works.

For most people, the first decision to take prescription drugs is voluntary. But over time, changes in the brain caused by repeated drug abuse affect a person's self-control and ability to make sound decisions. While this is going on, the person continues to have intense impulses to take more drugs.

Commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include opioids (for pain), central nervous system (CNS) depressants (for anxiety and sleep disorders), and stimulants (for ADHD and narcolepsy).

Opioids include:

  • Fentanyl (Duragesic®)

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin®)

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin®)

  • Oxymorphone (Opana®)

  • Propoxyphene (Darvon®)

  • Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®)

  • Meperidine (Demerol®)

  • Diphenoxylate (Lomotil®)

Central nervous system depressants include:

  • Pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®)

  • Diazepam (Valium®)

  • Alprazolam (Xanax®)

Stimulants include:

  • Dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine®)

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin® and Concerta®)

  • Amphetamines (Adderall®)

Using opiates or prescription painkillers, like VicodinPercocet, and OxyContin, can be particularly dangerous because it often leads to respiratory depression. Opiate painkillers are most often taken orally, yet may also be crushed and snorted, or mixed with liquid solution and injected.

Some side effects typical of opiates include:

  • Euphoria followed by apathy.

  • Dysphoria, or unease.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Pinpoint pupils.

  • Itching skin.

  • Inattention to the environment.

  • Slowed thinking and movements.

  • Attention problems.

  • Memory impairments.

  • Drowsiness.

  • Slurred speech.

  • Coma.


Drowsiness experienced by an opiate user is often called “being on the nod.” The decreased breathing rate caused by opiate intoxication can result in oxygen deficiency and overdose.2



Illicit "Street" Drugs

It is naïve to think you cannot become addicted to an illegal drug because you have strong willpower. Drug addiction is not a testament to someone’s weakness. Rather, drugs such as heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine (meth) change the brain’s chemistry, forming an addiction.

The changes that drugs make to the brain are long-lasting and damaging, overtaking everything else in the user’s life. Eventually, it becomes difficult to stop using illicit drugs without professional help. When a person takes an illicit drug, the chemical floods the brain’s reward circuit with dopamine. The reward circuit controls feelings of pleasure that naturally come from life-sustaining habits such as eating and sleeping.

When a person takes an illicit drug, the chemical floods the brain’s reward circuit with dopamine. The reward circuit controls feelings of pleasure that naturally come from life-sustaining habits such as eating and sleeping.  Drugs create a high that mimics these feelings, leading to users taking more and more of the same or similar substance.

Eventually, the brain becomes tolerant to the drug and needs larger quantities of the substance to achieve the same high. The user is then unable to experience feelings of pleasure in anything except the drug, creating addiction. There are measurable short and long-term effects of illicit drugs on the body and brain.

If you suspect that you, or  someone you love is suffering from drug addiction, seek professional help before it’s too late. Professional treatment and rehabilitation are critical to the recovery and long-term well-being of a drug user.

The consequences of drug addiction aren’t only physical and mental. Drugs affect virtually every aspect of a user’s life. Typically, drug addicts suffer myriad legal, financial and social consequences. These may include the loss of close relationships with friends, family members and significant others. An drug user often isolates himself or herself from loved ones, breaking ties and losing close bonds.

A habitual drug user may also get into significant financial trouble while trying to fund a drug addiction. This can lead to legal problems if the person turns to robbery or fraud to get the money to continue using. Furthermore, an addict can lose a job from failing to show up, arriving late all the time, or falling asleep or performing poorly at work. Drug addiction can systematically ruin a person’s life, regardless of income, gender or age.

The list of commonly used drugs is long. Different drugs have fallen in and out of popularity over the years. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in the United States, with 49 percent of all Americans admitting to trying the drug at least once. 

Marijuana impairs memory, ability to focus, coordination and learning. Although it is impossible to overdose from marijuana and it’s legal in some state, cannabis use can cause other health risks.





Addiction professionals commonly witness profound, if not miraculous, changes in mood, anxiety, self-esteem and relational renewal among clients who complete a recovery coaching program.  Many addiction recovery programs are inclusive of interventions like CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), MI (Motivational Interviewing), DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and holistic mindfulness practices, wellness-centered routines and healthy support structure.  Addiction treatment providers often attribute treatment failure however, to those who drop out of services prematurely or who resist recovery support and coaching interventions. Substance-induced mood disorders can present features of a manic, hypo-manic, mixed, or depressive episode. Most substances can induce a variety of mood disorders. 



Many clients who come to us for counseling experience relief from the following emotional problems:



Alcohol and drug use can worsen the psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety, reinforcing the need to use more of these substances in order to function normally. The result is a cycle of substance abuse that can lead to chemical dependence and addiction. 

A substance-induced anxiety disorder, by definition, is directly caused by the effects of drugs—including alcohol, medications, and toxins. Anxiety symptoms can result from intoxication on alcohol, amphetamines (and related substances), caffeine, cannabis (marijuana), cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, phencyclidine (PCP) and related substances, and other or unknown substances. Anxiety symptoms can also result from withdrawal from alcohol, sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics, cocaine, and other or unknown substances. Everyone feels anxious now and then. It’s a normal emotion. For example, you may feel nervous when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision.  But, a psychoactive substance may induce psychotic symptoms during intoxication (i.e., while the individual is under the influence of the drug) or during withdrawal from the substance.

Prominent anxiety symptoms (i.e., generalized anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, or phobia symptoms) determined to be caused by the effects of a psychoactive substance is the primary feature of a substance-induced psychotic disorder.


A substance-induced anxiety disorder is sub-typed or categorized based on whether the prominent feature is generalized anxiety, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive symptoms, or phobia symptoms. In addition, the disorder is sub-typed based on whether it began during intoxication on a substance or during withdrawal from a substance. A substance-induced anxiety disorder that begins during substance use can last as long as the drug is used. A substance-induced anxiety disorder that begins during withdrawal may first manifest up to four weeks after an individual stops using the substance.



Alcohol and drug addiction can result from a depressed individual attempting to alleviate or “self-medicate” symptoms of depression. Depression can also result from addiction, both due to biological changes caused by substance addiction (the “normalizing” of artificially elevated levels of neurotransmitters, the brain’s “feel-good” mechanisms), and also the severely disruptive life consequences that can result from addiction.  The intense physical and mental cravings that addicted persons experience can cause psychological and physical feelings of depression.

It has been reported that almost 40 percent of individuals with an alcohol or drug disorder meet the diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder. In some cases, however, a person’s disorder is not independent, but rather, it is caused directly by their substance abuse behaviors. Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder are commonly diagnosed mood-related conditions that are often seen in substance abusers.


A vast number of drugs are commonly associated with changes in personality, mood and temperament in users. Likewise, any substance that alters a person’s mind is capable of triggering mood swings and flaring tempers or depressed moods that aren’t consistent with the user’s normal behavior when they’re sober. For example, someone who uses cocaine may experience a heightened sense of elation initially that causes them to feel manic and excited, which is soon followed by a crash, wherein the user is generally lethargic and sleepy. Disrupted sleep patterns, a side effect for many substance abusers, can cause flaring tempers, decrease patience, and increase irritability in anyone. Stimulants can cause mania that encourages impulsive over-spending, over-eating, and recklessness in the user — all destructive behaviors. Some will feel the opposite of mania and experience a great deal of depression; others will struggle with a complex combination of the two.


Love Relationships

A substance abuse problem is insidious. It creeps and sneaks its way into a user’s life: a drink to take the edge off a bad day becomes a drink just to make it through the day; a puff of a marijuana joint while hanging out with friends becomes any excuse to light up and get high.The same is true when addiction issues arise in relationships. A drug or drinking problem changes the way a user thinks and perceives the world around him, making him redirect all his attention, energy and focus into satisfying the need for more. This will also affect the dynamics of the relationship with the user’s partner: he becomes less a romantic or sexual companion and more a tool to further the addiction, a vessel by which the next high can be obtained.  Everything the now addicted person does, whether or not he is aware of it, is to keep the fires of his vice burning. How he interacts with his spouse or partner becomes a piece of that machinery.


The partner’s reaction can determine a number of other factors: if she offers an ultimatum, for example, that could be the end of the relationship, but it could also be the impetus for the user to go clean; if he/she becomes complicit in the addiction, it could spread the disease into more social circles.  

In 2004, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reviewed pre-existing literature and found that addiction has different effects on different relationship structures. For example, children may be forced into uncomfortable or unfamiliar roles to compensate (or cover) for a parent’s substance abuse. Extended family members might be put through stressful experiences of shame and humiliation if their connection to the addict (and his or her behavior) becomes known.

When dealing with a partner, the consequences of a substance abuse problem generally fall into psychological (and resultant behavior) and economic categories. Money, for example, can be diverted away from savings and joint interests, and toward fueling a habit. Psychologically (and behaviorally), a partner could be on the receiving end of mood swings, reduced sexual interest and functioning, lack of engagement from their loved one, and other forms of emotional neglect. They may also be coerced into becoming complicit in their partner’s addiction, being manipulated into covering for them or even providing them drugs, all under the guise of doing the actions out of love (or a promise that the addicted partner will seek help or treatment after this one last act).

Regaining trust after an addiction takes time. People who are abusing drugs or alcohol are often unreliable, break promises, and neglect responsibilities. Don't become angry or frustrated if your loved one is hesitant to trust you. A licensed counselor can help the recovering person to set realistic expectations for the re-building ahead.  Conjoint counseling sessions are critical in the recovery process and there is hope for renewal in most cases.  Progress in recovery opens the door to trust and forgiveness for spouses, families and employers.  However, in some cases the damage may be too severe to fix, and part of the recovery process is the practice of acceptance.  A good counselor can help the client navigate these issues keeping priorities focused on the foundation of sobriety.



Our Clients are sons and daughters, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, both young and old, who are deeply embedded in a vicious cycle of destruction that threatens their very lives. It takes experienced help to free the sufferer from the chains of addiction.  That familiar "numbing of reality" which comes at once from the consumption of various chemical substances must be challenged with a structured plan of relief actions.

We walk with our clients on the sometimes very narrow path to abstinence and sobriety.  Each step in the early going is critical to success.  Although recovery comes easier for some than others, it is always a process that requires a one-on-one plan designed and formulated especially for each individual’s circumstances.

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