Alcohol Myths

By David Joel Miller.

How many alcohol myths do you believe?

Alcohol is a stimulant.

Bottles of alcohol.

Alcoholic Beverages.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Many people think and alcohol stimulates them and gives them more energy.  This belief was so common in the past among newspaper reporters and writers that these professions developed high rates of alcoholism.  The truth is alcohol is not a stimulant.  Alcohol is a depressant and while it may initially disinhibit you, the more you drink, the less energy you will have.  Over the long run drinking alcohol results in depression.

Alcohol makes you sexy or more sexual.

Alcohol shuts off the part of the brain that tells you “hey stupid don’t do that.”  As a result, when drinking people are more likely to engage in sexual behavior.  The truth is drunk people do not look sexy to sober people.  While having high levels of alcohol in your bloodstream makes you more likely to act on your sexual thoughts it also reduces the ability to engage in sex.  In men regular alcohol consumption may result in impotence.

Alcohol makes you more of a man or woman.

The ability to drink, and to drink large quantities, increases the likelihood you will do things you would not do when sober.  This increased alcohol consumption results in tolerance to alcohol and requiring ever-increasing quantities to create the same effect.  Taking action after having a few drinks is sometimes described as “liquid courage.” Being intoxicated or frequently drunk does not produce the qualities that we think of as being either masculine or feminine.

Alcohol will cure your ills.

It’s common to think that having a few drinks will solve all your physical or emotional problems.  The truth is that using alcohol to regulate emotions leaves you depended on alcohol and less able to handle life without it.  Alcohols has some germ killing properties when used externally.  But when used internally, alcohol can cause damage in every cell in touches.

Alcohol will make you less anxious or scared.

Temporarily alcohol can make you feel less anxious.  In the long run however using alcohol to treat anxiety makes it worse not better.  When you drink to cope with anxiety, the alcohol quickly wears off.  This leaves you more anxious than before.  The result is that you will need ever-increasing amounts of alcohol to cope with your anxiety.

Alcohol will make you function better.

Drinking alcohol, especially drinking it heavily, only makes people think they are performing better.  Having alcohol in the bloodstream interferes with coordination, memory, and judgment.

Alcohol makes you warmer.

Alcohol dilates the blood vessels close to the skin.  This results in a temporary feeling of warmth.  It also results in a rapid loss of heat from the core of the body.  Drinking alcohol when you are cold actually causes the body to lose heat more rapidly.

Most people drink alcohol on a regular basis.

The truth is that more than half of the adults in America have not had a drink of alcohol in the last month.  Many Americans only have a drink of alcohol once or twice in any one year.  A handful of alcohol drinkers, the 20% heaviest drinkers, consumed 80% of all the alcohol that is drunk.

How many of these alcohol myths do you believe?  Have you discovered any other alcohol myths?

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Do you have an acute or a chronic illness?

By David Joel Miller.

Getting the right kind of treatment for your illness is important.

Acute or Chronic Illness

Acute or Chronic Illness?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

 

Whether it’s a physical, emotional or mental disorder, getting the right treatment makes all the difference.  One of the problems we have in the behavioral health field is a tendency to treat chronic illnesses as if they were acute illnesses.

What is an acute illness?

Acute illness is something like breaking your leg. It happened suddenly, you go to the hospital and the Doctor sets it in a cast.  Eventually the broken leg heals and you walk normally. Another example of an acute illness would be a case of pneumonia.  This can be quite serious and may result in a hospital stay.  You may need emergency treatment.  Eventually the pneumonia goes away and you can return home.  You may have some after effects, But at some point you will be pronounced cured of your pneumonia.

How is a chronic illness different?

Chronic illnesses have to be managed not cured.  Things like diabetes and heart disease are managed.  With a chronic illness the Doctor continues to provide care and monitoring to keep the disease from getting worse.  In the past acute illnesses were the main things doctors treated, today more than 75% of what doctors’ treat are chronic illnesses.

Mental health and substance use disorders are chronic illnesses.

For years we’ve made a mistake by thinking that we can treat mental and emotional illnesses as if they were acute. Someone is under the influence of a substance and are sent to detox for 72 hours.  As if substance use disorders were the same sort of things as a broken leg or an overdose of poison.

The belief used to be that once the drugs were out of their system that person was cured.  If the substance use disorder was an acute disorder, like poisoning, that would have work.  It is common for people straight out of detox to pick up drugs again within a few days. Detoxification does not work to cure substance use disorders because they are chronic illnesses.

The person sent to the psychiatric hospital for a suicide attempt might be released after two or three days when they no longer were feeling suicidal.  Sometimes that person gets additional care after the hospitalization.  But not always.

This is often another case of treating a chronic illness as if it were an acute illness. Without further treatment after the brief hospitalization there is a good chance that the depression and thoughts of suicide will return.

Mental health problems and substance use disorders require long-term treatment.

Repeatedly we have found that people with mental health problems who get treatment over a longer period of time are less likely to have a return of symptoms. Those people who continue to stay in treatment for up to two years after an episode of depression are less likely to have a recurrence of that depression.

With substance use disorders we find that those people who continue to stay in some form of continuing care are less likely to have a relapse.  Staying connected to whatever program or treatment helped you to recover from your substance use disorder improves the chances that you will stay recovered. In drug and alcohol treatment this continuing care is often referred to as aftercare.

One thing that has been sorely missing in mental health treatment is some form of continuing care after the initial episode. Far too often mental health issues are treated as if they were acute illnesses rather than the chronic conditions they are. Providing some kind of continuing support, groups, or individual counseling, reduces the risk of relapse into an active state of mental illness.

One highly effective continuing care system is the development of a written wellness and recovery plan.

For more about aftercare see the post in the “What is.” series.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What is Amotivational Syndrome?

By David Joel Miller.

Have you lost your drive or your desire to do something?

unmotivated

Low Motivation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Amotivational Syndrome is often connected with the smoking of marijuana.  This is something quite different from what we see in depression.  In depression people lose the desire to do things they use to make them happy.  We call that loss of pleasure anhedonia.

In Amotivational Syndrome people seem to spend more time looking inward and contemplating things and less time actively doing them.  This syndrome was originally recognized in younger, marijuana smokers who were heavier daily users.

Does marijuana smoking cause loss of motivation?

Things that are, or were, associated with Amotivational Syndrome include the development of apathy and loss of ambition.  Heavy smokers just seem to become indifferent and stop caring about anything except smoking.  They seem to have fewer goals and decreased effectiveness.  Problems with attention and concentration have also been attributed to heavy marijuana smoking and Amotivational Syndrome.

Many of these characteristics are seen in daily, heavy, marijuana smokers.  What is unclear is whether the marijuana smoking causes this cluster of symptoms or whether those people who are low in motivation like to smoke marijuana.  At one point it was commonly accepted that some marijuana smokers are likely to suffer from Amotivational Syndrome.

Not all marijuana smokers are low in motivation.

Because of the many famous, popular people, who have been reported to be regular marijuana smokers, the connection between smoking marijuana and low motivation has come into question. It is unclear how common this condition is, or even if this is a valid syndrome.  Amotivational Syndrome has not been reported in countries other than the United States.  There’s some question whether Amotivational Syndrome is in fact a cultural rather than a mental condition.

Animals on marijuana don’t lose motivation.

Laboratory studies of both humans and animals have not found evidence of the Amotivational Syndrome for those using marijuana.  Amotivational Syndrome or loss of goals and direction has been found in many groups of young people who are not using marijuana on a regular basis.  This is leads some writers to conclude that Amotivational Syndrome is a personality characteristic rather than result of smoking marijuana.  It may be that those people with low motivation are attracted to using marijuana and other intoxicating substances.

One other possibility that has been suggested is that those people who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol or other substances may have low motivations to do anything while under the influence.  What we may be seeing in those people who were described as having Amotivational Syndrome may in fact be the effects of intoxication and withdrawal from marijuana or other substances.

As with the other things we are calling a mental illness or symptoms of a mental illness Amotivational Syndrome would need to interfere with your ability to work or go to school, your relationships, your enjoyable activities or cause you personal distress for it to be the focus of clinical attention. Otherwise while you may have lost some motivation you will not be identified as someone needing clinical assistance.  If the only time you have low motivation is when you are under the influence of marijuana or another drug this would be diagnosed as drug intoxication.

For more on this and related topics see the other posts on counselorssoapbox.com under        Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What is a Standard Drink?

By David Joel Miller.

The taste may change but the alcohol stays the same.

Alcohol

What is a standard drink?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Only one kind of alcohol, ethanol, is drinkable. Ethanol or ethyl alcohol is made from fermenting a liquid made from fruit, grains or similar vegetative products. Sometimes this chemical is called grain alcohol. While chemically similar, all the types of alcohol other than Ethanol can do significant harm, including cause blindness or death, when consumed. From here on, when I say alcohol, I am talking exclusively about the ethanol type.

The folk-lore of drinking contains lots of myths about what to drink and how to drink it. People may think that if they only drink beer or wine then they can’t become alcoholics. Some people give up “the hard stuff” thinking this will prevent them having a problem with alcohol. Most of this belief that one alcoholic drink is better or worse than another is based on misconceptions about the content of alcoholic drinks.

No matter what we call an alcoholic beverage, what it is made from or what flavorings and additives are included, the pure alcohol part of alcoholic beverages is the same. All drinkable alcoholic beverages contain ethanol. Ethanol is the component that gets you drunk and withdrawal from ethanol, no matter the source, is what causes a hangover.

In order to compare the amount of pure alcohol contained in various beverages we use a concept called a “standard drink.” That standard drink is the amount of a beverage that contains one-half an ounce of pure ethanol.

In some places alcohol content is calculated by weight and in other places it is calculated by volume. Depending on whether the alcohol is measured by weight or by volume and depending on who does the measuring we can get slightly different numbers here. Either way the results of alcohol are pretty much the same.

Beer has the smallest percentage of alcohol.

Beers can vary between three and seven percent alcohol. Most of the major commercial beers in the U. S. are at the low end, close to 3 % and a twelve once beer is considered a standard drink. Many people believe that because beer has a lower alcohol content it is safer and less likely to lead to problems. Unfortunately that turns out to not be true. Because beer has a lower alcohol content per standard drink most people just drink more volume of beer than they would if drinking another alcoholic beverage. More than half the pure alcohol consumed every year here in the U. S. comes from beer.

Wine is a little stronger and can vary more.

Typical wines come in at eight to fourteen percent alcohol. The various textbooks I consulted gave between four and five oz. of wine as a standard drink. A wine can be fortified by adding alcohol distilled from some other alcoholic beverage. By fortifying a wine it can be pushed up to as much as twenty-two percent ethyl alcohol.

Spirits or Hard Liquor are the result of distillation.

As the fermentation progresses the alcohol begins to prevent the yeast from working so the process of fermentation stops. To get stronger alcoholic beverages some manipulation is required. If the liquid is heated, the alcohol evaporates faster than the water and other components. Catch this steam which is largely alcohol, condense it, and you get a beverage with a higher concentration of alcohol. We call this product with the concentrated levels of alcohol, spirits or hard liquor.

A standard drink containing spirits is about one “shot” of an 86 proof liquor. Proof numbers are twice the percentage numbers so this shot contains about half an ounce of pure alcohol.

Glass size and proof matter.

In trying to compare the amount of alcohol in one drink with another it is important to keep in mind that a glass of wine is defined as a 4 to 5 ounce glass size.  Pouring the wine into a 32 ounce tumbler does not mean a tumbler full is still one standard drink.

When the “proof” changes so should the size of the drink. Stronger spirits should be served in smaller glasses. In practice people still pour more than one standard drink into their glass resulting in some drinks that contain way more than “one standard drink.” Even beer can become deceptively intoxicating if served in a mug that holds more than 12 ounces.

The problem with counting standard drinks.

The whole idea of standard drinks was to predict the effects of drinking a glass of a particular alcoholic beverage. In practice most people are taking in more alcohol than they realize and the heavy or binge drinkers are drinking way more drinks than they planned.

If you are having a problem with controlling your drinking the answer is not in measuring standard drinks. If when you drink you consume more than intended or bad things happen to you, there is a good chance that you have an Alcohol Use Disorder. Stop trying to find a way to beat the game and drink more but not get drunk and get some help from a support group like A. A. or a professional counselor.

For more on this topic see:  Alcoholism       Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction

Terms and their meaning can differ with the profession using them. The literature from the Rehab or AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) field may be very different from that in the mental health field. There is still a large gap between recovery programs and AOD professionals and the terms and descriptions used in the DSM.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What is Polydrug or Polysubstance use?

By David Joel Miller.

Polydrug use is common.

Drugs

What is Polydrug or Polysubstance use?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Polydrug use, sometimes referred to as multiple drug use, is an increasingly common pattern. Diagnosis of Substance Use Disorders used to be divided along the lines of the particular substance that someone used or abused. Treatment systems separated the alcoholics from the Heroin users and so on. There was a lot of validity to that model but it is becoming less and less possible as more people are using combinations of many drugs.

Most drug users have a preferred “High.” Stimulant users like being way up. Depressant users like the falling asleep, passing out kind of high. Hallucinogen users are chasing an altered reality. Some people dabble in all three types and their pattern of addiction is more to the process of using drugs than to any one particular substance.

I have heard people with a history of polysubstance use describe themselves as “trashcan junkies” just open the lid and throw something in. When asked what drugs they do, the standard answer is “What have you got?”

Drugs of abuse have cultures.

Alcohol users and abusers tend to hang out together. They have their preferred beverage of choice and their favorite method of consumption. If you drink the way others in your social circle drink then you can maintain the illusion that your drinking is under control. Some drinking groups divide up a 12 or 24 pack, some pass around a bottle of wine or a paper bag containing the hard stuff. Other groups order fancy mixed drinks from the cocktail waitress. Alcohol is everywhere and most people develops some familiarity with this culture.

Weed smokers have their culture also. They pass around the blunt, smoke a bowl or roll a joint. They have particular names for the varieties of marijuana they smoke or those they disdain. Most drink alcohol from time to time. Many weed smokers also have cultural decorations, tribal music and cultural heroes who smoked a lot of weed. But in a group of consistent marijuana users it is likely that most primarily smoke marijuana.

Heroin users develop their own special culture. They know the process of making a rig. Users learn the concepts of going to the cotton and cotton fever. They also know the struggles of kicking and going cold turkey.

Some of the younger opiate abusers believe they are from a different tribe. They do their opiates as pills and liquids, obtained from doctors, pharmacies and diverted medical supplies. They may even hold fast to the myth that they are not addicts because they do not use needles. That myth gets shattered when their supply is interrupted and they have to kick along with the heroin addicts.

Polysubstance users move between cultures.

Increasingly we are seeing those whose allegiance is not to one drug of choice but to the process of doing drugs of any and every kind. The use of multiple substances is the norm rather than the exception. Most people in drug treatment and a major part of our jail and prison populations have long histories of using a wide variety of substances.

Polysubstance dependence is a problem without a diagnosis.

The most recent edition of the DSM eliminated the diagnosis of polysubstance dependence. We never did use polysubstance abuse. From here on the plan is to list each drug someone may have developed a problem with and then rate each use disorder as mild, moderate or severe.

For those working in the Substance Use Disorder field this is problematic. While a client may have a mild problem with each of eight or ten different drugs, overall they can have a significant problem living life without using drugs or destructive behaviors.

My own experience has been that when someone has this “polysubstance dependence” problem, there are usually some other significant mental health issues going on.  The best treatment when polysubstance abuse or dependence are encountered is treatment of the mental health issues and the substance use issues at the same time.

Terms and their meaning can differ with the profession using them. The literature from the Rehab or AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) field may be very different from that in the mental health field. There is still a large gap between recovery programs and AOD professionals and the terms and descriptions used in the DSM.

FYI. These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What are Bath Salts?

By David Joel Miller.

How come people are abusing Bath Salts?

Bath Salts

Bath Salts
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

There is a growing tidal wave of use and abuse of Bath Salts. These are not the kind of Bath Salts you would ever put in water and soak in. Bath Salts are also sold under a number of other names including Plant Food, Water Pipe Cleaner as well as a host of brand and product names.

These products made use of a loop-hole in the laws of the U. S. and other countries, which exempted chemicals from regulation as drugs if they were “Not for Human Consumption.” These drugs were imported without restriction because of being labeled for uses other than human consumption. Here in the U. S. they were then repackaged in small amounts and sold in small stores. While labeled “not for human consumption” it has always been clear that users were buying these packages to consume them.

The primary ingredients in many of these products are amphetamine-like chemicals in the Cathinone Family. Cathinones are synthetic versions of a drug originally found in the Khat plant from north-eastern Africa. Before becoming popular as drugs of abuse these drugs were primarily used to kill insects hence the name “plant food.” The name bath salts is reported to come from the way these drugs are often packaged to look like bath salts.

Bath Salts can be consumed by snorting, swallowing, smoking or injecting. Other possible routes of administration are sure to be attempted.

Use of Bath Salts has resulted in a significant number of admissions to hospital emergency rooms. Symptoms of Bath Salt intoxication include a number of serious symptoms including agitation, violent behaviors, heart palpitations and psychotic symptoms. There are reports of these symptoms, particularity psychosis, lasting long after the drugs have been metabolized. At high doses these drugs can be fatal.

The Synthetic Drug Abuse Act of 2012 was intended to reduce the problems with Bath Salts. Some particular ingredients have been made illegal. Unfortunately this is a very large family of synthetic chemicals and many have never been tested. As fast a one chemical has been tested, found to be harmful to humans and banned, other chemicals have been substituted.

More and more synthetic chemicals are being sold and experimented with by drug users. The line between Bath Salts, Synthetic Cannabinoids and other research chemicals has become fuzzy. New formulations are appearing so rapidly they are now being referred to as NPS (New Psychoactive Substances.) Expect Bath Salts of new formulation and other synthetics to become and increasing problem.

For more on these topics see:    Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction             Recovery         What is

Terms and their meaning can differ with the profession using them. The literature from the Rehab or AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) field may be very different from that in the mental health field. There is still a large gap between recovery programs and AOD professionals and the terms and descriptions used in the DSM.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

What is Binge Drinking?

By David Joel Miller.

Binge drinking is a huge problem.

Binge Drinking

Binge Drinking
Photo courtesy of Flickr (stopalcoholdeaths)

Some people have one drink after dinner each night. Other people save them up and have all seven on Friday night. Drinking seven drinks on Friday night is not the equivalent of one drink a day. The negative consequences, psychically, mentally and legally, increase rapidly as the blood alcohol content rises on any one drinking occasion, a practice called binge drinking.

Bing drinking is defined as having five or more drinks on one drinking occasion for a man. For a woman, because of her reduced metabolism of alcohol in the stomach, four drinks on one occasion is considered binge drinking. That one “drinking occasion” could be over a short period of time, like drinking shots, or it might entail a more measure drinking like doing in most of a six-pack over the course of the afternoon.

Lots of people resisted the idea that they could be an “alcoholic” because they did not drink every day. The newer way of thinking about this is that it is not what you drink or how often you drink but what happens when you drink that defines an alcohol use disorder. If when you drink you end up drunk or you drink excessively, then you have an alcohol use disorder.

If you only drink occasionally, but when you do drink you consume a lot, you are a binge drinker and at risk for a great many alcohol related problems.

Bing drinking alcohol is associated with increased drug use.

Among drinkers between 12 and 25, those whose typical pattern was to binge drink when they drank, they were also much more likely to use multiple other drugs. This pattern of drug use, called Poly-Substance use, is extra risky and correlates with a lot of complications physically, mentally and legally.

Patterns of drinking can obscure the magnitude of alcohol use problems.

In treatment programs there has been a tendency to separate the drug users from the people who have legal consequences because they drove drunk. Rarely is a drunk driving case a driving problem despite all our efforts to treat DUI’s as if the problem was the driving after drinking.

There are a lot of misconceptions about who drinks, how often they drink and how much the average American drinks. Half of all Americans have not had a drink in the last month. Ten percent of our population consumes half of all the alcohol. Those who binge drink can hide the existence of an alcohol use disorder for a long time by concentrating that drinking in occasional drinking binges.

Medical problems from Binge drinking.

Binging as well as daily high levels of alcohol consumption are associated with a large number of physical health problems. While one drink a day has been touted as good for everyone but fetuses and potentially pregnant women. Unfortunately the more you drink the more the risks of illness.

Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancers, heart disease, problems of the digestive system, a variety of liver maladies, pancreatitis, and the list goes on and on.

Binge Drinking and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.

Current thinking is that any amount of drinking on the part of a pregnant woman can affect the fetus. Binge drinking is particularly risky for women who are or may become pregnant. One challenging aspect of this problem is that woman frequently do not know they are pregnant until after some period of time has passed. Woman who binge drink are at increased risk to drink heavily, engage in risky sexual behavior, and then find out that they became pregnant during that period of heavy drinking.

Mental Health overlooks a lot of alcohol and drug related problems.

Those who work in the substance use disorder field see a lot of connections between substance use and mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Those who focus specifically on the physical or mental health issues are less likely to notice those substance use disorders, especially something like binge drinking.

In drug treatment those who only use occasionally and even then rarely get into trouble, are at high risk of developing problems eventually if when they use they binge. A small amount of alcohol consumption increases the risk for having problems with depression. Binge drinking even one time a year can result in DUI’s or other legal issues. Even occasional polysubstance abuse can result in life altering consequences.

If you binge drink there is help available.

If when you drink you binge, or you find you are drinking and using more than intended consider getting help, talking with a professional, before your partying becomes a life altering or ending event.

For more on these topics see:  Drug Use, Abuse and Addiction    Recovery   What is 

Terms and their meaning can differ with the profession using them. The literature from the Rehab or AOD (Alcohol and Other Drug) field may be very different from that in the mental health field. There is still a large gap between recovery programs and AOD professionals and the terms and descriptions used in the DSM.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

See Recommended Books.     More “What is” posts will be found at “What is.”

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books