Learning about alcohol and drugs.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Drugs.

Drugs.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

How much do you really know about alcohol and drugs?

Despite the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in our society, many people have never had any formal education about drugs or alcohol. Most people get their education in this area the same way they learn about sex, on the street, and by experimentation.

As a society, we have a love-hate relationship with drugs and alcohol. The consensus seems to be that drinking and doing drugs can be enjoyable, but that “losing control” of that habit can be harmful maybe even deadly. Clearly simplistic solutions, just say no, or saying only bad people have problems is not working.

Ignoring the effects of addiction and alcoholism is easy.

Most people try to ignore the problem until it overwhelms them personally, or someone close to them. It’s reassuring to believe that addiction or alcoholism is something that happens to “those kinds of people,” the weak, or the lazy.

Not everyone who experiments with drugs or alcohol develops a problem. We know that young people are likely to try new and exciting experiences. Initially, it all sounds like fun. Most go on to have typical lives. But increasingly we are seeing people of all ages, including the older generation, whose lives are being damaged by substances.

Most people’s conception of an alcoholic is the homeless bum on the street, someone who can’t work and drinks all day every day. The unpleasant truth is that 95% of all alcoholics have full-time jobs. It’s entirely possible that you meet these hidden alcoholics every day. For every person with a drinking problem, estimates tell us that, 5 to 8 other people are harmed by that person’s drinking.

In some hospitals, half of the bed are taken up by people whose illness is primarily caused by or made worse by the direct results of alcoholism.

The problems with alcoholism and addiction are all around us.

In every city in America of any size, and I feel confident this happens everywhere else on planet Earth, we see the harm caused by the misuse of substances. A quick look at last night’s paper shows several people arrested for DUI. Several accidents in which one or both drivers were intoxicated. And an occasional story about someone dying of a drug overdose.

The war on drugs misled us.

American’s have noticed a staggering increase in the number of people who are dying from overdoses of prescribed opiate drugs. Despite a long-running war on drugs, the devastation is worse now than it was before. Several unpleasant facts emerge from studying substances and substance use disorders.

The majority of drug overdose deaths arise from prescribed medications, not street drugs.

Legal or tolerated drugs, nicotine, and alcohol each kill more people per year than all the illegal street drugs combined. Most of the deaths from drug overdoses involve people who have more than one drug in their bloodstream. Mixing alcohol with other drugs, prescription or street drugs, increases the risk of death.

Many professionals lack education about the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Most professionals working in the mental health field have minimal training in substance-related problems. Most counselors and therapists receive from one to three units in substance-related classes in an entire master’s program. Surveys indicate that the majority of people with substance use disorder, 60% or more, also have a co-occurring disorder. Furthermore, many people with diagnosed mental illness, approximately 50%, also have a substance use disorder.

In my own experience, it is extremely common to find someone with severe depression or high anxiety, who is also abusing substances. Use of alcohol or drugs may temporarily mask symptoms but in the long run, using substances as a crutch makes the problem worse.

Therapists who work with couples often find that one or both parties are using drugs or alcohol, and this is contributing to the marital discord. Unfortunately, many counselors who were not trained in substance use disorders ignore the problem rather than ask about it.

Since I started in the counseling field as a substance use disorder counselor, I’m acutely aware of how commonly mental health problems and alcoholism or addiction occur together. Substance abuse counselors, at least here in California, typically go through a 36-unit program with many of the classes specifically focused on alcohol, drugs, and the process of moving from use to addiction.

Very soon school will be back in session, and this semester I will be teaching several classes in the substance use disorder program. While I don’t want to shift the counselorsoapbox.com blog specifically towards drugs and addiction, I thought it might be useful to share with you some of the material I use in my substance abuse counseling classes. Also, in the near future, I am planning to release some of this material as videos on our very own counselorssoapbox YouTube channel. Stay tuned, and I will let you know how the videos are progressing.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading, and please remember to click like if you enjoyed this post and please leave comments. Talk to you again soon.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Advertisements

What is selective tolerance?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

What is selective tolerance?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Not all tolerance is created equal

What is tolerance?

Alcohol addiction

Alcoholism and Addiction. 
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Tolerance, as it applies to medications and drugs, is having less and less of a reaction to a drug the more it is used or having to use increasing amounts of the drug to get the same result. Tolerance, in the sense in which I am using the term here, is the way in which repeated exposures to something produce less and less of a reaction. People get used to things and so does your physical body.

When it comes to substances, whether they are legal, prescribed or street drugs, tolerance is that characteristic of the body to learn to resist things. The body develops an “immunity” or reacts less and less strongly the more times it experiences something.

Over time the drug addict uses more and more of their particular drug of choice. The person taking prescribed medications may also develop a tolerance resulting in needing a larger dose to achieve the same result or eventually they may need to be switched to a different drug.

Tolerance used to be one of the two symptoms that were used to define addiction. Withdrawal was the other one. Because tolerance and withdrawal are characteristics of many substances, not just drugs of abuse, we have had to look at other symptoms to define a problematic use of substances. We now call that problematic use a “substance use disorder.”

What is selective tolerance?

Selective tolerance is those times when someone develops a tolerance to one effect of the drug but not another. The body “selects” one action to develop tolerance to and not another.

A simple example of selective tolerance.

Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant drug. Many people drink it first thing in the morning to help them wake up and get going. It is also common to find that consuming a caffeinated beverage to late in the evening results in not being able to sleep well that night. It is recommended that you not consume caffeine in the afternoon or evening so that you will get a full night’s sleep.

Have you ever known someone who could drink a lot of coffee or caffeinated soda just before bedtime and still sleep like a rock? Most of us have. That person has “built up a tolerance” to caffeine’s sleep interfering characteristic.

That same person will have some caffeine, probably a lot of it, the next morning and report that the caffeine helps them wake up and get going.

How can this be? Did they develop a tolerance to caffeine or not?

It appears that they have developed a tolerance to one action of the caffeine but not the other. That is the thing we call selective tolerance.

It is quite possible that psychological factors play a role here, but there are lots of other times when someone develops a tolerance to one of a drug’s effects and not another.

There have been some divided opinions on whether drinking coffee is good or bad. My belief is that for most people, most of the time, coffee has more positive than negatives. The choices it up to you.

Could you develop selective tolerance to the effects of alcohol?

The research says that many people do just that. This may be why we see very inconsistent results in research on some of alcohol’s effects. I am not being an apologist for alcohol by saying this, just trying to get the story right. Despite the problems, alcohol causes our society another round of prohibition is unlikely.

My view is that those countries that have a total ban on alcohol often have high levels of problems with another drug. Many countries with a total ban on alcohol have a worse problem than the U. S. does when it comes to Heroin. The solution, such as it is, seems to be better educated on the effects of drugs on the mind and the body. Hence this blog.

Heavy alcohol drinkers develop tolerance to alcohol’s motor coordination effects.

Those who drink a lot find ways to hide the fact that they are under the influence. More concentration on walking straight may keep the drunk out of jail.  Research shows that many heavy drinkers do develop a tolerance to the motor coordination effects.

Heavy drinkers do not develop a tolerance to the bad decision-making effects

One key result of alcohol’s effects on the brain is disinhibiting the drinker. Under the influence, people say and do things that they would not do when sober. One study reported that they found no tolerance developing to alcohol’s disinhibiting effects in heavy drinkers (Miller, M., et al, 2012, no relation to me I know of.)

This study also notes that recent drinking patterns are predictive of tolerance. You do not need to be an alcoholic, a chronic drinker or even a heavy lifetime user of alcohol to show tolerance to some of its effects.

So we conclude that people do develop selective tolerance to the effects of alcohol and probably most other drugs. Drinking a lot of alcohol is still not a good idea. While your liver may develop tolerance with repeated doses of alcohol, it can also develop Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis.

Use all medications and drugs with caution and be aware that while you may be developing some tolerance, getting used to using this drug, there are probably other effects the drug is having on your body and your mind that you are unaware of.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – 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 my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Alcoholism alcoholism and