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