Going Cold Turkey: The Wrong Way to Quit Alcohol

If you have been using alcohol for a long time — because you have been self-medicating with alcohol or habitually drinking — and you’re ready to stop, it’s important for you to understand the dangers of suddenly stopping alcohol.

Your body has relied on alcohol for a long time, and very likely in large doses every day. So, your brain and central nervous system have been “powered” by alcohol, literally. Alcohol interferes with neurotransmitters in your brain. The more you drink, the more your brain relies on alcohol and the less it uses your own naturally balanced chemistry to tell your body how to feel.

This alteration in your body’s chemistry is why alcoholics might experience depression, breathing problems, rapid heart rate, hot flashes and cold sweats, and a slew of other physical and emotional symptoms.

What Happens When You Suddenly Stop Drinking Alcohol?

Quitting alcohol “cold turkey” — or by abruptly cutting off your supply — can be dangerous and, if not managed properly, will fail. Alcoholics who quit cold turkey without the care and supervision of trained medical staff are at risk for not only relapse but also serious medical conditions.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Alcohol

You probably have experienced several of these symptoms when you’ve stopped drinking alcohol, even for a few hours: anxiety, trembling, insomnia, nausea, sweating, and cravings for alcohol and other foods, especially sweets. It’s not uncommon for alcoholics to crave sugary sweets when they stop drinking. Of course, these foods won’t get you high or drunk. Your body has come to depend on sugar and grains from alcohol, so when you stop drinking cold turkey, your body craves those sugar and grains.

More serious symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include delirium tremens, a psychotic condition that chronic alcoholics experience and is sometimes referred to as “DTs.” Delirium tremens symptoms include hallucinations, convulsions and seizures, and in severe cases, heart failure. While DT affects only about 5% of alcoholics, it kills one out of 20 people who are affected by it, according to Harvard University.

You may experience these symptoms within mere hours of quitting drinking, even while alcohol is still in your blood.

  • Aggression, anger, hostility, irritability, mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Appetite loss
  • Clamminess
  • Confusion, difficulty concentrating, memory problems
  • Dehydration
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and restlessness
  • Headaches
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart beats
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

How Detox Helps with Withdrawal

Detoxification from alcohol can take a few days to a couple weeks, depending on the alcoholic’s age, overall health, and other factors including how much alcohol he or she is used to consuming daily. Our detox process is tailored to individuals, and includes a combination of nutrition, vitamin supplements, counseling and in some cases medication. All of our patients who go through detox are monitored closely by medical staff, and a doctor is on call onsite 24 hours a day.

DIY Detox vs Medical Detox

Medical detoxification is the safest way to stop drinking and clear toxins from your body. If you are looking for a DIY recipe for detoxifying at home, whether it is for you or a loved one, we invite you to call one of our specialists at Castle Craig.

Medical detox involves a process of monitoring your vital signs — heart rate, pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature — and using a combination of nutrition, supplements, and prescription medications to help your body transition from a dependence on alcohol. In severe cases, medications called benzodiazepines may be used for a short time to lessen alcohol withdrawal symptoms. These “benzo” drugs must be used with extreme care, because they too can be addictive.

Success Rates of Alcohol Detox

Alcoholics who do not seek help are likely to shorten their lives by 15 years on average, according to Harvard.edu. Another study in Sweden, Denmark and Finland found life expectancy for alcoholics to be even shorter than Harvard’s findings — people who suffer from alcohol use disorder lived 24 to 28 years less than the general population.

Research tells us that alcoholics who go through formal treatment programs not only to detox but also to learn how to live a healthy and alcohol-free life are more successful and are more likely to live longer, full lives. Only 20% of alcoholics who quit cold turkey and don’t go through programs are able to abstain from alcohol, according to Harvard. The more you work within a rehabilitation program or self-help programme like Alcoholics Anonymous, and the longer you commit to the programme, the higher the chances are for success.

Get Help with Quitting Alcohol

Castle Craig’s residential treatment programme specialises in treating men and women who suffer from addiction to alcohol and other substances.

If you’re ready to quit alcohol cold turkey, let us help get you through the detox period safely. You may reach our 24-hour drug addiction help-line specialists at +44-844-740-1394 or email us at info@castlecraig.co.uk with questions, comments, or concerns. We’re standing by, waiting for your call.

Self Medicating With Alcohol – Avoiding the Dangers

Self medication theory is the idea that people use substances or gratifying behaviours to treat underlying problems without the advice of and without following a prescription from a licensed healthcare professional.

As Dr. Elizabeth Hartney describes in an article for Very Well Mind, self-medication theory can apply to substance abuse disorders as well as behavioral addictions such as gambling, compulsive shopping, and eating disorders.

Self medication is one of the most common paths to addiction.

Why Do People Self-Medicate?

There are a number of reasons people self-medicate. Sometimes the user isn’t consciously aware that they are self-medicating. They turn to a substance such as alcohol because it makes them feel happier, or they use a drug like cocaine because it artificially elevates their mood for a short time.

Other times, people use alcohol, drugs, and behaviors to self medicate to treat a variety of conditions:

  • Self medication for depression, loneliness, stress, and anxiety
  • Self medication for PTSD (post-tramautic stress disorder)
  • Self medication to reduce pain and symptoms from illnesses and disease
  • Self medication for sleep disorders like insomnia, restlessness, or fatigue

In 2019, LifeSearch released the results of a survey that estimates that 45% of British adults currently use alcohol, drugs and other coping mechanisms to self medicate, and 60% say they have done so in the past. That’s 24 million Britons who may use some form of self medication to cope with mental health symptoms.

What Do People Use to Self Medicate?

Men and women use or have used the following substances or behaviors to self medicate, according to the LifeSearch study:

  • Alcohol: 37% of men and 40% of women
  • Over-the-counter medication: 23% of men and 26% of women
  • Illegal drugs: 18% of men and women
  • Over-exercising: 26% of men and 29% of women
  • Gambling: 21% of men and 17% of women
  • Sex: 31% of men and women
  • Shopping: 31% of men and 53% of women
  • Food: 33% of men and 61% of women

You probably noted that the percentages above add up to well over 100% — that’s because it’s not uncommon for people to use combinations of two or more substances and behaviours to self medicate.

A lot of people ask us why people choose to self medicate, rather than seek the help of a doctor, therapist, or other licensed healthcare provider. People choose to drink alcohol, for example, to self medicate because they are embarrassed to admit they have a problem, they lack the funds to pay for treatment, or it’s simply easier to pour a drink than it is to visit a doctor.

When asked about drivers behind self medicating behaviours, the LifeSciences survey found that respondents said they didn’t have anyone to talk to about their issues or they didn’t feel comfortable talking about them to anyone.

Types of Self Medication

Self medication typically comes from three sources:

  • Legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  • Controlled substances, as in prescription medications
  • Illegal substances, such as methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana

Advantages of self medication with alcohol

If you searched Google for “advantages of self medicating with alcohol and drugs” and it delivered you to our website, we are glad you are here. We will disappoint you, however, when we say: There are no advantages to using alcohol to self medicate.

Certainly there are some people who can have a few ounces of wine, beer, or spirits to relax and unwind after a hard day at work. But the danger of this type of self medication is it can become a habit and you may experience signs of alcohol and drug addiction.

Disadvantages of self medication

Self medication and drug and alcohol abuse can lead to addiction. Alcohol itself is a depressant, so while you may feel momentarily relieved of stress, sadness, anger, or other emotions, alcohol is known to worsen depression.

Other risks that come from self medicating with alcohol (or any substance): masking symptoms of serious illnesses or conditions, adverse reactions with prescribed medications,

5 Signs You May Be Self Medicating with Alcohol for Depression

If you agree with one or more of the following signs, let us know. Talk to a therapist at our call-back service, or keep reading our resources about alcohol abuse and how it affects you.

  1. When you feel stressed, depressed, lonely, angry, anxious or uncomfortable, you turn to alcohol because it makes you feel better.
  2. You’ve recently experienced a triggering event, such as a job loss, death of a loved one, or divorce and you’ve increased your alcohol use.
  3. You actually feel worse while you drink or after you’ve been drinking.
  4. You feel anxious when you don’t have immediate access to alcohol.
  5. Your problems don’t go away and get worse, whether they are work-related, financial, relationship-related, or related to your health.
  6. You isolate from others and don’t do activities that you once enjoyed.
  7. You lie about how much you drink, or you become secretive and hide your alcohol.
  8. When you don’t drink, you experience withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness, nausea, sweats, and other drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  9. Other people have expressed concerns about your drinking.

When to Seek Professional Help

Castle Craig offers a residential treatment programme. We specialise in treating people who suffer from alcohol and other addictions, many of whom have complex illnesses or conditions, which led to self medication and, ultimately, addiction.

If you’ve been self medicating and reading this article, chances are you’re more ready than you realise to seek help. Explore our alcohol addiction treatment programme and at any time, reach out to our specialists by phone or email. You may reach our 24-hour drug addiction help-line specialists at +44-844-740-1394 or email us at info@castlecraig.co.uk with questions, comments, or concerns. We’re here for you.

Why People Do Coke and Why You Should Not

Curiosity, peer pressure, depression, and being under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are common reasons why people try cocaine for the first time. The reasons why they keep going back to it? Well, that varies, and we’ll explore that more in this article.

Statistics about Cocaine Use in the UK

Cocaine use in the UK has been on the rise in recent years, according to HomeOffice.gov.uk, which annually surveys a sample of adults ages 16 to 59 in order to:

  • Estimate frequency and amount of drug used by adults
  • Learn about characteristics including lifestyle and household factors that may influence drug use
  • Measure new psychoactive substances (NPS)
  • Gauge how easy illegal drugs are to obtain

The Home Office annual survey includes many illicit drugs in addition to cocaine, including: amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine powder and crack, ecstasy, heroin, ketamine, LSD, magic mushrooms, methamphetamine, tranquillisers and other drugs. They publish their findings annually in Drugs Misuse: CSEW (Crime Survey for England and Wales) statistical bulletin.

In the 2018/19 publication, you can see that cocaine use has been on the rise since 2012, especially among adults ages 16 to 24.

Cocaine

In fact, when comparing cocaine use to other Class A drugs (ecstasy, hallucinogens and opiates), it is the most popular Class A drug among all surveyed adults age 16 to 24:

  • 6.2% reported using cocaine in any form
  • 4.7% reported using ecstasy
  • 2.3% reported using hallucinogens (LSD and magic mushrooms)

Only cannabis (a Class B drug) had more reported users, with 7.6% of adults ages 16 to 59 and 17.3% of adults age 16 to 24 reporting to have used it in the previous year. Another survey, conducted by Addaction Scotland and reported by Sky News, found that cocaine is the second-most popular drug among regular drug users (second to cannabis). Among those surveyed, 78% said they regularly use cannabis and 70% said they regularly use cocaine or crack cocaine.

Why do so many people use cocaine, especially with so much widespread information about its addictiveness and dangers? We’ll explore that next.

Why Is Cocaine Popular?

Cocaine is popular for many reasons: It is socially accepted. In recent years, its quality has improved. It is easy to get. And, most of all, it produces a dangerous high that is hard not to like.

Cocaine — the ‘glamour’ drug

Cocaine has long been seen as a recreational weekend party drug for the rich and richer. In the 1970s, it was the “glamour” drug of the disco scene, high profile celebrities, and rock stars. Cocaine has been depicted through popular culture in movies like “Scarface,” “Dazed and Confused,” and “Pulp Fiction” in ways that associate the drug with the tragically hip.

Cocaine — the ‘safer’ drug?

The purity of cocaine is at a record high, according to The Independent, which gathered research from several sources, including forensic research from King’s College. Scientists there studied London’s wastewater and found cocaine levels have been steadily rising and the purity of coke is at an all-time high. The quality — or purity — of cocaine could explain its resurgence as a popular recreational drug.

Cocaine — the ‘available’ drug

Buying drugs is literally as easy as buying ice cream in the UK, according to a 2019 article in , which includes an anecdote about one woman who bought cocaine from her local ice cream vendor.

Why are cocaine and other drugs so easy to get? Mobile phone technology, social media, and “the dark web” have made all illicit drugs easier to obtain. Think of the dark web like a series of unmarked doors in a building that you can find only by being part of a secret community. One user described to MyLondon how it took her only 30 minutes to find a drug dealer on the dark web.

Cocaine — the ‘happy’ drug

Cocaine has a dangerously powerful effect that leaves users feeling intense pleasure, confident, happy, and euphoric. Those powerful feelings produce intense pleasure and stimulate the human brain the same way things like success, love, and real accomplishments do. We’ll explore cocaine’s addictive traits next.

Why is Cocaine So Addictive?

Among the lists of most addictive substances, cocaine is always among the most addictive substances in the world:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Barbiturates
  • Heroin
  • Methamphetamine
  • Nicotine

Cocaine is addictive because it stimulates pleasure centers in our brains and our brains adapt to it, building up a tolerance, requiring more and more to produce the same euphoric effects. It is the second-most psychologically dependent drug (after methamphetamine), according to DrugFreeWorld.org.

In order to understand why it is so addictive, it’s helpful to understand the short- and long-term psychological and physical effects that happen when people use cocaine.

What Happens When You Do Coke?

Common short-term psychological effects of cocaine include:

  • Extreme happiness, elation
  • Mental alertness
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, touch, sounds
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Talkativeness

When cocaine is smoked (in “crack” form), the effects can be stronger and quicker, but they don’t last as long. When cocaine is in its powder form and snorted, the high can last 15 to 30 minutes or longer.

Common short-term physical effects of cocaine include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Fast or irregular heart beat
  • Restlessness, shakiness, muscle twitches
  • Nausea
  • Constricted blood vessels

Common long-term health effects of cocaine use:

  • Nosebleeds, loss of smell, sinus problems and problems with swallowing, especially for people who snort cocaine
  • Respiratory conditions, including coughing, breathing problems, asthma, and pneumonia, especially for people who smoke cocaine
  • Hepatitis C, HIV, and other blood-borne illnesses, especially for people who inject cocaine

Additionally, the withdrawal effects, especially depression and fatigue, from cocaine use can lead to addiction. As the high wears off, people use cocaine to counteract the symptoms. Cocaine use becomes a dangerous, vicious, and addictive cycle that is hard to stop. Fortunately, there are excellent programs that help people overcome addiction to cocaine.

Are You Already Addicted to Cocaine?

You don’t have to overdose on cocaine (or any drug) to need help. Many cocaine addicts lead functional lives, all the while battling the demon that is drug addiction.

How do you know if you’re addicted to cocaine? You may experience some of the common withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, depression and aggression, paranoia, and strong cravings for the drug. Other signs include changes in behavior, eating habits, and self-care and hygiene. Addicts tend to lose interest in things they enjoyed, such as hobbies and spending time with friends and loved ones. As addiction grows, cocaine addicts may experience financial difficulties and find themselves in legal troubles.

No matter where you are in your addiction or recovery, our website has information on cocaine addiction and treatment. Continue reading through our addiction therapy resources. You may also contact one of our 24-hour drug addiction help-line specialists at +44-844-740-1394 or email us at info@castlecraig.co.uk.

Wintertime Holiday Mocktail Recipes

The winter holidays are rich in tradition, merriment, and cherishing our relationships. For those amidst their recovery it can also present new challenges to staying sober. Christmas parties, New Years, and family get-togethers can be fraught with triggers and temptations. For some people, replacing their former holiday cocktails with non-alcoholic holiday drinks helps in getting into the spirit of the season without inviting a relapse.

We’re providing these recipes as alternatives to mixed drinks, beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages during the holidays to enjoy. However, with that said, be aware of the potential for “mocktails” to trigger your cravings for alcohol. If this is you — stick with simple chilled water with a twist of lemon, a or a seltzer water with a twist of lime.

What is a Mocktail?

“Mocktail” is an alcohol-free mixed drink cocktail made with various combinations of fresh juices, spritzer, and soft drinks, ideally dressed up with fancy garnish. Below are some of our favorite wintertime mocktails to enjoy during the holiday season.

Winter sangria

This no alcohol sangria recipe involves roasting fruit, boiling juices and tea and letting it sit overnight for a delicious non-alcoholic holiday drink so make sure to plan ahead and prepare this the night before. Optional garnishes include lime, pineapple, or cilantro.

  • 2 oranges
  • 2 grapefruits
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 16 oz pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 chai tea bags
  • 2 12-oz cans grapefruit-flavored sparkling water

Get the full recipe from ImmaEatThat.

White chocolate peppermint ‘mock’tini

A warm non-alcoholic drink that’s perfect for sitting around the fireplace or nuzzling next to a loved one. Dip a martini glass in white chocolate syrup, then in the crushed peppermint. Add white hot chocolate and coffee cream to a cocktail shaker filed with ice. Shake vigorously and then serve.

  • 3 ounces white hot chocolate
  • 2 ounces peppermint mocha coffee creamer
  • White chocolate syrup
  • Crushed peppermints for garnish (glass rim)

Get the full recipe from ThymeForCocktails.

Christmas non-alcoholic punch

Fruity with a fizzle finish, this Christmas punch is great to stir or blend in a blender. If using the blender, before adding the Sprite or sparkling water, try adding fresh or frozen fruit to add rich, smoothee quality to the drink.

  • 4 parts cranberry juice
  • 2 parts pineapple juice
  • 2 parts orange juice
  • 1 part Sprite or sparkling water
  • Ice
  • Sugar for glass rims

Get the full recipe and instructions from Laurenslatest.

Virgin mimosa

Slice tangerines and rub the rim of a cocktail or champagne flute with a slice, then dip in your favorite sugar. Add 3 parts orange juice and one part limeade or lemonade. Touch off with a splash of Sprite or your favorite soda spritzer for a mimosa fizz and enjoy!

  • 3 parts orange juice
  • 1 part limeade or lemonade
  • Splash of Sprite or soda spritzer
  • Cocktail rimming sugar
  • Tangerines (for garnish)

Get the full recipe from ReluctantEntertainer.

Sober Holidays: Tips On Your Recovery During The Winter Holidays

Christmas in Recovery

If you’re in recovery, the holiday season can be especially difficult and, let’s be honest, not so jolly. It doesn’t matter how far into recovery you are, whether it’s days or decades, the holidays come with their own set of challenges.

Holidays are great if you’re in the business of selling beer, wine and spirits, but they’re not so great if you’re an alcoholic. In one survey, found that around 47 percent of men and 40 percent of women stated they binge drink during the holidays, according to statista.com.

We like to look at these challenges as opportunities for us to assert our commitment to sobriety, rather than temptations to fall off the wagon, as the saying goes. Try to look at temptations as opportunities to reaffirm or renew your commitment to staying sober year-round. Yes, that’s easier said than done, so read on for more tips on staying sober during the holidays.

Staying Sober During the Holidays

“Staying sober during the holidays is simple,” said no one ever. But if you plan ahead, you can do it. The three principles below — planning ahead, asking for help and avoiding triggers — will help you enjoy your holiday season.

Plan ahead for a sober holiday

The key to succeeding with any goal, whether it involves staying sober, losing weight, or living a healthier life, is to arm yourself with a plan. Look at your calendar and note the events that are coming up where alcohol will be served. Can you skip events that you know will be more difficult? Or, can you formulate an exit strategy so you can leave before the atmosphere becomes too festive for your sobriety?

Get help from friends

If you are in a 12-step program and have a sponsor, now is a great time to have a conversation with him or her about your anxiety about staying sober during the holidays. Involve your sponsor and your sober friends in your plan for a sober holiday. Let them know how difficult this time of year is for you, and let them know how they can help you not drink.

If you are invited to holiday parties, let the host or hostess know that you are in recovery. That way, they won’t take offense if you don’t partake in their open bar and spiked desserts; likewise, if you leave early, they won’t be offended.

Avoid alcohol triggers

Think about Christmas triggers that led you to drink in the past. There may be family or friends who are particularly difficult to be around — and we all have these people in our lives. Beware of the triggers that we in recovery refer to as HALT — hungry, angry, lonely and tired. All four of these feelings are common triggers for everyone.

You can’t necessarily avoid those HALT triggers; after all, your feelings are your feelings. However, you can recognise them when they show up so you can have a plan — there is that word again, plan — to address them. You can’t control your feelings, but you can control the way you react to them.

  • Hunger — Have healthy non-sugary and fiber-rich snacks and foods at home, and consider carrying light snacks such as protein bars, nuts, fresh fruit or low-sugar food bars that you can eat when a craving arises. There are some associations between low blood sugar levels and alcohol cravings; when you consume a lot of sugar, that can cause your sugar levels to drop, which in turn induces cravings.
  • Anger — What are those topics that really get to you and trigger feelings of anger? We give you our blessing to turn your attention away from world politics, news and other subjects that you have no control over. Remember the AA mantras, “How important is it?” and “Let go, let God.”
  • Loneliness — There is nothing lonelier than being in a room full of people and still feeling lonely. What is the cure for loneliness? Talk with your addiction counselor, sponsor and sober friends. Everyone has felt lonely at one time or another. What do they do when the feeling creeps up and triggers them to drink? Remember that others are probably feeling the same stress, anxiety and loneliness as you; you are not alone! One tactic we like to recommend to stave off loneliness is to volunteer. When you serve others, you take the focus off yourself, and you build empathy and compassion for your fellow humans.
  • Tiredness — A good night’s sleep is key to healthy living and our overall well-being. To avoid being tired, which can weaken your willpower to stay sober, follow these steps to getting a better night’s sleep: Watch what you eat before bedtime, avoid late-night snacking and drinking, set aside 30 to 60 minutes of time for screen-free reflective thinking or meditation time, and turn your bedroom into a sanctuary.

Christmas Mocktails

We always caution our sober friends about the potential for alcohol-free cocktails to trigger their cravings for alcohol. Be aware of the potential for “mocktails” to trigger your cravings for alcohol. If this is you — stick with simple chilled water with a twist of lemon, or a seltzer water with a twist of lime. However, for those who won’t be triggered by a mocktail, they can be an excellent way to enjoy the holidays without indulging in alcohol and relapsing.

Is It Time for a Rehab Holiday?

Addiction treatment during the holidays could be the best gift you give to yourself and your loved ones. If you’ve been struggling with alcohol addiction, talk to us.

For more information on alcohol addiction treatment, continue reading through our addiction therapy resources. You may also contact one of our 24-hour help-line specialists at +44-844-740-1394 or by emailing info@castlecraig.co.uk. We look forward to hearing from you, and all of us here at Castle Craig with you a healthy, happy holiday.

Dry January 2020: Tips & Benefits for the Sober Curious

What if we told you…

Not drinking in January has health benefits for the rest of the year? Yes, it’s true! Granted, for some of us, avoiding alcohol on January 1st is easy since we are recovering from the previous night’s celebratory toasts… but if you continue that trend for another 30 days, you can see physiological and psychological benefits into February and beyond. On average those that participate in Dry January go on to drink less frequently and in smaller quantities throughout the course of the year. 

Yes, a month of temperance really can help your health for the next 11 months. Clearly, Dry January is a good and healthy choice. Whom can we attribute this great idea to? While its origins are a bit fuzzy, with Alcohol Change UK, the British Liver Trust, Public Health England and other public health organisations recognising its benefits to start the year off right, it’s a tradition here to stay.

What is Dry January?

Dry January is a public health campaign that is believed to have started in the mid-2010s in the United Kingdom. The idea of Dry January is to encourage people to abstain from alcohol for one month, with the hope that they’ll experience the mental and physical benefits of not drinking. 

The first government-sponsored campaign in the U.K. was in 2017, and since then it has been gaining popularity. In 2014, more than 17,000 people participated in Dry January, according to U.K.-based marketing magazine CampaignLive.

Five years later, an estimated 4.2 million people had taken the Dry January pledge in the U.K., according to British Liver Trust (which they based on survey results from yougov.co.uk that suggests 8% of the British population indicated they’d participate in Dry January).

Benefits of Dry January

We’ve documented alcohol’s short-term effects on memory and liver disease that is associated with alcohol consumption. Additionally, alcohol abuse, misuse or over-use can negatively impact relationships, and it can lead to other health risks including infertility, cancer, depression, brain damage and foetal alcohol syndrome.  

People who participate in Dry January do it for a number of reasons, whether they’re once or twice a week social drinkers or daily drinkers who may be concerned that they’ve got a problem with alcoholism. It doesn’t matter what your reason is for exploring Dry January — the benefits are numerous. Researchers from DryJanuary.org.uk and University of Sussex surveyed Dry January participants and found:

  • 88% said they saved money by participating in Dry January;
  • 71% said they slept better;
  • 58% reported having lost weight;
  • Drinking days decreased from 4.3 per week to 3.3 per week; and
  • Units consumed decreased from 8.6 to 7.1 per day

Of course, you don’t have to wait until January to take a month off from drinking alcohol. Research has shown that people who take a month off to reset their relationship with alcohol experience many benefits, including:

  • They realise that alcohol isn’t a requirement for having fun, and some reported that they thought more deeply about why they drink.
  • Some said they made better decisions about drinking throughout the year.
  • Participants also said they could concentrate better.

Even with all the facts that support the benefits of Dry January, for those of us who have a close relationship with alcohol — it’s part of our everyday lives, after all — taking a month off from alcohol is not easy. 

Our experts have compiled a list of tips that have helped people get through a Dry January.  

Tips for a Successful Dry January

The point of Dry January isn’t to punish yourself for your drinking habits. It’s intended to be a positive experience so you can see the benefits of being sober.

  • Use technology: Alcohol Change UK offers a free app called Try Dry: The Dry January App, which works on both Android and Apple mobile devices. The app helps you track your drinking, calories and money saved, plus you can set goals, earn badges and subscribe to support messages to encourage your sobriety.
  • Clean house: To remove temptation from your home, remove all alcohol from your shelves. Throw it away, or ask a trusted friend to hold onto it for you and, under no circumstances, return it to you until you’ve passed your 31-day mark for Dry January.
  • Find substitute beverages: You may want to come up with some beverages that will quench your thirst while you enjoy a Dry January. Look for tasty alternatives to your favourite drinks — alcohol-free beers and wines, virgin cocktails or a simple lime and soda. 
  • Create a sober support group: You don’t have to entirely cut yourself off from your friends, family and favourite locals. You may want to let them know you’re taking a month off from alcohol — and invite them to join you. There is strength in numbers. You might create a small whatsapp group so you can send each other daily words of encouragement or reach out when temptation strikes. 
  • Save the cash: How much on average do you spend per day or per week on alcohol? Take that amount and stash the cash in a jar or box. Watch it grow daily. At the end of your Dry January, treat yourself, or, even better, donate it to your favorite cause.
  • Get busy: Make a todo list with things you’ve been putting off, like your DIY todo list. Projects to keep yourself busy during your Dry January are great ways to keep your mind busy and distracted.     

Life After Dry January

Alcoholics Anonymous introduced the concept of “dry drunk” to refer to a person who stops drinking but continues the behaviour patterns and attitude they had when they were an actively drinking alcoholic. 

The phenomenon is likely to happen when someone stops drinking and doesn’t seek help or aftercare to transition from a life filled with alcohol to a sober one. 

For more information on therapies to treat alcohol addiction, explore our addiction therapy resources. You may also contact one of our 24-hour help-line specialists at +44-844-740-1394 or by emailing info@castlecraig.co.uk.

Emotional Sobriety: The Key to Addiction Recovery

Recovery from drug or alcohol addiction is more than just becoming abstinent. A detox may help you get away from active addiction, but what stops you from going back to it, or trading one addiction for something else? The key is emotional sobriety. Given that there is no known cure for addiction, this is the thing most likely to provide you with happy and lasting sobriety.

In the early days of sobriety, if you’re experiencing cravings but determined to stay sober, your mind might say, “I can’t do this. I’m sober now.” Or if you’re feeling upset and unhappy, you may start to consider going back to your addiction to cope. However, if you have achieved emotional sobriety, your mind won’t even go there. It will go from “I can’t” to “I don’t even want it”.

It has been said that recovery from addiction is essentially a growing-up process. This process is necessary for most addicts because their addictive behaviour has most likely caused them to miss out on the normal journey from childishness to maturity that most people go through naturally.

After all, reaching for your drug of choice to help you cope with a difficult situation is essentially a childish, irresponsible act. In recovery, the achievement of emotional maturity is a major goal simply because immature reactions to life situations often lead to relapse.

What Is Emotional Sobriety?

Emotional sobriety is a state of inner peace, self-regulation, and emotional balance. It is not a state of eternal happiness, but rather the ability to acknowledge, confront, and cope with any positive or negative emotions that may appear. It is not about suppressing one’s emotions ““ it is about accepting them. Usually, it is also connected with ’emotional intelligence’.

Thus, for example, even extreme anger is dealt with not by using substances or escapes, but through a more healthy reaction. However, in true emotional sobriety, this  is also a natural and automatic reaction, instead of a procedure you follow.

Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson said that emotional sobriety is one of the keys to a lasting recovery from addiction.

It can be compared to the term “intrinsic motivation” in psychology. It is when you behave in a certain way because it is naturally satisfying, not because you are seeing a reward or avoiding a punishment.

Signs of an Emotionally Sober Person

Emotional sobriety essentially means living a balanced and mature lifestyle that consists of the following elements:

  • Being able to manage emotions and mood
  • Maintaining a logical perspective on circumstances
  • Being resilient/able to cope even when things get difficult
  • Recognising and regulating harmful thoughts and behaviours
  • Living in the present and not overthinking the past or future
  • Being able to address problems as they come, instead of avoiding them
  • Avoiding self-pity and self-defeating thoughts and behaviours
  • Being able to connect to people and community

An emotionally sober person is aware and accepting of what they feel. In most cases, strong emotions should be dealt with in an appropriate manner. However, distraction or repression are natural reactions as well.

While these may be normal in extreme situations even for a healthy mind, they should not be so when it comes to minor life stresses. They are also common with people in early recovery, until they learn emotional sobriety.

Someone who has emotional sobriety will not be likely to turn to a self-harming behaviour, such as drugs or alcohol, as a first reaction. Nor will they try to deny what they feel. Instead they will recognise that they are angry for this or that reason and deal with it in a healthy way. This might mean going out for a run as a release, directly facing the situation to find a solution, or attempting to see a positive aspect to what has happened.

Emotional Sobriety: Nature vs. Nurture

Emotional sobriety is not something you’re born with. It should be acquired as part of a person’s growing-up process but too often, this does not happen. Thus, someone who didn’t grow up in a wholesome environment may be confused about the nature of their emotions and how to deal with them. Inability to validate emotions during early childhood, perhaps through lack of a suitable role model, is one of the most common causes for poor emotional processing.

Emotional sobriety may also not be completely due to environment but rather the development of the brain. If there are issues with the limbic system of the brain (the emotional control centre), or if a person suffers from depression or bipolar disorder, that may affect how they deal with their emotions as well.

Alternatively, someone who suffered from trauma or PTSD at a later age may “unlearn” the necessary skills. This is because after a traumatic experience, the brain rewires itself to act in survivor mode. Thus, they will use their “fight or flight” part of the brain instead of the more logical emotional or cognitive processing centre.

Why Emotional Sobriety Is Important in Addiction Recovery

If emotional sobriety is all about self-regulation and balance, addiction is the opposite. It is the absence of self-control. In recovery, the first step is abstinence, or physical sobriety. The second step is trying, and hopefully achieving, emotional sobriety. This may be seen as essentially detox and therapy, which are at the core of most addiction recovery treatments.

Addiction is a chronic disease with no cure that is known yet. While abstinence can help you remove an addiction from your life, emotional sobriety helps you live your life free from addiction. It is essential if you want to ensure a long-lasting recovery. If you don’t deal with your underlying problem, and learn to regulate your emotions, you may find that you suffer from being a ‘dry drunk‘ even if you are in recovery.

In the beginning of a sober lifestyle, things can get stressful and difficult. For example, you may feel jealous of your friends who can go out for drinks, or struggle with social interactions that involve alcohol. Emotional sobriety can alleviate this. It will also help you use the challenges you face as an opportunity for self-improvement.

Emotional sobriety helps you deal with struggles during treatment and in life without reaching out for self-harming substances. This means you’ll be less likely to go back to your addiction or replace it with a new one.

How to Achieve Emotional Sobriety in Recovery

Achieving emotional sobriety is not easy. It takes time and effort. There also needs to be a willingness to change. Although it is natural for a healthy mind to be in an emotionally sober state, the same isn’t true for most people with an addiction. Fortunately, no matter what you have been though, emotional sobriety is a state of mind that can be acquired. It can be learned or relearned.

It isn’t easy for most people to deal with their feelings or address their problems. For someone that has suffered trauma or turned to addiction as a coping mechanism, it may be even harder. Tim, who is in recovery, says, “It was easier for me to quit heroin than to deal with my feelings. And it took me over a year, a very painful time, to stop using.” However, no matter what it takes to get there, it is worth it.

In addition to therapy, mindfulness is one of the best skills to learn for achieving emotional sobriety. Yoga and meditation are often suggested as an aid, but you can also take mindfulness courses. In the meantime, try to implement some of this into your life:

Feel What You Feel

Emotional sobriety is all about acceptance, and giving yourself permission to feel whatever your body wants to feel. Therefore if you’re angry, accept that you’re angry and then understand why. Only by finding where the problem lies will you be able to deal with it.

Stop and Think

Now that you’ve identified the problem, is it really worth getting this upset over? If yes, find a healthy way to vent, then think about potential solutions so you can resolve it ASAP. If no, give yourself permission to get frustrated for a bit, then find a way to move on.

Of course, it’s not always that easy. Surely, you know how much it “helps” when you’re raging and someone tells you to, “Calm down,” or when you’re depressed and someone offers the advice of, “Cheer up!” It doesn’t make you feel any better does it? This is why it is important to be able to acknowledge and express your emotions, and be able to deal with them. However, that’s a skill that may take time to learn.

Don’t Dwell

It’s natural to be overwhelmed with memories of the past or worries about the future. However, it is much better for your mental health to focus on the here and now. You can’t change what has happened, and you can’t predict what will.

This is especially important when you’re dealing with new problems. While it is wise to learn from past mistakes and consider future consequences, dwelling too long on either one will yield no progress. Self-forgiveness is crucial for a healthy recovery.

Support Is Important 

Social connections and general support is essential when it comes to maintaining emotional sobriety. It doesn’t mean you need to have lots of friends, but you should form meaningful connections. That way, you are constantly interacting with people, which is necessary when learning to express and deal with emotions. It is also helpful to have someone to reach out to.

Switch Polarity

Reappraisal is an important aspect of emotional sobriety. It refers to being able to confront a negative situation and turn it into a positive one. Such as although you lost your job, now you have an opportunity to work in a better place or try out a new career. You may not be able to change a situation, but you can change your thinking and approach.

Therapy Is Essential for Emotional Sobriety

While there are emotional sobriety skills you can learn yourself, there is a reason why there is a major focus on therapy in addiction recovery treatment. It is essential to address the underlying causes of addiction, which prompted it in the first place.

For this reason, at Castle Craig Hospital, we place a strong emphasis on psychotherapy for those seeking a lasting recovery. Without therapy and the self-discovery that comes through it, one is extremely unlikely to achieve complete emotional sobriety.

Because of the prevalence of secondary psychological issues, dual diagnosis is something Castle Craig takes very seriously. Whether its depression, trauma, a personality disorder, or other types of mental illness, it needs to be appropriately addressed.

All patients at Castle Craig participate in both individual and group therapies, based on CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and DBT (dialectic behaviour therapy) methods.

There are also specialist therapies, such as women’s therapy groups or trauma therapy, available for those who need it.

Therapy is essential because it teaches you to self-regulate your emotions, which can be a trigger for relapse later on. And this is where aftercare comes in, which is also highly emphasised at Castle Craig. In preparing for aftercare, a patient is provided with many useful tools that will aid them once they leave rehab.

If you’re looking into treatment for alcohol, drug, or other behavioural addiction, Castle Craig is ready to help. We will gladly provide a consultation and recommend the right route to take. Contact us at +44 1721 788 428 or at info@castlecraig.co.uk.

Alcohol Trends: Consumption Worldwide vs the UK

A recent publication in The Lancet gave new insight into global alcohol trends. Some of the data was mildly alarming; some pleasantly surprising. Because alcohol impacts human well-being on many levels, it is important to understand how consumption has changed over time and how it may impact the future. Given that alcohol abuse and addiction remains a serious issue in the UK, these statistics allow us to evaluate where we stand in the world. We can look at where we’ve improved, where we could do better, and examine the reasons behind it all.

The Rise and Fall of Alcohol: Trends

Between 1990 and 2017, global alcohol consumption increased from 5.9L (of pure alcohol) to 6.5L per capita. In many parts of the world, consumption spiked after the 2008 financial crisis. The popularity of alcohol is expected to rise further to 7.6L by 2030, in which case it would be a staggering increase of 29% in just 40 years. This will also mean that half of the world’s adults will be drinkers to some degree.

The majority of this can be attributed to Asian countries, even though total consumption levels there are still relatively low. Since 1990, southeast Asian countries have seen a dramatic 104% increase, while western Pacific countries had a 54% increase. In particular, between 2010 and 2017, Vietnam stands out with a 90% increase and India with a 38% increase. China, despite many fluctuations, has also seen an overall rise.

At the same time, while European countries, including the UK, still lead the world in alcohol consumption, the general trend is that drinking is decreasing. Since 1990, alcohol consumption in Europe has dropped by 20%. It is expected that by 2030, Europe will lose its rank in having the highest rates of alcohol consumption per capita.

Surprisingly, a lot of this comes from former Soviet countries, such as Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. However, the UK has made a lot of progress as well. If between 2010 and 2017 Europe saw a decrease in consumption by 12%, the UK had an impressive decrease of 7.4%.

Abstinence

The number of abstinent adults globally has slightly decreased from 46% to 43%. It is expected to go down by another 3% by 2030.

In the UK, only 20.4% of the population is abstinent, most of which are young adults. In fact, teetotalism is becoming a trend among the British youth. Although the same cannot be said for those over 65, for whom abstinence rates have decreased.

People Are Drinking More

One concerning finding was that levels of alcohol consumption are growing faster than the population. This means that people, on average, are drinking more, even in countries where average alcohol intake is decreasing.

In addition, heavy (or binge) drinking, which is defined as 60g of pure alcohol per occasion within 30 days, has grown as well. Currently, 20% of people worldwide engage in heavy drinking, up from 18.5% in 1990. Like overall consumption, heavy drinkers are most prominent in the western Pacific.

In Great Britain, 27% of the population are classified as binge drinkers ““ much higher than the global average. And despite the fact that young people in Britain are more likely to be abstinent, they are also more likely to binge drink. Of young adults who do imbibe, 30% admit they “drink to get drunk”.

Men vs. Women Drinkers

The male-to-female ratio of alcohol drinkers is relatively stable around the world, with more men drinkers than women. However, this gender gap is also narrowing, especially in countries where consumption is high overall. It is expected to decrease the most in the western Pacific and eastern Mediterranean countries.

In the UK, that gender gap is even narrower, with British women now among the world’s heaviest drinkers. This is worrying as well because alcohol abuse tends to affect women more.

There are a number of reasons why alcohol consumption levels may vary from country to country and change after time. Understanding this can help us understand how to reduce the alcohol problem of the UK and the world. The three most significant factors are:

  • Economic Wealth
  • Religion
  • Alcohol Policies

However, there is no combination of these that can determine a country’s stance on drinking. Rather, it seems more complicated.

Economic Wealth

Low-income countries have seen very little change in consumption rates, but that has generally always been true. If there is no disposable income to spend on alcohol, alcohol cannot be bought.

Before the 1990s, the majority of alcohol was consumed in high-income countries. Now, it seems that the tide has shifted. Instead, middle-class countries, especially those with growing economies, such as China, India, and Vietnam, are taking the lead.

Meanwhile, it is mainly high-income countries, especially UK and Europe, that are seeing a decrease or stabilisation in alcohol consumption. However, some countries, such as the US, has seen a small increase in consumption. There has also been a lot more alcohol-related health issues and mortalities in line with this rise.

This can be also seen on a smaller scale. In the UK, high-income people drink more than low-income people. However, low-income people are more likely to end up with drug problems, especially heroin or crack cocaine.

Religion

Religion definitely plays a big role in many countries on alcohol trends. Muslim countries and those with a religion that forbids alcohol obviously have little to no alcohol consumption. Even in ultra-wealthy countries such as Saudi Arabia and Brunei. This shows that the concept of a “higher power”, such as that used in AA, can be a powerful factor. However, religion cannot be imposed on people.

Instead, you can introduce new societal norms. Clearly, this has been a success, as seen in many high-income countries in the case of alcohol and smoking. Since the introduction of anti-smoking and anti-drinking campaigns, more of the younger generations have been doing less of both. Such countries are also more likely to promote a healthy lifestyle, which can have an effect on consumption.

Alcohol Policies

Alcohol policies cover a wide range of rules and regulations. These can be age limits, added alcohol tax, general legality, marketing restrictions, or even treatment options. All of these can affect what age people start drinking and the level of drinking, dramatically.

Russia is one of the prime examples of implementing such policies. They have restricted availability, such as what hours your can buy alcohol or where you can buy it. They have also increased tax on alcohol and banned or restricted alcohol-related marketing. As a result, the country has seen a 22% decrease in alcohol consumption over the past seven years.

Since alcohol consumption is due to rise globally, we may see a rise in addiction too. The majority of alcohol consumption is increasing in Asia, where rehabs are often less prominent compared to the West. Given this, alcohol policies and treatment programmes in Asia could become a key factor in tackling new problems with addiction.

Can Minimum Pricing Have an Effect on Alcohol Trends?

Those with a high income tend to spend more on drinks, while low-income individuals buy cheaper booze. So people who are used to a certain drinking culture may adjust their level of spending but not necessarily level of drinking.

While price controls have shown success in countries like Scotland, the difference it makes is very little. And people who want to drink may adjust their spending habits. Furthermore, in most countries, including the UK, alcohol is highly affordable compared to decades ago.

Therefore, a price hike would have to be dramatic to make an impact. Rather, it may be wise to implement a mix of alcohol policies to improve the situation in the long-run. However, too many rules or regulations can cause other problems as well, as seen during the prohibition period. In the meantime, governments shouldn’t ignore support services

In the UK, there have already been successful national health campaigns we can look to. For example, the smoking ban and regulations, have dramatically reduced the numbers of UK smokers. With a strong lead from the government, similar techniques of pricing, persuasion and legislation could have a dramatic effect on alcohol consumption too. Whether the government has the will to challenge the powerful drinks industry on this crucial matter remains to be seen.

Get Help Today

At Castle Craig Hospital, we recognise the importance of treatment availability in alleviating the impact alcohol has on the community. We have helped thousands of people all over the world recover from alcoholism as well as other addictions. With 30 years of expertise, we have developed a unique treatment model, including the 12 steps with a fully medically managed team.

If you are concerned about your or someone else’s drinking, consider giving us a call. We can familiarise you with treatment options and offer advice on what to do next. Our offices can be reached at +44 1721 726 135 (UK) or +44 1721 722 763 (International).

Problem Gambling in the UK: Still Rising but Taken Seriously

Given the growing number of problem gamblers in the UK, the government, the NHS, and various charities have started to make gambling addiction a priority. The alarming rate at which gambling addiction in the UK and related problems are escalating has forced authorities to take more serious action. Although problem gambling was determined to be a mental disorder in the 1980s, it wasn’t until 2013 that it was re-classified as an addiction. Since then, there’s been a lot of progress made in terms of education, prevention, and treatment for problem gambling. However, considering the rapid rise and spread of the issue, it has clearly not been enough.

One of the newest concerns regarding gambling addiction is how strongly it is affecting children and young adults. In fact, the number of children with gambling problems has quadrupled in only 2 years.

Thus, UK authorities have taken a number of steps to address the issue including the creation of a three-year plan to tackle problems, opening up a young-adult gambling addiction service, and putting in place new rules and regulations. Perhaps with this new all-sided approach, we can finally see some good news in the coming years.

Gambling Issues in the UK: Where We Are Today

Gambling is not a new problem, especially in the UK. But with the increase in number of betting shops and accessibility to online casinos, gambling is starting to affect more people’s lives negatively than ever before.

At the moment, the Gambling Commission estimates that there are 430,000 problem gamblers in the UK, and 2 million people that are at risk. There could be even more, given that most people are not aware of their addictions.

The most money spent on gambling is through online casinos, followed by betting shops, and the national lottery. About 35% of at-risk gamblers use online platforms.

Unfortunately, very few people with a gambling disorder even attempt to seek help, and even fewer receive it. GambleAware reported 30,000 calls to their helpline in the last year, and less than 9,000 people who have actually obtained help. Compared to the numbers of people with a problem, this is disappointingly low.

Gambling Addiction is a Major Problem Among Young Adults

Gambling has always been the biggest issue among middle-aged adults. But now statistics are showing that children and young adults are becoming victims more than before. It is estimated that 450,000 young people engage in gambling activities in the UK, and more than 12% of them have a problem. It is said that the average age for a person to start gambling is 12 years old.

Fifty years ago, before betting shops, credit cards, and the internet came along, it was quite hard for anyone, especially young people, to indulge in heavy gambling. Few towns outside London had a casino or race tracks, and a few slot machines were the only gambling platforms available for most people.To make use of these required a wallet full of cash. Certainly, there were few children who could do so.

Gambling in the UK made easier by the internet

In today’s digital age, any form of gambling is possible to any young person with a computer and a credit card (and mum or dad’s will do). And thanks to advertising and social media, gambling is becoming normalised for children at a young age. Today, 70% of teenagers are seeing gambling-related ads on the internet, and among those aged 11-16, one in eight follow a gambling company on social media.

If you exclude the national lottery, participation in gambling-related activities is now the highest among young adults. This age group is also more likely to get involved in new forms of gambling, such as cryptocurrency trading.

Another factor behind these statistics is that many children come into gambling through computer gaming. Indeed certain popular games, such as Fortnite, include a simple form of gambling in some of their routines and activities.

Furthermore, there seems to be little regulation on underage gambling both online and in real life. For example, the majority of pubs do not regulate well who uses their betting machines. Age checks on online platforms and apps are also not very effective.

What’s Being Done About Gambling in the UK

In the last year, many steps have been taken to ease the gambling epidemic. However, recently, a lot more has been done in comparison to the previous years.

There’s A Plan

The NHS has officially named gambling as a key public health issue on their long-term plan, and the Gambling Commission has also just approved a new 3-year strategy. With the goal of alleviating the epidemic, the strategy will involve improving education, prevention, treatment accessibility, and adding restrictions.

Because education and awareness is crucial, there is hope that more attention will be brought to problem gambling after Public Health England releases a report. Expected in 2020, it is hoped that it will provide great insight into gambling’s effects on public health.

Improve Access to Treatment

Making treatment more accessible is also a large priority. GPs and other care provides need to understand gambling addiction and be able to refer patients to the right services. Furthermore, due to the large level of comorbidity, anyone being treated for gambling addiction should also be evaluated for other psychological problems.

Because of the rise in problem gambling among young adults, the NHS is expanding their National Problem Gambling Clinic to cater to those age 13-25. The specialist service are first set to open in London, followed by Manchester, Leeds, Sunderland, and hopefully other cities later on.

Prevention Begins At Home

Though the government initiatives are laudable, they are mainly directed towards dealing with the fallout from the gambling epidemic, rather than its prevention. Much addictive behaviour develops from bad habits learnt at an early age, and in the case of gambling, this is particularly true.

The statistics for gambling among the young should sound the alarm in homes throughout the country. Parents need to establish ground rules for the use and monitoring of all digital activity from an early age. Young children need to understand that phone and laptop use is not general and universal but granted subject to established rules. For example, never in the bedroom, for short periods only, and without the use of a credit card. A very young child will likely accept and follow such a routine, but imposing it on a teenager will rarely work.

Most children today are more in danger of exposure to gambling and gambling opportunities than they are to opportunities to use drugs or alcohol. They need to be educated on the dangers of gambling addiction but the parents need this too.

If you suspect that someone you know is addicted to gambling, there are steps you can take to help them.

Cooperation is Key

It is said that gambling needs to be approached the same way that alcohol and smoking has been. Hence, there needs to be restrictions on advertising and sponsorship. Despite large revenue losses, betting companies seem to be cooperating. Already, some have agreed to no advertising during live sports (excluding horse-racing), no visible sponsorship on uniforms or field perimeters, and limiting or removing high-stakes games.

For example, there was a serious rise in gambling addiction due to fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), where one could potentially lose £100 every 20 seconds. Now, companies are forced to lower their maximum bet to £2.

There are also plans to deal with online gambling, by improving age-checks or restricting access to such sites. For example, one idea is to ban the use of credit cards on all online platforms. Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England, is also in favour of implementing additional taxes on bookmakers, which can be used to fund addiction treatment.

Hopefully, with all these measures, we will see a lower number of problem gamblers in the future years.

Where to Get Help for Gambling Addiction in the UK

If you think that you, or a loved one, has a gambling addiction, you shouldn’t wait to ask for help. Common signs of gambling addiction include:

  • Going into debt over gambling
  • Unable to stop playing
  • Chasing losses
  • Lying about finances or gambling habits
  • Gambling in secret
  • Financial problems
  • Missing work, school, or sleep to gamble
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Preoccupation with thoughts of gambling
  • Making riskier bets

Gambling addiction should be treated the same way an alcohol or drug addiction would be. There are many people that attend residential rehab for gambling problems. Because of the risk of exposure to gambling platforms online and in real life, it can be helpful to live in a safe, temptation-free space while undergoing therapy.

It is not unusual for someone with a gambling addiction to have a secondary addiction or be diagnosed with an accompanying psychological problem. In fact, alcoholism and gambling have a high correlation. Depression, stress, and other mental health problems are all also linked to problem gambling. And gambling addiction has the highest rates of suicide compared to other dependency disorders.

In such cases, it isn’t clear at first which problem caused what. That is why it is important to have a thorough treatment programme that will address more than just gambling.

Of course, there are plenty of alternatives to inpatient treatment. Many people turn to Gamblers Anonymous for initial help. There are also other support services for problem gamblers which can be found on GamCare.

Gambling Addiction Treatment at Castle Craig

Castle Craig Hospital has experience with treating gambling addiction for over 30 years, along with alcohol, drug, and other behavioural addictions. We also offer help to those dealing with cryptocurrency addiction. Our unique treatment model, using 12-step model and therapy has helped thousands of patients get their lives back.

When treating gambling addiction, Castle Craig recognises that the disorder needs to be approached on all sides. It is important to understand why it happened and what needs to be done to change.

Therapy is a large part of treatment, but it is only one aspect at Castle Craig. We also a focus on rebuilding relationships, and the practical steps that should be taken by any compulsive gambler. These would include self-exclusion from casinos and online gambling sites, surrender of credit cards, limitation or stopping computer use.

Gambling addiction can have a devastating effect on the whole family, not just emotionally but in terms of monetary loss. The family home and/or savings can be lost in a single evening. Because of this, family therapy is emphasised and highly recommended.

We are always available to offer advice about addiction and treatment. If you would like to get in touch with us, contact us at +44 1721 788 104.

Drug-related Deaths in Scotland: an Ongoing Problem

Scotland’s drug abuse problem has been recognised for some time now. The movie Trainspotting first shed light on this epidemic, which has been growing since the 1980s. Unfortunately, the problem is still there and seems to be getting worse every year. More than drug use itself, the mortality rates are of great concern. Drug-related deaths in Scotland have been steadily rising, and they show no signs of slowing.

The latest data from National Records of Scotland show that 2017 had 934 deaths, one of the highest recorded statistics for drug-related deaths in Scotland since 1996. That’s more than double just a decade ago (445 deaths), nearly 2.5 times the UK average. The rate of drug deaths in Scotland is the highest in Europe. For Scotland alone, it is about 8% higher than the previous year.

These numbers have forced the government to classify the situation as an emergency. Although many steps have been taken to alleviate the problem in the past, now it’s time to get serious.

What Drugs Are Responsible for Scotland’s Deaths?

One of the things that was noticed in the 2017 data is that poly-drug use is on the rise. There is often no one drug that is held to be responsible. However, the biggest sources of the problem appear to be opioids, benzodiazepines, and methadone.

Opioids have always accounted for a large percentage of drug-related harm in the UK. But this year has seen a notable rise in deaths from prescription opioids as well. Heroin, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, and other prescription painkillers contributed to 87% of drug-related deaths. Methadone is often used as a harm-reducing substitute in opioid-addiction treatment. It was involved in significantly more deaths than the years before.

Benzodiazepines are the second-largest contributor, and were involved in 59% of drug-related deaths.

Other popular illicit drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines, and MDMA, were accountable for a relatively low number of deaths in comparison.

New psychoactive drugs, such as Spice, seem to be becoming less of a problem. It was also recently found that although they did not contribute to Scotland’s drug-related deaths, image and performance drugs such as anabolic steroids are growing in popularity.

Alcohol, although involved in only 10% of drug-related deaths in Scotland, was responsible for a staggering 1,120 deaths in 2017.

Poverty Is A Problem

According to the report, drug use disorders are 17 times higher, and alcohol dependence is more than 8 times higher in deprived communities. About 1 in 5 homeless people have some sort of drug or alcohol problem, and/or comorbid mental disorder. This shows that the problem may be influenced by the lack of support for addiction and dual diagnosis.

People in deprived communities also make up about 50% of drug-related hospital admissions and 40% of alcohol-related hospital admissions.

Female Drug Deaths in Scotland Are Increasing

Although males account for 70% of all drug-related deaths, the increase in mortality among women is becoming more and more worrying. Specifically, the problem appears to be the biggest among women aged 55 and over.

It is unclear why exactly female drug use is increasing. One potential contributing factor could be the concurrent rise in women’s mental and physical health problems. In addition, women often experience addiction and recovery differently than men do for a number of reasons. Castle Craig offers women’s only therapy, but it can be difficult to find other rehabs that do, which could be important to keep women from relapsing.

Attention on the Ageing Population

The main age group of concern is referred to as the “Trainspotting generation” people who started using in the 80s and 90s. In 2017, people over 35 accounted for nearly three-quarters of all drug-related deaths in Scotland. In 2009, that same age group accounted for only about half of them. The average age for drug-related mortalities are 41 and 34.

However, it is encouraging that the data also shows that drugs are becoming less of a problem among younger people. Scotland’s drug-related deaths in those under 25, and 25-34 are decreasing and have been since 2012. Nearly two decades ago, the case was quite the opposite.

This is one of the many statistics proving that today’s younger generations are less likely to use alcohol or drugs. It also shows that there needs to be a larger focus on the ageing population when it comes to drug abuse.

What Can Be Done about Scotland’s Drug-related Deaths?

There are a number of ways to address drug use and drug-related harm. In addition to improving the availability of and access to treatment, it would be wise to implement more harm-reduction services. It is also important to educate the public about substance abuse. All of these approaches will help reduce stigma as well, which can help people in the future.

Access to Treatment

The lack of availability of drug and alcohol treatment is definitely making the problem worse. Only 40% of problem drug users have received treatment in Scotland. This is low when you compare it to 60% in England and Wales, and 80% in Europe. Because comorbid psychological conditions are known to influence substance abuse, mental health needs to be addressed as well at a dual diagnosis rehab.

Treatment options need to be made available throughout the country. The top three areas for drug-related deaths in Scotland, and therefore require more focus, are Dundee, Glasgow, and Inverclyde. In fact, Glasgow has seen the largest jump in drug-related deaths from the previous years.

In addition to improving access to treatment, there needs to be a focus on retention in treatment and relapse prevention. Indeed, relapse is a major consideration, and cannot be ignored, especially with highly addictive drugs such as opioids.

Harm-Reduction

While harm-reduction will not solve the growing drug problem, it can alleviate the damage caused by drug abuse. Because opiates, such as heroin, are the largest cause of drug-related deaths in Scotland, it could very well help to introduce more harm-reduction centres. Providing more safe-injection sites, clean needles, drug-testing kits, and naloxone could greatly reduce overdose deaths and the rise in HIV rates.

Opioid-substitution treatments can help, but they can also harm. There are problem users who claim that being accepted into one of these programs isn’t easy. This forces them to turn to street methadone as a means of self-treatment, which is dangerous. Some people also argue that there are already too many methadone patients that aren’t being given necessary attention, leaving them stuck on methadone for far longer than they need to be.

Positive Outlook for Scotland’s Substance Abuse Problem

Although Scotland has spent over £740 million in the last decade trying to address the epidemic, clearly more needs to be done. Following these findings, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, has made addressing substance abuse a priority. With the establishment of a drug-expertise group, hopefully we will see progress in the near future.

Finding help for drug or alcohol addiction isn’t always easy but it is possible. Despite limited access to treatment, more people are seeking help. For example, there has been an increase of peer-led recovery and support groups in the country. Support groups are a great way to address one’s addiction and begin the journey to recovery.

For more serious addictions, however, it is better to inquire about residential rehab. With highly addictive drugs, it can be difficult to quit without proper care. Although not wide-spread, there are plenty of rehabs in Scotland that address various drug, alcohol, or behavioural addictions.

Castle Craig, located just outside Edinburgh and not far from Glasgow, has been treating patients for over 30 years. In addition to accepting private patients, they also work with the NHS to help people receive the treatment they need. If you’d like to enquire about admission, or simply have questions about treatment, don’t hesitate to contact us by phone or email. For general inquiries, contact us at +44 1721 789 152.

40 Quotes on Addiction Recovery

People often use quotes as inspiration. Why not? Language is a powerful thing. The right thing said at the right time is memorable, and can even be life-changing. In fact, at Castle Craig, we think it’s so important that we include it in our therapy. When dealing with addiction and recovery, words can be a source of strength and motivation. When things get difficult, it is important to seek support. Although you can reach out to a therapist, fellowship or trusted friend, you can also use your own resources. As part of your recovery toolbox, quotes on addiction can be something to turn to if other methods are not enough.

This collection of quotes includes reflections on addiction, motivational words for recovery, and generally inspiring and uplifting messages.

Quotes on Addiction and Recovery

“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Recovery is not a race. You don’t have to feel guilty if it takes you longer than you thought it would.”

– Anonymous

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

– Confucius

“When you can stop, you don’t want to. And when you want to stop, you can’t. That’s addiction.”

– Anonymous

“When was the last time you woke up and wished you’d had just one more drink the night before? I have never regretted not drinking. Say this to yourself, and you’ll get through anything.”

– Meredith Bell

“I’m not telling you it is going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it!”

– Anonymous

“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”

– Edgar Allen Poe

“The goal isn’t to be sober. The goal is to love yourself so much that you don’t need to drink.”

– Anonymous

“Addiction is just a way of trying to get at something else. Something bigger. Call it transcendence if you want, but it’s like a rat in a maze. We all want the same thing. We all have this hole. The thing you want offers relief, but it’s a trap.”

– Tess Callahan

“I am not defined by my relapses, but by my decision to remain in recovery despite them.”

– Anonymous

Quotes on addiction can be a source of strength

“Recovery is an acceptance that your life is in shambles and you have to change.”

– Jamie Lee Curtis

“You don’t get over an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use. If you don’t create a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will catch up with you again.”

– Anonymous

“Addictions… started out like magical pets, pocket monsters. They did extraordinary tricks, showed you things you hadn’t seen, were fun. But came, through some gradual dire alchemy, to make decisions for you. Eventually, they were making your most crucial life-decisions. And they were… less intelligent than goldfish.”

– William Gibson

“Recovery is about progression, not perfection.”

– Anonymous

“Remember that just because you hit bottom doesn’t mean you have to stay there.”

– Robert Downey Jr.

“Recovery is something that you have to work on every single day and it’s something that doesn’t get a day off.”

– Demi Lovato

“Addiction is a monster; it lives inside, and feeds off of you, takes from you, controls you, and destroys you. It is a beast that tears you apart, rips out your soul, and laughs at your weakness. It is a stone wall that stands to keep you in and the rest out. It is a shadow that always lurks behind you, waiting to strike. Addiction lives in everyone’s mind, sitting, staring, waiting…”

– Anonymous

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

– J.K. Rowling

“When everything seems like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.”

– Anonymous

“You were never created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, condemned, ashamed or unworthy. You were created to be victorious.”

– Anonymous

Be inspired by those who have been there

“Every day is a new day. No need to dwell on the past. Look straight ahead.”

– Saint Charlotte

“People are not addicted to alcohol or drugs, they are addicted to escaping reality.”

– Anonymous

“You are not weak for struggling. You are strong for continuing to fight.”

– Anonymous

“Change your behaviours and your feelings will follow.”

– Susan McManhon

“Be addicted to improving yourself.”

– Anonymous

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Addiction makes you blind to your reality.”

– Anonymous

“Recovery isn’t always easy, but it certainly beats the alternative.”

– Anonymous

“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

– Japanese proverb

“Alcoholism is above all a disease of denial.”

– David Stafford

“One of the hardest things was learning that I was worth recovery.”

– Demi Lovato

“If you can quit for a day, you can quit for a lifetime.”

– Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“I used drugs to feel better. I quit drugs to be better.”

– Anonymous

“We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely “¦ change is due to want power. Wanting the new addiction more than the old one. Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.”

– George Sheehan

“Before you can break out of prison, you must realise you are locked up.”

– Anonymous

“Someone once told me, ‘I heard you finally got rid of your addiction.’ I smiled and said, ‘No, addiction doesn’t work like that. Once you have it, you will always have it. I just choose not to feed it.”

– Anonymous

“My addiction does not define who I am or who I will be!”

– Lisa Renee Barnes Lampros

“I understood, through rehab, things about creating characters. I understood that creating whole people means knowing where we come from, how we can make a mistake and how we overcome things to make ourselves stronger.”

– Samuel L. Jackson

“Loving an addicted child is like grieving his death and fighting for his life at the same time”¦. All while hated, helpless, and alone.”

– Anonymous

“I really mean when I say my biggest fear in early recovery was that I would never have fun again. The beautiful truth is that recovery has given me freedom and the confidence to go out in the world and leave my own mark.”

– Tom Stoddart

In addition to all the above, it can benefit to read and ponder over the quotes and slogans used in 12-step fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Perhaps the best known of these is, “One day at a time”, but there are many others, such as:

“How important is it?”

“Easy does it,”

“Keep it simple”

“Let go and let God.”

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

“First things first.”

Getting Help

These are just some of the quotes on addiction and recovery. If you are in recovery, these should become so familiar to you that they are part of your consciousness. When you are faced with a challenge, they should come into your mind, and serve as an automatic checklist whereby you can assess and handle your daily problems.

If you think that you might need help in your recovery, or you are at risk of relapse the words of those who have gone before you might be the guidance you need. If you really feel in trouble, contact Castle Craig today for help.

Alcohol and Chest Pain: Causes, Symptoms

This article is medically reviewed by Consultant Psychiatrist Prof. Jonathan Chick, MA (Cantab), MPhil, MBChB, DSc, FRCPsych, FRCPE. 

Have you ever had an ache in your chest after a night of heavy drinking, perhaps over the holidays? Or maybe you even felt it a few hours after a binge-drinking session. If this sounds familiar, you may have a serious problem.

Although not a defined condition, some doctors have labelled the irregular heart beat, breathlessness, or chest pain after alcohol consumption as “holiday heart syndrome”.

The British Medical Journal reported Sunday-night into Monday morning is the commonest time of the week for heart deaths in the UK and linked this to weekend binge drinking(1).

Pain in the chest can indicate a variety of problems so, before diagnosing chest pain as due to the heart, doctors will of course also consider whether it might be arising in the oesophagus (‘gullet’) and stomach – which might also be related to alcohol from alcohol-irritation – or strain in one of the rib muscles. Some heavy drinkers get inflammation of the pancreas which can cause pain felt in the ribs as well as the tummy.

There is no doubt that heavy drinking causes some serious and common heart problems.

How Alcohol Affects the Heart

Alcohol, even in healthy individuals, can increase blood pressure and may cause an irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation), chest pain, and episodes of these are often noticeable during hangovers and withdrawals.

Heavy drinking over many years can cause the heart muscle to expand which weakens it and causes it to work less efficiently, leading to chest pain and heart disease.

Isn’t Alcohol Good for the Heart?

While there are studies that have found that people drinking very low amounts of alcohol tend to have lower blood pressure and fewer heart attacks, these also tend to be the people who take more exercise, have stable lives and better diets, any or all of which could explain the link. Nevertheless, scientists have shown that moderate drinking tends to balance cholesterol levels and reduce blood clotting which together could help prevent arteries getting narrowed.

However, any possible alcohol-related health benefits apply only for people who drink very moderately. Most of the time, if someone experiences chest pain and heart problems from drinking, they are drinking significantly more than the 14 units per week (equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine spread over 3 or more days, with some alcohol-free days during the week) which public health specialists put as the recommended ceiling.

Why You May Have Chest Pain After Alcohol

Alcohol-related chest pain can be caused by a number of reasons. If it’s heart-related, it may be angina (reduced blood flow to the heart) or, as a worst-case scenario, a heart attack. Chest pain may also signify the presence of a pre-existing condition, which was triggered by alcohol consumption. There are many conditions that are caused or aggravated by alcohol. However, they may also be unrelated to a person’s alcohol intake.

Alcohol Cardiomyopathy

The expansion and weakening of the heart puts extra pressure on surrounding blood vessels which results in ‘alcohol cardiomyopathy’ (disease of the heart muscle) and often presents itself as chest pain. This condition seems to be a cumulative effect from years of heavy drinking. It can lead to ‘heart failure’ where fluid accumulates in parts of the body because the pumping of the heart is diminished.

Cardiomyopathy has various causes, and alcohol is only one of them. However, alcohol may worsen cardiomyopathy that is present due to other reasons.

Stress and Anxiety

Excessive drinking can worsen anxiety levels, partly because of the rebound in the nervous system that follows during the morning after. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for many hours after drinking. Some people even have panic attacks the day after a night of heavy drinking, which can lead the sufferer to experience chest pain and fear that a heart attack is going to happen.

Additional Substances

If someone is taking other medications or drugs, the interaction can result in chest pain as well. If alcohol is mixed with cocaine, it puts a lot of strain on the cardiovascular system. Metronidazole, an antibiotic, can worsen high blood pressure when taken with alcohol.

Smoking alone can irritate the lungs, which may cause chest pain, but combined with alcohol can also increase blood pressure. In addition, smoking tends to worsen symptoms of acid reflux.

If you are worried about alcohol-induced chest pain and believe that drinking is affecting your heart contact our Help Desk team today and we can talk through the ways in which you can leave drinking behind and begin a healthy life.

What to Do If You Experience Alcohol Chest Pain

Chest pain shouldn’t be ignored. If you feel unwell after drinking, and it doesn’t improve with rest and perhaps an antacid if you are prone to indigestion, then ask for advice. Depending on how severe it is, if it doesn’t improve medical opinion should be requested.

Know the Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Because alcohol can trigger a heart attack, it is important to know the signs. Some people tend to dismiss chest pain, which can be dangerous. In addition, the symptoms may not always be present or as extreme, especially in women. However, if any of the following major symptoms last for more than 15 minutes, it is better to go to a hospital.

Major symptoms:

  • Severe chest pain (crushing, tight, or heavy pressure)
  • Radiating pain to other parts of the body (shoulders, arms, back)
  • Difficulty breathing

Other symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

How to Prevent Alcohol Chest Pain

A healthy diet and regular exercise can help prevent heart disease. Do not overeat as this can put a strain on your heart and lead to chest pain.

If you notice that you get regular chest pain after drinking, you should moderate your intake or stop altogether. Because it may signify the presence of a different problem, it is important to talk to a doctor. And if you feel that you can’t limit yourself or stop, you may be developing alcohol dependence – i.e. addiction.

Alcohol addiction is a progressive disease but a treatable one. Should you notice any signs in yourself or anyone you know, there is help: AA meetings, your GP, or a residential centre (‘rehab’) like Castle Craig. Call our help desk for more information about the options that are out there to help you stop drinking.

At Castle Craig we specialise in addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling and other behavioural addictions. We have treated thousands of people addicted to alcohol and drugs since 1988. Our medical team consists of Consultant Psychiatrists, doctors and nurses as well as a team of psychotherapists and fitness and wellness staff. We are regularly inspected by Healthcare Improvement Scotland and have been rated ‘Excellent’ – with Castle Craig you are in safe hands.

If you think you have a problem, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our Help Desk will give you advice and guidance without any obligation.

 

 

Reference 1:  Weekend binge drinking may be linked to Monday peaks in cardiovascular deaths

Laurent Chenet, Annie Britton

BMJ 2001; 322: 998

Addiction Awareness Week

From the 10th-16th June, the newly created Addiction Awareness Week aims to highlight the devastating impact that addiction has on people. This includes stories from those who are affected, and those around them.

The idea for Addiction Awareness Week comes from the charity Action on Addiction. During this week, we aim to raise awareness of just how common addiction is, how many people are affected by it, and what we can all do to together to tackle this problem.

“Addiction Awareness Week aims to bring addiction out of the shadows and encourage people to talk about the different facets of this life-stopping condition.”

Research published to mark Addiction Awareness Week reveals that 60% of people in Britain know someone affected by addiction, most of whom are relatives. The poll highlighted that alcohol abuse is the most common problem, with 73% of people who knew someone addicted citing it as the addiction suffered.

Events have been held this week to raise awareness for addiction, including a gala held on June 12. Attended by the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and Ronnie Wood, the gala dinner aimed to recognise the prevalence of addiction. While there, the Duchess gave a speech and met with those affected by addiction and their families. “Sadly, for many who are suffering with addiction, they just don’t receive the help they need early enough.”

Castle Craig rehab is committed to Addiction Awareness Week, and highlighting the issue of addiction to the public.

Stories from our Patients and Family:

It’s my husband’s sober 30th birthday this year. Thank you very much x

Margaret

Recovery begins with awareness of one’s surroundings, followed by the sincere desire (and effort) to contribute to it, to the best of one’s ability.

Hans

I arrived at Castle Craig completely broken, physically, mentally and emotionally. I honestly thought I had gone past being healed after relapsing after 10 years of sobriety. The staff at CC were dedicated to helping me as soon as I entered the building. The kindness and skills of all the staff here are what I can only describe as truly amazing. My boyfriend sadly passed away from alcoholism whilst I was at CC and the staff got my through some of my darkest days to date.

I’m 15 months sober again now and I know I wouldn’t have survived another month doing as I was. It’s an amazingly special place where miracles really do happen, I’m blessed to have found you. Thank you

Jackie

For me without continually working the steps into my life I believe I would eventually go back to using. I would once again become very unhappy and disillusioned with my life just the same as I was before working the steps into my life. Oh and thank you Castlecraig for saving my life. Forever in your debt x

Chris

Saved my life. And my family’s sanity

Cathy

If you would like to add your story to this conversation about addiction, please visit:

If you think that you, or someone you know, suffers from addiction, please call Castle Craig to get help today.

Kit Harington Enters Rehab

Best known for his role as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones, actor Kit Harington made the headlines after checking into rehab recently. He arrived at Privé Swiss, a luxury wellness centre in Connecticut, at the end of May. Haringtonis original statement mentioned he was there due to stress and exhaustion, it is now known that he is dealing with alcohol issues as well.

Despite having plenty of support from friends, family, and fans, Kit Harington has encountered a lot of negativity as well. His situation sheds light on the challenges people with addiction still face today, particularly due to the presence of negative stigma and stereotypes.

The latest updates claim he is currently doing very well. Hopefully, his rising stardom will not only enlighten people about drug and alcohol abuse issues, but also motivate those who need help to ask for it.

Who Is Kit Harington?

Born as Christopher Catesby Harington in Acton, an area of western London, Kit Harington began his acting career while attending the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. One of his first major projects was War Horse, a 2008 West End production at the National Theatre.

Soon after, the 32-year-old actor landed a major role on Game of Thrones, which ran from 2011-2019 and gave him international recognition. He has also worked on other projects such as Silent Hill, How to Train Your Dragon, Pompeii, and Doctor Faustus. Since his debut, he has won and been nominated for many awards.

In 2012, he began a relationship with Rose Leslie, one of this Game of Thrones co-stars. They were married in 2018, and she has been a major source of support for him.

Did Kit Harington have a history of alcohol abuse?

Although Harington didn’t immediately admit to alcohol abuse being one of the primary reasons for his trip to rehab, there have been clear warning signs. Twice, he was spotted in a fairly intoxicated state ““ once at a bar in New York and once in Paris. It was said that he was even thrown out of a venue for misbehaving.

It wasn’t long after these incidents that people started to suspect he had a serious problem with alcohol.

The Stress of Stardom

Being the star of one of the top shows in TV history sounds like a blessing, but it also comes at a certain price. Kit Harington is not the only celebrity who has been overwhelmed by all the things that come with fame.

When Harington first started getting the media’s attention he said the situation was intense, especially since he’s always considered himself somewhat shy and awkward. He confessed, “I felt I had to feel that I was the most fortunate person in the world, when actually, I felt very vulnerable”.

It was when Harington got recognition from Game of Thrones that he had started therapy. He was reportedly concerned about this future and how things would go from here. He also found the time during filming full of “ups and downs”. However, it was the last season that really hit him hard.

Why would Kit Harington need Rehab?

It’s not just the stress of being a celebrity. Many stars who have worked on a long-term project find themselves lost after they finish. And with Game of Thrones, running for eight seasons, it almost felt for many of the cast members like losing their family and losing part of themselves. Ultimately, they’re left to wonder ““ what’s next?

Kit Harington is not the only actor to have been through this, and need help or sought rehab. Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry Potter, faced a similar situation after finishing the franchise.

When you play a character for a long time, as an actor you integrate that character into your identity. So when it’s all over, you feel like something’s been taken away from you. That was something that made an impact on Kit Harington. He recalled the last time his costume was taken off, as if he was being stripped of a part of himself.

According to various reports, Kit seemed very distressed during the last days of shooting and was even hyperventilating at times. It is said that he had a breakdown while filming the final scenes.

The Importance of Strength and Support

In the case of any mental health issues, addiction or otherwise, support is very important. Fortunately, many of his friends, co-stars, and fans have been doing a great job. Some fans have even began crowdsourcing for Mencap, a UK charity for learning disabilities that Kit Harrington supports.

At the same time, he has received quite a few negative comments. There have even been some who have belittled his situation, a common problem for those seeking mental health treatment. This stigma causes many people to hesitate to reach out for help when they realise they have a problem.

His wife, Rose, also seems to have faced her share of backlash. People have criticised her for living her life despite the troubles her husband is facing. This, too, shows the lack of awareness about how hard mental issues and addiction affect loved ones. It can be just as difficult for them as it is for the person in question.

Kit Harington’s Road to Rehab

The good news is that Kit Harington seems to have understood the situation at the beginning, as he had quit drinking a few weeks before checking into rehab. At the moment, he has been at Privé Swiss for nearly a month. Most alcohol treatment programmes last at least 4-6 weeks, but it is unclear how long he will be there.

The luxury rehab he is attending comes with a hefty price-tag ““ approximately £100,000 a month. In addition to cognitive behavioural therapy, which is often the standard for addiction treatment, the clinic offers a number of complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, yoga, and more.

Given that he has been in treatment for a decent period, hopefully there will be more updates from him or his family soon. Until then, it appears that he is handling the situation well and getting better.

Finding Help for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

Celebrity or not, alcohol and drugs can affect anybody’s life. While addiction is a chronic mental illness, it is possible to get help and to lead a normal, happy life by keeping it in remission. If you feel that you or someone you care about is developing a problem, you should address it as soon as possible.

Castle Craig Hospital has helped thousands of patients since we have opened our doors.

Castle Craig offers a personalised treatment plan for all patients. This includes a medically supervised detox, individual and group therapy, and a variety of complementary therapies. We also provide assistance to loved ones who have to face the consequences of addiction indirectly.

When someone starts abusing alcohol or drugs, it is likely to be due to underlying issues. Hence, it is important that those are treated alongside substance abuse. Prior to entering rehab, Kit Harington appears to have been overwhelmed by stress and depression. This could have easily led him to a dark path, had he not received help in time. Hopefully, his story will bring awareness to the seriousness of drug and alcohol abuse, and inspire others to seek assistance.

If you feel that you or someone you know is drinking excessively, using drugs, or facing another addiction such as gambling, it is best to reach out for help as soon as possible. Castle Craig admissions team is happy to answer any questions you may have and guide you in taking your next steps. Feel free to give a call to 0808 231 5974 (within the UK) or +44 1721 788342 (international). There’s nothing more important than getting the help you need.

What are the Most Addictive Drugs?

Addiction is a complicated topic and what makes something addictive is dependent on a number of factors. In the case of substance addiction, it is often not only about the drug itself but the individual using it. This makes it harder to answer the question, “what are the most addictive drugs?” However, there are some drugs that are more addictive in general to more of the population.

Ultimately, any drug can be addictive. Actually, just about any substance or behaviour, such as drinking coffee or video gaming, can easily turn into an addiction. Because addiction and the factors involved are complex topics, it is hard to label one drug as the “most addictive”. However, there are certainly some drugs that cause physical dependence, and withdrawal, in the user. They can also ‘re-write’ the brain to crave these substances.

What Makes Drugs Addictive?

From the medical perspective, there are various factors that are taken into account when measuring a drugs addictiveness, namely:

  • Level of intoxication
  • Reinforcement potential
  • Tolerance potential
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Biological dependence

There are also other psychosocial factors that come into play and may affect one’s perception of the addictiveness of a drug, such as:

  • Availability
  • Social Acceptance
  • Legality
  • Individual circumstances and preferences

Level of Intoxication

Intoxication refers to the effects the drug produces, including the high itself, the strength of the high, and the lasting after effects. Generally speaking, the stronger the drug, the more attractive it is to users.

Reinforcement Potential

Reinforcement means how likely the person is to engage in repeated use. Drugs with short-lived effects, such as cocaine, encourage the user to consume more often. The more the person uses, the more likely they are to get hooked.

Tolerance Potential

While anyone can build a tolerance to any drug, certain substances seem to have a greater tolerance potential than others. This ties back to reinforcement. Repeated and long-term use of a drug increases a person’s tolerance. Therefore, after a while, the same dose that got them high the first time will not be enough later on.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Certain drugs have very severe withdrawal symptoms, while have little to none. Withdrawal plays a big role in addiction because a person may feel compelled to take more of a drug to relieve any discomfort caused by withdrawal.

Biological Dependence

Biological dependence encompasses both psychological and physical addiction. Drugs cause changes in the brain and body, and some substances can cause long-lasting or permanent changes. For example, long-term alcohol use has been shown to alter and damage the brain.

Repeated use of any drug can change how the body or brain responds to future use, potentially causing tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. At some point, a person will not be able to function without the substance. Someone who abuses sleeping pills may find that they can no longer sleep soundly without their medication. Even worse, the drug may stop being effective altogether.

Availability

How likely a person is to be addicted to any substance is partly determined by its availability. Simply said, if heroin is not readily available in a certain area, people will be less likely to become addicted to heroin. Almost every city has their own drug market, where one substance may be more readily available than another. This changes over time as well, so studies measuring how many people are addicted to a certain drug may skew one’s perception of its addictiveness.

For example, barbiturates are considered a very addictive drug, but they are not commonly prescribed or found on the street anymore. Therefore, there are less people addicted to barbiturates today than several decades ago, when they were more prominent and barbiturates do not figure prominently in most statistics anymore

This doesn’t mean that barbiturates are less addictive than heroin, but if a person sees that 60% of people in an area are addicted to heroin, 30% to cocaine, 8% to meth and only 2% to barbiturates, they may be led to believe that barbiturates are not as dangerous.

The price of a drug can also affect statistics, but on a more personal level. Someone may not be able to afford a cocaine habit, for example, so they may choose the more cheaper amphetamines instead.

Social Acceptance

In addition to availability, social acceptance matters as well. “If everyone is doing it, it must be ok, right?” is a common attitude. Thus, alcohol is readily available in most parts of the world, and drinking is widely accepted by social standards.

Take a city like Belfast, where heroin is said to be as easy to buy as cigarettes. And like in most large cities, alcohol is readily available as well. While Belfast does have a serious opioid problem, there are far less heroin addicts than people with a drinking problem. Whereas one can easily suggest going to a pub after work, it would still raise eyebrows to ask your friends to casually shoot up.

It works in reverse as well. If all your friends are smoking marijuana, even if it is illegal, you may find this activity normal, and not think of the drug as something particularly serious or taboo.

Legality

Whether a drug is legal or not can also affect its availability and social acceptance. Many people will think twice before consuming an illegal substance. This is why prescription painkillers are a growing problem. People think that just because it is recommended by a doctor, there must be no harm in using it, even recreationally. The same, of course, may be said for alcohol.

Personal Circumstances

The addictiveness of a drug depends on the person as well, and it’s not just about the person’s potential to become addicted. Personal preferences matter as well. For example, a person may use drugs to relax, so they will seek something calming like marijuana or alcohol, and pass on stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines.

What are the Most Addictive Addictive Drugs?

Some of the most addictive drugs may be well-known to you, such as heroin and cocaine, while others, such as alcohol and caffeine, may come as a surprise. Why? Because certain drugs are not considered “drugs”.

Nevertheless, addiction is very much a real and serious problem, even when it comes to legal substances. Although drugs are all different, they still share the same factors that create the potential for addiction.

Because the measure of the addictiveness of a drug is not straightforward, no one substance can be said to be the most or least addictive. However, from a professional standpoint, there are several drugs that are deemed high-risk.

Heroin

Heroin is likely the first drug that comes to mind when you think of a highly addictive and high-risk drug. Because of its powerful effect on the brain, especially dopamine, and severe withdrawal symptoms, it is both psychologically and physically addictive.

Referring to the previously mentioned factors, heroin seems to tick most of the boxes. It produces a strong and long-lasting high, and users tend to redose when it wears off. Because of this, users tend to build a tolerance quickly, which is why opiate-related deaths are such an issue. Although very illegal and not as socially acceptable as other drugs, heroin is generally not hard to find in most major cities.

Withdrawal from heroin is one of the major reasons the drug is so hard to quit. Not only can a person experience severe depression, vomiting and physical pain, but the symptoms onset quite quickly. This is one reason why many people opt for opioid-substitution therapy with methadone, which unfortunately only prolongs their addiction.

Cocaine

Although also illegal, cocaine is much more socially accepted. In fact, it is often glamourised. In cities like London, cocaine use is so widespread that someone who hasn’t been exposed to it may be viewed as odd.

Cocaine is not considered especially physically addictive but it is highly psychologically addictive. With some drugs, the side-effects of the high can be off-putting (e.g. paranoia or extreme appetite with marijuana). But cocaine generally produces a feel-good happy high and gives a person extra energy. It also acts quite quickly, although this can depend on the method of consumption.

However, its effects are short-lived, so a person needs to consume the next dose soon after the first to keep the high going. This makes the drug highly reinforcing, and easy to build a tolerance with. Cravings for cocaine are known to last about six months after the last use.

Like heroin, cocaine is easily bought in most cities, although it is usually more expensive.

Alcohol

When most people think of drugs, they think of illegal substances. However, alcohol is very much a drug, and a very dangerous one as well. Like heroin, it is both psychologically and physically addictive, and can produce life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. For this reason, long-term or heavy drinkers wanting to quit are urged to attend a residential rehab with medical supervision during treatment.

Alcohol also affects the person’s well-being over time. The brain is largely affected via shrinkage and other damage, but this can be sometimes reversed with prolonged abstinence, although not in extreme cases. Alcohol also worsens mental illnesses, if present, or can activate psychological problems in people who are predisposed.

Depending on the amount consumed, alcohol can have strong intoxicating effects. The more one consumes, the stronger the high until the sedative effect kicks in. Tolerance can take longer to build than other drugs (although this also depends on the person itself), but it is harder to reverse.

Unlike other drugs, alcohol is usually available, socially acceptable, and legal (in most countries). Alcohol’s social benefits make it quite reinforcing. Because of this, one may not notice how casual drinking transforms into alcoholism.

Nicotine

Nicotine is yet another drug that is legal and available. Although some people don’t classify tobacco as a drug, it is becoming less and less socially accepted in western culture. However, it remains the most common addiction in many countries, including the US.

Although it seems strange to say, especially when using heroin as a comparison, nicotine is actually one of the most addictive drugs in the world. Nicotine is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, so its intoxicating effects are felt almost immediately. It’s effects are less pleasurable than heroin or cocaine, but nicotine is classified just as addictive.

Tolerance builds semi-quickly, and it is not unheard of for a person to go from one cigarette to a pack a day in a short period. Withdrawal symptoms can be felt at any time ““ as soon as the first cigarette is finished or only after prolonged use. However, they are considered unpleasant, which is why smoking is one of the hardest habit to kick.

Caffeine

We hear about the opioid crisis or rising rates in alcoholism, but the most common addiction in the UK is actually legal ““ caffeine. To say it is “readily available” would be putting it mildly. How many people don’t drink coffee, tea, or soda?

Although caffeine is technically a drug, it is one that does less damage than most (unless abused). At the moment, there are no rehabs that specialise in caffeine addiction. However, it is important to understand that just because a substance is commonplace and maybe beneficial to one’s well-being, doesn’t mean it’s not a drug.

Like other stimulants, Caffeine tends to elevate energy levels and mood. Like other drugs, it also affects the brain’s dopamine levels, which makes it reinforcing. Regular caffeine consumers do build up a tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms, such as tiredness and loss of concentration, are felt when the drug wears off.

Of all the drugs, caffeine is probably the most socially acceptable and is mainly seen as a good thing. It is not without its negative side, however. If taken in large quantities long-term, caffeine can adversely affect parts of the body, especially the nervous system, and skin and muscle tissue.

Addiction Doesn’t Stop at the Most Addictive Drugs

There are many reasons why a substance or behaviour can be addictive. As you can see, each drug has its own factors that make it addictive. Although certain substances are viewed as highly addictive, this doesn’t make the less-addictive substances any more acceptable.

It is also worth pointing out that some of the fastest-growing and most dangerous addictions today are not substance-based at all but relate to behaviours such as gambling, pornography, and computer gaming. Gambling alone is said to claim more suicides than any other addiction.

Any addiction is dangerous.

If you think that you, or someone you know, has a problem with addiction, call us today and we can answer any questions you have.

 

Setting Healthy Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

Everyone needs boundaries. They are a set of personal values, guidelines, and beliefs that allow us to function in society. Setting boundaries is not just necessary for a person in recovery, but also for the people around them. Boundaries are especially crucial in the process of addressing addiction.They can help a person remain in recovery, develop self-esteem, and regain control of their life.

Although everyone carries some set of rules, they are not always healthy. Furthermore, not everyone respects them, even if those boundaries are their own. But establishing boundaries is not just about writing out a set of rules. Boundaries need to be fair, in good motive, and they need to be enforceable. Because of this, it is important to learn to establish and maintain one’s boundaries. Failing to do so can be detrimental to one’s recovery and thus lead to relapse.

Defining Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

A boundary is a personal limit meant to serve as a safeguard from physical, psychological, or emotional harm. This can be a concept or behaviour, such as always keeping a promise or never engaging in drug use.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

Like any rules, boundaries can be good and bad, fair and unfair, healthy and unhealthy. It can be hard to distinguish between the two. However, understanding the difference is very important, as unhealthy boundaries can lead to additional problems.

A healthy boundary is meant to help people define their values, their sense of self, and build a life that is safe and comfortable. It is meant to strengthen people and their relationships and reduce potential problems.

An unhealthy boundary is based on manipulation and control. It can damage one’s self-esteem and hinder progress. It discourages healthy relationships and respect for self and others. An unhealthy boundary can be either excessively controlling or it can be the lack of any rules at all.

For example, you may decide never to be in the company of anyone who is drinking alcohol. But, realistically this will mean limiting your social life to a huge extent which will probably have a negative affect on your recovery.

The Importance of Setting Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

One of the most important aspects of recovery is to focus on staying sober and rebuilding one’s life. The purpose of boundaries is to help that process. Establishing boundaries early on can make it easier to fix the things that have gone wrong and assure that what the future brings will bring benefit.

Boundaries in addiction recovery are based on self-care. That doesn’t mean that a person is acting selfishly ““ it just means they are looking out for their own well-being. When a person practices good self-care they improve their health. In addition, they are also helping themselves to make rational decisions in the long-run that will benefit everyone.

Healthy boundaries don’t only help the person in recovery, but they also help others. With proper boundaries, a person will find it easier to build and grow relationships, learn to communicate, and express emotions in a respectful manner. They can also help a person identify toxic relationships, which can lessen the chance of a successful recovery.

There is little point to setting boundaries if one cannot maintain them. Recovery can be stressful at times, and in times of stress, it is also easy to let one’s boundaries lapse. This can trigger relapse. Learning to maintain boundaries is essential in preventing that stress from overtaking one’s life and keeping a focus on the road ahead.

Keep in mind that boundaries can, and likely will, change with time, especially in early recovery. You might set more strict rules in the beginning, and ease up on them when you’re ready to handle a more flexible environment.

How to Establish Boundaries in Addiction Recovery

When establishing healthy boundaries in addiction recovery, you need to first determine the boundary, communicate and/or establish the boundary, and maintain said boundary

  1. What Do You Need?

When defining the boundary, ask yourself what it is that you need and what is important to you? Ask yourself what the purpose of the boundary is – it should be something that will help you in your recovery, not pull you back to addiction.

For example, the boundary may be that you decide you can be socially with people who drink alcohol provided they do not get drunk. The purpose of this rule would be to establish a sensible protection for you from undue stress while in early recovery.

A boundary should be based on one’s personal needs and beliefs. Your values should define what is or isn’t acceptable for you. It may seem simple, but if a person is in a codependent relationship, those beliefs can become blurred with their partner’s. Since each person needs to establish their own set of boundaries, this may take time, but it is possible.

  1. What are the Consequences?

There have to be consequences for not following rules. These can be consequences for you or someone else. For example, if your friends persistently get drunk at social occasions, you may need to start finding new friends.

You also have to expect that maybe the other party will make a mistake from time to time. In which case, you have to figure out an alternative plan for what to do if your boundaries are disrespected. For example, you may decide to leave the social event at the first sign of drunkenness.

  1. Communicate Clearly

The most important thing when communicating is explaining your reasoning. Be specific, but do not set unrealistic expectations. This is why you have to define your motives and identify how this will help you in your recovery. If you can’t convince yourself that it’s necessary, how can you convince someone else?

When communicating your boundaries, you have to be firm but you also have to be prepared to negotiate. You have to expect that the person may disagree, in which case you need to have an alternative plan. You also need to set clear consequences, ones that you will stick to.

The other important thing is to always respect the other party, as well as yourself. Don’t be passive-aggressive or threatening. Rather, try to figure out what works for both of you. People will respect your boundaries if you respect theirs. It is important to understand that you can only set and work on your own boundaries ““ you cannot expect to impose boundaries on other people.

  1. Stick To Your Word

Don’t apologise for asking someone to respect your boundaries and be strict when it comes to following them. Establishing and maintaining boundaries in addiction recovery can be difficult, especially if you have low self-esteem.

If people betray your agreement, don’t take it personally and follow through with the set consequences. However, also be mindful of the situation and show respect. This is how you gain respect from others. If they see you are serious, but at the same time respectful of them, they will be more inclined to work with you.

It takes willpower to establish and enforce personal boundaries. However, with practice, you will gain confidence.

When Your Boundaries Are Not Respected

If other people, or even you, don’t respect set boundaries, it can be detrimental to your recovery and it can grow into a larger issue. Furthermore, if you feel the other party doesn’t respect you, you might feel like a failure. This can lower your motivation to maintain sobriety and improve your life, especially in moments of hardship. You will also be less likely to establish or maintain boundaries in the future.

Support groups can be very helpful in this aspect, for both parties involved. Talking with others can be useful in directing the situation and seeing what went wrong where? Understanding why boundaries were not respected will help you determine your next steps forward.

If you feel that you are having problems with boundaries with your friends or family, suggest that they attend a support group, such as Al-Anon. Alternatively, suggest that they attend a meeting with you. It can help them gain a different perspective if they talk to someone else. Hearing from other people that have dealt (or are dealing) with similar problems may help them understand you and your situation better.

However, if a person continuously disrespects you and your boundaries, you have to realise that this may ruin your chances at recovery. Remember, you can’t change the person, but you can change how you react to them. In the worst case scenario, you may have to distance yourself from that person, because your well-being should come first.

The Dangers of Social Drinking

From celebrations to casual nights out, alcohol is nearly everywhere these days. Social drinking, especially in the UK, is a common part of our culture. About 57% of adults in Great Britain consume alcohol to some degree. And today, it seems almost unavoidable, especially when it comes to social gatherings. There are many reasons why alcohol is so omnipresent. Some people use it as a social lubricant while others see it as a treat. If used responsibly and in moderation, it is not necessarily a problem. However, social drinking can easily transform into problem drinking if one is not careful.

Defining the Social Drinker

From an official standpoint, a social drinker is someone that drinks in moderation, largely in social circumstances and rarely to the point when it causes problems. A social drinker tends to stick to limits, be it the number of drinks or the money spent. Neither they nor their friends find their drinking habits worrisome.

However, people often have a skewed perspective skewed perception of what a social drinker really is or what “drinking in moderation” actually means. They may think they are a social drinker because they only drink when they’re out with friends. They ignore the part where their nights always end with a binge and/or hangover.

By UK standards, a moderate drinker does not exceed 14 units a week. Meanwhile, binge drinking is defined as having more than 6 units per sitting for women or 8 units for men. Unfortunately, a lot of people often exceed one of those two limits, and still classify themselves as “social drinkers”.

Even in moderation, alcohol can become a problem. Just because someone sees themselves as a social drinker doesn’t mean they are immune to alcohol-related problems. Excessive consumption, even occasionally, can lead to both physical and mental complications, including addiction.

When Social Drinking Becomes a Problem

It’s a fine line between social drinking and problem drinking, and an easy one to cross. Generally speaking, when drinks with friends becomes more focused on the alcohol rather than the social aspect, it is a major sign of a developing dependence.

  1. You Drink to be Social

If you find that you can’t function socially without a drink or two, this is a major warning sign. While alcohol is commonly used as a social lubricant, it should not be a requirement.   Make sure that you drink because you enjoy your drink, not because you want to “loosen up”. It is even more worrisome if you start pre-drinking before a social gathering, as that is a symptom of a larger problem.

  1. Your Drinking Habits Have Changed

Whether it’s peer pressure, tolerance, or a carefree attitude, increased alcohol consumption should be noted. It is easy to get distracted when you’re drinking and socialising, but over time, that can result in you drinking larger amounts than before.

If social drinking is a regular affair for you, you may have developed a tolerance as well. Drinking increasing amounts of alcohol raises the risks associated with it and can lead to dependence and addiction.

  1. Problems Become Noticeable

If you find yourself regularly getting drunk or having hangovers, this is a sign of unhealthy behaviour. Alternatively, you might realise that your social evenings have started to cause more problems than they did before.

When others start to comment on your drinking behaviour, this is another warning sign. The moment you or your friends start to notice the negative consequences of your drinking, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your habits.

  1. Peer Pressure

If your friends push you to drink when you don’t want to, this is a clear sign that they may not be your real friends. You should always reevaluate any relationship if the other person puts you into harm’s way.

How to Stop Social Drinking

Socialising doesn’t necessarily require drinking and there are plenty of ways to spend time with your friends without alcohol being involved. If drinks have become a norm at get-togethers, it will feel difficult to turn things around. Even partial sobriety is not easy, as it requires a change of mindset and behaviour. However, with the proper motivation, it can be done.

It may not be possible to convince everyone in your group to stop drinking, but you can still take control of your own actions. To make it easier, here are some tips that can help:

  1. Do Something Different

Instead of meeting your friends at a pub, suggest alternative entertainment. Don’t be afraid to try something new. When you’re in a group, the right activity can be more bonding than conversations over drinks.

  1. Keep A Positive Attitude

When you first try to be sober in a social setting, it may feel awkward and difficult. Your friends may find it strange at first too. However, remember that the moment will pass. People will quickly forget that you’re not drinking, and won’t care provided they have a few drinks themselves. In time, you will realise that you don’t need alcohol to have fun, and hopefully, your friends will as well.

  1. Stick to the Plan

Establish your boundaries, at least with yourself, before you go out. If you’re limiting your drinking, stick to the number you decided on beforehand. If you’re going sober, practice saying no and decide if you are going to give an explanation or not. After all, there’s nothing wrong with simply saying “I’m not drinking tonight”.

If peer pressure becomes too overwhelming, you may decide that you will give some sort of excuse, such as “I’m on a healthy regime”. Alternatively, you may just simply leave the situation. Having a prepared plan will make things easier. Remember that it is perfectly ok for you not to be meeting other people’s expectations. That is something for them to deal with, not you.

  1. Shuffle Your Social Circle

If your current friends are far too focused on drinking, consider spending more time with your more-sober friends. Or even better, invite your less-drinking buddies along to other gatherings so you have some support. Spending time with like-minded people will help strengthen your new habits and serve as a positive influence to others.

  1. Mocktails Can Be Dangerous but Being Thirsty Is Too

Mocktails and alcohol alternatives can be dangerous because they can remind you of your heavy drinking episodes and trigger cravings. However, as long as you have any drink, even water, you won’t have to explain yourself as much.

In addition, when you start having fun, you won’t notice if you’re drinking champagne or sparkling lemonade. However, simply going thirsty is never a good idea because it makes any drink, including alcohol, harder to refuse.

How to Stop Drinking but Still Be Social

Social anxiety and any other type of anxiety can be helped by therapy. However, anxiety in general can also be worsened by chronic or heavy alcohol use, so it may be worth it to spend some time being abstinent first.

When attending a social event sober, it can help to have a few tricks up your sleeve to get started. Once the fun begins, the tension will ease and everyone (even you) will forget who is or isn’t drinking. After a few events, you will also build confidence and realise that you can stop drinking and still be social.

  1. Keep Good Company

If you’re shy to start a conversation, ask a friend to introduce you to people or break the ice. Having someone to support you will also prevent you from reaching for a drink when you feel stressed.

  1. Planning is Key

Read up on the latest headlines and memorise a few conversation starters before an event. Think if there are any funny anecdotes or pictures that you can share ““ a good story will captivate everyone’s interest. If nothing else, giving a [genuine] compliment can spark a few minutes of chit-chat.

However, to begin with, it may be helpful to have an exit strategy ready in case it all becomes too much. This might consist of having somebody to phone after a short time at the gathering, or if you feel you need support or even rescue. After all, you don’t want to torture yourself and extreme anxiety can become quite traumatic, so it’s best to start with short sessions.

  1. Looks Matter

You’ll feel more confident if you feel better about yourself, so dress in a way that makes you comfortable with yourself. Feeling comfortable will instantly make you more social and extraverted. Clothing and accessories, such as a statement necklace or funny t-shirt, can also be great conversation starters.

When to Seek Help

It may take time to get used to not drinking but it can be done. However, if you find that your or your friends’ drinking habits are getting out of hand, it may be time to reevaluate whether your social drinking is actually social drinking.

If you find yourself reaching for a drink to ease social anxiety, you need to address that aspect as well as your drinking habits. Quitting alcohol without dealing with underlying issues will be likely to lead you back to drinking or push you to pursue other anxiety-relieving substances.

Social anxiety can be linked to low self-esteem and the best way to work on this is simply to face reality and take sensible steps to deal with the situation rather than setting impossible challenges for yourself.

Don’t be afraid to speak up to your friends if you’re concerned. Alternatively, it can help to talk to a counsellor or attend an AA meeting to put things in perspective. Time flies when you’re having fun, but fun can easily turn into something else if you’re not careful.

Is there an ‘Addictive Personality’?

You may be wondering if you or someone you know has an addictive personality. And probably, we’ve all been obsessed over something at some point. But is obsession the same as addiction? Does this mean we have an “addictive personality”? While some of us tend to get hooked on things more easily than others, the so-called “addictive personality” can be misleading. There is no medical diagnosis for such a condition.

Certain personality traits are often found in people with addictions, but there is no specific set of traits or behaviours that apply to all. Although professionals continue to explore the connection between the two, there is more to addiction than a formula.

What is An Addiction Really?

Addiction is a complex subject. It is not a disease that is caused by a virus, there are no genetic predispositions that guarantee its development. Addiction is more than that.

However, it has been proven that there are a number of genetic, psychological and environmental factors that can make a person more prone to addiction. Also, some substances are more addictive than others. However, no set combination of these can be said to cause addiction. A person can have none of these factors and still become addicted, or they can have all of them and never develop a problem.

Addiction is classified as a legitimate medical disorder and there are a set of symptoms that are found in all addicted persons. Although there are personality traits common in people with addictions, there are no universal signs that constitute the label “addictive personality disorder”.

We nearly all exhibit some signs of an addictive personality at some time or other. Perhaps we need our daily fix of coffee every morning, or we spend an inordinate amount of time reading books. Is that an addiction? Not really.

Socially accepted behaviours, such as caffeine-drinking, excessive TV-watching, or obsessive fandom are not dangerous addictions unless people continue to follow them, despite serious negative consequences. Even when it comes to alcohol, a person who drinks a lot is not necessarily an alcoholic.

An addiction has to have a significant negative impact on a person’s life or well-being to be a serious disorder. Your kid’s obsession with the movie “Frozen” is probably not a cause for alarm. However, if your child spends so much time playing video games that they miss out on schoolwork or socialising, that’s a different story.

The Addictive Personality: Addiction and Dual-Diagnosis

The interest of professionals in the “addictive personality” may have been influenced by high rates of dual-diagnosis among people with addictions. Many addicts have underlying conditions, such as depression, PTSD, or a personality disorder that contribute to their addiction. For example, depressive symptoms are noted in about 30-50% of alcoholics.

In a study from 1995, data showed high levels of prevalence of personality disorders in addicted individuals. Depending on the substance, this ranged from 44-79%. Of all of these, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), borderline personality disorder (BPD) and avoidant personality disorder (APD) were the most common. Of course, there are many personality disorders, and each one is different. While they share some commonalities, ultimately, they are not the same thing.

Some years ago, Alcoholics Anonymous theorised that alcoholism is a form of antisocial personality disorder. While the symptoms of the disorder are found in about 58% of alcoholics, it does not speak for the rest of them. In addition, there are many people with ASPD that do not have any addictions.

Having a mental health issue can make a person more prone to addiction, but not necessarily because of the issue itself. A person may have developed the problem because they were raised in a poor environment. However, a poor environment itself might indirectly contribute to addiction.

Signs of an Addictive Personality

Although there are no universal characteristics, there are certain behaviours or traits that are commonly noticed among addicted individuals. The traits of an addictive personality, or those that are often noticed in people with addictions include:

  • Impulsivity
  • Risk-taking
  • Cautious behaviour
  • Adventure or sensation seeking behaviour
  • Obsessive and compulsive behaviour
  • Low self-esteem
  • Nonconformity
  • Anti-social or deviant behaviour
  • High levels of stress or anxiety
  • High emotional response
  • Apathetic manner
  • Lack of coping skills or self-regulation
  • Lack of commitment to personal values, goals or achievement

You may think that some of these are contradictory. How can someone be on edge with high levels of anxiety and be apathetic at the same time? How can someone be cautious and a risk-taker? This demonstrates that there is no easy-to-spot addictive personality. If anything, there may be multiple types of addictive personalities.

Correlation is Not Causation

Quite often, research into addictive personality produces complexity and confusion. For example, it is true that people with low self-esteem can be more prone to addiction, but the correlation between the two does not prove causation.

Likewise, someone who has good self-regulation and control over their lives is less likely to be addicted. However, that person may live in a high-stress environment and turn to substances as a coping mechanism.

In addition, people with the mentioned traits can develop a substance abuse problem but not an actual addiction. There is a difference. If we were to identify an “addictive personality formula”, a person who does not have the signs and symptoms of such may falsely believe they are safe, and cannot be addicted. But addiction can happen to anyone.

Alternatively, a person who defines themselves by their an “addictive personality” may come to accept addiction as their fate. This may discourage them from getting treatment, if they ever develop a problem.

The concept of an addictive personality is largely misunderstood  and tends to have negative connotations. However, paradoxically, some of these traits can be positive signs too. For example, compulsive risk taking, can also be an indication of a strong leader. If we start associating certain characteristics with the stigmatised image of an addict, we may end up suppressing a functional, healthy person’s personality.

How can I identify a problem?

Addiction is more than just personality. It is the combination of a number of factors. While some of these can be found in people with addictions, they do not automatically predispose them to it.

Having said that, although you cannot use personality traits to diagnose a person, they can often be used to identify someone that’s at high risk of addiction. However, in such cases, one should also remember that other factors, such as environment, have a strong influence as well.

Rather than trying to predict the future, it is better to take an educated view and watch out for a potential problem.

While an alcohol or drug problem may be easier to recognise, behavioural addictions can be less so. If you are worried about yourself or someone else, it is best to look for specific signs of addiction.

If an activity is causing negative consequences in your life, you might have a problem. If you continue with the activity despite these consequences, you are very likely to have a problem. Any behaviour that concerns you should be addressed with professional help.

What is a “Dry Drunk”?

The term “dry drunk” may not make sense at first. After all, isn’t “Dry January” the same as “sober January”? So how can someone be sober and a drunk at the same time? A dry drunk is defined as a person who has become abstinent from alcohol, but maintains the same alcoholic behaviour patterns and attitudes from the time they weren’t sober. It is also referred to as “untreated alcoholism” or an alcoholic’s post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS).

This phenomenon can happen for a number of reasons, but mainly, it is caused by not addressing the underlying issues that lead to addiction in the first place. It is thus a clear indication of the complexity of this illness physical, mental, and spiritual.

Of course, this syndrome is not restricted to alcoholics. The symptoms of a dry drunk can be found with every type of addiction.

Where Does “Dry Drunk” Come From?

The so-called “dry drunk syndrome” originates from Alcoholics Anonymous. One of the creators coined the term to describe those in recovery with “the presence of actions and attitudes that characterised the alcoholic prior to recovery”. It was used to refer to people who did not commit fully to the 12 steps of the programme.

Addiction professionals do not generally use this term, choosing instead to label a person with a “high risk for relapse”. This makes sense, considering that dry drunks exhibit similar symptoms to someone that is relapsing.

Symptoms of Dry Drunk Syndrome

A dry drunk will exhibit similar symptoms of those of an active alcoholic, despite being sober. Common signs of dry drunk syndrome include:

  • Impulsive, or risk-taking behaviour
  • Self-pity and self-defeating attitudes
  • Negative emotions toward sobriety and recovery
  • Anxiety about relapsing
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Low tolerance of stress
  • Low mood
  • Blaming others for their actions
  • Resentment toward loved ones
  • Resentment toward people without addiction
  • Nostalgia about past use
  • Self-centred thoughts and behaviours
  • Developing other bad habits or even a cross-addiction

Black and white thinking is also common among dry drunks, which is why they can be difficult to deal with. However, just like someone who is relapsing, the person needs help now more than ever.

Why Does It Happen?

Treating addiction is more than achieving sobriety. It’s not just about quitting drinking; it’s about addressing all aspects of the disease. This is why simply detoxing or quitting with willpower alone is not enough to enter or maintain recovery.

Based on this, it is not surprising that this phenomenon is more common among people who try to quit addiction on their own, without professional help.

There are a number of reasons why dry drunk syndrome can happen. In addition to lack of proper treatment, a person may have unrealistic expectations about recovery. They may think it’ll be easier than it is. Alternatively, they may hope that one day, they’ll be able to drink normally again.

Aftercare is a key component of addiction recovery

Inadequate treatment or neglecting aftercare makes this worse. Part of recovery is learning how to live without addiction. If the person was using alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism, they need to learn new coping mechanisms to survive. Otherwise, when things get hard, they will only think of reaching for their crutch. Similarly, they may not know how to deal with their emotions, which is why they might act out or seem unstable at times.

It is common for addicts to think that substance use is the root of their problem. In most cases, however, it is not that simple. For example, someone may turn to alcohol as a way to cope with their depression. If this is not addressed, which can only be done via therapy, the person will be likely to relapse, or become a dry drunk in the process.

Lack of proper support or loss of focus, especially on the mental aspects of recovery, can also contribute to becoming a dry drunk. The person who struggles alone may become discouraged with sobriety. A dry drunk will be tempted to give up and relapse altogether. This is why self help fellowships are so successful, because of the support and inspiration they provide.

How to Help A Dry Drunk

People living with or close to an untreated alcoholic will know how difficult the situation can be. Living with a dry drunk can be just as daunting, if not worse. At such moments, it is important to remember that recovery is a life-long project, and sometimes there are setbacks. As with relapse, a person with dry drunk syndrome needs extra support to get back on their feet.

  1. Encourage Treatment

If the dry drunk is in recovery, they may lose their motivation at times, so encourage them to keep going. Aftercare can sometimes be placed on the back burner, but it is crucial to sustaining sobriety. Remind them that they’ve got this far, so they shouldn’t give up now.

Many people who recovered from dry drunk syndrome mentioned that support groups and fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous were a great help. Talking with other people facing the same difficulties can be a powerful motivating force.

You might find that some have been abstinent via self-help treatments or less-intensive options such as 12-step fellowships but are still struggling. In this case, suggest getting professional treatment or at least some individual counselling. When it comes to severe addictions, a person may need a more involved and intensive programme, such as a residential rehab.

  1. Express Concern

Just like in the beginning  before they sobered up, it may be good to approach the person and express your concern. However, make sure to address them with sympathy and compassion. The reason they became sober was probably because they were unhappy with themselves. Now that they are sober, and things don’t seem any better, they may feel even worse.

For example, if they are depressed and discouraged, don’t use cliches like, “Be positive,” as that can come out as invalidating. Don’t make them feel more guilty or ashamed – they are likely to already feel so.

However, do provide hope, remind them why they started and how far they’ve come. Reflect on the positive outcomes of their sobriety.

  1. Be Their Guide

Dry drunks are likely to feel depressed and discouraged, so they may not be interested in the hobbies they once enjoyed, or forget how much fun they can be. Don’t hesitate to make suggestions about alternative activities, along with reminding them of their past hobbies. If you can, suggest doing something entertaining with them. If a person has company, they’re more likely to take interest.

  1. Don’t Enable

It is not unheard of for a loved one to have unrealistic expectations about recovery as well. You may wonder why, despite them becoming sober, things aren’t any easier. In certain situations, you might even think they were more stable when they were drinking. No matter what, don’t suggest or encourage them to relapse. Remind yourself that this is a part of recovery, and if taken care of, will only strengthen the person in the long run.

  1. Ask For Help

If you’re struggling with the situation and don’t know how to help a dry drunk or a person in relapse, don’t hesitate to reach out for help yourself. Family-focused support groups such as Al-Anon can provide you with useful advice on how to deal with the problem at hand.

If you think your loved one is in danger of relapsing, you can contact their treatment centre (if they attended one) for guidance. You can also call Castle Craig at 0808 274 1526 (UK) or +44 1721 788085 (international) to get a professional view on the next steps to take.

Grief and Addiction

Grief affects us all at some point in life. It is a natural emotional response to a traumatic experience, but it is also a complex process. No two people experience grief the same way and there is no normal period of grieving. For some people, it may last months, or years. It can have a huge impact on your life. For those in addiction recovery, grief can be a trigger for relapse. Or, it can spur someone to console themselves with substance abuse for the first time.

Grief doesn’t only come from death. It can happen from the loss of anything important or a drastic change in life. This can be a breakup, divorce, loss of a job, or departure from one’s home town. Grief can even be felt when one breaks away from their addiction. A person in recovery may mourn the loss of alcohol or drugs, something they have learned to rely on.

How Grief Affects People

People experience and express their grief in different ways. Some people may feel sad, others angry. Some people may bury themselves in work or use the overwhelming emotions as fuel to move on. Certain people might appear normal, or their grief may be delayed. Others will lash out by engaging in risky behaviours. There are many ways to grieve and there is no right or wrong approach to it.

The only exception is if that grief results in self-harm, and substance abuse falls into that category. As an attempt to block emotions or erase memories, some people turn to alcohol or drugs as self-medication. Those who live in a culture where they’re taught to “suck it up”, instead of properly expressing emotion, may be even more likely to reach for substances as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, this method can quickly lead to addiction.

While each person experiences bereavement in a unique way, most people go through some or all of the five stages of grief after a traumatic loss.

Stages of Grief

Grief is a process that presents itself in various stages. These stages do not come in any specific order and some people may skip certain stages altogether. How long a person lingers in each stage can also vary, and it is perfectly normal to go back and forth from one stage to another. The five stages of grief are:

Denial

After receiving bad news, a person may refuse to believe what has happened. Because the resulting emotions are strong, sudden, and shocking, the mind uses denial as a temporary defense mechanism.

Anger

As one comes to realise the reality of the situation, they may feel and/or express anger. It may be a themselves, others, God, or even the person that they lost.

Bargaining

Bargaining comes when the initial emotions settle down, so a person tries to reason with themselves or others about how things could have gone differently. They may wonder if there was anything they could’ve done to prevent it.

Depression

After a person finally realises that what has happened actually happened, that’s when the depression hits. Depression is more than sadness ““ it can make a person feel worthless and disenchanted with life.

Acceptance

The final stage is acceptance, where the person comes to accept that there is nothing they could’ve done then and nothing they can do now. This is when a person begins to move on with their life.

What is Complicated Grief?

If grief is not properly dealt with, it can turn into complicated grief. Also known as complicated bereavement, this is a condition that can affect anyone who hasn’t found a way to cope with their emotions. Complicated grief is when a person is stuck or escalating in their grief. If not addressed, it has the potential to increase negative emotions further. About 10% of people are affected by it, and many are also prone to addiction.

Although grief is not a mental disorder, complicated grief may potentially be classified as one in the future, as it presents itself with symptoms similar to major depression and PTSD. These include:

  • Continuous focus on what was lost
  • Wallowing in the past
  • Inability to focus on the present or future
  • Anhedonia
  • Either obsessing or avoiding any reminders of the loss
  • Neglecting self-care and responsibilities
  • Feeling that life is meaningless
  • Isolation
  • Paranoia
  • Derealisation or detachment from reality
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts and attempts

The Connection Between Grief and Addiction

Grief and addiction have a correlational relationship. It is well-known that grief can cause addiction, trigger relapse, and aggravate other psychological disorders, especially if it is long-lasting. If grief, or any emotion, is suppressed, it can lead one to feel overwhelmed. In time, they may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope. This makes bereavement and addiction a dangerous combination.

If someone is in recovery, they are already sensitive and vulnerable. Thus, a sudden emotional shock or prolonged period of grief can easily trigger relapse.

The use of substances may provide temporary relief but it will make things worse later. When the high wears off, the normal state will feel much worse than before. And in the long-term, repeated use can cause changes to the brain which will disrupt emotional regulation and natural coping mechanisms.

Drugs and alcohol may also be used as a form of self-harm. This is highly destructive behaviour and should be addressed immediately if noticed.

Coping with Grief

It is important to find healthy ways to cope with grief in order to prevent addiction or relapse. Remember, it is perfectly fine to express your emotions and take all the time you need to deal with what has happened. It helps to talk to others or join a support group.

Maintain a routine and your self-care. It is one of the simplest things you can do that will make a dramatic difference. This is how you tell yourself that life goes on and you need to keep going with it.

Don’t forget to continue doing the things you enjoy or even pick up a new hobby. Not only does this serve as a distraction but also a reminder of the good things in life.

Finally, when you’re ready, take some time to say goodbye to what you’ve lost. Things like writing a letter to your ex-spouse or organising a funeral for a relative help your mind step away from the situation.

If you feel that your grieving process is too overwhelming, to the point where you can’t function in normal life, take care of yourself, or deal with responsibilities, it is time to get professional help.

Getting Help for Grief and Addiction

Between bereavement and addiction, there is a lot that one has to deal with at the same time. Whether a person has relapsed or is currently dealing with an active addiction, the treatment must address both sides of the coin. If grief is left unresolved, a person will likely end up relapsing.

This is why it is important to seek the right rehab or treatment centre, ideally one that offers grief therapy. It is also helpful if they specialise in dual-diagnosis. The right addiction treatment centre should be able to identify symptoms of grief and address the problem alongside the addiction.

At Castle Craig Hospital, it was not uncommon for addiction patients to arrive with unresolved grief. It may be what contributed to their addiction. To assure a lasting recovery, grief and addiction should be treated simultaneously.

If grief is a problem, a patient needs to understand this. Thus, educating the person about their situation is important. However, before treatment can begin, it is necessary to have a clear head. Therefore, detoxification is a priority.

A structured programme to help with grief and addiction

Group grief therapy is very useful, as it allows patients to share their feelings and not feel alone in their sorrow. Individual and complementary therapies play a key role as well. Often, especially if grief has been ignored, a person may have developed PTSD or other mental disorder. In this case, that too, will need to be addressed separately.

Finally, aftercare is one of the most crucial parts, as the person will need to learn to cope with this and future grievances to prevent relapse. After all, a person may still be in grief long after they leave rehab. For example, in preparation for aftercare, one of the things a person will learn is to plan ahead for encountering triggers.

As with any mental disorder or trauma, proper care is very important. It is even more so if the person has to deal with more than one problem at one time. In addition to treating addiction, Castle Craig focuses on helping their patients come to terms with their grief and move on.

Alcohol Induced Panic Attacks: What are they and Can you Stop Them?

Alcohol can lead to anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes the anxiety and panic attacks are so severe that the only way a person feels they can deal with it is through drinking to self-medicate. There is a clear correlation between alcohol addiction and anxiety and one has the potential to lead to the other. The relationship between the two may be complex, but can also be explained.

People drink for many reasons, and stress and anxiety are common ones. It is true that alcohol can help with anxiety, at least temporarily, but it can also make it worse in the long-run and cause serious panic attacks. While it is normal to feel anxious after heavy drinking, when alcohol-induced panic attacks become a common occurrence, it is a sign of a serious problem.

Is there a connection between alcohol and anxiety?

Alcohol is a common form of self-medication for social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. In fact, about 25% of people with panic disorder have a history of alcohol dependence.

Not only does anxiety lead to drinking, and drinking lead to anxiety, but the two trigger each other into a spiralling cycle. For example, anxiety makes a person start drinking, which worsens their anxiety, which leads them to drink more, and worsen their anxiety further.

Alcohol causes anxiety because it upsets hormones, brain function, and sleep. When the body and mind haven’t had the opportunity to rest, a person may feel on edge and irritable. If a person is also taking antidepressants, which is not uncommon for people with anxiety, the combination of the two worsens the condition and can trigger a severe panic attack.

Long-term alcohol abuse can not only induce panic attacks but can also lead to PTSD. This becomes even more true if a person has an anxiety or panic disorder. Alcohol not only contributes to anxiety but rewires the part of the brain responsible for coping with fear. Because of this, a person will hold on to fear-inducing associations longer, and will have a harder time recovering from trauma.

There is also evidence that chronic alcohol abuse can lead to lasting anxiety, even after a person becomes sober.

What causes panic attacks after drinking alcohol?

A panic attack, after alcohol or otherwise, is an episode of extreme anxiety where emotions are amplified and terrifying. A person may experience shortness of breath or hyperventilate and feel detached from reality. Their mind is overloaded with worrying thoughts and fears, even of things that do not present any clear and immediate danger.

There are several explanations why alcohol is responsible. If you look at the biological side of things, it is well-known that alcohol causes a number of physiological symptoms such as dehydration, low blood sugar, and elevated heart rate. These may make a person feel uneasy, dizzy, and irritable, and may lead to a panic attack. It’s not just alcohol that causes this. Too much of some drugs such as, caffeine, or even sugar can prompt a similar response.

Because alcohol affects GABA, an inhibiting neurotransmitter in the brain, it does make a person feel calmer at first. It acts like a depressant and sedative. However, when the alcohol wears off, GABA levels decrease, triggering an anxious, exaggerated and overstimulated state.

Serotonin levels go up and down in a similar fashion. They go up when a person drinks, and crash when they stop. If a person drinks regularly, the natural GABA and serotonin levels can get destabilised, making withdrawal symptoms and anxiety attacks worse.

Although there is no evident source for the anxiety, these symptoms are interpreted by the brain as stress and worry due to biofeedback. Thus, small things may easily upset them, and certain words or actions may be misunderstood. Something that would normally be ignored will now trigger paranoia and panic.

If blackouts are involved, the extra stress of the unknown, especially if poor judgement was involved, can increase anxiety levels further.

What is “hangxiety”?

Have you ever felt “on edge” after a night of drinking? Maybe it’s just a simple feeling of “something’s not right” or you’re just extra sensitive to everything going on around you? Or perhaps you’re actually paranoid or flat-out scared, and can’t explain why. This phenomenon is known as an anxiety hangover, or more casually, “hangxiety”.

Although even a heavy night of drinking can trigger anxiety, major withdrawal symptoms and bad hangovers make alcohol panic attacks even more likely. Hangovers can also add to stress, if a person can’t function, or has to miss work/school.

If it’s a severe hangover, a person can experience:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Trembling.
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis

These symptoms sound similar to a panic attack don’t they? Your brain will think so as well. Although these are typical symptoms of a hangover, via biofeedback, they can trick your brain into having a real one.

Are alcohol-induced panic attacks a sign of addiction?

Because the alcohol and anxiety cycle feeds on itself, and over time causes a person to drink more, eventually it may lead to addiction. If a person uses alcohol as a form of self-medication, it can quickly escalate into a serious problem. If a person regularly drinks to the point where alcohol panic attacks are the norm, it is a sign of addiction.

Alcohol-induced panic attacks are scary and you might feel like cutting down on your drinking. If the alcohol panic attack is hangover related, that is a warning sign as well. Another thing to watch out for is increases in the severity and frequency of anxiety levels and alcohol panic attacks. These are evidence that you are either drinking increasing amounts, or that your brain has already been affected.

If you can’t cut down on drinking despite recurring panic attacks or anxiety hangovers, then it would be a good idea to look into getting help.

How to Deal With Alcohol Panic Attacks

If you experience an alcohol-induced panic attack, it is important to take the right steps to calm yourself as soon as possible. However, while it is important to deal with the panic attack, it is also important to acknowledge the situation and the fear you feel. No matter what it is. By acknowledging it, you will help your mind understand what is going on so as to understand that the situation will pass.

1. Talk to a friend

If you have a sympathetic friend, stay or chat with them. It can be a good distraction, and the company will provide added comfort. Otherwise, do something relaxing that will take your mind off the situation. Breathing exercises and simple meditation can help provide relief.

2. Mindfulness

Engage in some calming breathing techniques to focus your mind.

3. Get some rest

When you’re having a hangover, sleep can do wonders. Getting proper rest can ease panic-inducing symptoms and prevent a panic attack. Water and easily digestible carbohydrates will help refuel your body and brain, and counteract low blood sugar. Contrary to popular advice, stimulants such as caffeine or sugar, or even smoking, can make both the hangover and the anxiety worse, so avoid them.

4. Eat a healthy diet

If severe anxiety or panic attacks are a problem for you, make sure you get proper nutrition and exercise. Stable blood sugar is important for a stable mind. Psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation can help you deal with anxiety.

5. Get outside into nature

Nature or ‘green therapy’ has a proven effect on anxiety levels and calming panic attacks. 

6. Examine your drinking habits.

If your panic attacks are alcohol-related, you should also re-examine your drinking patterns and consider cutting down on your drinking.

7. Seek professional advice

If you are worried about your drinking and don’t feel you can stop, you should seek professional advice or speak to a telephone helpline such as Alcoholics Anonymous or The Samaritans.

If you have been trying to quit drinking for a while but you can’t stop despite the negative consequences on your life, you might want to consider joining a 4-6 week treatment programme at an alcohol rehab clinic like Castle Craig in the UK. At this type of clinic you will undergo detox (if needed) and engage with a therapist who will listen to you and help you develop the skills you need to stay sober. An intensive treatment programme will also include educational presentations delivered by therapists, access to a fitness programme and complementary therapies such as equine therapy. A continuing care plan is essential to mitigate the risk of relapse. A skilled therapist will assess your anxiety levels and panic attacks and be able to create a treatment plan that addresses these issues. 

The Dangers of Mixing Painkillers and Alcohol

Painkillers and alcohol are some of the most commonly mixed drugs ““ both intentionally and unintentionally. The abuse of painkillers or alcohol on their own is dangerous. But when combined, it can result in dangerous and potentially lethal side effects. Painkillers are commonly prescribed for a number of reasons such as an injury, chronic pain, or post-surgery aftercare. They can be very addictive, especially if misused. The issue becomes even more serious when alcohol is involved.

Many people disregard or even ignore the recommendation to avoid drinking while taking prescription painkillers. This often leads to unintended side effects and other negative consequences. Others combine the two on purpose, with the intent of achieving a high.

Types of Painkillers Commonly Combined with Alcohol

The most common painkiller and alcohol combination involves opiate-based prescription drugs. These include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, methadone, and buprenorphine. However, there are also non-opioid prescription painkillers, that can cause similar interactions.

The painkiller and alcohol combination is not limited to just prescription painkillers. Street drugs, such as heroin, produce the same effects.

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol, NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen), and aspirin, can also be mixed with alcohol. Although this often qualifies under unintentional mixing, this can be just as dangerous.

Effects of Mixing Painkillers and Alcohol

People who start abusing painkillers and alcohol usually chase the opiate high. The intoxicating effects of the combination produce a feeling of euphoria and relaxation or sleepiness. If the person is in pain, they will feel an intensified relief from it.

However, there are many unpleasant side effects from combining the two. These include:

  • Dizziness
  • Poor judgement and confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Severe sedation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unconsciousness

Painkiller and alcohol side effects extend to non-opiate varieties as well. Even a seemingly harmless painkiller such as ibuprofen can result in irritation to the gut.

Why It’s Dangerous to Mix Painkillers and Alcohol

With severe or long-term abuse, there are more dramatic consequences than the side effects listed above. Both painkillers and alcohol are considered depressant drugs, meaning they slow down the brain and body functions.

When taken together, they amplify each other’s effects more than double. Because of this, the risk of side-effects or an overdose is considerably elevated when the two are taken together. If the painkiller is a time-release pill, it can be much worse. Even a small drink can cause a rapid release of the full dose into the body.

Organ damage is likely to occur with repeated abuse of painkillers and alcohol. The liver is one of the main organs prone to damage from this. However, other organs, including the heart, brain, kidneys, pancreas, and respiratory system, can be damaged as well.

The respiratory system is notably depressed by the mix of opioid-based painkillers and alcohol. Because of this, oxygen deprivation is a leading cause of the damage, especially to the brain. With chronic abuse, a person will often develop symptoms such as depression, mood swings, or psychosis. They’re also likely to experience mental impairment including slowed reaction time, confusion, and memory loss.

Memory loss is a very prominent problem with the painkiller and alcohol combination. Both drugs interfere with your memory, especially when taken in large amounts. Memory loss is also intensified because the combination blocks one’s emotional reaction, particularly to pain. When emotions are blocked, the brain fails to retain memories. Due to all this, over time, it is not unusual for a person to experience regular blackouts.

Overdose on Painkillers and Alcohol

Of course, overdose is the number one danger when it comes to mixing painkillers and alcohol. This is becoming a more common occurrence in many countries. Signs of an overdose from painkillers and alcohol are:

  • Constricted pupils
  • Clammy skin
  • Drop in body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Confusion/mental impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Poor circulation (blue fingers or lips)
  • Irregular or slow breathing
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Seizures

Signs of Painkiller and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction is another likely possibility when painkillers and alcohol are repeatedly abused. Unfortunately, because painkillers are often prescribed, people don’t often notice that they have a problem until it’s too late. It can be especially difficult to spot a functioning alcoholic or drug user because it is easy for them to deny they have a problem when they can still function normally.

Whether a person is abusing painkillers alone or abusing both painkillers and alcohol, there are some behaviours you can look out for that may signify a potential problem. These include:

  • Trying to acquire extra prescriptions
  • “Losing” a prescription as an attempt to get more
  • Stealing or borrowing medication from friends/family
  • Denial or defensiveness when confronted

You can also look for general signs of painkiller and alcohol misuse such as:

  • Memory loss and blackouts
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mood swings, depression or anxiety
  • Increased fatigue
  • Appearance of intoxication (slurred speech, impaired mobility)

Treating Addiction

If you suspect an addiction to painkillers and alcohol, you should seek treatment without delay. Both drugs can be very dangerous if misused for a long time, and treatment can become more complicated.

A suitably qualified inpatient rehab is recommended for several reasons. With painkiller and alcohol addiction, you should look for a medically managed facility with a capability or treating dual diagnosis as well.

Addiction treatment for either painkillers, especially opiate-based painkillers, or alcohol requires more involvement than some other drugs. Largely, this is because the detoxification from either is not pleasant and usually needs medical supervision. Usually, a patient will need to slowly taper off their dose of both over time. With opiate and alcohol detoxification, going “cold turkey” can be life-threatening.

Someone with a painkiller and alcohol addiction needs to be treated for two separate addictions. It is also likely that the person has a secondary medical issue, such as chronic pain or psychological distress, which prompted them to start taking painkillers in the first place. Without appropriate therapy to address either or both issues, the person may be in danger of relapse after treatment.

Get Help Now

Castle Craig Hospital understands all the necessary aspects of treatment for painkiller and alcohol addiction. Because detox can be dangerous, patients are constantly monitored by medical staff around the clock. If necessary, appropriate medication can be given to ease withdrawal.

Each patient undergoes a full assessment upon admission to create a customised treatment plan which will address all issues relating to addiction and dual diagnosis.

Because the patient may be dealing with chronic pain, Castle Craig provides a pain-management programme that helps the patient learn to address their pain with alternative methods. This includes learning coping techniques via psychotherapy, physical therapy, and complementary therapies such as acupuncture or yoga.

Painkiller and alcohol addiction is a serious matter that needs appropriate attention and treatment. As with any drug addiction, it is always better to address the problem as soon as possible. Not only can this make treatment easier, but it will also help prevent long-term health damage.

The 7 Best Exercises for Addiction Recovery

Exercise is a key aspect of maintaining one’s health. It has been proven to offer many benefits for both physical and mental well-being. When it comes to addiction and recovery, exercise and physical activity can provide even more advantages which make the journey to sobriety easier. In addition to the positive feelings exercise gives everybody, for those in addiction recovery, exercise has been proven to have a host of other benefits as well. This includes increasing the rate of abstinence, easing withdrawal symptoms, as a distraction from cravings, and relieving anxiety and depression that can arise during recovery.

Most good rehabs now have a gym or pool and many addiction centres encourage exercise as part of treatment. Because exercise reduces the chances of relapse, it is now even being explored as potential treatment for substance abuse on its own.

Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

Exercise offers various benefits, whether you’re in recovery or not. However, there are several reasons why it is even more important for those in addiction treatment to take it up.

  1. Elevated Mood

A lot of people say that exercise makes them happy. There’s a good reason for it. Any form of physical activity releases feel-good hormones such as endorphins. Exercise is a common go-to for anyone as a treatment for depression and stress.

Exercise also allows you to take out the energy you’d normally waste on stress and channel it into something more beneficial. Especially in the early months of addiction recovery, this positive effect of exercise can be a great benefit.

  1. A Good-Night’s Sleep

Exercise is known to improve the quality of sleep. With regular exercise, you will find that you sleep longer and better. It is well-known that sleep is essential for your body and brain to rest and recover.

A good-night’s sleep can also improve overall mood and reduce stress. Think about the many times you’ve been cranky after a night of insomnia.

  1. Increased Energy

Although it may seem contradictory, exercise can actually boost your energy levels. Even if you feel worn down after a good work-out, you will find that you also feel refreshed. For example, if you are falling asleep at work, a brisk walk can help wake you up as much as a coffee.

  1. Distraction

Finding a distracting activity during recovery is important, especially if you’re dealing with cravings. Now that you’re sober, you will have more time to focus on other things instead of your substance. If this territory is unfamiliar to you, you might feel bored. Addiction recovery can be hard, and exercise can be a healthy way to fill your time and take your mind off stressful thoughts.

A regular exercise routine also adds structure to your life. Having some sort of routine is very important when you’re trying to get back on your feet in recovery.

  1. Less Stress

Stress is common in recovery, and can contribute to relapse if not addressed. Perhaps you are anxious that you will not be able to stay sober. Or maybe you are uncertain about doing things in a new way. Such stresses are common. But by doing simple and regular exercise in addiction recovery, you can gain a sense of purpose and competence that help to counter such feelings.

  1. Overall Well-Being

Many people in active addiction fail to take good care of themselves. Many also lose some physical strength. Regular exercise and a good diet can help your body and mind recover, and thus contribute to your sense of wellbeing.

Exercise can also improve your immune system, endurance, skin and muscle tone, and boost your self-confidence. The harder you work on improving yourself, the more results you will see. In turn, witnessing those results will also motivate you to keep going.

How to Stay Active: The 7 Best Exercises for Addiction Recovery

If you’re not participating in physical activities already, you should add some exercise to your recovery plan whatever your age and state of health. There are many ways you can stay active ““ exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous.

Both strenuous/aerobic and mind/body exercises have proven to be effective in recovery. However, where harder drugs have been abused, more intense exercise appears to offer more benefit. Regardless, you can always start somewhere. Once you find an activity that you enjoy, it will not take long to feel the benefits.

If you’re seeking suggestions on where to start, here are some ideas:

A Simple Stroll

If you’ve had to deal with a long-time addiction, you may feel worn down, especially after detox. This may make it hard to engage in any kind of sport in the beginning, so start small. Even a 30-minute stroll in the park can be beneficial. You might find the walk to be so relaxing that you’ll keep going further.

Hiking

Being outside and among nature can boost your mood alone. Not to mention, being in the sun allows you to get some vitamin D.

Hiking doesn’t need to be serious and doesn’t need any special gear apart from some suitable shoes. There are many easy trails you can start with. When you’re tired, you can always take a break and enjoy the scenery. Hiking with a purpose can help motivate you too. Pick a trail that has a view to look forward to at the end.

Yoga

As a less-strenuous alternative, yoga and similar mind-body exercises can benefit you as well. They also double as meditation. There are many types of yoga, and you can always choose a more relaxing practice. Because of the growing popularity, classes can be found in most gyms and community centres.

Swimming

Swimming is a great option for a workout that is significantly easier on the body. If you’re older, you are likely to be looking for exercises that do not impact your joints or muscles too much.

Simply being in water can be very soothing, and swimming doesn’t have to mean doing laps. You can also opt for an hour of freestyle swimming in the pool. Or participate in an aqua-aerobic exercise for some fun!

Dancing

If you’re looking for a form of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise, dancing is a no-brainer. It is also a social activity that your friends will be likely to join in on. Dancing comes in many forms, and classes for all types, from ballet to ballroom to latin, are becoming increasingly popular.

Most studios allow you to sample the first class for free, so you can try a few to find one that’s perfect for you.

Team Sports

Many people find exercising alone to be boring, which is why joining a team sport can be motivating. Like dancing, it is a good way to bond with people and learn to form relationships. Try out football, basketball, rugby or cricket. Or you could go for a less popular team sport, like shinty or frisbee, to find the best fit.

Weight Lifting

Weight lifting can be very beneficial, and fun. However, it should never be undertaken without advice and supervision as it has the potential to harm your tissues.

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder, or an aspiring one, to practice simple light weight-lifting. And you don’t have to lift large weights to get the benefits. If you’re just starting out, doing a few routines with light weights can be sufficient. In no time, you will see progress. Not only is weight-lifting good for the bones, joints, and muscles, but it also reduces depressive symptoms.

If you’re older, some light weight-lifting is highly recommended. It can prevent tissue and bone-mass loss due to ageing, and maintain your physical strength.

Exercise is Not Enough in Addiction Recovery

No matter what type of exercise you choose to engage in, you will find that it will greatly aid in your recovery from addiction. Although it is highly important in aftercare, exercise should also be part of your initial treatment if possible.

In addition to exercise in addiction recovery, you should also focus on nutrition. A healthy diet serves as a complement to exercise, and will greatly improve your well-being if combined.

But remember that exercise is not a replacement for a proper addiction treatment programme. While exercise and physical activity can greatly help with recovery, other aspects of treatment, including therapy, should not be neglected.

Drinking at Work: Alcoholism in the Workplace

Whether you’re taking a sales client out for dinner and wine, or enjoying a pint with colleagues after work, it seems that alcohol definitely has its place in the business world. In fact, you may feel the pressure to engage in social drinking, just to get ahead at work. Unfortunately, when drinking becomes a regular thing, it also has the potential to turn into a problem. Perhaps you are already familiar with alcoholism in the workplace, are struggling with it yourself, or you may be working with a colleague you didn’t realise enjoys that last drink just a little too much. So if your work is starting to seem like a scene from Mad Men, it may be time to address the issue before it gets out of hand.

“Everyone Drinks at Work, Don’t They?”

Alcohol abuse in the workplace is a serious issue and is not exclusive to any occupation. However, drinking is more commonplace in certain fields than others. In fact, in certain companies or positions, alcohol at work is a normal aspect of the corporate culture.

For instance, it is common practice among certain white collar professions. The employees involved may even believe that their careers depend on going out for drinks. In finance and sales, for example, it is normal to mingle with clients over cocktails. Those who travel a lot for business trips or conferences will often find themselves at an after party.

Drinking at work is often a way for colleagues to bond and network, and build relationships with clients. It can also be an easy way to unwind after a stressful day. Others may use it as a performance enhancer. Young professionals today claim that it is difficult to fit in socially without drinking at work.

Alcohol abuse is common in many workplaces

People who work long hours, night shifts, strenuous jobs, or perform monotonous tasks, often engage in problematic drinking at work. Of the entire workforce, between 3-5% are alcohol dependent.

Professionals and executives are likely to drink more. but people working in blue-collar fields are more likely to engage in alcohol abuse. In addition, combining alcoholism and blue collar in dangerous areas such as mining or construction, is more likely to result in injuries or death.

About a quarter of the workforce admits to heavy drinking. In professional and financial occupations, that number rises to about a third. What’s worse is that many more confess to coming in to work either hungover or drunk. Therefore, it is not surprising that up to 40% of workplace accidents can be attributed to irresponsible drinking.

Consequences of Alcoholism in the Workplace

If you have to operate heavy equipment or drive, it is obvious why drinking at work is unacceptable. However, it goes far beyond that as well.

Alcohol abuse leads to a number of problems, not only for the individual, but for their coworkers and the company as a whole. In many cases, the problems can affect the community and the economy in the long run. In the UK, it is estimated that alcohol-related issues cost the UK economy about £6.4 billion a year.

Those who abuse alcohol are likely to be less productive over time, and will often rely on sick days more than necessary. Up to 5% of sick days are reported to be related to alcohol.

Alcoholism in the workplace can wreak havoc indirectly as well. If even one employee’s work performance deteriorates, others may lose their motivation to be their best. As a result, the company morale and reputation can suffer.

When Does Drinking at Work Become a Problem?

Because we’re unlikely to see alcohol leaving the workplace any time soon, it is important to keep things under control. If the corporate culture supports, or even encourages drinking at work, it can be difficult to determine when it becomes a problem. Understanding how and when drinking creates issues can help prevent long-term consequences.

Whether looking at the big picture or an individual, the signs of alcoholism in the workplace are similar. If you are concerned about a colleague, you might look for:

  • Lower productivity
  • Evidence of drinking during the day (or before work)
  • Heavy drinking outside work hours
  • Decreased reliability
  • Neglect of appearance or self-care
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Signs of ongoing stress, anxiety or burnout
  • Increased sensitivity to criticism
  • Regular or increasing sick days and tardiness
  • Increase in easy-to-avoid mistakes or involvement in accidents

If the problem hasn’t yet caused serious consequences, the signs of potential alcoholic behaviour may be hard to spot. Sometimes, the issue covers a specific department or group of colleagues, which can lead to an even more serious situation.

Getting Help for Alcoholism in the Workplace

When alcohol is starting to interfere with business, consider talking to your manager, boss or the HR department. It can be awkward, especially if your boss is one of the people that encourages such behaviour. However, it will be better for your job and the company in the long-run.

If you think a colleague is showing signs of alcoholism, try to talk to them directly first. It can be easy to get caught up in the social drinking culture, so they may not be aware of what’s happening. Early intervention matters in such scenarios, as addiction is easier to address in the beginning. Alcoholism and addiction often go unnoticed until it becomes a crisis.

When speaking to your colleague, express concern as a colleague and friend rather than in a demeaning manner. After all, colleagues should look out for each other. Present the facts first. For example, point out how they have been taking more sick days than usual, where their productivity has decreased, or when you’ve noticed them drinking irresponsibly. In addition, it is important to highlight how their behaviour is affecting others in the company. If necessary, help them realise that they may lose their job if they don’t change.

Protect yourself from alcohol abuse in the workplace

If you notice symptoms of problematic drinking in yourself but don’t want to feel excluded, try pacing your drinks, or swapping them with mocktails. You can also order look-a-like drinks, such as a tonic and lime, instead of a gin and tonic.

You might hesitate to speak up in fear of losing your job. However, ultimately, the company has a responsibility to their employees, especially if they propagate a drinking culture. It is much better for you and the company to allow an employee to take time off for treatment than to lose them all together. Opening up can also help the company reassess their corporate culture and make appropriate changes.

Returning From Rehab

Should you or your colleague take time off for treatment, make sure there is a plan for when you return. Staying sober in a workplace where alcohol seems free-flowing can be stressful, so having support is necessary. If you have a coworker you trust, explain your situation and enlist their support.

It can also help to have some coping strategies in place. For example, will you “come out” about your problem from the start? Or should you have some alternative explanations for not drinking (e.g. I’m on a diet)? Honesty and openness is often the best policy but timing is also important.

In any case, it is important to stick to your aftercare plan, especially in the beginning. While returning back to work may seem like a priority, so is self-care. Don’t miss out on AA meetings. They can be your rock when things become hard to handle.

Of course, if you find the environment too stressful, and you feel that those in control of your workplace are unlikely to change, you should consider looking for a new position elsewhere. This is no different, in many ways, than being in a toxic relationship.

What is Blackout Drinking?

Have you ever had a hard time remembering what happened after a night of drinking? Do you remember bits and pieces, or can you not recall anything at all? If this sounds familiar, you have experienced alcohol-induced amnesia. Also known as blackout drinking, it is mainly associated with excessive or rapid alcohol consumption. However, it’s not only alcohol that is to blame. Other drugs can create the same effect as well.

Although some people may find blackout drinking fun, the reality of doing so is quite dangerous. Not only can blackout drinking cause problems in the short-term, it can also create long-lasting consequences.

What is Blackout Drinking?

A blackout is also referred to as drug or alcohol-induced amnesia and is defined as partial or complete memory loss. Both short and long-term memory may be impaired.

A person is likely to blackout when they consume too much alcohol too fast. However, this is not a strict guideline. It will depend on tolerance, and on the specific person. Some people are more likely to experience blackouts, and others rarely or never do no matter how much they drink.

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not erase memories. Rather, it prevents them from forming in the first place. Alcohol appears to interfere with a process called “transfer encoding”, which is when short-term memories are made into long-term memories.

There are two types of blackouts: en bloc (complete blackout) and fragmentary (partial blackout). Complete blackouts are when a person cannot recall any event from the day before. Partial blackouts are when a person will be able to recall some of the events, or trigger a memory via a reminder. Partial blackouts are also known as brownouts or greyouts.

A Blackout is Not What It Seems

People may associate the term “blackout” with passing out. In this case, that’s not what it means. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A person in the blackout stage of drinking will likely continue to socialise and act normally. Some people may even look sober.

Although the person will seem functional, they will not remember what they said or did the next day. Because of this, if they do something bad, others may refuse to believe that they weren’t mentally there.

Signs of a Blackout

A person in the blackout stage may not be easy to spot. After all, they can carry on a conversation and continue any activity they were engaged in before. However, there are some signs that a person may show once they reach that critical drinking point, such as:

  • Being easily distracted
  • Repeating themselves in conversations
  • Forgetting where they are or what they did, even if very recently
  • Unable to follow the logic of a story or conversation
  • Zoning out or “glassy-eyed stare”
  • Not interested or concerned about what’s going on around them
  • Engaging in risky behaviours

Dangers of Blackout Drinking

A blackout itself is not dangerous if it happens. Rather, it is the excessive or rapid alcohol intake that is.

Alcohol reduces function in various parts of the brain, including that which is responsible for judgement and self-control. Thus, any amount of alcohol can lead to lower inhibitions and poor decision-making.

A person may engage in risky or dangerous activities, such as unprotected sex or drunk driving. They are also more likely to do something illegal. Emotions are affected as well, so the person is likely to get into fights or violent situations. Physical injury is not uncommon either.

The worst part is that they won’t remember what happened or how they got into the mess the next day. This can escalate their problem further. Not only can this cause social issues, but legal issues as well.

Heavy drinking, of course, is tied to a number of health problems in the long-run. This includes brain damage, heart disease, liver disease, anaemia, and of course, alcoholism.

Chronic heavy drinking, even without blackouts, can also lead to Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. Also known as ‘wet brain’, it causes problems with concentration, memory, and cognition.

Although a single blackout itself doesn’t damage the brain, chronic episodes can create serious problems. Regular blackouts may create general memory problems for a person, even when they are not drinking.

This is especially dangerous for young people. Regular blackouts in young people can have long-term harmful effects on a developing brain.

“Everyone gets blackouts, don’t they?”

Although it may seem like a normal thing, not everyone experiences blackouts. Even with alcoholics, only 60% have reported to have alcohol-associated memory loss. However, one doesn’t have to be a heavy drinker to deal with them. Social drinkers are affected by it as well. It is not yet completely clear why some people get blackouts and some don’t.

Recent research has found that some people are more prone to blackouts than others. Women, for example, are more likely to get blackouts than men. Because of lower body mass and poorer alcohol metabolism, women are generally more affected by alcohol.

Anyone with a poor ability to metabolise alcohol, such as those with an unhealthy liver, tends to be more prone to blackouts. There are also a number of health-related issues that can cause blackouts that are not alcohol-related. Some examples are low blood pressure, low blood sugar and epilepsy.

Insomnia can worsen blackouts as well. Sleep alone plays a key role in memory formation and storage. If combined with alcohol, the blackouts can be significantly worse.

Combining substances can also elevate the risk for blackouts. For example, alcohol and medication, or alcohol and drugs may lead to more blackouts.

In addition, it is believed that there may be a genetic aspect to blackouts. If the person has alcoholic parents, they will likely get blackouts after heavy drinking. It was also found that some people have a so-called “chemical switch”, where even a small amount of alcohol can trigger memory loss.

Preventing Blackouts

Blackouts are caused by rapid or heavy drinking, so you should practice responsible drinking to avoid them. This includes:

  • Pacing your drinks
  • Hydrating with water/non-alcoholic beverages between drinks
  • Not drinking on an empty stomach
  • Avoid smoking
  • Not drinking if sleep-deprived
  • Not mixing drinks with other drugs or medications

Is Blackout Drinking a Sign of Alcoholism?

Blackouts do not necessarily mean that you have an alcohol abuse problem. However, if you find that you are experiencing them more and more often, this can be an indication that you need to seek help. Blackouts occur from rapid/ heavy drinking, which are also symptoms of alcoholism. Your blackout drinking may be a tell-tale sign that you have alcoholism.

If you’re worried about your drinking, it is best to consult a GP or an addiction specialist for an evaluation. You can also start with a self-assessment test, which can give you better insight into your drinking habits.

Regardless, blackouts and heavy drinking are both dangerous habits. They can lead to a number of problems, both in the short-term and long-term. It is always best to drink in moderation and drink responsibly.