Tag Archives: alcohol

Addiction Redefined

Addiction is a chronic brain disease, not just bad behavior or bad choices.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has released a new definition of addiction, highlighting that addiction is a chronic brain disorder and not just a behavioral problem involving excess alcohol, drugs, gambling, or sex.  This marks the first occasion of ASAM stating addiction is not solely related to problematic substance use.

When people witness damaging and compulsive behaviors in friends, family, or public figures, the majority only focus on the actual substance use or behavior as the problem. According to ASAM, these outward behaviors are manifestations of an underlying disease that involves various areas of the brain.  

“At its core, addiction isn’t just a social, moral, or criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other ares,” said Dr. Micheal Miller, former president of ASAM. “Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward actions.”

The new definition resulted from an intensive four year process with more than 80 experts actively working on it, including: top addiction authorities, addiction medicine clinicians, and neuroscience researchers from across the country.

Addiction is described as a primary disease, meaning that it is not the result of other emotional causes or psychiatric problems. Addiction is also recognized as a chronic disease, like cardiovascular disease or diabetes, so therefore it must be treated, managed, and monitored over a life-time.

Two decades of advancements in neuroscience convinced ASAM that addiction needed to be redefined by what is going on in the brain. The disease of addiction affects neurotransmissions and interactions within the reward circuitry of the brain. This leads to addictive behaviors that supplant healthy behaviors, while memories of prior experiences (food, sex, alcohol, drugs) trigger cravings and renewal of addictive behaviors.

The brain circuitry that governs impulse control and judgment is also altered, resulting in the dysfunctional pursuit of rewards like drugs or alcohol. This area of the brain is still developing during teenage years, which may be why early exposure to alcohol or drugs is linked to a greater likelihood of addiction as an adult.

There has been a longtime controversy if people with addiction have choice over anti-social and dangerous behaviors. Dr. Raju Hajela, chair member of the ASAM committee, stated that “the disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, which drives people to behave in ways that aren’t understandable to others around them. Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.”

“Choice still plays an important role in getting help. While the neurobiology of choice may not be fully understood, a person with addiction must make choices for a healthier life in order to enter treatment and recovery. Because there is no pill which alone can cure addiction, choosing recovery over unhealthy behaviors is necessary.”

Dr. Miller added, “Many chronic diseas require behavioral choices, such as people with heart disease choosing to eat healthier or begin exercising, in addiction to medical or surgical interventions. So, we have to stop moralizing, blaming, controlling, or smirking at the person with the disease of addiction and start creating opportunities for individuals and families to get help and providing assistance in choosing proper treatment.”

SAMHSA recently worked with the behavioral health field to develop a working definiton of recovery that captures the common experiences of those in recovery.

Some of the guiding principles are:

  • Recovery is person-driven
  • Recovery occurs via many pathways
  • Recovery is holistic
  • Recovery is supported by peers and allies
  • Recovery is supported through relationships and social networks
  • Recovery is culturally based and influenced
  • Recovery is supported by addressing trauma
  • Recovery involves individual, family, and community strengths and responsibility
  • Recovery is based on respect
  • Recovery emerges from hope

Addiction treatment, including therapy or Suboxone, is offered at Apex Behavioral Heatlh. Dr. Chung, Dr. Ramesh, and Dr. Kwon are our Suboxone providers.

Drivers License Evaluation!

If your license has been suspended in the state of Michigan for drinking and driving violations, or substance abuse convictions, Apex Behavioral Health can help you get it back. Some of our therapists can complete the forms required to help you get your license reinstated. These therapists are: Bob Edwards, Gina Patton, Barb Payne, and Karin Chaundy. Gina and Barb work out of both our Westland and Brownstown offices; while Bob works at Westland and Karin is located in  Brownstown.

A DLE costs $250 and must be paid prior to treatment.

You can make an appointment by calling Westland at 734-729-3133 or Brownstown at 734-479-0949 and asking the secretary to book a Drivers License Evaluation appointment.

The following information should be brought to your first session:

  • Master driving record, which is available at the Secretary of State
  • 3-6 letters confirming your sobriety from drugs or alcohol. The letters have a specific format and must include:
  • how long the person has known you
  • how often the person sees you           
  • how long the person has known you
  • the last time the person saw or had knowledge of you drinking or using a controlled substance
  • the amount of alcohol or drug use the person saw you consume when they last witnessed it
  • what social activities you participate in that involve drugs or alcohol
  • the person’s knowledge of your past or current involvement in treatment or support groups
  • The letters must include the person’s name, phone number, and address
  • You will need copies of your probation discharge(s)
  • All AA/NA sign in sheets if you were required to attend a 12 step program
  • The dates and locations of any treatment you received for drug or alcohol use. Discharge, treatment plans, and other information from your treatment provider

Part of the evaluation consists of the interview.

You will be given one or two screening tests on paper to determine the progress of your recovery. You will also be referred to a lab for a ten-panel drug screening.

The examiner will complete the Substance Abuse Evaluation form as required by the state.

You will receive a copy of all your paperwork for your records, as well as the original documentation that you can send to the state for a hearing.

How Many Americans Experienced Mental Illness in the Past Year?

Recent data suggests that 19.9% of adults in the United States have experienced mental illness within the past year. Of the 45 million adults, nearly 9 million (20%) also had a substance use disorder.

SAMHSA’s report, Results from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use: Mental Health Findings indicates that 11 million, or nearly 5%, of adults had a serious, diagnosable, mental illness that substantially interfered with one or more major life activities in the past year.

In many cases, those experiencing a serious mental disorder also had a co-existing substance use disorder. A substance use disorder is defined as abuse or dependency on alcohol or an illicit drug.

Among those with a serious mental illness in the past year, 25% had a substance use disorder in the past year. This is approximately four times the amount experienced by people who didn’t have a serious mental illness.

Less than 4 in 10 adults with mental illness received mental health services. 

In 2009, an estimated 8 million adults aged 18 or older had serious thoughts of suicide within that year; 3.9% of thoughts occurred among women while 3.5% occurred among men.

Among the adults aged 18-25, 6% had serious thoughts of suicide. Adults aged 26-49 had 4.3% and adults aged 50 or older had 2.3%.

In 2009, 2 million adults made suicide plans in the past year. Among the 1 million adults who attempted suicide last year, 0.8 million reported having made plans for the suicide while 0.2 million hadn’t made suicide plans.

The report concluded that mental illness is more likely among adults who were unemployed (27.7%) vs. adults who were employed full time (17%).  Obviously America’s overall unemployment rate is high, but if you are unemployed and feeling depressed, take the time to volunteer somewhere. Sitting in your house day after day with nothing to do is only going to make you feel worse. Animal shelters, hospitals, senior homes, and zoos are all great places to volunteer. The Humane Society or local shelter can always use volunteers, and giving animals attention who otherwise would have none is a great use of one’s time.

Age and gender may have an effect on mental illness. Young adults (aged 18-25) reported the highest level of mental illness (30%), while participants aged 50 and older had the lowest at 13%. 23% of women and 15% of men reported having a mental illness.

Drug and alcohol use also effects mental health. Out of 10% of adults with a substance use disorder, 2.2 million adults aged 18 and older had serious thoughts of suicide in 2009.  Suicidal thoughts were higher in adults who had abused drugs within the past year over those adults who had not.

Adults with substance abuse dependence or abuse were also more likely to make a suicide plan or actually attempt suicide then adults without substance abuse.

At Apex Behavioral Health, we offer co-existing treatment for substance abuse and mental disorders. Both issues need to be treated in order for a person to get better. Many clinics will focus treatment strictly on substance abuse, but substance abuse and depression or whatever mental disorder it is need to be addressed and treated too. Substance abuse and depression exist simultaneously and need to be treated as such.