Ah, sweet booze. Homer Simpson once called it "the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."
Nothing wrong with a little drinky-poo now and then - hell, even every day. But if you regularly imbibe to excess, are having trouble maintaining a job or relationships or are, say, an elected official who finds yourself at the centre of a scandal after getting caught on camera smoking crack in a drunken stupor, there's a good chance you might need some help.
Not sure if you've got a problem? Do the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's self-evaluation at rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov. If you do decide you need help, there are myriad options. Search till you find what works for you.
What the experts say
"Along with counselling, acupuncture and, if needed, serious intervention, I recommend niacin, high-dose vitamin C, zinc and chromium. Niacin is important for brain chemistry. Vitamin C neutralizes the oxidative stress caused by excessive drinking. Chromium stabilizes blood sugar, important because of all the sugars in alcohol. It helps manage the lows from withdrawal. Zinc is depleted with excessive alcohol consumption, and supplementation prevents deficiency and helps manage withdrawal symptoms. Passionflower helps bring calm."
MUBINA JIWA, naturopath, Toronto
"Our study found that Gabapentin, used for pain conditions, was as positive or more for drinking outcomes as FDA-approved treatments. It also had benefits for disruptive changes in sleep and mood among those quitting or reducing drinking. That's novel. Those changes, plus the craving to drink in early recovery, can trigger a return to drinking. The available treatments for alcoholism are rarely prescribed. While disulfiram and naltrexone both have warnings of potential liver damage, Gabapentin is not metabolized in the liver. This is another advantage."
BARBARA MASON, professor, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California
"FDA-approved medications include disulfiram, which makes you sick if you drink, naltrexone, which blocks opioid receptors, and acamprosate, which acts on the brain's glutamate receptors. They don't work for everybody. Those who attended AA and had behavioral therapy did slightly better than those on meds. The more options the better the chance you'll find something that works. Some alcoholics cannot be helped. Heavy drinking is five or more drinks per day for males, and four or more for females. Some people should absolutely never take another drink; others can. Less than 10 per cent of those with problems seek treatment."
RAYE LITTEN, division of recovery research, NIAAA, Bethesda, Maryland
"Addiction is a disease of lack and isolation, of disconnection. We have to provide a sense of wholeness. Alcoholism is a mind disease with physical and spiritual manifestations. Yoga will bring you into a state of calmness and get you connected to your body and breath. When you meditate, you practise mastery over the mind. A person in addiction is dominated by their mind. Yoga and meditation are one of the cornerstones, along with 12-step programs and other modalities."
TOMMY ROSEN, yoga teacher, founder of the Recovery2.0 online conference, Los Angeles
"Cannabis can be a psychoactive substitute [for alcohol]. People looking to get relaxed and feel euphoria can get that from cannabis. As well, it helps with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. I did a study where we gave methamphetamine users medical cannabis; it was interesting that the levels of alcohol and methamphetamine use remained extremely low. This flies in the face of the gateway theory. We started to wonder if maybe cannabis isn't a gateway drug, but an exit drug. We have a problem with binge drinking on campuses. I'm hoping that if students use cannabis instead, we'll see those rates start to drop."
AMANDA REIMAN, school of social welfare, University of California, Berkeley
"The Sinclair Method uses naltroxone or nalmefene [while continuing normal drinking.] Until the SM, there was no cure for alcoholism. Once the addiction was learned in the brain, it remained for life. The only way to deal with it was to abstain, but 85 to 95 per cent of people relapse within the first year. David Sinclair discovered the alcohol deprivation effect: once alcohol is removed from lab animals and humans who drink compulsively, the craving increases until they relapse or binge. [With the SM], you take the medication one hour before drinking, for the rest of your life. Over three to four months, the cravings and drinking level go down. The best way to detox is to gradually drink less, little by little each day."
ROY ESKAPA, author, The Cure For Alcoholism, Tel Aviv
"The task is to help people tolerate uncomfortable emotional states, because addiction has been medicating those. It's important to identify what triggers the client to want to drink and develop strategies for dealing with that. Addiction is a coping mechanism. Treatment might include 12-step meetings, finding a sponsor, seeing a therapist. Our founder used to say he wanted people to transfer their dependency from chemicals to people. We use stress management, relaxation training, exercise, nutritional counselling and life skills."
PENNY LAWSON, clinical manager, Bellwood Health Services, Toronto
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