So I'm sitting in my one and only substance abuse class in grad school (yes, they only have us take one class on this devastating issue) . When my professor informs the class that one out of every four people who come to see us for counseling will have a co-occuring alcohol or drug problem.

That was a shocking statement!! I had no idea the statistic was so high AND I HAD NO IDEA about substance abuse.

I knew that if I wanted to be good at counseling I needed to learn all I could about addiction. So I began working at an inpatient treatment center while still in school - first doing intakes and within a month they had me learning utilization review.

I learned so much, so fast! But it wasn't until 2 years later when I sat in an intensive outpatient facility for teens that I finally, really understood addiction. After months of listening to these beautiful children that lost full-ride scholarships, it hit me - their bodies are not responding to these substances the way mine would.   

Granted I have not used "heavy" drugs and I am certain that anyone would become addicted with continued use, but I suddenly understood the allergy theory of addiction. This wasn't a moral issue or a behavioral issue. This was a physical allergy!  

If you ask an alcoholic what happens to their body when they drink most of them will tell you that they initially feel hyped up. They will continue to tell you that when they catch a buzz and keep drinking, the buzz will be maintained. They can almost never limit the amount they drink or tell you ahead of time exactly how many drinks they will have. And lastly, they would never think to walk away from a drink if there was still a drop of alcohol in the bottle or glass.  

 This is not a standard reaction to alcohol.

The common reaction is that the alcohol relaxes the body (it is in fact a depressant), yes a person does feel a buzz but it's usually not maintained with continued drinking, they can determine ahead of time how many drinks they will have, and they have no problem leaving an almost full drink sitting at the table when they call it a night.

Alcoholics just don't understand that last one for sure - or cocaine addicts, or most any other addict. They wouldn't leave drugs or alcohol behind. 

I told you all of that to tell you this - most of us have no idea how to determine if we or a loved one are an addict or alcoholic. Where is the line from social or recreational use and how do we know when we have crossed it?

I know that answer. I've worked with four substance abuse treatment facilities and I can help. 

 

We may think there is willpower involved, but more likely... change is due to want power.... Wanting the new me in preference to the person I am now.
— George A. Sheehan

Addiction is not only about using alcohol to excess or taking illegal drugs. More people in this country are addicted to prescribed substances than anything else.

Prescribed opiates are neck to neck with anti-depressants.

And anti-depresants can have a dangerous side effect, especially if the dosage is changed abruptly or the med is stopped. The black box warning on these meds states that the patient may become suicidal or homicidal.

I am not a doctor. Please do the research and determine what is right for you! 

Dr. Ann Blake-Tracy is an expert in this field and has testified in high profile court proceedings such as the Phil Hartman case and Columbine, and has spoken before Congress and the Hague. Her research in this area exceeds 20 years, she has written a book entitled Prozac: Panacea or Pandora? Our Serotonin Nightmare, she understands REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, and she has protocols on CD and MP3 explaining how to safely discontinue these meds. Check out her website at http://www.drugawareness.org.