FAQs

A problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period:
Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended
There is persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects
Craving, or strong desire or urge to use alcohol
Recurrent alcohol use resulting in failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home
Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol
Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use
Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol
Tolerance, as defined by either a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect, or a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol
Withdrawal, as manifested by reduction in alcohol use and development of symptoms such as: sweating, hand tremor, insomnia, nausea, or anxiety; or alcohol (or closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms

No. In fact, alcoholism is a disease that is no more a sign of weakness than is a medical condition such as asthma or diabetes. Alcoholism is a chronic, often progressive disease with a generally predictable course, recognized symptoms, and is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors that are being increasingly well defined.

Not yet – but it can be managed with proper care. Alcoholism is a treatable disease, and medication has also become available to help prevent relapse, but a cure has not yet been found. This means that even if an alcoholic has been sober for a long time and has regained health, he or she may relapse and must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control, or physical dependence. In addition, alcohol abuse is less likely than alcoholism to include tolerance (the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to get “high”). Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that is accompanied by two or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:
Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities
Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery
Recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk
Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the effects of alcohol
While alcohol abuse is fundamentally different from alcoholism, it is important to note that many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics.

Research has demonstrated that for many people, a vulnerability to alcoholism is inherited. Yet it is important to recognize that aspects of a person’s environment, such as peer influences and the availability of alcohol, also are significant influences. Both inherited and environmental influences are called “risk factors.” But risk is not destiny. Just because alcoholism tends to run in families does not mean that a child of an alcoholic parent will automatically develop alcoholism.

Answering the following four questions can help you find out. (To help remember these questions, note that the first letter of a key word in each of the four questions spells “CAGE.”)
Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?
One “yes” response suggests a possible alcohol problem. If you responded “yes” to more than one question, it is highly likely that a problem exists. Even if you answered “no” to all of the above questions – if you are encountering drinking-related problems with your job, relationships, health, or with the law, you should still seek professional help.

Answering the following four questions can help you find out. (To help remember these questions, note that the first letter of a key word in each of the four questions spells “CAGE.”)
Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?
One “yes” response suggests a possible alcohol problem. If you responded “yes” to more than one question, it is highly likely that a problem exists. Even if you answered “no” to all of the above questions – if you are encountering drinking-related problems with your job, relationships, health, or with the law, you should still seek professional help.

Alcoholism treatment is effective in many cases. Treatment outcomes for alcoholism compare favorably with outcomes for many other chronic medical conditions. The longer one abstains from alcohol, the more likely one is to remain sober. It is important to remember that many people relapse once or several times before achieving long-term sobriety. Relapses are common and do not mean that a person has failed or cannot eventually recover from alcoholism. If a relapse occurs, it is important to try to stop drinking again and to get whatever help is needed to abstain from alcohol. Ongoing support from family members and others can be important in recovery.

Yes. Nearly 14 million people in the United States – 1 in every 13 adults – abuse alcohol or are considered to be an alcoholic. However, more men than women are alcohol dependent or experience alcohol-related problems. In addition, rates of alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18-29 and lowest among adults 65 years and older.

Yes. As a person ages, certain mental and physical functions tend to decline, including vision, hearing, and reaction time. Moreover, other physical changes associated with aging can make older people feel “high” after drinking fairly small amounts of alcohol. These combined factors make older people more likely to have alcohol-related falls, automobile crashes, and other kinds of accidents. In addition, older people tend to take more medication than younger individuals, and mixing alcohol with many over-the-counter and prescription drugs can be dangerous, and even fatal. Furthermore, many medical conditions common to older people, including high blood pressure and ulcers, can be worsened by drinking.

Yes. Women become more intoxicated than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol, even when differences in body weight are taken into account. This is because women’s bodies have proportionately less water than men’s bodies. Because alcohol mixes with body water, a given amount of alcohol becomes more highly concentrated in a woman’s body than in a man’s. In addition, chronic alcohol abuse takes a heavier physical toll on women than on men. Alcohol dependence related medical problems, such as brain and liver damage, progress more rapidly in women than in men.

That depends. If you are diagnosed as an alcoholic, the answer is no. Studies show that nearly all alcoholics who try to merely cut down on drinking are unable to do so indefinitely. Instead, cutting out alcohol (that is, abstaining) is nearly always necessary for successful recovery. However, if you are not alcoholic but have had alcohol-related problems, you may be able to limit the amount you drink. If you cannot always stay within your limit, you will need to stop drinking altogether.

Most adults can drink moderate amounts of alcohol — up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people — and avoid alcohol-related problems. (One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.) However, certain people should not drink at all. They include women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant; people who plan to drive or engage in other activities requiring alertness and skill; people taking certain medications, including certain over-the-counter medicines; people with medical conditions that can be worsened by drinking; recovering alcoholics; and people under the age of 21.

There is no amount of alcohol that is known to be safe to consume during pregnancy. If you drink during pregnancy, you place your baby at risk of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a condition that results from alcohol exposure during pregnancy. Problems that may be caused by fetal alcohol syndrome include physical deformities, mental retardation, learning disorders, vision difficulties and behavioral problems. The problems caused by fetal alcohol syndrome vary from child to child, but defects caused by fetal alcohol syndrome are irreversible.

There is no safe amount of alcohol that woman can drink while pregnant. Any time a pregnant woman engages in regular drinking, she increases her chance of having a spontaneous abortion and puts her unborn child at risk for growth deficiencies, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems.

The pattern and timing of prenatal alcohol use can greatly influence the impact of adverse effects on the fetus. Chronic drinking and binge drinking are recognized as the most dangerous patterns of drinking. The pattern of drinking will partly determine the effects of alcohol on a fetus during the first weeks of pregnancy. Many body parts and organs are developing in the embryonic stage which is weeks 3 to 8. It is known that during the first 4 weeks of pregnant – when most women are not aware that they are pregnant – the heart, central nervous system, eyes, arms, and legs of the fetus are developing. Also, different developing organ systems may be more vulnerable to damage at different stages of development. The U.S. Surgeon General issued an Advisory on Alcohol and Pregnancy that advises against drinking alcoholic beverages during pregnancy or when planning a pregnancy.

It sounds like a mixed message: Drinking alcohol may offer some health benefits, especially for your heart. On the other hand, alcohol may increase your risk of health problems and damage your heart. So which is it? When it comes to drinking alcohol, the key is doing so only in moderation. Several studies have reported that moderate drinkers — those who have one or two drinks per day — are less likely to develop heart disease than people who do not drink any alcohol or who drink larger amounts. Small amounts of alcohol may help protect against coronary heart disease by raising levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and by reducing the risk of blood clots in the coronary arteries. Certainly, you do not have to drink any alcohol, and if you currently don’t drink, don’t start drinking for the possible health benefits. In some cases, it is safest to avoid alcohol entirely — the possible benefits don’t outweigh the risks. Moderate alcohol use may be of most benefit only if you’re an older adult or if you have existing risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol. If you’re a middle-aged or younger adult, some evidence shows that even moderate alcohol use may cause more harm than good. In fact, if you’re a woman and drink alcohol, talk to your doctor about taking supplemental folate to help reduce the risk of breast cancer associated with alcohol use. You can take other steps to benefit your cardiovascular health besides drinking — eating a healthy diet and exercising, for example. Even for those who can drink safely and choose to do so, moderation is the key. Heavy drinking can actually increase the risk of heart failure, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as cause many other medical problems, such as liver cirrhosis.

Probably not — more than 100 medications interact with alcohol, leading to increased risk of illness, injury and, in some cases, death. The effects of alcohol are increased by medicines that slow down the central nervous system, such as sleeping pills, antihistamines, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and some painkillers. In addition, medicines for certain disorders, including diabetes and heart disease, can be dangerous if used with alcohol. If you are taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you can safely drink alcohol.

Drug addiction is a dependence on an illegal drug or a medication. When you’re addicted, you may not be able to control your drug use and you may continue using the drug despite the harm it causes. Drug addiction can cause an intense craving for the drug. You may want to quit, but most people find they can’t do it on their own. For many people, what starts as casual use leads to drug addiction. Drug addiction can cause serious, long-term consequences, including problems with physical and mental health, relationships, employment and the law.

If and how quickly one might become addicted to a drug depends on many factors including the biology of a person’s body. All drugs are potentially harmful and may have life-threatening consequences associated with their abuse. There are also vast differences among individuals in sensitivity to various drugs. While one person may use a drug one or many times and suffer no ill effects, another person may be particularly vulnerable and overdose with first use. There is no way of knowing in advance how someone may react.

If a person is compulsively seeking and using a drug despite negative consequences, such as loss of job, debt, physical problems brought on by drug abuse, or family problems, then he or she probably is addicted. Seek professional help to determine if this is the case and, if so, the appropriate treatment.

The physical signs of abuse or addiction can vary depending on the person and the drug being abused. For example, someone who abuses marijuana may have a chronic cough or worsening of asthmatic symptoms. Each drug has short-term and long-term physical effects. Stimulants like cocaine increase heart rate and blood pressure, whereas opioids like heroin may slow the heart rate and reduce respiration.

Many substances including alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs of abuse can have negative effects on the developing fetus because they are transferred to the fetus across the placenta. For example, nicotine has been connected with premature birth and low birth weight as has the use of cocaine. Whether a baby’s health problems, if caused by a drug, will continue as the child grows, is not always known. Research does show that children born to mothers who used marijuana regularly during pregnancy may have trouble concentrating, even when older.

Drug addiction can be effectively treated with behavioral-based therapies and, for addiction to some drugs such as heroin or nicotine, medications. Treatment will vary for each person depending on the type of drug(s) being used, and multiple courses of treatment may be needed to achieve success.

Detoxification is the process of allowing the body to rid itself of a drug while managing the symptoms of withdrawal. It is often the first step in a drug treatment program and should be followed by treatment with a behavioral-based therapy and/or a medication, if available. Detox alone with no follow-up is not treatment.

Withdrawal is the variety of symptoms that occur after use of some addictive drugs is reduced or stopped. Length of withdrawal and symptoms vary with the type of drug. For example, physical symptoms of heroin withdrawal may include: restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and cold flashes. These physical symptoms may last for several days, but the general depression or dysphoria (opposite of euphoria) that often accompanies heroin withdrawal may last for weeks. In many cases withdrawal can be easily treated with medications to ease the symptoms, but treating withdrawal is not the same as treating addiction.

It is estimated that in 2007 illegal drug use cost America close to $193 billion:
$120 billion in lost productivity, mainly due to labor participation costs, participation in drug abuse treatment, incarceration, and premature death;
$11 billion in healthcare costs – for drug treatment and drug‐related medical consequences; and
$61 billion in criminal justice costs, primarily due to criminal investigation, prosecution and incarceration, and victim costs.
Beyond the raw numbers are other costs to society:

spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C either through sharing of drug paraphernalia or unprotected sex deaths due to overdose or other complications from drug use effects on unborn children of pregnant drug users other effects such as crime and homelessness

Hallucinogens, or psychedelics, are any mind-altering substance that distorts the user’s sensations, thinking, self-awareness, emotions and perceptions of reality. Hallucinogens include such drugs as LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), PCP (phencyclidine), mescaline, psilocybin, and DMT (N,N-dimethyltryptamine). The effects of psychedelics are unpredictable. They depend on the amount taken, the user’s personality, mood, expectations and the surroundings in which the drug is used. Usually, the user feels the first effects of the drug 30 to 90 minutes after taking it. The physical effects include dilated pupils, higher body temperature, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, sweating, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, dry mouth, tremors.

This term is perceived and/or intended to cover a broad range of illicit substances, including cocaine, marijuana, etc. The lay definition (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary), reads: “Any drug that induces profound sleep, lethargy and relief of pain; it is usually an opiate.

An opioid is any agent that binds to opioid receptors, found principally in the central nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. There are four broad classes of opioids: endogenous opioid peptides, produced in the body; opium alkaloids, such as morphine (the prototypical opioid) and codeine; semi-synthetic opioids such asheroin and oxycodone; and fully synthetic opioids such as pethidine and methadone that have structures unrelated to the opium alkaloids. Although the term opiate is often used as a synonym for opioid, it is more properly limited to the natural opium alkaloids and the semi-synthetics derived from them.

Persistent and recurrent, problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12-month period:

  • Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement
  • Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
  • Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling
  • Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)
  • Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed)
  • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)
  • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling
  • Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling
  • GAMBLING for the compulsive gambler is defined as follows: Any betting or wagering for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon chance or ‘skill’.

The compulsive gambler needs to be willing to accept the fact that he or she is in the grip of a progressive illness and has a desire to get well.

Only you can make that decision. Most people look for help when they become willing to admit that gambling has become a consistent problem area in their lives. Many recovering gamblers have gone through terrifying experiences before they were ready to accept help. Others were faced with a slow, subtle deterioration, which finally brought them to the point of admitting defeat.

No – all addiction disorders are similar in this respect. The first bet to a problem gambler is like the first small drink to an alcoholic. Sooner or later, he or she falls back into the same old destructive pattern.

We believe that most people, if they are honest, will recognize their lack of power to solve certain problems. When it comes to gambling, we have known many problem gamblers who could abstain for long stretches. However, caught off guard and under the right set of circumstances – they started gambling again without thought of the consequences.

Yes. Compulsive gamblers who have sought help tell us that, though their gambling binges were periodic, the intervals between were not periods of constructive thinking. Symptomatic of these periods were nervousness, irritability, frustration, indecision and a continued breakdown in personal relationships.

We think not. Many of our leaders in business, industry and professional life have attained great success without knowing one card from another or which way the horses run around the track. In the area of social relationships, the newcomer will soon find a keen appreciation of the many pleasant and stimulating activities available – far removed from anything that is remotely associated with gambling.

One does this through bringing about a progressive character change within oneself. There are no shortcuts in achieving this objective. Recovering from this inexplicable, insidious, compulsive addiction will require DILIGENT EFFORT, HONESTY, OPEN-MINDEDNESS, AND WILLINGNESS.

Sometimes – but not usually. Our program and others like it work best for the individual when it is recognized and accepted as a journey involving other people. Working with other compulsive gamblers in a recovery group offers an individual the necessary understanding and support to navigate the rough road ahead

INABILITY AND UNWILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT REALITY – Hence the escape into the dream world of gambling.
EMOTIONAL INSECURITY. A compulsive gambler finds that he or she is emotionally comfortable only when “in action.” It is not uncommon to hear a recovering/rehabilitated gambler say: “The only place I really felt like I belonged was sitting at the poker table. There I felt secure and comfortable. No great demands were made upon me. I knew I was destroying myself, yet at the same time, I had a certain sense of security.”
IMMATURITY. A desire to have all the good things in life without any great effort on their part seems to be the common character pattern of problem gamblers. Many compulsive gamblers accept the fact that they were unwilling to grow up. Subconsciously they felt they could avoid mature responsibility by wagering on the spin of a wheel or the turn of a card, and so the struggle to escape responsibility finally became a subconscious obsession. Also, a compulsive gambler seems to have a strong inner urge to be a ‘big shot’ and needs to have a feeling of being all-powerful. The compulsive gambler is willing to do anything (often of an anti-social nature) to maintain the image he or she wants others to see. Then too, there is a theory that compulsive gamblers subconsciously want to lose to punish themselves. There is much evidence to support this theory.

No, compulsive gambling is an emotional problem. A person in the grip of this illness creates mountains of apparently insurmountable problems. Of course, financial problems are created, but they also find themselves facing marital, employment, and/or legal problems. Compulsive gamblers find friends have been lost and relatives have rejected them. Of the many serious difficulties created, the financial problems seem the easiest to solve. When a compulsive gambler quits gambling, income is usually increased and there is no longer the financial drain that was caused by gambling, and very shortly, the financial pressures begin to be relieved. Recovering gamblers have found that the best road to financial recovery is through hard work and repayment of debts. Borrowing and/or lending of money (bail outs) is detrimental to the recovery process and, whenever possible, should not take place.