Booze a Bad Mix With Poor Impulse Control

By Michael Smith

Alcohol and impulsivity can be a toxic mix, researchers reported.

In a long-running, prospective cohort study among people seeking help for alcohol-related problems, those with poor impulse control had an increased risk of dying, according to Daniel Blonigen, PhD, and colleagues at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif.

The effect was independent of the risk associated with alcohol use disorders, Blonigen and colleagues reported online in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Both impulsivity and alcohol use disorders are known to increase the risk of premature death, the researchers noted, and alcohol use increases impulsive behavior. But there has been no research on how poor impulse control affects mortality risk among people who also have problems with alcohol, they added.

Full story at Med Page Today

Animal Study Suggests Omega-3 Lessens Depression, Mania

By Rick Nauert, PhD

New research suggests the benefits of omega 3 fatty acids extend beyond improving heart health.

In a multiyear study, Indiana University School of Medicine investigators discovered molecular level evidence that the dietary supplements may be beneficial for alcohol abuse and psychiatric disorders.

In the study, researchers showed conclusive behavioral and molecular benefits for omega 3 given to mice engineered to show bipolar disorder behaviors. The fatty acid DHA, which is one of the main active ingredients in fish oil, “normalized their behavior,” says Alexander B. Niculescu, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study.

Full story at PsychCentral

Charlie Sheen Substance Abuse: FAQ

By Stephanie Watson

March 1, 2011 — After actor Charlie Sheen trashed his suite at New York’s Plaza Hotel, called Chuck Lorre, the creator of the TV show “Two and a Half Men,” a “turd,” and rambled incoherently in a television interview about being a “high priest Vatican assassin warlock,” people started to wonder whether the TV star had come completely unhinged.

Sheen has admitted to a history of drug use, but is his erratic behavior a sign that he’s still addicted and in denial, or that he’s also dealing with a mental illness? Sheen certainly isn’t the first celebrity to deal with drug addiction. If it turns out, as some experts have speculated, that he’s also got a mental illness, he similarly wouldn’t be alone in having both conditions.

WebMD asked addiction experts about the connection between mental illness and substance abuse. What’s the link? What can happen when someone who is addicted refuses to get treatment? And what are the best ways to overcome an addiction?

What’s the Connection Between Addictions and Psychiatric Disorders?

Addiction and mental illness often go hand in hand. Up to half of people with depression, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness also have a substance abuse problem.

Experts say having one of these conditions increases your vulnerability for the other. “If you have a lifetime addiction and have taken drugs over a long period of time it can affect your psychiatric functioning,” says Bruce Goldman, LCSW, CASAC, program director of the Project Outreach Clinic in West Hempstead, N.Y.

Conversely, people with mental illness often use drugs and alcohol as a way to cope. “People will self-medicate, and that may be a risk factor for starting an addiction,” says Elizabeth Howell, MD, a board-certified addiction psychiatrist at the University of Utah Neuropsychiatric Institute.

The addictive substance itself can cause symptoms that mimic mental illness. Being high or going through withdrawal from drugs can make you feel anxious, angry, or restless, which are also common signs of psychiatric conditions, Goldman says.

Why Are Addictions So Hard to Overcome?

The reason why drugs like cocaine and heroin are so quick to lead to addiction is the effect they have on the brain. When you smoke cocaine, for example, you get increased levels of dopamine and serotonin– brain chemicals that give you feelings of pleasure.

Then suddenly, that good feeling is gone.

“You’re on this roller coaster where you feel this extreme dopamine spike and then you have a crash and you want more,” Howell says.

Having an untreated mental illness can make an addiction even harder to shake. So can having a lifestyle that makes drugs easily accessible, which is why so many celebrities, like Sheen, are always making headlines.

What Happens if You Don’t Get Treated for Addiction?

When actor Martin Sheen was interviewed about his son’s drug problem, he called it “a form of cancer.” Is addiction really like a disease? Howell thinks it is. “Addiction is a disease process, and we know that the diseased organ is the brain,” she says.

Just like cancer or any other serious disease, addiction can become life-threatening if it’s not treated. “It is a potentially fatal disease, and I’ve seen people die from overdose, from complications, from poor judgment — accidents,” Howell says.

Which Treatment Works Best for Addiction?

That depends on the addiction. Cocaine withdrawal is typically treated supportively and does not always require medication or hospitalization. Medications can help withdrawal symptoms for some addictions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps people recognize the situations where they’re most likely to use. Motivational incentives provide good reasons to stay off drugs.

This broad range of therapies allows for a very individualized treatment approach. “I truly believe that there’s no best treatment for everyone, and different treatments work better for different problems and different individuals,” Goldman says.

What’s most important is that you recover in a supportive setting where other people are also trying to get clean, Howell says.

Depending on the addiction, treatment may start with a medically supervised withdrawal, commonly called “detox,” to get you off the addictive drug. Then you need to completely abstain from not only your drug of choice, but other drugs too.

Whatever you do, don’t try to treat yourself for an addiction.

Though Sheen claims to have cured himself with “the power of my mind,” Howell says trying to self-treat for an addiction is a dangerous prospect. 

“It doesn’t work,” she says. “As a psychiatrist, I’ve been trained in how to do psychotherapy, but I never do psychotherapy on myself. If you’re a surgeon you don’t take out your own appendix. You have to have an outside person or support system helping you who has a perspective that you can never have for yourself.”

How Are People With Both Addiction and Mental Illness Treated?

Treating addiction without addressing the underlying mental illness isn’t enough.

“Many years ago when we were treating addiction, we had the false belief that if you treated the addiction and waited, some of the psychiatric problems would resolve themselves. We no longer believe that,” Goldman says. “You really need to treat both of them simultaneously to be effective.”

Considering that so many people who show up for addiction treatment also have a mental illness, centers today are well equipped to deal with both conditions.

What Should You Do if a Family Member or Friend is Addicted?

If you suspect that a family member or friend is addicted to drugs or alcohol, try to get them help. “I think if you’re concerned about someone’s health and safety, you’re compelled to step in and intervene to see that the person gets help,” Goldman says.

There is a chance the person will try to avoid facing the problem, especially if he or she also has a mental illness. It’s common for both drug users and people with conditions such as bipolar disorder to deny there’s anything wrong with them.

If your friend or family member refuses treatment, it’s hard for you to do much more, unless the situation is spiraling out of control.

“Some states do have laws that allow you to commit someone who is addicted and out of control and potentially harmful to themselves because of their addiction,” Howell says.

How Can People Stay Clean After An Addiction?

Once you’ve gone through treatment, you need begin the process of learning how to live without drugs or alcohol. That can be hard, especially if you’ve relied on the substance — or substances — for years.

Sheen says he just “blinked and I cured my brain.” But getting clean is never that easy.

“There’s no magic to it. It’s a long, arduous road,” Howell says. “It’s a chronic problem that’s going to be with people throughout their lives.”

Part of overcoming addiction involves changing your perspective, and starting to see your addiction not as something you’re going to be “cured” from, but as something you’ll have to work on throughout your life.

“Addictive disorders are chronic diseases. In other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, we don’t measure success in absolute terms over the course of a lifetime. It’s similar with addictions,” Goldman says.

The longer you stay in treatment, the better your odds for success.

“People have to be convinced personally,” Goldman says. “They have to be very motivated and committed to living a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle.”

Source WebMD

Dark Adolescent Romance

By Bella DePaulo

I’ll begin with the bottom line: Romantic involvements during adolescence can be bad for you. They can be bad even for adolescents who stay with the same partner and do not break up. By “bad,” I mean that adolescents who become romantically involved, compared to those who do not, become more depressed. Adolescent females become less happy. Both males and females abuse alcohol more and become more delinquent if they become romantically involved than if they do not. The results are noteworthy because they come from a nationally representative sample and a longitudinal design.

In the next few sections, I’ll wade into the weeds of the study. Then at the end, I’ll re-emerge with some big-picture points.

About the Study

During the 1994-1995 school year, a nationally representative sample of adolescents, ages 12 through 17, were recruited to participate in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The relevant data are from 8,181 males and females who also participated in a follow-up interview about a year later.

Each time the adolescents were interviewed, they answered questions about their romantic relationship history (e.g., “In the last 18 months, have you had a special romantic relationship with anyone?”), their drinking (e.g., how often in the past 12 months did they do “something you later regretted because you had been drinking”), and any delinquent behavior (e.g., how often they ran away from home or got into a serious physical fight). They also rated their happiness and filled out a standardized measure of depression. Other questions were also included. For example, during the first interview, they were asked how much they hoped they would be romantically involved during the coming year.

Some Key Findings

For many young people, depression increases over the course of the mid-adolescent years, especially for females. So one key question is: Does depression increase more (from the first year of the study to the second) for those who become romantically involved than for those who have had no romantic involvements?

The answer to that question is yes. Depression increases for those who become romantically involved for the first time. It increases for those who remain involved with the same person during the year or so in question.

Both male and female teens become more depressed if they become romantically involved than if they do not, but the increase in depression is even greater for the females.

Guess who else becomes especially more depressed over the course of the two interviews? Those who said that they very much wished they would be romantically involved in the next year (regardless of whether their wish comes true).

Well, they are young, and the findings I’ve reported so far are for all of the participants, whether they are 12 years old, 17 years old, or anywhere in between. Is romantic involvement less likely to deepen depression for the relatively older adolescents?

No, not for the males. For the guys, age does not matter. What does matter is whether they have had more than one romantic partner in the past 18 months, and whether they’ve experienced a break-up in the past month. If either of those is true, the guys become more depressed.

So what about the females? The relatively older teenage girls who stay involved with the same partner do seem to show less of an increase in depression than the younger romantically-involved girls. But for girls (and boys) at any age, becoming romantically involved for the first time is linked with becoming more depressed.

Happiness is not just the opposite of depression; it is measured separately. For girls, their happiness takes a hit if they become romantically involved. For boys, levels of happiness do not change with romantic involvement.

Some theorists believe that females’ problems show up in levels of depression, whereas males’ issues reveal themselves in higher rates of drinking and delinquency.  In this study, though, both the females and the males who became romantically involved reported more problems with drinking and delinquency than their peers with no romantic involvement.

So why is this happening? Why do teens who become romantically involved also become especially more depressed? The hints that the authors found are different for the girls than for the boys. The girls who become romantically involved report that their relationship with their parents is getting worse. The boys (and the younger girls) are more likely to have grades that are slipping.

The Big Picture

Valentine’s Day is not the only time of year when couples and coupling are romanticized. At this point in history, matrimania is our cultural wallpaper. As adults, we often have the wherewithal to keep it all in perspective – maybe even to mock it. The meta mindset, or big-picture perspective, is more difficult for adolescents to attain. Many of them yearn to be coupled. Maybe that’s what brings them status among their peers.

But it does not bring them happiness. Instead, they become more depressed, report more drinking problems, and engage in more delinquent behaviors than their peers who do not become romantically involved.

When you think about adolescents getting into trouble, what comes to mind? I bet it is not romance. Typically, it is their friends, their peer group, “running with the wrong crowd” that gets the blame. This research reminds us of something different: Romance can be risky for teens.

Source Psychology Today

Talking to Adolescents May Ward Off Future Violent Behavior and Alcohol Use

Adolescent Behavior

For a period of 3 years, University of Michigan Health System researchers conducted a study of teen patients at the Hurley Medical Center Emergency Department (ED) in Flint, Mich. They gave 3338 adolescents, ages 14 to 18 years, computerized surveys, and those who reported exposure to violence or drinking at least 2 or 3 times in the past year (n = 726) were enrolled in a SafERteens randomized controlled trial, funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Along with colleagues, lead author Maureen Walton, MPH, PhD, associate professor in the University of Michigan department of psychiatry and Addiction Research Center, reported these findings in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The team of researchers used motivational interviewing to counsel adolescents about staying away from potentially violent and alcohol-related situations. It was found that these brief counseling sessions “reduced by half the chances that teenagers would experience peer violence or problems due to drinking.”

Details available at:U-M Study: Pep talks to teens in the ER reduce violence, alcohol misuseEffects of a brief intervention for reducing violence and alcohol misuse among adolescents: A randomized controlled trial

This article originally posted at: The Psychiatric Times –