2017 LifeRing Annual Conference, click here for more information

Category Archives: Science

New Study Suggests New Hope for Choice in Recovery!

 

By Craig Whalley

A new study just released in the respected “Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment” (JSAT) offers firm support for LifeRing’s approach to recovery support. The study, conducted by Dr. Sarah Zemore and others from the Emeryville, California-based Alcohol Recovery Group, used a series of member surveys to provide comparisons between LifeRing, SMART Recovery, and Women for Sobriety (WFS), using criteria and methodology much like those used in studies of 12-step programs.

Some of the most encouraging language comes from the study’s carefully-worded Conclusion: “Results suggest differences across 12-step groups and their alternatives that may be relevant when advising clients and a choice of mutual help group. Meanwhile, findings for high levels of participation, satisfaction, and cohesion among members of the mutual help alternatives [emphasis ours] suggest promise for these groups in addressing addiction problems.”

In other words, treatment providers, whose first and only impulse often is to urge all clients to attend 12-step programs, should consider suggesting the alternative groups on an equal footing or at the very least for those clients resistant to the quasi-religious and strongly-regimented approach of 12-step groups. In all 3 so-called “alternative” groups, members demonstrated at least the same level of success as has been measured in AA programs.

A summary of the study can be viewed here. The complete study currently lives behind JSAT’s pay-wall and can be purchased from them for $35.95, but we hope to be able to put it on our website soon. If that’s not possible, then we’ll at least offer as many more details about it as we can.

Of course, the fact that LSR is shown to work very well for many members comes as no surprise to those members! But the larger recovery community, especially including the medical professionals and treatment providers, have often resisted offering multiple paths to sobriety, either out of ignorance or from a firm conviction that “AA is the only way”.

The study shows convincingly that such resistance is misguided. One study is unlikely to change things quickly, but it is certainly a major step forward in legitimizing LifeRing and other secular recovery groups.

 

~~

 

Linkapalooza!

Here’s a few links to some interesting articles on the web ~ have a look-see if you need something to help keep you occupied this weekend, and have a good one!

Even if Christmas and the last year are over, this is still a great list of books:

http://ideas.ted.com/2014/12/16/books-worth-reading-this-holiday-recommended-by-bill-gates-susan-cain-and-more/

Like to cook but find so many recipes call for alcohol? Here’s a fabulous list of substitutions you can use instead:

http://whatscookingamerica.net/alcoholsub.htm

Are you a Highly-Sensitive Person (HSP)?

http://reset.me/story/highly-sensitive-person-need-know-science-personality-type/

This one’s been all over the web for the past coupla weeks, but in case you haven’t seen it, here you go:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/07/health/alcohol-poisoning-kills-6-americans-a-day-federal-report-finds.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=1

And last but not least -holy crap, I got the “MacArthur Genius Grant”:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/what-major-award-should-you-get#.ppPPZjpJP

~~~

 

 

 

Sobriety, dual diagnosis, and personal OTC self-help

First, I want to make clear that this is just about my personal experiences, since Lifering is about personalized, individualized, self-empowerment, or self-help.

That said, let’s jump into what’s on my mind.

A fair percentage of people who eventually have addictive problems to drugs or alcohol are “dual diagnosis.” That is, they have some mental health issue connected with their addiction. Often it’s depression. Often it’s anxiety. Sometimes it’s bipolar disorder, occasionally schizophrenia.

For people that have “simple” depression or anxiety, and have been to a doctor before, for lower-level depression or anxiety, it’s tempting to self-medicate with over-the-counter items. For example, it’s a “commonplace” that Benadryl can help mild anxiety. Many people use St. John’s wort for mild depression. Beyond that, over-the-counter versions of lithium compounds, somewhat similar to, but not the same as, the prescription versions, are available. And more.

But, even over-the-counter medications aren’t risk free.

For example, prescription lithium has a narrow range of dosages. The non-prescription versions are presumably similar.

With St. John’s wort, there are studies indicating it can help with some cases of mild-moderate depression. There’s no “magic secret” as to why, though. The active ingredient is an MAO inhibitor, just like the first class of anti-depressant medications. Given that prescription MAO inhibitors come with certain warnings, like not combining them with aged cheeses, something similar might apply to St. John’s worth.

And, there’s the placebo effect. A lot of people swear by GABA, a natural neurotransmitter, to help with anxiety. However, GABA does not cross what’s known as the blood-brain barrier, therefore people are presumably just talking about a placebo effect.

Also, just as a prescription anti-depressant that works for one person might not work well for another, the same is true of these OTC self-helps.

A Lifering friend mentioned his doctor suggested he take a new OTC medication, which is GABA chemically linked to niacin, the B vitamin. He said it helped totally kill alcohol cravings, as well as some anxiety.

I decided to order it myself; it’s readily available online.

Well, my “sample size date” is only 10 days so far, but, I may discontinue it after another week.

While it’s not quite making me MORE anxious, I have had trouble falling asleep since then. I’ve had a couple of issues in my mind, but, this may be a contributing factor.

For me, the one time I went to a doctor with even more serious anxiety, it was anti-depressants that helped.

There’s nothing wrong with a prescription from a doctor, and there’s nothing magical about over-the-counter items. It never hurts to get professional advice.

No, moderate drinking is NOT healthier

No, this is NOT necessarily “heart healthy.”

It seems like every several months, though, there’s a new story out touting the health benefits of moderate drinking. Often, but not always, it seems focused on not just the alcohol, but on certain microchemicals in red wine. These studies all claim that the moderate drinking, and especially the wine, are “heart healthy.”

If you’re like me, even if these studies don’t have liquor industry sponsorship, you may wonder how accurate they are.

Perhaps not so much, according to a big new study which says moderate drinking is often NOT healthy. It’s actually a meta-study of a number of previous studies, and it says all those other studies dropped the ball by missing the genetics angle:

They found that those with a form of a gene tied to lower levels of drinking generally had healthier hearts. The gene affects how a person’s body breaks down alcohol, resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and facial flushing. Having this variant has been shown to lead to lower drinking over the long term, the researchers explained.

But the new study authors went beyond that:

“While the damaging effects of heavy alcohol consumption on the heart are well-established, for the last few decades we’ve often heard reports of the potential health benefits of light-to-moderate drinking,” study senior author Juan Casas, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a university news release. “However, we now have evidence that some of these studies suffer from limitations that may affect the validity of their findings.

“In our study, we saw a link between a reduced consumption of alcohol and improved cardiovascular health, regardless of whether the individual was a light, moderate or heavy drinker.”

So, don’t let the “lizard voice” or “addict voice” or whatever tempt you into believing you’re being healthy by grabbing that Merlot! It’s not true.

And (shockingly!) the authors note one other problem with most of these previous studies:

“Studies into alcohol consumption are fraught with difficulty, in part because they rely on people giving accurate accounts of their drinking habits,” Dr. Shannon Amoils, senior research advisor at the British Heart Foundation, said in the news release “Here the researchers used a clever study design to get round this problem by including people who had a gene that predisposes them to drink less.”

A drinker trying to pretend his or her drinking not accurately reporting drinking amounts for a study? Noooo!

So, there you go … stay sober and stay healthy.

 

Dr. Candice Shelby’s Presentation on “Biocoding” Posted on Website

ShelbyCandice Shelby, Ph.D., an associate professor of Philosophy at the University of Denver campus, is a valued friend of LifeRing. She knows a great deal about how brains and minds function, including the biological, psychological and, yes, philosophical factors that determine what we are, and why we are that way. She gave a talk a few years ago at a LifeRing Annual Conference in Denver that was very well-received and continues to draw heavy readership on this website (click Here for the earlier presentation). Dr. Shelby was kind enough to quickly supply a copy of her talk so that we could post in on lifering.org. The new presentation is concerned with “biocoding” and can be read Here.  Here is a brief excerpt:

What I would like to consider specifically today is the way in which the processes of addiction and recovery are connected to processes of meaning development and change. The level of meanings that I’m going to focus on here are at the semantic, psychological, and social levels. These meanings are encoded into individuals through the interaction of their highly complex organic systems with the highly complex environments in which they are embedded. The correlation of the meaning shifts with the transitions into and out of what we generally call addiction is so close that we could reasonably call addiction essentially a phenomenon of meaning, were it not for the oversimplification that such a characterization would invite.

The concepts dealt with in the talk are fascinating even while sometimes hard to grasp by the layman (or at least by me). Still, it is very much worth a read. Go Here