All About Mate

January 13, 2017 by  
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A number of drugs recovering addicts have to pry themselves away from are stimulants of one sort of another. A rushing energy boost that can also enhance concentration and speed is appealing to many people – especially ambitious people who would prefer to get as much done as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many of these drugs come with serious negative side effects. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and even prescription medication like Adderall all can carry serious consequences for people who become addicted to them – and since these are highly addictive substances, the issue of addiction is real. When a recovered addict finally is free of these types of substances, he or she might sometimes crave an energy and concentration boost that is a little different than the caffeine buzz from coffee. That’s where Yerba Mate comes into the picture!

Yerba Mate is a part of the holly species. The plant is made into a tea that is commonly consumed in South America, but has become increasingly popular in other parts of the world. Although Mate contains less caffeine than coffee and many other teas, its energy boost is unique, memorable, and useful for anyone looking for a pick-me-up that doesn’t involve turning to hard drugs. With a buzz that is distinctly different from coffee, one of the best perks of Mate is the benefit of drinking the tea beyond the immediate boost.

The energizing tea – which tastes a bit like green tea – is said to be rich in antioxidants. The drink is also touted as a way to help maintain or even lose weight all while aiding digestion and lending a helping hand to cardiovascular health. The way that Mate helps to sustain energy is can particularly useful for those who might have addiction issues with stimulants. It’s not as jolting or dangerous as drugs like amphetamines and cocaine, but it raises alertness and, according to countless anecdotes, it does so in a longer-lasting and calmer way than most forms of caffeine.

However, it’s important to note that people who drink Mate should do so in moderation (isn’t that the key for so many things in life?). Mate is full of health benefits, but some research suggests that people who drink excessive levels of the tea might have an increased risk for specific types of cancer. A person would have to drink more than a liter of Mate a day before having reason to legitimately worry about this possibility, which, for many people, is not a likely amount to consume. In the USA, Mate is not consumed the way that it is in South America, where people are regularly seen walking the streets with Mate and hand and stations with boiling water to refill Mate gourds are present.

It’s considered to be perfectly safe to enjoy a glass or two of Mate a day, so go ahead and give this tea a whirl if you’re looking for a way to increase your energy and focus without all of the jitters amid your recovery from stimulants.


Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse on the Downswing

January 5, 2017 by  
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Alcohol is now being used at its lowest frequency in teens according to study conducted by the University of Michigan. Although the problem still exists, there is hope on the horizon.

Research has shown that most effective means of preventing substance abuse stems from early drug prevention programs implemented in the K-12 education system. In order to track the effectiveness of such methods, the University of Michigan started the Monitoring the Future study in 1975. Every year 50,000 students from 8th, 10th and 12th grade are surveyed to get a better understanding of national trends in youth substance abuse.

The 2014 totals for the youth demographic using illicit substances as well as alcohol came back with some promising results, although the problem is far from being solved. The study found that alcohol usage is at its lowest point since the study was started 40 years ago. This is largely attributed to anti-alcohol and drug campaigns started in schools from an early age.

To put alcohol abuse in relative perspective the totals in 1997 showed that 61 percent of students surveyed had drunken alcohol in the previous 12 months. The 2014 totals show that that figure has dropped 20 percent coming in at 41 percent.

It must be noted that 41 percent of students drinking alcohol in middle and high school are still alarming numbers, but the downslide does give a glimmer of hope for the future. Since 12 months is a large period time, the survey also asked more specific questions such as if the students had engaged in binge drinking within the past two weeks. Of the three grades combined only 12 percent said that they had consumed more than five alcoholic drinks in one sitting.

Surprisingly enough marijuana is also on the downswing dropping from 23 percent of students smoking weed in 2013 to 21 percent in 2014. Students also said that marijuana was not as easily available as it had been previously.

“Even though the indicators are very good news, at the same time we cannot become complacent. This is a stage where their (teens) brains are most vulnerable. We need to continue our prevention efforts,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Naturally the substance abuse problem in the youth demographic will not be solved over night. However, trends can be established and policy makers can continue on with the programs that have been shown to be the most effective.

Government-backed Messages to Kids Regarding Drinking

December 29, 2016 by  
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Unless you have been living in a cave you have probably noticed the many government and state sponsored advertisements and messages designed to curb alcohol, tobacco, and drug use in young people. Do they work?

Large campaigns often target younger people because it is believed that if drug abuse and addiction can be addressed at an early age the problem with abuse and addiction will be rectified. What does the research say about the effectiveness of these large campaigns? Read on.

1. D.A.R.E.

The conclusion of the U.S. General Accounting Office was that D.A.R.E. was ineffective despite spending millions. A new allegedly more effective program was launched in 2014.

In the United Kingdom there are over 1.2 million hospital admissions annually related to alcohol use, over 15,500 deaths related alcohol abuse, and the cost of alcohol abuse in Britain runs into the billions of British pounds. Binge drinking among younger people is a big issue in the UK and a recent study in Great Britain investigated governmental attempts to tackle and reduce excessive binge drinking by British youth [1].

2. Say NO!

A saying popularized by Nancy Reagan was found to have no effect on drug use in US youth

Researchers from four UK universities looked at the effects of government-sponsored anti-binge drinking messages directed at younger individuals. The researchers looked at data from over 200 alcohol advertisements and their effects on young people between the years 2004 through 2007. They found that the government-sponsored advertisements were generally ineffective because these advertising campaigns actually increased the notion that sensible drinking is boring and conformist in nature, whereas binge drinking is reactionary, nonconformist, and even fun.

The researchers concluded that government officials and government employees who design these campaigns actually ignore the reasons that many of the British youth enjoy drinking. The researchers also concluded that the funding for these campaigns, which runs into the millions of British pounds, is simply being misused because the messages invoke a reactionary response by young binge drinkers or are considered irrelevant to them [1].

3. This is your brain on drugs.

This was a large-scale US anti-narcotics campaign by Partnership for a Drug-Free America that used two televised public service announcements. While amusing they were generally ineffective.

The United States has a long history of government-sponsored anti-drinking and anti-drug campaigns.  Of course the most infamous government intervention against alcohol use is Prohibition which outlawed alcohol possession nearly all together and ran from 1920 to 1933. The program failed miserably. Government sponsored programs designed to reduce use of other drugs came to fruition with the Harrison Narcotics Act, passed in 1914, as the first federal drug policy.  This act restricted the manufacture and sale of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and morphine.  It too was highly unsuccessful in curbing drug use and simply fostered the development of large criminal organizations that specialized in manufacturing and delivering these drugs to users [2].  

4. Potheads

Advertisements have recently attempted to target specific groups of young people. Ads targeting marijuana use are notoriously ineffective.

More recent government that sponsored programs such as the “Just say no!” slogan, D.A.R.E. and others have been equally ineffective and many researchers have suggested that these programs often produce what is known as a “boomerang effect” with drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana where the more young people are exposed to these campaigns the less effective they are.

Independent research on the US Government’s National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has also found it to be generally ineffective [4].  Moreover, there is research that suggests in response to these large campaigns many at-risk younger people tend to romanticize the use of these drugs and see their use as rebellious and as a means to develop a personal identity [3]. These findings are consistent with the recent findings from the UK [1].

5. Controversy

Many of the government advertisements targeting youth have stirred controversy after shifting the blame to the victim.

The British researchers suggested that smaller, targeted, and practical interventions at specific groups might be more effective than mass campaigns promoted by the government and the media [1]. Many individuals in the United States have suggested legalization for illicit drugs like marijuana and cocaine or more specific practical and interventions/messages as opposed to the overall negative messages directed at younger audiences, much in line with the suggestions of the researchers in the UK [2, 3].

References

[1] Hackley, C., Bengry-Howell, A., Griffin, C., Szmigin, I., Mistral, W., & Hackley, R. A. (2015). Transgressive drinking practices and the subversion of proscriptive alcohol policy messages. Journal of Business Research.

[2] Lise, W. (2012). War on Drugs. Publications Oboulo. com.

[3] van Wormer, K., & Thyer, B. A. (Eds.). (2009). Evidence-based practice in the field of substance abuse: A book of readings. Sage.

[4] Hornik, R., & Jacobsohn, L. (2007). The best laid plans: Disappointments of the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. LDI issue brief, 14(2), 1-4.


Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

The Dangers of Bath Salts

December 8, 2016 by  
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In 2011, the mainstream media picked up on a chilling story of cannibalism in Miami, where a certain “new drug” was said to have played a pivotal role in the egregious assault. Although it was later determined that this “new drug” was not to blame for the incident, the cat had already been let of the bag and thousands of curious drugs users learned about a new species of chemical substances, referred too as “bath salts.”

The drug classification of “bath salts” does not pertain to one specific substance. Instead the term is used to categorize a slew of substances all containing one or more manmade chemicals that act similar to cathinone. Cathinone is naturally found in the khat plant, and when ingested it acts as amphetamine-like substance, similar to methamphetamine and MDMA.

Bath salts should not be confused with Epsom salts, which are made for the sole purpose of creating a more relaxing bath. Epsom salts do not carry the same psychoactive properties that are found in bath salts, due to the missing ingredient of cathinone. These relatively new drugs are labeled by distributors as “bath salts” for their similar appearance and also as a way to stay under the federal radar.

Federal Regulation

The original problem and overall foothold that bath salts were able to achieve was skating by under the guise of a “legal high.” In a sense they can be liked to Dust-Off or Freon, drugs that could be legally purchased and used for ulterior purposes. It wasn’t until 2011 that the Drug Enforcement Agency placed an emergency ban on three of the chemicals commonly used in bath salts: methylenedioxypyrovalerone, mephedrone and methylone. After a year of further research, a permanent ban was placed on two of the manmade cathinones as well as other manmade chemicals used for synthetic-marijuana.

“Legal highs” are always one of the most dangerous forms of substance abuse because the purpose of the substance is usually not intended for human consumption. The screening processes for products intended for human consumption differ greatly from the tests done on inedible items. This can easily lead to the user being poisoned, since a wider assortment of chemicals are allowed to be used.

Drug Description

Generally speaking bath salts come in small packages with contents that resemble white or brownish crystals. The substances can be swallowed, snorted, inhaled or injected with a needle. In most cases, the worst drug reactions have been seen in users who have snorted or injected the substance.

Harmful Effects

In 2011, there were 23,000 reported emergency room visits stemming from bath salt usage. Most users reported having severe chest pains related to high blood pressure and other symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations. Researchers have also classified some users as being in a state of “excited delirium,” which lead to dehydration, break down in muscle tissue and kidney failure. In severe cases, users have died from ingesting a great enough amount or a bad mixture of the manmade cathinone substances.

As far as the specific effects that each user feels while under the influence of the substance, each case is different due to the different cathinones found inside. Largely the effects of the drug can be likened to methamphetamines in the way that users can feel immense outbursts of joy, social interaction and sex drive. However, as is true with methamphetamines, the drug also produces effects such as paranoia, hallucinations, agitation and sometimes violent acts. MDVP alone acts in the same way as cocaine, raising dopamine levels in the brain, except that researchers have estimated that it is 10 times more potent. The hallucinogenic symptoms of the drug can be compared with the visuals of LSD or MDMA.

Although the Federal ban on bath salt related chemicals has been largely effective at cutting down the amount of emergency room visits, the takeaway message should be that “legal highs” are a dangerous game to play with. Most of these new substances are unregulated and with little to no trust in the distributors who purposely mislabel the packaging, there is no way to be able to tell what harmful chemicals make up the substance. In a sense it is blindfolding yourself and ingesting whatever substance is put into your mouth.

While using harmful substances should never be encouraged, it must be noted that there are safer ways of getting “a buzz” then purchasing deviant substances online.

7 US Cities That Drink the Least

November 24, 2016 by  
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Young girl holding martini glass with red drink in the bar

Birds of the feather flock together, or so they say! If you’re living a clean and sober life, you likely find great reprieve being among others who have made the same lifestyle choices. There’s a lot of power in having some sober camaraderie, and that’s an important thing to consider if you’re thinking about moving or visiting a place. That’s why we’ve put together this slideshow of US cities that drink the lease. If you’d like to get away to a place where you can unwind without so much pressure to drink or use drugs, consider one of these US cities.

1. Delray Beach, Florida

The New York Times called Delray Beach, Florida “the country’s largest and most vibrant recovery community” in 2008. The city itself is just over 60,000 people in population, but it is home to over 300 weekly recovery meetings boasting more than 5,000 members. There’s even a local recovery motorcycle club.

2. Minneapolis, Minnesota

This Midwestern town is known for its wholesomeness and, apparently, its numerous rehab centers. There are 35 high schools in the US dubbed “sober” high schools and Minneapolis is home to 11 of them.

3. Nashville, Tennessee

According to data from The Daily Beast, Nashville is the most sober city in the USA with the fewest number of drinks per citizen each week (8.92). The city is also home to almost 300 weekly recovery meetings and the active music scene and mild climate can keep idle hands and wandering minds busy in their sobriety throughout the year.

4. Prescott, Arizona

This budding southwestern town is home to many facilities that are devoted to sober living as well as rehab and detox centers as well as halfway houses. The city’s population is only 40,000, but the sobriety scene is strong.

5. New York, NY

The next few cities – starting with New York – will likely surprise you for being on this list. But sometimes the greatest haven for a sober person is in a place where booze and drugs abound. The temptations are real in these cities, but the sober communities are also undeniably thriving and strong. There are more than 4,000 recovery meetings each week in NYC.

6. Boston, MA

Just as is the case with NYC, citizens of Boston aren’t strangers to drinking culture, but for every place where excessive drinking takes place, healing among those who need it also takes place. With more than 2,000 recovery meetings each week in Boston, a recovering addict can easily find his or her place among likeminded individuals on a similar journey.

7. Los Angeles, CA

Recovery is so common in the city of angels that there are over 3,000 recovery meetings each week in the area. With a warm climate and laid-back culture, LA residents purportedly take a leisurely approach to their recovery meetings – arriving early to chat and leaving with friends from the group for a post-meeting activity. Celebrities are often cited at these meetings, too. It makes sense: the pressures that come with the entertainment industry and fame put a lot of people into a difficult situation with alcohol and/or drugs.


Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

Increasing Use of ADHD Medication on College Campuses

November 17, 2016 by  
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The pressure to get good grades in college often leads college students to take excessive steps or to find shortcuts to success. There had been several studies performed on different college campuses that suggest that the misuse of stimulant drugs, especially drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, is becoming more common by college students looking to get an edge. Ritalin and Adderall are Schedule II controlled substances which places them in the same legal category as methamphetamine, cocaine, etc. Moreover, these drugs are designed specifically for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A recent study has indicated that the practice of using these stimulant medications by college students is increasing at an alarming rate [1].

The researchers of the study used a statistical technique known as meta-analysis which allows researchers to pool together the results from many different studies. The researchers looked at 30 different studies that met fairly stringent criteria to determine the rates of use of these stimulant medications for ADHD on college campuses. The results of the studies indicated that about 17% of college students misuse stimulant medication for ADHD by either taking the medication without a prescription or taking a much larger amount than prescribed. Students who are able to get the medication without a prescription often purchase it from individuals who have a prescription for the medication or from other sources that sell it at increased prices. The primary reason given by students for taking the medication was to improve academic performance; however, there actually is no empirical evidence that taking stimulant medications improves memory or learning ability. What the stimulant medications do is allow students to stay awake longer and to cram or study longer. The medication does not increase their ability to learn material.

Other Complications from Stimulant Abuse

The researchers found that there were several variables that identified stimulant medication misusers from nonusers. These included having issues with alcohol use disorder and marijuana use disorder, belonging to a fraternity or sorority, poorer than average academic performance, and a past history of substance abuse. There are many adverse health effects that can result from misuse of these drugs such as serious cardiovascular complications (e.g. heart attack or stroke), the development of paranoia or extreme hostility, and of course an increased risk for addiction. In addition, a recent study also found that even casual users of stimulant medications designed to treat ADHD demonstrate significant changes in their brain function compared to nonusers [2]. Moreover, because these medications are actually classified as Schedule II drugs individuals who do not have a prescription for them and are caught with them risk some serious legal problems.

Alternatives to Using Stimulant Medication

Interestingly, there is no evidence to suggest that the use of these medications improves academic performance. As mentioned above students that use this medication often use it during finals when they feel the need to study around the clock. There are a few simple principles of learning and memory that would be much more effective:

(A). There is plenty of research that indicates that studying material bit by bit or for short periods of time at a consistent level is much more efficient than cramming or what learning researchers call “mass practice” [3]. Instead of waiting until the night before test or a final to study volumes of material students would be much more efficient in learning by reviewing and studying specific material for an hour or so a day on a consistent schedule.

(B). For reasons this writer could never understand many students study in areas with lots of distractions such as radios playing music, TVs on, other people talking, at sporting events, etc. This practice is highly inefficient. Learning academic material and reading textbooks becomes much more efficient when done in areas that are distraction free.

(C). Students should only take what they absolutely need with them when they are studying. Typically this is means textbooks, notes, and other class materials or study materials such as flashcards. Taking a computer, leaving your cell phone on, etc. only produce more distractions.

(D). Writing and rewriting notes is an efficient way to help learn. Using outlines, flashcards, etc. helps to organize material. Instead of highlighting text in the textbook is more efficient to rewrite it and summarize it then use the summary notes as flashcards or memorization aids.

(E). It is extremely important to make a schedule that you can stick to and then stick to that schedule. Again, regular practice at regular intervals always is more efficient than cramming or mass practice. It is important to set goals for each study session and keep tabs on where you are in relation to what it is you need to know for the upcoming exam. It is also extremely important to understand the expectations for each class and chart your progress towards these.

(F). It is also extremely important to allow schedule breaks during studying. However, during the break it would be counterproductive to engage in an activity that will affect your studying goals in a negative manner such as going out a getting a beer or other activities that lead to distraction from the goal of learning.

(G). Some people work better in groups and some people work better alone. It is important to know where you stand on this issue. If you study with a group it is also important to study with a group that is focused in learning the material as opposed to socializing and engaging in activities that will distract you from your goal of learning the material.

 

References:

[1] Benson, K., Flory, K., Humphreys, K. L., & Lee, S. S. (2015). Misuse of Stimulant Medication Among College Students: A Comprehensive Review and Meta-analysis. Clinical child and family psychology review, 18(1), 1-27.

[2] Harlé, K. M., Shenoy, P., Stewart, J. L., Tapert, S. F., Angela, J. Y., & Paulus, M. P. (2014). Altered neural processing of the need to stop in young adults at risk for stimulant dependence. The Journal of Neuroscience, 34(13), 4567-4580

[3] Hatfield, R. C. (2013). The everything guide to the human brain. Avon, MA: Adams.


Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

5 Ways to Navigate this Election Season While Being Sober

November 7, 2016 by  
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Saint Louis, MO, USA - March 11, 2016: Donald Trump talks to supporters at the Peabody Opera House in Downtown Saint Louis.

Though the election season is (thankfully) coming to a close soon, the negative news regarding political candidates continues and seems to be intensifying. And, unfortunately, we are seeing a great deal of that evidenced on our social media feeds, preferred news outlets and in our daily conversations, even within our recovery communities. The latter reality can be straining on a newly sober mind.

As such, it is important for those of us in recovery to find ways to navigate this election while being sober. Thankfully, that’s not as difficult a task as steering clear of political conversations altogether. In fact, the desire to do so brings us to the first suggestion:

1. Set boundaries.

Though reality is something we all have to learn to deal with in recovery—something we are generally accustom to escaping or avoiding—we do have the right to set personal boundaries when reality becomes overwhelming. Whether those boundaries are by way of social media—like unfollowing or unfriending someone who is not respectful of your views or seemingly toxic—or face-to-face conversations, you have a right to simply suggest a change of subject or, if needed, disconnect from someone completely, even if just temporarily.

2. Accept and respect differences.

It’s really quite simple; agree to disagree. That’s the easiest way to deal with opposing views. This late in the game, there’s likely no way you’re going to change your mind, and the same goes for the other person. So, to avoid the loss of a friendship or connection, it is best to simply accept the fact that you don’t agree and respect each other, regardless. And, since you cannot control what another person does or doesn’t do, if this is not a workable solution for someone else, it may be time to set the aforementioned boundaries involving disconnection.

3. Take breaks from social media and TV.

It’s always a good idea to take a break from social media and television. The more we stay plugged in, the less likely we are to enjoy nature, social events, connection with family and friends in face-to-face settings, etc. Getting away from the noise of political chatter blaring across the tv screen and social media news feed is a very healthy and needed way to maintain serenity and sanity.

4. Engage in solution-oriented conversation.

Conversations about issues surrounding politics can often be very important, intellectually stimulating ones. In that way, it can be a time of growth and progress for everyone. But it important to engage only in those conversations which offer solutions or, at least, pose some positive spin, rather than merely focusing on the problems and burying everyone in negativity. The world’s current issues may, indeed, be bleak. However, as recovering individuals, we are more aware than anyone of ways to find a sliver of hope in even the darkest day. As such, if we can’t find a solution-oriented conversation, or one focused on a shift in perspective, it may be a call to start one.

5. Express yourself, regardless.

Though it seems like no post on social media goes undebated, there is still a need for you to feel free and, more importantly, emotionally safe to express yourself. Your thoughts, opinions, feelings, ideas and experiences all matter just as much as anyone else’s, and you have just as much right to express them. If you’re not yet comfortable to stand firm in that truth and face potential conflict while carefully confronting those who seek to debate, this is likely not the best time to throw yourself out there. However, you do still need to find a safe way to express all the thoughts and feelings likely surfacing and swimming around as a result of all the chatter. Keeping a private journal is a great way to do this. Additionally, talking things out with trusted friends (whose views are similar), with yourself (aloud, in your home or while driving in your car) or with a helping professional (life coach, counselor, spirit guide, etc.) can be very helpful methods of venting and processing.

Regardless of the ways in which you decide to navigate this election while maintaining sobriety, be sure to guard against your serenity and sanity too. Remember, recovery is more than mere sobriety. And, of course, it’s a lifelong process. The election season is not. This too shall pass.


Toshia Humphries is a Texan freelance writer, artist, life coach and talk radio co-host of Girl Power Hour on Blog Talk Radio. She has been writing for two decades and possesses three degrees in counseling and psychology with a focus on addictions and women’s studies. She is also the creator of Threads Locks & Rock—a performance art show which utilizes personal experiences and stories to inspire each show and its performers, healing and empowering them and audience members alike. Much of her work is fueled by her own life experience and education.

What We Can Learn About Shame and Alcoholism From Stephen Moyer

October 20, 2016 by  
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shutterstock_142104544As you may or may not already know, actor Stephen Moyer, star of television show True Blood, is sober. In an industry and place notorious for alcohol and drug use, Moyer has been committed to staying sober for years now. Hollywood isn’t an easy scene for a recovered addict, but that doesn’t get in Moyer’s way. The star has even opened up about his struggle with addiction and shared some useful thoughts.

As a board member of a nonprofit treatment facility The Clare Foundation (TCF) and former group leader for group therapy for convicts with drug and alcohol related charges, Moyer’s sobriety extends far beyond himself. The actor cares about the recovering addict community and devotes himself to being a part of it in his spare time. Moyer spoke out as a part of a panel for TCF and part of what he talked about dealt with how self-loathing, to a degree, motivates a lot of people to drink in excess to begin with. According to Moyer—and many addicts will agree—self-loathing fuels drinking, but the shame that comes with admitting your own faults after sobriety is also a difficult force to contend with. Moyer said that there needs to be an emphasis on education and eliminating the shame from the vicious cycle that often imprisons addicts.

Indeed, shame and alcoholism do intertwine in many different ways. One study tells us that recovered addicts who feel shame about their past drinking behavior are actually more likely to relapse. In order to avoid this potential pitfall yourself, here are some tips for dealing with alcohol-related shame so that you might resolve any issues with shame that you currently have.

1. Identify what causes you shame.

Perhaps you have memories you purposefully avoid from your drinking days because they make you feel so much shame. Identify the details in those memories that make you feel the worst. Drag them out from within and take a close look at them. Do you feel shame because you mistreated someone? Do you feel shame because you acted in a way that was not in line with your values? Is your shame related to your personal behavior or is it related to how your behavior impacted others?

2. Have a conversation.

If you are carrying around guilt and shame regarding how you might have treated someone from your past when you were drinking, consider having a conversation with that person to clear the air. That person does not need to listen to you or forgive you, but if you need to apologize, do so even if only for yourself.

3. Let go of the past.

We are all continually changing—some of us more so than others. Who you were back then is not who you are now. What you did back then has no impact on the freedom you have to make positive and proactive choices now. Embrace the present and loosen your imaginary grip on the past.

4. Be your best self now.

In an effort to be your best self now in this present moment, figure out all of the good things about yourself. Make a list if it helps! Practice self-love and zero in on specific skills and talents you have that can help other people. Are you a good listener? Do you love to cook for other people? Do you enjoy playing music for others? Identify what you can offer the people who are in your present life and community so you can be your best self now for those people and for yourself.


Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

5 US Cities That Drink the Most

August 11, 2016 by  
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drinkJust as you might care to know which cities in the US drink the least, you might also be curious to know which cities in the US drink the most. It can be important for a person in recovery to plan ahead – to prepare mentally for situations where booze will be present and, in some cases, to prepare mentally for cities where booze seems to always be present. If you’d like to know which cities drink the most in the US, click through this slideshow. We’ve consolidated rankings from some of the most recent credible roundups to come up with this list.

Fargo, ND

Data collected by the CDC listed Fargo as the drunkest city in the U.S. A whopping 28 percent of people in the city of Fargo are classified as heavy drinkers. Some people attribute the drinking problem here to the bone-chilling climate. With temperatures that can drop to -60, many turn to booze as a way to stay warm or as a way to forget the harrowing blustery world outside.

Boston, MA

Boston is a city that offers a lot to those who are sober, which is why is also made our list for sober cities, but that is because the drinking culture there is so strong. When drinking is so ingrained in a town, a certain percentage of drinkers are bound to turn to sobriety and develop a strong recovery community in spite of it. Maybe it’s the culture of sports fanatics or the numerous colleges or the often-chilly weather, but throwing back a bottle – and then some more – is commonplace in Boston.

Austin, TX

Warmer cities don’t tend to make the cut for high levels of drinking culture, but there are certainly exceptions to that generalization and Austin, Texas is one of them. With a thriving live music and art scene and an outdoors culture that encourages lounging around in or near Lady Bird Lake or Lake Travis with a drink in hand, it’s no surprise that this city consistently makes the lists for “Most Drunk.” The drinks are relatively cheap at most bars in Austin and big festivals like SXSW and Austin City Limits bring in throngs of drinking crowds, which just adds to the overall drinking culture.

Milwaukee, WI

Nearly 1/5 of Milwaukee’s residents are estimated to be binge drinkers. Maybe beer just goes well with cheese. Maybe it’s the bitterly cold weather keeps people indoors and turning to drinking as a way to have fun. Whatever the case ma be, Milwaukee is a city that regularly makes lists for cities that drink the most.

Reno, NV

The binge drinking culture in this desert town near Lake Tahoe, CA is pervasive. It’s estimated that over 18% of the population of Reno engages in binge drinking. Beauty abounds in this Nevada city, but so does the booze.

Knowing in advance that drinking culture is stronger in some cities than others can help you to stay mentally strong in your sobriety and avoid a relapse, so keep this information handy!


Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

Guess the Drug: What’s That Smell?

August 4, 2016 by  
Filed under People and Culture

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Have you ever wondered what certain drugs smelled like? Perhaps you smell an odd odor coming from the neighbor or your child’s bedroom. Here are some clues to help you identify the smell of these five most notorious drugs.

1. Crystal Meth

Pure meth is odorless, but some impurities or adulterants give it some kind of smell. Most users who inhale it find its smell close to burning plastic or nail polish. They also report a sticky, sweet odor lingering in the air.

2. Marijuana

When smoked, marijuana has pungent odor – something like an oily herb. The smell tends to linger around the smoker for a long time. The first puff might feel crisp and sharp, but gradually the odor becomes more pungent and heavy.

3. Hashish

The smell of hashish when smoked is similar to the pungent odor of marijuana, but much stronger. In fact, this substance is collected from the sticky substance on the flowers of female cannabis plant, the same plant from which marijuana is made.

4. Heroin

The purest form of heroin is not known to have any smell. Some additives give it a strong, vinegar-like smell when inhaled. It is one of the most potent and addictive drugs around.

5. Ecstasy or MDMA


Like heroin, pure MDMA does not have any odor by itself, but has a bitter taste. Oftentimes though, safrole is added to it to give a smell of aniseed (licorice).


Dominica Applegate has a BS in Psychology, an MA in Counseling and has worked in the mental health field for 12 years before launching her own business as a writer. Specializing in addictions, relationships, codependency, fitness and health, Dominica’s work is ultimately about helping people remove blocks that keep them stuck, because everyone can really create a life that they love.

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