How Alcohol Use Affects Mental Health

June 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Health


People who have a mental illness also have a higher risk of having a substance abuse problem [1]. Alcohol is one of the most commonly misused substances and high rates of alcohol use disorders occur in people with diagnose mental illnesses. There are many reasons why individuals were diagnosed with a mental illness, even something as common as depression, should not drink alcohol.

1. Alcohol interferes with the mechanism by which most medications used in treating mental illness work. Drinking alcohol typically nullifies the effects (if any) from psychotropic medications.

2. Alcohol use interferes with the process of learning and memory. This relationship is such that the more alcohol one uses the more the process is disrupted. Someone in a treatment program for mental illness or substance abuse drinks heavily will not process, encode, and retain information as well as if they did not drink at all.

3. Alcohol can be dangerous and even lethal when used in combination with certain medications such as anti-anxiety medications.

4. Alcohol use contributes to increased impulsivity in people. People with mental illness are at risk for acting impulsively and irrationally. Drinking alcohol makes this all the worse.

5. Heavy alcohol use leads to poor decision-making that can intensify guilt, shame, depression.

6. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. What this means is that it dampens the firing of certain neurons in the brain. For people prone to depressive reactions alcohol use can actually intensify their depression and increase thoughts of self “” harm.

7. Heavy alcohol use may initially reduce a person’s anxiety; however, it also leads to something known as rebound anxiety where the person will experience more anxious symptoms as they withdraw from alcohol use.

8. Alcohol use is known to increase recall for negative events such as traumatic experiences that occurred when one was using alcohol. This can lead to increased shame, depression, etc.

9. Regular alcohol use disrupts sleep patterns and REM sleep. Disrupting one’s sleep can lead to more issues with fatigue, anxiety, depression, etc.

10. Alcohol use is associated with other substance abuse, especially in individuals diagnosed with some form of mental health issue or mental illness. This can lead to more distressed, increased legal issues, and issues in recovery and treatment.

The bottom line is this: If you are diagnosed with a mental health issue DO NOT drink alcohol at all unless you are instructed to do so by your physician (this last situation would be VERY rare).


[1] American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington DC: Author.

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

Medical Marijuana for Developmental Disorders in Children

June 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Health, People and Culture



125243There has been a recent upsurge in the use of marijuana for certain types of medical conditions in adults including chronic pain, neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, and even with psychiatric problems such as depression and anxiety. As the use of marijuana as a medical treatment becomes more popular there has also been a growing interest in using marijuana to treat certain developmental and behavioral disorders in children. The specific disorders that have been hypothesized as potentially being able to benefit for treatment include attention deficit “” hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD: or what many readers just know as autism). The sedating effects of marijuana have been hypothesized by some to be viable treatment options for these two disorders, both of which are primarily recognized in children and adolescents. But is marijuana a viable treatment alternative for children and adolescents? A recent review article in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics offered an opinion regarding this potential usage [1].

First, the authors report that a review of the empirical evidence regarding marijuana as a potential treatment for ADHD or ASDs indicates that there is no sound research evidence to indicate that marijuana is an effective treatment option for these disorders [1]. Marijuana might reduce some disruptive behaviors in children that have these disorders such as hyperactivity, loud repetitive yelling, and hand flapping, behaviors are very distressing to the parents and others; however, this type of symptom management with a potentially dangerous drug is frowned upon by the authors of the article.

Secondly, the authors rightly report that even casual use of marijuana in children and adolescents is known to result in a number of neurological changes such as reduced white matter in the brain [2]. White matter is a term often used to refer to the singling portion of the neuron and diseases that affect white matter include multiple sclerosis Parkinson disease, and other neurological conditions that result in long-term and often irreversible physical and cognitive problems. The research has indicated that even casual but steady marijuana use in children and adolescents is associated with declines in IQ scores, risks of addiction, and increased vulnerability to anxiety, depression, and psychosis [1]. Thus, while the research on the effects of marijuana usage as a medical treatment for children and adolescents is limited, it does indicate that the use of marijuana as a medical treatment for children is counterproductive.

Finally, according to the authors it is well “” establish that children who are diagnosed with ADHD or autism have significantly higher rates of substance abuse and addiction than children not diagnosed with these conditions. The authors speculate that it would be counterproductive to place children on a drug that is associated with abuse, is potentially addictive, and has little empirical evidence to support its effectiveness in treatment.

But while this author agrees in principle with the conclusions of this particular review article, the article does indirectly point out some glaring inconsistencies regarding the treatment of childhood conditions like ADHD by the psychiatric establishment. For instance, the stimulant medications and other medications used to treat ADHD are also potentially addictive, have questionable efficacy in clinical studies, and can also result in long-term effects in the brains of these children that can be very severe. So while this author does agree that medical marijuana is not appropriate for treating adolescents and children, he also wonders if this type of article adds credence to the arguments supported by many in the anti-psychiatry movement in America. Having worked in mental health and having done quite a bit of work with children who have ADHD and ASDs it is interesting to see the potential hypocrisy put forth by this article. Many of the reasons that the authors in the article give for not using marijuana on children have also been discussed as evidence against using most of the approved psychiatric medications that are currently prescribed for children. A really good article by a psychiatrist in Kentucky that received some national attention highlighted this dilemma. The article can be found here:


[1] Hadland, S. E., Knight, J. R., & Harris, S. K. (2015). Medical Marijuana: Review of the Science and Implications for Developmental-Behavioral Pediatric Practice. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 36(2), 115-123.

[2] 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.

Alcohol Consumption as Early as 3 Weeks into Pregnancy May Affect Child

June 9, 2016 by  
Filed under Health


43234Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been associated with a number of detrimental effects for children including such things as restricted growth, lower intellect, learning disabilities, memory issues, poor physical coordination, and other developmental delays. Researchers at the University Of Helsinki, Finland have suggested that alcohol exposure very early in pregnancy could lead to lifelong changes to the gene regulation mechanism in embryonic stem cells [1]. Embryonic stem cells are the earliest cells to develop an embryo and have the potential to become any of several different types of cells later on in development.

The researchers fed alcohol to a group of pregnant mice during their first eight days of pregnancy, which is the equivalent of three to four weeks gestation in human beings. The researchers found that when compared to the offspring of pregnant mice not exposed to alcohol the alcohol exposed mice showed altered epigenomes which led to changes in the function of genes located in the hippocampus of the brain, the olfactory epithelium in the nasal area, and in bone marrow. The hippocampus is the brain area that is extremely important in learning and memory in mammals and is primarily responsible for encoding information and forming new memories [2]. Later the alcohol-exposed mice demonstrated symptoms that are similar to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in humans.

These results suggest that pregnant women who use alcohol long before most women are tested to see if they are pregnant risk serious detrimental effects to the fetus. The current research also has implications for determining if a newborn has suffered any effects of prenatal alcohol exposure as these changes could be used as biomarkers to diagnose Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. By using a simple swipe from inside the baby’s mouth at birth doctors and parents could receive information about any alcohol-exposure related damage to the newborn.


[1] Early maternal alcohol consumption alters hippocampal DNA methylation, gene expression and volume in a mouse model, Nina Kaminen-Ahola , et al., PLOS ONE.

[2] 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.

How Recovery Has Helped Tim McGraw in His Music Career

March 31, 2016 by  
Filed under People and Culture


shutterstock_194633141Not many people would associate wild, drunken parties with any of today’s country music superstars, however, superstar Tim McGraw recently opened up to Men’s Health magazine about his previous party days and his new view on life. Now 47 years and married to fellow country music star, Faith Hill, he has lifted the veil off his younger years on tour.

Tim candidly spoke of his wild and crazy after parties during his tours, as had a problem big problem with alcoholism. Maybe he drank to try to cope with the stress he accumulated after going through long strenuous days and even demanding tours. Or perhaps he just liked the party scene, but either way, he recounts the measures he took to hide his drinking problem from his wife.

He admitted that he learned to text via cell phones because of the several instances when he would be very drunk and call his wife after shows slurring his words. After one particular show, Tim realized that he started slurring on his text messages too. His messages had non-sensible statements, as well as several errors. It is at this moment that it dawned on him that he needed to stop drinking.

Tim has been sober for approximately four years now. He wants to share his story in order to raise awareness on addiction and its dangers. He wants to show people what they can lose if they do not stop their addictions. Though Tim’s wife initially tolerated Tim’s addiction, she eventually got fed up and issued him with an ultimatum to stop drinking or lose his family. Faith’s ultimatum served as a wake-up call to Tim. It is with the realization that he stood to lose his family if he did not get sober that spurred him into action. For many men, family means everything, as they tend to think that losing their family is worse than monetary or career losses.

Today, Tim is sitting pretty on top of the world. He is happy, healthy and content. Though Tim has been successful in his music career for decades, his music career has been wildly successful ever since he quit drinking. Tim’s drinking was adversely affecting his relationships, consequently, it was getting in the way of the things he wanted to accomplish in life. He credits his wife with saving him from certain death.

Having quit drinking in 2008, McGraw has shifted much of his focus to his health and music career. He has dominated the charts with several number one singles. His double CD collection released in 2010 had the phenomenal charts topper; “Felt Good on My Lips”. His studio album, Southern Voice, debuted at position one on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. The album featured the hit single; “It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You.”

He then went on a tour known as the Southern Voice tour, which was ranked as 2010’s number one Country music tour. He has since won several awards. With his growing success, McGraw has been engaged in numerous charitable endeavors, including the Nashville Rising. This concert aimed to raise two million dollars to benefit the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee in response to an early May flood that saw 22 people lose their lives and approximately two billion dollars’ worth of damage.

It seems as if sobriety is doing Tim McGraw quite well, which is wonderful news and an inspiration to many.

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.

Increase in Opioid Misuse: The Painful Truth

May 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Treatment and Recovery News


bottle of pillsA recent analysis of 35 existing studies about opioids has revealed an astounding increase in its use, misuse and addiction. Opioids—medications that include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, morphine and codeine—are known to be both psychologically and physically addictive. Often, opioid users become dependent on the medication and get to a point where they need to up their doses to induce the same level of euphoria. Prescriptions of these highly addictive medications have exploded in the past decade, hiking up the cases of opioid reliance and uncontrollable usage.

The Rise of Opioid Prescriptions

An estimated 20 to 30 percent of opioid drugs legally prescribed by medical professionals are misused, according to a 2015 study published by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). “On average, misuse was documented in approximately one out of four or five patients,” writes Kevin Vowles, a professor at University of New Mexico, and his colleagues. The study also states that “addiction [occurs] in approximately one out of ten or eleven patients.” The report, which is an analysis of 35 existing studies primarily conducted in the United States, classified three problematic types of opioid use:

  1. Misuse – When opioids are used contrary to instructions
  2. Abuse – Exploiting the drug for its euphoric effects for recreational purposes
  3. Addiction – Continued opioid use with actual or potential harmful effects

A Possible Solution

This update on the rising opioid usage has led many experts to call for a strategy and immediate plan to put an end to what the study dubs as an “opioid epidemic.” Generally, the study’s authors tout that helping to reduce the misuse of powerful pain killers may be as basic as educating and monitoring patients. Vowles, who is the study’s lead researcher, suggests that “[since] one in four patients on opioids display patterns of opioid misuse, but not addiction, then perhaps more efficient targeting of treatment resources would be of benefit.”

Audrey Beim holds two advanced degrees from major universities, including a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She has over 20 years of experience in the health, wellness, nutritional and fitness categories and has used her expertise to write articles for media outlets such as Linfield Media and

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