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Why do so many great writers suffer from alcoholism?
November 1st, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  I am a student majoring in American literature. During my research I have found that many of the great writers suffered from alcoholism. Why? Answer :  Donald W. Goodwin, MD, professor of psychiatry, noted in an article he wrote for the American Journal of Psychotherapy (Vol. XLVI, No. 3, July 1992) that there was a “veritable epidemic of alcoholism among American writers” in the first half of the 20 th century. He said that over 70 percent of the American writers who have won the Nobel Prize in Literature were alcoholics, including Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill,...

Why do alcoholics stay alcoholics?
October 25th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  Why do alcoholics say that they are still alcoholics after 15 or 20 years of continuous sobriety?  Answer :  Alcoholics take very seriously reports of experience.  They have heard and believe that when an alcoholic starts to drink after many years of continuous abstinence the pattern of drinking reverts very rapidly to the same compulsive, loss-of-control drinking that existed before becoming sober.  There is a neurobiological reason for this.  Special nerve pathways in the brain were highly and permanently sensitized to alcohol by earlier heavy drinking.  Even...

What is craving?
October 18th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  What is craving? I am a recovering alcoholic who once spent a couple of days  in the hospital where the doctor gave me something because I was getting the shakes. The only other time I felt shaky was when I went into a treatment center where they gave me a tranquilizer to detox. I cannot say I ever had what they call craving Answer :  Alcoholics who drink every day avoid craving because they keep the blood alcohol level high enough to prevent the symptoms of withdrawal. The only times you could have experienced craving was in the hospital and treatment center when you...

How do I quit taking tranquilizers?
October 11th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :   I am 62 years old and have been taking a tranquilizer for the past fourteen years. It doesn’t help with my anxiety anymore (that’s why it was originally prescribed.)  My doctor has urged me to stop taking it. He stopped renewing my prescription years ago. I have been able to get it through a friend who gets it illegally. I want to be free of this, but when I quit for even a day, I am frantic with extreme nervousness. I have been warned that if I stop this drug abruptly I can have a convulsion. My husband insists it’s only a matter of will power and putting up with...

Can drinking cause a stroke?
October 4th, 2011 / Living Sober / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  My mother had a stroke three years ago.  With intensive rehabilitation she is now able to function pretty well.  She is 60 now, but up until the time of the stroke she drank almost every day.  At the most she would have four or five drinks, but regularly.  I never saw her drunk.  These drinks would always be separated in the most “civil and socially acceptable manner.”  Many of her country club friends are still following this routine.  In the past year she has been gradually getting back into the kind of social life she enjoyed before.  She has also started to...

Is there still a stigma with alcoholism?
September 27th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  Now that they are even teaching about alcoholism as a disease in medical schools, is there still much of a stigma connected to being an alcoholic? Answer :  There is still lots of stigma out here in the public arena about alcoholics. Webster defines stigma as “something that detracts from the character or reputation of a person; a mark of disgrace or reproach.” When a group of professionals and employers was asked “Is there a social stigma associated with alcoholism?” 83 percent of psychiatrists said there was a strong stigma, 70 percent of doctors stated...

Why do I keep relapsing?
September 20th, 2011 / Living Sober / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  I have been going to A.A. for a number of years now, but every couple of months I slip. I put together a year of continuous sobriety three years ago and felt so good about myself. I have a sponsor and I go to meetings. Am I going to be one of those people about whom they say “He could never make it”? Answer :  It would be a pity if that were true. Take heart – many others have gone through this same relapse history and have made it. I suggest that you read the beginning of Chapter 5 in the Big Book of A.A., which starts by saying that “Rarely have we seen a person...

Quick Screen for Alcoholism
September 13th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  I am a medical student, and I am looking for a quick and easy way to screen patients for alcoholism. Right now I am assigned to a large clinic where we see many patients each day. I know that the diagnosis of any illness is based on a comprehensive history and physical examination with some laboratory tests, but in this immediate care and emergency setting, we don’t have time to delve into much of a person’s background. Since excessive drinking is a cause for much of the problems we see, I would be very interested in a “tool” to identify alcoholics and make intelligent...

Retirement and Alcoholism
September 6th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  I have been sponsoring a man who was a very productive and prominent  professional for many years.  He retired due to a health problem.  He drank socially, but moderately for years with no negative consequences.  Following his retirement, he started to drink more in a gradual way.  His whole life was committed to an extremely busy and gratifying profession.  His empty days in the fourth year of retirement are spent at varying levels of intoxication.  He called for help about this and has been attending AA meetings.  Following detoxification from alcohol he finds...

Is there a connection between PTSD and alcoholism?
August 30th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  What is the connection between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism?  Answer:  An ex-marine officer who provides therapy for Vietnam veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) reports that many of those he has treated also have an alcohol abuse problem. PTSD refers to the cluster of pathological symptoms characterized by the painful mental and emotional response initiated by the recall of a deeply imprinted traumatic memory. These painful memories can intrude on a person’s consciousness with or without cues, and in some persons they seem to grow...

Why is marijuana harmful?
August 23rd, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Will you lay out some proven reasons why smoking marijuana is absolutely harmful to good health? I am a parent and need some specific ammunition in the constant arguments about this. My boys (in high school) are in athletics and don’t smoke as far as I know, but many of their friends do, and it seems to be such an accepted thing to do at this age. Not only is marijuana smoking disgusting, but from what I have heard, it is harmful.  Answer:  What you have heard is right – it is harmful. According to Addiction Medicine: State of the Art 1997, marijuana is a mood-altering...

Drifting Back to Drinking and Into Health Issues
August 16th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:   I am a retired business man who through the program of Alcoholics Anonymous became sober and maintained sobriety for 24 years.  Two years ago, I started to drink an occasional glass of wine at dinner.  This progressed to a few beers after golf games.  I had quit going to AA meetings a few years before I retired.  Within four months after that first glass of wine, I was back to my old vodka routine of a pint or more of vodka a day.  I have had two driving-while-under-the-influence charges and in the past year have been through two treatment centers.  I am now 68 and...

Can you become alcoholic with no heredity predisposition?
August 9th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Can people become alcoholic who have no blood relative who are alcoholic?  What I am trying to say is, can a person with no hereditary predisposition to it become alcoholic?  Answer:  There are more risks to becoming alcoholic than just having had a parent or grandparent in your family line who was alcoholic.  Genetic predisposition is probably the major --- but not only --- pathway to becoming alcoholic.  In 1998, a study by the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse found the age of onset of drinking has a lot to do with how things are going to turn out as...

How is nicotine addiction treated?
August 2nd, 2011 / Counseling / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  If - as you say - “nicotine is just as addictive, more deadly, than cocaine,” where are the centers that treat these nicotine addicts?  Does this mean that chomping on gum and sticking on adhering (nicotine) patches will alleviate the mental and physical distress that accompanies the withdrawal from tobacco?  Answer:  Most inpatient alcohol and other drug treatment centers have a protocol for the treatment of nicotine dependence.  Treatment of nicotine dependence does not require inpatient treatment.  The protocol for dealing with this addiction can be accomplished...

Are some countries more prone to alcoholism?
July 26th, 2011 / Announcements / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question :  Are there some nations more prone to alcoholism than others?  Answer :  It seems that way. People who live in or whose origins are in the northern water countries of Europe appear to drink more and have a higher rate of alcoholism. These countries include Ireland, England, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, France, Poland and Russia. Countries that border the Mediterranean  - Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and North African countries – have lower rates of alcoholism. Asians also tend to have a low incidence of alcoholism as a population. Because many...

Why is alcoholism classified as a mental illness?
July 19th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  If alcoholism has a high death rate, why is it classified as a mental illness? I thought people died of physical disorders.  Answer:  They do, so alcohol combines the elements of both mental illness and physical disease. Alcoholism is classified as a substance abuse disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) . Mental and emotional symptoms of alcoholism exist long before the grave physical complications of the disease appear. The mental symptoms consist of loss of control (taking in larger amounts of alcohol over a longer period of time...

How Does marijuana impair functioning?
July 5th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Can you comment on the duration that one’s functioning is impaired after smoking marijuana? I hear all kinds of information about this. Answer:  It has been known for a long time that smoking marijuana impairs functioning in activities that require skills, whether it be operating machinery, driving an automobile, or flying an airplane. Even relatively small amounts of marijuana impair perpetual motor skills. The response time as a reaction to certain external events is slowed by the use of the drug. A number of experienced airline pilots were tested in their skills. The...

Am I an alcoholic or not?
June 21st, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Several years ago I had a routine physical. My doctor found a “markedly enlarged liver”, and informed me if I kept drinking I would soon have cirrhosis of the liver. I had filled out a medical history form in his office that asks questions about previous illnesses, etc. Where it had asked about alcohol consumption, I answered honestly that I regularly drank about six or more drinks a day, and had been doing this for many years. I never got drunk, and no one had ever commented about my drinking. My liver enzymes were all elevated and he said that I had “alcoholic...

Alcoholism and Diabetes
June 14th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  I am not an alcoholic.  I drink moderately – that is, two or three times a week.  I will drink usually two drinks, occasionally three when I do drink, but never any more.  Do you have some advice for a diabetic who drinks as I have described? Answer:  Alcohol-consuming diabetic patients should consider the following general suggestions for preventing alcohol-induced hypoglycemia: Never consume alcohol without food or while in a fasting state. Consume only moderate amount of alcohol, i.e., one or two bottles of beer, glasses of wine or mixed drinks at one...

Does depression return?
June 7th, 2011 / Counseling / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  I was never depressed until I started drinking heavily. Even after I became sober a year and a half ago, I still felt depressed for a month or so. Is that depression likely to come back? Answer:  It won’t come back if you stay sober. That depression is part of the illness of alcoholism in many people, more frequently women, and more acutely during the withdrawal from alcohol.  There are those unlike you whose depression predated the onset of alcoholism and whom we consider as having two disorders – depression and alcoholism. Both require treatment. However, as with...

What are Cocaine Cues?
May 31st, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: What is meant by “cues” when people are talking about cocaine? Answer: To a cocaine addict, just seeing or hearing about things associated with cocaine use activates vivid memories of getting “high”. Some of the cues might include a $10 bill (the cost of a hit), observing others using cocaine or just being in the neighborhood of where dealers do business. Cues always fire up cravings for the drug . The exact mechanism of this phenomenon can be visualized in the brain by imaging techniques (like X-ray pictures) called PET-scans and MRI. The frontal lobes of the brain...

Can Cocaine Use Cause Depresson?
May 24th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: Does cocaine use cause depression? Answer: In the general population, women are more than twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. But among cocaine and alcohol abusers, men are just as likely to be diagnosed with depression as women. A report of gender differences in psychiatric disorders (National Institute of Drug Abuse: Vol 12, No. 4) found that mental disorders were substantial among 100 treatment seeking cocaine and alcohol abusers. Major depressive disorder seems to predate the onset of cocaine and alcohol use in women, while in men cocaine and alcohol...

Are Effects of Marijuana Contagious?
May 20th, 2011 / Doctors Office / Dr. James Golden
Question:   My boyfriend uses medicinal marijuana, for which he has an ID card/prescription for. He has had many joint problems, Spinal cracks and degeneration etc.....While I don’t have a problem with this, my work may. I work for an employer that does SUPRISE drug UA testing. Is it possible that while having sex, kissing, etc. the drug may "seep" into my system and leave traces in amount enough to show on a random drug screen? Perhaps from semen, sweat, or saliva ? Answer:   Very, very unlikely. There have been many studies done looking at this; exposing people to situations...

Can Alcoholism Cause Lung Condition?
May 17th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: My father recently died in the hospital following an auto accident in which he suffered multiple injuries and sepsis, or overall infection throughout the body and the blood. The physicians who attended him claim that one of the most significant conditions he developed was a lung condition that eventually was the cause of his death. The reason I am writing is that the doctor said that this lung condition was probably brought on by my father’s longtime chronic heavy alcohol consumption. Can you comment on this? Answer: Your father may have developed a lung condition called...

How Does Alcohol Affect Athletic Endurance?
May 3rd, 2011 / Living Sober / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: I am 46 years old and have been competitive in local and even some national women’s amateur athletic tournaments. I am also a recovering alcoholic with seven years of sobriety behind me. I have noticed in the past year that my endurance has decreased and I seem to get short of breath more quickly than my contemporaries with whom I’ve been competing all these years. I have checked with my doctor a number of times and she says that there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong. I have not told the doctor about my previous heavy drinking because I have been sober so long. Do you...

Are Amphetamines Safe?
April 26th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: I am a college student (engineering) and put in long hours of study. I also have a job to help pay for my school expenses. Many times, I have trouble staying awake during times of study. It seems reasonable to take something to keep me awake. I have been using amphetamines carefully to stay alert enough to comprehend what I am studying. Your comments please. Answer: When I was in medical school a long time ago, a pharmaceutical company had sales representatives visit future doctors as a promotion to prescribing their drugs. One of the drugs they were passing...

How are Kidneys Affected by Drinking?
April 19th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: My father died a few years ago from alcoholism. The death certificate read: “Hepatorenal failure, secondary to chronic alcoholism.” This is the only reference I’ve ever read about the kidneys being affected by drinking. Can you comment on this? P.S. I am a moderate drinker. I am aware that alcoholism runs in some families, particularly among male members. I have two sons, so I am concerned whenever I read anything about alcoholism. Answer: First, take a good look at your drinking. Alcoholism is especially hereditary from father to son to grandson. Also, your kids think...

Is there an alcoholic personality?
April 15th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question : I keep hearing the term “alcoholic personality” from some recovering persons. Is there such a thing and if there is, what is it? Answer :  There does not seem to be any kind of particular pre-morbid personality in alcoholics. Pre-morbid refers to the time before the onset of alcoholism. Generally, alcoholics seem to have the same kinds of personalities as everybody else, except more so. The first is a low frustration tolerance. Alcoholics seem to experience more distress when enduring long-term dysphoria or when tiresome things do not work out quickly. ...

Why aren’t there more adult alcoholics?
April 5th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  If adolescents have always exhibited an alcoholic behavior, why aren’t there more adult alcoholics? Answer:  Most alcoholic behavior during adolescence, though possibly self-destructive, does not progress to alcoholism. “Getting drunk” may be considered a rite of passage. But for the majority of heavy youth drinkers, this behavior diminishes or stops when they reach their 20’s. Most other drug abuse, particularly marijuana use, peaks when the abuser is in his or her late teens and usually diminishes by his or her late 20’s. The most lethal addiction is cigarettes....

How does one become an effective sponsor?
April 1st, 2011 / Living Sober / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Are there any directions about how to be an effective Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor?  A sponsor is an alcoholic who has made progress in the recovery program and shares that experience on a continuous, individual basis with another alcoholic who is attempting to attain or maintain sobriety through AA.  A sponsor usually shares her or his own story and how the program has led to sobriety. Sponsorship includes bringing the newcomer to a variety of AA meetings and introducing him or her to other members in the group. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous is a central part of the...

What happens if I hold secrets?
March 29th, 2011 / Living Sober / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Is it a mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous rule that when a person has a “slip”, he or she must declare it to the AA group in order to stay sober? I told my sponsor. Why isn’t that enough?  Answer:  Alcoholics cannot bear heavy secrets for long without falling under the weight. Only sharing it with others offers relief.  Every little detail of the episode does not need to be told. The bare facts are enough, including a new sobriety date.  There are feelings of guilt and failure, coupled with the humiliation of “having to tell” that are part of the event. To suppress...

Impulsivity is an Alcoholic Personality Characteristic
March 29th, 2011 / Featured / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: I keep hearing the term “alcoholic personality” from some recovering persons. Is there such a thing and if there is, what is it? Answer: There does not seem to be any kind of particular pre-morbid personality in alcoholics. Pre-morbid refers to the time before the onset of alcoholism. Generally, alcoholics seem to have the same kinds of personalities as everybody else, except more so. The first is a low frustration tolerance. Alcoholics seem to experience more distress when enduring long-term dysphoria or when tiresome things do not work out quickly. Alcoholics...

How can I stay absolutely honest?
March 25th, 2011 / Living Sober / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  I have been sober for eight months, and am realizing I cannot really live the Alcoholics Anonymous program and keep my job, which involves an illegal activity. The Big Book is very clear about being absolutely honest in everything, which I cannot do and survive in my business. What should I do? Answer:   Getting and staying sober is more than just quitting drinking. After a short time on the program, the alcoholic’s conscience emerges after being partially buried for those drinking years. I do not know what your business is, but laws are passed to protect the people....

Why does my son get in trouble every time he drinks?
March 22nd, 2011 / Featured / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  My 21-year-old son is normally a quiet and friendly person who has never been in any trouble. Until this past year, he did not drink any alcohol, but when he started to drink he got into trouble every time. Even though he and his friends tell me that he only has one or two drinks, my son becomes violent, gets into fights, and really scares people. He says he won’t drink again because two weeks ago it took police to control him. Is alcohol the cause of this change in behavior?  Your son probably has a relatively rare condition known as pathological intoxication, whereby...

12-Step Program Success Rates Difficult to Gauge
March 7th, 2011 / Featured / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Although the organization does not conduct studies on itself, there are some statistics available from a periodic membership survey held in 2007.

When Is a Drink a Drink and a Drunk Actually Drunk?
March 7th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Alcohol research is not an exact science. Although accurate estimates of alcohol use and intoxication are clearly important in many areas of the law and in alcohol research, there exists considerable inconsistency in the reporting and interpretation of alcohol-test results across studies. For example, in a recent study a drink was defined as either one ounce of distilled spirits, six ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer. However, the actual measure of alcohol in these drinks can vary widely depending on the percentage of alcohol in each and if standardized pharmacological principles are...

Hard Liquor is Quicker to Cause Cirrhosis
March 4th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Previous research has shown that alcohol taxes or prices affect total alcohol consumption, and that aggregate alcohol consumption affects cirrhosis mortality rates. Other evidence suggests that heavy drinkers, who are most at risk for liver disease, are less responsive to price than other drinkers. This study investigated the impact that alcohol taxes – for distilled spirits, wine and beer – may have on cirrhosis mortality. Researchers examined 30 U.S. states that require alcohol licensing, from 1971 to 1998; they also reviewed each state’s cirrhosis mortality rates, age...

Who is an Alcoholic?
March 1st, 2011 / Counseling / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
 Alcoholism assumes many disguises:  it takes the form of the homeless drunk, or it looks like the chairman of the board who, only lately, has been making poor corporate decisions; or it may appear as the occasionally hard-to-find physician.  It can answer the roll call as a formerly brilliant college senior whose gradually poorer performance predicts the premature end to a promising academic career.  It can be the sullen husband whose wife is an expert at covering up an occasional black eye.  It languishes in prison for repeated drunk driving arrests.   There it was in the Old...

“Recovery Wisdom”
February 28th, 2011 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
It seems that the disease of alcoholism afflicts the gifted as well as us "lesser beings."  Nobel laureates, great writers, creative artists, brilliant achievers, and extraordinary intellects are among those who suffer from alcoholism.  Abraham Lincoln commented that alcoholism appeared to be more partial to those "whose heads and hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class." From sadness, isolation and despair, many emerge through recovery to reach greater heights than if they had not fallen.  Life in recovery is a mix of gratitude and serenity.  People...

What does dual diagnosis mean?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question: What is meant by the term “dual diagnosis”?  Does this apply to a special class of alcoholism? Answer: It does apply to an alcoholic, who, in addition to being alcoholic, suffers from another psychiatric illness. The more common co-morbid psychiatric disorders are major depression, bipolar disorder, anti-social personality disorder, drug dependence, borderline personality disorder, phobias and attention deficit disorder. The majority of alcoholics who seek addiction treatment in drug treatment centers   meet the lifetime criteria for psychiatric disorders in addition to...

Should everyone be a teetotaler?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Should everyone be a teetotaler? Answer:  No.  I do not believe everyone should abstain from drinking entirely because many people do not have problems controlling their drinking.  Some should, however, and they are the people whose use of any amount of alcohol leads immediately or eventually to a total loss of control over the amount of alcohol drunk and who continue to use it in spite of adverse consequences.  Many of these people find continuous sobriety in treatment .

Is there an AA success rate?
October 19th, 2010 / Living Sober / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  What is the success rate of Alcoholics Anonymous?  I have never seen it published. Answer:  Every few years Alcoholics Anonymous does a survey of its members.  In 1992, a random survey of 6,500 A.A. members in both the United States and Canada revealed that 35 percent were sober for more than five years; 34 percent were sober from between one and five years; and 31 percent were sober for less than one year.  The average time sobriety of members is more than five years.  According to A.A. World Services, the survey is designed to provide information to the professional...

Is using steroids dangerous?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Can steroid use be dangerous? Answer:  Yes!  Long-term use of steroids leads to tumors in the liver, reduction in male hormone production and changes in behavior, making the user irritable and aggressive. It has caused sudden deaths (Kennedy, M., and Lawrence C., Medical Journal of Australia 346-347, 1993).  The cause of death is probably a heart rhythm disorder associated with widespread patches of scar tissue in the heart muscle.  Although it is not clear why, the fibrotic changes in the muscle tissue, which cause the scarring, interrupt the pathway, hence disturbing...

Is alcoholism treatment cost-effective?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  I am a health care insurance consultant.  Are there any statistics to show that alcoholism treatment is cost effective? Answer:  Yes.  A long-term study of over 3,500 identified alcoholics showed that following treatment, the total health care costs of treated alcoholics ---including the cost of alcoholism treatment ---declined from 55 percent to 23 percent from their highest pretreatment levels, whereas the costs for untreated identified alcoholics continued to rise.  Another long-term study revealed that overall health care costs for treated alcoholics were 24 percent...

Why does the disease of alcoholism progress?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question : What do they mean when after being sober for years, if you start drinking again, your drinking will take off as though you haven’t been dry at all? In fact some say that it is worse, like if you were drinking all those dry years too. I am not planning to do this but a couple of members in my AA group described this, and I just wanted to check it out. I also wonder if you could explain why this happens? Answer : Your friends represent the profound wisdom of AA. Over the years and with thousands and thousand of years in recovery, it has been observed that when the occasional...

How can I start an AA group?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  How can I start an AA group?  I live in an isolated ranch area and the nearest town (population 3,500) is 15 miles away.  I got sober four years ago and moved here to work a month ago.  I was told there was no AA in the town. Answer:  Here is what you do—it is what Bill Wilson, founder of AA, did in June of 1935 in Akron, Ohio.  Call the clergyman in whatever church there is in that nearest town.  A minister or priest can probably tell you if there is someone in his flock who needs and hopefully wants what you have in your sobriety.  He can help direct your efforts...

How can I get a heavy drinker to quit?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Is there any special technique in getting a person who seems to be getting by with his heavy drinking to quit?  My husband refuses to talk about his drinking and it is wrecking our family life. Answer:  Most of the time it is difficult to convince people who seem to be “getting by” that they are alcoholics.  First of all, they are protecting themselves from accepting that they have a problem by using denial, one of our most powerful defense mechanisms.  I would suggest trying to discuss with your husband the signs of early alcoholism that he may be demonstrating,...

Where can I get written alcoholism information?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  I am a student body president in a mid-sized college.  I would like to start a discussion group about drug and alcohol abuse on campus.  Is there some source of information I can get for this? Answer:  Yes, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention’s National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information publishes a resource guide about alcohol and college youth (June 1991, currently being revised).  This is a free government publication and the telephone number you can call to request a copy is (800) 729-6686.  The website is:  http://www.samhsa.gov/   Here are a...

How do you define social drinking?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  What is social drinking? Answer:  Social drinking may be that drink or two that soften the harsh events of the day or release one to relaxed sociability or just allow you to see the humor of it all.  How many drinks do social drinkers drink?  It probably varies.  Whatever they do, I can say with certainty that social drinkers do not chase after good feelings by drinking more and more until they lose control.  To social drinkers, alcohol is not important.  Some wise person said, “If you have to drink to be social, that’s not social drinking.”

Will a cold shower or strong coffee sober someone up?
October 19th, 2010 / Doctors Office / James W. West M.D. F.A.C.S.
Question:  Does taking a cold shower or drinking a couple of cups of strong coffee sober a person up faster? Answer:  It does not work.  The body rids itself of alcohol on a fixed schedule.  The liver metabolizes 1 ounce of 100-proof whiskey (or one 12-ounce can of beer, or one 5-ounce glass of wine) per hour.   So, while a cold shower may make sobering up a cleaner experience, it has no effect on the rate of lowering the blood alcohol level.

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