April 10, 2006

More Notes from Rehab: Disease Concept

I am clean and sober two years now - Thanks to the grace of God, rehab leading me to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, working the steps, honesty, open-mindedness, willingness, concentrating on the twenty-four hours ahead of me, prayer, meditation, service, attending lots of meetings, sharing, giving, reading recovery literature, working on this blog and using all of the other twelve step and spiritual growth tools that I have found helpful.

This is one of a series of posts where I am sharing my notes from rehab in the hope that you may be aided by them. Take what you need and leave the rest.

DISEASE: definition – a tangible, identifiable, abnormality – a disorder of the mind or body that if left untreated will cause damage or death.

Alcoholism/Addiction is a disease - progressive, chronic, incurable, fatal, if not treated. The only effective treatment is complete abstinence.

Many are born vulnerable. Pleasure centers in the brain are controlled by chemicals. This is where alcohol and drugs work. The brain is altered by usage.

Billions of brain cells – some associated with production of pleasure chemicals – endorphins and dopamine. Cocaine acts on dopamine receptors. The brain becomes chemically less able to produce pleasure chemicals, comes to rely on drugs.

When stimulated by drugs, brain tries to maintain homeostasis. With abuse, brain’s “normal” levels become substandard.

Alcohol has a shotgun effect, Cocaine is more like a silver bullet.

Users can also develop paranoia and become aggressive.
Effects on brain last months, years, may be permanent

Alcohol attacks cell systems outside the brain. Dissolves into the membranes of cells. Damage is done throughout the body. Alcohol affects liver, bone marrow, blood, lungs, pancreas, degrades power and rhythm of heart.

Four types of drugs

Stimulants – cocaine, methamphetamine
Sedatives/Depressants – alcohol, benzos, barbiturates, marijuana
Hallucinogens – lsd, peyote, marijuana
Narcotics – opiates, heroin

Anhedonia – the inability to experience pleasure from ordinarily pleasurable activities — the inability to feel joy -- if feelings are colors, yours are gray. Drugs provided the colors. Anhedonia can happen after withdrawal.

There is evidence for a genetic component to alcoholism/addiction. Not a complete explanation.

Even if parents never drank, they can pass alcoholic genes. One in three families is affected by addiction. Two different types of genetic transfer -

Type 1 passes from mother or father to son or daughter - Alcoholic behavior usually manifested after age 25

Type 2 passes from father to son – starts earlier and is more severe

Some can drink for decades before problems surface

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