Spot Symptoms of the Other, High Functioning National Crisis


The opioid crisis has been staking headlines across national and local media, but another substance has been quietly taking lives by the thousands for years: alcohol.

In 2016, more than an estimated 64,000 people died from drug overdose; meanwhile, an average of 88,000 have died from alcohol-related causes every year.

Alcohol use has been more normalized compared to other substance use. Because alcohol has become ingrained in mainstream American culture, it has become harder for people to distinguish between someone who enjoys having drinks in moderation and a person who is suffering from alcohol addiction. Further, the stereotype of an “alcoholic” at rock bottom who drinks all day and can’t hold a job does not reflect the vast majority of people living with alcohol use disorders.

One of those people could be your boss, who comes to work on time every morning, cleanly shaven and impeccably dressed, and finishes every task—then goes home and drinks bottles and bottles of beer. Or your neighbor down the street, who juggles raising kids and working a full-time job while never missing a single one of their games, but drinks an entire bottle of wine after putting them to bed.

The reality is that we all most likely know someone struggling with or affected by alcohol addiction. About 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder, ranging from mild to severe. However, less than 15 percent of people receive any treatment.

Alcohol does not affect everyone the same way and every addiction story is different, but these 11 questions can help you distinguish whether enjoying drinks in moderation has turned into a problem:

1.) Are you drinking more alcohol, or for longer, than you originally intended?

2.) Are you having unsuccessful efforts to cut back or quit?

3.) Are you spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking?

4.) Are you experiencing cravings for alcohol?

5.) Are you having issues with carrying our roles at home or at school or at work because of alcohol?

6.) Have you continued drinking even though it was causing problems with loved ones?

7.) Are you getting into dangerous situations (like driving intoxicated or having unsafe sex) while or after drinking?

8.) Have you continued to drink even after experience negative side effects, such as depression, anxiety, and memory blackouts?

9.) Have you stopped participating in activities that were once enjoyable and drink instead?

10.) Do you have to increase the amount of alcohol consumed to feel the same effects as before?

11.) Do you have withdrawal symptoms after the effects of alcohol wear off, including shaking, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, nausea, or restlessness?

There are three categories for severity of alcohol use disorder: mild, moderate, and severe. Even if you or someone you care about is experiencing a mild case—the presence of two to three symptoms—seek out professional help.

And this April, Alcohol Awareness Month, let’s all reconsider the use of alcohol in our lives.

Expert Insights: Alcohol Consumption and its Effects on the Brain

By: Dr. John Larson
Corporate Medical Director
Gateway Treatment Centers

People enjoy drinking alcohol for many reasons, but no matter what the reason, its effects on a person’s brain, both short- and long-term, are profound. As a solvent, alcohol passes to the brain very quickly and can cause acute damage to living cells. Once a long-time drinker becomes sober, it may be years before those changes reverse themselves, if at all.

video-screen-larsonThe chemical and physical changes alcohol makes to the brain make it especially difficult to quit drinking alcohol, from a single drink or continued abuse of alcohol.
Reversing the Damage?

There is some evidence that continued abstinence from alcohol may bring some improvement in brain function. The brain is pretty resilient and is able to form new cells through neurogenesis. We don’t know to what extent the effects of alcohol on the brain can be reversed but what we do know, is that neurogenesis is stimulated by alcohol avoidance, exercise, good dietary habits and by simply using the brain…

Read Full Article or Watch Video

To learn more about treatment options for alcoholism , or our free consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Gateway Rehab Applauds FDA for Breakthrough Thinking in Alcoholism Treatment

alcoholism, drinking alcoholThis February, the FDA suggested new guidelines for drug makers interested in developing treatments for alcoholism. In a groundbreaking departure from conventional thinking, the guidelines would give drug companies the green light to develop treatments that help patients stay within “low-risk” daily alcohol limits.

Presently, the goal of pharmaceutical treatments for alcoholism is total abstinence from drinking alcohol.

In a February 11 post, FDA spokesman Eric Pahon explained that abstinence-based endpoints are often unattainable in a clinical trial, which can hinder the development of drugs to treat alcoholism. “Reducing heavy drinking to within ‘low-risk’ daily limits presents an alternative goal in drug development so more treatments may be developed,” Pahon said.

John Larson, M.D., Corporate Medical Director of Gateway Alcohol and Drug Treatment Centers, agrees. “While complete avoidance of alcohol is necessary for some to achieve meaningful recovery, there are others whose lives could greatly benefit from treatment that successfully reduces the amount and frequency of alcohol use without requiring total abstinence. These new FDA guidelines could aid in the discovery of whole new categories of medications that could do just that,” said Dr. Larson.

The Need for New Medications

There are currently three categories of drugs sold to treat alcoholism. In addition to having limitations, these medications are only effective for some.

Despite this, no new medications have been introduced into the alcohol treatment market in nearly ten years. Reaching the high bar of total sobriety in a clinical trial consistently proves elusive.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) acknowledges more medications are needed to serve the broader population. Dr. Raye Litten, associate director of the agency’s Division of Treatment and Recovery Research, believes more treatments will enable more patients to find one that works for them.

The FDA proposal identifies alcoholism as continued drinking despite physical and psychosocial consequences. The agency said an alcoholism drug should ultimately improve those consequences, which can be done via total sobriety or a reduction in alcohol use.

Michael Darcy, Gateway’s CEO & President, backs this thinking. He said, “It seems the substance abuse disorder field is the only profession that claims a 100% rate of no relapses as the criteria for success. I hope this (new) notion will lead to a more realistic view of success.”

To learn more about treatment options for alcohol abuse issues, or our free, confidential consultation, call Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers today at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

The Irony of Drug and Alcohol Addiction

alcohol addiction substance abuseNearly one in 10 American adults and teens has a drug or alcohol abuse problem; and sadly, only one in 10 Americans who need help with substance abuse issues will seek professional treatment.

Prolonged exposure to alcohol and drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit using by sheer force of will. But that doesn’t mean someone with addiction issues is a helpless victim.

The good news is: Brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through engaging in therapy and other treatments, taking appropriate medication as prescribed, and leading a healthy, sober lifestyle.

Click to View Gateway's Roadmap to Understanding Substance Abuse: A Guide for Parents and Families

Click to View Gateway’s Roadmap to Understanding Substance Abuse: A Guide for Parents and Families

So, if addiction can be successfully treated, why are roughly 90 percent of Americans ignoring their issues with alcohol and/or drug dependency? Tragically, that’s the irony of addiction.

There are major hurdles to overcome before people acknowledge they are ready for substance abuse treatment. Denial, stigma, aversion to change, understanding treatment options, and cost of care are just a few.

But there is hope. The Affordable Care Act now makes substance abuse treatment accessible to more people through their insurance benefits. And effective outpatient treatment allows adults to continue working while receiving treatment.

For more information, visit to get a free copy of our new family and parent guide, “Roadmap to Understanding Substance Abuse.”

Alcohol Dependency & Women

Drinking Alcohol Poses More Health Risks for Women

A considerable downside of frequent alcohol consumption is a higher rate of health risks —especially for women. Women’s bodies are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than men’s bodies. As a result, women who drink are more prone to particular health risks, including breast cancer, heart disease and liver damage.

Women and Men should know the USDA guidelines and consume moderate amounts of alcohol. A standard drink is roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

The USDA defines moderate drinking as:

  • Up to 1 drink per day for women
  • Up to 2 drinks per day for men

It’s important to note that alcohol effects each person differently based on factors that can include weight, general health and family health history. Even within the USDA moderate drinking definition, abuse can occur if alcohol is consumed too quickly or if other underlying issues exist.

Women Report their “Usual number of drinks per drinking occasion”

  • 1 Drink – 48.2% of women
  • 2 Drinks – 29.9 % of women
  • 3+ Drinks – 21.9% of women

Consumption reports from women past-year drinkers ages 18+. According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Learn more about Alcohol Abuse and Women.

Why do women face higher risk of Alcohol Dependency?

Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men. One explanation is on average, women weigh less than men. In addition, alcohol disperses in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher. Other biological differences, including hormones, may contribute, as well.

What are the health risks?

Breast Cancer
There is an association between drinking alcohol and developing breast cancer. Women who consume about one drink per day have a 10% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all.

Liver Damage
Women who drink are more likely to develop alcoholic hepatitis (liver inflammation) than men who drink the same amount of alcohol. Alcoholic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis.

Heart Disease
Chronic heavy drinking is a leading cause of heart disease. Among heavy drinkers, women are more susceptible to alcohol-related heart disease than men, even though women drink less alcohol over a lifetime than men.

Any drinking during pregnancy is risky. A pregnant woman who drinks heavily puts her fetus at risk for learning and behavioral problems and abnormal facial features. Even moderate drinking during pregnancy can cause problems. Drinking during pregnancy also may increase the risk for preterm labor.

Some women should never drink at all, including:

  • Anyone under age 21
  • Anyone who takes medications that can interact negatively with alcohol
  • Anyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive

Need help for Alcohol Dependency?

If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol dependencyGateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment can help. With treatment programs tailored to meet the specific needs of adult men and women and teens, Gateway’s team of experienced professionals has been helping individuals overcome substance abuse for more than 40 years.

For more information or to arrange a free and confidential consultation, please call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Working Under the Influence: An Accident Waiting to Happen

Did you know nearly 1 in 10 American adults and teenagers have a drug and/or alcohol dependence problem? That one person could be your neighbor, cousin, teenager’s best friend or even your co-worker. The truth is, odds favor that someone each of us knows currently is struggling with alcoholism or drug abuse.

Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment reminds employers that the workplace is not immune to drug abuse. First of all, most substance abusers are employed. In a survey of callers to the national cocaine hotline, 18 percent of callers confessed to stealing from co-workers to support their addiction, and 64 percent admitted that their drug use negatively affected their job performance.

And it’s not just illicit drugs that contribute to workplace hazards, so does prescription drugs like sleeping pills, sedatives and pain killers.

Realize that working under the influence affects reflexes and reaction time, concentration, perceptions and judgment—all of which make a person working under the influence an accident waiting to happen. In fact, people who work under the influence and cause accidents are often the ones who are injured, and the accidents they cause can also injure other people.

Here are some important facts to know about specific drugs:

  • Marijuana is the most common illegal drug used on the job.
  • Experts warn that addiction can happen very quickly. In the case of heroin, a person could become addicted after just one use.
  • Although alcohol is a legal substance, it is still a drug, and it can be highly addictive.
  • Inhalants such as airplane glue, paint thinner, aerosols, nitrous oxide, amyl nitrate and butyl nitrate contain very hazardous chemicals that can be deadly.

To prevent situations that jeopardize safety in your workplace, learn to recognize these 10 signs of possible substance abuse:

  1. Frequent work absences and late arrivals
  1. Poor concentration and coordination; slow mental and physical reflexes
  2. Restlessness, nervousness, paranoia
  3. Argumentative, defensive, and/or blaming others for problems
  4. Letting responsibilities slide; loss of interest in work
  5. Impaired judgment and decision making
  6. Mood swings; even bizarre or violent behavior
  7. Revved-up movements and speech
  8. Forgetfulness and carelessness
  9. Pushing beyond physical capacity

If you would like to help enhance safety at your workplace, educating workers about substance abuse is a wise step. With an eager team of outreach professionals available to assist you with your needs, Gateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment can help make a difference at your place of work. A member of the outreach team at Gateway Foundation will work with your human resources or employee assistance program manager to identify and provide the most effective tools based on your specific substance abuse education needs. Contact Gateway today at

Return of “Madmen”

The highly hyped return of “Madmen” led to the inevitable reviews that link the show’s popularity in part to audience fascination with drinking and smoking behaviors that can be depicted in a 1960’s period piece but are too politically incorrect to make it into scripts today.

But it’s really not simple.  The series is actually a complex look at contemporary America through the tinted lens of a different era, a fascinating blend of character studies that remind viewers that the calendar may change but people do not.   And in some characters, including adman Don Draper, the series provides a detailed look at the bewildering descent into alcoholism that no reality TV show could ever capture.

The days of office liquor bars and three martini lunches are largely gone but one in six Americans admit to “binge drinking” even as they tend, the Centers for Disease Control says, to under report how much they drink and why.  The Draper character is seen doing much the same thing during a scene involving an insurance physical even while his life spins out of control.

If only heavy drinking was really just a vestige of the “good old days.”  But the latest research indicates otherwise.  And researchers know they are only capturing about 30 per cent of alcohol consumption based on sales.  Illinois ranks among the states with the highest reported incidence of binge drinking.  Nearly one in four drinkers here has at least five or more drinks at a time. They are not all alcoholics, of course, but many will wait until they are before they confront what is all too often obvious to those around them.

What is not always so obvious is the collateral damage.  But that is part of what separates “Madmen” from a host of TV shows and movies that try to tackle a subject no one really wants to discuss.  Every character in the cast must deal with drinking and its consequences just as many Americans must today.  In the 1960’s, as it is now, the course of least resistance creates more problems than it avoids.  The CDC says 80,000 Americans will die this year from alcohol related deaths, more people than have lost their lives in combat in the four wars this country has fought over the last fifty years.

But what the writers in “Madmen” capture so masterfully is the cultural context that makes all of this possible and sometimes inevitable.  The scripts don’t preach but masterfully depict the fine lines in our society that are so often invisible to those who move effortlessly from use to abuse.  Don Draper has already crossed that line but has done it with the trappings of success.  His family and co-workers know he has a problem and so does the audience.  We know this will not end well but we don’t know how.  In the meantime, we can’t help but watch a prime time icon battling alcoholism with varying degrees of empathy or fascination.

The context “Madmen” cannot provide, because it would not be historically accurate in a show so fastidiously devoted to detail, is that there is so much we have learned about addiction since the Kennedy and Johnson years.    There are a myriad of treatments available now that simply did not exist in the 1960’s or even the 1990’s.  Don appears destined to end up alone with a bottle but for millions of Americans struggling with alcohol and drug addiction there are options from medication to therapy and treatment.

“Madmen” is not a morality play but it brilliantly underlines the fact that addiction is not a moral issue.

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