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Archive for the 'alcohol addiction and recovery' Category

Spiritual approaches to the treatment of alcohol addiction

Friday, January 19th, 2018

 

 

Below is an edited version of the 300-level essay I submitted as part of my psychology degree back in 2014.The paper was Abnormal and Therapeutic Psychology Assignment. At the time, I was struggling with the focus placed on pathologizing peoples behavior—ascribing a sickness mindset, rather than looking at holistic and systemic issues that impacted people’s ability to heal, or not—so I took a ‘risk’ and wrote about something I was genuinely interested about and believed in—the power of spirituality to heal. I still love the opening quote—a powerful reminder that we are not powerless…we can (and do) heal ourselves…very often without drugs, expensive rehab and medical intervention.

 

Date: 25 September 2014

 

 

Spiritual approaches to the treatment of alcohol addiction

 

“Science has sometimes been at odds with the notion that laypeople can cure themselves” (Liotta, 2013). Sparking my interest in examining spiritual approaches to the treatment of alcohol addiction, Liotta’s article examines the success of the 12-step programme prescribed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for the treatment of alcohol addiction. AA’s programme has a strong spiritual framework, and Liotta explores the premise that the programme’s success may eventually be empirically validated through medical and psychological science.

The relevance to the domain of abnormal and therapeutic psychology of spiritual approaches to the treatment of alcohol abuse is multi-faceted. For many people, their spirituality is a central part of who they are, and what they believe, and spiritual sources of healing are a major source of strength for many. For others, it may be an, as yet, untapped resource (Dowsett-Johnston, 2013; Miller et al., 2008).

Arguably, no therapeutic approach can be regarded as complete unless the spiritual dimension is attended to yet both history and current practice has shown that ignoring the role of spirituality, forbidding its practice (Bennett, 2009), or pathologising its existence, in favour of more cognitive, rational, or medical interventions is neglectful and can be harmful (Bennett, 2009; Langman, 2013; Miller, 1998). For example, A. Abraham, Prison Manager of Arohata Prison, was informed by forensic staff that they wanted to medicate a woman they thought was psychotic when she said she ‘saw spirit’ and talked to dead ancestors (personal communication, 17 July, 2014).

Importantly in New Zealand particularly, enabling spiritual approaches to the treatment of disease is also arguably evidence of honouring the commitments made in the Treaty of Waitangi, yet this is not always actively embraced and at times has been outlawed. (Bennet, 2009) cites the Tohunga Suppression Act, 1907 which threatened criminal conviction if a person allowed a Maori person to treat them using spirituality, “by professing or pretending to profess supernatural powers in the treatment or cure of any disease” (Bennet, 2009, p. 171)

 

Spirituality defined

Spirituality is difficult to define given the uniqueness of the experience for people, and differing orientations to spirituality – including a diverse range of religious beliefs (Miller, 1998). However, the view that spirituality is “that which gives people meaning and purpose in life” (Puchalski, Dorff & Hendi, 2004 as cited in Galanter, 2007, p. 266) appears to have a universally applicable meaning. Galanter (2007) also notes that spirituality is not something accessible only to people of religious orientation, or self-proclaimed spiritual orientation but accessible to all, including non-believers (often referred to as Agnostics) (Miller, 1998). This echoes the view of Carl Jung who believed spirituality was an intrinsic part of being human and that lack of connection to one’s spiritual self leads to dis-ease, including the disease of alcohol addiction (Galanter, 2007).

 

Alcohol addiction defined

Alcohol addiction or alcoholism (also referred to as alcohol dependence) is defined by the American Medical Association (AMA) as “a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations” (Alcohol addiction, 2014). It is characterised by, “a prolonged period of frequent, heavy alcohol use; the inability to control drinking once it has begun; physical dependence manifested by withdrawal symptoms when the individual stops using alcohol; tolerance, or the need to use more and more alcohol to achieve the same effects; and a variety of social and/or legal problems arising from alcohol use” (The Free Dictionary, 2014).

Addiction (termed substance dependence by the American Psychiatric Association) was once defined as a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by three (or more) of the following, occurring any time in the same 12-month period:

1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: (a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or the desired effect or (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance or (b) The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

3. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended.

4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

5. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance (such as visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (for example, chain-smoking), or recover from its effects.

6. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

7. The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (for example, current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

DSM-IV criteria  (The Diagnositic and Statistical Manual) for substance dependence include several specifiers, one of which outlines whether substance dependence is with physiologic dependence (evidence of tolerance or withdrawal) or without physiologic dependence (no evidence of tolerance or withdrawal). In addition, remission categories are classified into four subtypes: (1) full, (2) early partial, (3) sustained, and (4) sustained partial; on the basis of whether any of the criteria for abuse or dependence have been met and over what time frame. The remission category can also be used for patients receiving agonist therapy (such as methadone maintenance) or for those living in a controlled, drug-free environment. Source: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (Fourth Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.)

This definition which provides a psychological stance rather than a medical one, was altered in 5th edition of the DSM. As compared to DSM-IV, the DSM-5’s chapter on addictions was changed from “Substance-Related Disorders” to “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders” to reflect developing understandings regarding addictions. The DSM-5 specifically lists nine types of substance addictions within this category (alcohol; caffeine; cannabis; hallucinogens; inhalants; opioids; sedatives, hypnotics, and anxiolytics; stimulants; and tobacco). These disorders are presented in separate sections, but they are not fully distinct because all drugs taken in excess activate the brain’s reward circuitry, and their co-occurrence is common.

Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD in the DSM-V.  AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using. An estimated 16 million people in the United States have AUD.  Approximately 6.2 percent or 15.1 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had AUD in 2015. This includes 9.8 million men and 5.3 million women. Adolescents can be diagnosed with AUD as well, and in 2015, an estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12–17 had AUD.

To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet certain criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Under DSM–5, the current version of the DSM, anyone meeting any two of the 11 criteria during the same 12-month period receives a diagnosis of AUD. The severity of AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met.

To assess whether you or loved one may have AUD, here are some questions to ask.  In the past year, have you:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the aftereffects?
  • Experienced craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

“If you have any of these symptoms, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change,” say professionals.

Challenges in testing and measurement of spiritual constructs

This brief research paper examines recent research that reveals the significant role of spirituality on mental and emotional health, and therapeutic approaches to the treatment of alcohol addiction. However, as Galanter (2007) notes, it is difficult to measure empirically many of the elements that make spirituality an effective part of treatment. He advocates for “a new model of recovery from addiction that is compatible with the spiritual orientation espoused by many members of AA” (Galanter, 2007, p.265). The new model he defines is, “ based on accounts of substance dependent individuals’ own subjective experience. These experiences are not directly observable by the clinician but are available only as reported through the prism of the person’s own introspection and reflection.” (Galanter, 2007, p.265). Miller (1998) support’s this view and argues that spiritual constructs and measures can be used in addiction research as: “predictor, dependent, covariate, and independent variables” (Miller, 1998, p.982). Clear hypotheses can be derived and tested in these areas, assuming the reliable measurement of spiritual variables” (Miller, 1998, p.982). However as Miller, Forcehimes, O’Leary, and LaNoue’s (2008) clinical research shows, differences in interpretations, meanings, and values ascribed to definitions may impact reliability and validity.

Galanter, Dermatis, Bunt, Williams, Trujillo, and& Steinke, P. (2006) developed a 6-item scale, the Spirituality Self-Rating Scale (SSR), which attempted to operationalize spiritual constructs and measure patients’ subjective spiritual beliefs. However conceptualising spirituality is challenging, and people may ascribe different meanings to words, and thus misunderstandings and misinterpretations may skew results. For example, one question asks, “Do you believe God or a universal spirit is: c.) an impersonal creator” (Galanter et al., 2006, p.259). The word impersonalmay suggest a non-caring person. The inability of researchers to always clearly and consistently define constructs may impact reliability and may not be applicable across cultures. And this is a limitation of such measures.

Nevertheless, while defining spirituality and its mechanisms, and evidencing spirituality empirically may be problematic, a body of research suggests common themes, or key mechanisms core to spiritual approaches to successful treatment. These spiritualty dimensions include: the role of attitudes and beliefs; meaning and purpose; community; self-awareness, forgiveness; attachment to God/a higher Power, control, and daily spiritual practice as a source of strength (Lyons, Deane, & Kelly, 2010; Galanter et al., 2006; Miller, 1998).

 

The role of attitudes and beliefs

The growing interest in integrating clients’ spiritual and religious beliefs into addiction treatment is explored by Galanter et al. (2007), who assessed the role of people’s attitudes and orientation toward spirituality and how this affected their views of addiction treatment. The SSR was administered to three distinct groups: a diverse range of patients currently in treatment programmes; doctors and other medical caregivers; and trainee chaplains. It was also administered to people who were not in treatment programmes. Administering the test to a control group was a strength of their research, highlighting that spirituality was rated more highly by those in treatment, than those not suffering from addictions. Despite issues of reliability I have already discussed the strength of their research was also the finding that “medical students and faculty members underestimated the value patients placed on spiritual orientation.” (Galanter et al,, 2007, p. 260). This finding is also shared by other research which highlights the untapped reservoir of help many helping professionals fail to tap into it (Miller et al, 2008).

Powerlessness and control

Empirical research on spirituality and alcoholism reveals that prior to participating in AA’s 12 step programme all participants reported admitted feeling a sense of powerlessness over their alcohol dependency (Brown & Peterson, 2008). During the completion of their 12-Steps they gained a stronger sense of control over their lives and their drinking (Brown & Peterson, 2008; Bliss, 2007; Liotta, 2013). The studies of Robinson et al (2011) controlled for AA involvement, and reported decreases in alcohol abusers previous coping strategies, such as judging, and condemning, and these changes were associated with a greater sense of control and improved drinking outcomes. However these findings were not supported by Miller et al. (2008) which found no changes (Miller et al, 2008). A possible explanation could be the strong religious association with Miller et al.’s study and the negative religious associations participants may have had, especially given the directive nature of the research. Robinson (2011) found that participants who felt judged, abandoned, or punished by God “were less likely to feel in control of their lives than those who had a ‘benevolent perception of and relationship to a deity” (Robinson et al, 2011, p. 660). Moreover differences in the two findings may also be explained by Miller et al.’s use of video recordings and monitoring of sessions where Robinson et al. did not use these techniques.

The relationship between forgiveness, spirituality and the treatment of alcohol addiction

Langman and Cheung Chung (2013) widened the focus of their research, exploring the impact of co-existing conditions (e.g. trauma) among people with addiction, but their findings still confirm the “degree of symptoms varying depending on specific coping resources such as spirituality” (Langman & Cheung Chung, 2013, p.15).

However, given all but five of the 81 participants, either in treatment or service users, were Caucasian, the potential for bias limits the generalizability of their findings. In addition, 84% of participants were unemployed, and that the majority were single also introduces the potential for biased results. A possible lack of intimacy, and stress associated with unemployment potentiality limits the applicability of results only to people with similar life histories.

Langman and& Cheung Chung’s study suggests that spirituality and forgiveness are beneficial, while “guilt is detrimental to relapse management” (Langman & Cheung Chung, (2013, p.12). These views are also shared by Lyons et al., (2010) who suggest anger and resentment (non spiritual constructs) towards self or others, can predict negative health outcomes.

However, in contrast, in a more diverse and larger sample of 364 people, Robinson, Krentzman, Webb, and& Brower (2011) found no significant relationship for forgiveness of others, but did find increases in forgiveness of self was a predictive factor in reduced drinking outcomes. Their study, contrasting with Langman and & Cheung Chung’s (2013) also provided longitudinal evidence (9 months) that significant changes were sustained.

Meaning in life and life purpose

Robinson et al.’s (2007) research found that a positive change in drinking outcome was linked with alcoholics’ spirituality and/or religiousness (S/R) and that having a sense of meaning and purpose of life, in particular was predictive of abstinence. Conducting a longitudinal survey over six months, on a survey group of 123 outpatients with alcohol use disorders (66% male; mean age = 39; 83% white) they used a range of questionnaires to assess 10 measures of S/R, covering behaviours, beliefs, and experiences, including the Daily Spiritual Experiences and Purpose in Life scales. (Robinson et al, 2007. P.). Other statistically significant findings included the predictive role of meaning and purpose in reducing drinking outcomes was also found by Brown and& Peterson, (1991); and Langham, (2012). The high mean age of Robinson et al.’s research and high percentage of white participants, are limitations of their research, and may negate the applicability of this research to younger addicts in particular, for whom a sense of meaning and purpose may not be significant.

 

Daily spiritual practice

A habitual practice of daily spirituality was found by Robinson et al, (2007) to be associated with the absence of heavy drinking at six months, regardless of gender or involvement in other group support activities such as involvement at AA. The results of their study support the view of many clinicians and individuals recovering from alcohol abuse and addiction that changes in alcoholics’ spirituality, and the adoption of practices such as prayer, meditation, and reading spiritual books, and being involved in a spiritual community are important to sobriety (Brown & Peterson, 1991).

In a contrasting study, Forcehimes, O’Leary and& LaNoue (2008) tried a more directive approach, where rather than assess patients subjective experience of spirituality, people who were fresh from a detoxification programme received a 12-session manual-guided spiritual guidance (SG) intervention during and after inpatient treatment. The SG intervention was “hypothesized to influence substance abuse outcomes by increasing spiritual functioning on three measures: Daily Spiritual Experiences, Meaning in Life, and Private Religious Practices” (Miller at al., 2008, p.439). Contradictory to expected outcomes SG had no effect on spiritual practices or substance use outcomes at any follow-up point. A potential strength of their study was a wider range of cultures, Hispanic (50%), White non-Hispanic (35%), and Native American (12%), however this is somewhat negated by the high drop out rate (43%) and the failure to find an effect.

While the participants in Robinson et al.’s (2007) research are predominately Caucasians, a predictive link between daily spiritual practices and reduced alcohol consumption was found. Relatedly perhaps, a potential limitation of Miller et al.’s (2008) approach, unlike the other research cited previously, may have been the prescriptive, interventionist approach and the focus on techniques drawn from the Judeo-Christian tradition (Miller et al., 2008). While the authors claim this is the most common religious background in the US population this may have only been substantiated in census reports and not representative of the participantsbeliefs. In addition religiousness and spirituality are different constructs and experienced uniquely (Miller, 1998).

While the authors say they anticipated potential resistance to their approach, other than say they incorporated a clinical style of motivational interviewing, they do not specifically address how they overcame this resistance. Significantly 43% of participants dropped out after attending between 1-3 sessions and this is not accounted for. Potential strengths of this research and its failure to find an effect are summed up by the authors, “If spiritual formation is a developmental phenomenon that unfolds naturally over time, like cognitive or moral development, it may not be amenable to acute interventions designed to speed up the process” (Miller et al, 2008, p.440).

(Motivational interviewing is a specific technique to overcome resistance).

 

Conclusion

In the beginning psychology was interested in studying the psyche – the “human soul, spirit or mind” (Dictionary.com, 2014); however cognitive and rationally oriented mind therapies appear to have dominated therapeutic practice in modern times. Recent research re-establishes the importance of spirituality as an important therapeutic intervention, and integrates it into the mainstream of empirical psychological practice. The research confirms supports the theory that understanding this core dimension of human functioning, evaluating, understanding, and responding to the spiritual aspects of clients’ lives is an essential skill for health professionals who wish to understand this core dimension of human functioning, and tap into this reservoir of inner strength. “Comprehensive addictions research should include not only biomedical, psychological and socio-cultural factors but spiritual aspects of the individual as well” (Miller, 1998, p. 985).

While the research reveals the ongoing challenges in defining and measuring the elements of spirituality that make it an effective intervention, including differences in meaning and spiritual values, the desire to find ways of integrating clients spiritual beliefs and practice into the treatment of alcohol addiction continues to grow.

Future research could explore how spirituality could be incorporated into treatment/ therapy programmes, but practitioners should be wary of trying to impose spirituality on others, or to rush the pursuit of spiritual transcendence. As Miller et al. note, “Many people recovering from substance use disorders, including members of AA, report transformational experiences that seem to occur spontaneously rather than as the product of an intervention and that often have substantial spiritual or even mystical features” (Miller et al., 2008, p 440).

A tendency of the research presented to dominate their studies with middle-aged Caucasians is a limitation of their research, however this is helpful in illuminating a path other researchers may wish to explore. This is especially relevant for practitioners in New Zealand, treating Māori and other cultures for whom faith and spirituality are either embraced, or have been neglected – potentially opening the door to new forms of healing and treatment.

Regardless of issues presented in trying to empirically validate spirituality the research still confirms supports the view that spirituality is an important aid in helping people either currently or in the past abusing alcohol (Langman & Cheung Chung, 2013).

References

Alcohol addiction (2014). In Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/alcohol+addiction.

Bennett, S. (2009) Te Huanga o te Ao Māori, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Māori clients with depression – Development and evaluation of a culturally adapted treatment programme. (Doctorate Dissertation thesis, Massey University) Retrieved from http://mro.massey.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10179/1159/02whole.pdf?sequence=1#page=2&zoom=auto,-187,813

Bliss, D.L. (2007). Empirical research on spirituality and alcoholism: A review of the literature. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 7 (4). Doi:10.1300/j160v07n04_02 Retrieved from Google Scholar.

Brown, H.P., & Peterson J. H. (1991) Assessing Spirituality in Addiction Treatment and Follow-Up, Alcoholism Treatment Quarterly, 8:2,21-50, DOI: 10.1300/J020V08N02_03. Retrieved from Google Scholar.

Dowsett-Johnston, A. (2013). Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. London: HarperCollins Publishers.

Galanter, M. (2007). Spirituality and recover in 12-step programs: An empirical model. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 33, 265–272. Retrieved from Google Scholar.

Galanter, M., Dermatis, H., Bunt, G., Williams, C., Trujillo, M., & Steinke, P. (2006). Assessment of spirituality and its relevance to addiction treatment. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 33 (2007) 257– 264. Retrieved from Google Scholar.

Langman, L., & Cheung Chung, M. (2013). The Relationship Between Forgiveness, Spirituality, Traumatic Guilt and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among People with Addiction. Psychiatry Quarterly, 84:11–26. DOI 10.1007/s11126-012-9223-5. Retrieved from Scopus.

Liotta, J. (August 9, 2013). Does Science Show What 12 Steps Know. Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130809-addiction-twelve-steps-alcoholics-anonymous-science-neurotheology-psychotherapy-dopamine, 15 September 2014.

Lyons, G.C.B., Deane, F.P., & Kelly, P.J. (2010). Forgiveness and purpose in life as spiritual mechanisms of recovery from substance use disorders, Addiction Research and Theory, 18 (5): 528–543. Retrieved from Google Scholar.

Miller, W.R., Forcehimes, A., O’Leary, M. J., LaNoue, M. D. (2008). Spiritual direction in addiction treatment: Two clinical trials. Journal Oof Substance Abuse Treatment, 35(4), 434-442. Retrieved from Google Scholar.

Miller, W.R., (1998). Researching the spiritual dimensions of alcohol and other drug problems. Addiction, 93(7), 979-990.

Robinson, E.A.R., Cranford, J.A. , Webb, J.R., Brower, K.J (2007). Six-month changes in spirituality, religiousness, and heavy drinking in a treatment-seeking sample. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 68, pp. 282–290.

Robinson, E. A. R., Krentzman, A R., Webb, J. R., & Brower, K. J. (2011, July). Six-Month Changes in Spirituality and Religiousness in Alcoholics Predict Drinking Outcomes at Nine Months.* Journal of Studies on Alcohol Drugs, 72(4): 660–668. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3125889/

Psyche (2014), In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/psyche?s=t

 

Feedback!

Well done with your assignment Cassandra. You have a nice writing style and chose an interesting topic. You reviewed the literature well and critically analysed identifying both conflicting and supporting information. Try and avoid using so many quotes at this level the majority of your writing should be paraphrased. A few referencing errors to improve on. Best of luck with your future studies

Grade: 84.5/100

 

 

 

Who’s fooling who? The truth about alcohol and litigious lobbyists

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

 

 

“A lot of people are deeply dissatisfied by the diminishing control they have over their lives, because of the way our system of government is set up, to cater to the powerful, cater to the wealthy, cater to the corporations, and not to the individual citizen.”

~ Josh Fox, director

Do you know how much litigious alcohol lobbyists spend each year trying to convince governments and local bodies to relax attempts at alcohol restraint? Where one party is motivated by creating safer communities, the other appears to be motivated purely by sales-driven, self-serving profit.

Let me be clear, I’m not against alcohol companies, and I don’t believe a nice drink now and then is an abhorrent evil. What does get my backup is underhand tactics, misinformation, and self-interest at the expense of others.

According to figures published by the Center for Responsive Politics in 2017, the total lobbying expenditures for Beer, Wine & Liquor was a staggering USD $22,607,510—and this is just the money that was reported.

Incentives and kickbacks to aid and abet favorable practices abound in many industries whose primary goal is to maximise profits and returns to shareholders. The owner of our local liquor store, for example, was rewarded for selling the highest volume of 1125ml bodies of rum with an all expenses paid trip to Jamica. That’s quite a juicy incentive to up the volume on sales.

Booze barons and the companies they create operate similarly to banks—fair weather friends while you’re spending but less than benevolent when you’re drowning in debt or reeling under the costs of alcohol-fuelled harm.

Here are just a few things that alcohol lobbyists strongly oppose:

• Advertising and promotion constraints

• Alcohol control—including raising the legal age for drinking

• Increases in product-specific taxes (designed to offset harm or reduce consumption)

Let me give you several home-grown examples of how lobbyists can exert their influence.

In 1999 the legal purchasing age in New Zealand was lowered from 20 to 18 and despite several calls for legislation against the change, and repeated attempts to raise the drinking age again, it’s proven easier to reduce the drinking age than it has to raise it.

Lawmakers continually and overwhelmingly support the status quo and the age remains 18. MPs, swayed by lobbyists in argued, “If we say to people that you can vote, you can marry, you can fight for your country and you can die, then logically you shouldn’t say to them you shouldn’t drink in a public bar.”

Compelling logic if one accepts that teenagers, should go to war and ignores the issue that alcohol is a highly addictive drug.

Phil Goff, the Labour justice spokesman at the time of the changes, vehemently argued for a tightening of the 20-year age limit, citing overseas evidence linking increased road deaths to lower ages, and also citing public opinion polls that were against a lower age.

But the research was rejected as not relevant to New Zealand.

Maori Pacific MP Tukoroirangi Morgan said he had seen on marae and hui the results of young people drinking and driving.

“It would be a tragedy if this House was to say yes we will lower the age to 18. You may as well go and shoot 75 young Maori,” he said.

Almost a decade on and the concerns of Morgan’s and other opponents of lowering the drinking age concerns are well-justified. Along with alcohol-related deaths from drunk driving, domestic violence assaults resulting in death, 2012 statistics reveal 119 Māori deaths from suicide—accounting for 21.6 percent of all suicide deaths in that year. Alcohol is said to have been a contributing factor in many of these tragically avoidable deaths.

Add, to these sobering statistics the appalling and imbalanced incarceration rates and you’ll quickly appreciate the escalating harm caused by alcohol. In New Zealand Māori make up only 14.6 percent of New Zealand’s population, but a staggering 51 percent of its prison population.

Prominent businessman Gareth Morgan wants to see the age limit raised. “It was lowered in 1999 to appease the alcohol lobby, and we were promised at the time that if evidence showed harm went up after the change they would reverse it,” Morgan said, in an article in Fairfax Media.

“All of the evidence, all of the reports, have pointed unambiguously to harm going up.”

Research showed the lowering of the age had resulted in the “de facto” drinking age falling to between 14 and 17, Morgan said.

“The data is showing us that in secondary schools six out of ten students are drinking. Nearly half of them consume more than five drinks in each session. And one in five are saying the aim to get drunk. That’s where the problem is.”

Similarly, in 2012, former New Zealand Justice Minister Judith Collins met liquor industry lobbyists repeatedly in the weeks before the Government’s controversial U-turn on measures to restrict sales of alcopops, official papers revealed by Fairfax New Zealand.

The documents, released under the Official Information Act and published in 2012, reveal the extent of the pressure exerted by the industry, including a joint letter to former National Prime Minister John Key warning him his Government was about to “make a very serious and highly public mistake”.

The industry hinted that legal action was possible if the crackdown went ahead.

In late August the Government backed away from its plan to ban the sale of RTDs (ready-to-drinks) with more than 6 percent alcohol from off-licenses.

Instead, the Government gave the industry the right to draw up its own RTD code of conduct.

In the following chapter, you’ll discover how alcohol companies profited from the sale of RTD’s to society’s most vulnerable—including children as young as 12.

Collins said in announcing the back down: “Frankly, I think we can stop treating everyone as though they’re fools and can’t make decisions for themselves. It was a bit too much taking away people’s responsibility. About 80 percent of New Zealanders drink extremely responsibly.”

Really? The alcohol industry regulating itself to reduce harm? Until there is are disincentives from them to keep increasing the volumes of alcohol consumed, such as a public turning of opinion, it is highly unlikely they will operate against their own interests. This sounds like the same ineffective logic applied to the sugar barons.

Unsurprisingly the sugar barons are also powerful lobbyists—ones not beyond using a raft of diversion tactics. For example, during the ’50s, when colas and junk food begin to gain traction, the US sugar lobby managed to divert the onus for children’s obesity on dairy products, while their flunkeys invented a narrative about cholesterol and harmful fats.

Saying people, who can’t control alcohol are ‘fools’ and should be able to make informed choices is akin to saying people should be left alone to decide whether to wear a seatbelt in a car or a safety helmet while riding a bike on the road. Statistics reveal that lives are saved, and harm reduced, when laws are introduced to help people to help themselves.

One may well ask, where are the booze-barons when people are shelling out a fortune for rehab? Where are they when people are so sick they cannot work? Who picks up the tab when a beloved mother, father, son, daughter, friend dies of alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related cancer, or at the hands of a drunk driver?

 

Equity, Fairness, and Justice—let’s level the field

Do these booze barons pay an equitable share of tax? Are the costs of social harm factored into ongoing costs to individuals, families, and communities?

Who, for example, is going to pay for the childcare costs, mortgage payments and healing of the psychological trauma inflicted on Abdul Raheem Fahad Syed’s wife and child?  This innocent man, a beloved father, and husband was working to provide for his family when he was killed in a horror smash by a ‘joy-riding’ teen just before Christmas in 2017?

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/100147307/one-person-killed-two-flee-scene-of-auckland-car-crash

Who will pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars of judicial and penitentiary costs when the 20-year-old drunk, driving an expensive late-model BMW is sentenced? The Government? Why?  He is charged with careless driving. Why not murder? We all know the dangers and risks of driving drunk.

I’m being provocative, I know. But I’m not alone. In the following chapter, you’ll discover research conducted by The University of Western Australia in 2016 summarising the revenues generated by exercise taxes, and questioning the fair allocation of the burden of harm.

 

Nobody’s  fool

Mindful drinking is not only being aware of why you drink, how much you drink, and how to regulate or control your drinking—but also becoming aware of the powerful economic forces lobbied at encouraging you to drink more, and disempowering individuals from making rational, positive choices.

Mindful drinking is also a commitment to refusing to remain blissfully ignorant and becoming aware of the horrific and escalating costs of alcohol harm, and deciding whether you want to be part of the problem—or the cure.

Is all this new knowledge enough to cause you to rethink your relationship to alcohol? I hope so. With knowledge comes wisdom.

 

Your feelings matter

Heightened knowledge may not be the total catalyst to sobriety, but it has played a large part in mine, and also my devotion to this book and spreading the truth about alcohol.

Feelings, as you’ll discover in the book, matter. They are the gateway, the portal, to transformational change. When you feel compassion, empathy, sadness, rage, love for those who suffer needlessly, and this includes yourself, you will find freedom from alcohol. In the chapter, Get Angry, I look at how healing and cathartic channeling your anger into a higher purpose can be. You’ll also learn how the New Zealand Police were taken to court by local government (The Wellington City Council)—and the ridiculous reason why.

Throughout Your Beautiful Mind: Control Alcohol, we’ll also explore ways to heal the past and exorcise unhelpful emotions that keep you stuck in a cycle of destructive feelings.

As Candace Pert writes in, Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d,  “Buried, painful emotions from the past make up what some psychologists and healers call a person’s ‘core emotional trauma.’

“The point of therapy—including bodywork, some kinds of chiropractic, and energy medicine—is to gently bring that wound to gradual awareness so it can be re-experienced and understood.

“Only then is choice possible, a faculty of your frontal cortex, allowing you to reintegrate any disowned parts of yourself; let go of old traumatic patterns, and become healed, or whole.”

In the next chapter, we also explore why we are incarcerating so many people with drinking problems and the need to spend more money on offering treatment and support.

We’ll then take a peek into the darker, and fascinating side of advertising.

Specifically, we’ll look at the psychological warfare and advertising ploys booze barons use to manipulate you to act against your best interests. Just when you thought you were in control!

My aim is not to scare you sober, but perhaps you’ll feel a sense of relief, as one person said, “It’s great to finally understand I am not to blame.”

One day, this same person may encounter, Judith Collins and say, “Hey, Judy, I say wanted to say—I am nobodies fool.”

 

 

This is an edited extract of Cassandra Gaisford’s new book. Be the first to know when Your Beautiful Mind: Control Alcohol, Discover Freedom, Find Happiness and Change Your Life, is released here—http://eepurl.com/cQXY4f

The truth about Alcohol Addiction and Recovery—Wrestling With the God Thing

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

“Spiritual and environmental factors are starting to make a bit of an impact but are not fully accepted as a mainstream approach yet (particularly spiritual approaches). But every approach has its day …. and as they do become more accepted maybe it is a matter of watch this space …”
~ Dr. Gillian Craven, Massey University (personal email, 2014)

As I wrote in the foreword to this book, while finishing my psychology degree at the young-old-age of 49 I decided to take a spiritual approach to the treatment of alcohol addiction. The topic proved challenging.

It was the final assignment needed to complete my third-year paper, Abnormal and Therapeutic Psychology. A lot was resting on it. I’d failed my first assignment where I had researched the causes and treatment of obesity. I was told this was because I hadn’t consulted enough empirical data and scholarly articles—relying instead on people’s personal accounts. I was keen to avoid the same mistake.

But I quickly discovered a lack of psychologically-validated research to cite.

Perplexed I asked my lecturer why, when so many alcoholics swear that taking a spiritual approach was instrumental in their recovery, there was a dearth of research?

“The theoretical etiologies of disorders do focus on cognitive, genetic, neurobiological, personality-based theories —this reflects the bias of both the authors themselves and the current Western approaches,” my lecturer, Dr. Gillian Craven, wrote back to me.

“This is for better or worse the zeitgeist of our time. Spiritual and environmental factors are starting to make a bit of an impact but are not fully accepted as a mainstream approach yet (particularly spiritual approaches). But every approach has its day …. and as they do become more accepted maybe it is a matter of watch this space …”

This was back in 2014. In my view, spiritual approaches were, and continue to be, adopted by mainstream practitioners, including Deepak Chopra who offers addiction recovery programs at his Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center.

Alcoholics Anonymous also addresses spiritual issues, and many followers attribute placing their faith in God to their recovery.

The challenge for many psychologists, particularly those focused on academic research, is their inability to measure, quantify, and place spirituality in a test-tube.

“Science has sometimes been at odds with the notion that laypeople can cure themselves,” writes Jarret Liotta in a National Geographic article, ‘Does Science Show What 12 Steps Know?’

The purpose of Your Beautiful Mind is not to prove or disprove anyone beliefs or to discredit any profession, but to present you with options, backed by my own experience, and the experience of others who have struggled to control alcohol—and succeeded.

An increasing number of people also adhere to the belief that God lies within us all—we are God—and it is time to connect to our inner guidance and the ultimate source of empowerment. Many great minds, including Leonardo da Vinci, subscribed to this view.

As we explore an eclectic and holistic range of strategies—spiritual, cognitive, feeling-based, and scientifically validated, to help you control alcohol, I encourage you to adopt an open mind and ‘do a Leonardo da Vinci’ and experiment with different approaches until you find what works for you.

 

This is an edited extract of Cassandra Gaisford’s new book. Be the first to know when, Your Beautiful Mind: Control Alcohol, Discover Freedom, Find Happiness and Change Your Life, is released. Sign up for her newsletter here http://eepurl.com/cQXY4f

Would you like to drink less? Cut back or quit drinking entirely without becoming a hermit, being ostracized, or cutting back on an enjoyable social life.

Cassandra Gaisford’s new book, Sexy Sobriety: Alcohol and Guilt-Free Drinks You’ll Love: Easy Recipes for Happier Hours & a Joy-Filled Life. Available in ebook and paperback here—getBook.at/SexySobriety

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