Free Book Promotion

511cxHurliL

*****FREE BOOK PROMOTION*****

“Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide” by Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW was released 5 years ago, in 2015.

To celebrate and help dementia caregivers everywhere, Angela is offering her ebook (Kindle) for FREE, for a limited time.

Go to Amazon to get your copy Sat. March 28 – Wed. April 1, 2020 inclusive.

Download your copy: https://amzn.to/2WJzMXs

AngelaGGentile.com

 

It’s a Different World

IMG_2176

It’s a different world out there.

How do I know?

  • I didn’t feel comfortable having to remove my glove to enter my information on the touch screen at the drive-through bank machine. I’ve read there are lots of germs on those glass display monitors. Even touching the money made me feel uncomfortable. (Thankfully I have hand sanitizer in my car that I used before driving off.)
  • Gas is 69.9 cents per litre in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • I saw grown men walking around outside wearing medical masks.
  • Portage Avenue traffic was so sparse, it felt like it was a very early Sunday morning, when in fact it was 10 am on a Thursday.
  • My co-worker felt like she was doing something “bad” by handing me some office supplies through my car window. The office supplies included some disinfectant wipes that she didn’t feel were safe if she tried to send them via our interdepartmental mail system as they were coming from a different building in a different part of the city.
  • I was happy to be driving in my car, feeling safe from the corona-virus. My car felt like a safety zone.
  • I had to put a “6 Feet” “social distance line between me and my chair, so that my work space is safe.
  • The elevator has a sign stating, “Maximum occupancy  persons.”

IMG_2179

These are just some of the reasons why I know it’s a different world out there. I am different, too. I am much more aware of the invisible enemy out there. The one who has claimed many, many lives in a short few months.  The first death related to COVID-19 was in China on 11 Jan 2020. Just 2.5 months later and the whole world is at war with something we can’t see. No amount of arms will protect us now.

Please be safe out there, everyone. And thank the essential services workers, especially those hospital staff on the front lines.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

Three Sheets to the Wind: A Primer on Addiction

 

man holding black backpack

Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Pexels.com

There’s an old saying that when someone is “three sheets to the wind,” it means they are drunk. The original phrase was derived from sailing ships. It means that an intoxicated person is out of control and in danger of crashing, much like when the ropes of the sails on the ship are out of control. I have also had a few times in my life when I was “three sheets to the wind.” Now I am much more aware of my drinking habits, especially after all I have learned about addictions. What I have found after researching this topic has been eye-opening and informative.

Many people have lost their lives due to drugs, alcohol, or other substance addictions. People with behavioural addictions have lost their homes, families, and jobs. Multiple dependencies can also cause people to have problems in all areas and, ultimately, end in horrific or tragic circumstances. Many people addicted to illicit drugs end up in jail.

Over the past few months, I have completely immersed myself in learning about addictions and the abuse of substances. I have discovered many interesting facts and interviewed amazing people. I used to wonder why I didn’t see many of these issues with older adults. Sadly, I have discovered that many people who have addiction issues don’t make it to 65. I learned about a man who died at 72, from cirrhosis of the liver, even though he had been “sober” for 35 years. It appears that even after years of abstaining from drinking alcohol, it may not necessarily save one from the damage that is done years prior. It may extend one’s life, but the shortened lifespan is an unfortunate consequence.

I hope that by sharing what I have discovered, through my curious and caring nature, I can help someone seek treatment for what I now know is considered a chronic illness. Understanding more about alcohol, substance, and behavioural addictions, and providing you with heartfelt stories that some courageous people have chosen to share, will help shed some light on this stigmatized area of mental health. The more we talk openly about these issues, and the more we try to understand and support each other, the better off we will be.

What is Addiction?

My understanding of addiction is that it is a dysfunctional condition of the brain’s pleasure centre that affects one’s behaviour. What often starts as a harmless, casual, occasional activity, insidiously and slowly, can become a harmful craving or urge – escalating to emotional and physical needs. Cravings can be explained as intense, obsessional, emotional needs. Many say there are identifiable triggers. These needs cannot be resisted when our addiction is strong and deeply engrained. Our willpower is overcome by addiction cravings. Chemical and behavioural addictions fool our brain with large surges of dopamine, the pleasure hormone and transmitter. Our brain continuously seeks pleasure and what it needs to relieve stress. If this intense drive becomes dysfunctional and affects our daily living and health, it becomes an addiction. No addiction is positive.

A person with an addiction may have more than one substance or behaviour that they are chained to. For example, a person could have an alcohol addiction plus a gambling problem. The addiction often coincides with mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and poor self-esteem. For some, the substance (e.g., drugs or alcohol) or behaviour (e.g., shopping, pornography, or gambling) becomes a way to help self- medicate. It could start with a prescription from the doctor for pain medication. Addiction is a chronic illness that has no cure that requires lifelong management and treatment.

We, as a society, have to be careful about the language we use when talking about people who have addiction problems. Calling someone a “drunk,” “wino,” or “pothead” are not acceptable terms. These are harmful labels that create negative stereotypes. The shame and stigma labeling invoke can prevent people from seeking help. Instead, we are encouraged to use “people-first language,” such as “a person who uses alcohol” or a “person who has a substance use disorder.” We also want to remember to use terms like “a substance a person is using” vs. a “substance of choice.” A person, who is not using substances or is reducing use, is a person “in recovery.”

Why Do People Become Addicted?

There are several theories, and I don’t think there is one clear answer. I understand there are common internal (within us) and external (outside of us) risk factors that are often referenced or referred to by the experts and those who have an addiction. They are:

  1. Genetics (e.g., a “vulnerable brain” inherited from parents, “Addictive personality,” “Disease of choice,” poor self-esteem or self-image)
  2. Social Conditioning – Family and Lifestyle (e.g., what you grew up with, how your family handled stress and other life situations, peers, workplace activities and norms, habits, loneliness, boredom)
  3. Past Trauma (e.g., PTSD, adverse childhood experiences, abuse, loss)
  4. Underlying Mental Health Illness (e.g., depression, anxiety)

A person does not have to possess all risk factors to develop an addiction. The addiction may be related to only one of the above-listed factors yet still be enough to ignite the disease process. Conversely, not all people who have any of these risk factors will develop a chronic addiction. One in five of us will develop an addiction. It could all start with a very innocent habit or hobby. Having a glass of wine with dinner every night can lead to two – and so on. I would say the process of addiction festers and brews for a while before it becomes a full-on substance use disorder (or problem behaviour). I think it is safe to say it is a combination of things that may cause one to develop an addiction – much like that “perfect storm” situation.

Interestingly, although a mental health problem may be made better with substance use in the beginning, in the long run, the mental health problems can get worse (especially depression and anxiety.) The other important thing to note is that addiction problems can increase the risk of mental health problems such as psychosis or depression.

Some experts like Craig Beck, The Stop Drinking Expert, don’t believe addiction is genetic. He believes alcohol is a poison. A person becomes a problem drinker when the “nice to have” becomes a “need to have.” He explains how there is an “evil clown” inside us that causes us to drink more than we should. Lack of willpower is also a big factor.

Any substance-use problem is not only a physical and mental health addiction, but it is also a behavioural problem. One would say, if you have a drinking problem, just stop drinking; but, it’s much more complicated than that. Unless the root cause of the problem is understood and acknowledged, and the desire to get the behaviour under control, there will be no recovery.

I believe addiction is an illness. It’s a chronic (lifelong) illness, just like any other disease. For example, let’s compare a person with alcohol addiction to a person with type 2 diabetes. If the person diagnosed with diabetes wants to get better, they have to change their lifestyle (diet and exercise) and perhaps take medicine such as insulin. In many cases, this is done and it is a positive outcome. Comparatively, if the person living with years of addiction is told they have to change their lifestyle, behaviour and take medicine, their brain’s ability to recognize and understand that there is a problem may have become damaged. Therefore, there is an aspect of not knowing – not even being able to know there is a problem – combined with denial and unwillingness to make changes. Dr. Kevin McCauley states, “Addiction is a disease of choice. It’s a disorder of the brain that affects our ability to make proper choices.”

Some people don’t want to change anything, as they feel “better” when using or acting in a harmful way. Harm reduction is one way that a person with an addiction can be helped. If the person is not able to completely abstain from the substance or behaviour, putting limits on it may be better than continuing as they are. Limiting access to the substance or behaviour is a significant first step in harm reduction and recovery.

Treatment for Addiction

Some people can recover from their addiction without the help of a doctor. They may find sharing their emotional issues with others helps them find healthier ways of coping. For others, there are medications that can help. There are even implants that can be effective for up to six months. These medications help control these cravings. Think back to the person with type 2 diabetes who needs to take medicine. A person with addiction may need to take medicine. Sometimes an antidepressant can help the person manage by helping stabilize their moods, therefore, making the person feel better without self-medicating with additional substances. Co-occurring mental health disorders have to be treated at the same time. For example, an addiction to opioids has to be treated at the same time the bipolar disorder is.

Groups and supportive communities are key factors in recovery. Connecting with others and being kind to oneself aid in a successful outcome. Groups and programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Smart Recovery are popular and helpful for many. Individualized counseling programs can help one deal with past traumas and family issues.

Addiction treatment and recovery do not respond well to a “treat and release” approach. It takes a lot of effort, time, and ongoing management to ensure relapses don’t occur. And, if a relapse does occur, it’s important to keep in mind that recovery and moving forward is still possible. Being mindful of any system gaps is key to ensure a positive outcome. Detoxification, rehabilitation, and residential programs often have waitlists.

As we age, we must keep in mind that our bodies are changing. It takes a lot less of a substance to get the same “buzz” or “high” than when we were younger. The aging process affects our metabolism, which, in effect, changes the way our body reacts to drugs and alcohol. We may be on medications for other health conditions, which will also interact with our use of harmful substances.

Help is Available

If you or someone you know has an addiction, no matter how big or small, please get help. It is possible to get those sails under control. There are effective programs and treatments that can help you get better, and reduce the risks for unfortunate endings. Addiction is a chronic illness, just like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is nothing to be ashamed of.

Addiction recovery is ongoing; it’s a lifelong process. There is help. Talk to someone.

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

Social Distancing to Help Slow the COVID-19 Spread

man and woman near table

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Many years ago, at the beginning of my career in health care, a community nurse told a few of my colleagues and me that she makes sure she washes her hands often, even after shaking hands with someone. I will never forget that moment, and the feeling I had when she said that.

I said to her, “Really? That sounds pretty extreme.” I was thinking, “Boy, that sounds odd. She must have obsessive-compulsive disorder or something.” I was comparing her to a relative I have that used to wash his hands a lot. My colleagues were just as taken aback by that nurse’s statement.

She was confident and very matter-of-fact. Her words left quite an impression on me. After some time passed, I thought to myself, “She is a nurse. She must know her stuff. Do we really need to be worried about germs when we shake someone’s hand? Everyone does it. I don’t see how that could be a public health concern.”

Fast-forward – 25 years later. That nurse was way ahead of her time.

On March 11, 2020, an announcement was made that the World Health Organization has declared a COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to control the spread, “social distancing strategies” have been recommended. One of the specific directives includes “avoiding greetings that involve touching such as handshakes.”

I work in the community as a social worker. I have been greeting and shaking hands with my clients and their family members for years. Over time I learned that in order to prevent getting sick it is important to have clean hands and to not touch my face. Washing my hands before and after contact with my vulnerable and older clients became part of my “routine practices.” (I use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available.)

However, having clean hands isn’t even enough now in this pandemic situation. Little did I know how risky this simple, well-meaning gesture can be. Getting too close is even risky.

Perhaps a friendly smile, head nod, and “Nice to meet you” is all that is needed for now.

And lots of handwashing.

Let’s help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep a respectable and safe distance from each other. That nurse from 25 years ago knew her stuff.

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

Eat Less Often, Live More – Book release

 

Eat less often

The beginner’s guide to intermittent fasting. For health and weight management.

Intermittent fasting is becoming one of the most talked-about and researched weight loss and health management tools. In this short ebook, Angela G. Gentile explains what it is, how it can benefit you, and how it helped her and her husband lose weight. IF can enhance any diet and it can also help make you feel better. In this easy-to-read book, you will be inspired and motivated to try this safe and healthy way of eating (and not eating!).

Eat Less Often, Live More: What one year of intermittent fasting taught me,

by Angela G. Gentile

Buy the ebook (for Kindle) on Amazon.

 

Addicted to Anti-Anxiety or “Nerve” Pills — Benzodiazepine use disorder and what to do about it

woman-3351794_1920

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Many people, especially women, develop feelings of anxiety and worry. Some call it “bad nerves.” This predisposition to feeling anxious can cause problems with everyday living, coping, and sleeping. I have assessed and interviewed many older people with a range of problems with anxiety. Feeling anxious is a completely normal reaction to stress or a situation where you may feel fearful. However, being in a continuous state of feeling afraid can cause problems both mentally and physically. Some say they feel like they are “trembling inside.”

Anti-anxiety medications (also known as “nerve pills”) are used by many people. These pills come from the family of “benzodiazepines.” Some of the commonly prescribed anxiolytics in Canada or the United States include (but not limited to):

  • Clonazepam (Rivotril)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Diazepam (Valium)

A commonly prescribed non-benzodiazepine that acts like one is Zopiclone (eszopiclone in the USA). It is commonly used as a “sleeping pill.”

Generally, benzodiazepines end in “pam” or “lam.” Use of these medications can initially improve symptoms by offering a sedating effect, however, they can also be addictive. Side effects of these drugs include increasing the risk of cognitive impairment, confusion, delirium, falls, fractures, drowsiness, and motor vehical accidents. They are not recommended for use by older adults. In fact, older people are recommended to gradually reduce their dosage (a slow and steady decrease is recommended over a sudden discontinuance due to withdrawal symptoms). Always talk to a doctor about any changes to your medication. As the dose is gradually reduced and preferably stopped, it is important to identify and optimize alternatives to managing any underlying issues. These alternatives are preferably not other medicines.

Sometimes these medications are used on an “as needed” basis. For example, if you are afraid of flying, and you need to go on an airplane, you can take one of these medications (prescribed by your doctor) to use in specific situations. Or, if you have claustrophobia and you need to go for a scan such as an MRI, taking this medication may make it more bearable.

I have also seen where these medications are prescribed for help with sleep. People who have an anxiety disorder may be prescribed this classification of medications to see if it helps reduce anxiety or panic attacks. In older people, antidepressants are the preferred class of medications to help with anxiety.

Some other key tips to remember:

  • Avoid taking benzodiazepines with opioids or alcohol.
  • These medications are more often prescribed to women (Almost 1 in 5 Canadian women report to have used in the past year).
  • Almost 1 in 10 Canadians in Quebec have been reported to have an addiction to benzodiazepines.
  • If a benzodiazepine addiction is present, consider there may also be other substance use disorders or behaviours present (e.g, alcohol, opioids, marijuana, gambling).
  • If you are older, it’s best not to start taking benzodiazepines.
  • If the addiction is getting worse, an admission to a treatment facility may be necessary.

If you are finding yourself feeling “addicted” or “dependent” on these medications (or other substances or behaviours), you are “craving” these drugs, or you are needing to increase your dosage, you may want to see your doctor to discuss alternatives. Reducing the risk of harm is key.

For more details, The Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health has published the Canadian Guidelines on Benzodiazepine Receptor Agonist Use Disorder Among Older Adults (2019) and is found online: https://ccsmh.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Benzodiazepine_Receptor_Agonist_Use_Disorder_ENG.pdf

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

OK Boomer – A passing fad?

fullsizeoutput_46e

Photo source: https://dailyillini.com/opinions/2019/12/02/ok-boomer-is-an-ok-trend/

The end of the decade brought forward a new catchphrase: “OK Boomer.” It’s meant to be humourous, but its real meaning is dismissive and insulting to the older generation. It is something a younger person would say to an older person in a sarcastic and mean way. It pits the younger generation against the older generation. This term exploded on the social media video clip site called TikTok and is now sweeping the nation.

I have been reading up on the term, and it seems that there continues to be quite a divide between generations. The older generation is known as the Baby Boomers (and those older than the Boomers are the Silent Generation). The younger generation is known as the Millennials, or Generation Y or Z.

In between the Boomers and the Millennials is Generation X. That’s my generation. Those who are Gen Xers now are around 40–54-ish. Generation X is often forgotten about. It seems like we are invisible. Not young, but not “old.” It is kind of like the middle-child that often gets forgotten.

Each generation tends to point fingers at the next. I say we need to embrace each generation. Learn from what each has to offer.  Boomers are those born between 1946 and 1964. They are aged 55-73.

In order to move forward in a united front, we have to stop saying “OK Boomer,” and instead say, “I hear you. I see you. Let’s talk.” We have so much to learn from each other. Gen Xers now approaching that magical 55+ age. That age when we get a senior’s discount. We are almost there. I don’t want to be dismissed with “OK Gen Xer.” Just as much as the younger person doesn’t want to be dismissed with “OK Kid.”

So, what do you think of the term, “OK Boomer”? Is it just a recycled and new way of dismissing the older generation? Ageism rearing its head? Or is it nothing new and harmless?

I hope it’s just a passing fad.

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

http://www.AngelaGGentile.com

Cannabis and the Third Age: How Can Older Adults Benefit From This Plant?

Image from Pixabay

Image from Pixabay

This guest post is written by Bojana Petkovich. 

Cannabis (also known as marijuana) has suffered a fair share of stigma throughout the history of humankind. Even though plenty of its medicinal benefits have been known and tested for a long time, most of the world’s countries still keep cannabis illegal. Fortunately, Canada is not one of them any longer.

The Silent Generation and Baby Boomers clearly remember cannabis as illicit and all the stigma that went with it. One would think this mindset is perhaps the most difficult to change when it comes to fully embracing cannabis products, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Why Are Seniors So Attracted to CBD-Based Products?

The answer is rather simple: older age comes at a price — your body is not the same as it used to be when you were younger, and cannabis helps a lot. Your skeletal, nervous, and muscular systems have aged, and there are several age-related diseases seniors are prone to. 

Some of these diseases can, however, be mitigated and battled using cannabis and its major constituents, cannabinoids (CBD). Such substances are diverse, and thus can help with plenty of symptoms and negative side effects.

The main reason a lot of older people lean toward cannabis and its products is that it is not like other heavy prescription drugs. It has hardly any worrying negative effects on your body, and it can benefit you greatly. These products do not harm your gastrointestinal tract and your nervous system, as opposed to prescription drugs for various pains, inflammations, and diseases.

Still, cannabis is also offered as a prescription drug and should be treated as such; this means that its abuse can result in cannabis use disorder that leads to severe side effects.

The National Cannabis Survey conducted by the government of Canada revealed that there has been a rise in cannabis use in seniors. Statistically, just over 40,000 people aged 65 and older used cannabis in 2012. As of 2019, the number rose to more than 400,000 people from this age group who consumed cannabis.

Age-Related Diseases and Cannabis

Diseases such as arthritis, glaucoma, dementia, osteoporosis, and adult-onset diabetes are some of the most common ones that come with old age. Cannabis is, however, known to help with all of them and many others.

Osteoporosis and bone-weakening diseases are some of the most common ones for older adults. They cause severe pain, limited activity and mobility, and overall weakness of your bones. Cannabis use is especially helpful when it comes to such diseases, as it speeds up the healing process of your skeletal system through osteoblast stimulation. These cells act as rebuilders and repairers of your bones, making them up to 50% stronger once the CBD treatment is finished.

Dementia is difficult to deal with, both for the one suffering from it and the person’s loved ones. Other than forgetting crucial things about your life, such as close family members and places, many people with dementia experience severe agitation, aggression, depression, and similar. The neuron cells saturated by excessive amounts of amyloid protein get inflamed, causing this vile disease. Luckily, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is there to reduce the amount of this protein, while inducing calmness. 

Diabetes is a problem for a growing percentage of the world’s population, especially in adults and the elderly. Diabetes statistics show people who use cannabis have around 16% lower fasting levels of insulin compared to those who do not use it, and type two diabetes is rather uncommon in cannabis consumers.

Pain is linked to many diseases and is the most common symptom. Cannabis is known for its ability to reduce different types of pain. Factually, 62.2% of cannabis users choose this plant and products based on it so they can relieve chronic pain.

Arthritis, a disease that attacks joints, tends to trouble 1in 2 older people. The feeling of stiffness and pain, followed by fatigue and swelling are some of the most noticeable symptoms. A 2018 study from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reports a strong bond between arthritis and depression, and seniors have been using cannabis to fight this disease. Not only that, but in 2018 they were up to 20 times more likely to admit they used marijuana in comparison to statistics from 1984. 

Bottom Line

As we enter an era where many symptoms, illnesses, and diseases are becoming a part of a blurry past due to technological advancement, older people can finally start experiencing a painless and easy day-to-day life. Cannabis is already making a massive change, as people opt for CBD-based products more and more every year, and we cannot wait to see this plant’s full spectrum of benefits in the future.

 

About the author: Bojana Petkovich is always on the lookout for new adventures and creative drives. Bojana is currently mesmerized by the fast-paced cannabis industry and providing the internet community with valuable information via LoudCloudHealth. The information on LoudCloudHealth is backed up by scientific studies. The articles on diseases and conditions treated by cannabis or CBD have sources to scientific research in their links. The statistics pages have their sources listed at the end of each article.

Low-Risk Alcohol Usage Guidelines for Older Adults – Know your limits

depth of field photography of woman in pastel color sleeveless shirt and white sunhat

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Most adults enjoy drinking alcohol on occasion. Sometimes, though, this occasional drink turns into a daily habit. One drink turns into two or more. If a person is not mindful, this habit could turn into an addiction. Addiction is also known as dependency or substance use disorder.

People can become addicted to not only alcohol but drugs, including prescription drugs (such as benzodiazepines and opiates). For example, nicotine, the drug found in cigarettes, is very addictive. Addictive behaviour can also be problematic, as in gambling, sex, or online gaming.

Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. Yet a number of effective treatments are available and people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives. – American Psychiatric Association, retrieved 03 Dec 2019.

For a number of reasons, it is essential to keep in mind that as we age, it is recommended we reduce our consumption of alcohol. For adults aged 65 and older, it is important to be aware of the low-risk guidelines.

Canada’s Low-Risk Guidelines (DrinkSense for Seniors) which is provided by the “Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction”, states that limits for adults (not older adults) who drink alcohol should be 10 drinks a week for women with no more than two per day, and 15 drinks a week for men with no more than three drinks a day on most days. There is no specific limit for older adults, but one of their “Safer Drinking Tips” includes the advice of “Always consider your age, body weight, and health problems that might suggest lower limits.”

 

standard-drink-picture_0

Standard Drink Portions:

      • Beer – 341 ml (12 oz.) of 5% alcohol content
      • Wine – 142 ml (5 oz.) of 12% alcohol content
      • Cider/Cooler – 341 m. (12 oz.) 5% alcohol content
      • Distilled alcohol/80 proof liquor (rye, gin, rum, vodka, etc.) – 43 ml (1.5 oz.) 40% alcohol content

 

I attended an “Aging and Addictions” course in November 2019 which was held by the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, and they supported the drafted recommendations entitled “Prevention: Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines” for those 65 and older (noted below).

 

Low-Risk Drinking Limits (65+)

    • Women: No more than 1 standard drink per day, with no more than 5 drinks in total per week.
    • Men: No more than 1-2 standard drinks per day, with no more than 7 per week in total.
    • Non-drinking days are recommended every week.

Source: Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Health. Canadian Guidelines for Older Adults. Prevention, Assessment, and Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder, 2019.

 

These drafted guidelines are more in line with what I would recommend. I have seen what alcohol dependence can do to people and it is heartbreaking. And as noted in a previous post here on my website, to help preserve cognitive health, experts recommend no more than 2-4 drinks per week (see my Memory Rescue book review.)

For those who have a drinking problem, there is often stigma and shame attached. Many people can’t abstain or reduce their drinking behaviour on their own (harm reduction) and need help. If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, addiction or dependence, please contact the Addictions Helpline in your area.

> Addictions Helpline Canada 

> Addictions Helpline USA

AA 12-Step (https://www.aa.org/) or Smart Recovery (https://www.smartrecovery.org/) are peer support options to consider as well.

If you are considering getting on top of your drinking problem and need someone to talk to, please contact me and I can assist you in finding the help you need.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

 

References:

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction

https://amho.ca/wp-content/uploads/Mon-300pm-IP1-3a-Older-Adults-with-Alcohol-Related-Problems-Best-Practice-Guidelines.pdf

https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/get-help/get-help-problematic-substance-use.html

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

https://www.aa.org/

https://www.smartrecovery.org/

https://www.drinksenseab.ca/drinksense-tips/seniors/

https://ccsmh.ca/alcohol-guidelines/

“A Standard Drink” image source: https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/what-standard-drink

 

 

 

 

One Day Without Caffeine – Here’s what I learned

person holding gray mug

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

I have been doing a lot of reading up on and learning about substance use problems and addictions and I quickly realized that I was using caffeine on a daily and habitual basis. I wondered if I was “addicted” to caffeine. Addiction in the sense that there is a compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance. Addictions always have negative consequences (think of those who are addicted to meth or alcohol). I have been having trouble sleeping at night so I wondered if caffeine was the culprit.

I also wondered if cutting out caffeine would cause me any withdrawal symptoms and if I was physically or psychologically dependent on it. I am not a heavy caffeine user. I have two, maybe three cups of orange pekoe tea (i.e. Red Rose) a day. Sometimes I have a special green tea drink. I rarely drink cola anymore. The chocolate I eat is also something I feel I am dependent on but that’s for another day!

I woke up as usual, around 7:00 am and boiled my hot water for tea. This time I put orange pekoe decaf tea in the cup (i.e. Typhoo). I added some milk and I realized in my mind, I was preparing for withdrawal such as headaches and fatigue. Most people are afraid of getting a headache as a caffeine-withdrawal symptom. I made sure I had my ginger tablets with me just in case. I enjoyed my cup of tea and tried to trick my brain that it had caffeine. Just to see if that helped.

By 9:30 am, while at work, I was noticing a “foggy and fuzzy” feeling on my face.

I imagined if I had had some caffeine at this point, perhaps the foggy feeling would go away. I had a glass of water to help with any dehydration/thirst symptoms.

At noon I had my lunch. I enjoyed another decaf tea with milk. I was feeling a little fuzzy in the face still. Kind of like what I feel like when I first wake up in the morning.

At 1:00 pm I was feeling some heat in my cheeks. A tired feeling was coming over me. I needed to be alert for work. I noticed I was craving sugar and carbohydrates. It’s as if my brain was telling me what to have to help perk me up if I can’t have caffeine. The second best option was sugar and carbs. So I had a couple of little candies. It helped for a short time.

By 2:30 pm I was feeling tired and was craving potato chips. I knew a cup of tea would help curb my afternoon crash, but I wanted to see if I could work through it. I had a few chips. It helped.

The need for carbs continued. At 3:45 pm I had some Nutella on a rice cake. By now I am totally convinced my body is craving sugar and carbs for a little energy boost to help keep me awake.

I can see how easy it is – and perhaps a healthier choice – to grab a cup of tea (or coffee for coffee drinkers) when you need a little “pick-me-up.”

Going for a tea (or coffee) seems a lot healthier than eating candies and potato chips. I then started to think about those who smoke and want to quit smoking. I have often heard how people gain weight when they quit. I can now understand why that is.

By 5:15 pm I was snacking before dinner. I ate a small piece of leftover garlic toast. I also had another glass of water to help me push through until dinner time.

During dinner, I told my family that I had not had any caffeine today and that I felt like I never completely woke up. 

After dinner, I felt very sluggish and tired. I had less energy and felt like having a nap on the couch. I fought it though.

When bedtime came around, I was yawning, felt tired, but unfortunately had trouble falling asleep.  My theory of  “a caffeine-free day will help me sleep at night” was disproven. The other theory of getting a “caffeine-withdrawal headache” was also disproven.

So, I’ve decided that it’s okay for me to have my cup of tea, or two, or not. I can go without it if I need to. I don’t consider myself dependent or addicted to caffeine. I see it as a comfort and habit that helps curb my appetite. It also helps me “wake up.” I have also read there are health benefits of drinking tea (and coffee) in reasonable amounts. Especially green tea. I will continue to work on my insomnia issues.

Challenge yourself to a caffeine-free day and see what you learn about yourself and your relationship to caffeine.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW