What is chemical dependency?

Alcohol and drug addictions are progressive diseases. In most people, addictions begin slowly and grow until the victim's life becomes progressively unmanageable. As repeated efforts to gain control over the addiction fail, life for the chemically dependent person begins to fall apart.

Alcoholism and drug abuse can shatter lives. Consequences are often reflected in the addicted individual's family life, health, spiritual happiness, social life, school or work relationships and legal matters. In spite of these problems, the addicted person continues to use alcohol or drugs. Repeated efforts to quit or cut down invariably collapse in failure.

Persons with a chemical addiction can stop using alcohol or drugs -- for a while. But most need professional help to stop for life. The individual who quits without professional help is usually overcome by an unbearable desire to resume alcohol or drug use.

For some individuals, treatment in a sheltered environment, safely away from daily stress and pressure, is often needed for recovery. The IIAR's Inpatient Treatment Program offers the structure and safety that is necessary to rebuild a life.

Others can receive help without the interruption of Inpatient Treatment. They are able to enter recovery through the help of an Outpatient Treatment Program. This type of program does not require individuals to take time off from work, leave their families or enter a hospital as an inpatient.

Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery at Proctor Hospital and BroMenn Regional Medical Center are Central Illinois' leaders in chemical dependency treatment. The Institute has a record of outstanding recovery rates and has helped thousands of adults, children and families since 1979.

Types of addictions:

Addiction to alcohol

Addiction to nicotine

Addiction to drugs

Addiction to alcohol

Alcohol is a drug. Its technical name is ethanol. Alcohol is classified as a depressant drug -- a drug that slows the activity of the Central Nervous System (CNS), especially the brain (which is very sensitive to alcohol).

When a person drinks, alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the body. Some of the alcohol is absorbed directly through the tongue and throat. Unlike most foods, alcohol requires no digestion. As it enters the stomach, it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Once alcohol enters the blood, it begins to penetrate all major organs of the body. About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed is metabolized or eliminated from the body through the liver, and the remaining 10 percent is eliminated through the lungs and kidneys.

A 12 ounce can of beer, a 5 ounce glass of wine, and 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor contain the same amount of pure alcohol: about .6 ounces. It usually takes the liver an hour to eliminate .5 ounces of alcohol. This means that you eliminate alcohol from your body at the rate of about one can of beer, a small glass of wine, or a shot of hard liquor each hour. If you drink faster than this, the alcohol begins to accumulate and intoxication begins.

The intoxicating effects of alcohol

Alcohol produces a variety of intoxicating effects depending on the quantity of ethanol in a person's blood. The more a person drinks, the more intoxicated he or she becomes. The higher the Blood Alcohol Level (BAL), the more severe the effects are. The major stages of intoxication are as follows:

1.        Happy: In this initial stage, the individual becomes more talkative and sociable. Inhibitions are lowered. There is some loss of judgment.

2.        Excited: In this stage, the individual begins to show some erratic behavior. Thinking and judgment are impaired, and reactions are slowed.

3.        Confused: In this stage, the individual begins to lose control over speech and walking. He or she may stagger, become disoriented and demonstrate exaggerated moods. Slurred speech and double vision may occur.

4.        Stuporous: In this stage, the individual needs assistance walking and appears to be paralyzed at times. Consciousness is barely maintained and an apathetic mood is evident. Vomiting and incontinence are common.

5.        Comatose: In this stage, the individual is unconscious. He or she has few or no reflexes. Brain activity has slowed so much that breathing may become ineffective.

6.        DEATH.

About alcoholism

Alcoholism was first recognized as a disease in the 1930s by Alcoholics Anonymous. Since then, the American Medical Association has recognized alcoholism as a serious, chronic disease. It takes time to develop; and once it develops, the disease does not go away. There is no cure for alcoholism, but it is treatable. With proper treatment, an alcoholic is able to return to a normal, satisfying life.

Alcohol is still the number one drug problem in America. It is a disease that has no boundaries -- it affects adolescents, middle-aged people and senior citizens; it affects people of all races, religions, intelligence levels and professions. There are approximately 18 million alcoholics in this country.

The physical results of alcoholism

1.        Brain damage: A variety of conditions­ from psychosis to permanent memory loss­ may occur in alcoholics.

2.        Cancer: Mouth, esophagus and stomach cancer occur frequently in alcoholics, due to the irritating effects of alcohol.

3.        Heart disease: Enlarged heart and congestive heart failure are common in alcoholics.

4.        Liver damage: Cirrhosis (a scarring of the liver), alcoholic hepatitis and cancer of the liver are often caused by alcoholism.

5.        Ulcers: Long-term alcohol use produces stomach and intestinal irritation which can lead to ulcers.

6.        Glandular problems: Problems may occur in the adrenal and pituitary glands of alcoholics.

7.        Birth defects: Women who drink alcohol during pregnancy can cause their unborn child to suffer birth defects. This condition is known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).

8.        Suicide: Severe depression typically accompanies alcoholism. A very high number of suicides are related to drug and alcohol use.

9.        Accidents: Drinking and driving is a major cause of death in America. Approximately half of all highway deaths are alcohol related. Alcohol-related accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers.

10.  Physical abuse: Alcohol is a major factor in a large portion of homicides, child abuse cases and other domestic violence cases.

Treatment and counseling for alcoholism

Some people begin their recovery by going through a treatment program. A treatment program is a structured medical process that introduces a patient to the principles of recovery. In treatment, a patient will learn about the disease of addiction, as well as the skills necessary to maintain a recovery program. During treatment, the healing process with family and friends is started. Following treatment, the most effective long-term solution to helping an alcoholic stay sober is regular attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous.

The first step in getting help is finding out if you or someone you know has a problem. A certified addiction counselor can perform a professional assessment, which will identify alcoholism and recommend the appropriate treatment. To get an assessment, or for more information about the Institute's alcoholism treatment programs, please call an IIAR counselor at 1-800-522-3784.

Addiction to nicotine

The use of tobacco has been interwoven with the history of America. In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General called tobacco "habituating." In 1988, the Surgeon General called tobacco "a powerful addicting drug." People are now more aware of the true addictive nature of nicotine and tobacco use. Chronic use of tobacco is a contributing factor in many premature deaths. More people die from the effects of tobacco than all other drugs combined.

Treatment and counseling for smokers

Forty million Americans have quit smoking. Surveys show that 85% of smokers would like to quit. Some people find a way to quit on their own; others, however, fail repeatedly and eventually begin using again. The IIAR provides an Outpatient Program designed specifically to help people who are actively addicted to nicotine. This intensive program will teach addicted persons about the problem and help them find a way to live comfortably without using nicotine.

The IIAR is offering the "Quit and Stay Quit" program developed by the internationally acclaimed Hazelden Treatment Center. The program provides care over a six-month period in two phases. Phase One of the program will entail one-hour group sessions two times per week for 16 weeks, as well as monthly individual sessions to review progress. Phase Two will follow with one-hour group sessions one time per week for eight weeks, also including monthly individual sessions to review progress. Services are provided by individuals trained in group therapy and the addiction process. All participants are also introduced into the local smoker's anonymous community and are expected to attend meetings.

Prior to being accepted into the program, individuals must participate in an evaluation interview to assess their motivation and appropriateness for this type of treatment.

The "Quit and Stay Quit" treatment program is for individuals who have lost control over their use of nicotine products. The following points are characteristic of an individual with nicotine addiction:

1.            Is preoccupied or obsessed with nicotine

2.            Craves nicotine

3.            Rationalizes nicotine use

4.            Continues to use nicotine in spite of good reasons not to

5.            Nicotine becomes more important than family, friends, job, ethics or money

6.            After a period of abstinence, the individual quickly resumes his/her previous pattern and quantity of nicotine use

7.            Sneaks and hides his or her chemicals

8.            Chooses friends, jobs and recreation that permit the continued use of the chemical; avoids friends, jobs and recreation that cannot accommodate the use of nicotine

9.            Physical deterioration sets in, but he or she continues to use the drug

Individuals who identify with the characteristics listed above would likely benefit from treatment. If you have reason to believe someone you know is addicted to nicotine or any other drug, please call the IIAR at 1-800-522-3784 to schedule a free, confidential assessment interview or informational session.

Addiction to drugs

Although the effects and dangers for marijuana, cocaine, hallucinogen, opiate, sedative and inhalant use may be different, one aspect of drug addiction is consistent: Long-term drug use can cause both physical and psychological dependence. Users may have a hard time limiting their use, they may need more of the drug to get the same effect, and they may develop problems with personal relationships and their jobs/schooling. The drug can become the most important aspect of their lives.

We are currently updating this section, and we will have more specific information on marijuana, cocaine and other stimulants, hallucinogens and PCP, sedative-hypnotics, opiates and inhalants in the near future.

If you would like more information on drug addiction, or if you or someone you know is having problems with drugs, call an IIAR counselor at 1-800-522-3784.

Treatment and counseling for persons addicted to drugs

Some people begin their recovery by going through a treatment program: a structured medical process that introduces a patient to the principles of recovery. In treatment, a patient will learn about the disease of addiction, as well as the skills necessary to maintain a recovery program. During treatment, the healing process with family and friends is started. Following treatment, the recovering individual will attend regular group therapy sessions in order to stay clean.

The first step in getting help is finding out if you or someone you know has a problem. A certified addiction counselor can perform a professional assessment, which will identify drug addiction and recommend the appropriate treatment. To get an assessment, or for more information about the Institute's chemical dependency treatment programs, please call an IIAR counselor at 1-800-522-3784.