Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Connect the dots, women's time is here

By Bob Gaydos
Women marched across the nation this month.
Women marched across the nation last month.
     I’m big on connecting the dots. A plus B plus C … sometimes it adds up to D. Or in this case, W, as in Women. Here they come, politically. And long overdue.
     In this case, making the connections wasn’t too difficult, unless you happen to be someone -- a Republican, for example -- who is genetically incapable of recognizing the gross disparities, unfairness and outright abuse that continue to confront women in America decades after an Equal Rights Amendment was proposed by Congress and failed to get the required number of states to approve it.
   That’s a dot still to be connected, but there are plenty of others falling into place, suggesting a new era is about to burst the male-dominated political/economic bubble that has encased America for, well, ever.
   The dots as I see them, in no particular order:
  • The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal that rocked Hollywood, wrecking careers of powerful men throughout the industry.
  • The #metoo movement that grew out of the scandal as women in all fields, from TV to Silicon Valley to sports, found the courage to tell their stories of sexual exploitation by men in a position of power.
  • Many of those men losing their jobs as a result.
  • The Women’s Marches that began last year to protest the election of the misogynist-in-chief and grew this year as millions of women (and men) marched across the country to demand equality for women in the workplace, in politics, in the board room, in society.
  • Oprah Winfrey delivering a stirring speech as she accepted an award at the Golden Globes Awards, leading to a social media storm urging her to run for president. (Please, no, we’ve tried the really rich person used to giving orders with no government experience thing. But please do support candidates who agree with you, O. Generously.)
  • Gretchen Carlson, a former Miss America and former Fox News anchor who won a multi-million-dollar sexual harassment settlement from the network, being named chair of the Miss America pageant board of directors after the male bosses were shown to be mini-Trumps. Former contestants were also added to the board, which was previously all-male.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, urging Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign over sexual groping charges, saying Bill Clinton should have stepped down as president because of his sex scandals and urging Donald Trump to resign as president over sexual assault charges from a score of women.
  • Trump attacking Gillibrand with sexual innuendo on Twitter and unleashing a powerful backlash.
  • The doctor for the U.S. Olympics gymnastic team being sentenced, in effect, to the rest of his life in prison for abusing dozens of female athletes under his medical care for years. The athletes were given all the time they wanted in court by the female judge to tell their stories before the sentencing.
  • Women of color turning out en masse at the polls in Alabama to defeat a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate who, as a district attorney stalked teen-aged girls at malls. The candidate, Roy Moore, had the support of Trump and the Republican Party. The Democrat won.
  • A record number of women, mostly Democrats, running for political office this year at the local, state and national levels.
  • Time Magazine choosing “The SILENCE BREAKERS,” the women who came forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, launching the #metoo movement, as “Persons of the Year.”
  • Hillary Clinton running for president, getting nearly 3 million more votes than Trump, and losing anyway because (1) the Russians interfered with the campaign, (2) Republicans didn’t care and still don’t and (3) she apparently rubbed a lot of women the wrong way.
  • Gillibrand, Sen. Kamala Harris of California and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joining Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Connecticut as leading voices in the Democratic Party and speaking eloquently about economic equality, health care, gun violence, family leave, veterans, the homeless, abortion, immigration, jobs, the drug crisis -- all for the most part ignored by Republicans.
  • Steve Wynn, financial chairman of the Republican National Committee, being forced to resign his position over numerous charges of sexual harassment and abuse of women over the years. The wealthy casino magnate is a major financial supporter of Trump and other Republicans.
  • Congress rewriting the rules (such as they were) for dealing with members accused of sexual harassment. Secret non-disclosure agreements are probably not going to be the norm anymore.
  • Female registered voters outnumbering male registered voters in the United States. They are also more likely to vote than men.
    These are the dots. There are plenty more, but you get the idea. This is not simply a revolution about sexual predation -- or an attitude of male sexual privilege, if you will. As I see it, it is an awakening, a moment of clarity, a realization that what was does not have to continue to be. Cannot be, in fact. Republicans are mostly clueless to the moment. Democrats ignore it to their continued ineffectuality at the polls.
    You want another dot to connect? How about First Lady Melania Trump canceling out at the last moment on the trip to Davos with Donald? No standing stoically by her man. Someone said she sent him a private tweet: Dear POTUS, not going to Davos. Why don’t you see if Stormy Daniels is free for the weekend? Well, not free, but, you know, affordable.
    Connect the dots.

bobgaydos.blogspot.com

Monday, January 8, 2018

Democrats: Stand by your woman

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
 ... ready to lead the way?

So I wrote a column saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been beautifully positioned -- by a combination of Donald Trump’s fear of self-confident women, the rapid emergence of sexual misconduct by prominent men as a social issue, the newly demonstrated political power of women of color, and her own intelligence, commitment and ambition -- to run for president in 2020.

Here’s a sampling of comments I received:

-- “She’'s done, as far as I'm concerned, and I voted for her. What she did to Al Franken for her own benefit is a disgrace. She needs to be primaried, and voted out.”


-- “Never vote for her.”


-- “Horsefeathers.”

-- “Another Democratic hypocrite just like the rest of the party.”

-- “Just another Schumer loser and certainly a disgrace for NY.”

-- “I think almost every single politicians in New York is corrupt. For example, was she part of Hillary Clinton's 100 member leadership team? If so, that kills it for me right there. … I mean Bernie Sanders ended up supporting Hillary, but he had to, I think. He has my vote in 2020, and my undying allegiance.”

Of course there were the usual trolls who can’t spell or comment without being vulgar -- the world the Internet has legitimized. There were also some positive comments about Gillibrand, but that response was markedly muted, with Democrats in my and Gillibrand’s home state of New York apparently sharing the uncertainty of Democrats nationally as to what to make of this outspoken junior senator who had just called on the groper-in-chief to resign.

The reaction of David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers, was typical: “There should be rigorous pursuit of these kinds of charges, but right now there are no rules. She’s been a leader on the issue [of sexual assault]. But the danger for her is looking so craven and opportunistic it actually hurts her.”

Someone identified as a top Democratic operative was quoted thusly: “If you cared about the Democrats and 2018, you would be calling for hearings [for Trump]. When you call for resignation, you’re jumping the gun. I’d rather have congressional candidates being asked, ‘Do you support hearings?’ Calling for resignation is not really what’s best for the party, but it’s good for her.”

So, bad for her or good for her? Gillibrand isn’t waiting for Democratic “operatives” to decide.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the senator provided some insight into her thinking: “I take calculated risks. I measure. I assess risk very intensely. And then I make a judgment. When you play tennis as a kid, you’re going to win sometimes and lose sometimes, and you learn how to behave well under both circumstances. Such a great life lesson because if you’re not afraid of losing, you’ll take a risk -- like running for office.”

Including president.

My impression is that Democrats typically have difficulty recognizing opportunities that offer themselves and even more difficulty uniting behind a candidate, whether they agree with all her views or not. It’s almost as if winning elections is not that important. Republicans, of course, have demonstrated that they are capable to a fault of standing behind a candidate regardless of his lack of character, intelligence, knowledge of government, or emotional stability, perhaps even to the eventual demise of their own party.

But that’s the Republicans’ problem. Many Democrats seem to be inclined to try to make a problem of Gillibrand’s synchronistic moment. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s a woman and she’s talking about a subject many people find difficult to talk about frankly and publicly -- sexual harassment in all its forms, from subtle to blatant.

That the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump did not prevent him from becoming the Republican presidential candidate, never mind winning the campaign for the White House over a clearly more-qualified female opponent, may well be due in large part to unspoken attitudes about gender and sex and politics and how to behave when they all come together.


Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 popular vote among white women, running against a card-carrying misogynist. The usual complaints voiced about her were that she was too ambitious or not trustworthy. But Trump was all ambition and a congenital liar. He was also an admitted sexual predator. But so was Bill Clinton, although it took some time and an impeachment for his admissions to come forth. And through it all, Hillary stood by her man. You could almost hear Tammy Wynette singing it: “You’ll have bad times; he’ll have good times; Doin' things that you don't understand …”

As a man occasionally guilty of sexist remarks, I nonetheless venture to say that I have noticed that women have a way of remembering things. “She attacked all those women who were used by Bill and now she wants to be president? I don’t think so.” The women voters stood by their man, just like the song says, “ ‘Cause after all he's just a man” ... allowed to be ambitious and untrustworthy.

That time is no more. #MeToo and the Women’s March and generations of women who have grown up liberated beneficiaries of other women’s struggles -- women not trying to behave like men or needing to be silent about sexual abuse in order to succeed -- have changed the political landscape. Gillibrand, 51, is one of them and she understands the changing dynamic.

One of the trickier challenges in talking or writing about the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations is how to differentiate among the various behaviors -- Harassment? Groping? Unwanted touching? Suggestive talk? Sex for a promotion? Assault? Rape?

Gillibrand makes it simple: “Let’s say the line is here, and it’s all bad,” she said at a women’s conference, to cheers. She is someone willing and able to lead the much-needed discussion. Indeed, she has led a bipartisan effort to rewrite the rules in Congress on dealing with sexual harassment charges. The current system relies heavily on delay and legal hush money.

Democrats need to take Gillibrand and women’s issues -- including Bernie Sanders’ key issue, economic equality -- seriously. They are all connected to the issue of men in power using and abusing their positions to get sex in exchange for “helping” a woman’s career or at least not hurting it. In essence, of using power to “keep women in their place.”

I understand that a lot of Democrats feel that Sanders was robbed of the Democratic nomination and that he would have beaten Trump. I agree. But Bernie in 2020? Look, I think he would be a good president. Heck, with all modesty, I think I would be a better president than Trump. But I’m four months older than the Vermont senator, who will be 80 in 2020. I hate ageism, but I’m also a realist. If Sanders runs, I’ll vote for him, but I think being president of the United States is a younger person’s game. In today’s world, perhaps a younger woman’s game.

(The author has been a registered independent voter for more than 50 years.)

bobgaydos.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Trump launches Gillibrand's presidential campaign


By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
... right place, right time?

Here comes Kirsten.

Thanks to Donald Trump’s thin skin and pathological need to attack any woman who speaks the truth to and about him, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign for the presidency -- mostly media speculation and staff downplaying until now -- has been launched onto front pages, TV and social media sites ahead of schedule.

Not that Gillibrand is complaining. In fact, she thanked Trump in typical Gillibrand style -- directly and defiantly. Just the way to get under his skin. And just the way to use his misogynistic history and instincts to put the spotlight on her signature issue --  sexual predation. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The launch began when the Democratic senator from New York called on Trump to resign as president in light of allegations of sexual assault or harassment from, at last count, 17 women. Gillibrand had already called for the resignation of fellow Democratic senator, Al Franken, of Minnesota, because of sexual assault allegations and had said that, if BIll Clinton were president now and were facing the sexual misconduct charges that led to his impeachment, she would expect him to resign.

Those two moves set Gillibrand apart from the two wings of the Democratic Party -- the progressives who love Franken and feel he was railroaded and deserves the hearing he requested, and the Clinton regulars who see any criticism of Bill as an attack on Hillary. Plus, some felt Gillibrand appeared to be ungrateful for the help she received from the Clintons when she replaced Hillary in the Senate. Members of both Democratic factions felt Gillibrand was exploiting a situation -- the whirlwind of sexual assault allegations being made public about prominent men in various fields -- to advance her political career.

In other words, she stood accused of being a politician.

Apparently. being ambitious is acceptable, even commendable, behavior for men in politics, but not (with the exception of Hillary) appropriate for women. This fits nicely with Gillibrand’s campaign to change prevailing societal attitudes and treatment of women.

And, critics notwithstanding, she didn’t come late to the party. Indeed, she came to the Senate already focused on sexual and gender abuse, turning her focus on the military as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She was one of the leaders in the move to do away with the “Don't Ask Don't Tell” policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military;

She has championed a bill, which has bipartisan support, to remove sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. The Military Justice Improvement Act is a byproduct of hearings in 2013 on sexual assault in the military, which she held as chair of a subcommittee on military personnel. Gillibrand has also been instrumental in drafting the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would hold colleges accountable for sexual assault on their campuses. And she is building bipartisan support for a measure to revamp congressional procedures for dealing with sexual harassment.

If ever there were a case of right place, right time, right person -- right woman -- this sure seems like it. Gillibrand may or may not have been planning to run for president -- or maybe she was still assessing her chances -- but the combination of: 1) the misogynist Trump in the White House; 2) the Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal in Hollywood; 3) the ensuing accusations, revelations, admissions, firings and resignations of high-profile men in powerful positions in media, movies, business, politics; 4) the Women’s March movement; 5) the demonstration of women’s voting power in Democratic victories in Virginia and Alabama; and 6) the legions of Democratic women who want a champion of their gender but for various reasons felt Clinton wasn’t it, would seem to suggest a perfect alignment of the stars for a woman with excellent political instincts and without political baggage.

Senator Gillibrand.

A word about those instincts. Gillibrand was appointed senator in 2009 to replace Clinton, who was nominated to be secretary of state by President Barack Obama. Her selection by New York Gov. David Paterson was a surprise because Gillibrand was then a relatively unknown  congresswoman from upstate New York. That is, conservative upstate New York. She had managed to be elected in a Republican-heavy district in large part due to her ability to recognize what was important to her constituents (agriculture, guns) and to communicate directly to them. She says they trusted her even though she was a Democrat and two out of three voters were Republicans.

But she changed when she moved from the House to the Senate, going from representing a conservative congressional district to representing a liberal state. Critics say it was cynical and political, aimed at getting re-elected. She says as she traveled the state she learned different views about issues that were important to people -- on gun control and gay rights for example -- and her views changed as she learned more.

Take your pick on the Gillibrand evolution. The proof is in the pudding. She has been vocal and persistent in the Senate in championing whatever cause she latches on to, including single-payer health care and family leave, which have been longtime issues for her.

Still, it is #Metoo and the rapid recognition of millions of women of the political power that is theirs, waiting to be harnessed, not exploited, that has placed Gillibrand -- perhaps moreso than another favorite Trump target, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- at what may be a pivotal place in history. Four male Democratic senators called on Trump to resign before she did, with nary a tweet from Trump. Gillibrand’s statement got to him.

He tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Charles E. Schumer and someone who would come to my office 'begging' for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

Typical Trump, attacking a woman standing up to him by insulting her and using sexual innuendo. Also typically Trump, with bad timing. The tweet appeared hours before the senator was to speak to a group of truckers. The dotard’s sexual history was obviously not on the agenda, but, of course, the press asked Gillibrand to respond to his tweet.

So she did, in typical fashion: “It was a sexist smear attempting to silence my voice. I will not be silent on this issue, neither will women who stood up to the president yesterday and neither will the millions of women who have been marching since the Women’s March to stand up against policies they do not agree with.”

You could almost hear the campaign cash registers ringing.

bobgaydos.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

At holiday parties, 'no thanks' is an acceptable answer

Addiction and recovery

By Bob Gaydos
It’s time for my annual here-come-the-holidays-so-let’s-be-smart-while-we-enjoy-ourselves column  for addicts and their friends and families.
Over the years of writing this column I’ve learned that being brief is important because there’s simply too much for people to do at this time of year to sit and read an article about healthy behavior. Also, that non-addicts as well as addicts can benefit from knowing some basic rules for surviving holiday festivities. If much of what follows sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve said it before and, I think, bears repeating.
This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.
But I’m also talking here to you hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t understand the concept of addiction but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, first, some holiday coping tools for the non-addicted:
  • “No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress. Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.
  • By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.
  • If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing, low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.
  • If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.
  • Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend.
  • Addictions are not trivial matters. I repeat, “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.
For recovering addicts, the tools should be familiar, but always bear repeating:
  • Bring a recovery friend to a party.
  • Have phone numbers and your own transportation available if you want to leave an uncomfortable situation.
  • If you’re uncomfortable about attending a party because of who will be there, be it family or friends who are not supportive, don’t go. Politely decline.
  • Keep track of your drink. If you’re not sure, get a new one.
  • Deal in cash; forget about credit cards.
  • Don’t feel obliged to try every dish on the table.
  • And, again, “No, thank you,” is a complete sentence. Don’t worry about hurting your host’s feelings at the expense of your recovery. There’s always next year.
Enjoy.
*  *  *
For more information:
Debtors Anonymous: www.debtorsanonymous.org
Alcoholics Anonymous: www.aa.org
Overeaters Anonymous: www.oa.org
Al-Anon: www.al-anon.org

bobgaydos.blogspot.com

Friday, December 8, 2017

Trump shakes, rattles and rolls

By Bob Gaydos

Donald Trump "smiles" with other leaders,
 including Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen
 Xuan Phuc and President of the Philippines
 Rodrigo Duterte, as they cross their arms
 for the traditional "ASEAN handshake.
 REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
It was almost painful to look at. That handshake. The apparently traditional one in which the world leaders attending the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference line up side-by-side, reach their arms across their bodies and shake hands with the persons next to them. Right hand to left side, left hand to right side. A little unorthodox, but heavy on symbolism.

The dotard-in-chief at first couldn’t figure out the logistics of where his hands should go and whose hand to shake. After flailing around for a few seconds, he finally got it. Then came the painful part. As he reached across his body for the hands of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phu and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Trump grimaced as if in serious pain.

It’s obvious as you look at the photo that all the other participants are relaxed and smiling. Trump is straining, trying desperately as photographers continue to snap to look as if he’s smiling. The man can barely manage to hang on to Nguyen and Duterte.

All the stories I saw on the handshake called it “awkward.” Well, sure it was awkward. We’re used to awkward from dotard. But it was only the photographers who reported that he was grimacing, not smiling, as if it were a reach too far across a flabby, out-of-shape body.

Look, as far as I’m concerned the question of whether Trump is fit mentally, emotionally, intellectually, morally or ethically to be president was answered convincingly during the 2016 campaign and has been reinforced every day he has been in office. He’s not. Yet for some reason we’re still debating this. I’m tired of restating the obvious, which is why, I think, the handshake photo struck me.

In addition to all the above, the man is also physically unfit to be president. He actually winced as he reached for Duterte’s hand, which ought to be a fairly unchallenging physical feat.

Trump is obviously overweight. During the campaign his “doctor” reported Trump’s weight as 236 and height as 6 foot 3. A lot of people say he’s really 6 feet 2 inches tall, but that would change his Body Mass Index, moving him from merely overweight to obese and, well, that would simply be unacceptable.

Like exercise. Trump has famously said he doesn’t exercise because he believes everyone has a “finite” supply of energy and exercising uses it up. What can you expect from a guy who stared at the sun during an eclipse.

This is not nit-picking, people. The man is 71 years old and lives on a diet of fast food and red meat. He sleeps three to four hours a night. He watches a lot of television. He prefers to skip breakfast, but does wash his hair and check Twitter. He has one of the most pressure-filled jobs in the world, yet, unlike other presidents, he has not had a physical exam since taking office, at least not that we know of.

His only physical activity is golf, which is not particularly strenuous, especially since he rides his golf cart everywhere, including onto the green. (He also used a golf cart in Saudi Arabia while other dignitaries walked because he was “exhausted.”)

In a sense, Trump’s blithe disregard for his physical health is in the same vein as his demonstrated lack of interest in history, geography, economics, science, the Constitution, diplomacy, appropriate social behavior, the truth, business ethics, common courtesy and how government actually works. Add your own to the list.

The point is -- and his loyal supporters who see the emperor well-clothed ought to really care about this -- if he can’t manage his own personal health with all the imaginable resources in the world at his call, how can he be relied on to manage America?

Let me be clear. With Pence and Ryan in the bullpen, I’m not especially eager to have some physical ailment remove Trump from the Oval Office. (Again, one wonders why his supporters don’t care.) Actually, I see his denial of his basic health needs -- and his secrecy about his physical condition -- as just another symptom of his emotional unfitness for office. That should disqualify him. It isn’t so much that he doesn’t care as it is that he doesn’t seem to realize he should care, at least for himself and his supporters and family.

If he really wanted to make America great again, the dotard would set an example of something positive he’s doing. Take a walk. Eat some vegetables. But he’s got nothing. He body shames people, especially women, as if he has never looked in a mirror. Or, psychiatrists would say, maybe because he has looked in a mirror. One way or another, it’s always about him and whatever the subject is he alway thinks he’s the smartest person in the room. It’s the kind of attitude people like Vladimir Putin thrive on. That Republicans have allowed it to continue and sought to exploit it will be to their everlasting shame.

Here’s just a small example of how Trump’s disregard for his health and his responsibilities does not make America great again: A couple in Jacksonville, Fla., went to their elementary school to see their son receive a National Physical Fitness Award. Being bright as well as fit (he could probably handle the ASEAN handshake blindfolded), the boy immediately noticed the certificate was signed by former President Barack Obama, not Trump, even though it was dated May 23, 2017.

The family was upset, not over politics, but at the apparent lack of, well, attention to detail. Can’t the “best people” a president can hire get a simple certificate right? All things Trump being connected, it may well have something to do with the fact that the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, which provides the coveted awards, still has no members and no chairperson after nearly 10 months under Trump.

Because, well heck, there’s only so much energy to go around.

bobgaydos.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Alcoholism: There’s no cure, but there is a test

Addiction and Recovery

By Bob Gaydos
Living in a world in which seemingly anything one might want is just a click away, it’s easy, maybe even natural, to assume there are quick fixes for everything. A robot for every chore. A cloud for every data storage problem. A pill for every illness.
Not yet. Sorry, alcoholics, there is still no pill that cures alcoholism.
It’s not for a lack of trying, to be sure. While research continues to find the magic pill, thus far the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three medications to treat what is referred to clinically as alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence. The FDA says the medications are non-addictive. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, they are:
  • Naltrexone, which is used to treat opioid addiction, but some researchers say can also help people reduce heavy drinking. It is available in pill and long-acting injectable form. Researchers say it acts in the brain to reduce the craving for alcohol in those who have already stopped drinking. However, treatment with naltrexone is not enough on its own. NIAAA says the medication was reported to be effective when combined with counseling, psychotherapy, and alcoholism support groups.
  • Acamprosate, which the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) says makes it easier for some who have already stopped drinking to stay stopped by reducing withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia and restlessness, that may follow lengthy abstinence. Of course, counseling, psychotherapy, and alcoholism support groups might help in these cases also.
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse), which blocks the metabolism of alcohol by the body, causing unpleasant symptoms such as nausea, headache, sweating and flushing of the skin. The idea is you will get so sick if you drink alcohol while taking Antabuse you won’t want to drink alcohol. Or, as some alcoholics decide, you won’t want to take Antabuse. It’s the nature of the disease.
There are complications, starting with the fact that each individual is different, meaning some medications might work for some and not others. For example, according to SAMSHA: “Patients with liver damage usually cannot use either naltrexone or disulfiram. However, because acamprosate is not metabolized in the liver, patients with liver damage can safely take the medication.” All the medications have a variety of possible side effects.
Also -- and here’s the major stumbling block for many with a serious alcohol problem -- for each of the treatments the optimal recommended situation is that the person is abstinent at the beginning and is committed to recovery. That may mean detox and, for many, in-patient or out-patient treatment. It also means being honest with your doctor and rehab counselors about your goals, actually being willing to stop drinking and not looking for a quick fix for your problems.
Having a primary care doctor who has more than a cursory understanding of alcohol and drug abuse is an excellent starting point, especially if medication-assisted treatment is to be involved. This doctor must screen patients to determine the level of alcohol use, assess the need for or appropriateness of medication-assisted treatment, develop a treatment plan, choose an appropriate medication and monitor patient progress. If your doctor is unable or unwilling to do all this and you want to try medication-assisted treatment, he or she should refer you to one who is.
But remember, none of these drugs cures alcoholism. They are designed to help manage a chronic disease by discouraging or reducing alcohol intake. That’s obviously crucial, but on its own is not necessarily recovery, which is generally defined as avoiding the trouble associated with drinking as well as avoiding the alcohol itself.
This being a disease of the brain, it is recommended that some kind of counseling or support group accompany the use of these medicines.
It’s also important to know that, while there may not be a magic pill to cure alcoholism, there is a way to help determine a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder. The NIAAA offers a test that you can take:
***
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?
Your score: Mild: The presence of two to three symptoms. Moderate: The presence of four to five symptoms. Severe: The presence of six or more symptoms.
Be honest with yourself and -- as the test suggests -- acknowledge your drinking’s effect on others. That’s key, whether you call it alcoholism or alcohol use disorder and whether you use some pill to treat it or not.
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