A treacherous friend


This column was posted on the nulpromille.nl website by Sjoerd Talsma, one of OCM’s contributors.

You and vodka. Just good friends…

If people quit drinking alcohol it is sometimes said it is like saying goodbye to a friend. I do recognize that. But if a friend of flesh and blood would behave the way alcohol does, I would get rid of him right away.

Especially on hectic, difficult days I would comfort myself with the thought that my drink at the end of the day would enable me to forget all worries. Indeed alcohol enables that, certainly if you generously take it. If you have taught yourself to sleep on alcohol, alcohol is your friend when sleep does not come easy. Even physical pain seduces if your mate comes to the rescue. But that friend comes at a price that eventually nobody wants to pay.

As soon as this friend leaves his shadow side shows. Anyone who has had occasionally too much to drink knows that taking a few beers can do wonders. Nothing helps better fighting withdrawal symptoms than taking the stuff that causes them. Isn’t that a trait of all drugs, the reason for it to be addictive thus enabling some people to make a lot of money with it? The most disturbing of the withdrawal symptoms for me was that my heartbeat hit the ceiling. Together with high blood pressure this give a feeling of agitation. Sweatiness and trembling do add to the misery. It takes time, about a week, to get rid of that. Exercise, good food and sleep are important to speed up recovery. And if you quit drinking, be sure to take Valium. Not only to sleep, but also to avoid getting a seizure. In their aversion of alcohol and Valium caretakers tend to forget this advice. In itself their aversion can be understood. Valium is highly addictive and a week detox is far from enough and very painful.

Next to the highly unpleasant withdrawal symptoms the use of too much alcohol has many negative effects. It damages about everything of your body. When you quit you will notice remarkable improvements in those body parts that are affected most, like your brain, memory in particular. If it gets out of hand isolation is at risk by loss of family and friends, your job, your house…everything. So alcohol is not such a fun friend after all.

I met my new temporary doctor a few weeks ago. When I told him how Baclofen had helped me to overcome my alcohol addiction he replied that this still was a matter of substituting one drug by another. An incomprehensible reply I think. Technically speaking he has a point of course, but for now Baclofen proves a much better friend than the one I exchanged it for. There are always wild stories going around also about Baclofen. I do realize that people respond differently to medication. But for me Baclofen does not have any of the characteristics of an addictive drug. I don’t get high on it, nor do I experience withdrawal symptoms when I don’t take it. On top of that Baclofen does not have the annoying side effects that antidepressants have, medication that doctors and psychiatrists tend to subscribe fairly easy it seems. Occasionally I have attacks of sleepiness and in the beginning my speaking was affected. Those are (were) the side effects of Baclofen. I consider myself lucky that I have been able to say goodbye to alcohol and my antidepressant. I gladly settle for the Baclofen ‘addiction’.

The medicine Baclofen is used by Operation Clear Mind Ghana in a broader alcohol recovery and social integration program. Baclofen is effective in supporting abstinence. Our program shows better results in this area than most Western rehabilitation clinics.

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