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NYC's anti binge drinking drive: Interview with The Dunes Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

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On July 7,2014 the Health Department of New York City launched a new ad campaign to help warn people living and visiting New York about how excessive drinking can cause great harm to individuals and those close to them. According to the NYC health department website "The ads caution that “Just one more drink can hurt,” and call on New Yorkers to think before ordering that “last drink” in order to prevent their friends from hurting themselves or others."

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Anti-drinking ads are hoping to spread awareness and prevent harm caused by drinking.

In an effort to raise awareness ads cautioning people about drinking will be posted in subway cars and in the bathrooms of 97 New York City bars through the month of Aug. and Sept. In July the health department issued their report "Harm from Other People’s Drinking in New York City" highlighting the effects that excessive drinking has not only on themselves but on those around them.

The report highlighted that more than one in five adult aged New Yorkers during a six month time period reported physical and emotional harm caused by another's drinking. In a 30 day span 52-percent New York adults admitted to being around drinkers with 71-percent adults reporting harm. Victims reported physical assaults, unwelcomed sexual invitations, humiliation and emotional abuses, as well as the need to act as a drinkers "babysitter".

Binge drinking has become a serious issue that needs to be addressed and ended before more people are harmed. Those who are binge drinkers, whether every week or just a few times a year, are alcoholics causing harm and problems for themselves and those close to them. Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D., LCSW-R, Executive Director of The Dunes East Hampton is well aware of the sad effects that alcohol can have on those using as well as their friends, family and coworkers and is working to help those end their addiction problem.

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras explains The Dunes as an amazing resource for treatment of addictions.

Most rehab facilities attempt to cure addictive behavior with a "cookie cutter" approach, meaning that they use the same therapy on every individual inside an institution. Dr. Kardaras details "The Dunes tends to each patient and their loved ones with an individualized approach catered to heal and mend ones specific diagnoses and needs".

According to Dr. Kardaras "The Dunes is the most progressive high end rehab on the east coast". Kardaras goes on to further explain "At The Dunes different skill sets are taught to cope with stress in a real setting and not an institutional setting. Patients participate in a livable setting learning how to manage stress and self regulate moods. The methods at The Dunes is to treat each struggling person in a way unique way that will help them by addressing specific underline issues as well as integrating traditional approaches with holistic. People learn at The Dunes how to ground themselves to get healthy, they exercise, and work with family therapy."

The very caring Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, uses his expertise and guidance to treat addiction.

According to his bio on The Dunes website "Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, Ph.D., LCSW-R is an addictions specialist and clinical professor at Stony Brook University’s Health Sciences Center where he teaches graduate level course-work on the treatment of addiction. He is a licensed NY State psychotherapist and a clinical consultant for LICADD (Long Island Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) as well as being Adjunct Faculty at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in California. Dr. Kardaras has extensive experience in treating addiction and dual-diagnosis clients in both inpatient and outpatient treatment settings as well as over 10 years of experience in treating adolescents."

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras presented his experiences, thoughts and treatment methods in a candid interview.

I was very fortunate to have a chance to speak with Dr. Kardaras. Binge drinking, as well as other addictions, can cause serious harm on all who are afflicted, whether consuming themselves or affected by a close one who is in the midst of partaking.

I asked of Dr. Kardaras "What is your definition of an addict?"

Straight to the point Kardaras answered "An addict is a person that consumes a substance or engages in a behavior that is problematic, not healthy for them, family etc., in spite of bad consequences. He further defined "Addiction is often not a standalone behavior but a self medicating disorder due to mental illness".

With so many different statistics I wanted Dr. Kardaras' view on "What sets a binge drinker apart from a social drinker?"

Simply, Dr. Kardaras answered "The inability to stop even though there are consequences". He explained "Binge drinkers are "Periodic addicts" who don't need to drink or drug every day. They may only drink on weekends, but have the inability to control their drinking or drug use.

With new college freshmen checking out their new independence, Kardaras told me "Reports indicate that often those who continue to binge after the first three months of college may be more likely to become alcoholics".

Dr. Kardaras answered my question "Is there any one method that works best to treat binge drinking behavior?"

Teaching is key as Dr. Kardaras explained "It is very important to begin teaching when young with early awareness about family history in order to not become an alcoholic or drug addict. Being genetically predisposed means that kids need to be more aware in order to not follow in family's footsteps of abuse".

I posed a somewhat urgent question "What should someone do when feeling in harm's way of an addicts unknowing outbursts?"

Dr. Kardaras stated "Don't try to reason with a person who is drunk. Maintain your own safety first and remove yourself from the situation. Call 911 if you can't get away."

I questioned the Doctor "Can someone help another who refuses to believe they have a problem?"

Like a riddle Dr. Kardaras simply said "Intervention or not intervention". He went on to further explain "Some interventions can work, but that person at some point will have to admit to the problem and make changes."

Unfortunately as Kardaras discussed " Loved ones have no control over the addicted causing them their own issues of PTSD, ulcers and anxiety disorders. Family program helps those cope with the addicted behavior of a loved one."

A very important question I asked of Dr. Kardaras was "Is there anyway one can convince the afflicted that they actually caused harm in a forgotten black-out state?"

The very wise Dr. Kardaras stated "Consequences are the precipitators of behavioral change". He explained "Something must force the addict to stop the wheel of ongoing behavior in order for them to admit they need help".

The doctor consulted "If one is not willing to believe that they did the bad actions then the loved ones need to remove themselves from the situation. Hopefully then they will eventually see the reflection on themselves and will admit to needing treatment". Dr. Kardaras detailed further "As long as there are no consequences then there is no reason to stop. A loved one may need to force a consequence such as getting them arrested or fired, or moving out of the house".

I asked Dr. Kardaras simply "What is the first step to getting help?"

Dr. Kardaras stated "Making a phone call to treatment program, 12 step program, a helpline, or detox program is a good way to begin." In other words the addict needs to admit that there is a problem and they can't continue to live like they have been; to say "no more" and reach out for help

Wondering I questioned "Must one truly believe and admit that they have a problem before any treatment will help them?"

"In most cases the addict will need to admit to a problem" Kardaras stated but he also said "Sometimes intervention can fast track the process. Once sobered up a light bulb may go on telling them that their life has been toxic and then recognize the problem".

Often a relapse may occur; I wanted to know "How can one recover when one experiences a relapse?"

As the old saying goes, Dr. Kardaras said "Get right back on the horse; relapses can go on for years if they do not stop right away". Illuminating "A relapse analysis must be conducted to figure out what went wrong so the individual may learn from the mistakes that led to the relapse". Dr. Kardaras calls it "Learn from the hot stove moment" further explaining "Use it as a teachable moment where one must learn to make healthy lifestyle changes and may need to change the very core of who they are". Quoted by the doctor "Sobriety means living an "honest" lifestyle".

I asked Dr. Kardaras' opinion "Do you think the NYC campaign will make a difference for the better?"

Basically, Dr. Kardaras said "It could help like the second hand smoking campaign helped. Can do some benefit and at least help a little bit using it for early education and raising awareness for friends who are hanging out with binge drinkers".

Dr. Kardaras made a point to also explain the serious situation of the "accidental addict".

The doctor shared with me a recent report that he wrote for Fox News "The 'accidental' addict: soccer moms, painkillers and addiction". Dr. Kardaras explained to me "Many doctors are the cause of the "accidental addict". Doctors often prescribe medications, such as opiates and valium, without explaining the serious highly addictive side effects. This then causes the patient to become an addict by being uninformed.

Dr. Kardaras works tirelessly in his efforts to help the healing process. As well as his duties teaching and as director of The Dunes, as stated in his bio "He also provides supervision for new psychotherapists, has presented lectures and workshops on the treatment of addiction at various conferences (including the 2007 APA annual conference in San Francisco) and at seminars both nationally and internationally, is a regular contributor for Psychology Today and the author of “How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life”Conari Press, 2011.

With wars going on around the world and people fighting their own battles with the economy and money issues, many are seeking to self medicate with drinking and drugging. This is a health issue spiraling out of control and sorely needs to be healed. Thank goodness for the awareness and help that is being offered by people like Dr. Kardaras and facilities like The Dunes, as well as governing powers such as the NYC Health Department.

Stay in control of your own actions and never be afraid to dance.

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