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For more information about services at the Clinics, contact:


Bhavna Vaidya-Tank, MD

2076 NC Highway 42, Suite 230 Clayton, NC 27520

Telephone: (919) 553-5711

8020 Creedmoor Road
Raleigh, NC 27613

Telephone: (919) 322-2844

The Challenges of Addiction

Addiction impairs our judgment, controls our behavior and emotions, and keeps drawing us closer to its seductive intoxication. It is progressive and can be life threatening. Two million Americans abuse prescription drugs, which is now considered the new US epidemic. But according to various government agencies, 8.1 million Americans are addicted to alcohol, with about 14 million adults, or every 1 in 13, abusing it. Dr. Bhavna Vaidya-Tank, of the Family Wellness Clinics and Regenesis MD in Raleigh and Clayton, explains the addiction problems she sees most prevalently in her practice.

Dr. Vaidya-Tank checks to ensure the IV set up is ready for an incoming patient.

Health&Healing: You must see many examples of “self-inflicted” health problems in your practice; what comes first to mind?

Dr. Vaidya-Tank: Alcoholism. It’s something no one wants to talk about, and it’s everywhere. The other day I was doing a physical on a 50-year old patient whom we’ll call Frank. His cholesterol was slightly elevated, but his triglycerides, which go up when you have too much sugar or carbohydrates, were elevated. His blood panel showed that the size of his red blood cells—called the MCV—were high. When your blood cells are bigger than they should be, it could indicate a Vitamin-B deficiency. His face looked a little red and flushed.

He wasn’t on any medications. Since his triglycerides were high, I asked if he eats a lot of carbs, drinks soda or sweet tea, but he doesn’t. When we started talking, I realized that he was drinking too much, having about five or six drinks a day of hard liquor.

Most alcoholics don’t realize that they are alcoholics. Many experience depression or anxiety, and they turn to alcohol to self-medicate. His triglycerides were elevated because he was drinking way too much, and alcohol is really all carbohydrates—empty calories. He was deficient in folic acid and B12, which frequently happens when your nutrition suffers. This deficiency caused him to have macrocytic anemia.

He told me he was going through a hard time—a divorce. And his work stressed him out. We did an ultrasound of his liver, and it showed fatty liver. All of this was affecting his health in many hidden ways. Sometimes these problems aren’t even apparent on the lab tests. He needed help and therapy. But first, he had to make the decision to do something. He never realized how bad his alcoholism was or that he was an alcoholic.

H&H: How does alcohol abuse impact overall health?

Dr. Vaidya-Tank: In many ways—from top to bottom. Frank is a classic example. He had rosacea, an inflammatory skin disease. He also had macrocytic anemia that was directly related to the alcohol and poor nutrition because of his B12 and folic acid deficiency. This in turn caused fatigue. The alcohol elevated his triglycerides, which raise sugar levels and eventually can cause diabetes. His blood pressure was high, increasing his risk for heart disease.

He has a fatty liver, which in time may cause cirrhosis, consequently causing the liver to fail. The liver is your power house, metabolizing and detoxifying your body. It can also affect your sex hormones; and Frank’s testosterone was low causing him to have poor libido and erectile dysfunction, making his depression worse.

Frank’s nutrition is poor because he’s substituting food with alcohol, drinking until he falls asleep. Then he’s snoring. He probably has some sleep apnea because he’s gained that tummy fat. Sleep apnea can also raise his blood pressure. If his blood pressure continues to increase, his kidneys could be affected.

It’s a vicious cycle: every single part of his body is affected by alcohol—including his mental health. The only organ we haven’t yet mentioned is the brain; that’s affected, too. When your B12 and folic acid are this low, you’re going to have encephalopathy, or “wet brain.” Your brain needs these B vitamins to function or you start losing memory. Each day he goes home, becomes more frustrated and depressed, and then he pours himself his first drink.

H&H: Was he willing to stop drinking, and if so, what motivated him?

Dr. Vaidya-Tank: Frank was willing to stop, but it required several visits and treatment, because it’s hard to accept change and make progress. Awareness is number one; and then he needs help. He can’t do this on his own. He needs his family and friends motivating him and being a positive influence. He can’t be around people who tell him that drinking is not really a problem and he needs to be in therapy and AA.

H&H: How does your body react when it’s deprived of alcohol and what can you do about that?

Dr. Vaidya-Tank: You lose weight when you stop drinking. Once they stop drinking they will automatically lose about five pounds a week. When we discuss weight loss with our patients, alcohol is by far the biggest factor in weight gain. Women may drink some wine at night because they’re stressed out at the end of the day. That one glass of wine becomes two or more, quickly becoming a source of extra calories, potentially leading to dependency and then addiction.

H&H: What role do genes play in alcoholism and other addictions?

Dr. Vaidya-Tank: Genes can play a significant part, which is why we test for the addiction gene in our DNA weight panel. It’s a simple saliva test that tells us if you’re more prone to addictive behavior. If you have this gene, you don’t want to trigger it because you put yourself at risk for addiction. Certain medications and supplements help.

Anything can trigger this gene: food, alcohol, opioids. We advise patients with these genes not to take pain medicine unless they absolutely have to, wary of the fact that they could get addicted to the meds. You can’t fix this gene; you have to be cognizant of it and get help.

And the first step is to realize that you have a problem. I see alcoholism becoming more prevalent in our country. We’re aware that opioids are at epidemic proportion, but alcohol is silently becoming an even bigger issue. Our job at Family Wellness Clinics and Regenesis MD is to empower our patients by giving them all the help and information they need to kick their addictions.