Understanding Alcoholism with Dr. Mendelson

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This week we sit down with Dr. John Mendelson, founder of DxRx.  He is an addiction specialist who has been studying and treating addiction for over 30 years. The mission of his company is to provide treatment options for early problem drinkers and high functioning alcoholics. DxRx, an SF start-up, is working to provide simple, private, access to addiction treatment through an iPhone app. Listen to this episode to learn more about addiction, alcoholism, and DxRx!

Topics of Discussion:

  1. Discussion on Crave21.org; the global health challenge that is raising awareness & support for youth addiction.
  2. Can you tell our audience a little background of who you are & whether or not you are in recovery?
  3. How did you dedicate your time in the addiction recovery community? How does that relate to you starting DxRX
  4. What type of problems is DxRx helping to solve? How is that helping your clients & changing the landscape?
  5. How are you working to overcome stigma?
  6. Can you share some resources that you have discovered in regards recovery from addiction?
  7. Can you share with us some important lessons you have learned in your life that you think our audience may want to hear? (tips, pointers, practices, helpful habits, important aspects of your life today)

Who is Dr. John Mendelson?

Dr. John Mendelson is an addiction specialist and professor of medicine at UCSF. John has an extensive background in addiction treatment, operating multiple methadone clinics in the poverty stricken area of the Tenderloin in San Francisco. John has been involved in clinical trials related to MDMA, Methamphetamine, Alcohol, Suboxone, and many more. John is also CMO of the new alcohol addiction treatment program DxRx medical, which utilizes a phone app, breathalyzer, and medicine to help reduce or quit drinking.


Episode Notes:

  • Alcoholism is a devastating disease that destroys lives and kills more people then diabetes.
  • Voluntary choices combined with biologic vulnerabilities lead to the eventual disease state.
  • DxRx’s philosophy is to provide tools to enable better choices of when and how much to drink, while also addressing underlying biological motivators of behavior.
  • Working against the phrase “rock bottom”
  • The stigma associated with addiction fuels denial.
  • It is very important to help to eliminate the stigma around addiction so people everywhere can be empowered to take charge and overcome the challenges they have in their lives.
  • Discussion on the high alcohol consumption throughout the Midwest and reasons why.
  • Brief history on the alcohol industry, manufacturing, and distribution.
  • Understanding measurable levels of alcohol consumption.
  • Discussing binge drinking and different patterns of consumption.
  • Binge drinking in Wisconsin far exceeds U.S. average.
  • Understanding alcohol dependency
  • How do you properly drink? Are there truly healthy behaviors around drinking?
  • The problem of using drinking to manage stress.
  • Healthy relationships & lifestyle.


  • DxRX: is a service for people who want to manage their alcohol consumption using an app, a breathalyzer, and medication if needed. DxRx wants to break the stigma of alcoholism and make treatment obtainable for people who can’t deal with traditional rehab or Alcoholics Anonymous, in terms of financial and social cost. Learn more @ com/home
  • Understanding Addiction as a Disease: Fact: 90% of the 40+ million people with an addiction today, started before the age of 18 (source: casacolumbia.org). Addiction is one of the largest and most mis-understood diseases in the world. New research has shed light on this disease and we now have a better understanding of how it works and how to reduce our risk. If we can understand addiction, it will unlock our understanding of how habits are formed and the secrets to achieving anything in life.
  • We All Crave Dopamine: Dopamine is a chemical naturally produced by the brain that causes us to feel pleasure. Dopamine is released in two stages; when we 1) anticipate and then 2) when we actually experience the pleasurable activity.
  • Understanding Habit’s: Watch this video to better understand the habit loop.
  • What are Triggers? Triggers can be categorized into four buckets. It could be a certain time of day (like getting tired at 3pm), a location (arriving at school or back home), an emotion (like stress), or an event (like just finishing dinner… craving that dessert yet?). Identifying your triggers is the first step in the process of changing your habits and implementing your “Replacement Crave”
  • What’s Your Replacement Crave? Studies show that it’s easier to change a habit if you satisfy and replace it with another habit that’s better. Same reward… just different routine. Like swapping candy for an apple, or swapping t.v. for playing basketball. The trick is that you need to find a replacement crave (different habit or routine) that SATISFIES your old crave (old habit or old routine)… Although water might be your ultimate goal for replacing soda… if it’s not satisfying your crave, you might want to try water infused with fruit as a half-step in that direction. Or maybe you need to replace that soda crave with something physical, like exercise or socializing with friends?

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