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Published: April, 2006; Vol 2, Num 11

 

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

By Mark Dempsey

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has designated April 2006 as the 20th annual Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol Awareness Month began in 1987 in an effort to educate the American public about the disease of alcoholism – that it is treatable, that it is not a moral weakness and that alcoholics are capable of recovery.

National Alcohol Screening Day

National Alcohol Screening Day will be on Thursday, April 6, 2006. For individuals who may not know how much is too much to drink – putting them at risk for injury, illness and possibly addiction – alcohol screening is very useful. Screening has proven to motivate individuals to reduce drinking and to seek treatment and recovery.

Screening sites across the country will offer participants educational presentations, written screening questionnaires and the opportunity to consult with substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals.

To find a local site offering free, anonymous alcohol screenings, log on to this website: www.NationalAlcoholScreeningDay.org

How can I recognize an alcohol problem?

Signs of an alcohol problem include:

  • Drinking to calm nerves, forget worries or to boost a sad mood
  • Guilt about drinking
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down/stop drinking
  • Lying about or hiding drinking habits
  • Causing harm to oneself or someone else as a result of drinking
  • Needing to drink increasingly greater amounts in order to achieve desired effect
  • Medical, social, familial work or financial problems caused by drinking

Why alcoholism is now considered a disease?

Alcoholism is now accepted as a disease. It is chronic and often progressive. Its symptoms include a strong need to drink despite negative consequences, such as serious job or health problems. Like many diseases, it has a generally predictable course and is influenced by both genetic (inherited) and environmental factors.

Who has an alcohol problem?

  • Nearly 18 million Americans meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorders.
  • Approximately one-half of U.S. adults report family histories of alcoholism or problem drinking.
  • Construction, along with mining, ranks highest in heavy alcohol use – twice the rate (16 percent) among its workforce when compared with other industries (eight percent).
  • An estimated 74 percent of current male drinkers and 72 percent of current female drinkers aged 21 and older exceed guidelines for low risk drinking at least once a year.
  • More than 18 percent of Americans experience alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some time in their lives.

Harmful effects of alcohol

In both animal and human studies, according to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, alcohol has been linked with a high incidence of violence and aggression more than any other drug.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that alcohol is a key factor in up to 68 percent of manslaughters, 62 percent of assaults, 54 percent of murders/attempted murders and 48 percent of robberies.

Also, alcohol can contribute to on-the-job performance, fostering accidents and near-misses.

Health effects of alcohol

Many people who drink regularly think it is not really doing them any harm and are not aware of the risks involved and the health problems they may be storing up for later in life.

Short-term

Alcohol is a powerful drug and it affects the body and brain straight away. About five minutes after starting drinking, alcohol has reached every part of the body.

Alcohol dries out (dehydrates) the body and lowers blood sugar levels; in hot weather, when many Laborers are already at high risk, alcohol increases the danger.

Alcohol dulls the brain. Although this may feel stimulating at first, it feels worse later on because alcohol is a 'downer' (or depressant) drug.

Research shows that the more convinced drinkers are that they can perform tasks well when drunk, the worse they really do; reaction times are slowed and judgment is impaired.

In large doses alcohol causes loss of coordination and slowing of movement and can even lead to coma and death.

Mixing alcohol with other drugs is extremely dangerous. This includes prescription and 'over-the-counter' (OTC) drugs such as sleeping pills, cough medicines or antihistamines.

Long-term

Too much drinking can cause:

  • stomach disorders like ulcers and gastritis
  • cancer of the mouth, throat and gullet
  • liver cirrhosis
  • brain damage
  • sexual difficulties
  • high blood pressure
  • problems with the nervous system like pain in the legs and arms.

Help

If you or anyone you know is abusing alcohol, contact the following resources for help:

  • Laborers’ Member Assistance Program (MAP), included in many LIUNA health and welfare plans; check the summary of benefits
  • Alcoholism and Drug Dependency Hotline: 800-475-HOPE
  • American Council on Alcoholism: 800-527-5344
  • Alcohol Information Hotline: 800-ALCOHOL
  • Al-Anon (for family and friends of alcoholics): 800-356-9996