Everyone hears the boasts: “I got wasted,” “I tied one on,” but drinking in excess is nothing to brag about.

Approximately 18 million Americans have problems with alcohol. “Knocking back a few” contributes to over 79,000 deaths a year in the U.S. where drinking is the third leading cause of preventable death. In Canada, more than 4,000 lives are lost annually through overindulgence of alcohol.  In the construction and mining industries, one in seven workers has a drinking problem.

Personal Help Sources

Member Assistance Programs (MAP)

Alcoholism & Drug Dependency Hopeline: 800-475-HOPE

Alcohol Treatment Referral Line: 800-252-6465

CSAT Drug Information, Treatment & Referral Hotline: 800-662-HELP or 800-66-AYUDA (Spanish)

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism at www.niaaa.nih.gov/.

Employer Assistance

The LHSFNA is committed to helping contractors keep their jobsites safe and free from alcohol (and other drugs) as well as helping LIUNA members who may have a problem. The Fund assists in all aspects of drug-free workplace programs, whether it is policy review, employee or management training, implementing testing programs or addressing rehabilitation.

While use of alcohol on the job is a violation of many workplace policies and can lead to dismissal, drinking does not have to happen on the clock to cause problems. Excessive off-hour drinking can lead to next-day hangovers, conflicts with coworkers, absenteeism, showing up late or leaving early, and it can contribute to workplace accidents and injuries. Alcohol abusers use twice as much sick leave as responsible drinkers, are five times more likely to file workers’ compensation claims and are more likely to cause injuries to themselves or others while on the job.

Irresponsible drinking costs businesses about $134 billion yearly, and it’s not just the drinker’s workplace that suffers. Family members may have trouble meeting their professional responsibilities as a result of dealing with their loved one’s problem.

Alcohol abuse leads to numerous health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease and esophageal, mouth, throat and colon cancers. Interactions with medications can accelerate alcohol’s effects. Drowsiness and over-the counter (OTC) allergy and cold medicines are more likely when alcohol is in the system. Alcohol can dangerously interact with a number of prescription medications that address common health issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and muscle pain. When taking any medication, prescription or OTC, check with your health care provider or pharmacist before drinking alcohol.

The consequences of having one too many extend beyond the personal when the drinker gets behind the wheel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every day, 32 people in the U.S. – one every 45 minutes, more than 11,000 a year – die in alcohol-related traffic accidents. A number of the drivers at fault are not technically drunk. Their blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) may not be .08, the standard for legal intoxication in both the U.S. and Canada, but for some, it does not take legal impairment to cause death and devastation. If not DWI, impaired drivers risk other charges – reckless driving is just one – all of which carry points and may impose fines or a license suspension. When a suspended driver cannot get to work, unemployment follows.

Regardless of where it happens, alcohol abuse ruins lives. Drink responsibly. Help is available. If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, take advantage of the assistance.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]