Destigmatizing alcoholism may be the path to hope and recovery

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) is celebrating 31 years of promoting Alcohol Awareness Month. The organization has dedicated the month of April to educate, reduce, prevent and raise awareness for the advancement of individuals, families and communities that are adversely impacted by alcoholism.

The President and CEO of NCADD, Andrew Pucher, urges us to take a proactive stance at prevention and early intervention. This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunities for Recovery,” and identifies several risk factors for youth alcohol abuse and dependence.

These risks include parental permissiveness, parental substance abuse, poverty and poor school performance. NCADD reports that traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and criminal behaviors are directly related to alcohol and drug use (NCADD.org).

Excessive use of alcohol is a factor in 60 percent of homicides, drownings and burn injuries, 50 percent of traumatic injuries and sexual assaults, and 40 percent of suicides, automobile accident fatalities and fatal falls, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH.org).

One’s health can be adversely affected by excessive alcohol consumption and increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, liver disease and sexually transmitted diseases.

Eighty-eight thousand people, including the nearly 5,000 youth under the age of 21, die annually from alcohol-related causes. It is the fourth leading cause of preventable death. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified over 200 illness and injuries caused by alcohol misuse.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol costs the taxpayers over $25 billion for healthcare alone. If more of these resources were used to educate youth and their families about preventing the devastating impact of alcohol and substance abuse, more funding could be available for addressing other health, social and economic issues.

Youth are particularly susceptible to the negative effects of the heavy use of alcohol, which has been shown to cause nerve and tissue damage in the adolescent developing brain. Over 33 percent of 15-year-olds report they have used alcohol at least once.

Several research studies have found that the more often youth are exposed to alcohol advertisement, the more likely they are to drink. Advertisers use a variety of platforms viewed by youth to promote the glamour associated with alcohol, including magazines, movies and social media.

Parents need to be especially watchful about the messages youth receive about alcohol use and be willing to have tough conversations with their children. In fact, we need to take a pledge to normalize healthy dialogue around alcohol and drug use thereby demonstrating to young people that we are invested in their well-being and paying attention.

Establishing open communication develops trust and sets a tone for future conversations with youth. Parents are encouraged to educate their children to offset some of the outside influences they will encounter.

Protective factors from alcohol abuse include a strong bond with parents, establishing clear limits and consistent use of discipline. The earlier youth begin their alcohol and drug use, the higher the risk of substance abuse and dependency in adulthood.

Traditionally, society has struggled with being proactive when it comes to addressing public health issues, and the alcohol epidemic has been no exception. Although the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) mandated that insurance companies cover the cost of substance abuse treatment, there is wide variability in resources by state.

Minnesota is one of the states that provides such coverage and as a result, there has been a consistent influx of individuals from other states seeking substance abuse treatment. Minimal resources have been devoted to alcohol use prevention programs directed at youth. A more comprehensive approach to substance abuse would include not only funding for treatment but also include funds aimed at prevention and earlier intervention with our youth.

The path to hope and recovery comes by addressing our own deep-rooted stigmas that have plagued our communities for decades.

Fears that others may see them as weak or having low morals can serve as the primary barrier in moving people from helpless to hopeful. Cultivating a safe, non-judgmental culture has its rewards and promotion of an environment where it is safe to ask for help has its rewards.

 

For questions, information about Chemical Health Assessments (Rule 25 assessments) and treatment options, call Maisha Giles, director of the Renaissance Program Outpatient substance Treatment at NorthPoint Health and Wellness, 612-767-9154.

 

If you are interested in learning more about the behavioral health services at NorthPoint Health and Wellness, call Dr. D.A. Golden at NorthPoint Health and Wellness Clinic, 612-543-2705.