April is alcohol awareness monthPublished 1:03pm Thursday, April 11, 2013
Unlike other drugs — and alcohol is defined as a drug — alcohol is more accessible to people of any socioeconomic status or age.
Rich Odom, a clinical supervisor at Fountain Centers in Albert Lea, said that while there are plenty of people who can drink alcohol casually, there are also people who end up abusing it.
“Anyone can be abusive to alcohol,” Odom said.
Odom said unfortunately there’s no one easy cure for alcoholism except abstinence, like all other drugs if someone abuses it they aren’t able to have any quantity of it. Alcoholism is caused by many different factors like genes, psychological reasons or even how someone is raised.
“It can be put in remission, but you can’t get rid of it,” Odom said.
During what is Alcohol Awareness Month, local, state and national leaders are hoping to spread the word of the prevalence of alcoholism and alcohol abuse and to encourage people to make healthy, safe choices.
Odom said Fountain Centers has helped many different kinds of people and people of all ages. The three groups of people Odom said should never drink are pregnant women, addicts and those who are under age. With kids and young adults especially, Odom said it’s important to try to get them to wait to drink because of the effect alcohol has on developing brains.
“It changes the physical structure of their brains,” Odom said.
He said with young adults or teens they often drink just for the acceptance of their peers or to get the quick euphoria to escape difficult situations they don’t want to deal with.
Odom said treatments often include alcohol education programs, and if needed, further assessment to see if extended treatment is needed. Treatment is available to those who need it in Albert Lea, Odom said.
“Alcohol is a drug — it’s a liquid drug, but it’s a drug,” Odom said.
Odom said it’s important to remember alcohol in itself is not bad, but with people who become addicted then it’s a problem. He defined alcoholism as a chronic brain disease characterized by chronic drug seeking and drug using despite any negative consequences.
Often the worst part of abuse is that it affects family members, co-workers and anyone surrounding the addict, according to Odom.
“Abuse affects everybody,” Odom said.
He said it’s important to know there’s help for those who need it and to be aware of those around you who might be ignoring the signs that they’re abusing alcohol.
To contact Fountain Centers, call 800-533-1616. The phone line is answered 24 hours a day.
Checking for alcohol problems:
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may have a problem with alcohol:
Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
Does your drinking ever make you late for work?
Does your drinking worry your family?
Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won’t?
Do you ever forget what you did while drinking?
Do you get headaches or have a hangover after drinking?
— Information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
What is alcoholism?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcoholism is a disease that includes the following four symptoms:
Craving: Alcoholics have a strong need, or urge, to drink.
Loss of control: Alcoholics are not able to stop drinking once they start.
Physical dependence: Alcoholics have withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety after they stop drinking.
Tolerance: Alcoholics need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high.”
The institute states, “The craving that an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food or water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health or legal problems.
“Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person’s lifetime … The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person’s genes and by his or her lifestyle.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the adult U.S. population drank alcohol in the past 30 days. About 5 percent of the total population drank heavily, while 14 percent of the population took part in binge drinking.
The organization states excessive alcohol use is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death for people in the United States each year. In fact, there are about 79,000 deaths attributed to excessive alcohol use each year in the country.