When it comes to alcohol use, make safe, healthy choices

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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?

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 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

Keep track of your drinking and set a drinking limit.

Try to avoid places where heavy drinking occurs.

Ask for help from a doctor, family or friends.

 If you keep alcohol in your home, keep only a limited supply.

— Information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

They could be college students who binge drink at local bars or pregnant women who drink and put their babies at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome.

They could be professionals who drink after a long day of work or even senior citizens who drink out of loneliness.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse have no boundaries.

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.

Beth Lawrence, clinical supervisor at Fountain Centers in Albert Lea, said alcoholism crosses all ages and all backgrounds.

In the past month, 74 percent of all the people who went into Fountain Centers’ residential men, women and detox units had an alcohol-dependent diagnosis, Lawrence said.

“Just because alcohol is legal, please think twice before using,” she said. “Alcohol can cause many consequences and destroys lives.”

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.

Lawrence said when people come to Fountain Centers with an alcohol problem, they could have been court-ordered to complete treatment, just gone through a family intervention or are referring themselves because they want to help themselves, among other reasons.

They first complete an assessment to determine what level of care they should receive — outpatient treatment or residential treatment.

They meet with a counselor and talk about areas of concern and develop a treatment plan.

Outpatient treatment is roughly three nights a week for eight weeks. In this treatment — on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays — people meet for three hours each night, share assignments, talk about their struggles and their successes and talk about skills to avoid a relapse, she said.

This is done in a group setting.

For residential treatment, people are at the facility for 24 hours a day, typically for 21 to 28 days depending on needs and insurance, Lawrence said.

There’s more one-to-one counseling with the residential treatment, as needed or weekly.

She noted when adults come into Fountain Centers, typically they’ve seen the consequences of their actions and want to change, she noted. A lot of their treatment is focused on repairing and building self esteem.

“The longer someone uses, the more damage they’ve done — their job, their schooling, parenting,” Lawrence added.

For adolescents, there is more of an educational focus during treatment.

To contact Fountain Centers, call (800) 533-1616. The phone line is answered 24 hours a day.