Alcoholism prevention begins early

DOVER — Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States and April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to address the issue of alcohol abuse and dependence.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.

According to NCADD, there are four qualities one must possess to be labeled an alcoholic;

•Craving, a strong need, or urge, to drink;

•Loss of control, not being able to stop drinking once drinking has begun;

•Physical dependence, withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety after stopping drinking and;

•Tolerance, the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get drunk.

The four issues can then create social problems like unemployment, lost productivity, family problems and violence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that excessive long-term drinking can lead to serious health issues as well.

Some health issues associated with heavy alcohol use are dementia, stroke, cardiovascular problems, increased risk for many kinds of cancers including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (voice box) and esophagus, liver disease, depression and anxiety.

One of the keys to reducing the rate of alcoholism is prevention and the Department of Health and Social Services is stepping in with a campaign to prevent underage and binge drinking. The program is an extension of the “Underage? Understand. Don’t Drink!” campaign focusing on individuals younger than 25.

Recent studies from the Center for Drug & Alcohol Studies at the University of Delaware report 35 percent of 11th-graders in Delaware reported using alcohol at least once a month in 2013, with 62 percent saying they used it in the past year and 71 percent saying they had used it in their lifetimes.

Among eighth-graders, 14 percent reported at least monthly use of alcohol, with 31 percent saying they used it within the last year and 40 percent in their lifetimes.

According to Alcoholics Anonymous, alcoholics can be anyone regardless of age, race, gender or social class. Individuals can develop alcoholism after drinking any length of time, no matter how they consume alcohol.

Even though anyone can be effected by alcoholism, NCADD research shows that the risk for developing alcoholism runs in families. But a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean that the child of an alcoholic parent will become an alcoholic just like how some people develop alcoholism even though no one in their family has a drinking problem.

Although alcoholism is a chronic disease it can be treated through programs that use both counseling and support like AA. The program, founded in 1935 has the goal of helping alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety.

AA is an organization comprised of individuals who share their experiences with each other to solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or other requirements for AA membership.

Members of AA receive counseling and support mainly through meetings where alcoholics share their experiences, how they overcame obstacles and the result the changes have made on their lives.

Other forms of help are also available through state agencies like the Division of Public Health’s Help Is Here Delaware which provides information and resources to both alcoholics and their friends and family at helpisherede.com.

Even with counseling and support, alcoholism cannot be cured. Even if an alcoholic has been sober for months or even years, he or she still can suffer a relapse.

AA also reports that finding help truly comes down to the alcoholic themselves; it is not a process friends or family can force someone into.

“The first and most important step in our program is admission by the alcoholic that he or she is powerless over alcohol, and that life has become unmanageable,” AA states on its website.

If you realize it’s time to seek help with a drinking problem in Kent County, call 736-1567, for New Castle County call 655-5999 and for Sussex, call 856-6452.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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