April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which was first founded in 1987 by NCADD, The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. The purpose was to reduce the stigma surrounding alcoholism by increasing awareness and public perception, and to encourage those with alcohol abuse issues and their families to seek help. This year’s theme is ‘Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow.’
In the play, ‘Annie’, and subsequent movie, the headmistress of the orphanage has a drinking problem. This was played by comedian, Carol Burnett, who grew up with a history of alcohol abuse. Statistics show that nearly one fifth of adult Americans have had exposure to or lived with an alcoholic relative growing up. As a 2nd grade girl scout, we encountered an alcoholic neighbor who made it interesting selling girl scout cookies in our neighborhood in small town Wisconsin.
Barry’s dad drank a six-pack on the way to his grandma’s house -with the kids in the car. He’d toss the evidence when they stopped for hamburgers on the way during the 4-hour trip. This made Barry and his siblings really anxious, especially the time their Dad said, ‘Oh yeah, Buddy, wanna race!?’ to a hot car next to them. Barry always wondered which Dad would show up to dinner, or on the weekend- so he was reluctant to have friends over. He said, ‘Which dad’ -because his father’s mood would change, sometimes dramatically, depending on how much the man had to drink. Sometimes Barry was made to feel like Dad’s best little buddy; other times, he was confused because Dad yelled, cussed, scolded and scared him.
This uneven parenting made Barry angry and depressed, so by the time he was in middle school, he didn’t hang around the house much, and couldn’t wait to get away, as he planned to join the Air Force. He couldn’t trust his Dad to honor any promises, especially if they were made when he was under the influence. Soon, when Barry was at his friend’s house, he and his friends would have a few beers too. It numbed his psychic pain.
Alcohol is a cultural minefield. It is often a case of ‘Do as I say, not as I do!’ Binge drinking is a huge issue among high school students and on college campuses. Popular movies like ‘Hangover’ make fun of a serious issue. Here’s SAMHSA statistics on the state profile of Ohio from the ‘Report to Congress on the Prevention and Reduction of Underage Drinking’:
Past-Month Alcohol Use: 5.0% Number of Teens: 22,000
Past-Month Binge Alcohol Use: 2.3% Number of Teens: 10,000
Past-Month Alcohol Use: 22.5% Number of Teens: 110,000
Past-Month Binge Alcohol Use: 14.1% Number of Teens: 69,000
Traffic Fatalities with BAC > 0.01 15- to 20-Year-Old Drivers
Percentage of All: 24.0%
Number Traffic Fatalities: 43
In addition to the Start Talking Ohio initiative, ‘Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich recently announced 22 Building Youth Resiliency grants totaling $1.5 million. The grants will help strengthen school-based alcohol and other drug prevention and resiliency programming for at-risk youth in 19 Ohio counties.’ Read more at: http://starttalking.ohio.gov/Programming/BuildingYouthResiliency.aspx
The official release for the Building Youth Resiliency Campaign goes on to say, ‘Prevention interventions can have a positive impact on both behavioral health outcomes such as substance abuse and academic outcomes such as school attendance, school discipline and grades. By encouraging increased self-efficacy and self-esteem, good decision making skills, strong mental health and sound strategies to cope with emotions like anger, sadness and stress, we can arm our most vulnerable youth with skills and strategies to put their drug prevention knowledge into practice.’
“We NEVER advise alcohol be consumed with psychotropic meds,’ insists Dr. Sathappan, psychiatrist and medical director at Pomegranate Health Systems. “Alcohol is also a chemical which has to be absorbed by the gut to be transported by the blood stream to go to the brain, where competing with psychotropic meds can make symptoms worse. Alcohol is a depressant by itself and conflicts with medication in the brain. Overall, some 70% of recreational users think it’s okay to have a beer or two; that’s actually a common practice- but it’s NOT. It can damage the liver and make psychotropic medications function stronger or weaker,” he cautioned. “Alcohol consumption needs to be viewed with care and certainly avoided by patients with mental and behavioral health issues, and especially an underage population where the brain is still developing.”
Here’s a link to more information: http://testtube.com/dnews/why-do-some-people-become-alcoholics/?utm_source=FB&utm_medium=DNews&utm_campaign=DNewsSocial
[photo credit: Dr.Sathappan, Medical Director, Pomegranate Health Systems]