Coping with the Threat of Alcohol Abuse

WHERE alcohol abuse is concerned, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It is far, far better not to become dependent on alcohol than to do so and then have to face the consequences.

That ounce of prevention should start in childhood. Young ones should learn from their parents the proper view of alcohol. Parents have an enormous influence on their offspring by what they say and do. When they keep their own drinking well within the limits of moderation, their children will not grow up thinking that habitual and heavy drinking is normal for adults.

When and if parents decide that a son or daughter is old enough to have an occasional alcoholic beverage (keeping in mind local laws), then it should be carefully explained why caution is needed. The young person is very inexperienced, his body is smaller and not used to alcohol, so he cannot handle it as well.

Prevention for Adults

Prevention is the best policy for adults, too. They should recognize alcohol for what it is: a beverage that can add a certain amount of enjoyment, but when abused, can turn into a deadly threat.

If you are hosting a social gathering, there is no need to feel that alcoholic beverages must be offered without limit. They should be offered in moderation, if you choose to offer them at all. Have some nonalcoholic beverages to offer also, and do not make a guest feel ill at ease if he chooses a soft drink. And if a guest does have a drink or two, a wise host will be careful not to continue offering drinks indefinitely. Do not try to force guests to drink, such as by filling their glasses whether they want another drink or not.

When you are a guest, do not feel that you must continue drinking just because alcoholic beverages continue to be served. If a host is too pushy with drinks, you can politely decline, including comments such as, Thats my limit, or, No more at this time. If, in spite of such a refusal, the host pours the drink anyway, you are under no obligation to drink it. Let your No mean No. The good host should acknowledge this.

Especially should caution be shown by a host later in the evening when guests must go home by automobile. Continuing to offer drinks late into the night, or giving a guest one more drink for the road, is no kindness. It can cost his life and the lives of innocent victims.

The number of people driving automobiles under the influence of alcohol increases late at night. So if you are driving at that time, proceed with extra caution. This is particularly the case during weekends or holidays, when people have a tendency to over-drink.

Also, when driving, do not insist on your technical right of way. People under the influence of alcohol often ignore the rules of the road. Remember, about half of those killed in automobile accidents were in the right. They were not the guilty party in the accident. But they were killed anyway.

Regarding prevention, earlier this year an example of it on a large scale was adopted by the commanding General of American troops in Europe. He notified his officers: You are well aware that alcohol abuse in the U.S. Army in Europe has reached such proportions that we must all join forces to meet this problem head on. In order to de-emphasize and de-glorify the use of alcohol, the General ordered the Happy Hour observed at army clubs throughout Europe abolished. This was a period of about two hours in the early evening, one day a week, when drinks were sold at half price. His canceling of this was an attempt to discourage alcohol abuse.

Helping the Body

It is also helpful to know how the body deals with alcohol. In this way a person who does drink can better understand how to avoid abusing his body.

Alcoholic drinks are not processed by the body in precisely the same way that most foods are. Most foods are oxidized slowly in different stages, first in the stomach and small intestine. This allows for nutrients in the food to be absorbed into the bloodstream for distribution to other parts of the body. But alcohol is absorbed into the stomach and small intestine virtually unchanged in form. Then it is carried by the blood to the liver.

The liver has a set rate at which it oxidizes the alcohol. When it gets more than it can handle, it sends the rest away to the bloodstream, unoxidized. It is carried to the heart, which pumps it through the circulatory system to reach other parts of the body. Eventually it returns to the liver, which accepts some more for oxidization and sends the rest back. This process continues until it is completely oxidized.

When a drink, either hard liquor, beer or wine, is sipped slowly and not gulped down, then the liver can more easily cope with the alcohol. It is getting it in manageable amounts. Relatively little will be sent back out into the bloodstream unoxidized.

There is no way that the average drinker can speed up the livers oxidation process. Drinking black coffee, taking cold showers, or deep breaths of fresh air, do nothing to speed the process. The best help the body can get is to drink only a few drinks, to drink them slowly, and space them out over a period of time. This is true not only of whiskey, but of other drinks, since a can of beer or a glass of wine contain about the same amount of alcohol as a shot of whiskey.

Problem Drinkers

However, what if drinking has already become a serious problem? What can a person do to help himself? What can others do?

The problem drinker needs to face the fact squarely that he is in trouble with alcohol. He should not delude himself by thinking that he can stop drinking whenever he chooses. For too many alcoholics, this illusion persists as they continue to drink until they damage their health, become mentally deranged, or die from their drinking.

The first step for a problem drinker is to admit that his drinking is a problem so that he can be helped. If this is not admitted, there is little likelihood of his dealing with it in time. But in the majority of cases, alcoholics will not admit to their alcoholism. The mental process that led them to becoming an alcoholic hinders them from doing anything about it. That is why the families and friends of such a person should try to help him.
Can official agencies be counted on to handle the problem? Of course, there are various ones in different lands that can be of assistance. But note what World Health, says: The number of countries in which any adequate response to alcohol-related problems has been mounted has so far been small. Similar inaction in the face of an infectious illness which wrought such havoc would be seen as sadly culpable, and any drug problem of similar dimensions would certainly cause alarm.

Why is this the case? World Health answers: For so many countries [alcohol] is the accepted, cherished, and literally hallowed drug of societys choice. . . . Alcohol is fun, hospitality, friendship, fiesta, reach-me-down nerve tonic, manliness, romance, celebration, the drink which clinches the bargain, laughter, snobbery and sacrament. What would we do without it? How can it really threaten our health? Anyone who puts a contrary view is dismissed as a kill-joy.

It should not be assumed that some agency is going to handle the problem.
Nor should a person think that alcoholism can be allowed to develop and then be cured by some medical treatment. There is no medical cure for alcoholism. While a number of things can be helpful, such as an improved diet and nutrition, overcoming low blood sugar, medication and hospitalization, more is needed. The basic problem still is in the mind and heart of the individual.

The alcoholic who has been treated only clinically without proper attention to motivation and other similar factors, nearly always reverts to alcoholism. The main factors in recovery are: early treatment, the patients earnest desire and determination to improve, and the help of those close to him.
While some psychiatrists believe that discussing an alcoholics problems and telling him or her what alcohol is doing to the body will help to convince the person to stop drinking, Dr. Benjamin Kissin of New York states: I have not found that quite satisfactory here at the clinic. Its not enough. He adds: We try to change the life pattern.

Without doubt, changing ones life pattern is essential. So is discontinuing ones unwholesome associations, abandoning those who are not really friends but who contribute to ones alcoholism.