Monday 7th August, 2006


alcohol abuse’s not fun!

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Is drinking really part of our culture or have we been programmed to believe it is part of our culture? Is alcohol abuse a part of our tradition or have we just accepted it as the norm in society?

These are some of the mind-boggling questions posed by the National Council on Alcoholism and other Addictions (NCAA).

Speaking in an interview with NCAA executive director Cheryl Edwards on July 26, she said, “It is accepted as part of our culture to drink for every occasion.

“But we must ask ourselves if we are not just using the culture aspect as an excuse to drink and misbehave.”

Alcoholism is considered a disease by the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association.

Alcohol is also classified as a drug because it dramatically affects the central nervous system.

“The common factor in all drinking problems is the negative effect they have on the health or well being of the drinker, and the people with whom the drinker associates,” noted Edwards.

But she noted that many people are unwilling to admit they have a drinking problem.

“Nobody likes to think they are an alcoholic. It’s very hard for them to accept they have a problem.

“But if your drinking affects your behaviour and the quality of your life, then you have to admit to yourself that you have a problem,” she said.

Studies done by NCAA indicate that people drink for a variety of social, cultural, religious, or medical reasons. But some people use alcohol for the anaesthetising effect it has on the mind and body.

“These are the people who cannot do without alcohol, who drink to get intoxicated, who use alcohol as an escape from life, who drink to forget their worries, and who cannot have fun without alcohol,” noted Edwards.

Alcoholism is a consequence of a complex interaction of biological, psychological and sociological factors. Scientists have not yet established a cause for alcoholism. However, professionals who work with alcoholic individuals report that they have found an unusual amount of stress and much deprivation in the lives of these people.

Some of the familiar signs in problem drinkers are a need to drink before facing certain situations, frequent drinking to intoxication, a steady increase in the amount of alcohol consumed, drinking alone, early morning drinking, not making it to work on Monday morning, frequent denial of drinking, family quarrels and disruptions over drinking, and the occurrence of blackouts.

“For a drinker, a blackout does not mean passing out. It is a period of temporary amnesia, which can put you in all sorts of danger,” said Edwards.

A person who experiences a blackout walks, talks and does things normally in a state of full consciousness, but can’t remember them later on.

“Such blackouts can be a sign of a serious form of alcoholism,” she warned.

NCAA launched a National Awareness Campaign on March 14, 2006 before the start of the annual Alcohol and Drug Awareness Week from March 19 to 25.

This year’s theme is “Alcohol Abuse – A Social and Economic Disaster”.

For more information on alcoholism, please contact the NCAA at 627-8213.

How alcohol works in the body?

When you drink an alcoholic beverage, 20 per cent of the alcohol in it is absorbed directly and immediately into the bloodstream.

The blood carries it directly to the brain where the alcohol acts on the brain’s central control areas, slowing down or depressing brain activity.

Higher blood alcohol levels depress brain activity further to a point that memory, as well as muscular coordination and balance, may be temporarily impaired.

Alcohol is in such a rush to get into the blood-stream that moments after it is consumed it can be found in all tissues, organs, and secretions of the body.'What constitutes a drinking problem?

* Anyone who drinks in order to cope with life.

* Anyone who by his own personal definition, or that of his family and friends, frequently drinks to a state of intoxication.

* Anyone who goes to work intoxicated.

* Anyone who is intoxicated while driving a car

* Anyone who sustains a bodily injury which requires medical attention as a consequence of an intoxicated state.

* Anyone who comes into conflict with law as a consequence of an intoxicated state.

* Anyone who, under the influence of alcohol, does something he vows he would never do without alcohol

Real-life stories

n Kevin, a 31-year-old father of one, has been confined to a wheelchair for the last nine months following a vehicular accident.

Kevin was returning home from a popular night club in the West when he lost control of his car and slammed into a wall.

He broke both his legs and chipped his pelvic bone. He also had to have corrective surgery on his nose.

Speaking in a telephone interview from his Maraval home, Kevin said, “My whole life has changed since the accident. I can’t work. I can’t move around and I can’t play with my son like I used to.

“My heart just breaks when he asks me, ‘daddy when you gonna get up and walk,’ and I don’t know what to tell him.

“I would always take a couple of drinks after work on a Friday evening. I drove home drunk on many occasions. But I always thought I was okay to drive,” said Kevin.

n Patsy, who sits on the other side of the fence, lost her brother Derrick in a tragic accident two years ago.

Derrick, who was 27 at the time, left behind a grieving wife and two boys, ages 8 and 4.

The young man was driving along the highway when he was struck head on by drunken driver, who was reportedly driving on the wrong side of the road.

Patsy was barely able to hold back her tears when she spoke about her brother.

“There are no words to accurately express my ongoing grief and anger. Some days are worst than others. But I feel his absence every day.

“Drinking and driving is one of the most selfish things you can do because the driver puts innocent people at risk. My whole family has been affected by this tragedy because of one careless individual,” she said.

n Sara, 25, a receptionist from Diego Martin was only 18 when she started hitting the bottle.

“But it was all downhill from there,” she recalls.

Sara attributed her drinking to loneliness and peer pressure.

“I was always very shy and withdrawn. But when I took a few drinks it always helped me to relax and be myself. I started off drinking beers. But later I graduated to all types of liquor including rum, vodka and whisky. It started to affect my memory and I could not concentrate in school. But I did not care once I had that bottle by my side,” said Sara.

Sara, who was studying to be an accountant, dropped out of school before completing her ACCA degree.

But the last straw came when she found out that she had ulcers.

“My doctor told me that my if I continued to drink I could die. That is when I decided to stop completely and get help,” she said.

Sara, who is currently enrolled in AA, has been clean and sober for five months.

©2005-2006 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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