By Jeffrey Meyers
April marks the beginning of spring. Since 1987, however, April has also served as a time of alcohol abuse awareness.
Started by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Alcohol Awareness Month has helped to highlight the very real issues affecting our communities because of alcoholism. It’s a time not for scare tactics — rather a time of contemplation, of exploration, of what can be done.
This year’s awareness campaign will place a special emphasis on underage drinking, a problem that costs $62 billion every year. The fact remains that alcohol is more likely to kill young people than all illicit drugs combined; 1,700 U.S. students are killed annually from alcohol-related injuries. Even more startling, 7,000 American kids are taking their first drink every day, all of whom are under the age of 16. One-fourth of children have alcohol-use disorders in their own family.
Of course, we understand that alcohol abuse is really a systemic problem affecting the entire country, reaching in to every demographic. To combat this, we must take strong preventive measures, but also be aware of the signs of alcohol abuse so as to identify and assist those with problems.
The signs are many, and not always apparent. Those that have an alcohol problem often neglect their responsibilities at home, work or school. They also drink while engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving. Abusers also commonly drink as a way to relax and “unwind,” all the while causing more problems because of their alcoholism. This abuse results in a high tolerance, and eventually can lead to physical/psychological addiction.
Alcohol abusers may become dependent on drinking. When they do stop, they often experience short-term withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, delirium, tremors and general difficulty performing tasks. For these abusers, alcohol goes from simply a way to relax, to a necessary activity in order to get through their everyday life. Some addicts become quite skilled at hiding their addiction until the inevitable unraveling takes place.
In recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month and Alcohol Awareness Screening Day on April 10, the Area Substance Abuse Council’s three Cedar Rapids offices will have open assessment times from 1-4 p.m. Anyone can come into our main campus (3601 16th Avenue SW), East Office (4837 First Avenue SE. Suite 206) or Downtown Office (Human Services Building, 317 Seventh Avenue SE, Suite 203) without an appointment and receive a substance abuse assessment. We encourage family members and significant others to also come in and speak to a counselor about a loved one they believe is struggling with substance abuse. ASAC has a sliding fee scale based on family size and income for assessment and treatment services and we accept private insurance and Title 19.
Please also check out our website, www.asac.us, for a link to an online screening tool, a confidential way you can determine if you or someone you care about should seek treatment.Jeffrey Meyers is an ASAC Prevention Specialist in Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org