Alcoholism Is Society's Problem

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One of America's most profound and persistent health problems alcohol abuse and alcoholism affects more than half of American adults who have a family member with an alcohol problem, and costs society about $185 billion each year. Of persons who require professional treatment, only about one in 10 receives the help they need.

Although most individuals who drink do so safely, many people are unaware of the negative effects alcohol can have on health, even as they may be aware that there are possible benefits to consuming alcohol.

For most of us, the question is, "What is a safe level of drinking, and where do I draw the line?" This is a difficult question, as the answer is not the same for everyone.

For most adults, moderate alcohol use up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women and older people causes few if any problems. (One drink equals one 12-oz. bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-oz. glass of wine or 1.5 oz. of 80-proof distilled spirits.) But if you have a family history of alcohol abuse, are taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medications, are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, or have medical conditions that can be made worse by drinking, then even moderate alcohol use may lead to significant health problems.

On the other hand, alcohol appears to have possible benefits on heart health and reducing risk of stroke. Recent studies illustrate there may be a link between moderate alcohol use and prevention of dementia.

Alcohol problems do not discriminate, and the possible benefits of alcohol use are not reason to start drinking, but it is important to know the facts. This is why April 11 is National Alcohol Screening Day (NASD). Anyone in the country can go to a screening to learn about alcohol's effect on health and signs of risky drinking and serious problems. It is a time for all of us to consider our own habits, risk factors and knowledge so that we can decide where we each need to draw the line.

It isn't a matter of judging or pointing fingers or reinstituting prohibition. It is an acknowledgement that alcohol affects health and can cause serious difficulties and so, as with other health issues, we should get the facts and make healthy decisions.

The screenings are free. Locally, Rim Guidance Center is participating in this nationwide event. If you live outside northern Gila County, find your local screening site by calling 1-800-405-9200 or go online to www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

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