By Dr. J. Theodore Brown Jr.

Dr. Brown's Blog - May 2013

The young man described the bloody dismemberment of soldiers in his unit and his guilt over having survived. When asked what he did when he returned to camp, he said he just “wanted a drink.”

The use of alcohol is one of the first drugs resorted to for relief from physical, mental and emotional pain and discomfort. It is used as an ingredient in house disinfectant, hand sanitizers, and antiseptics to reduce pain for infections and wounds and has served as an anesthetic for emergency operations. It is one of the most common sources of relief for stress after work and helps facilitate social interactions at weddings, birthday parties, and various events of celebration. It is used to diminish fear and anxiety and often serves as one of the most popular forms of self-medication for the mentally ill.

The transformation of alcohol from a source of first aid to an item of abuse is indicated when hand sanitizers and/or cleaning disinfectants are drank or sniffed (i.e., huffing); these behaviors are especially common among children and youth. Needing a drink before being able to go to work, school, performing daily activities or before going to the party is a clear indication that alcohol use has advanced to abuse.

If the abuse of alcohol continues, it often causes diabetes, heart problems, seizures, dementia and an array of often physical and mental disorders. Experiencing the use of alcohol as an item of curiosity and first aid to something that destroys health and well-being is very much determined by the reason and frequency of its use. Contrary to some opinions, the decision to abuse alcohol is not necessarily acquired at birth or inherited.

Alcohol is a very accessible drug; its use has often been promoted by culture, religion, politics and economics. I have always been fascinated by the response of indignation I receive when I ask alcoholics if they use other substances of abuse. “No, I don’t use that s—t!” The point is that the use of alcohol and other substances of abuse is an acquired taste nurtured by exposure, social influence, and experience. While there is no guaranteed solution to prevent alcohol or any other substance abuse, the following is recommended as being helpful:

  1. Information and education to help prevent the use of alcohol should first be initiated by a responsible person at home.
  2. Parents and families should not defer the responsibility to prevent alcohol abuse to doctors, teachers, or the government.
  3. Parents should not let religion, the government, school, or peers determine what their children learn regarding the use of alcohol. The family should assume the responsibility for their children knowing what, when, how often, and how much alcohol to use.
  4. If given proper information and support parents are in the best position to recognize and help prevent the physical, psychological, and emotional problems their children may be experiencing that lead to alcohol abuse.

Following these recommendations will not cure all the problems of alcoholism, but it will help reduce the incident of alcoholism and other substance of abuse.

“I am only one person but I am one and I will not allow what I can’t do to stop me from doing what I can” - author unknown

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