Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month: Continuing the War

The abuse of alcohol continues to plague our nation. Despite all of the education, awareness campaigns, and regulations, the abuse of alcohol is a non-abating problem for our community, State, and Nation, growing year by year despite all of our efforts to curb it. Although we have witnessed the continued growth of all of the substances of abuse, eg cocaine, marijuana, amphetamines, designer drugs, etc., this article shall just be concerned with alcohol and its associated problems.

The abuse of alcohol creates many, many problems; ranging from domestic violence to fatal automobile accidents; not to mention the most insidious disease of alcoholism. One just has to read the daily news, or watch it on TV, to be witness to the problems associated with alcohol…many of our readers may be personally aware of the problems it has caused with relatives and friends.

Now, I am not an alarmist or prohibitionist, but I am a realist. Over the years, in my lengthy history of working in the fields of mental health and substance abuse; I have been called “overzealous,” a “prohibitionist,” and many other terms. Yes, I may have been overzealous concerning the problem, but hardly a prohibitionist as I am aware that the majority of the population consumes alcohol beverage and does so responsibly.

As a founding father of the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals (TAAP), I often net-work with my colleagues; Licensed Chemically Dependency Counselors (LCDC’s). At our annual conferences, when we had the opportunity of coming together for educational workshops and other events, it was most refreshing to be with those who shared similar thoughts about the problems associated with chemical substances and the field of substance abuse counseling. And, as we have done for over 40 years now, the same alcohol related question always arises: “When are they going to be aware?” This continues to baffle us.

While most other States of our nation have made great strides in curbing the abuse of alcohol, sadly to say Texas has not. The State of Texas offered prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse, with emphasis on alcohol abuse and addiction, for many years. But, as the problem became too immense and was indeed very costly, the legislation “threw up their hands” and discontinued prevention and treatment efforts…they gave up; albeit providing some funds for “farmed out” programs. This occurred despite their awareness that the problem was vast, and would continue to be so. This lack of concern has led Texas to be number 49 of the 50 states in per-capita funding for mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment…almost at the bottom of the totem pole…Yeah! We are still number 49! How sad is this?

One just has to check the statistics to see how vast our alcohol related problems are, you need not take the word of my colleagues and I. One just has to look at the latest statistics on automobile deaths and injuries related to alcohol in our state, as provided by the Texas Department of Transportation, to become aware of the serious consequences of alcohol abuse. There were in excess of 10,000 vehicle accidents wherein alcohol was involved; leading to over 1,000 fatalities and more than 14,000 injured.

If you look at the number of alcohol-related fatalities on the highways in our State over the past 14 years you will discover that the number is over 15,000! These were not just numbers; they were someone’s Father, Mother, Children, Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, or other significant person who died or injured at the hands of alcohol use and abuse. When one looks at statistics on other factors of alcohol abuse consequences, such as domestic violence, criminal activities, etc., that number increases many hundreds of thousands. Besides Law Enforcement personnel, the Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor is most concerned about the problems; we see the results first hand. Is it any wonder we may be seen as “overzealous?” For those of us who have witnessed the heartbreak of families, the death and destruction, which alcohol can be the impetus for; we are indeed most aware.

As a professional working in the field of addictions for many years, I can attest to the fact that we cannot wait for, or rely on others to make headway in preventing alcohol problems. The answer always remains with the family members. Although our educational systems, law enforcement, and other agencies do much in the field of alcohol awareness education; the responsibilities continue to lie with our families. I firmly believe, and know, that substance abuse education begins and continues in the home; long before our children even go to school. Our children learn behaviors through the teaching and examples set by their significant adults. I firmly believe that if the parents or significant other adults teach their children about the adverse effects of alcohol and other substances of abuse, beginning at a pre-school age and continuing on through their teens, then their life choices and chances regarding non-abuse will be greatly enhanced.

There have been a myriad of books written over the years about substance abuse and our youth over the years; many, many designed for the parents about teaching their children about substance abuse; many of these are available at our local libraries, on line, or at our local book stores. One of my books, “MORE Straight Talk: Answers to Questions Young People Ask about Alcohol” has enjoyed many years of publication and is now in its 3rd printing. I would that all families have a copy of this book, and truly not just because of the meager royalties I receive, but to help increase the awareness of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and helping those who are struggling with the effects of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

I offer a free, complimentary copy of my book to any agency, association, club, or any other organization that chooses to accept one; and I will most gladly send one if you e-mail me at rjonessr29@att.net.

The answer to the question “When are they going to be aware?” lies with each one of us. We just have to get involved at whatever level we can. Are you a part of the solution? Until next time, Stay Healthy My Friends!