Tuesday, June 3, 2008

AARC informs public on alcoholism, drug addiction

We celebrate many milestones at this time of year -- graduations, proms and the end of the school year. These are joyous occasions indeed. These events also heighten awareness of the dangers that come with using drugs and alcohol in excess.

Here are a few facts about alcohol abuse: Alcohol is frequently a factor in the three leading causes of death (motor vehicle crashes, homicides and suicides) for 15-to 24-year-olds. Harmful and hazardous drinking is involved in about one-third of suicides, one-half of homicides and one-third of child abuse cases. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is the leading preventable cause of birth defects in the United States, affecting as many as 40,000 babies per year. More than 9 million children live with a parent dependent on alcohol and/or illicit drugs.

Alcohol is a drug that can affect judgment, coordination and long-term health. Research suggests that early use of alcohol by teenagers may contribute significantly to dependence on alcohol and other drugs later in life, with 40 percent of children who begin using alcohol before the age of 13 becoming alcoholics at some point in their lives. We have many images of those who abuse alcohol, but it can be anyone -- college students who binge at local bars, pregnant women who drink and put their babies at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome, professionals who drink after a long day of work or senior citizens who drink out of loneliness.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence and its local affiliate, the Alcohol and Addictions Resource Center continually work to reach the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism -- that it is a treatable disease, not a moral weakness, and that alcoholics are capable of recovery. The AARC seeks to increase the public's awareness and understanding about the nature of alcoholism and drug addiction and work to eliminate misconceptions about these diseases. It also encourages proper diagnosis, treatment and continuum of care for individuals and families who are affected by the disease of alcoholism or drug addiction.

The AARC is a local not-for-profit agency that has been serving our community for more than 40 years. The mission of the AARC is to prevent alcohol and other drug abuse through prevention, education, intervention, assessment and referral services for individuals, families and the community as well as provide leadership for collaborations and partnerships.

Like other diseases, addiction can be overcome with proper treatment, prevention and more research. By increasing access to care, the costly toll on society and the burden it places on families can be reduced.

The Comprehensive Assessment Treatment Outcomes Registry Data in Ohio have documented dramatic results in decreasing occupational problems, including the following reductions after treatment:

* Absenteeism decreased by 89 percent

* Tardiness decreased by 92 percent

* Problems with supervisors decreased by 56 percent

* Mistakes in work decreased by 70 percent

* Incomplete work decreased by 81 percent

Additionally, a California Study found significant decreased health-care costs from before to after treatment in:

* Hospitalizations for physical health problems (-36 percent)

* Drug overdose hospitalizations (-58 percent)

* Mental health hospitalizations (-44 percent)

* The number of emergency room visits (-36 percent)

* The total number of hospital days (-25 percent)

As a nation, we are becoming more aware of the fact that alcoholism and drug dependence is a disease that affects us in many ways. When adequately provided, treatment enables many people to recover and rebuild productive lives.

Last month, AARC held its fundraising dinner. Keynote speaker Christopher Kennedy Lawford, son of Peter Lawford and Patricia Kennedy Lawford, shared this message of hope and recovery. Prior to his involvement in politics, business and acting, Lawford experienced his own alcoholism and drug addiction. He spoke openly and poignantly on the challenges of overcoming such an illness. We thank all those who made the event an evening to remember.

AARC also posthumously presented its Bronze Key Award to the family of Rex Rakow that evening. Rex died in March 2007. At the time of his death, he was the director of security at the University of Notre Dame and AARC board member. Rex was an integral part of the AARC and its impact within the community. The Bronze Key is a national recognition award granted by the NCADD to an individual or organization that has made an outstanding contribution to an NCADD affiliate. It is the highest local award presented by an NCADD affiliate.

We have been a local presence for many years. We know we have much more work to do in assisting those touched by addiction. However, we also know that the evidence demonstrates that treatment for alcohol and other drug abuse works. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or other drug abuse issues, we encourage you to call for help. An online assessment tool is available at www.aarcinfo.org.
source: South Bend tribune

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