Substance Dependency is a Disease

 Alcohol is such a big part of American life today that we rarely stop to consider our pattern of drinking. We drink wine with dinner, or have a few drinks after work, or even a few beers while watching a ball game, but when a pattern of drinking begins to emerge, it can become a problem.

 Drug use in America is also more commonplace than it once was. In today's teenage population over 90 percent have used alcohol. Over 50 percent have used marijuana, 17 percent admit to trying cocaine and 12.5 percent have used some form of hallucinogen.

 Why Do We Drink or Use Drugs?

 *     Many people feel that it is necessary to drink or experiment with drugs when at parties and social gatherings.

 *     Some people drink or abuse drugs as a way to cope with the daily stress and tension from school or work, or to cope with other problems such as marital distress or even physical illness.

 *     Alcohol and drugs may become a substitute for satisfying personal relationships, challenging work or self-fulfillment.

 *     Some may use alcohol and drugs as a way to compensate for feelings of guilt, shyness or low self-esteem.

 When drinking or drug use becomes a means for coping with life's problems it can turn into addiction. Unfortunately alcohol and some drugs have become more socially acceptable, and this makes it even easier for people to experiment at younger ages. In addition, alcohol and drugs are readily accessible to many of today's youth, which further increases the likelihood that they will use substances at some time.

 Did You Know?

 *     The average age of first experimentation with drugs is 13, and for alcohol it is even younger. Drug use has been classified as a major problem for kids as early as fourth grade by the students themselves.

 *     Alcohol is the most widely used drug in America. It is the third largest cause of death in the United States, second only to heart disease and cancer. Alcohol and tobacco use are a significant "risk factor" in heart disease and cancer. It accounts for over 100,000 deaths per year in this country alone. It is also the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24.

 *     Alcohol and other drugs contribute to over 50 percent of all suicides and over 50 percent of all violent crimes.

 *     Over 60 percent of admissions to emergency rooms are either directly or indirectly due to drug or alcohol usage.

 *     Over 50 percent of all traffic accidents involve the use of drugs or alcohol, with many of these being fatal.

 *     It is estimated that drugs and alcohol are a factor in at least 80 percent of domestic violence incidents.

 *     Alcohol and drug use contributes to 60 percent of all sub-standard job performance and at least 40 percent of all industrial accidents.

 *     Alcohol and drug addiction are treatable. However, it is our most untreated disease in the United States. It is estimated that 35 out of 36 alcoholics never receive treatment of any kind. This number is increased significantly when drug addiction of all kinds is included.

 *     More than 60 percent of college women who have contracted sexually transmitted diseases, herpes or AIDS were intoxicated at the time of infection.

 *     28 percent of all college dropouts are alcohol users.

 *     Between 1986 and 1996, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) arrests were highest for 21-year-olds.

 *     Individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 are involved in more than one-third of all alcohol related traffic accidents.

 *     95 percent of all college campus violence is alcohol related.

 *     More than 40 percent of all college students with academic problems are alcohol users.

  Acute Physical Effects

 *     Increased heart rate and skin temperature;

 *     Impaired muscle control causing poor coordination, slurred speech, impaired motor skills;

 *     Dizziness, vomiting, vision problems; and

 *     Loss of consciousness, respiratory arrest and death.

 Acute Effects on Mental Abilities

  *     Judgment is frequently the first mental capacity affected by alcohol. Poor decision making, rapid decision making, not being realistic in decisions is common;

 *     Poor attention and concentration;

 *     Loss of inhibitions-we say things or do things that we normally would not;

 *     Exaggerated emotion (anger, fear, anxiety, sadness); and/or

 *     Blackouts with loss of memory for events.

 Long Terms Effects of Alcohol Use

 *     Nutritional deficiencies effecting mental abilities;

 *     Damage to physical organs including the brain, liver, heart, stomach;

 *     Breakdown of bone and muscle tissue;

 *     Memory loss or impairment;

 *     Impaired attention and concentration;

 *     Inability to get along with others;

 *     Difficulty coping with school or employment demands; and/or

 *     Alcohol withdrawal effects-tremors, excessive perspiration, hallucinations.

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