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Alcohol Addiction: A Fixable Problem
By Virginia Davidovich

Alcoholism can affect all aspects of your life — physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual.

Many people are not aware of how pervasive alcohol abuse is in this country, or its far-reaching effects. Research shows that 15 to 17 percent of the population either abuses alcohol or is dependent on it. Research also shows that every abuser or alcoholic directly and profoundly affects an average of three to four other people with their drinking. They could be family members, friends, co-workers, or bosses.

In other words - when you do the math on this - at any given time, more than half the population is affected by someone's alcohol problem, or has the problem.

Call a Professional
The size and scope of alcoholism is one reason why it is important to have support systems in place. People need a place to turn to, if they or someone they know is in trouble. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are a good place to turn to for help if you have an alcohol problem, because these programs can recommend very specific things you can do to help you start to fix your problem.

An EAP counselor is a great place to start. Many people are hesitant about asking for help. They're embarrassed, or in denial, or worried they might not like what they hear. EAP counselors will often refer you to other experts who can help, depending on what you need. In this way, EAP counselors are like brokers. They know the business and can help you get the best deal in terms of care and counseling. Depending on the particular EAP program you use, you may only get a couple of counseling sessions, but it is understood that they will help you find longer-term help if it's needed.

Other good resources you can turn to include behavioral health professionals covered by your health insurance plan, or community counseling programs administered by local or state governments. To find a community program, simply do an online search, or look in the Yellow Pages under "drug and alcohol treatment."

Do You Have an Alcohol Problem?
Do you or does someone you know have an alcohol problem? These questions supplied by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (website: http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/ ) can help determine the answer:

  • Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?
  • Does your drinking ever make you late for work?
  • Does your drinking worry your family?
  • Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?
  • Do you get headaches or a hangover after you have been drinking?

As the NIAAA states, if you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may need help. Check with your doctor, an EAP counselor, or another professional to be sure. When you begin treatment for an alcohol problem, you have to also be prepared to put the time in to get better. It's not going to happen by magic, and it won't happen without diligent work on your part.

Always remember, however, that the chances are very good you can fix the problem. But, also remember, you may need some expert help to make that happen.

Virginia Davidovich is an EAP counselor, social worker and a Substance Abuse Professional. You can reach her at davidovichv@upmc.edu.

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