Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems

Alcohol problems affect employees in industries from manufacturing to information technology, from the boardroom to the shop floor. Alcohol costs American employers an estimated $134 billion in productivity losses, mostly due to missed work. With a relatively small investment in effective prevention and treatment for alcohol problems, employers can reduce costs and help employees.

Problems

17 million adults have a serious problem with alcohol, yet only 3 million get help. Alcohol problems kill, sicken or injure hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, destroy families, contribute to violent crime, and reduce productivity.

The solutions

Teach the difference between safe and risky drinking.
Screen for alcohol problems.
Cover treatment through health insurance.
Support treatment and recovery.

What is an alcohol problem?

Missing a day of work due to a hangover is an alcohol problem. Accidents in which drinking is a factor are alcohol problems. Alcoholism is an alcohol problem. A substance that gives pleasure to most people also kills 100,000 Americans annually, causes serious injury, harms youth, destroys families and plays a significant role in violent crime. Some 20-40 percent of patients in large urban hospitals are there because their drinking has caused or contributed to the illness for which they were admitted. The estimated economic cost of alcohol problems in the U.S. was $185 billion in 1998, $683 each year for every man, woman and child.

Nearly one in five men and one in ten women who visit their primary care providers have problems with alcohol. According to a recent government survey, 6 percent of the adult population drinks heavily, meaning that they drank five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least five different days in the last 30 days.

What is alcoholism? Is it a disease?

Like many other diseases, alcoholism is chronic, meaning that it lasts a person's lifetime. Individuals may require treatment a few times before they successfully stop drinking. They may also need continuing help to maintain their recovery. Treatment often must be extensive and sustained in order to be effective.

Alcoholism results in chemical and biological changes in the brain. People with alcoholism have a strong need or urge to drink, an inability to stop drinking even if there are serious family, health or legal problems, withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking, and the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get “high” or even feel normal.

The risk for developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person's genes and by his or her lifestyle. Relationships, the amount of stress in one's life, and the availability of alcohol are other factors that may increase the risk for alcoholism. However, anyone who drinks can develop the disease.


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