Don’t discount the dangers of alcohol

By MAJ. LARRY MANZELLA

Our nation is suffering through the worst drug crisis in its history. According to CNN, opioid prescriptions more than doubled from 112 million to 282 million between 1992 and 2012, making it easier than ever for people seeking temporary pain relief to do so through means both legal and illicit — and access has only skyrocketed in recent years.

But while the opioid epidemic is undeniably one of the greatest domestic challenges our country faces, we should not let it overshadow another plight long prevalent in our society: alcohol abuse.

As National Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month comes to a close, we should ponder some unsettling statistics. According to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol causes an estimated 88,000 deaths annually – over twice as many as opioids – making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Approximately 17 percent of men and 8 percent of women will be dependent on alcohol in their lifetime. Even more chilling is the rate of underage consumption: those between the ages of 12 and 20 consume 11 percent of all alcohol in the United States, while 90 percent of that consumption is in the form of binge drinking. Those are some alarming revelations.

It has become clear to me over the years that alcohol’s biggest problem is its social acceptability, which often leads users to minimize the very real consequences of excessive consumption.

At The Salvation Army Southeast Michigan Adult Rehabilitation Centers, we’ve witnessed first-hand the damaging effects of addiction and alcohol abuse. Though the ARC aids a great number of people struggling with opioids, a greater number of those we serve suffer from alcohol addiction. We’ve learned the best way to truly curb addictive habits and minimize the chance of relapse is through long-term behavior modification and a holistic approach to helping replace self-defeating crutches with more productive and meaningful activities.

Effective long-term treatment encompassing spiritual, social, and emotional support is critical to those who have lost the ability to cope with their problems and provide for themselves. Long term recovery efforts that incorporate work, group and individual therapy help turn thoughts away from alcohol and other substances and toward more productive life matters. Studies show addicts are at a greater risk for relapse without the support of a committed re-assimilation program like the ARC’s, which has been serving the people of metropolitan Detroit for over 100 years.

Addiction is a lifelong struggle that requires a daily commitment to recovery and clean living. That can be a tough ask for many people, especially when the environment they live in continually tempts them to return to the temporary relief they sought through drug and alcohol use. Addiction is a heavy cross to bear for anyone — no matter the substance — but long-term residential treatment can lighten that load and give people the structured path towards sobriety that they need.

(Maj. Larry Manzella is administrator of the men’s and women’s Salvation Army Southeast Michigan Adult Rehabilitation Centers in Detroit and Romulus, respectively. Funded by revenue from 37 metropolitan Detroit area Family Thrift Stores, the ARC always have an open bed for anyone facing addiction. Find out more at semichigan.satruck.org or by contacting the 24-hour helpline at 313-965-7760, Ext. 234.)