Over 66 million people (nearly a quarter of the adult and adolescent population) reported binge-drinking in the past month, in a 2015 Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality survey1. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease, genetically predisposed and fatal if untreated. However, people can and do recover. Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADDO), helps to increase awareness and understanding of alcoholism, its causes, effective treatment and recovery2.
Alcohol misuse is a health challenge that takes an enormous toll on individuals, families and communities. There is a stigma surrounding alcoholism that can prevent those suffering from seeking help. According to the Surgeon General, addiction to alcohol is a chronic but treatable brain disease that requires medical intervention, not moral judgment. It is important to recognize substance use as a medical condition rather than using a negative approach with people who are suffering.
Adolescence is a time when people are more susceptible to alcohol use. Alcohol use by adolescents is harmful, as it is directly associated with car accidents, violence, depression, overdose and other problem behaviors—even for those without a dependence or addiction. Parents are faced with a unique set of challenges when their child starts using alcohol. And, while it can be daunting to talk with children about drinking and drug use, it is well worth the effort. In fact, research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50% less likely to use these substances than those who don’t have such conversations3.
You have more influence over your kids’ attitudes and decisions about alcohol than you think, and It is never too early to begin the conversation. The more informed children are, the better off they will be. Here are some basic guidelines to assist you:
- Listen before you talk. Parents want to have all the answers and, sometimes, are so anxious to share wisdom and opinions, they forget to take the time to listen. For kids, knowing that their parents are really listening is important.
- Be involved. Get to know your child’s friends and continue to educate your child about the importance of maintaining good health—psychological, emotional and physical.
- Set clear expectations and consequences. Make it clear you do not want your child to drink and that you trust them not to. Talk about possible consequences, both legal and medical, and be clear about what you will do if the rules are broken.
Alcohol abuse can affect anyone—not just adolescents. Most Americans know someone with a substance use disorder, and many know someone who has lost or nearly lost a family member as a consequence of substance misuse. You have the opportunity to take effective steps to prevent and treat substance-related issues. Talking to a loved one who has a substance use disorder and assisting them in getting the help they need can prevent worsening addiction and substance-related death.
The Compass Rose Health Plan includes mental health and substance abuse benefits. For diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse, including detoxification, treatment and counseling, members pay a $15 copayment for in-network services received in a physician’s office. For more details, please see the Mental Health and Substance Abuse section, page 62, of the FEHB Plan Brochure.