Medical Director Dr. Tom Brown Interviewed on Your Town – 102.9 WDRC-FM

What is the goal of Alcohol Awareness Month?

  • Each April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) sponsors NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.
  • This April, NCADD highlights the important public health issue of underage drinking, a problem with devastating individual, family and community consequences.
  • Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous—both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors.
  • Annually, over 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related accidents and thousands more are injured.

What are some of the long-term health hazards caused by alcohol?

  • Simply put, alcohol is a toxin. If you put a living organism in a pool of alcohol even if diluted, it will die.  Pure and simple, alcohol kills and injures all types of cells that make up our body.
  • The liver is the organ that is in most peril due to alcohol abuse.  More than 80% of alcohol is detoxified in the liver.  The byproducts of alcohol detoxification damage the liver over time.
  • Liver damage begins with fatty liver, a potentially reversible injury, and progresses with time to fibrosis and or cirrhosis, which are irreversible.
  • Fatty liver can take only a few weeks to months of heavy alcohol intake to develop.
  • Fibrosis and cirrhosis can take up to 20 years, though there are risk factors that shorten the time to its development.
  • The risk factors are drinking more than 3-4 drinks a day more than 4 days a week or binge drinking frequently, drinking outside of meal times, poor nutrition and genetic factors.
  • Drinking to excess can also cause pancreatitis, hypertension, and can cause a type of dementia over many years.
  • A chronic alcoholic can be recognized by a seasoned clinician just by looking at them.

 

Does alcohol affect teens differently than adults?

  • Yes, alcohol intoxication in teens and college students, especially if they are only newly exposed to this toxin can be very deadly.
  • The teen or young adult can succumb more easily to the brain inhibiting effects of alcohol resulting in loss of consciousness, loss of airway protection and increased risk of aspirating vomit into the lungs resulting in asphyxiation and death.
  • Young  people who already have a sense of invincibility now have a potent dis-inhibitor on board in the form of alcohol that clouds judgment even further, resulting in very high risk behavior coupled with poor coordination
  • It is no wonder that a large proportion of the trauma deaths and disfiguring injuries in young people involve alcohol intake either by themselves or the peers that caused the accident.
    • Additionally, alcohol intoxication in youth is also often linked with concurrent illicit drug use, which can further exacerbate the above-mentioned risks.
    • Finally, there is conclusive evidence that heavy alcohol intake in developing brain of underage and young adults can cause permanent and irreversible brain damage.

 

What else can you tell us about teens and alcohol?

  • Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for America’s young people, and is more likely to kill young people than all illegal drugs combined.
  • Each day, 7,000 kids in the United States under the age of 16 take their first drink.
  • Those who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcoholism than those who begin at age 21.
  • 25% of U.S. children are exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family.

How does a parent or anyone know when they need to seek immediate medical attention for possible alcohol poisoning?

  • Acute alcohol poisoning is characterized by loss of consciousness.
  • Though in most cases, the person taking the large enough dose of alcohol to cause coma will spontaneously revive with time, it is imperative that an emergency physician evaluate the patient to assure that there are no other causes for the altered mental status and also give supportive care to prevent the aspiration of vomitus into the lungs.

 

What actually classifies someone as an alcoholic?

  • The definition of an alcoholic is quite subjective.
  • In the US, excessive alcohol use is classified as consuming more 14 drinks a week in men and more than 7 drinks a week in women.
  • Using those numbers as a benchmark, 30% of women and 40% of men over the age of 18 are at risk for Alcohol Abuse Disorder.
  • There is a clinical tool called the CAGE questionnaire made up of 4 queries including:
  1. Do you feel the need to Cut down your alcohol intake?
  2. Do you get Annoyed when people suggest you drink too much?
  3. Do you feel Guilty about drinking?
  4. And, do you feel you need to have an Eye opener (alcoholic drink) when you wake up?
  • If 2 out of these 4 questions are positive, then there is an over 90% chance that person is an alcoholic.
  • Many believe that if only the Eye opener question is affirmative than the person has a significant alcohol abuse problem as this implies that if they stopped drinking they get withdrawal symptoms.
  • More simply, if alcohol consumption is a daily goal in your life or it interferes with normal daily functioning, consider yourself an alcoholic.

 

How can help?

  • can be of great assistance to people with alcohol and substance abuse problems who have a sincere desire to treat themselves.
  • The expert staff can assess the severity of withdrawal syndromes and alleviate or prevent some of the symptoms. “
  • We can also direct the patient to other resources for continuing support and counseling

What else can you tell us about urgent care?

  • Urgent Care provides treatment for injuries and illnesses – offering a convenient, lower-cost alternative to visiting a hospital emergency room.
  • The facility is equipped with the most sophisticated digital x-ray equipment and its laboratory meets the highest industry standards for fast and accurate testing.
  • also provides Occupational Health services for employees and employers.
  • The mission of is to see patients quickly and to treat their injury or illness with the utmost quality and efficiency.
  • You don’t need to be a regular patient, nor do you need an appointment.