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Alcohol Abuse Goes On

Man has the strength to bear many things, but from time to time he falls subject to stress. Different people find different ways of scrambling out of similar situations and of obtaining their influx of positive emotions. Some spend time in the country, in the fresh air while others drink and do drugs. Tastes are not disputed. Often meager tastes transform into bad habits, which lead to a shorter and a more sickly life.

For a while people believed that alcoholism was only characteristic of the lower class and dominated where poverty ruled. But now it is quite obvious that drinking is widespread as much among the poor as among the affluent. The difference is that the alcohol problems of the rich are revealed only when they end up in psychiatric clinics with nervous breakdowns and other “side effects”.

According to official data there are over 30 thousand alcoholics in Moldova. There are about ten undisclosed addicts to every registered one. These numbers increase year in year out. Doctors believe this to be the result of social and economic factors. Many grow despondent about their future and take to drink.

In Ancient Greece the younger generation was brought up with a sense of abhorrence of drink. As real life examples they used forcibly drunken slaves to show to what level of degradation a human being can arrive at with unconstrained alcohol consumption. From the age of 18 to 30 young men were only allowed to drink wine mixed with water. Under such restrictions most children were born physically healthy and mentally vigilant. Today thousands of children conceived in a state of alcoholic intoxication are born retarded. Over 5000 children attend specialized schools for the mentally handicapped as a shocking consequence of alcohol abuse. The government spends large sums of money on trying to fight the consequences instead of aiming to the root of the problem.

Liquor has become a solid part of national traditions. No celebration is imaginable without a bottle of wine, cognac or vodka. For centuries Moldova has been famous for its hospitality, which was expressed in the offering of a bottle of wine. People performing hard physical labor often said that vodka relieved one from fatigue and those involved in the free arts acknowledged that drink gave them the necessary boost for inspiration. Vodka is consumed to keep warm or to improve appetite. However everything is good as long as it is balanced. When drinking turns into a habit or a systematic everyday procedure, productiveness and brain activity decrease and there is no appetite. Restlessness and discomposure are first signs of addiction. The first glass of liquor is something which is under one’s control but the second has control over us and in spite of us. As the addiction becomes more pronounced the amount of alcohol necessary to enhance appetite or put one in better spirits increases.

Doctors classify alcohol as a form of drug, which causes similar effects to that of real drugs. In a state of intoxication people rarely have control over their actions and are unaware of time or space. They drink uncontrollably. The first stage of this is marked with an agonizing need for a drink. A person in these circumstances typically seeks an excuse for his behavior and always finds it. In Moldova for example alcohol has always been a means of bringing people closer together and breaking the ice in a group of friends and even business partners.

Today society is faced with the problem of drink abusing managers. These are forced to try alcohol due to multiple informal business meetings and end up heavily dependent. In contradiction to all assumptions alcohol reduces mental processes and raises the number of mistakes made at work. Especially perilous are the effects of alcohol abuse for car and truck drivers that must always be alert on the road. Even small quantities of liquor can maximize reaction reflects period from 0.19 to 0.30 seconds. At 70 km/hour this extra time adds up to approximately two meters before a full stop. In the past ten years in Moldova over 7.8 thousand people died in car accidents as a result of drinking and driving (1.6 of these were children).

Alcohol can be traced in a person’s blood for 9-12 hours after being consumed. The most typical signs of alcohol dependence are morning hangovers. The mental functions of a drinking person alter to make him moody and downcast without alcohol. The Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky pointed out that vodka demoralizes and makes men more like animals or beasts. Serious mental disorders develop with lengthy drinking habits: amnesia and hallucinations are some of them. Alcoholics require medical treatment and in some cases must even be hospitalized as causing potential danger to society.

Nearly 8000 people receive treatment in Chisinau rehab centers. Special psychiatric and diagnostic facilities are also available. Medical assistance is provided for alcoholics and their family members. Most of those who undergo treatment are already seriously dependent.

The Parliament of the Republic of Moldova approved a bill on social rehabilitation of alcohol abusers. According to the decision the latter are subject to 30 days of voluntary or compulsory treatment appointed by a medical commission.

In 2000, experts from the World Health Organization on the basis of research carried out in 11 countries including Poland and the US arrived at the conclusion that 8-10 liters of liquor per person annually is a relatively safe proportional amount. Scandinavian countries have come closest to that measure. In Moldova the quantity consumed goes up to as far as 20 liters per person.

Regardless of the negative statistics the government has not been able to develop a radical drinking prevention program that would assist people to stop drinking or not take it up. In most European countries these types of programs have long-term objectives and operate for 10 to 15 years or more. Moldova on the other hand cannot afford similar projects. That is why it will continue to drink as it has always done despite the difficulties of modern day life or maybe in some ways due to them.

Alcohol Disorders

  • Alcohol use disorders include alcohol dependence (known as alcoholism) and alcohol abuse.
  • Alcohol abuse is characterized by clinically significant impairment or distress but does not entail physical dependence.

  • Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) is characterized by impaired control over drinking, tolerance, withdrawal syndrome when alcohol is removed, neglect of normal activities for drinking, and continued drinking despite recurrent related physical or psychological problems.

  • Risky drinking includes drinking beyond moderate levels either on a regular basis or on a particular occasion.

Identifying Those With Alcohol Problems

  • Nearly 14 million American adults meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorders.

  • Approximately one-half of US adults report family history of alcoholism or problem drinking.

  • An estimated 74% of current male drinkers and 72% of current female drinkers aged 21 and older at least once a year exceed guidelines for low risk drinking.

  • More than 18% of Americans experience alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence at some time in their lives.

Recognizing the Problem

  • Drinking to calm nerves, forget worries or boost a sad mood
  • Guilt about drinking
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down/stop drinking
  • Lying about or hiding drinking habits
  • Causing harm to oneself or someone else as a result of drinking
  • Needing to drink increasingly greater amounts in order to achieve desired effect
  • Feeling irritable, resentful or unreasonable when not drinking
  • Medical, social, family or financial problems caused by drinking

Harmful Consequences

  • Heavy drinking raises the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, accidents, violence, suicides, birth defects and overall mortality.
  • Economic costs to society were estimated at about $185 billion for 1998
  • Harmful and hazardous drinking is involved in about one-third of suicides, one-half of homicides, and one-third of child abuse cases.
  • Alcohol is involved in a large proportion of unintentional deaths from falls, burns, and drowning.

Drinking Restrictions in the UK

Are you partial to a pint down the pub? What time do you think is reasonable for last orders? Proposals to change licensing laws in England and Wales are being presented to the Home Office. The drinks and entertainment industry wants longer drinking hours and simplified regulations. Supporters of a change in the current law in the UK think that taking the pressure off people to down their drinks by 11pm would reduce closing-time violence and road deaths. But those opposed to extra drinking time warn it could lead to an increase in alcoholism and family breakdown.

There are different licensing laws in various countries. To some extent European 24-hour cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona have a better atmosphere. But some restriction is good. In Delhi they enforce "dry days" which fall on payday every month. The idea is to stop workers from blowing all their wages on drinking.

Prohibition in the US

Prohibition in the United States was a measure designed to reduce drinking by eliminating the businesses that manufactured, distributed, and sold alcoholic beverages. The Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution took away license to do business from the brewers, distillers, vintners, and the wholesale and retail sellers of alcoholic beverages. The leaders of the prohibition movement were alarmed at the drinking behavior of Americans, and they were concerned that there was a culture of drink among some sectors of the population that, with continuing immigration from Europe, was spreading.

Ludmila Mamaliga
Translated by Natalia Corobco

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