According to an opinion shared by some scientists and members of the public, the rapidly increasing alcohol abuse is a nationwide calamity. Statistics show that a steady increase in the use of alcoholic beverages has exceeded population growth over the last one hundred years.
As by official statistics, Russia has about 7 million alcoholics. Experts indicate that real national totals are a lot higher. Each Russian drinks 27 liters of alcohol (the number includes both legal and counterfeit alcohol) per year. The statistical average is based on every group of the population, the newborn, elderly and abstainers inclusive. The WHO estimates stress the point that a nation is likely to die out if its citizens drink an average of 8 liters of alcohol per year.
Myth No 1: it is never too late to pull the plug on alcohol addiction
Too true, most people believe they can put an end to their drinking problems at any time. In actuality, the task is next to impossible. The human body produces a few milligrams of alcohol, which plays a role in certain vital activities. However, the body of a habitual drinker stops producing alcohol altogether.
The patient at a late stage of alcoholism normally feels nausea because he “hasn’t had enough”; his desire to vomit is not caused by “too much of a drink.” The patient becomes affected by withdrawal symptoms including tremor, anxiety and hallucinations. He feels an irresistible urge to “take a hair of the dog that bit one.” Feeling better after a shot or two means the patient is in trouble. He is psychologically and physiologically dependent on alcohol, the craving for a drink may gradually replace any other interests, and the person will end up in a state of total degradation as a result. The recovery process will be enormously difficult.
The early warning signs are as follows: recreational drinking on a regular basis, three times a week or more, “just a few drops to cheer up and improve digestion”; a lack of self-control, mental and physical fatigue; a small amount of alcohol taken as a medication to relieve nervousness and anxiety. One should seek professional medical help if any of the above take place.
Myth No 2: self-cure can beat alcoholism
Specialists advise categorically against curing much less severe conditions e.g. a common cold without a doctor’s supervision. Needless to say, the same advice goes for such a grave and unpredictable disease as alcoholism. First, patients differ in terms of their medical records, and therefore a certain kind of therapy can be effective in one case and completely useless or simple inapplicable in another. Second, some food supplements or homeopathic drugs may cause acute allergic side effects resulting in most dire consequences including death.
Medications in a treatment program must be handpicked only by certified medical staff on the basis of the results of tests, examinations, and counseling with psychologists. Alcohol-abuse specialists can establish a specific treatment plan and advise on family therapy because family support can be an important part of the recovery process. In fact, involving the loved ones in the recovery process may increase the chances of successful recovery.
Myth No 3: psychological pressure put by the loved ones can help treatment
According to practicing physicians, the loved ones of an alcoholic fall under two behavioral patters. The first one involves blackmail e.g. if you keep drinking I’ll leave you, I’ll throw you out of my house, I’ll slit my wrests, and so on and so forth. The second pattern centers on an admonition and reproach technique aiming to make an alcoholic ashamed of his ways e.g. look what you’ve done to yourself …you just don’t give a damn about me or our children etc. By and large, both patterns rarely work as a means of keeping an alcoholic off the bottle.
In most cases the methods have an opposite effect on the patient who starts to suffer from severe depression due to remorse and a sense of guilt. As a result, he takes to drink as the only “way out” of his deplorable situation. You had better seek counseling and professional advice on psychological support if you believe that a member of your family is alcohol dependent in case you do care for such a person.
Myth No 4: aversion therapy can work wonders
Aversion therapy involves the use of special medications which induce a strong aversive response once alcohol gets into the blood of the patient. The response ranges from nausea to vomiting to coma depending on a number of individual factors. The therapy is based on a fear of pain and death. Prior to taking a potentially lethal drug or shot administered by his doctor, a patient is supposed to fill in a special form to hold the doctor harmless in case of a relapse that may end in death.
One should bear in mind that the alcoholic (even the one has been sober for several months or years after receiving treatment) is a person whose mental health was damaged, he is likely to be susceptible to periods of depression. Family problems and work-related stress are just some of numerous reasons why he may disregard his self-preservation instincts and hit the bottle again only to end up in a coma.
Myth No 5: hospitals and rehab clinics offer the most effective treatment
In fact, Russian hospitals and rehab clinics cannot cure alcoholism within an average of 3 weeks, a standard period. The time is too short for completing anything but a detoxification program, which is what hospitals and rehabs deal with. Apart from carrying out detoxification procedures, hospital alcohol-abuse specialists also deal with establishing further treatment programs. Inpatient detoxification and withdrawal treatment is no fun. Hospitals also provide treatment for patients who are either violently mental or socially deranged or both. Sometimes alcoholics are kept in close proximity to drug addicts. The latter are the hardest hit by withdrawal symptoms. There are bars on the windows of such institutions. In short, a stint in hospital is not recommended for the fainthearted. Besides, the cost of treatment in a hospital can be too high both in a literal and figurative sense. If a patient receives treatment on the condition of anonymity, his daily bills may run up to 1,000 rubles. Treatment is free if a patient is admitted to hospital using his real name. However, a patient will be subject to compulsory registration with a state-controlled institution for treatment of patients diagnosed with drug and alcohol dependence. The registration entails certain social restrictions effective over a period of years e.g. no driver’s license or permit for the possession of fire arms.
Our fellow countrymen used to refer to Russia as a country where every family was affected by the effects of World War II in one way or another. Nowadays a similar description can be used with regard to the problem of alcoholism in this country: every Russian has a family member, a friend or colleague who is struck by alcoholism. A country where booze is considered something akin to the second national currency will never be a healthy nation. Maybe it is about time we started taking action to change the situation until it is too late?
Arguments and Facts
Translated by Guerman Grachev
Near the United Nations Glass Palace in New York, there is a metallic sculpture entitled "Evil Defeated by Good", representing Saint George transfixing a dragon with his lance. It was donated by the USSR in 1990 to celebrate the INF Treaty concluded with the USA in 1987