Posts Tagged ‘DUI or DWI laws’

Treating Alcoholism and Addiction as Diseases of the Brain

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Those of us who have served to assist the homeless in some way may think we are quite familiar with the problem of alcoholism.

But now we must think anew, because in some very important ways, we have been deadly wrong.

Despite the fact that the scourge of alcoholism has been known for centuries, advances in neuroscience have radically changed our understanding of the disease, which kills with the grim efficiency of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Yet the response of society to alcoholism appears almost hopelessly embedded in social, religious, familial, and legal patterns laid down centuries ago.

Alcoholism wounds and reshapes the brain in ways that make recovery from alcoholism very difficult, especially given the fact that the brain needs almost nine (9) months of sobriety to begin making strides in the neurological healing process.

Alcoholism also reshapes social relationships, be they familial or employment-related. It in addition alters the social and even physical dimensions of cities and towns where later-stage alcoholics gather. An amazing amount of physical space in cities is utilized not only to sell alcohol, but to recover from its effects. Many major cities not only have hundreds of locations to purchase liquor, but hundreds of sites for AA and related recovery meetings.

In recent decades, DUI or DWI laws have decreased legal tolerance for driving under the influence, at least in the United States. The establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s, the subsequent founding of Al-Anon and other support networks for families, and the growth in the cultural awareness of what has been called “enabling behavior” or “co-dependency” since the 1970s have helped individuals and society cope in better ways with this disease.

But if scientists are correct that alcoholism is a disease of the damaged brain, and that the brain needs nine months of sobriety before it can seriously begin to heal, then the composite response of law, politics, health care, social work, insurance, employment, labor relations, and religious ministry to the disease of alcoholism amount to a confused and contradictory, ineffective and expensive, harmful mishmosh.

To treat the problem of homelessness as a solely political or civil rights problem, when such a significant dimension of homelessness is connected with public health problems such as alcoholism, addiction, and mental illness, borders on self-indulgent delusion.

Alcoholism is a disease that damages the brain and the rest of the body in certain well-known and predictable ways. It devastates family life and hurts innocent spouses and children, in addition to the alcoholics. In its later stages, it sets those who suffer from it out onto the street in a staggering march toward their own deaths.

But much of this suffering from alcoholism is now avoidable.

If we think we understand alcoholism, we are probably wrong.

We can start learning more by reading Healing the Addicted Brain by Harold C. Urschel III, MD, and by visiting his website, or by accessing the resources at enterhealth.com.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
All Rights Reserved

Share