True costs of alcohol addiction elusive; Atlanta has many supports.
By David Martin, RN, CEO and President, VeinInnovations
The estimated $249 billion dollar hit to the nation’s economy caused by excessive alcohol use in the U.S. in 2010, as reported in a recent Centers for Disease Control report, doesn’t begin to cover the true costs of this epic problem. According to Atlanta addiction experts, there are myriad ways peoples lives are affected by the alcohol abuse of others.
“This in no way begins to estimate the cost, on a personal level, of people drinking excessively,” said Thomas Bradford “Brad” Johns, M.D., and medical director at Atlanta’s Ridgeview Institute.
“Just in grief and suffering and emergency room visits – the indirect costs are hard to measure. It’s estimated that each alcoholic affects 75 other people around him. That impact ripples through healthcare market in so many ways: illnesses, interventions, the need for family and individual therapies. Not to mention the cost of accidents caused by drunk drivers. It is hard to measure all the social ramifications of this biological disease,” Johns said.
Another Atlanta-area resident, Robert Anda, MD, MS, formerly of the CDC, has spent a career looking at the cost of adverse childhood experiences, one of which is growing up in a home where there is alcohol abuse. Anda and has written much about the original Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study as he and his and his colleagues have studied the long-term health impact of these experiences.
One of Anda’s colleagues, Dr. Vincent Felletti, wrote of the ACE Study that it “reveals a powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children and our physical and mental health as adults, as well as the major causes of adult mortality in the United States. It documents the conversion of traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.”
Estimates are that as many as one-in-four children in the U.S. experiences living in a home adversely impacted by alcohol abuse, and that these children are many times more likely to have issues with alcohol themselves.
Atlantans who are ready to get help with alcohol abuse are fortunate to have a “robust offering of treatment centers and supports available,” according to Johns.
In addition to scores of treatment centers, including well-known centers such as Ridgeview, Talbots, Charter Peachford, and Black Bear Lodge in Dahlonega, there are nonprofit, community based centers such as the Atlanta Union Mission, which has a variety of programs.
Further, Johns is quick to point out that Alcoholics Anonymous, which is free and open to anyone with a desire to stop drinking, has, literally, hundreds of meetings available in the Atlanta area.
According to the AA website for Atlanta, there are more than 1100 weekly meetings available in the metropolitan Atlanta area. For family members of people who abuse alcohol, or who may be alcoholics, there are hundreds of Al-Anon and Al-Ateen support group meetings.
“The good news is that addiction is an illness that can be treated. It’s not hopeless situation. Treatment is available. People do get sober all the time. They can heal,” Johns added.