By Scott Howell
Alcohol addiction is a chronic, progressive disease, genetically predisposed and fatal if untreated. While the opioid epidemic has made headlines recently, it’s important to also stay focused on mitigating the impact that alcohol can have on the nation’s overall health.
Alcohol is a depressant that slows message transfer to and from the brain and body in a way that can compromise problem-solving, judgment, concentration, reaction times and coordination. It can also impact short- and long-term health and, ultimately, wreak havoc on physical health, social lives and productivity.
For these reasons, specialized alcohol testing can play a key role in curtailing the impact of alcohol abuse and be the first important step toward recovery. Individuals and employers in need of Department of Transportation-certified alcohol testing should seek a lab that offers specialized, cost-effective drug and alcohol screening.
They should also educate themselves about the negative impact of alcohol in terms of devastating personal lives and communities, as well as the costs that must be absorbed by employers — who may not fully understand how it can undermine workplace performance.
The Ravages of Alcohol
Alcoholism has a significant effect on the entire body, especially the brain, heart, pancreas, mouth, liver and immune system. In spite of this, Americans over-consume alcohol on a regular basis.Understanding its dangers and recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse is essential for getting – or providing – help and can lead to healthier choices and recovery.
Warning signs include:
- Issues at work or school
- Engaging in dangerous activities, such as driving drunk
- Blacking out from consuming alcohol
- Legal problems, such as being arrested or harming someone else while drunk
- Continuing to drink despite health problems exacerbated by alcohol, such as liver disease, heart disease and diabetes
- Friends and family members have expressed concern about a person’s level of drinking
Alcoholism treatment should be one of your main priorities if you are struggling with alcohol abuse. Its very hard to quite cold turkey and attempting to do so could lead to more health problems.
By the Numbers
Here are a few more eye-opening statistics:
- Alcohol-impaired driving accounts for more than 30 percent of all driving fatalities each year.
- Less than eight percent who suffer from alcohol use disorder receive treatment.
- More than 65 million Americans report binge drinking in the past month, which is more than 40 percent of the total of current alcohol users.
- Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year. That’s more than all illegal drugs combined.
- Drunk driving costs the United States more than $199 billion every year.
In fact, consequences of alcohol abuse are one of the nation’s most preventable causes of death, second only to tobacco dependence.
Alcohol-Related Problems in the Workplace
The availability of alcohol and workplace culture, including attitudes, behaviors and expectations about drinking in work environments, can influence individual alcohol use and drinking patterns in a way that negatively influences safety, health and productivity.
Those most affected are employees who work in isolated areas away from family and friends, long hours and/or shift work. Other factors include workplace relationships, bullying and harassment, poor working conditions, inadequate supervision and poor training — all of which can lead to low job satisfaction and work-related stress.
Alcohol use and harmful drinking carries numerous negative impacts, including an unsafe work environment with risks and accidents resulting in injury and/or death, especially operating heavy machinery. The effects of alcohol also impact workplace relationships and can lead to unprofessional behavior, short-term absenteeism, low quality work, poor decision making and disruption. All of this can lead to higher operational costs related to replacing and training new employees.
Employers have a legal responsibility to address alcohol-related harm in the workplace through duty of care provisions under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. At the same time, employees have an obligation to take reasonable care of their own safety and health and not endanger the safety and health of other people they work with.
Creating a safe workplace culture should 1) aim to prevent and manage alcohol-related harm, 2) focus on providing support and 3) incorporate a range of strategies tailored to get an individual on the road to recovery. Such programs include workplace health promotion, education and training programs, access to support, treatment and counseling services and workplace alcohol testing.
Individuals and employers should seek a high-quality testing lab that is committed to playing a role in helping individuals recover from drug and alcohol abuse by directing the delivery of patient care, utilizing a high-technology laboratory and providing full-service diagnostics and genomic testing supported by evidence-based research.
Scott Howell, D.O., MPH & TM, CPE is Chief Medical Officer of RDx.