In my last blogs entires, I described 11 of the 12 policies that were approved by the National Council of IOGT-USA last year.

In this blog, I present Policy #12 along with explanations as to why it is important. I conclude by offering suggestions as to how we as individuals, Chapters, and Councils might work to attain each of these goals.

So, we continue:

POLICY #12. ALCOHOLISM IS TO BE DEALT WITH OPENLY AND DIRECTLY.

We advocate that alcohol dependence (alcoholism) is taken once and for all out of the closet and dealt with openly and directly.   Alcoholism or alcohol dependence is one of America’s “most popular diseases of choice” with more than 17 million active alcoholics, including more than 4 million teenage alcoholics.  A person cannot become an alcoholic unless s/he first chooses to use alcohol.

Alcohol is a paradoxic substance.  For the most part, Western alcohol culture treats it as if it can be seen as being part of “a good time.” But alcohol use leads to wide range of problems: medical, social, democratic. It can also lead to abuse, violence, and even death. But all of this is fairly well known. A further effect of alcohol, however, is the ignored, virtually anonymous status of the alcohol addict (alcoholic) – about 1 out of every 10 alcohol users. (Alcohol is a potentially addictive drug, but no mention of this fact ever appears on an alcohol product).

For over 75 years, the most used form of treatment of this disease was and still is Alcoholics Anonymous. And anonymous it really is. An Alcohol Anonymous (AA) meeting is typically in a semi-secret location of your city and when you attend, you identify yourself only by your first name. A far cry from being “the life of the party.”

In addition to the over 17 million current alcoholics there are more than another 20 million “recovering alcoholics” – those who are totally abstinent, but not cured. This puts the number of Americans who have this disease at well over 37 million. Yet for all practical purposes, this massive group of people is invisible to the general public.

Further, this disease is not like some other common diseases such as measles or chicken pox where the ill person(s) recovers after a relatively short period of time and life goes on.  Even if the alcohol addicted person becomes a “recovering alcoholic” the effects the addictive behavior has had can still live on for years in his/her family and environment.

With alcohol dependence (alcoholism), the entire family becomes involved in the abuse of alcohol by the one who is dependent, so much so that the affliction has been called a family disease. It can totally take over the dynamics of the nuclear family to the point where nationally there are groups available to help the family members (Al-Anon and Al-A-Teen), and even for the adult children of alcoholics (ACA).

Yet for all of the millions of people who are addicted or are family members of an addict, there is virtually nothing ever presented in the media related to the subject of alcoholism. It is almost as if none of this actually exists!

In recent years alcohol and other drug rehabilitation centers have been developed, but the anonymous approach and attitude to alcohol addiction still dominates.

This is especially noteworthy because of the absence of any discussion of the extreme costs of alcohol addiction in all of the various health and preventive medicine journals and newsletters.   It does seem rather strange that, in our society, it is far easier to talk about gay and lesbian relationships or HIV and AIDS, than about a disease like alcoholism.

What can you do to advance this policy?

A. Contact all alcohol producers and make sure that they add, “may be addictive” to the labels of all of their products and marketing materials.

B. Review news media outlets, as well as health magazines, newsletters, and journals (with special emphasis on those which strongly emphasize prevention).  Institute a letter writing campaign to these sources insisting that issues of alcohol dependence be regularly covered.

C. Contact local media, especially TV news programs to see that they give full voice to the very large concentration of alcoholics that are in your community and what can be done to prevent this condition, as well as how to help those who have it.

D. Find out whether any alcohol beverage producers, distributors, or sales outlets are providing funds for developing and maintaining alcohol addiction treatment centers.

Report your results to the press/media as well as to IOGT International.

I believe that these are important Alcohol Policy Issues that we in America are dealing with. The suggestions attached as to how you, your Chapter, and your Council can enhance and spread these ideas outside of our membership were basically designed for Americans. However, you and your fellow members are likely to come up with many other ways to further these goals and probably, a completely different set of Policies!  We hope that you will share all of your ideas and the results of all of your findings with us in the IOGT-USA as well as the IOGT International.  Good luck!

Important further reading:

The National Association for Children of Alcoholics: Seventy six million Americans, about 43% of the U.S. adult population, have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Almost one in five adult Americans (18%) lived with an alcoholic while growing up. Roughly one in eight American adult drinkers is alcoholic or experiences problems due to the use of alcohol.  The cost to society is estimated at in excess of  $166 billion each year. There are an estimated 26.8 million COAs in the United States.  Preliminary research suggests that over 11 million are under the age of 18.