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April is Alcoholism Awareness Month

April 3, 2009 – Have you ever decided to stop drinking for a week and only lasted a few days? Do you wish people would mind their own business about your drinking? Have you ever switched from one kind of drink to another in the hope that it would keep you from getting drunk? Do you tell yourself you can stop drinking anytime you want to even though you keep getting drunk. when you don’t mean to?
Is A.A. for You? 12 Questions
If you are uncomfortable with these questions; if yes is the answer to any of them you might consider joining in the activities planned for Alcoholism Awareness Month starting Friday with three days of abstinence. Alcohol-Free Weekend is designed to raise public and personal awareness of the symptoms of and problems related to alcoholism and drug addiction. The brainchild of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), Alcohol Awareness Month began as a way of reaching the American public with information about the disease of alcoholism – that it is a treatable disease not a moral weakness, and that alcoholics and drug addicts can and do recover.
The notion of alcoholism as a disease dates back to the 1700s when Scottish physician Thomas Trotter first characterized excessive drinking as a disease, or medical condition, according to Wikipedia.
In the 1980s the American Medical Association and other organizations came to a consensus to treat alcoholism as a disease.
The disease is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as displaying at least three of the following characteristics over a 12-month period:
– Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
* A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
* Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of substance.
– Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
* The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance.
* The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.
– The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
– There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.
– A great deal of time is spent in activities to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
– Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.
– The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g., continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption.)
In his book Addictive Drinking, Clark Vaughn covered the symptoms more succinctly by defining addictive drinkers as those who had lost the ability to control when, where or how much they drank.
The American physician Benjamin Rush, a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence — who understood drunkenness to be what we would now call a "loss of control" — was, perhaps, the first to use the term "addiction" in relation to alcohol. According to Wikipedia, Rush said. "habitual drunkenness should be regarded not as a bad habit but as a disease"
In the U.S.V.I.
Local events are being planned by Shelly Williams, newly appointed executive director of the Council on Alcoholism St. Thomas–St. John (COAST). Williams hopes to bring the recovery community together with those in need of help with their drinking or drug abuse or help as a family member or friend of addicts and alcoholics at a pot luck dinner being planned from 7:30 to 10 p.m. April 24 at the Moravian Church’s Leona V. Roberts Benjamin Fellowship Hall on St. Thomas.
Meanwhile, anyone who feels he or she is displaying any of the symptoms of alcoholism or drug dependence or who was unable to abstain for the three days is encouraged to contact AA or COAST.
For information on AA locally go to www.aavirginislands.org, or call (340) 776-5283.
Williams and COAST can be reached at 227-4992 or via email at coast_vi@yahoo.com/
Family or friends of alcoholics will find help at www.al-anon.alateen.org. The local numbers to get a meeting schedule or further information are: on St. Thomas 771-6706; on St. Croix 719-0766 or 642-2562; and on St. John 244-6576.

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