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Home Let’s Talk Older Blogs Blog: Reality Check St. Patty's Day – A "Spirit"ual Crisis?

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    • #8359

      A line of Guinness

      “I drink to your health when I’m with you,
      I drink to your health when I’m alone,
      I drink to your health so often,
      I’m starting to worry about my own!” – An Irish Toast

      This past weekend, millions in the United States and around the world celebrated Irish culture in honor of St. Patrick (who’s feast day is observed on March 17th). While Irish culture is rich, it (like many other cultures) is too often reduced to simplistic and often negative stereotypes in popular culture. The Irish stereotype people are most familiar with is of course the drunkard. The idea being that the Irish are nothing but a bunch of drunks. The truth is, while pub culture and Guinness are a part of Irish pride, alcoholism is not.

      Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) – the clinical term for alcoholism – is a physical and mental illness which, yes, some Irish and Irish-American people suffer from, however by no means does it discriminate based on nationality.

      According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) 15.1 million adults 18 years of age or older (6.2% of age group) and 623,000 youth ages 12-17 (2.5% of age group) in the US had AUD.

      The American Psychiatric Association (APA) explains alcohol addiction as “a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence[…] People with [alcohol] use disorder have distorted thinking, behavior and body functions” and “over time […] build up a tolerance, meaning they need larger amounts to feel the effects”.

      I could go on and on with the statistics. The point is that alcohol use disorder is a serious illness and one that can be fatal. And for those of us living with already compromised mental health, alcohol (along with other mind altering substances) poses an additional risk. Does this mean we need to live the sober life and write off alcohol altogether? For some of us, yes. For others, we may still partake, but we need to do so with full knowledge of the risk we are taking and hopefully considering the role it plays in our overall life and well being.

      In addition to striving for our own wellness, this also means we need to help others to maintain theirs as well. Here in Connecticut we are in the midst of a deadly heroin epidemic. Nationally, the number of overdose deaths from all drugs has more than doubled in just a little over 10 years.

      People will have different opinions on the best way to combat these illnesses, however one thing that is essential is having universal access to effective, evidence based treatment. At a time when budgets at every level of government are precarious, it is essential that we as mental health advocates continue to fight for access to treatment. And “access” means both local and affordable, in my opinion.

      So for all those who celebrated this past weekend (myself included) – a belated “Happy St. Patrick’s Day!”. May we strive to make merry without making ourselves sick.

      If you feel like you may be having problems with alcohol use and would like help, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has resources to help you learn more about the signs of problem drinking and different options for treatment and recovery.

    • #8383

      St. Patty’s Day, at least to the people that I know, has been a day to indulge in drinking. A lot of the people I know, Irish or not, wear green and literally hop bar to bar checking out different drink and food specials/happy hours. I get the idea of turning up and celebrating a holiday… but from what I’ve seen, some people just go overboard. They take these holidays as an opportunity to get way too wasted… and I’m not sure why, but they really should look into it. Alcohol isn’t always a bad thing for everyone but too much of it and too often, in my opinion, most certainly is. People should know their limit. If you’re going out, practice safe behavior and pay attention to your body. Know your surroundings… understand what you’re getting into.

      Thanks for the stats… I’m always so amazed at the numbers.. then again, not really since in this day and age, a celebration doesn’t seem to be one unless there’s an alcoholic beverage in the mix.

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