“The lost decade” The average period between onset of dependency and treatment…and how we can do better

The average gap between alcohol abuse onset and treatment is actually a decade, while for dependency it is about 8 years, with the average alcoholic succumbing to dependency at the age of 22 and not attempting first treatment until the age of 29. A long and destructive time!

And that’s only for the 25% who ever initiate any form of treatment…and treatment was defined in very broad terms, including any form of intervention from a doctor or psychologist, any inclusion in group support meetings or any participation in 12 steps meetings such as AA.What we know is that the longer alcohol dependency is allowed to progress, the worse the eventual prognosis, and that those people that do ever seek out treatment endure many years of deepening addiction before doing so, and most never even try to get better.

Better public awareness about intervention strategies that work

The agency calls for better public and professional education as to the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependency, and education about how families and medical care workers can apply intervention strategies to both decrease the average length of alcohol abuse or dependency before treatment, and even more importantly, to increase the total percentages of alcoholics initiating any form of treatment.

Let’s focus on the intervention part of that…

And while educating about the signs of alcohol abuse and dependence is maybe a beneficial thing, it’s hard to imagine that for those 25% who (after 8+) years seek out treatment, that people didn’t notice the emergence of the alcoholism.

I think that instead of teaching people about the signs of alcoholism, we need to be teaching them what to do when they do see it. People can always spot a drunk, and its not as if family doesn’t notice when a loved one passes out drunk every night. The problem is that too many people mistakenly believe that only alcoholics themselves can decide when to initiate treatment, and that only after hitting rock bottom can alcoholics really decide to get help.

We need public campaigns that educate people of influence (anyone!) about effective strategies such as interventions that do prove very successful at influencing changes in behaviors and in forcing an acceptance of a need for treatment.

We need to educate people that by doing nothing to intervene they remain complicit in the levels of abuse and the destruction of the disease, and that when the damage of alcoholism starts to migrate through the family, the workplace or the community, it becomes everyone’s business to intervene for the individual and the common good.

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