Does Alcohol Use Become Abuse?
been a long week, the car broke down, your son made the baseball
team, the family is getting together for an anniversary party. You
reach for a drink, whether to celebrate good fortune or reflect
on a misfortune BUT when does drinking become over the line drinking?
Roughly 90 percent of our population drink. Our FDNY members are
no different in that regard. So how do we know when social drinking
has extended beyond the barriers to harmful drinking to drinking
as a disease ? These are issues we struggle with as we deal with
relentless press coverage focusing on our drinking patterns. Though
these newspaper articles do not reflect the true behavior of our
members as a whole, it does provide an opportunity and incentive
to reflect on the role alcohol and other substances can have on
Alcohol use does reflect cultural and familial patterns. We grow
up with learned behaviors of "acceptable drinking” in
our lives. At family gatherings, social get togethers, and parties
we witness alcohol use at the earliest age, and may begin participating
from the teen years on. Our own use of alcohol may follow the patterns
of our parents or peers. Behaviors can be established or modified
depending on the circumstances of our lives. A Saturday night out
might mean a keg of beer with a few friends or a bottle of wine
with a special someone. But the pattern of use can become abuse.
During stressful times people may turn to increased alcohol or substance
use. With increased use of alcohol, inhibitions are lowered and
actions that would be unacceptable when sober become acceptable.
The pattern of drug or substance use begins most often with alcohol.
Just as people under the influence of alcohol may make the bad judgements
(ever exchange heated words or phone numbers with the wrong person?).
People under the influence may make bad decisions, whether it is
to drive home or try a drug like cocaine. It is a slippery slope
that can lead from alcohol over use to illicit drug use.
Both alcohol and other substances cause tolerance which means that
our systems require more of the substance to get the same effect
because we process it better with time.
Alcohol and substance abuse affects not just the individual but
those at home and those at work. The individual under the influence
of, or withdrawing from these substances is adversely affected.
Family disputes, domestic violence, or motor vehicle accidents are
frequently the result of alcohol or substance abuse problems. In
DWI cases, on the first offense, 25 percent of people have a alcohol
abuse problem. On the second DWI offense, 50 percent have an alcohol
What can be the signs or symptoms that alcohol has become a problem?
If you are drinking alone, drinking in secret, or planning and thinking
about the next time you get drunk, you should examine your behavior.
Assess your situation with the following questions: Do you lie about
your substance use? Have you ever felt the need for an eye-opener
or woken up wanting another drink? Do you feel guilty or bad about
your substance use? An answer of 'yes' to two or more of these questions
could indicate a problem.
How do you get help for yourself or some one you care about? Whether
it is a relative or a friend, you can help that individual.
The Counseling Services Unit has many options available to you should
you wish help with substance abuse. Counselors will work one on
one with individuals to assess the situation and develop personalized
treatment plans. Out patient treatment and in patient detoxification
will be offered where appropriate. You can make a one time appointment
with a CSU counselor specializing in substance use or obtain a referral
to a counselor outside the department should that be a more comfortable
route. Twelve step groups , such as Alcoholics Anonymous have proven
useful and are offered in every community. Each group may have a
different flavor to it, so trying different groups can be helpful.
They are offered during the day, evenings and on weekends. Substance
use does not usually necessitate hospitalization nor require a dramatic
intervention. Discussing your use with a counselor does not have
to be an embarrassing experience.
Unfortunately, sometimes people will not seek help until the legal
system intervenes. Ideally help should be accessed when problems
are beginning. Behavioral changes can help get lives back on track.
Here are ways we can help. Call for assistance, call for an appointment
or call for the names and numbers of counselors. The first day of
getting better starts with getting help today.
(212) 570 1696/1693
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For Duty; Fitness For Life
As part of our commitment to our members, BHS continues to take
a proactive role in helping our uniformed members maintain their
optimum health and fitness levels.
It goes without saying that firefighting and emergency medicine
is a strenuous job, carrying over 100 lbs of equipment, climbing
stairs, carrying patients, working hose lines, pulling down ceilings,
etc. The physical demands of the job command a workforce who is
fit to carry out the task at hand.
Our current schedule details members to BHS for their annual medical
on a 15-month schedule. Members who are ending a medical leave or
light duty status and returning to full duty also need to evaluate
their fitness levels after their medical conditions have been resolved.
To accomplish this, BHS will be identifying members who come to
clinic and are in need of annual medicals and they will be directed
to the Annual Medical area. The Automated Citywide Medical Leave
System is another vehicle that checks Department records for a members'
last annual medical; a prompt will then notify the caller that an
annual is needed and the member should expect to spend 4 hours to
fulfill this commitment.
Annual medicals are not used as punitive measures, nor are they
used to 'catch' something and force a member to retire. In fact,
quite the opposite; members have come forward to say that results
from their annual medical brought to light changes that required
follow-up by their own personal physician. Some of these changes
identified problems that essentially saved the members' life. The
goal of the annual is twofold, to raise the fitness level of our
members through education and practice. A person with an optimum
fitness level performs the rigorous demands of their job better
and that fitness carries over to a better and healthier lifestyle.
The medical professionals at BHS are all too familiar with the demands
of this job, and therefore our commitment to maintain our workforce
at the greatest fitness levels possible remains our mission. A 'fitness
for duty' is also a 'fitness for life'.
Stay healthy; stay safe.
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Dr. Kerry Kelly
Chief Medical Officer
Dr. David Prezant
Deputy Chief Medical Officer
Director, FDNY CSU
Mary T. McLaughlin
Director, FDNY BHS