April is Alcohol Awareness MonthApril 22, 2008 - TRCThe Impact of Alcoholby guest columnist, State Senator Elizabeth M. SchneiderI read an article recently about a car crash which killed three people in Boothbay. Investigators say alcohol was to blame. In the news, too frequently, one reads of situations, some tragic, which have occurred as a result of the use of alcohol. The stories are numerous and range from noisy, rowdy, obnoxious, behavior to destruction of property, altercations, automobile accidents, child abuse, domestic violence and violence in general. The health problems caused from alcohol use are vast, expensive and sometimes deadly. April is alcohol awareness month, the focus of this article will be to bring to light some statistics and impacts alcohol has on our society. The Legislature has taken steps over the years to pass laws to better protect us from the dangers of alcohol use. This year we were successful in passing a very positive bill. The numbers of adults and youths that drink alcohol in the United States are significant and alarming. According to the United State Department of Health and Human Services 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health report, nearly 70% of persons aged 21 to 25 were identified as current users of alcohol. This is the highest age group for users of alcohol. The figures for persons under the age of 21 are roughly 50% of 18 to 20 year olds used alcohol and 30% were of the ages of 16 to 17. The lowest ages recorded were 12 to 13 at 4% and 14 to 15 at 16%. Additionally, 15.6 of persons aged 18 to 25 admitted heavy alcohol use. The statistics are startling and are cause for great concern. Understanding that alcohol is not only a danger to an individual's health, it also poses a threat to the safety of others on the road and often makes people more violent. In domestic violence cases alcohol and / or drugs are often involved. Among 21 to 25 year olds, an estimate of 27% drove under the influence of alcohol in 2006. This was the highest age group and beyond age 25, the rate showed a general decline with increasing age. From the Marin Institute, an organization devoted to "protect the public from the impact of the alcohol industry’s negative practices." They "monitor and expose the alcohol industry’s harmful actions related to products, promotions and social influence, and support communities in their efforts to reject these damaging activities."http://www.marininstitute.org/alcohol_policy/violence.htm. * Alcohol availability is closely related to violent assaults. Communities and neighborhoods that have more bars and liquor stores per capita experience more assaults. (see ref. 1) * Alcohol use is frequently associated with violence between intimate partners. Two-thirds of victims of intimate partner violence reported that alcohol was involved in the incident. (see ref. 2) * In one study of interpersonal violence, men had been drinking in an estimated 45 percent of cases and women had been drinking in 20 percent of cases. (see ref. 3) * Women whose partners abused alcohol were 3.6 times more likely than other women to be assaulted by their partners. (see ref. 4) * In 1997, 40 percent of convicted rape and sexual assault offenders said that they were drinking at the time of their crime. (see ref. 5) * In 2002, more than 70,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault in the U.S. (see ref. 6) * In those violent incidents recorded by the police in which alcohol was a factor, about nine percent of the offenders and nearly 14 percent of the victims were under age 21. (see ref. 7) * Twenty-eight percent of suicides by children ages nine to 15 were attributable to alcohol. (see ref. 8) * An estimated 480,000 children are mistreated each year by a caretaker with alcohol problems. (see ref. 9) From the 1998 Bureau of Justice report on alcohol: “WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths are in decline, alcohol abuse is still linked to a large percentage of criminal offenses, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) said today. Almost four in 10 violent crimes involve alcohol, according to the crime victim, as do four in 10 fatal motor vehicle accidents. And about four in 10 criminal offenders report that they were using alcohol at the time of their offense.About one in five victims of alcohol-related violence (about 500,000 victims annually) report financial losses totaling more than $400 million. When injured in alcohol-related violence, the average victim experienced a $1,500 out-of-pocket medical expense.” The economic impacts related to substance abuse are staggering. The Office of Substance Abuse issued a report which found that the total estimated cost of substance abuse in Maine in 2005 was nearly $900 million. To address the issue of drunk driving on Maine roads, this Legislature passed into law a creative measure that uses technology to help keep repeat OUI offenders off the road. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of LD 856, An Act to Reduce Drunk Driving. Under the new law, repeat OUI offenders will now be required to install an ignition interlock device into their automobile. Essentially the device will prevent a vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected in the breath of the person wishing to start the vehicle. A person with two OUI offenses can have their license reinstated by the Secretary of State after nine months of a three-year suspension period if that person installs the ignition interlock device on their vehicle that they use for two years. This will allow offenders to get to work or school if they take part in the program, and with the device installed, it will prevent the offender from driving drunk on our roads. This compromise creates an opportunity for an offender to provide a living and avoid the need for state assistance (i.e. food stamps, unemployment). If someone is a three time offender, they can attempt to reinstate their license after three years of a six year suspension period if they install the device. For anyone with four or more OUI offenses, it is required they must have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for four years after their full period of license suspension has expired. An offender can be charged for operating after suspension if caught without the device. In an ideal world we would eliminate driving under the influence to improve the safety on our roads. Unfortunately, I understand we will probably never see that day. However, I am glad we are taking this creative step forward to reduce drunk driving. For more information and resources about alcohol awareness in Maine, go to the Office of Substance Abuse website at: www.mainegov/dhhs/osa/irc/alcoholawareness.htmAs your Senator I am committed to work on the making our future strong and vibrant and to work on the issues which face our Senate District 30 and Maine. PLEASE DO NOT DRINK EXCESSIVELY AND PLEASE DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. (TOWNS IN SENATE DISTRICT 30 ARE Alton, Argyle, Bradford, Edinburg, Enfield, Greenbush, Howland, Hudson, Kingman, LaGrange, Lee, Lincoln, Mattawamkeag, Maxfield, Old Town, Orono, Passadumkeag, Penobscot Indian Island, Springfield, Twombly, Veazie, Webster, and Winn.)1 Scribner, R. A., MacKinnon, D.P., and Dwyer, J.H. "The risk of assaultive violence and alcohol availability in Los Angeles County". American Journal of Public Health 3(85):335-340. 1995.2 http://www.ojp.usdojgov/bjs/pub/pdf/ac.pdf . Accessed 9.26.033 Roizen, J. Issues in the epidemiology of alcohol and violence. In: Martin, S.E., editor. Alcohol and Interpersonal Violence: Fostering multidisciplinary perspectives. Bethesda (MD): National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; 1993. p. 3-36. NIAAA Research Monograph No. 24.4 "Risk factors for injury to women from domestic violence". Demetrios N. Kyriacou, Deirdre Anglin, Ellen Taliaferro, Susan Stone, Toni Tubb, Judith A. Linden, Robert Muelleman, Erik Barton, and Jess F. Kraus. The New England Journal of Medicine 341:1892-98. December 16, 1999.5 Greenfield, L., and Henneberg, M. "Alcohol, crime, and the criminal justice system." Alcohol & Crime: Research and Practice for Prevention, Alcohol Policy XII Conference: Washington, DC, 11-14 June 2000.6 Hingson, R., Heeren, T., et al. (2002). "Magnitude of alcohol-related mortality and morbidity among U.S. college students ages 18-24." Journal of Studies on Alcohol 63(2): 136-144.7 http://www.ojp.usdojgov/bjs/pub/pdf/ac.pdf Accessed 9.26.038 http://ncadi.samhsa.gov/govpubs/prevalert/v5/11.aspx . Accessed 9.26.039 Children of Alcoholics Foundation, Inc. 1996. Collaboration, coordination and cooperation: helping children affected by parental addiction and family violence. New York: Children of Alcoholics Foundation.NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.