Your Health Tamar Raucher | one year ago

Thoughts on Alcohol and Drunk Driving from Local Experts

In an effort to educate and further awareness about the effects and impact of alcohol, we reached out to a variety of experts who deal with alcohol in some way in their professions.

Officer John Jackson, Master Police Officer II

Officer Jackson is assigned to the Monroe Police Department’s Traffic Unit. During his investigations of over 2,000 motor vehicle collisions, he has seen first-hand the effects that alcohol has on not only the person consuming alcohol, but also on families of those injured due to impaired drivers. He shares these thoughts:
  • Driving while impaired includes both alcohol AND drugs, the combination of which is even more dangerous.
  • Uber, a taxi, or a ride from a friend or parent are all far better options than trying to drive yourself home after consuming alcohol. Don’t be afraid to make that call for help.
  • A new common practice we recommend is creating a contract between parents or guardians and their child that delays any kind of punishment if the child needs a ride, until the child is home safe.
  • A DWI is expensive! It’s not only the cost to you personally, but to the families of the people that you hurt or kill. You have the potential to make a life-changing choice that can be completely avoided by choosing to arrange for a sober driver.

Mary Ward, Assistant Vice President, Substance Use Services at Carolinas HealthCare System

Ward oversees the clinical care and operations of multiple programs that treat substance use disorders at Carolinas HealthCare System, including medically managed withdrawal services and outpatient services. She shares her perspective:
  • Since alcohol is one of the most prevalent and easily accessible substances, we see drinking start at a young age. There is a lot of biological and emotional damage that can be done the younger people start to drink, and there is also a greater likelihood of them developing addictions later.
  • Even though many people say they feel more social and have more fun when drinking, in reality, alcohol is actually a depressant. It can and often does make depression worse.
  • It’s especially important to have conversations with young people about alcohol. The more in tune you are with your kids’ school work, changes with their friends or the way they interact with you, the better prepared you are to identify any potential issues before they become a larger problem.

Dr. Stephen Wyatt, DO, Medical Director of Addiction Medicine at Carolinas HealthCare System

Dr. Wyatt is board certified in Addiction Psychiatry. Dr. Wyatt is a past president of both the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine and the Connecticut Society of Addiction Medicine. He speaks across the country on problems associated with substance use and new treatments to help those in need. These are his thoughts:
  • There is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. Some people have higher tolerances to alcohol – they wake up without a hangover; they can drink all night; they don’t get sick – and all of those factors make them more likely to get addicted.
  • Part of the stigma is that people with higher tolerances are looked at as “heroes” in their peer group. This reinforces continued use, which often leads to binge drinking.
  • Alcohol, compared to some other drugs, is different in that it is consumed in huge quantities. This is why alcohol can be such a problem not only with the brain, but with the skin, liver and heart.
  • Alcohol worsens depression and contributes to a variety of other chronic problems. People affected by neglect and abuse tend to use alcohol to deal with these difficulties, further hindering their strength to understand their moods and get better.
  • There is a misconception that rehab can cure alcoholism in a few days. In reality, it takes months for the brain to get settled again and to adjust to all the social changes that are going to move the patient to recovery.

Judge Hunt Gwyn, Chief District Court Judge for Union County

Judge Gwyn is the Chief District Court Judge for Union County. In addition to serving as Chief, Judge Gwyn’s responsibilities include presiding over Family Court cases and DWI Treatment Court. This is his perspective:
  • It’s important to take a tough approach with drunk drivers. Treatment court is an effective way to do that by mandating and requiring that the DWI offender gets treatment so it’s not the same revolving door of offenders.
  • DWI offenders tend to repeat the same offense. We used to tell them to do things differently and to stop behaving this way, but we weren’t giving them the resources to do that. Now, we provide the education and the tools they need to help them help themselves.
  • 31 percent of all traffic fatalities that we see in the United States are caused by drunk driving. That’s one fatality every single hour. This is an unacceptable number to me – not only as a judge, but as a citizen of the community. I am determined to change this statistic.

Trey Robison, District Attorney, Prosecutorial District 20-B

Robison is the chief law enforcement official for Union County. He has previously worked for the FBI and is passionate about alcohol awareness, because he and his team deal with alcohol-related crime every day. He shares his thoughts:
  • There is a huge direct cost of alcohol abuse and drunk driving to the overall safety of our community. We spend way too much of our time on alcohol-related crime including DUIs and domestic violence. A substantial number of cases, in general, involve alcohol abuse on behalf of the abuser, victim or both.
  • In 2015, there were 730 DWI charges in Union County. That doesn’t even account for those who were not caught, as well as those who do this regularly and don’t get caught. The single greatest danger is being hit by a drunk driver on one of our streets. That’s who drunk drivers’ kill – people on their way to church or the grocery store.
  • We take drunk driving very, very seriously and do everything we can to convict offenders. As the DA, I am a steward of tax payer funds, and the amount of tax dollars that are paid to cover the cost devoted to alcohol-related incidents is incredible. It’s not just your tax dollars; there is a tremendous societal cost associated with drinking and driving as well.
  • We aren’t going to solve these problems solely by putting people in jail. They truly need to be treated and rehabilitated.
 

Do you know someone who can be helped with this information? We encourage you to this story using the #thisissober hashtag on social media.

Behavioral Health Assistance  Carolinas HealthCare System has an alcohol and substance use disorder help line, staffed by masters-level mental health professionals and registered nurses available 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The team answering the phone can also make referrals to behavioral health specialists and offer information on community behavioral health resources. The behavioral health help line number is 704-444-2400, or visit here for more information.