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Understanding Alcohol and Drug Addiction:
an LDS* Perspective


Drug and alcohol abuse is America's number one health problem, the number one crime problem, the number one homeless problem, the number one youth problem, including youth violence.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr., former United States Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and former President of the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, Columbia University.

The devastation of alcoholism and drug addiction impacts the lives of millions of Americans each day. The destruction addiction causes cross over every social and economic line; no group is immune. Alcoholism and drug addiction are prevalent among rich and poor, educated and uneducated, young and old, male and female, as well as every racial, ethnic, and religious group.

In 2001, 16.6 million Americans age 12 or older were classified with dependence on or abuse of alcohol and drugs, a figure significantly higher than the 2000 figure of 14.5 million. The nationwide percentage rate in 2001 translates to about 7.3 percent of the U.S. population.0 Approximately one-fourth of the U.S. population is part of a family affected by an addictive disorder in a first degree relative, and almost 90% of addicted individuals live with a family member or significant other.

In Utah about 5% of adults and 7% of youth are in need of substance abuse treatment, a total of 89,701 individuals. The public substance abuse treatment system in Utah currently serves 22,836 individuals, or only 25% of the actual need.

Roughly 100,000 Utahns, or one out of every 20, suffer from an addiction to alcohol or drugs. One-fifth of addicts are children under the age of 18. The average Utah addict is 31 years old, white and LDS. Two out of three are men. But women are fast catching up. The number of women admitted to addiction treatment centers increased by 144 percent the past year, compared to a 20 percent increase for men.

The number of deaths from illegal drugs in Utah increased sixfold in the 1990's, from 20 in 1991 to 130 in 1998.0 In Utah 60 to 70 percent of child abuse cases involve alcohol or drug abuse in the home.

Many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are alcoholics or drug addicts. Although most members of the Church are shielded from the addictive power of alcohol and drugs by their observance of the Word of Wisdom, many make wrong decisions and become caught in the terrible web and nightmare of addiction.

As indicated above, about 5% of Utah adults and 7.3% of persons over12 in the U.S. are in need of substance abuse treatment. The percentage of Church members who are in need of substance abuse treatment is not available. However, hypothetically, a 3% figure and a ward population of 400 would compute to 12 members of a ward who need substance abuse treatment. Surrounding each substance abuser are three or four family members severely impacted by the addict's destructive behavior. Many family members impacted by the addiction of a loved one are in denial and do not want the bishop or ward members to know of their problem. The social stigma they feel is very powerful.

The scourge of alcoholism and drug addiction may never be lifted from the human family, but effective prevention and treatment can lessen its toll of human tragedy and suffering. Understanding alcohol and drug addiction, the available treatment, and the process of recovery is central to effective prevention and treatment.

The purpose of this book is to present basic information about alcohol and drug addiction, treatment and recovery. Any member of the Church who has lived with an addicted family member can testify that it is a living hell. Hopefully, the material in this book will assist addicts and their families find the road to recovery. Alcohol and drug addiction and treatment are complex and multi-faceted problems. Professional help should be sought by addicts and their families in making decisions regarding intervention and treatment options.

Chapter 11 is comprised of the personal stories of individuals who have been successful in putting their disease of addiction into remission, thereby allowing them to live quality lives and enjoy all of the blessings of the gospel. Appendix A is a suggested reading list. Appendix B is a list of organizations that offer materials on addiction, treatment, recovery and prevention.

Please Buy: Understanding Alcohol and Drug Addiction

*LDS: Latter-Day Saints, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
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