As Carnival approaches, does it bother Dominicans that our country is rated the fourth most alcoholic country by the World Health Organization?
Here are the internationally agreed-upon C.A.G.E criteria for diagnosing alcoholism:
C – Have you ever felt the need to CUT BACK?
A – Have you ever felt ANNOYED about people criticizing your drinking?
G – Have you felt GUILTY about how alcohol is affecting your work and family?
E – Have you ever felt the need to take a drink first thing in the morning – an EYE OPENER?
Regardless of who we are, each of us has a relationship with alcohol of some kind or the other. This article will give an exciting new insight and promise in this age-old battle.
Medical professionals have to handle up close and personal, devastating chronic drunkenness. As an intern in New Jersey, I spent much of one night pumping a patient’s oesophagus with iced water. This was a vain attempt to stop the bleeding caused by cirrhosis of the liver. By morning, my patient had passed on leaving me bone tired, frustrated and splattered with his blood.
From time to time when I would return on vacation from my studies, I would go check a girlfriend living on a particular lane in Roseau. A neighbour of hers, my good ‘padna,’ would always greet me enthusiastically and give me the ‘vibes’. Stevo was well-respected in his government job. His wife was very devout and tried her best. They had very bright children. But Stevo had a drinking problem. Denial is a hell of a thing!
“Stevo boy, you have to stop drinking so much garçon.” I urged him.
“Sampy, you have to stop drinking only soft drinks and juice. When you sleeping ants will go inside your belly!” he’d laugh. “The good [book] itself says, you have to take a little hard for the stomach sake.” I’d laugh right along with him. I didn’t want to make him too uncomfortable and lose a friend.
One year I came back on vacation and asked a mutual friend for Stevo. “Oh boy, sorry you didn’t hear…” That was before the days of the internet and social media. Although I stayed closely in touch, somehow I missed the memo that Stevo was longer in the land of the living. Was he even 40? If so, not by much.
The high point of raising my sons in the US centered around an alcohol-related event. I announced to the boys who were then about 10 and 7, that daddy was going to take all the alcohol in the house and pour it down the kitchen sink. Much of it was wine and champagne brought by visitors as party gifts over the years. But the main victim was a special wedding gift from my father-in-law. It was a bottle of fine whisky which he was gifted while on a state visit to Israel as Guyana’s cabinet secretary. For years that elegant bottle proudly stood in my cabinet, snug in a delicate velvet pouch secured with a golden cord. I didn’t even have the decency to even taste it.
As a surgeon, I could not afford to be called in at night for nurses or patients to smell alcohol on my breath. I showed no mercy for the accumulated booze. The boys squealed with delight helping with object lesson. Oh, by the way, they insisted we save that cute pouch. Now in their 30’s, they neither drink nor smoke. The power of intention!
Since the 1940s, Antabuse has formed the basis for alcoholism treatment. Psychotherapy, Alcoholics Anonymous, and spiritual insight help provide the support necessary for long term sobriety. Patients on prescription Antabuse become violently ill and would throw up if any alcohol were consumed. It amounts to a medical spanking, so as not to touch the stuff again. The problem is, patients who are not sufficiently motivated, simply stop taking the medication so they won’t experience these unpleasant effects.
Science has shown that there are certain people who genetically cannot control social alcohol use. They tend to self-medicate their problems. And so it was that a European business person in Dominica introduced me to a new treatment plan for alcoholism. It was proving much more effective across the Atlantic, but still virtually unknown in North America and the Caribbean. It is a common medication used in a different way. With this treatment, patients are closely monitored and counselled. He continues to drink less and less until the alcohol is completely out of the system. They neither suffer the violent alcohol withdrawal symptoms called DT’s (Delirium Tremens), nor the rough intended effects of Antabuse. One of my patients has been alcohol-free for months now. He has since sent me colleagues. Same success!
You may want to share your own experience with alcohol either personally or with friends and family. Make no mistake, alcohol is legal but is a devastatingly harmful drug to families. It is responsible for much of society’s domestic violence, traffic accidents, and unwanted pregnancies. How many lives of young women are destroyed because of momentary lapse with alcohol – especially in this Carnival season.
If Stevo could speak he would implore us to take alcoholism more seriously. In fact, deep in my heart, I do believe he is doing so right now. The most important thing that we can do is to say to someone thus afflicted is, I WILL GO WITH YOU. Free consultations are being offered now at the Wellness Center.
And so it is among all captive people around the world and throughout history. For years, there have been calls for carding (proof of age) to limit the sale to minors. For years, there have been calls for police to use breath analyzers to control drunk driving.
For years, there have been calls for the courts to mandate effective alcohol treatment.
Yes, we can envision responsible implementation of such regulations. However, the good news is that today we have found the silver bullet. Today, we are equipped and ready with a new and improved cure for alcoholism. Today, there is definitely something that you and I can do, to change not only solitary life, but by extension, the destiny of a country.
Dr. Sam Christian, M.D., is a consultant surgeon at Harlsboro Clinic and Medical Director of the general Urgent Care at the Wellness Center on Hillsborough Street in Roseau. He is author of the faith and fitness book ‘Mannafast Miracle’ and host of the TV show ‘Strong & Healthy.’ He can be messaged at 767 265-0886 or [email protected].