Anyone can become an alcoholic |

Anyone can become an alcoholic

Matt Zalaznick

That’s why the agency, Colorado West Mental Health, is launching a “risk reduction” program to help people who abuse drugs and alcohol before they wind up addicts or prison inmates, says Jolene Crook, the agency’s director.

“Substance abuse is different than substance dependence,” Crook says. “In therapy for substance dependence, the goal is not using substances ever again.

“This program,” she adds, “is about how can a person change their behavior. How can they not be influenced by their peers in an environment where binge drinking is championed.”

While the prevailing bar culture is, for many locals, simply a way of letting off steam on a Saturday night, the reckless atmosphere also can become a serious problem for those who party too hard, too often, Crook says.

The 10-hour program, the first session of which begins at the end of month, is targeted to both adolescents and adults. The groups will be made up of people referred to the agency by the police, school, courts and employers, though a person also can join the program voluntarily.

There will be separate sessions for adults and persons who are under 21.

While the program is meant to help people avoid losing their jobs, ruining relationships or getting into legal trouble, the risk-reduction program is not therapy and the goal is not abstinence, says Megan Leitz, who will run the program.

The goal is to give substance abusers information about the physical –and legal – harm drinking and drugs can do. There are short- and long-term health risks, as well as legal dangers in abuse, she says.

Another goal is to help people see the risks of some of their decisions about using alcohol and drugs, she says.

The sessions, however, will not be judgmental. The intent is not to make those who attend feel blamed or that they are bad people, Leitz says.

“This kind of approach reduces resistance in people,” Leitz says.

The risk of becoming an alcoholic is not the same for everybody, Leitz says.

Some people are pre-disposed because their parents, grandparents or other family members had drinking problems; others are at higher risk because they have a higher tolerance for alcohol, Leitz says.

“Each person has a trigger level that once they cross, there’s no way to go back to the beginning. There’s no way to go back to just having one or two social drinks,” Leitz says.

“Some people,” she adds, “have a trigger level that is lower and easier to cross.”

The risk-reduction program should help people gauge their own trigger levels, Crook says.

“Nobody knows where their own trigger level is,” Crook says. “The program should help them find out where it is.”

For more information on risk reduction programs call Colorado West Mental Health at 476-0930. Additional information can be found at the following Web Site:

A few facts about substance abuse

Experts at Colorado West Mental Health say alcoholism and drug dependence are America’s No. 1 health problems. Substance abuse crosses all societal boundaries, affects both genders, every ethnic group and people in every tax bracket.

Scientific documentation defines alcoholism and drug dependence as a disease that has roots in both genetic susceptibility and personal behavior. Some behaviors or other signs a person who is using alcohol or another drug may exhibit include:

– Lack of motivation

– Is verbally abusive

– Loss of interest in healthy activities

– Disregard for consequences and/or reckless behavior

– Lies, deceives, or displays sneaky behavior

– No concern about the future

– Withdrawn, depressed, changes friends suddenly

– Red or glassy eyes

– Slurred speech

– Unexplained weight drop or gain

– Chemical breath

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of substance abuse, Colorado West Mental Health Center can help. Call the Vail office at 476-0930 or the Eagle office at 328-6969.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

Support Local Journalism

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User