The University Record, March 25, 1998

Drinkwise helps you manage your alcohol use

Annalisa D. Van Houten
M-Fit Employee Wellness Program

In the past, conventional wisdom categorized drinkers as "social or responsible" or "alcoholics." We now know a third group of drinkers exists, those who are "at risk" for developing a problem, or problem drinkers who exhibit mild to moderate dependence.

While recent medical research suggests some benefits from moderate alcohol use, even small amounts can be harmful for certain individuals, such as pregnant women or people taking medications. Further risk also lies in combining drinking with driving or in using alcohol to cope with problems.

It all depends on how much, how often, for how long and in what ways you drink. These factors determine whether you will develop problems and the degree to which you are abusing or depending on alcohol.

"At risk" or mild to moderate problem drinkers have a choice between abstinence or moderation. Some individuals can decrease their alcohol consumption and eliminate the negative consequences that result from high risk use. This is done through obtaining new skills and following guidelines to achieve safer, lower-risk alcohol use.

DrinkWise, an alcohol management program offered by the Health System's Health Promotion Division, can help you cut back on your drinking or quit altogether.

DrinkWise is for individuals with mild to moderate alcohol problems who are motivated to eliminate the negative consequences of alcohol misuse. It is not for people who are severely dependent on alcohol.

If you want to change your drinking habits and believe you can, DrinkWise can help you establish a safer and healthier pattern of alcohol use either through abstinence or moderation; you decide.

When you cut down significantly or quit altogether, you lower your risk for many alcohol-related problems, be they physical, legal, family or emotional, or career- or job-related. DrinkWise's educational program helps individuals change their use of alcohol through a process of examining attitudes and behaviors, attaining new knowledge about drinking and developing specific skills to achieve healthier, more sensible drinking behaviors. The active involvement of a counselor is combined with the use of a client handbook, to help participants find alternatives to drinking, how to monitor themselves and provide pacing strategies, as well as find satisfying alcohol-free activities.

The program takes approximately seven weeks, with three formats to choose from: group, individual or telephone self-help. Three-month and nine-month follow-up sessions provide support and assess progress. Program participation is confidential.

DrinkWise success rates are encouraging. One year after the program, more than 70 percent of the clients have reported that they have maintained the elimination of all negative consequences related to alcohol consumption. In addition, clients who elect to drink moderately report drinking within the guidelines for safer, lower-risk alcohol use. Thanks to the significant decrease in alcohol consumption, the average client saves more than $1,000 each year. Program costs, around $500, are covered in a matter of months.

If you are interested in participating in this program, call for a free, confidential telephone consultation to answer any questions you may have.

DrinkWise is located at 527 E. Liberty St., Suite 209, above Schoolkid's Records. Office hours are 8 a.m.4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. Counselors are flexible and will work with you to select convenient appointment times, including evenings. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 747-9473 (WISE).

The Greater Detroit Area Health Council, in cooperation with the University and M-CARE, has been awarded a federal grant to study the effectiveness of the DrinkWise Program.