Archives for June 2018

Restricting Alcohol Access Can Save Lives

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

Do deaths from alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes decrease when states enact more restrictive alcohol policies? It’s a question being asked by researchers in a new study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Tougher Alcohol Policies Mean Fewer Deaths

“Association of State Alcohol Policies with Alcohol-Related Motor Vehicle Crash Fatalities Among US Adults” examined how the strictness of state alcohol policies, or “alcohol policy environments,” impact the number of drunk-driving deaths. Ultimately, the researchers found a strong link between the two.

Alcohol policy expert Dr. Timothy Naimi and his team analyzed 15 years of crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) run by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. To measure the alcohol policy environment, the researchers developed the Alcohol Policy Scale (APS), which lists 29 possible alcohol policies in all 50 states.

Examples of policies incorporated into the APS include strictly enforced minimum drinking age laws, zero-tolerance for underage drinking, fake ID laws, and liability for house parties. Other policies focused on alcohol distribution, such as raising alcohol taxes, Sunday sales laws, limitations on liquor store licensing, restricting sales hours, and open container laws.

The researchers concluded that a “10–percentage point increase in the restrictiveness of the state alcohol policy environment was associated with a 10% reduced odds that a crash fatality was alcohol related.” Meaning, by increasing the strength of their alcohol policies by 10%, states could save nearly 800 lives a year, or “about 15 fewer crash fatalities annually in an averaged-sized state.”

The findings verified the researcher’s hypothesis: stronger regulations for alcohol purchases, consumption, and driving while impaired results in fewer deaths attributed to alcohol-related crashes.

The Toll of Drunk Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that over one million drivers were arrested for alcohol or drug-related DUIs in 2016, but that’s only 1% of the over 111 million self-reported episodes in which people admit to being intoxicated while driving. On average, drunk driving kills more than 10,000 people each year in the U.S.—nearly 29 people a day or one person every 50 minutes.

Stronger alcohol policies such as minimum drinking age laws, sobriety checkpoints, and the .08% blood-alcohol limit have led to a reduction in the number of total drunk driving deaths in recent years, but more can be done to save lives.

“It’s a drinking, not just driving, problem, and folks don’t tend to make good decisions once impaired,” Dr. Naimi told Reuters. “Our study shows that polices targeting both aspects of the equation are helpful, though we could do a lot better on both,” he added. “Having a smaller pool of impaired people available to drive is a big help in reducing impaired driving.”

NADCP Conference Highlights Individual Experiences Of Alcohol Addiction And Abuse

This was originally posted at The Sobering Up Blog by Scramsystems

We spent a week at the National Association for Drug Court Professionals (NADCP) Annual Conference where a common theme emerged about the individualistic nature of alcohol addiction and abuse. Many DUI treatment courts and corrections programs have the same requirements for every alcohol client regardless of their risk and need levels, which can negatively impact their outcomes.

We summarized a few of the workshops that supported the idea that DUI courts and treatment programs find the most success when they develop requirements that support individual alcohol clients based on their needs and risks.

Combating Bias in Alcohol Programs

In their session, “Moving Targets: Critical Considerations for the DWI Court Population,” Shane Wolf of the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC) and Julie Seitz of the Center for Alcohol & Drug Treatment covered ways to overcome preconceived notions about alcohol clients in order to place them in the most appropriate DUI program.

The presenters noted that while alcoholism and alcohol abuse knows no bias against its sufferers, research shows that sometimes parole officers, treatment providers, and evaluators experience an implicit bias against alcohol clients that can negatively affect their recovery. For example, clients that are good candidates for certain programs may not be enrolled because the evaluator does not believe they will succeed.

By treating alcohol clients as individuals through encouraging them to tell their unique story and focusing on the facts of their history, evaluators can combat this unconscious bias and connect clients with the most effective program that best fits their needs. Programs that adequately combine validated assessment and screening tools and realistic expectations based on clients’ risk and need levels will ultimately produce the best outcomes.

Alcohol Programs Should Not Be “One Size Fits All”

“Cut DUI Recidivism for Good: A Multi-Track DUI Court Approach to Repeat Offenders,” presented by Judge Richard Vlavianos of the San Joaquin County DUI Monitoring Court, provided a detailed look at how courts that supervise a wide range of alcohol clients can integrate different alcohol monitoring technologies to best fit the spectrum of offenders.

Judge Vlavianos noted that the most successful DUI court programs assess and account for the different risk and need levels of participants. In fact, programs meant for higher-risk alcohol clients can actually have a negative effect on those with lower risks and needs by influencing them to recidivate or regress in their recovery.

Instead of relying on a “one size fits all” approach, the session examined how DUI courts can experience better results by developing different track systems with monitoring technologies and tactics that more appropriately “fit the crime.” Track systems can also be used to incentivize compliance or provide sanctions if participants are able to move to a different track based on their behavior.

The San Joaquin DUI Monitoring Court (SJDMC) successfully reduced annual DUI arrests by 66% and alcohol-involved collisions by 46% by integrating a track system with alcohol monitoring tailored to their unique offender population.

Breaking the Stigma of Alcoholism

Tara Handron of Caron Treatment Centers offered an interesting look at the individuality of alcoholism and recovery in the session “Drunk with Hope: A One Woman Show,” based on her research on recovering female alcoholics and their varied experiences with AA, 12-Step programs, and online recovery meetings.

Despite being a legal substance, a social stigma exists around alcoholics—oftentimes they are portrayed as “bums” or party animals that can’t seem to turn their life around. Through her dynamic and diverse characters, Tara illustrated that the person you least expect could be an alcoholic, and the story behind each individual’s addiction and recovery differs from person to person.

Understanding that alcohol addiction and abuse affects people very differently can help DUI courts, corrections, and treatment providers create programs that support the individualistic needs of clients and ultimately produce the best recovery outcomes.