Drinking problem: County medical director discusses alcohol abuse problem


Excessive drinking is a problem in Auglaize County, as shown by a study released this month by the University of Wisconsion, data that bothers the county’s medical director.

According to that study, Auglaize County ranked 15th among the 88 counties in the state, a decline in recent years, but especially troubling to the county’s Medical Director Dr. Juan Torres is the county’s 15 percent score for excessive drinking.

The number was 3 percent less than the state percentage of 18, but double the national benchmark of 7 percent, according to the study. 

The figures, which point to a large portion of the county’s population which abuses alcohol, concerned Torres enough that he addressed it in depth.

He said part of the problem is that drinking is indoctrinated in the local culture, that when there is cause for a celebration, it should be celebrated with alcohol.

Torres said it isn’t a new phenomenon as alcohol’s cultural influence can be seen through the years in film, from cowboys bellying up to the bar to order a whiskey to James Bond and his signature martinis and Carrie Bradshaw and the gang from “Sex and the City” and their often colorful cocktails.

“If your team wins, you’re supposed to have a drink,” Torres said of cultural persuasion. “If you are sad, drink your sorrows away.

“Culturally, everything we do in life we have to have some alcohol, but it causes problems in society and our own lives,” he said.

Torres said while everyone has heard of the health problems alcohol abuse can cause, it can cause social problems — relationship troubles, skirmishes with the law, loss of employment.

“How much is too much when we hear reports that if we drink a little it is good for our health?” Torres asked.

He said excessive drinking is defined as a woman drinking up to three drinks per day or seven drinks in a week and a man drinking up to four drinks per day or 14 drinks in a week. 

Torres said alcohol abuse also may be a problem if someone has trouble quitting or can’t control how much they drink, if they develop tolerance to alcohol and need to drink more to have the same effect, or if they start to develop physical symptoms, such as feeling sick to their stomach, anxious or sweating because they haven’t had a drink.

“If they try to cut back but can’t, it’s a problem, also if it is not just affecting you, but it becomes a problem for people around you,” Torres said. “If it is affecting your health or you feel guilty about it or your friends or family are telling you you drink too much, if those things happen, you need to get help.”

The county medical director said alcoholism is a chronic disease and doesn’t happen or get fixed overnight.

“It’s not a lack of will, but is a chronic medical illness like diabetes,” Torres said. 

He said there are a lot of places people can go to for help, but he recommends starting with their family physician or pastor.

“It’s very difficult to do by yourself, get help,” Torres said.