A Tricky Problem

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Alcohol Abuse Overview

When you suspect your brother has a problem with alcohol abuse, you struggle to understand the problem, support your family, and help other people in your school community to better recognize the signs of addictions.

The Situation

“Deesha, What am I going to do?” said Meara to her best friend.   “I know I said I wouldn’t tell Mom and Dad about seeing Chris drinking, but I’m getting really worried about him. I don’t even know him anymore! He gets so mad sometimes, but other times he just sits and stares! He says he doesn’t drink that much, but I know when he stays in his room or goes to Joe’s house most of the weekend, he’s wasted.”

“Meara, you promised him! You can’t tell now or he’ll never forgive you! Your mom and dad will freak out and you’ll cause so much trouble.  If you think Chris will ever speak to you again, you’re wrong.  My brother would never speak to me if I did something like that!”

“Deesha, he’s gotten really bad, though. His grades are bad and they used to be so important to him.  He wanted to get into Delmare University with a good scholarship and his grades are so low now that he probably can’t get in, let alone get a scholarship.  My family can’t afford to pay for it all if he doesn’t qualify for a scholarship and he doesn’t have a chance now.”

stressed male teen sits on park bench“You can probably help him more if you don’t cause all that trouble. I’m telling you—don’t rat on him!” whispers Deesha as Meara’s mom comes into the room.

“I’m sorry, Deesha, but you have to go home now,” said Meara’s mom.

What’s wrong, Mom?  You look awful!”

“Meara, your brother just called from the police station. He has been arrested for driving under the influence and has caused a bad accident.  They’re not sure if the people in the other car will make it or not. We have to go down to the police station and see about getting him bailed out and find out about those poor people.  I just can’t believe this.  I can’t believe this has happened! “


The news of Chris’s arrest and the possible deaths of the three people in the other car hit your school community hard. In your state, Chris could get up to 20 years in prison for vehicular homicide. Students have a lot of questions and are not getting a lot of correct information.

Guidance and health classes review alcohol abuse and the school had planned a drug awareness program even before this tragedy. Now that it is a real-life situation in their world and not just another chapter in a health book, you think that your classmates will take it more seriously.

You and some of Chris’s other friends volunteer to work on a alcohol abuse presentation as part of the school’s program. You want to be a part of the program so you can help other students who may be in the same situation. You want to help students who may be abusing alcohol and also family members like Meara who didn’t know what to do about her brother’s alcohol addiction. You don’t want to pass up this opportunity to help. Just maybe some of them will relate more to this sad case than they did when they discussed alcohol use in health class.

School organizers want students to take an active role in the program and they enthusiastically agree to your group’s participation. Now, you and your friends have to plan your program.

What will you tell students about alcohol abuse? Make an outline for the topics and information that you want them to know. You know you won’t talk about Meara and her family directly, but you’ll feel comfortable talking about the issues surrounding alcohol abuse if you can find out a lot about them.

Your Tasks—Part I. Alcohol Abuse Effects

  • Decide on a plan that you would use to talk to someone you suspect of having a problem with alcohol abuse. Be specific with your ideas.
  • Make a presentation for your school assembly that will provide information about the effects of alcohol abuse on the body.
  • To be able to explain the health issues that surround alcohol abuse as well as the social and emotional consequences to an addict’s life.
  • Research alcoholism and alcohol abuse to prepare for your presentation. You can use any kind of presentation aid available to you, including PowerPoint. (Your teacher may have other requirements.)
  • Be prepared with statistics to back up your presentation. Epidemiologists track trends, use, increases and decreases, locations, persons, age, and many other factors as they study the incidence of drug abuse. These statistics may be a powerful tool to help students and adults understand the scope of the problem.
  • Be prepared to answer the questions presented in this module.
  • Be prepared to answer the questions from your classmates or teacher as they play the roles of other students or teachers at the school who will be interested in finding out about alcohol abuse and how to cope with it.
  • Based on the results of your classroom presentation, evaluate how effective your plan was helping students understand the challenges of helping someone who abuses alcohol. What could you have done differently? What else could you do that may help?


Guiding Questions:

  1. What are the effects of alcohol abuse? Explain the effects of alcohol on the various body systems. Be sure to list short-term and long-term effects. 
  2. Meara saw her brother drinking, but what are some other signs that pointed to her brother being in some kind of trouble? What are other signs to look for? 
  3. How could Meara have approached the problem of her brother’s drug use?

What could she have said or done? Draft a list of actions that Meara could have done or discussions Meara could have had with Chris, her parents, and other people that could have approached the problem.  Be specific. List the person and the approach and content you would use if you were in this situation.

Include your approach as part of your presentation to the class. Other students may have questions or comments about your presentation.  Be prepared to talk about why you think your approach will work and back up your conclusions about Chris’s possible future with specific examples.

  1. What kinds of treatments are available to help someone overcome an alcohol addiction? 
  2. Is Chris an alcoholic? Defend your opinion.


Part II—Genetics vs the Environment  

Model of double helix structure of DNA
Double helix structure of DNA

Meara finally recognizes that Chris was just not drinking alcohol a lot. He was addicted.

When she talked to another friend about this, the friend comments that Chris probably wasn’t going to take the conversation well, considering the mood he’s been in lately. She also worries that Chris is really asking for trouble. She tells you that she knows that Joe, Chris’s friend smokes and drinks a lot and he’s wasted every weekend!

You just heard a report about a study being done to find out if addiction is inherited or if it is more of an environmental issue—if you’re around an addict maybe there’s a greater risk of picking up addictive habits.  If you knew more about this, you might be able to help your friends even more.

Guiding Questions:

  1. Investigate the genetic and environmental links to addiction. What conclusions do you draw from your research? 
  2. In this case, do you think Chris’s alcohol abuse is inherited or has it been influenced by his environment? Why do you think that?


A wrecked care lays on its side at the crash scenePart III—Risky behaviors  

Chris and his family hear about the people in the car that Chris hit while driving under the influence of alcohol. They are all still in critical condition, but thankfully, they have all survived so far.

As grateful as Chris and his family are for that news, Chris is not out of trouble. A DUI (driving under the influence) with injuries can result in an Aggravated DUI Assault charge which is a second-degree felony with prison time and heavy fines.  If a DUI results in the death of someone, it is a vehicular homicide charge that carries a longer prison term and fines.

Driving under the influence is just one of the risky behaviors that people do when their judgement is impaired.

Guiding Questions:

  1. Drug use is also tied to a lot of other risky behaviors. Cite some of these behaviors and explain how other risks are associated with drug use.



  1. What will be the some of the consequences of Chris’s alcohol abuse? How will this tragedy affect his life? What are the long term effects? Describe the consequences to all aspects of his life now and in his future.