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Drinking in Dickinson: A Reflection of Alcohol Use in a Small Town

by Quinci Paine

December 2019

Though alcohol may be the beverage of choice at many celebrations and social activities, Dickinson citizens have shared in surveys that they are concerned about alcohol overuse.

In 2010, the cost of alcohol-related problems in North Dakota was almost $49 million dollars, translating into about a dollar and a half per drink. Though the largest costs are due to lost work, costs are also linked to medical services, law enforcement services, and issues associated with car crashes.

The latest medical information suggests that there are no health benefits to drinking any alcohol. While this means no alcohol is the best alcohol, completely avoiding it is not a reasonable expectation. What can be avoided is alcohol misuse. How much is too much alcohol? Medical providers have guidelines. Moderate alcohol use is defined as continuous use of one drink daily for women or men older than 65. For men age 65 and younger, the amount is 2 daily drinks. Binge drinking, four or five drinks in a short period of time is also a problem.

Consuming too much of any type of alcohol – beer, wine, or distilled spirits, sometimes referred to as "hard liquor" – affects the user's relationships and work. It can also lead to medical problems like strokes, liver damage, and increases the chance of having cancer of all types.

Often people with misuse patterns feel that they are unable to control their alcohol consumption. Why substance misuse develops in some people and not others remains a mystery. Whatever the cause, it requires medical treatment and community support. In Dickinson, and in most of North Dakota, there is a great need for more support of those struggling with alcohol. With lack of available specialists, patients may have to travel to other cities to receive treatment, which sometimes is very expensive. The Dickinson medical providers can help when patterns of regular alcohol use and binge drinking becomes a self-identified problem, or a problem seen in friends or family. The local Alcoholics Anonymous organization can help provide social support and structure. If there are concerns about alcohol misuse talk to a medical provider. Alcohol misuse can affect anyone.

This article also appeared in the December 2019 issue of the Dickinson Press.

About the Author

Quinci Paine is a third year medical student at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences. She was selected as the Dickinson participant for the school's ROME program, or Rural Opportunities in Medical Education. The program includes teaching student doctors the importance of rural newspapers. As a future rural healthcare leader, Paine has written this column to provide health information for her ROME community. The information is not for diagnosis or treatment and should not be used in place of previous medical advice provided by a licensed practitioner.