This year The Council on Alcohol & Drug Abuse is proud to celebrate 70 years of service. Following World War II, the rate of alcoholism in our country sky-rocketed, and so a group of concerned and inspirational Dallas business leaders got together and started a movement. They held their first meeting at the Dallas Athletic Club on June 15, 1946 and named their new organization the "Dallas Committee for Education of Alcoholism." On September 29, 1946, the
Dallas Morning News published an article announcing that the Committee was opening an information center whose purpose was to direct a "scientific, coordinated attack on alcoholism." The group's core values were (1) Alcoholism is a disease; (2) The alcoholic can be helped and is worth helping; (3) Alcoholism is a public health problem and therefore a public responsibility. The organization's early challenges included the fact that those concepts were not as strongly embraced as they are today. Also, although Alcoholics Anonymous was already on the scene, evidence-based protocols for treatment were not yet well-developed. Finally, addressing prevention by way of a community-based approach was still a new idea.
The name changed, and over the years the Council's mission remained largely the same, but specific programs and activities were added, eliminated or altered many times, responding to changes in the environment and community needs. One of the biggest changes took place in the early 1980's when the Council added drug abuse to its mission.
Today we celebrate many accomplishments. At the same time, we face a whole new set of challenges. First, stigma persists, and it hinders our ability to obtain broad-based community support, including financial support. Second, specific drug trends are very different and far more dangerous than they were in 1946. Underage drinking is widespread and its associated consequences can be catastrophic. Prescription drugs are the second-most abused category of drugs after marijuana, and many who become addicted to prescription pain killers move on to heroin when they no longer can afford the more costly narcotics. Synthetic drugs and synthetic cannabinoids have resulted in thousands of calls to poison control centers, a growing number of visits to the emergency room, and some deaths. And our marijuana prevention efforts with youth are becoming increasingly difficult largely due to marijuana legalization in some states and the growing perception that marijuana is safe.
So, what are we doing about it? First, Council staff and volunteers work to prevent problems before they occur through our Prevention Resource Center, public awareness campaigns, workshops, and three coalitions we fund and facilitate: the Dallas Area Drug Prevention Partnership, the Alliance on Underage Drinking, and Tobacco-Free North Texas. Second, we intervene when problems ultimately do occur through our information helpline, our "Positive Action" program for at-risk youth, and community outreach activities. And third, we promote recovery for people already affected through our strong relationships with area treatment providers and recovery groups, and through our HIV programs that work with those uniquely affected by both a substance use disorder and an HIV diagnosis.
Why do we do it? Our mission statement says it well:
To improve the health, safety and productivity of our communities by reducing the incidence and impact of alcohol and drug abuse. We could not do it without your support. It's only because of you, our contributors and other friends, that we are able to offer resources and healthier, safer choices to our children, our families, our workforce, and our communities. Seventy years, and many more to come. Thank you.