April is Alcohol Awareness Month
In the United States, alcohol is one of the most consumed substances among youths and adults alike. For centuries, it has been a societal crutch bringing people together. The common and shared excuse to drink for those who are either mourning, celebrating, or even doing something as menial as getting off work. It’s the go-to activity, marketed and branded as not only a good time, but as a way to destress.
And it makes sense why.
Functioning as a sedative, alcohol relaxes you and momentarily puts any problems on pause. It lowers inhibitions and provides a false sense of courage, perhaps the type we wish we possessed otherwise.
Sure, drinking moderately isn’t necessarily dangerous. But when people drink irresponsibly and are solely relying on it as a confidence booster or as means to unwind, it can become a problem.
A tolerance can develop. Meaning, more alcohol will be needed to produce the same effects. And with tolerance can come dependence, which can lead to addiction, bringing with it a slew of damaging effects.
So with April being National Alcohol Awareness month, here’s a closer look at alcohol use disorder (AUD) and why this national campaign is so important.
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
In 1956, the American Medical Association (AMA) designated alcoholism as a major medical problem. It recognized it as a chronic yet treatable brain disorder, marked by compulsive drinking, loss of control over alcohol use, and negative emotions when not drinking. Both binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female) in about 2 hours) and heavy alcohol use (consuming more than 14 drinks per week (male), or more than 7 drinks per week (female)), can increase the risk of developing an AUD.
It’s so prevalent that according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 15 million people – ages 12 years and older – had an AUD.
According to American Addiction Centers (AAC), approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year, and in 2014 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 31 percent of overall driving fatalities.
To add insult to injury, the financial burden associated with this disease is one that weighs heavily on the economy. The AAC further says that in 2010, drinking-related costs reached an estimated $249 billion in the United States, with binge drinking accounting for three-quarters of the economic burden. And $2 of every $5 were paid by federal, state and local governments, meaning all Americans are paying for excessive alcohol use, whether or not they drink.
Clearly, the devastation excessive alcohol use can cause is massive, which is why awareness and education is so vital.
What is Alcohol Awareness Month?
Sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), Alcohol Awareness Month is a campaign aimed to increase awareness and understanding of the causes and treatment of one of the nation’s top public health problems: alcoholism.
Established in 1987, the NCADD’s mission originally focused on educating college students about the risks of alcohol use. It has since evolved into a national movement, helping people of all communities and of all ages. NCADD, an advocacy organization made up of individuals from the medical scientific, political and social fields, created a public health outreach program to not only spread awareness, but reduce the stigma associated with alcohol addiction. The latter of which is paramount.
Denial, according to AAC, is a common trait among those struggling with AUD. As it can be among friends and family members, who are uncomfortable acknowledging the gravity and reality of the situation. Alcohol Awareness Month provides resources, information and options available to all in effort to combat the crisis.
Local, state and national organizations, along with treatment centers and clinical professionals engage in Alcohol Awareness Month. Through educational outreach and events (both in person and virtual), community partnerships, advertising and marketing campaigns, the NCAAD and its affiliates will give public health bodies, community centers, and treatment facilities the chance to increase their efforts to reach people, who may not fully appreciate the dangers of unhealthy alcohol consumption.
How to Support Alcohol Awareness Month
According to the NCADD, you can make a difference by:
- Planning, promoting or attending events that increase your understanding on the effects, treatment and prevention of AUD.
- Using the hashtag #AlcoholAwarenessMonth on social media, while sharing and increasing awareness about the disease.
- Limiting consumption by keeping track of quantity consumed.
- Encouraging parents to discuss alcohol abuse with children.
- Talking about options with patients, if you’re in the healthcare industry.
- Launching social and traditional media campaigns, highlighting the warning signs of AUD, advocating treatment and sharing tips on how to talk to loved ones about addiction.
The following organizations provide helpful resources:
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) partnered to produce two videos, “Teens and Alcohol: A Bad Mix” and “College and Drinking: A Risky Curriculum.”
- Another CADCA video developed in partnership with the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health “Regulating Alcohol Outlet Density: An Action Guide,” offers community prevention strategies to decrease alcohol use in a given geographic area.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) provides talking points for parents and guardians approaching children about underage drinking through their campaign, “Talk. They hear you.”
Tackling addiction isn’t easy and neither is finding the courage to talk about it. But through awareness and education, a level of understanding is born. And that can make your loved one or even yourself, one step closer toward recovery.