Alcohol is the third most widely abused substance by the entire US population. Often seen as a new issue among college students, adults also binge on alcohol leading to diseases associated with alcohol, like alcohol misuse or alcohol use disorder (AUD) and chronic liver problems in severe cases.
With the increasing intake of alcohol, especially among youths and adults, there is a need for a proper understanding of the risks associated with alcohol misuse, and that is what Alcohol Awareness Month is all about.
History of National Alcohol Awareness Month
April is recognized nationally as the month for alcohol awareness. This movement was started in 1987 by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD). It is an extension of the temperance movements from the 1800s. Their mission was to create widespread awareness of understanding the causes and treatment of alcohol misuse and the associated risks.
Their initial target was college students, but now, it has become a national movement to reach out to people of all ages and help them understand the dangers associated with alcohol misuse. The goal of alcohol awareness month is to refute myths related to alcoholism, increase understanding of AUD and reduce the stigma associated with alcohol addiction.
Importance of the Alcohol Awareness Month
People misuse several addictive substances, one of which is alcohol. Statistics from a 2018 study from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) showed that 85.6% of people ages 18 and above have drunk alcohol at least once. It also reported that in 2014, 31% of driving fatalities resulted from alcohol-impaired driving. Also, each year, 80,000 plus people suffer from alcohol-related causes.
Another study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism(NIAAA) showed that teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year, more than the use of all other illegal drugs combined. Also, over 14.5 million people between the ages of 12 and above struggle with an alcohol disorder.
Here’s the scary and unfortunate stat; only less than 10% receive help or attend rehabilitation centers. 10%!
The effect of alcohol abuse extends far beyond the user and can pose a risk to others. The more people realize the risks associated with alcohol misuse, know the signs and symptoms of alcohol disorder, and how to access resources for treatment, the more people would feel comfortable reaching out for help. People need to know that AUD is a treatable chronic disease.
Another issue with people who struggle with alcoholism is that they live in denial of the amount of alcohol they consume and underestimate how much they rely on alcohol to function. Alcohol awareness month aims to enlighten people on the addictive effect alcohol has and how to break free.
An essential part of the awareness month is staying dry. Participants choose a long weekend in April and stay away from alcohol for 72hours. It is called an alcohol-free weekend. This practice aims to gauge the body’s reaction to these alcohol-free days.
Encourage recovering alcoholics and others to stay away totally from alcohol from Friday to Sunday as a way to check their alcohol dependence. If an individual has become so used to alcohol, sudden withdrawal can produce symptoms like sweating, nausea, insomnia, and headaches. If staying away from alcohol for 72 hours proves difficult, they should see their doctor or visit a treatment facility to learn more about alcoholism and how to deal with it.
To support this movement, you can choose to host alcohol-free gatherings or parties for the whole of April.
How to Support the Awareness Month
Treatment facilities, schools, and organizations can be involved in the awareness month by conducting education campaigns on the dangers of unhealthy alcohol consumption. As a facility owner, you can get involved by sharing resources on how people can get help for an alcoholic friend or loved one with practical strategies to stay sober. You can help them feel comfortable asking for help and knowing that it’s OK to not be OK.
The NCADD encourages people to actively participate in the month’s activities to help understand how alcohol misuse affects lives and how to find treatment resources.
The following are some ways to get involved in this month’s awareness program:
- Plan, promote, and attend events and campaigns to spread widespread knowledge of alcohol and its ills.
- Host your own event to uplift and offer support to those that may be unsure about how to start living alcohol-free.
- Join or spark a conversation on Twitter on tracking alcohol consumption
- Launch a social media campaign on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or other platforms to highlight warning signs of alcohol dependence
- Utilize print media and distribute flyers on how to talk to a loved one with a drinking problem
- Champion a campaign to increase understanding about how the stigma against alcohol-dependent people prevents them from seeking early treatment.
How to help someone with a drinking problem
Even as you try to spread awareness about alcohol use and dependency, you can also provide help to alcohol-dependent people. Consider taking the following steps:
- First, ensure you know all about Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).
- Be kind even as you express your concerns about their alcohol dependence.
- Lovingly express that the recovery process will be a lengthy one.
- Realize that the person may need help from addiction specialists.
- Offer support and be positive.
- Listen to their response and be ready for any adverse reaction.
- Give them time to decide on the next step.
- Urge them to take an alcohol addiction assessment and attend alcohol recovery meetings.