Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence as a way of increasing outreach and education regarding the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol. The program was started in April 1987 with the intention of targeting college-aged students who might be drinking too much as part of their newfound freedom. It has since become a national movement to draw more attention to the causes and effects of alcoholism as well as how to help families and communities deal with drinking problems.

The Importance of Alcohol Awareness Month

A big part of Alcohol Awareness Month is to point out the stigma that still surrounds alcoholism and substance abuse. For many, denial is a common trait among those struggling with alcoholism. They often underestimate the amount they drink, the duration of their drinking problem, the impact it has had on their life, their families and friends or overestimate their ability to control their drinking or to quit. Denial is also common among friends and family members who are uncomfortable acknowledging the reality of the situation.

Alcohol Awareness Month gives us public awareness, 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.

Organizations, which are part of National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s (NCADD) National Network of Affiliate has launched campaigns on social and traditional media during the month of April to draw attention to the causes of alcoholism, signs and effects of the condition, how to talk to a loved one about a drinking problem, and how to find treatment options.

This can include advertising, especially in areas that are prone to abusive alcohol consumption like college campuses. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 54.9% of full-time college ages 18 to 22 students drank alcohol in the past month among, 36.9% engaged in binge drinking in the past month, and 9.65% engaged in heavy alcohol use. Programs like Alcohol Awareness Month help to ensure that families and communities have the resources, information, and options available to control the crisis of alcoholism.

The Prevalence of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the U.S.

The dangers of alcohol abuse go beyond college kids getting too drunk at parties. An estimated 14.4 million Americans ages 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2018 according to NSDUH. Across the nation, 26.45% individuals 18 and older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month (typically 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in about 2 hours) while 6.6% engaged in heavy alcohol use (binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month) in the past month.

Each year, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually and in 2014 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 31% of overall driving fatalities (9,967 deaths). These deaths could have been avoided, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

Drinking-related costs had reached an estimated $249 billion in the U.S. in 2010, with binge drinking accounting for three-quarters of this economic burden. Every $2 of every $5 were paid by federal, state, and local governments, meaning all Americans are paying for excessive alcohol use—no matter your level of consumption.

These numbers suggest that problematic alcohol use continues to plague our society, awareness about addiction and its harmful effects on our lives, is necessary to protect our loved ones and selves.

What to Expect During Alcohol Awareness Month

In 2017, Frances M. Harding, the Director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, singled out the alarming rates of alcohol consumption in colleges and universities as an example of why Alcohol Awareness Month is important. Binge drinking is often thought of as a rite of passage, and many fraternities and sororities use alcohol in hazing rituals that often turn deadly. College administrations and state governments are turning to “creative prevention strategies” to address the epidemic, and Alcohol Awareness Month gives them the platform to spread the message.

Twin Couny Recovery Services located at Greene County Outpatient Clinic, 428 West Main St., Catskill, 518-828-9300; Columbia County, 350 Power Ave., PO Box 635, Hudson, 518-943-2036.

This article was created by Kim Haley, Prevention Counselor at Twin Counties Recovery Services, Inc.

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