The following column also appeared in the Home News Tribune.
Every year, April is recognized as Alcohol Awareness Month. So once again I am given the opportunity to stand on a soap box and share some information that will hopefully help readers to understand the danger of alcohol over-indulgence.
This year, recent news indicates that alcohol-related deaths have spiked during the pandemic, made me realize that most folks are not aware that alcohol is the number one substance use issue this country faces. Simply, deaths from alcohol abuse were up 25 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, amid heightened stress factors and delayed treatment. According to this new study, the number of Americans who died of alcohol-related causes increased precipitously during the first year of the pandemic, as routines were disrupted, support networks frayed and treatment was delayed.
Another bit of relevant information you need to keep in mind. Alcohol is the most widely used substance among teens and young adults, and it poses substantial health and safety risks. Although young people tend to drink less often than adults do, when they do drink, they frequently drink more or more intensely compared to the average adult. That’s because young people consume more than 90% of their alcohol by binge drinking.
So. As you continue reading, please keep something in mind. I don’t drink. Mostly because I really don’t like the taste of alcohol. But I also don’t mean to preach. I don’t go to events (social or professional) and tell people not to drink. I do ask that they do so responsibly. But I digress.
Founded and sponsored by NCADD, Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 to help reduce the stigma so often associated with alcoholism by encouraging communities to reach out to the American public each April with information about alcohol, alcoholism and recovery.
Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease, genetically predisposed and fatal if untreated. However people can and do recover. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 20 million individuals and family members are living lives in recovery!
Alcohol Awareness Month provides a focused opportunity across America to increase awareness and understanding of alcoholism, its causes, effective treatment and recovery. It is an opportunity to decrease stigma and misunderstandings in order to dismantle the barriers to treatment and recovery, and thus, make seeking help more readily available to those who suffer from this disease. And just what are the effects of alcohol misuse and abuse? Below are some stats:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) excessive alcohol is responsible for 95,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
- Excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States $249 billion—about $807 per person.
- Approximately one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers.
- About 3 million violent crimes occur each year in which victims perceive the offender to have been drinking.
People drink to socialize, celebrate, and relax. Alcohol often has a strong effect on people – and throughout history, we’ve struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power. Why does alcohol cause us to act and feel differently? How much is too much? Why do some people become addicted while others do not?
Organizations like the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), are constantly researching the answers for questions about alcohol. Based on some of the findings, here’s what we know: Alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:
- How much you drink
- How often you drink
- Your age
- Your health status
- Your family history
While drinking alcohol is itself not necessarily a problem – drinking too much can cause a range of consequences, and increase your risk for a variety of problems.
And there are sever consequences to drinking too much. Did you know that alcohol enters your bloodstream as soon as you take your first sip? Alcohol’s immediate effects can appear within about 10 minutes. As you drink, you increase your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, which is the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream. The higher your BAC, the more impaired you become by alcohol’s effects. These effects can include: reduced inhibitions; motor impairment, confusion, memory problems, and more.
Other risks of drinking can include: car crashes and other accidents, risky and violent behavior, and suicide and homicide.
Overcoming an addiction to alcohol can be a long and bumpy road. At times, it may even feel impossible. But it’s not. If you’re ready to stop drinking and willing to get the support you need, you can recover from alcoholism and alcohol abuse—no matter how bad the addiction or how powerless you feel. You don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change at any time. Call our helpline at 732-254-3344 for more information or a referral. You can also access our online referral tool at https://wellspringprevention.org/help-tool.
Ezra Helfand is CEO/Executive Director of the Wellspring Center for Prevention. You can reach him at email@example.com.