Alcohol Awareness Month: What You Need to Know
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about the prevalence and dangers of alcohol misuse and addiction. Started by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), this annual event aims to help people better understand Alcohol Use Disorders, to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse, and learn the options for treatment.
What is an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
An Alcohol Use Disorder is a medical condition characterized by a pattern of alcohol use that includes the inability to control drinking, a preoccupation with alcohol, or continuing to drink despite the negative health, social, or career consequences. A person with an AUD may also have an increased tolerance to alcohol, having to drink more to reach their desired effect. They will often also experience withdrawal symptoms, like shaking, increased heart rate, or sweating, when they cut down or stop their drinking.
Sometimes called alcohol abuse, alcohol misuse, or by the common term alcoholism, alcohol use disorders are classified as mild, moderate, or severe, with risks and health issues that increase at each stage.
What are the Risks of Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol misuse and abuse can lead to many physical health problems, including liver damage, heart disease, and cancer. Overindulging in alcohol is also often linked to accidents and injuries. In addition, a person’s mental health can be impacted by alcohol use. While drinking might seem to positively impact a person’s mood in the short term, studies show that prolonged alcohol use is linked to increased anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), long-term risks of alcohol abuse include:
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems
- Cancer, including breast, mouth, throat, esophageal, voice box, liver, colon, and rectal
- Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of contracting illnesses
- Learning and memory problems
- Mental health issues, including depression and anxiety
- Social and relationship issues
- Problems at work or school
While an alcohol use disorder is likely to cause significant health consequences, even moderate consumption can pose a risk.
Current Alcohol Use Statistics
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Misuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), 14.4 million adults in the United States have an alcohol use disorder. Of these, 7.3 million are men, and 7.1 million are women.
The NIAAA also estimates that alcohol costs the United States $249 billion annually in lost productivity, healthcare costs, and crime.
- The Centers for Disease Control state that during 2015-2019, excessive alcohol use was responsible for more than 140,000 deaths and 3.6 million years of potential life lost each year, on average. While alcohol-related deaths are more common among men, the CDC reported a dramatic increase among women during the pandemic. In 2020, deaths from alcohol among females aged 35–44 rose by 42%, followed by a 34% increase for women aged 25–34.
Despite the known risks and negative consequences, less than 1 in 10 people with an alcohol use disorder seek treatment.
Getting Help for Your Alcohol Use
If you are struggling with your alcohol use, don’t wait to get help.
Speak with a doctor or therapist or contact an addiction treatment program provider, like Bradford Health Services, for a confidential consultation. A professional assessment is necessary to determine the type and level of treatment you need.
How Can You Help Someone Who is Struggling with Alcohol?
If you are concerned that a loved one may have a drinking problem, encourage them to get help. Talk to them about your concerns, offer support, and seek resources such as medical and clinical professionals, alcohol addiction treatment programs, and recovery support groups. Many recovery programs and organizations also provide support for family members and friends.
If you or someone close to you is struggling with alcohol, we can help. Call us today and begin the path to sobriety at 1-888-SOBER-40.