It’s the end of April and spring is in the air, it’s a good time to be thankful for everything we have in our lives. We have made it through another cold winter and, with summer on the horizon, it’s time to get ready to get out and enjoy the warmer weather.
April is also an important month because it is Alcohol Awareness Month. Alcohol Awareness Month is a way to remind people of the dangers of drinking and how heavy, regular, and prolonged drinking can lead to things like alcohol abuse, dependency, and addiction.
Alcohol Awareness Month is also an important reminder that for those who may be struggling with their drinking, help is available at the Discovery Institute of New Jersey. Although the month is nearly over, now is still a good time to reflect on what Alcohol Awareness Month brings to our attention: the importance of avoiding alcoholism and the issues that surround it.
Why Do People Drink Alcohol?
People drink for a variety of reasons. Some people drink socially, have an occasional drink after work, or drink when they are out with friends or at a party. Others, while still drinking responsibly, may enjoy the effects of alcohol and drink more often.
Another subset of drinkers participates in what is known as binge drinking. Binge drinking occurs when you drink a significant amount of alcohol in a short time to try to get drunk quickly. Binge drinking is particularly popular amongst teens and college students who may be experimenting with alcohol for the first time or may be drinking as a result of peer and societal pressure.
A 3rd subset of drinkers use alcohol as a way to escape the struggles of reality or don’t know how to properly address their mental health struggles. These people drink as a form of self-medication so they can feel better, even if just for a brief amount of time.
While many people can drink and not develop an alcohol addiction, many people develop an alcohol addiction as a result of their drinking. Binge drinkers and those drinking as a form of self-medication are particularly prone to developing an alcohol-related issue, whether it be alcohol abuse, dependency, or addiction.
What Is an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
Simply put, Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the medical term for alcohol addiction. Like other types of addiction, an Alcohol Use Disorder is a chronic disease characterized by uncontrolled drinking and preoccupation with alcohol.
As an officially recognized mental health condition by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), an AUD can be considered mild, moderate, or severe.
Characteristics That Indicate Alcohol Use Disorder
According to the DSM-5, to qualify for an Alcohol Use Disorder, a person must have displayed the following characteristics:
- Tried to cut down or stop drinking unsuccessfully
- Drank more or for a longer time than intended
- Gotten sick as a result of drinking
- Had such a strong craving for alcohol that you couldn’t think or do anything else
- Drinking or recovering from drinking was preventing you from completing daily tasks or requirements
- Continued drinking despite the negative consequences
- Prioritized drinking over other previously enjoyed activities
- Performed dangerous activities as a result of drinking
- Having to drink more and more to reach your desired effects
- Experienced withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
Since alcohol is legal and easily accessible (for those over the age of 21), it may not always be easy to tell if a family member or loved one is struggling with alcohol use. However, being able to spot the signs of alcohol addiction may help you in getting them the help that they need to properly address their alcohol-related issues.
In addition to some of the signs listed above, some additional signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction include:
- Slurred speech
- Poor coordination
- Unexplained mood swings
- Changes in personal hygiene
- Financial problems as a result of drinking
- Memory impairment
- Being secretive about drinking
- Lying about drinking
- Hiding empty liquor bottles or cans
All About the History of Alcohol Awareness Month
Alcohol Awareness Month began in April 1987. It started as a public health program initiative organized by the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) to increase attention regarding the dangers of alcohol and alcohol-related issues such as dependency and addiction.
Alcohol Awareness Month was originally started specifically to target college-aged students who tended to participate in binge drinking. Since then though, it has evolved to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues.
The Importance Of Alcohol Awareness Month
The main goal of Alcohol Awareness Month is not just to make people aware of the potential dangers of alcohol, but also to remind everyone of the stigma that still, unfortunately, surrounds not just alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder, but substance abuse as a whole.
Many people that are suffering are either too embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help or they have convinced themselves that they don’t have a problem. Alcohol Awareness Month gives public health bodies, community centers, and treatment facilities a chance to increase their efforts to reach people who may not fully appreciate the dangers of unhealthy alcohol consumption.
Here in the United States, many of these organizations launch campaigns both on social media and in traditional media during April to help to draw attention to the causes of alcoholism, the signs, and effects of the condition, how to talk to a loved one about a drinking problem, and how to find treatment options.
Facts About Drinking Alcohol and Alcohol Addiction
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the use of alcohol is a factor in more than 200 diseases and injuries. Below are some additional facts and statistics from the WHO as well as the National Insitute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism as it pertains to alcohol and alcohol abuse and addiction:
- Worldwide there are 3 million alcohol-related deaths every year (roughly 5.3% of all deaths)
- Approximately 5% of the global burden of disease and injury is attributed to alcohol
- In 2021, over 29 million people in the United States 12 and older suffered from an AUD
- Of those roughly 29 million people, approximately 900,000 were adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17
The state of New Jersey, much like the rest of the country, has a high rate of alcohol abuse and addiction, particularly among high school students and young adults.
According to a 2019 New Jersey Student Health Survey, 30% of NJ high school students drink alcohol. Below are some additional New Jersey-specific facts and statistics about alcohol abuse and addiction:
- Roughly 13% of all NJ high school students have their first drink before the age of 13
- Roughly 15% of all NJ high school students that drink binge drink
- In 2019, 31% of all admissions for substance abuse treatment in NJ were for AUD
Alcohol Awareness Month: How to Educate People About Alcohol Addiction
If you are looking to get out this April and help spread the word about the dangers of not just alcohol, but alcohol abuse and addiction, there are several different ways that you can go about helping.
The easiest way to help raise awareness for alcohol addiction is to volunteer with a local organization in your community. Many organizations go around to local high schools, colleges, and universities to make teens and young adults aware of the dangers of excessive drinking and substance abuse.
Receive Help for Alcohol Addiction at Discovery Insitute
Although April is just about over, it is important to understand that alcohol addiction is serious. Thankfully, however, there is hope for those suffering from this substance use disorder.
While millions of people suffer from a type of alcohol addiction, only a fraction seek professional treatment. For those struggling with alcohol addiction or an Alcohol Use Disorder, it is important to seek treatment immediately. Untreated alcohol-related issues can cause major health complications including overdose and death.
It is also important that alcohol addiction be treated under proper care and supervision due to the dangerous withdrawal symptoms that often accompany both medical detox and treatment.
Receive Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder Today!
At the Discovery Institute of New Jersey, we understand the importance of substance abuse treatment. We also know that for many, addiction comes with undiagnosed mental health conditions as well.
That’s why we provide treatment options from start to finish including medical detox, inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment, and even dual diagnosis treatment for those who may be suffering from a mental health condition and a substance use disorder.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol use and could benefit from alcohol addiction treatment, contact us today. Regardless of the month, we want everyone to enjoy a happy and healthy life.
Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification. Dr. Ranieri has lectured extensively to physicians, nurses, counselors and laypeople about the Disease of Addiction throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2012.