Alcohol Awareness Month is upon us and it is a time to learn more about alcoholism and how it affects the country and people affected by the disease. It is likely that we all know someone struggling with alcoholism, or maybe some other substance abuse problem.
Alcoholism is a prominent issue around the country that leads to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year, making it one of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States. Learning and understanding more about what constitutes alcoholism and how you can seek treatment is one of the many things that this month is trying to focus on.
Alcohol Awareness Month was started in order to bring the issue of alcoholism to light without being harshly critical of anyone suffering from the disorder. It is meant to point out and eventually destroy the stigma that still surrounds alcohol use disorder and substance abuse in general.
About Alcohol Awareness Month
Alcohol Awareness Month began as a public health program that was organized by the National Council Alcoholism and Drug Dependence as a way to create outreach and education when it comes to the dangers of alcoholism and the use of alcohol.
According to the National Institutes on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, about 88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes and it is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Despite how harmful alcohol can be, much of the news we see on television focuses more on illicit drugs.
The program began in April 1987 and was focused on targeting college-aged students who may be overindulging due to their newfound lack of oversight. In fact, about 38 percent of students engage in binge drinking regularly. College aged drinking leads to a number of health problems and even death. Those who drink at higher risks for violence, sexual assault, and suicide.
One of the biggest goals of the campaign is to point out the stigma that still exist and surrounds alcoholism and substance abuse in general. The social stigma of being an alcoholic is one thing that prevents and discourages many who have a problem from seeking out and finding help. According to a study from the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, alcohol stigmas also leads to a lower level of social support that can impact how people with alcoholism are treated in a public setting, a problem that is causing many to avoid seeking treatment.
The goal of Alcohol Awareness Month is to reduce or get rid of the stigma and to educate people on the details of alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism In the United States
Chances are that you know someone who is an alcoholic, it is a fairly prominent issue. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry, the rate of alcohol use disorder, alcoholism, rose by almost 50 percent in the first decade of the 2000's. The study found that about one in eight American adults, almost 13 percent, meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder. Similarly, over a fourth of adults in the United States engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
This problem drinking across the country leads to a number of disastrous consequences. For example, about 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, including alcohol-impaired driving. Meaning that alcohol leads to more annual deaths than all illicit drugs in the country.
Alcoholism has a reverberating effect on the country and individual family units. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that alcohol misuse costs the country almost a quarter of a trillion dollars each year. Meanwhile, more than 10 percent of children live with a parent that has alcohol problems. Moreover, there is some evidence that shows that alcoholism can be influenced by genetic factors.
There is evidence that underage drinking poses a serious health problem in the United States. According to stats from the NIAAA, by age 15, about a third of teens have had at least one drink and by 18 that number jumps to 60 percent. While younger individuals drink less often than adults, they tend to drink more when they do choose to drink.
It is the most widely used substance among America’s youth and it poses many health and safety risks such as aggressive behavior, property damage, injuries, and deaths. According to data from the CDC, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of over 4300 young people each year and causes tens of thousands more injuries and hospital room visits.
Along with all of this, there is evidence that shows that alcohol use can have an impact on brain development. Because the brain does not finish developing until the mid-20's, alcohol can alter the development and affect both brain function and structure. This can end up causing cognitive and learning problems.
Am I An Alcoholic?
Problem drinking that becomes excessive or severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder”, a term used to describe chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control, and a negative reaction when not using.
To be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, there are certain criteria that one must meet which were determined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The most current version of the DSM asks the following questions to help determine if someone is dealing with alcohol use disorder:
- Have you ended up drinking more, or longer than you initially intended to?
- Have you, on more than one occasion, wanted to cut down or stop drinking but failed to?
- Have you spent a lot of time drinking or being sick from the aftereffects?
- Have you experienced a craving or urge to drink?
- Has drinking interfered with taking care of your home or family, or lead to professional problems?
- Has drinking caused trouble with family or friends?
- Have you given up or cut back on activities that used to interest you or gave you pleasure in order to drink?
- Have you found yourself in situations that increased your chances of getting hurt while or after drinking?
- Have you continued to drink even though it made you feel depressed or anxious?
- Have you had to drink more than you once did in order to feel the desired effects?
- Have you felt the withdrawal effects of alcohol, such as problems sleeping, shakiness, anxiety, depression, irritability, sweating, and more?
According to the most current version of the DSM, anyone meeting two of the 11 criteria over a 12-month period receives a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder. However, the severity of the disorder — mild, moderate, or severe — varies based on the number of criteria met.
If you or a loved one has any of these symptoms, drinking may be a cause for concern. The more symptoms that you have, the more urgent the situation.
How To Get Help
Alcohol-related problems are prevalent in the United States, treatment is always an option. Despite, how widespread this issue is, only about one in 10 people receive treatment for their respective addiction.
While there are a number of reasons that people don’t seek treatment, whether it’s that they don’t know they have a problem or they don’t want others to know, one simple fact is that a lot of people may not know how or where to look to get help.
Looking for local drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers and learning about options is the best way to go about finding treatment. It is important to go to a treatment center due to the need for detoxification when it comes to alcohol.
Ridding alcohol of the body can be very dangerous and, if not done correctly, can even lead to death. That’s why going through a medically supervised detoxification process at a rehabilitation facility is the best option to prevent any health problems. Following detoxification and the withdrawal symptoms associated with getting off alcohol, many patients elect to go through a residential treatment program to help them learn more about addiction and what they can do to prevent relapse.
During residential, or inpatient, treatment, patients will go through many forms of group and individual therapy to help educate themselves on their new sobriety. This time will give patients the opportunity to meet individuals who are dealing with similar problems and grow their sober support network which will help motivate them to stay sober. Depending on the facility, some residents may go through specialized therapy like family therapy to help mend broken ties or cognitive behavioral therapy, in which patients learn more about specific triggers that cause urges and how to avoid them.
Following discharge from an inpatient facility, many treatment centers offer patients access to an outpatient program that helps them as they learn to get acquainted with their newfound sober lifestyle. During outpatient treatment, patients will adjust to living independently once more, while still going to therapy and counseling session a few days out of the week.
There are a number of benefits to outpatient therapy. Not only does it provide a smooth transition from residential treatment, it helps to decrease the chances of relapse for those in recovery. During outpatient treatment, patients will get to speak with others dealing with substance abuse disorders and expand their sober support group. Having a group of people to reach out to when confronted with an urge or craving can be all the difference between relapse and sobriety.
One of the biggest reasons that people don’t seek help is due to the stigma that surrounds alcoholism, and addiction in general. One of the biggest reasons that the Alcohol Awareness Month began was to recognize that people suffer from this affliction and to try and get past the stigma so that people who are suffering can freely seek help without worrying about how they will be perceived.
According to one study, alcoholism is a severely stigmatized mental disorder that can change the way that people see someone with the issue.
“Compared with people suffering from other, substance-unrelated mental disorders, alcohol-dependent persons are less frequently regarded as mentally ill, are held much more responsible for their condition, provoke more social rejection and more negative emotions, and they are at a particular risk of structural discrimination,” the study said.
A similar study found that those who were subject to high stigma in the community were less likely to have utilized alcohol treatment services. Until the stigma that affects those with alcohol use disorder is changed or minimized, many people will avoid treatment because of how they are being perceived.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, it is a time that we can look at how alcohol affects each and every one of us Americans. Even if you personally are not dealing with alcohol use disorder, chances are someone close to you is. Look out for the signs associated with alcoholism. If you can identify some of these things in a loved one, it may be a good idea to reach out to them and see if they need help. Breaking down the barriers that get in the way of treatment of alcoholism, such as the stigma that surrounds it is key to helping the people that need help. Being aware of the problem, and understanding that the problem is a disease is the first step to breaking down these barriers.
Landmark Recovery understands that alcohol use disorder is a disease that many suffer from. At Landmark, we can help those who are dealing with alcohol or drug problems safely withdrawal from their problem through medically supervised detoxification. Following detoxification, our staff uses a variety of counseling and therapy methods to help patients learn how they can stay sober once let out of the residential facility. Similarly, Landmark offers patients access to an intensive outpatient program, IOP, to help them adjust to regular life while still going to therapy sessions. If you or a loved one needs help with an alcohol or drug problem, we are here to help. Please visit our website and reach out to our admissions team to learn more.