Alcohol Awareness Month 2019
April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Founded in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (now renamed Facing Addiction with NCADD), Alcohol Awareness Month is a national grassroots movement designed to create awareness and education for the public about the dangers of alcohol, as well as what alcohol use disorder is, its causes and effects, and effective treatment for it. It also aims to help reduce the stigma and provide information about recovery
This year’s theme is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.”
How common is alcohol use disorder?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an estimated 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder (AUD), and NCADD quotes the latest figures to be as high as 17.6 million. That equates to 6.2 percent of the population, or 15.1 million adults aged 18 or over. In 2015, an estimated 623,000 teens aged 12-17 met the criteria for alcohol use disorder. As many as 7 million children live in a household where at least one parent is dependent upon or has misused alcohol. Tragically, 88,0008 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
What are the signs of alcohol use disorder?
To be diagnosed with AUD, you must meet at least two criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) within the last 12 months, as follows:
Drinking more, or for longer, than intended
Tried to moderate drinking but could not
Spent a lot of time drinking, and/or being sick afterwards
Experienced strong craving, need, or urge to drink
Drinking, or being sick from drinking, impacted your ability to take care of responsibilities at home, work, or school
Continued to drink despite the impact on home, work, or school
Replaced activities with drinking
On more than one occasion, had drinking increase the likelihood of getting hurt or hurting others through drunk driving, unsafe sex, walking in dangerous areas
Drank in spite of feelings of anxiety or depression, or any other health problem
Experienced memory blackout
Increased tolerance to drinking; needing to drink more to have the desired effect
Experienced withdrawal symptoms: difficulty sleeping, shaking, sweating, nausea, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, or restlessness
AUD may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending upon how many of the criteria are met.
What happens during Alcohol Awareness Month?
Each April, you can expect to see events organized by Facing Addiction with NCADD — together with churches, schools, colleges, advocacy organizations, and other recovery-related organizations both locally and nationally — that provide information and resources to educate people about the treatment and prevention of AUD. This year the theme is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow,” and there is a particular emphasis on youth, and on the importance of educating parents about the impact alcohol can have on their child’s life.
It also provides an opportunity for us to fight the stigma surrounding AUD. Currently less than 10 percent of those who meet the criteria of the disease actually find treatment. One of the major barriers to seeking treatment is stigma. Some of the ways we can fight stigma are:
Changing our language about addiction
Sharing our stories with friends, family, and co-workers, and in our interactions with the medical profession
Challenging people who use stigmatizing language or discriminate against people suffering with addiction
The key date to remember is the weekend of April 5-7, which is Alcohol-Free Weekend. The aim is to create public awareness about how alcohol may be impacting families and important relationships, individuals, businesses, and communities.
Facing Addiction has produced a handy Organizers Guide for the event.
What does Alcohol Awareness Month mean to you?
Here is what people in recovery had to say about Alcohol Awareness Month:
“It reminds me that while the paths to wellness vary, alcohol is the common foe. Sometimes it feels like we are all so busy pushing our version of success that we forget that there is a billion-dollar industry dedicated to propagating the myth that alcohol is a safe way to cope and connect.” —Chris Marshall of Sans Bar
“Spreading awareness of the disease, breaking the stigma, sharing my story.” —Sara Monica Gaona
“Alcohol Awareness Month means paying attention to the ways in which we have or still rely on alcohol to numb our pains, to ease our complications, to amplify our celebrations, to smooth our awkwardness, to mask our vulnerabilities, to hide our fears, to magnify our revelry. But most importantly, it means to remember that we are enough, that we can survive the pain and feel just as much joy without booze.” —Kerry Neville, writer