Alcohol is a legal and commonly used drug, the dangers of which are frequently underestimated and the pleasures of which are often touted in high-dollar advertising campaigns. To increase awareness around the realities of alcohol abuse, each April since 1987 has been observed as National Alcohol Awareness Month.
What Can You Do?
If you want to help raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends several steps you can take:
- If you write a blog or newsletter, add information about alcohol and the negative impact it can have.
- Use your social media accounts to share information about the dangers of alcohol use with your online contacts.
- Host a community event where families can increase their knowledge about alcohol. This might be through your faith community, job, local library, or your child’s school.
- Talk to children and teenagers in your life about alcohol use and the dangers of underage drinking.
- If alcohol has adversely impacted your life, you may wish to consider sharing your story with others.
What Dangers Does Alcohol Pose?
Perhaps it is because alcohol is legal, easy to access, and considered socially acceptable that people underestimate how dangerous it can be. Alcohol is the third leading cause of death in the United States that is preventable. Fifteen million American adults struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD), and 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes every year.
There are a number of other ways that overindulgence in alcohol can pose a risk:
- Short-term risks
- Impaired judgment, potentially leading to risky sexual behaviors and violence
- Heightened risk of injuries from falls, impaired driving, drownings, burns, etc.
- Interactions with medications
- Alcohol poisoning, which can lead to vomiting, unconsciousness, and even death
- Long-term risks
- Damage to eyes, including increased risk of cataracts, night blindness, and total loss of vision
- Issues with the liver, heart, and other internal organs
- Mental illness (or making existing mental health issues worse)
- Decreased ability of the immune system to respond to diseases
Alcohol and Cancer
According to the CDC, alcohol can impact the body’s cells, increasing the risk of developing tumors. In fact, even a single drink each day can increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. The more a person drinks, the higher their risk of developing health issues.
It doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol you may prefer – all types can heighten a person’s health risks. Be careful to correctly estimate serving sizes of different types of alcohol so that you aren’t ingesting more than you realize.
What Else Can You Do?
Beyond making people aware of the dangers alcohol can pose, Alcohol Awareness Month is also an opportunity to engage people in conversation about the various options that are available to help people who are struggling to stop drinking. These include:
- Recovery Groups – recovery groups are gatherings of people who are seeking or who have found sobriety and who gather to support each other by sharing their stories and wisdom. Meetings are generally free and may be offered in-person or online. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are probably the most well known recovery groups.
- Treatment – treatment facilities offer inpatient and outpatient programming to help people put addiction behind them. The costs associated may be covered by insurance.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) – certain medicines can help to alleviate cravings and withdrawal symptoms, thus reducing the risk of relapse. Some treatment programs offer MAT as part of their array of services.
- Therapy – it is not uncommon for people who have struggled with addiction to be trauma survivors who turned to their drug of choice to navigate their ongoing pain and loss. In addition, people with mental health concerns may turn to substances to self-medicate their symptoms. By utilizing appropriate mental health support, some individuals may find it easier to achieve long-term recovery from addiction.
If you are concerned that you or someone you love may be struggling with alcohol use disorder, consider doing a 10-minute self-assessment. If you are ready to address your alcohol use issues, Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, Virginia, has a caring staff that can help you determine what kind of treatment will work for you.