Alcohol can be a big part of American social life, making it difficult to identify it as a potential substance use disorder. However, millions of Americans suffer the consequences of alcohol abuse disorder.
Alcohol is normalized in our culture, used to celebrate and commemorate festive events or relax with friends and family. The mountain lifestyle we enjoy is an excellent example of a drinking culture. However, it’s a powerful and addictive drug with adverse effects that can impact a person’s ability to work, enjoy life, have meaningful relationships, and cause physical damage and even death.
April Is Alcohol Awareness Month
April is Alcohol Awareness Month — a time to draw attention to alcohol’s impact on our health and communities, evaluate alcohol’s role in our lives, eliminate the stigma surrounding alcohol abuse, and educate about treatment options and recovery.
Alcoholism is a chronic and progressive disease that can be fatal if not treated. Therefore, April was established as the month to focus on alcohol awareness by The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in 1987.
Alcohol Awareness Month is an opportunity for everyone to get involved by spreading information about the use and misuse of alcohol. Taking action to prevent alcohol abuse can help to save lives.
Most importantly, Alcohol Awareness Month reminds us that there is hope for healing and help for restoration. Every day, thousands of people start the journey of recovery.
Facts About Alcohol
- All alcohol (beer, wine, and liquor) contains ethanol (ethyl alcohol), which is toxic to the human body. Experiencing a hangover is a warning that your body has been poisoned and is struggling to recover.
- More than 65 million Americans report binge drinking or heavy drinking in one month, more than 40 percent of those who drink alcohol.
- In 2018, there were 10,511 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, totaling 29 percent of all traffic fatalities.
- Teen alcohol use kills 4,700 people each year, more than all illegal drugs combined.
- An estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
The Pandemic Increased Alcohol Consumption
Research shows that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more drinking, especially binge drinking (defined as having four or five or more drinks on a single occasion).
A national survey found that Americans’ excessive drinking increased by 21 percent during the pandemic. According to research published in Hepatology and reported on by the Harvard Gazette, just a one-year increase in this kind of drinking will result in “8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease, 18,700 cases of liver failure, and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040.”
How the Stigma of Alcoholism Impacts Recovery
Alcohol is a potent, highly addicting drug. Although drinking alcohol is socially acceptable in society, some people become physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol and cannot stop using it without help.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a spectrum with many variations and degrees. Many people dealing with it can operate without apparent effects, despite being dependent on alcohol. Unfortunately, the stigma attached to AUD prevents many people from seeking the help they need to recover.
Is Alcohol Becoming an Issue for You?
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) provides a thorough checklist of potential symptoms of an alcohol use disorder. So, if you’re wondering if alcohol is becoming an issue, start with these questions:
In the past year, have you:
- Ended up drinking more or longer than you intended?
- More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over alcohol’s aftereffects?
- Experienced craving — a vital need or urge to drink?
- Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family, caused job troubles, or school problems?
- Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
- Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you so you could drink alcohol?
- Found yourself in situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (like driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
- Have you continued to drink even though it made you feel depressed or anxious, added to another health problem, or after a memory blackout?
- Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
- Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?
If you answered any of these questions with “yes,” it may be time to seek help from a doctor, psychotherapist, or other health professional. The more questions you answer with a “yes,” the more critical it is to start looking for help soon.
Treatment Is Available, Recovery Is Possible
The good news is that it is possible to recover from alcoholism and live a good life without alcohol. It all starts with realizing and admitting that drinking has gotten out of control. Having an addiction isn’t a moral failing; it’s a disease that influences behavior and changes brain chemistry.
For residents and visitors to the Eagle River Valley, Vail Health’s Eagle Valley Behavioral Health offers resources and support. Local therapists and health care facilities are available to help you through your recovery. However, there’s not a one-size-fits-all treatment. What works well for one person might not be effective for another. Instead, your healthcare team will develop a tailored treatment to accommodate everyone’s unique needs.
If you or a loved one is in crisis and need help, call Your Hope Center at (970) 306-4673. View more addiction resources and programs with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health community partners.