April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence created this initiative to educate the public on the dangers of alcohol dependence and related substance use issues. Originally created to target college students, this initiative quickly grew to be a national movement.
Understanding Alcoholism and Alcohol Awareness
To fully understand what being aware of alcoholism and alcohol dependence means, it’s important to note the difference between alcoholism and alcohol dependence:
- Alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse is defined by mild to severe sub-classifications of alcohol use, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
- Alcoholism develops as a result of stressful changes in one’s life or a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse.
This month focuses on highlighting stigmas that are associated with alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse and denial often go hand in hand as family members, friends, and the person experiencing alcohol addiction fail to acknowledge or understand the weight of the situation. During the month of April, community centers, treatment facilities, and public health bodies are able to improve their efforts and educate others on unhealthy alcohol consumption.
Why Discussing Alcohol Dependence and Alcoholism Matters
Though the month of April focuses on educating the general public about alcoholism, many of these efforts target younger students as a way to shape their habits of alcohol consumption. As many students are exposed to a culture that encourages unhealthy and abusive alcohol consumption, learning about alcohol dependence and alcoholism is crucial for students.
- Binge Drinking In universities and colleges, 60% of students drink alcohol regularly. While alcoholism is legal for older college students, many students (even those under the legal drinking age) tend to participate in drinking during pregaming athletic events, binge drinking at parties, and taking part in hazing rituals with copious amounts of alcohol.Around 37.9% take part in binge drinking, often because of how alcohol consumption is encouraged in such settings.
- Alcohol-Related Accidents Many of this month’s campaigns work to educate students about the dangers of alcohol-related accidents. Every year, an average of 6,500 individuals 21 and under are involved in fatal alcohol-related accidents.
What Alcohol Awareness Looks Like
Through various promotions in schools and the media, this month’s initiatives educate the public on various signs of alcoholism, causes of this disorder, and how to treat alcoholism and other substance use disorders.
Discussing the dangers of alcoholism needn’t be limited to the month of April. Learn more about alcoholism by recognizing some of the more common symptoms and signs of alcoholism:
- An inability to limit one’s alcohol consumption
- Spending substantial amounts of time drinking, buying alcohol, or recovering from using alcohol
- Experiencing strong urges to drink alcohol
- Failing to fulfill important responsibilities due to alcohol use
- Continuing on with alcohol consumption despite apparent interpersonal, social, and physical problems
- Reducing work and social activities in order to drink more
- Using alcohol in unsafe situations (i.e. driving or swimming)
- Developing a tolerance that requires one to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects
- Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal such as nausea, shaking, sweating and similar symptoms
Learning about alcohol dependence shows the link between alcohol consumption, alcohol use disorder and alcoholism. As we work to erase the stigma associated with alcoholism, it’s equally as important to educate others on the dangers of consuming alcohol and how they can recognize this disorder in themselves and others. This month, be sure to meditate on alcohol use and its effect on your life and that of your friends and family.