With the opioid epidemic taking over news headlines lately, it is easy to forget that alcohol is still a huge problem for many people. To spread awareness around alcohol use disorder, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) founded Alcohol Awareness Month in 1987 and sponsors it every April. The theme this year is “help for today, hope for tomorrow.”
The goal of Alcohol Awareness Month is to educate the public about the dangers of alcohol abuse, provide prevention education to our youth, and encourage those who are suffering from alcoholism to get the help that they need. While alcohol addiction is a chronic, progressive illness, NCADD estimates that at least 20 million individuals are living sober lives in recovery.
If a person abuses alcohol for extended periods of time, they may develop a tolerance. This occurs when a person needs increasing amounts of a substance to achieve the effects they desire to get. A tolerance often leads to a physical dependence. If a person is suffering from alcohol dependence, they will experience brutal, and potentially fatal, withdrawal symptoms.
Many will continue to drink in order to avoid alcohol withdrawal. Once drugs are taken repeatedly over time, changes in the brain occur that affect a person’s judgement and decision making. Once these changes take place, the drive to drink becomes second nature. This dangerous habit can easily develop into an addiction, where the person relies heavily on alcohol to cope with their emotions, socialize, and manage cravings.
What sets a person with alcohol use disorder apart from a heavy drinker is the concept of choice and control. While a heavy drinker may be able to go on a binge and stop drinking if he or she faces consequences, a person with alcohol use disorder will find it difficult or impossible to stay sober regardless of the circumstances. An alcoholic will also struggle with control as they may believe wholeheartedly that they will only have one drink, then find themselves some time later at the bottom of a bottle. A true alcoholic will have lost the power of choice and control.
When you look for the signs of alcoholism, they are usually pretty easy to spot. While there are varying degrees of alcohol abuse, some signs you can look for if you suspect your loved one has a problem include:
An important part of Alcohol Awareness Month is Alcohol Free Weekend which will take place April 5-7th. This holds an open invitation to those who choose to participate in 72 hours of complete abstinence from alcohol. If you participate in Alcohol Free Weekend and experience any discomfort or difficulty abstaining from alcohol, it may be an indication that your relationship with alcohol is unhealthy. You can also evaluate your relationship with alcohol by asking yourself these questions:
If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you may have a problem with alcohol. If you or a loved one may have a problem with alcohol, rest assured, there are detoxes, treatment centers, and support groups available everywhere that can help you get sober and stay sober.
Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida. She advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.