What is Alcohol Awareness Month?
With almost 70% of Americans reporting they’ve consumed alcohol in the last year, it’s clear that liquor plays a significant role in our society. Many people can enjoy a few beverages here and there without any adverse effects. But for others, drinking can lead to problems—including alcoholism.
To combat the prevalence of problematic alcohol usage, Alcohol Awareness Month was born. Read on to learn about its importance and what to do if you or a loved one struggles with alcohol use.
What is Alcohol Awareness Month & When Is It?
The intention behind Alcohol Awareness Month is simple: encourage people to acknowledge and understand alcoholism and issues related to alcohol. The annual month-long campaign aims to end the stigma associated with these issues and focuses on education and public awareness.
Alcohol Awareness Month has taken place every April since its creation by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) in 1987. You might spot red ribbons in April—these are the symbols the campaign uses to promote awareness.
What is Alcoholism?
Alcoholism, also known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), is the most extreme stage of alcohol addiction. It can materialize as either binge drinking (consuming a lot of alcohol in a short time) or heavy alcohol use (continuous drinking throughout the week). In short, alcoholism is defined as a physical dependency on alcohol. This dependency can lead to a host of symptoms, such as:
- Profuse sweating
- Irregular heartbeat
- Withdrawals when not drinking (which manifests as nausea, shaking, and vomiting)
- Tremors and gaps in memory (blacking out) after drinking
- Liver disease
- Increased risk of cancer
In addition to physical symptoms, there are a number of telltale signs related to alcoholism. These include:
- Drinking alone
- A high tolerance to alcohol
- An inability to control alcohol intake
- Neglecting work, school, personal hygiene, or other responsibilities
- Refusing to stop drinking even when it leads to problems in professional or social life
- Spending considerable amounts of money on alcohol
Remember that alcoholism exists on a spectrum and may look different for everyone. The underlying theme of alcoholism is when drinking starts to create negative consequences.
Cause of Alcoholism & How to Avoid It
While the exact cause of alcoholism is not fully understood, it follows a pattern similar to other addictions. Initially, many people consume alcohol because it’s fun to do socially or it gives them a pleasant feeling. But with alcoholism, eventual changes in brain chemistry make that feeling go away, and drinking becomes a way to normalize an individual’s state of being.
Some studies also suggest that AUD may be hereditary. One such study indicated that children of alcoholics are four times more likely than their peers to follow in their parents’ footsteps. However, genetics isn’t the only factor involved; influences like age and environment also play a critical role.
The best way to avoid alcoholism is to drink in moderation. For some, especially those with addictive personalities, that may mean not drinking at all. For others, moderate drinking means limiting your weekly or monthly intake of alcohol. Anytime you do choose to drink, the USDA recommends that men consume no more than two drinks, and women restrict themselves to one. The USDA defines one drink as:
- 12 fluid ounces of regular beer (5% alcohol)
- 5 fluid ounces of wine (12% alcohol), or
- 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
Above all, pay attention to your body and the way you react when consuming alcohol. If you feel guilty or irritable when drinking, find that your tolerance is much higher than it used to be, or notice alcohol consumption affects your everyday life, it may be time to cut back. Checking in with yourself or your loved ones is the best way to avoid alcoholism.
VOASW: Understanding Alcoholism & How to Ask for Help
If the information above sounds like it applies to you or someone you know, you may wish to seek help. Thankfully, understanding alcoholism and how it affects you is the first step in finding assistance. Above all, know that there’s hope—alcoholism is treatable.
So how should you ask for help?
Once you’ve admitted to yourself that you need a helping hand, speak with someone you trust, like your doctor, a close friend, or a family member. Explain any symptoms you’re experiencing to them. Professionals and loved ones can often point you in the right direction, offer support, and hold you accountable for the changes you want to make.
If reaching out to someone in your life isn’t an option, consider touching base with a VOASW member. We’re a nonprofit that offers several behavioral health services to aid you with your addiction challenges. Get in touch today—we’re here to help.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Facts and Statistics. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
American Council on Addiction and Alcohol Problems. Alcohol Awareness Month. http://acaap.us/alcohol-awareness-month
Healthline. Alcoholism. https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/basics#symptoms
Verywell Mind. The Role of Genetics in Alcoholism. https://www.verywellmind.com/alcoholism-is-it-inherited-63171
Dietaryguidelines.gov. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf