Alcohol has affected almost all our lives in some way. Maybe you’ve blacked out from too much drink and remember (or don’t remember) doing something you shouldn’t have. Perhaps you know someone whose health or life has been compromised by alcohol – liver disease, an alcohol-related accident, alcohol-induced violence or abuse. Maybe you or a loved one is struggling with a drinking problem.
Alcohol is the most widely-used, addictive substance in the United States today, and it affects people from all walks of life. One in 12 American adults – about 17.6 million people – are known to suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. Several million more engage in risky, alcohol-provoked behaviors. And millions, millions more are impacted by the drinking of someone else. Did you know that alcohol is the third-leading, preventable cause of death in the United States?
You are not alone. This April especially, we want you to make you aware of that.
We also want to make you aware that there is help available for those struggling with alcoholism, and help for their families, too. Alcoholism is a serious disorder affecting far too many lives. The problem is, we often don’t realize its presence until it’s too late.
America is a drinking culture, there is no denying it. Booze-filled chocolates and cocktails surround us on holidays; Bloody Mary’s and mimosas have become the definition of brunch; the idea of not drinking at a work function or celebration feels more socially unacceptable than just facing that bottle or two. If you are struggling with an alcohol problem or are new to sobriety, you may feel it hard to leave your house. The temptation to drink, and to drink often, is constantly there.
Because alcohol surrounds us on the day-to-day, it’s also hard to recognize the signs of a drinking problem. Alcohol is the norm in so many situations, how can you possibly tell whether a loved one is walking the line of alcoholism, or whether they’ve already crossed it?
You have to be aware.
April is National Alcohol Awareness Month. For the 30 days of April – and beyond – we encourage you to take a closer look at the role that alcohol plays in your life and in the lives of those you love. If you believe your loved one has a drinking problem, know the signs of alcohol abuse and know when it’s time to seek help. Today, more than half of adults have a family history of alcoholism and more than seven million children live with a parent dependent on alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol does not make exceptions. That’s why it’s so important for us to pay attention and to start thinking about prevention.
About National Alcohol Awareness Month
Every year since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) has sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month in efforts to increase public awareness about alcohol abuse, reduce the stigmas around alcoholism, and to educate communities about the prevention and treatment of alcoholism. Alcohol addiction is very real, and it is also very treatable.
Each Alcohol Awareness Month is given a dedicated theme. This year, the NCADD has named it, “Changing Attitudes: It’s not a ‘rite of passage.’”
Adolescence is a period of heightened risk-taking and impulse. It is also the time in which we are most likely to try drinking or drugs. Currently, over three million American teens (aged 14 to 17) have an alcohol problem. Two out of three teenagers have already consumed alcohol by the end of high school; more than one-quarter of middle school students have drank by the end of 8th grade. About one-third of high school seniors have drank in excess (had more than 5 drinks) in the last two weeks. Most of these adolescents see drinking as somewhat of a “rite of passage” – if they drink alcohol at a young age, they look “cool,” “mature,” “rebellious,” “older.” They think, once they drink alcohol, they can do anything.
Parents also often see drinking as a stage of a life – a rite of passage – that their teen is going through. As a parent, you may have told yourself, “Underage drinking is normal.” “He’s just experimenting.” “She’ll get through it.” “I drank underage, too.” You are challenged because, while your teen’s drinking is illegal and dangerous, you forgive it or excuse it as a phase.
What’s the right thing to do?
Whether you are a parent of an adolescent or young adult, or simply concerned about the alcohol use of someone you know, there are steps you can take to prevent it from becoming a bigger issue. There are steps you can take to minimize drinking among our youth. You can change your attitude about alcohol, you can educate yourself on the effects and dangers of alcohol, and you can help children do the same.
Alcohol and drug use by young people puts lives in danger. Alcohol is directly associated with suicide and depression, violence and physical and sexual assault, unsafe sex, traffic accidents and fatalities, troubles with the law, academic failure, and overdose. It also puts teens at great risk for addiction. Adolescents who drink alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become dependent on the drug than those who wait until the legal drinking age of 21.
We understand it can be daunting to have “the talk” with your child. Drinking and drugs are bad, yes, but they are so much more than that. They are chemicals that physically alter a person’s brain. Drugs and alcohol can change our behaviors, our personalities, and the way we think and act – and that’s in addition to the dangers mentioned above. It is well worth the effort to start talking to your teen now.
Research shows that children who have conversations with their parents, and who learn a lot about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, are 50 percent less likely to use those substances than the kids who didn’t have the conversation. Your child does not need to drink to be cool. Teach your teen that alcohol is not necessary to have a good time, and to respect anyone who makes the choice not drink. We can help eliminate the peer pressure in our schools, reduce the stigma around alcohol addiction, and help teens know that it’s okay to seek help. Many young people do not seek help because they do not want to admit they have a problem. Show your loved one the path. Call 877-581-1793 to learn about Turnbridge’s alcohol treatment options for adolescents and young adults.