April 2018: The 31st Annual NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month

alcohol-awareness-monthRight around 42 million Americans over eighteen years of age are drinkers. That means there are more alcohol drinkers in the US over 18 than there are people of any age in the country of Poland. Right around 15 million Americans are alcoholics. That’s nearly the entire population of the state of New York. Researchers discovered that alcoholism rates rose by over 50% from 2002 to 2012. Therefore, for every two alcoholics that existed in 2002, five years ago there were three. Okay, time for some more modern numbers. Nearly 90,000 Americans die every single year from alcohol-related causes. Six of us die every day from alcohol poisoning alone. Drunk driving accounts for over 30% of all driving deaths. Want to hear something completely nuts? According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, on average, over 65 million Americans binge drink every month. That means that every month, 23 million people who are non-drinkers will abuse alcohol in the US. It’s for reasons like this that NCADD (the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) established April as Alcohol Awareness Month back in 1987. Since then, every year has had a theme, and for 2018 the theme is “Changing Attitudes: It’s not a ‘rite of passage’”. From the NCADD website: “Alcohol Awareness Month provides a focused opportunity across America to increase awareness and understanding of alcoholism, its causes, effective treatment and recovery.”

What is Alcohol Awareness Month?

The main idea is to address alcoholism at a community level, and to try and educate people on the perils of alcoholism. However, it goes much deeper than that. Say your local community wants to participate in Alcohol Awareness Month. There is an entire kit that NCADD will supply, which includes the history of the program, information on the current theme, media advisory, news releases, PSA scripts, a newspaper article, suggested activities for local organizations to participate, and even a copy of Thoughts on Stigma, by Marty Mann, who is history’s most predominant female advocator of alcohol awareness. If a community participates, a wealth of activities that help spread awareness and education will follow. Perhaps most importantly, NCADD strives to connect currently struggling drinkers with referrals to treatment. NCADD has helped millions to date with this strategy. This is extremely important, considering less than six percent of American alcoholics seek treatment on their own.

Alcohol-Free Weekend

The first weekend of April has become known as the Alcohol-Free Weekend, and is described on the above-linked NCADD site as “an open invitation to all Americans to engage in three alcohol-free days.” Considering it’s likely that the majority of those 65 million Americans that binge drink every month did so this past St. Patrick’s Day, this couldn’t come at a better time. Even if your community does not full-on participate in Alcohol Awareness Month, you yourself could possibly encourage certain community members or organizations to host some type of educational class or seminar. Or simply spread the word about Alcohol-Free Weekend. It can make a huge difference.

This Year’s Theme

As stated, the theme this year is to change the attitude that getting drunk is a ‘rite of passage,’ especially for young people. Approximately 10% of all alcohol consumed in the US is consumed by someone who is underage. Alcohol abuse by young people leads to a plethora of problems, including drunken driving, acts of violence, overdose, and engagement in risky behaviors such as unsafe sex or skipping school. For the youth, peer pressure to drink alcohol can be quite heavy. Many young people see drinking alcohol as a rite of passage, a mark of becoming an adult. Many parents even excuse underage drinking for this reason, sweeping it under the rug because it’s just something kids do. Well, this year’s theme is to change the attitude of both kids and adults that underage drinking (or drinking in general) is a rite of passage. From NCADD: “They [parents] can simply sit back and hope their kids will ‘get through it,’ or they can change their attitude and take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and help their kids do the same.” Do you really think a conversation with our children wouldn’t do much? According to NCADD, kids who have conversations with their parents about the dangers of drugs and alcohol are 50% less likely to abuse than kids who don’t have such conversations. If you are a parent, or a teacher, or someone whose life involves children in any fashion, use Alcohol Awareness Month, and especially the Alcohol-Free Weekend (March 30, 2018 through April 01, 2018) to educate and inform our youth.

In Conclusion

It’s been 31 years since NCADD has sponsored and operated Alcohol Awareness Month.  Wise people say that only good things tend to last, and if something has been running for over thirty years strong, it’s safe to say it’s a good thing. Through its Alcohol Awareness Month, NCADD provides information, referrals, prevention, education, training, community awareness, and last but not least: advocacy for the rights of substance-dependent people. From the site: “Over the years NCADD has played a key role in advocating for warning labels, the 21 purchase age, drinking and driving, parity for alcoholism and addiction treatment and healthcare reform/access to alcohol and drug treatment.” The struggle is real. Alcohol kills more than 240 Americans every day. Seek help today for yourself or for a loved one if need be.

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