It May Not Be Worth A Shot: Alcohol Awareness Month

MERCERVILLE - The trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic can lead to an increased use misuse, and abuse of alcohol and drugs. However, this is applicable to people of all ages and in various circumstances. For example, when Samantha was 13, she began drinking because of peer pressure and a desire to fit in. Samantha then started to drink heavily due to the unhappiness that she was experiencing. She describes isolating herself and becoming violent towards her family. She was eventually kicked out of her house at the age of 16 and began begging for money to purchase alcohol. Soon after, doctors told Samantha that her liver was badly damaged due to her excessive drinking. As she reflects now, "I was so close to killing myself…". Click here to read more accounts like Samantha's.

Samantha is just one of many young people whose lives include alcohol abuse. According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 37% of college students engage in binge drinking and 9.65% of college students have heavy alcohol use. These statistics could increase due to college-aged individuals quarantining or self-isolating during the coronavirus crisis.

The widespread misuse of alcohol also has an economic impact. The American Addiction Centers states that health costs related to alcohol abuse reached an estimated $249 billion in the United States in 2010, with binge drinking expenses accounting for three-quarters of this cost. Long-term binge drinking and heavy alcohol use can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, irregular heartbeat, an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and increased risk of developing depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

April is known as the month whose showers bring May flowers. It's also Alcohol Awareness Month, a public health program organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. This annual program was created in 1987 as a way to increase outreach and education regarding the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcoholism. Though Alcohol Awareness Month was originally targeted at college-aged individuals, it has since assisted families and communities in highlighting the effects of alcoholism and how to deal with them. One important aspect of Alcohol Awareness Month is spreading awareness of how to deal with the stigma that surrounds alcoholism.

"Binge drinking can present a danger not only to individuals, but also to their families and communities. Events like Alcohol Awareness Month promote the potential dangers of alcohol to a wide demographic," said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., President, and CEO of New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies. "Many deaths result from alcoholism and the disease needs as much attention - including access to treatment - as all other substance use disorders."

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that men consume no more than four drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks per week. They also recommend that women drink no more than three drinks per day and no more than seven drinks per week. One of the ways to reduce the dangers of drinking is knowing the facts and participating in events like Alcohol Awareness Month. So the next time there's an alcohol abuse awareness tag on social media (such as #alcoholawareness, #rethinkingdrinking), think of people like Samantha and promote it. Someone like 13-year-old Samantha could see it and decide that drinking may not be worth a shot.

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