April is Alcohol Awareness Month; Each April, Alcohol Awareness Month helps increase public awareness and understanding. Additionally, it reduces stigma and encourages local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse is an issue that plagues many local communities and big cities. However, there is help available; The Freedom Center can help guide you there.
What is an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?
An Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a pattern of alcohol abuse that causes significant impairments in a person’s life. AUD is characterized by difficulty controlling drinking patterns, preoccupation with alcohol, using it to cope with problems and continued use despite having negative consequences. It can also involve other psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, and social isolation.
Alcohol use disorder can lead to physical health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, stroke, cancer of the esophagus or airways, and a weakened immune system. In addition, people with AUD are at risk for accidents, injuries, interpersonal problems, and legal issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction
During Alcohol Awareness Month, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to an alcohol use disorder. Signs and symptoms of AUD include the following:
- Changes in mood
- Drinking more than intended
- Difficulty controlling alcohol use
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when one stops drinking
- Increased tolerance to alcohol
- Blackouts or memory loss associated with drinking episodes
- Drinking to cope with stress or manage emotions
AUD can range from mild to severe, so it’s important to recognize these signs and seek help if you believe you or a loved one may be struggling with alcohol abuse. It is also important to know that there is hope for recovery, even for those with severe cases of AUD. With proper treatment, support, and a commitment to sobriety, individuals with AUD can recover and lead fulfilling lives.
The Prevalence of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Alcohol abuse is a prevalent issue in the United States. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a major public health problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), approximately 15 million adults ages 18 or older had an AUD in 2018, representing 6.2 percent of all adults in this age group. While the number of people with AUD has been steadily increasing in recent years, the share of adults with AUD remains relatively stable.
The prevalence of AUD varies among different demographic groups. For example, men are more likely than women to have an AUD (9.8 percent compared to 4.2 percent). The highest rates of AUD occur among people aged 18-24 and those aged 25-29, with 11.6 percent and 10.9 percent respectively having AUD. Additionally, the prevalence of AUD is higher among people who are unemployed or have low incomes than those who are employed and have higher incomes.
Alcohol Use Disorder is a growing problem in Maryland, with over 11% of adults ages 18 who meet the criteria for AUD. This means that nearly 1 out of every 10 adults in Maryland suffers from an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, 1 in 4 high school students reports drinking alcohol within the past 30 days, which is a concerning statistic as it indicates an early onset of alcohol use and potential AUD in the future.
The prevalence of AUD in Maryland is even higher among certain demographics, such as people with lower incomes, those without health insurance, or those unemployed. These populations are 2-3 times more likely to have an AUD than the general population. Additionally, people from racial/ethnic minority groups are over-represented in diagnoses of AUD, with American Indians and Native Alaskans having the highest prevalence rate.
Why Do People Drink Alcohol and Become Dependent?
People often drink alcohol to cope with stress or unpleasant feelings. Alcohol can temporarily make people feel relaxed and less anxious; it is not a healthy solution for managing emotions in the long term. Over time, excessive drinking can lead to physical dependence, tolerance, and addiction.
People who become dependent on alcohol may start drinking more frequently, and in larger amounts, to try and make themselves feel better. As their dependence increases, they often become less aware of the risks associated with drinking too much alcohol. They may also begin to prioritize drinking over other activities like work or spending time with family or friends.
Alcohol can also harm physical and mental health. Heavy drinking can damage the liver, brain, heart, and other organs. It can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to depression or anxiety. Research has also linked heavy alcohol consumption with an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.
What is the Difference Between Dependence and Addiction?
The difference between dependence and addiction is that dependence is a normal physical response to a substance or activity, while addiction is an unhealthy psychological condition. Dependence refers to the body’s need for a certain substance or activity to maintain homeostasis or equilibrium.
When someone takes medication to treat high blood pressure, their body eventually becomes dependent on the drug to maintain proper blood pressure. In contrast, addiction is a psychological disorder characterized by the compulsive use of a substance or activity despite negative consequences.
People who are addicted will continue to use the substance even if it has damaging effects on their quality of life. Addiction is thought to be caused by a combination of biological, genetic, and environmental factors.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a DSM-5 diagnosis that describes a pattern of alcohol misuse leading to significant impairment or distress. It can range from mild to severe and is diagnosed when symptoms such as impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug, use in hazardous situations, and continued use despite problems caused by the abuse are present.
The DSM-5 criteria for diagnosing AUD includes 11 items, divided into four symptom clusters:
- Impaired control
- Social impairment
- Risky use
- Pharmacological indicators
For a diagnosis of AUD, two or more of the eleven symptoms must be present in the past 12 months. Also, clinically significant distress or impairment must have been experienced in the same timeframe. Either way, addiction is a serious disease and should be treated.
The Importance of Alcohol Awareness Month
Alcohol Awareness Month is an important event that recognizes the dangers of alcohol abuse and encourages people to make healthier choices. The primary goal of Alcohol Awareness Month is to educate individuals on the risks associated with drinking and provide resources for those struggling with alcohol use disorder. This month serves as a reminder of the importance of taking responsibility for our health, both physical and mental. It is also a time to talk openly about alcohol use, discuss strategies for making responsible decisions, and find help if needed.
By bringing awareness to the issues of excessive drinking and its consequences, Alcohol Awareness Month provides education on ways to prevent alcohol abuse or get help when it has become a problem. This includes recognizing signs of addiction, understanding the effects of alcohol on the body and brain, and exploring treatment options. Among other strategies, those struggling with alcohol abuse can find support from counseling services, group therapy programs, or residential treatment centers.
What to Expect During Alcohol Awareness Month
During Alcohol Awareness Month, it is important to become more aware of how alcohol can affect our lives. This includes learning about the risks associated with drinking and exploring strategies for reducing the harm associated with alcohol use. Individuals should also strive to learn more about their drinking behavior and consider setting goals for making healthier choices around alcohol.
Additionally, communities are encouraged to come together during Alcohol Awareness Month to share resources and provide support for those struggling with alcohol-related issues. It is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of responsible drinking, as well as share information on services available to people affected by alcohol abuse.
Tips: How to Help Raise Awareness of Alcohol Addiction
Raising awareness for alcohol addiction is an important step in helping people to overcome their substance abuse. Some suggestions to do so may include the following:
- Educate yourself and others about the risks associated with alcohol addiction; this includes health risks, economic costs, and social impacts. Share this knowledge with friends, family members, and other groups in your community.
- Speak up about the issue in public forums, like a town hall meeting or city council meeting. This can help to shape public opinion about the issue, as well as increase awareness among members of your community.
- Attend local events that focus on substance abuse and addiction services; this could include support groups and addiction treatment programs.
- Reach out to local schools, churches, and other organizations to discuss how they can best encourage people who struggle with AUD.
Getting Help For Alcohol Addiction at The Freedom Center
For those who struggle with alcoholism, it is imperative to seek treatment. At The Freedom Center, it is possible to overcome alcohol addiction. If you or a loved one would like to learn more, you can contact us here.