Since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has recognized April as Alcohol Awareness Month. While the original focus was on educating college-aged drinkers about the dangers of binge drinking and alcohol addiction, it’s expanded to bring alcohol awareness to communities nationwide. Lots of people recognize that alcoholism is “bad,” but they may not understand what excessive consumption looks like and how it affects their own lives or the world around them. The month of April presents a good opportunity to take a closer look at what alcohol awareness really means and entails.
Why Alcohol Awareness Matters
Believe it or not, alcohol can be damaging to a person’s health even if they’re not drinking at excessive levels. We often think of problematic drinking as something that ends with a blackout. It might also end in an emergency room visit due to alcohol poisoning. But even a moderate drinking habit can raise the risk for diseases like oral cancer, breast cancer, liver disease, dementia, hypertension, and heart disease.
Many people aren’t quite sure how much alcohol is “too much.” The U.S. medical community defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two for men; binge drinking is four drinks for women and five for men in a single drinking session. Habitual heavy drinking is at least eight drinks per week for women and 15 for men. If those cutoff points sounds extreme, it might be time to re-examine one’s drinking habits.
Some people think that occasional binging is somehow “safer” than everyday drinking—but they’d be wrong. Why? Because binge drinking delivers concentrated amounts of alcohol to the bloodstream. Even though most binge drinkers don’t qualify as alcoholics, their binges can lead to those dreaded blackouts, disasters at work, damage to family relationships, accidental pregnancies–and, yes, car accidents and alcohol poisoning. Even so, a surprising one in six Americans binges four times per month. They may not understand what constitutes binge drinking or keep track of how many drinks they have, or they might not fully comprehend the short and long-term effects of binge drinking.
The Starting Point: Individual Awareness of Drinking Habits
Alcohol awareness begins with the individual. It’s important for everyone to understand the role drinking plays in his or her everyday life—how much alcohol is actually getting consumed, what patterns that consumption generally follows, and how that drinking behavior may be affecting health, productivity, relationships, and general wellbeing. Good questions to ask are, does the person in question drink more than the recommended daily maximum? Do they binge drink? Can the drinking be linked to health concerns, anxiety, missed workdays, fights, or other problems? Understanding alcohol’s effect on everyday life is the first step toward alcohol awareness.
The next step in alcohol awareness is to think about why alcohol has become a problem. Some people drink to lower stress or social anxiety. For others, a biochemical imbalance that rewards and reinforces the cycle of addictive behavior has kicked into gear, making it hard to stop binging or control alcohol consumption on a daily basis.
How to Turn Alcohol Awareness Into Action
The final step in a personal alcohol awareness journey may involve learning how to quit drinking or how to drink moderately. Many people don’t realize that they can stop drinking at home or get help with alcohol cravings without rehab or 12-step groups. Ria Health offers a home-based telemedicine approach to help individuals drink less or quit their alcohol habit altogether. It’s a smart move for anyone looking to reduce the influence of alcohol on their life. It’s also a brilliant way to mark Alcohol Awareness Month!