Since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has recognized April as Alcohol Awareness Month.1 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. Alcohol awareness month is a good opportunity to take a closer look at the role alcohol plays in our communities—and a good chance to check in with yourself.
Why Alcohol Awareness Month 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 cancer, dementia, hypertension, and heart disease.
Many people aren’t quite sure how much alcohol is “too much.” The US medical community defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two for men, while binge drinking is four drinks for women and five for men in a single session.2 Habitual heavy drinking is at least eight drinks per week for women, and 15 or more for men. If those cutoff points sound 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 this is far from the case. Binge drinking delivers concentrated amounts of alcohol to the bloodstream, putting significant stress on your internal organs and undermining safe judgment.
Even though many binge drinkers don’t qualify as alcoholics, their binges can still lead to blackouts, accidents and injuries, DUIs, being hungover at work, damage to personal relationships, accidental pregnancies and STIs—and, yes, even fatal alcohol poisoning.
Despite this, a surprising one in six Americans binges four times per month.3 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.
Speak with a Ria Health team member about how medication-assisted treatment can help you.
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 their everyday life. This includes:
- How much alcohol is actually getting consumed
- What patterns that consumption generally follows
- How that drinking behavior may be affecting health, productivity, relationships, and general wellbeing
Good questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I drink more than the recommended daily maximum?
- Do I binge drink?
- Can I link my drinking to any health concerns, anxiety, missed workdays, fights, or other problems?
You might also apply these questions to the others in your life. Is the drinking behavior you see around you really healthy? What might positive change look like? While it may or may not be necessary to step in and take action, understanding alcohol’s effects on your everyday life is an important step toward broader alcohol awareness.
Concerned you may be drinking too much? Take our alcohol use survey to learn where you stand.
Upon reflection, you may not find that you or the people close to you are practicing dangerous drinking behavior. But alcohol awareness month can still be a good time to remind yourself of where the line is, and how unhealthy drinking patterns affect our culture in general.
Turning Awareness Into Action
Finally, if alcohol awareness month gives you the chance to assess the role drinking plays in your life, it can also be a good chance to take action.
The steps you take may be personal or community-wide. If you’ve noticed many of the people around you are drinking to excess, for example, you might start by having some discussions. it’s okay to keep these conversations casual—and they should always be judgment-free. But you might try to open a dialog about the real impact drinking is having, and how to scale things back.
It can also be a fun idea to organize some social events that don’t revolve around alcohol. Think about alternative hobbies and activities, and actively encourage those around you to participate. Alcohol awareness month is also a good time to talk to your children about drinking. While these can sometimes be awkward conversations, they have a real impact on the choices your kids make as they grow into adults.
If you feel your own drinking habits could use some attention, you might look into the mindful drinking or sober curious movements. You could also try a dry month. January, July, and October are the most popular months for this, but you can really do it any time you like. If you find it hard to cut back on your own, there are also online programs like Ria Health that can offer support. You don’t need to identify as an alcoholic, or even want to quit completely, to join.
Learn more about how Ria Health can help you reset your relationship with alcohol this April.