Sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Alcohol Awareness Month is observed during the month of April.  There are many sobering facts about the effects that alcohol and drug addiction have on individuals, as well as family, friends, and co-workers.  The cost and consequences of these habits place an enormous burden on American society, as well.  Addiction strains the healthcare system, economy, harms family life, and threatens public safety. 

Substance abuse is everywhere, regardless of gender, age, ethnic groups, and people in every tax bracket.  Alcohol kills six times more young people than all illicit drugs combined.  It is a leading factor in accidents, homicides, and suicides.  Most high school students say it is fairly easy to get alcohol.  By the time American youngsters reach the age of 18, they have seen at least 100,000 beer commercials on television. 

Here are some eye-opening facts from the NCADD:

  • Almost half of all traffic fatalities are alcohol-related.
  • Between 48% and 64% of people who die in fires have blood alcohol levels indicating intoxication.
  • Alcohol consumption has been linked with greater risk of disturbing trauma, including motor car crashes, bicycling accidents, falls, self-inflicted wounds, injuries during sports activities, injuries in recreational events, and interpersonal violence.
  • Heavy drinking contributes to illness in each of the top three causes of death: heart disease, stroke, and cancer. (And, untreated addiction is more expensive than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined.)
  • One-quarter of all emergency room admissions, one-third of all suicides, and more than half of all homicides and incidents of domestic violence are alcohol-related.
  • Every American adult pays nearly $1,000 per year for the damages of addiction.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse costs the American economy an estimated $276 billion per year in lost productivity, health care expenditures, crime, motor vehicle crashes and other conditions. 
  • Young people who tasted alcohol before 15 years old were at 5 times greater risk to have past alcohol dependence or abuse as compared to persons who first used alcohol at age 21 or older.
  • About 20 per cent of 8th grade students, 35 per cent of 10th grade students, and 48 per cent of 12th grade students admitted having tasted alcohol in their lives.  About one-third of these students report binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single go.)
  • About 40 per cent of high school seniors believe there’s no great risk in consuming four to five drinks almost every day.

Diagnosis and treatment of this disease (yes, it is a disease) is of the utmost importance.  Treatment can save lives and also dollars that would otherwise be spent in other areas of social services and medical care.  For every dollar spent on addiction treatment, seven dollars is saved in reduced health care costs.   Many employers offer counseling to their employees who have problems with drug or alcohol dependence.  Studies have shown that when these employees have been helped, work results showed less absenteeism, decreased problems with supervisors, as well as less incomplete work and fewer mistakes in work. 

An individual that is hooked on alcohol or drugs is not only affecting his/her life, but the lives of family, friends, and co-workers.  If family and friends can get the assistance of a trained specialist to conduct an intervention, hopefully, the individual will want to stop.   Alcohol or drugs have the ability to alter ones’ personality to the point that they are completely different than when they are sober.   If they could see how they act when they have had too much, it might help them decide to stop.

Re-read the facts above and know that there is no good reason to become addicted to anything.  Stay in control of your life for yourself and your loved ones.  Most of all, keep our future growing by ending underage drinking.  Please continue to stay tuned.  April 5th is National Alcohol Screening Day, and we have some additional  information concerning screening that describes risks for women, college students, and older drinkers.

Sources: NCADD, US Department of Health and Human Services