April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, an observance sponsored by the NCAAD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) that promotes knowledge and education regarding all aspects of alcohol abuse and addiction. National Alcohol Awareness Month is in its 27th official year, with the slogan for 2013 being: “Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow.”

Alcohol Awareness Month is designed to increase public consciousness and reduce stigma surrounding alcohol dependency and addiction issues. “National Alcohol Awareness Month is an excellent outlet to educate people about the huge weight of alcohol addiction and abuse in our society,” said Pax Prentiss, CEO and co-founder of the Passages Addiction Treatment Centers in Malibu and Ventura, California. “Through events like Alcohol Awareness Month, people become more educated about what causes addiction and other co-occurring disorders, causing stigmas to diminish and the quality of treatment to improve,” explained Prentiss.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), more than 18 million Americans (8.5% of the population) suffer from alcohol dependency or alcohol abuse issues, and 25% of children have been exposed to alcohol abuse within their families.

One of the main goals of Alcohol Awareness Month is to promote prevention practices amongst teenagers and adolescents through education about health risks, drunk driving, addiction, coping skills, self medicating, depression, anxiety, and more. Communities are encouraged to participate through local, state, and national events including educational talks, social media engagement, or most notably the “Alcohol Free Weekend” challenge from April 5-7.   

Before one more high school student dies in an alcohol-related accident or another college student dies of alcohol poisoning or another family breaks up because of alcohol, the seriousness of the public health problems associated with alcohol and alcoholism must be spotlighted by public awareness. 

Alcohol is America’s most frequently used drug, resulting in more than 100,000 alcohol-related deaths each year, and young people consume it more frequently than they use all other illicit drugs combined. Alcohol is responsible for the deaths of approximately 6,700 youth (those under the age of 21) each year:

  •           Motor Vehicle Accidents: 2,400
  •           Accidental death by fire, falls and overdose: 2,400
  •           Homicides:1,600;
  •           Suicide: 300. 

The earlier children are exposed to alcohol, the greater the probability of alcoholism and addiction. In fact, recent scientific research suggests that early use of alcohol by teenagers may contribute significantly to dependence on alcohol and other drugs later in life, with 40% of children who begin using alcohol before the age of 13 becoming alcohol dependent at some point in their lives.  

Too many dismiss underage drinking as a “youthful indiscretion” or a rite of passage from adolescence into adulthood, and many underage drinkers are often first presented with alcohol in their own dining rooms, living rooms and kitchens. Alcohol is marketed to them aggressively and associated with athletic and social events that are popular with high school and college students. Bars and clubs that knowingly serve alcohol to minors, do so often with a wink and a nod to fake identification. 

Nationally, the annual economic cost of alcohol-related problems exceeds $224 billion. That equates to $746 per person — more than substance abuse and tobacco. Cost includes healthcare., business and criminal justice costs and costs due to lost productivity.  Alcohol-related problems and alcoholism affect ALL of us, directly or indirectly, and is our nation’s number one public health problem. Alcohol is a drug that affects every cell and organ system in the body, affecting judgment, coordination and long-term health. 
If you know someone who needs help with alcohol addiction, encourage them to seek help. The addict is the only one who can actually make it happen;  they have to want to stop this bad habit. Our teenagers should be warned about all the risks they are taking when they break the law and drink.  Life isn’t just One Big Party.  Too many times there are consequences to pay. What better time than now to have “Help for Today-Hope for Tomorrow.”

Sources: NCAAD;  PreventionFirst.net