CADD Announces 2014 NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month Theme –
“Help for Today. Hope For Tomorrow”
Alcohol Awareness – The Key to Community Change, Personal and Family Recovery
28 Years of Improving and Saving Lives Through Prevention, Treatment and Recovery

Each April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) sponsors NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. This April, NCADD highlights the important public health issue of underage drinking, a problem with devastating individual, family and community consequences.

With this year’s theme, “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow,” the month of April will be filled with local, state, and national events directed toward educating people about the prevention and treatment of alcoholism. Local NCADD Affiliates as well as schools, colleges, churches, and countless other community organizations will sponsor a host of activities that create awareness and encourage individuals and families to get help for alcohol-related problems.

Alcohol use by young people is extremely dangerous—both to themselves and to society, and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors.

This year’s awareness campaign will place a special emphasis on underage drinking, a problem that costs $62 billion every year. The fact remains that alcohol is more likely to kill young people than all illicit drugs combined; even more startling: annually, over 6,500 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related accidents and thousands more are injured. 7,000 American kids are taking their first drink every day, all of whom are under the age of 16. One-fourth of children have alcohol-use disorders in their own family.

“Underage drinking is a complex issue,” says Greg Muth, chairperson of the NCADD Board of Directors, “one that can only be solved through a sustained and cooperative effort. As a nation, we need to wake up to the reality that for some, alcoholism and addiction develop at a young age and that intervention, treatment, and recovery support are essential for them and their families,” says Muth. “We can’t afford to wait any longer.” 

Of course, we understand that alcohol abuse is really a systemic problem affecting the entire country, including every demographic. To combat this, we must take strong preventive measures, but also be aware of the signs of alcohol abuse so as to identify and assist those with problems.

The signs are many, and not always apparent. Those that have an alcohol problem often neglect their responsibilities at home, work or school. They also drink while engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving. Abusers also commonly drink as a way to relax and “unwind,” all the while causing more problems because of their alcoholism. This abuse results in a high tolerance, and eventually can lead to physical/psychological addiction.

Alcohol abusers may become dependent on drinking. When they do stop, they often experience short-term withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, delirium, tremors and general difficulty performing tasks. For these abusers, alcohol goes from simply a way to relax, to a necessary activity in order to get through their everyday life. Some addicts become quite skilled at hiding their addiction until the inevitable unraveling takes place.

Whether a person decides to use alcohol or drugs is a choice, influenced by their environment–peers, family, and availability.  But, once a person uses alcohol or drugs, the risk of developing alcoholism or drug dependence is largely influenced by genetics.  Alcoholism and drug dependence are not moral issues, are not a matter of choice or a lack of willpower.  Plain and simple, some people’s bodies respond to the effects of alcohol and drugs differently. 

Research has shown conclusively that family history of alcoholism or drug addiction is in part genetic and not just the result of the family environment.  And, millions of Americans are living proof, based on personal, firsthand experience, that alcoholism and drug addiction run in families, plain and simple.

 Genes provide the information that directs how our bodies respond at the cellular level.  Research indicates that over 99% of our genes are the same and the 1% that are different account for visible differences (hair color, height, etc.) and invisible differences, such as our risk of diabetes, heart disease or addiction to alcohol or drugs.

Therefore, our health is the result of the interaction between genes and environment.  As an example, our risk of developing high blood pressure is influenced by both genetics and environment, including diet, stress, and exercise.   Certain diseases, like sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis, are caused by an error in a single gene.  However, most diseases, such as alcoholism and drug dependence, are considered genetically complex and involve variations in a number of different genes.

“Alcohol dependence and dependence on other drugs frequently co-occur, and strong evidence suggests that both disorders are, at least in part, influenced by genetic factors.  In recent years, researchers have identified numerous genes as affecting risk for dependence on alcohol and drugs.  These include genes involved in alcohol metabolism as well as in the transmission of nerve cell signals and modulation of nerve cell activity.”

Drinking alcoholic beverages affects different persons in different ways.  Some become very happy while others may see the “down side” of everthing.  Alcohol is a depressant, and certain genes in ones chemistry may indicate that they should not choose this as a way of relaxing.  Studies show that there are genetics involved, but I have known people who had problems with alcohol that had families that didn’t drink at all.  A physician once explained that some people enjoy drinking beer the same as others would enjoy a glass of tea.  

Many times you can’t get someone to seek help unless they want to get help.  Do what you can to encourage that person to find counseling or other programs; if it’s a young person, try to help them face the fact that they have a problem before they or someone else gets hurt. 

Sources: NCADD;  TheGazette