April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Every month there's an important health care issue being observed, and for April it's alcohol awareness. Alcohol abuse and misuse still remains a stubbornly common and troublesome problem in America, even though many seek treatment or help for their condition each year. Whether an adult has struggled with alcoholism for years or a teenager caves to the peer pressure to drink, alcohol abuse and misuse is important to recognize and work against.

For health care stakeholders and advocates, April is the time to ramp up awareness efforts about the dangers of binge drinking, drunk driving and alcoholism, among other issues. Here's what you need to know about Alcohol Awareness Month and what you can do to participate in the outreach:

State of drinking in America

To first understand the importance of Alcohol Awareness Month, it's necessary to grasp the context of drinking in America. According to data shared by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (which is part of the National Institutes of Health):

  • 86.4 percent of people 18 and older in 2015 reported having drank at least once in their life.
  • 26.9 percent of Americans 18 and older engaged in binge drinking within the past month of being asked in 2015.
  • 15.1 million adults 18 and older had alcohol use disorder (AUD) in 2015, while 623,000 adolescents 12-17 also had AUD.
  • 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, approximately, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. behind tobacco and poor diet or physical inactivity.
  • $249 billion in costs were incurred by the United States due to alcohol misuse in 2010.

"Advocates are working in 2018 to stamp out the notion that alcohol is a rite of passage for youth."

Started in 1987

First memorialized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) in 1987, Alcohol Awareness Month was held that April to "reduce the stigma" commonly attached to alcoholism and seeking treatment for it by encouraging communities across the nation to reach out and engage one another on the realities of drinking and recovery options. An important part of that duty was educating the public on the how alcoholism is a progressive disease that can lead to other conditions (like cancer) and even impact future genetically predisposed generations.

Alcohol-Free Weekend

A key event during Alcohol Awareness Month is Alcohol-Free Weekend. Held the first weekend of every April (which incidentally falls on the weekend of March 30 - April 1 in 2018), during which the NCADD encourages all Americans to abstain from drinking for those three days as a sign of solidarity with those in recovering or struggling with alcoholism, as well as to show that it can be done. 

2018 theme: "Changing attitudes: It's not a 'rite of passage'"

The overall theme behind this April's Alcohol Awareness Month is a focus on alcohol's assumed position as a hallmark of youth culture and the transition into adulthood. Whether influenced by wild school parties or entertainment, the belief that drinking is a must to be thought of as cool and part of the group is incredibly harmful and dangerous. That's why advocates and health care stakeholders are working in 2018 to stamp out the notion that alcohol is a rite of passage for adolescents and young adults.

"Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people, and parents can make a difference," said Andrew Pucher, President and CEO of NCADD, "The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That's why it is so important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs."