April is National Alcohol Awareness Month!
Betty Chaffee, PharmD, is owner and sole proprietor of BetterMyMeds, a Medication Management service devoted to helping people get the maximum benefit from their medications.
National Alcohol Awareness Month was established in 1987 by the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence. The goal of Alcohol Awareness Month is to bring problems with alcohol use out into the open, reduce the stigma that so often keeps people from admitting problems and/or seeking help, and help those who need it get into recovery. Because alcohol use disorder and alcohol dependence is estimated to affect one out of every 12 adults, the likelihood is that each person reading this knows more than one person, maybe several people, in their circle of friends, family, and acquaintances that are negatively affected by alcohol. So it's important that all of us be educated about alcohol so that we can use it wisely (if we choose to use it at all) and so that we can understand how to help others around us who may need it.
BetterMyMeds believes that Alcohol Awareness means even more than just educating people about alcohol misuse. Alcohol Awareness also means making sure people are educated about how alcohol, even in moderation, can affect both the way some medicines work and the symptoms of chronic health conditions. So before we start talking about alcohol use disorder, let's take a look at the opposite statistic: 11 out of 12 adults either use alcohol in moderation or choose not to use alcohol at all. For those who do choose to drink alcohol in moderation, we will be sharing two more articles during the month of April. The second article in this three-part series will have important information about alcohol's interactions with commonly used prescription and non-prescription medications, and the third will discuss the ways in which alcohol can affect certain chronic health conditions. Stay tuned!
Getting back to the original goal of Alcohol Awareness month, though, it's tough to underestimate the toll that alcohol use disorder and alcohol dependence take on individuals, families, and society as a whole. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is defined as a disease which causes alcohol overuse that puts one's health or safety at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems, including alcohol dependence. Individuals who suffer from AUD may develop chronic health problems such as liver disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, and depression; they may suffer unintentional injuries, or financial distress due to loss of employment.
Families and close friends of those with AUD also suffer from the effects of this disease in a variety of ways. Relationships may suffer, financial problems may affect entire families, the risk of violent behavior increases, among other problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), excessive drinking cost the US $249 billion in 2010. The cost resulted from a combination of losses in workplace productivity (72% of the total cost), health care expenses (11%), and other costs due to a combination of criminal justice expenses, motor vehicle crash costs, and property damage. About 40% of these costs are absorbed by federal, state, and local government, meaning that each one of us pays our share.
The good news is that recovery is possible. It's estimated that about 20 million people are living today in long-term recovery. Recognizing a problem and seeking help are the first important steps to long term recovery, not only for the individual suffering from AUD but for family and friends as well. And bringing AUD out into the open during the month of April is a means to that end. If you, or someone you know, may be suffering from AUD, there are plenty of resources to help. Here are a few:
National Alcohol Awareness Month -- Facing Addiction with NCADD
CDC -- Alcohol and Public Health
Treatment for Alcohol Problems -- Finding and Getting Help
Above all, let's reframe our thinking around alcohol. Those who suffer from AUD have a disease just like those who suffer from diabetes or heart disease. Let's agree to let go of judgment, and do our best to provide help to those who suffer.
Don't forget to stay tuned for articles two and three in this series! Leave your comments and questions right here to start a conversation, or contact us at BetterMyMeds!
Looking forward to the rest of the series, Betty! Alcohol use/abuse doesn’t get nearly as much publicity lately compared with opioids and now marijuana, but it is a very important topic.
I would also love to hear the thoughts and questions from others about this.