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April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Did you know that drinking too much can harm your health? Excessive alcohol use, including underage drinking and binge drinking, can lead to increased risk of health problems such as injuries, violence, liver disease, and cancer.

How can Alcohol Awareness Month make a difference? We can use this month to raise awareness about alcohol abuse and take action to prevent it, both at home and in the community.

Study of Alcohol-Related Deaths Among US Adults

In a 2014 study of alcohol dependence among US adult drinkers, CDC researchers found that from 2006 through 2010, excessive alcohol consumption accounted for nearly 1 in 10 deaths among working-age US adults aged 20-64. The study, published in CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease, also revealed that excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year during this period, shortening the lives of those who died by an average of 30 years.

 

These deaths were due to health effects from drinking too much over time, such as breast cancer, liver disease, and heart disease, and health effects from consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, such as violence, alcohol poisoning, and motor vehicle crashes.

Study of Alcohol Dependence Among US Adults

In another study published in CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease, researchers found that 9 in 10 people who drink excessively are not alcohol dependent. Alcohol dependence is a chronic medical condition that includes a current or past history of excessive drinking, a strong craving for alcohol, continued use despite repeated problems with drinking, and an inability to control alcohol consumption.

The study found that nearly 1 in 3 adults are excessive drinkers, and most of them binge drink, usually on multiple occasions. In contrast, about 1 in 30 adults are classified as alcohol dependent. Rates of alcohol dependence increase with the amount of alcohol consumed. For instance, about 10% of binge drinkers are alcohol dependent, while 30% of people who binge frequently (10 or more times a month) are alcohol dependent.

Know the Risks

By not drinking too much, you can reduce health risks.

Short-Term Health Risks

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking and include the following:

  • Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.
  • Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.
  • Alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels.
  • Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
  • Miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.

Long-Term Health Risks

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

  • High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
  • Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
  • Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
  • Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
  • Alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.

How Much is Too Much?

What is excessive alcohol use?

Binge Drinking

Heavy Drinking

No Alcohol

There are some people who should not drink any alcohol, including those who are:

  • Younger than age 21.
  • Pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.
  • Taking certain prescription or over-the-counter medications that can interact with alcohol.
  • Suffering from certain medical conditions.
  • Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the amount they drink.

Moderate Drinking

If you choose to drink, do so in moderation.

The Good News

We can all do our part to prevent alcohol misuse or abuse.

What Can be Done

A comprehensive approach to reducing excessive drinking that includes evidence-based community strategies, screening and counseling for excessive drinking among adults in healthcare settings, and high-quality substance abuse treatment for those who need it is likely to have the greatest impact on reducing excessive drinking and related harms.

Address Alcohol Dependence

Alcohol dependence is a serious medical problem, and it is important to assure that high-quality treatment for this condition is available to those who need it.

Curb Excessive Drinking

However, most excessive drinkers are not alcohol dependent; therefore, it is also important to implement effective community and clinical prevention strategies for excessive drinking−such as increasing the price of alcohol, reducing alcohol availability, and screening and counseling for excessive drinking among all adults in primary care.

Strategies

When it's time to cut back

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:

  • Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Keep track of how much you drink.
  • Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
  • Don’t drink when you are upset.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home.
  • Avoid places where people drink a lot.
  • Make a list of reasons not to drink.

Get Help

No matter where in Vermont you are, there are resources to help. Find a link to a resource in your area, or use online and phone services to get you where you need to go.

From support groups, to treatment centers, to community education, you will find them here.

Programs and services that help communities become as healthy and involved as they can be are a key part of alcohol and drug use prevention in Vermont.

Different kinds of professionals provide treatment for substance use disorders. In most treatment programs, the main caregivers are certified or licensed as substance abuse treatment counselors.

Stopping alcohol use or drug use is just the beginning of the recovery process. People in recovery must learn new ways to cope with daily life. Learning these new skills is essential work.

Supporting strong family connections has helped to bring down high risk (binge) drinking and marijuana use among youth in Vermont. Find out more about parenting support programs here.

Support Groups

Al-Anon/Alateen
For more information, call Al-Anon Vermont at 802-860-8388 or visit www.vermontalanonalateen.org

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
For more information, call 802.775-0402 or visit www.aavt.org

 

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