By Arjun Walia
April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, and the first weekend in April is Alcohol Free Weekend. This is a campaign to inform and change social norms about drinking.
Every day hundreds of Americans die because of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and thousands more are admitted into hospitals, psychiatric facilities, or jails and prison. Alcohol places thousands more at risk for divorce, unemployment, bankruptcy, and physical and emotional problems such as depression. Because it affects so many people, alcoholism is considered the number one public health problem in America – even surpassing cancer and heart disease, and is the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Alcohol Awareness Month
Alcohol Awareness Month (AAM) is a national grassroots effort that was started by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence in 1987, and it quickly spread throughout the country. AAM highlights the need to support education, prevention and treatment for alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. It is an opportunity for families and communities, together, to educate themselves about the critical issues of alcohol abuse and alcoholism, and reach out and educate their children on the reasons to stay alcohol free.
Alcoholism is a disease that affects children, families and communities across the nation. In fact, most people know someone who has been affected by this disease as over half of all adults have a family history of alcoholism or alcohol problems. In this regard, alcoholism does not just affect the alcoholic but others around, and therefore it is also called a family disease.
Alcohol is a toxic and addictive drug. Each year there are well over 88,000 deaths because of alcohol, and according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), there may be as many as 15.1 million individuals with an alcohol problem or alcoholism in the United States. Alcoholism was, is, and remains one of the most pervasive and tragic diseases affecting society.
Alcohol Free Weekend
Alcohol Free Weekend is a special opportunity for parents to teach about alcohol in their homes. For at least one weekend each year people are saying that America does not need to rely on alcohol for pleasure or pastime. This also gives parents opportunity to further reflect upon the dangers and consequences of drinking with their children.
Prevention is the Best Policy
Although it is among the nation’s most deadly diseases, alcoholism is preventable. Each year AAM offers an opportunity to work in a unified effort to raise awareness about the negative consequences of drinking and to do something about it. It also asks families to look at the level of emotional pain that alcohol has caused in their lives and encourages adults to talk about alcoholism with spouses, children, and friends.
The best prevention is to help send the message to youth that one does not need to drink in order to enjoy leisure activities and have a fulfilling and healthy life. In fact, at least 34 percent of Americans do not drink at all.
AAM also encourages individuals with an alcohol problem to seek treatment. Help is only a telephone call away. If a person believes that he or she or a family member may have an alcohol problem or if one is hurting or in emotional pain because of alcohol, it is best to contact a local treatment agency or call the national referral helpline operated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at 1-800-662-HELP.