Each April marks Alcohol Awareness Month, a campaign to spread the truth about those trapped in the grips of alcohol abuse. Alcohol Awareness Month is sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). NCADD encourages communities and organizations to put on events that raise public awareness and educate people on the prevention and treatment of alcoholism.

It might seem like there’s little need for a national awareness campaign focused on alcohol. Everyone understands that drinking can be dangerous and that heavy alcohol consumption can always come with consequences. People realize that alcohol abuse isn’t the result of some personal or moral failure, right? Or do they?

Despite the growing awareness surrounding problems with alcohol abuse and alcoholism, a stigma still exists. Too many people still believe that alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the result of personal choice. Thankfully, Alcohol Awareness Month aims to shatter that lingering stigma year after year.

How do alcohol abuse and alcoholism affect people throughout the United States? How do you know if someone you love is struggling to control their alcohol use? And what can you do to raise awareness about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism in your own life?

Understanding Alcoholism

There’s no denying the connection between drinking and socialization in the United States. Social gatherings and drinking are practically synonymous. You can’t go very far without finding a drink at least one place or another. Whether you’re out with friends for the evening or at a baby shower, attending a concert, or a sporting event, you can purchase alcohol. Currently, we are even confronted with virtual happy hours!

Not everyone who drinks has a problem. Most people who drink can control their consumption. They have a drink or two, not feeling the need to keep drinking or get out of control. But then there are those who continue drinking past the point of social drinking and to the point of intoxication or worse.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism outlines a few different drinking levels ranging from moderate drinking to alcohol use disorders.

  • Moderate drinking: 2 or fewer drinks per day for men or 1 drink per day for women
  • Binge drinking: Any pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 or higher, usually 5 drinks for men or 4 drinks for women within 2 hours
  • Heavy alcohol use: Consuming more than 4 drinks per day or 14 drinks per week for men, or 3 drinks per day or 7 drinks per week for women
  • Alcohol Use Disorder: A medical condition characterized by a limited or complete lack of control over alcohol consumption despite negative social, occupational, or health consequences

Most people who drink alcohol never progress to the point of an alcohol use disorder. Some may veer into the territory stage of binge drinking or heavy alcohol use. If they neglect to address their alcohol consumption, though, these individuals increase their risk of developing alcohol use disorder.

How Widespread is the Problem?

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), half of the U.S. population ages 12 and older drank alcohol in the last month. Nearly 51% percent reported having at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days.

An alarming number of people also reported binge alcohol use, with 23.9 percent of the population admitting to at least one episode of binge drinking in the last month. Rates of heavy alcohol use are less staggering but there is still 5.8 percent of people who reported heavy alcohol use in 2019.

The rates of alcohol use disorder are still prevalent, with 14.5 million people qualified as having alcohol use disorder in 2019. Clearly, there is still plenty of work to do when it comes to preventing alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Recognizing the Signs of Alcoholism

Binge drinking and persistent alcohol use are problematic, and you may want to seek help. Individuals with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) develop a compulsive behavior to drink despite any problems that may arise. Denial is often the number one rationale.

Are you worried that someone in your life may have an alcohol problem? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) outlines criteria for diagnosing alcohol use disorder. If you’re concerned about your loved one’s use, keep an eye out for the following signs of an alcohol problem:

  • Drink greater amounts or for longer than initially planned
  • Trying to slow down or stop drinking but not being able to
  • Spending a lot of time drinking or being sick from drinking
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol, or an all-consuming desire to drink
  • Drinking, or being sick from drinking, interferes with their responsibilities at home, school, or work
  • Continuing to drink despite problems it causes with their family or friends
  • Giving up on hobbies or activities they enjoyed to drink instead
  • Getting into dangerous situations as a direct result of their drinking
  • Continuing to drink despite it causing negative effects on their physical or mental health
  • Drinking more overtime to achieve the desired effect
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they haven’t had a drink in some time

If you notice your loved one shows a few of the signs above, you may want to express your thoughts. It is advised that you not confront them from a place of attacking or forcing them to get help. When you approach from a place of love and concern, they may be more willing to listen to what you have to say.

Treating Alcoholism One Person at a Time

Alcohol use disorder is not an end-of-the-road diagnosis. Although AUD is a serious condition, thousands of people recover from their problematic drinking and live life without needing to take a drink. Treating alcoholism is not a one-size-fits-all task. There are millions of people with experiences of sobriety that have resulted in a more healthy and meaningful life.

It is important to look at each person as an individual. Trying to treat alcoholism with a one-size-fits-all approach is probably not the most effective. Individualized, comprehensive treatment yields the best possible results. Most importantly, finding a treatment facility that understands the intricacies of working with individuals trying to quit drinking is crucial and getting to the root of the problem. This is what makes Lifeskills South Florida different. We address the underlying issues that may be driving this drinking…is it depression, anxiety, trauma? Our specialized team is trained in various modalities to target these co-occurring issues which are critical for one’s long-term recovery.

It’s a terrifying feeling when a loved one struggles to control their drinking. You probably don’t know where to go or how to find help. Thankfully treatment is available to provide the help needed. Lifeskills South Florida is a facility that offers mental health and addiction treatment services to those trying to regain control of their lives. If your loved one can’t stop drinking, we are here to help. Sandra Bernstein, a Primary Therapist at Lifeskills South Florida, discusses treatment of Substance Use Disorders using the chemical dependence DBT pathway, clinical groups, and community groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Smart Recovery below:

Want to learn more about the programs we offer? Call us or submit an online form to get in touch with us. One of our caring admissions counselors is here to answer any questions you may have and walk you through the process of getting help for your loved one. Take that first step toward connecting your loved one with a life free from alcohol today!