April marks the celebration of Alcohol Awareness Month, and this is the time when health campaigns centered on alcohol abuse and other alcohol-related issues usually happen. If you’re wondering how you can contribute to spreading the word about alcohol awareness, then read on as we learn some crucial facts about the topic and how you can make a difference using this information.
The History and Scope of Alcohol Awareness Month
The first Alcohol Awareness Month was held in April 1987 and has been sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) on every succeeding month of April ever since. The original goal of this campaign was to temper the drinking habits of college students who might be abusing their newfound freedom.
Alcohol Awareness Month has grown in scope and in reach since its inception, focusing more on helping families and communities deal with the various problems that alcohol abuse brings. It also encourages communities to create campaigns and spread awareness of alcohol-related issues and alcohol abuse.
Individuals who are struggling with alcoholism are also given the much needed support that they need through this campaign. There is a certain stigma attached to those labeled as alcoholics, and the negativity of such name calling can throw these individuals into a spiral of alcohol abuse that’s very difficult to escape from—especially if they don’t have the proper support that they need to improve their lives.
In the end, Alcohol Awareness Month is really about educating people and getting them involved in helping others who are struggling with alcohol use disorder. This is mainly done by raising awareness of the dangers of alcohol abuse and reaching out to others through dedicated campaigns that are designed discuss alcoholism and other related topics.
Importance of Alcohol Awareness
There are around 90,000 alcohol-related deaths that happen each year in the United States. Among these deaths, the average life span of an individual is said to be cut short by around 30 years. The amount of life lost due to unhealthy alcohol consumption means that there has to be some importance placed in analyzing a person’s drinking habits and spreading the dangers of excessive alcohol binging.
While drinking alcohol has always been a socially acceptable practice, many people are still not aware of the health risks and other dangers that alcohol can do to your body. If you don’t count injuries and accidents as a result of inebriation, excessive alcohol use can still lead to things like alcohol poisoning, miscarriage among pregnant women, high blood pressure, liver disease, cancer, and mental health problems. Understanding the dangers that alcohol abuse brings can help temper people’s consumption of it and bring incidents like these down to more acceptable levels.
How Does Alcohol Addiction Work?
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is the general medical diagnosis for individuals who have a compulsive drinking problem, have the inability to control their alcohol intake, and exhibit withdrawal symptoms when not consuming alcohol.
This disorder used to be divided into two separate terminologies—alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence—until the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders combined it under the term AUD. An 11-point criteria list was created to diagnose AUD and is published on the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) government website, which can be found here.
An individual that checks off at least two of the listed symptoms can already be diagnosed with AUD—with two to three symptoms being classified as mild, four to five being moderate, and 6 or more being a severe case of AUD.
Identifying the different symptoms is one thing, but how exactly does alcohol work on a person’s brain to get someone addicted to it?
In general, alcohol works as a depressant that affects the central nervous system by reducing or inhibiting brain activity. A specific neurotransmitter in the brain called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) fires whenever alcohol is consumed, giving out an inhibitory signal in the brain that then affects both motor and memory functions.
Aside from this, alcohol also incites the release of endorphins in the brain, which causes feelings of euphoria and accounts for the “buzz” that people get when consuming alcohol. This heightened sense of well-being removes much of the awkwardness a person feels during social situations and generally makes them feel good about the act of consuming alcohol.
As a person continues to drink alcohol, their brain eventually adapts to the inhibitory signals caused by GABA by increasing the output of excitatory neurotransmitters like glutamate. This causes adaptations like increased inhibition and eventually alcohol tolerance. Drinkers who have developed a tolerance to alcohol will need to consume larger amounts just to get the same effects that they previously did. This can perpetuate a cycle of dependence that can lead down to AUD.
Other Physical and Mental Effects of Alcohol
Apart from the brain, other parts of the body are also affected by alcohol over time. Alcohol can severely impact a person’s heart and can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as a higher chance of suffering a stroke. One of the possible long-term effects that alcohol has on the heart is developing a condition called alcohol cardiomyopathy. This is a disease that affects the heart muscles and doesn’t allow the heart to pump blood as efficiently as before.
Alcohol can also cause diseases in both the liver and the pancreas. Liver diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, and fatty liver disease can develop over time. Similarly, pancreatitis can also occur with excessive alcohol consumption.
When a person with severe dependence on alcohol is deprived of it, this can result in a bad case of alcohol withdrawal. The withdrawal symptoms that typically occur include fever, nausea, muscular tremor, anxiety, hypertension, and seizures. These symptoms can show as early as eight hours since the last alcohol intake, thus perpetuating the need to constantly consume alcohol to avoid its effects.
Those who are undergoing alcohol withdrawal are advised to seek professional medical care to completely detox them. The overall length of the withdrawal period can last for up to a few weeks and is mostly dependent on the person’s metabolism. However, most of the physical symptoms should show signs of relief in around 72 hours. There are drugs such as benzodiazepines that can help manage the patient’s symptoms during this period, but it is still difficult to predict how an individual’s body will react to the alcohol withdrawal.
How You Can Spread the Word about Alcohol Awareness
Knowing all about the effects of alcohol is a good way to educate yourself, but if you want to do your part for Alcohol Awareness Month then spreading this knowledge is a great way to do your part. There are several ways that you can do this:
Arming yourself with the knowledge about the risks of alcohol abuse simply isn’t enough. The next step should always be sharing this information to others in order to enact a positive change for individuals suffering from alcohol abuse disorder and improve their quality of life.
Spreading the message of alcohol awareness doesn’t have to happen for only one month in a year. If you’re determined to make a difference, then consider a year-long campaign that looks into the above listed methods to spread the word to everyone.
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