Alcohol Awareness Month increases awareness

LISBON — April 2017 is the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Addiction’s (NCADD’s) 31st Annual Alcohol Awareness Month.

The NCADD founded Alcohol Awareness Month in 1987 and has sponsored this awareness campaign every April since that time. The goal is to increase public awareness and understanding aimed at reducing the stigma that too often prevents individuals and families from seeking help.

Alcohol Awareness Month provides a focused opportunity across America to increase awareness and understanding of alcoholism, its causes, and effective treatment and recovery. It is an opportunity to decrease stigma and misunderstandings in order to dismantle the barriers to treatment and recovery and to make seeking help more readily available to those who suffer from this disease.

Each April, NCADD’s National Network of Affiliates and other supporting organizations across the country use this opportunity to address the nation’s number one public health problem through a broad range of media strategies, awareness campaigns, programs and events in their local communities. This year’s theme is “Connecting the Dots: Opportunities for Recovery.”

Alcohol and drug use by young people is extremely dangerous — both to themselves and to society — and is directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, educational failure, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other problem behaviors, even for those who may never develop a dependence or addiction.

Adolescence is a time of heightened risk-taking and, as alcohol and drugs enter the picture, parents are faced with a unique set of challenges. They can simply sit back and hope their kids will “get through it,” or they can take an active role in learning about alcohol and drugs and helping their children do the same.

It can be daunting to talk with children about drinking and drug use, but it is well worth the effort parents put into it. In fact, research has shown that kids who have conversations with their parents and learn a lot about the dangers of alcohol and drug use are 50 percent less likely to use these substances than those who don’t have such conversations.

“Alcohol and drug use is a very risky business for young people,” says Andrew Pucher, President and CEO of NCADD, “and parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help your child connect the dots and make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.”

There are four key facts concerning college students that everyone should know for Alcohol Awareness Month.

1. About half of college students who drink consume alcohol through binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) states that binge drinking is defined as “drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to .08.” This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men in a period of two hours.

2. Nearly 1,825 college students die from alcohol-related injuries or circumstances annually.

3. Students are at higher risk for sexual assault when drinking. Although people know that drinking under the age of 21 is illegal, it doesn’t mean alcohol use isn’t happening on college campuses. Most students try alcohol for the first time in their lives during college.

Students, more than anyone, need to be aware of the risks of alcohol use, especially when they may not know their limits or how alcohol can cause them to react. According to the NIAAA, more than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. About 97,000 students in this age group report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. About 20 percent of college students meet criteria to classify them having an Alcohol Use Disorder.

4. About one in four college students experience negative academic consequences from drinking, including “missing class, falling behind in class, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall.” An additional 599,000 students within the 18 – 24 age group also suffer from alcohol-related injuries each year.

According to the NIAAA, a national survey of college students found that “binge drinkers were roughly six times more likely to perform poorly on a test or project as a result of drinking (40 percent vs. 7 percent) and five times more likely to have missed a class (64 percent vs. 12 percent).”

What should young people learn from these facts and this information?

— Make sure that when you socialize, you stick with your friends.

— Don’t drink out of a community cooler or from a cup that someone hands you; pour your own drinks.

— Also, drink plenty of water, and limit your drinks during one sitting so that you’re not binge drinking.

— Finally, don’t drink and drive; and remember, buzzed driving is drunk driving.

It’s also important to remember that these facts aren’t the only consequences involving alcohol use. Other consequences listed by the NIAAA include “suicide attempts, health problems, injuries, unsafe sex, driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as vandalism, property damage, and involvement with the police.”

Keep these facts in mind and educate others to spread the word about alcohol awareness this month!