April marks Alcohol Awareness Month
Each day, millions of individuals and families struggle to cope with the harsh realities of alcohol abuse and alcoholism. To highlight the prevalence and seriousness of alcohol abuse in the U.S., the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ODADAS) is calling upon all Ohioans to recognize April as National Alcohol Awareness Month.
Founded in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), Alcohol Awareness Month aims to raise community awareness about the gravity of alcohol abuse and addiction, and to educate the public that alcoholism is a disease from which a person can recover.
ODADAS Director Angela Cornelius Dawson said awareness is the first step on the road to treatment and recovery.
“Untreated alcohol abuse and addiction can have a devastating impact on individuals, families and communities,” Dawson said. “By heightening awareness around this disease, and encouraging individuals to seek help we are working to eliminate the stigma of addiction, and to ensure all Ohioans have access to the best-quality treatment services to help them live alcohol and other drug free.”
In Ohio, 19 percent of the 10,350 adolescent clients served by state-funded treatment programs during fiscal year 2009 received services resulting from an addiction to alcohol. Meanwhile, 38.6 percent of the 93,119 adult clients in the state received services for an addiction to alcohol, representing the largest percentage of the state’s addicted population.
Alcohol abuse can affect anyone at any age – from babies born with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) due to prenatal exposure to alcohol, to youth to adults.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 10.6 percent of pregnant women aged 15 to 44 stated they drank alcohol. In addition, 4.5 percent of pregnant women reported binge drinking and 0.8 percent of pregnant women reported heavy drinking.
Among the youth population, alcohol continues to be a heavily abused drug. According to the 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 45 percent of high school students in the U.S. reported consumption of some amount of alcohol. In this same survey group, about 26 percent reported episodes of binge drinking, which is defined for women as four or more drinks during a single occasion and for men as five or more drinks during a single occasion. Underage alcohol consumption can have many undesirable consequences such as lowered academic performance, engaging in unwanted or unplanned sexual activity, an increased risk for suicide and homicide, abuse of other drugs, and death from alcohol poisoning.
Youth who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence, and are two-and-a-half times more likely to become abusers of alcohol than individuals who began drinking at age 21, according to data collected by the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center in 2007.
Progress has been made in Ohio to combat alcohol abuse. To address high-risk drinking on college campuses, the Ohio College Initiative to Reduce High-Risk Drinking was created in 1996 by the Drug-Free Action Alliance. The program currently has more than 45 participating colleges and universities. The goal of the Initiative is to reduce high-risk drinking on college campuses by restricting the marketing and promotion of alcohol; improving social, recreational and academic options; limiting the availability of alcohol; increasing enforcement of laws and policies; and promoting a healthy environment.
Ohio’s adult population also struggles with alcohol abuse. Among the more than 93,000 adult Ohioans who received treatment services for substance abuse during fiscal year 2009, alcohol was the drug of choice accounting for nearly 39 percent of the total number of clients, according to the Multi-Agency Community Services Information System. The majority of the adult clients who received treatment services for an addiction to alcohol – more than 63 percent – were male and nearly 37 percent were female.
Substance abuse not only takes a physical toll on individuals and their families, but a financial one as well. According to Shoveling Up II: The Impact of Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets, which was conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), Ohio spent more than $5.3 billion in 2005 on services pertaining to substance abuse, such as research, education, prevention, treatment and mental health services. This equates to nearly $469 per Ohio resident.
As part of Alcohol Awareness Month, NCADD invites individuals to abstain from drinking alcohol for three days. This Alcohol-Free Weekend, planned for the first weekend in April, is intended to help individuals identify whether they might have a possible addiction to alcohol. If a person finds it difficult to abstain from alcohol during this three-day period, it is possible that he or she might have an addiction to alcohol. By recognizing this, the individual may seek treatment.
Anyone seeking services to help break free of an addiction to alcohol and or other drugs may visit the ODADAS Web site at www.odadas.ohio.gov to access Ohio’s list of treatment providers. Ohioans also are encouraged to contact their county Alcohol Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS)/Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services (ADAS) Board to learn more about local treatment options and alcohol screening events.