Since 1987, the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has organized and sponsored Alcohol Awareness Month in April. In its early years, the program was aimed at college-aged students whose newly found freedom might lead to drinking too much. Over the years, Alcohol Awareness Month has grown to become a national movement with the purpose of increasing awareness of alcohol addiction and its causes, effects, and treatments. It also helps to increase outreach and educational programs while helping communities and families cope with the drinking problems they are facing.
Alcohol Use Disorder Is a National Crisis
Since 2013, individuals with drinking problems have been diagnosed as having alcohol use disorders, which are divided into three levels: mild, moderate, and severe. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show the predominance of alcohol use disorders, alcohol use, alcohol-related conditions, fatalities, and underage drinking.
- According to the CDC, in the United States, excessive alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death. More than 95,000 people die from excessive alcohol use each year, which breaks down to 261 deaths per day.
- Although overall drinking is on the rise, research shows that there are greater increases of alcohol consumption among women, older adults, racial minorities, and the poor, according to a report in the American Public Health Association.
- According to the results of the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), almost fifteen million people ages twelve and older had alcohol use disorders. This number includes 414,000 adolescents between the ages of twelve and seventeen.
- The results of the same survey showed binge drinking was reported by 25.8 percent of people 18 years old or older. Heavy alcohol use was reported by 12.8 percent of people in the same age group.
What Is a Standard Drink?
A standard alcoholic drink in the United States contains 0.6 ounces (1.2 tablespoons or 14.0 grams) of pure alcohol. That is the amount generally found in:
- Beer: 12-ounces with five percent alcohol content
- Wine: 5-ounces with twelve percent alcohol content
- Malt liquor: 8-ounces with seven percent alcohol content
- Liquor or distilled spirits: 1.5-ounces of 80-proof with forty percent alcohol content
The guidelines for drinking in moderation are two alcoholic drinks or less in a day for men and one alcoholic drink or less in a day for women.
What Is Considered Excessive Drinking?
According to a report by the CDC, excessive drinking includes heavy drinking, binge drinking, drinking by anyone younger than twenty-one, or any drinking by pregnant women. For women, heavy drinking is defined as drinking eight or more drinks per week. For men, heavy drinking is defined as drinking fifteen or more drinks per week. The most common type of excessive drinking is binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined for women as having four or more drinks during a single occasion. For men, binge drinking is having five or more drinks during a single occasion.
The Short-Term and Long-Term Health Risks of Excessive Drinking
Drinking too much alcohol has many immediate effects that increase the individual’s risk of harm. The person often acts dangerously or takes risks they normally would not, such as driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, or having sex with multiple partners. These risky behaviors often result in vehicle accidents, unintended pregnancies, or sexually transmitted diseases. Excessive drinking is often the cause of injuries from falls and burns. Additional short-term health risks include:
- Violence, including homicide, sexual assault, suicide, and intimate partner violence
- Stillbirth, miscarriage, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
- Alcohol poisoning
- Overdoses from opioids and other substances used while drinking
Excessive alcohol use over time often leads to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, digestive problems, or liver disease.
Other long-term health risks include:
- Cancer, including a higher risk of throat, mouth, esophagus, breast, liver, and colon cancers
- Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety
- Learning and memory problems, including poor school performance and dementia
- Weakening of the immune system
- Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence
- Relationship, family, financial, employment, and productivity problems
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to alcohol or drugs, now is the time to get help. At English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, our team of caring professionals will help you take back your life. Give us a call to learn how to begin your journey to a sobriety.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.