Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), has been in full swing during the month of April. This event aims to shed light on the stigma around alcohol by raising awareness, understanding, and knowledge of treatment options for those whose lives have been impacted by alcoholism. One key feature of their event is the Alcohol-Free Weekend. For one weekend, NCADD encourages people not to consume any alcohol. This allows those individuals or families who struggle to meet that goal to reflect on the implications of their struggle and reach out to agencies who could provide support and to learn more about alcoholism and its early symptoms.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) is a great resource to learn about alcohol and its effects. Alcohol impacts many of the body’s systems. Alcohol’s effects can include slurred speech, confusion, memory problems, reduced immune function, coma, breathing problems, and of course, death. Additionally, alcohol can impact decision-making, and lead to events such as car crashes, accidents, risky behavior, violent behavior, and others. Long-term alcohol drinkers can also suffer from health problems. Long-term alcohol use can impact the way the brain, heart, liver, and pancreas work. It can increase the risk for mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast cancer. The CDC estimates that excessive drinking costs the United States economy almost a quarter trillion dollars annually. In addition to this cost to society, it is estimated that 88,000 people die each year because of alcohol.
Participating in the Alcohol-Free Weekend can be the first step to identifying whether one’s alcohol consumption has reached problematic levels. Individuals who experience difficulty maintaining abstinence are encouraged to seek additional support. There are a lot of resources online. The Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration, NIAAA, and NCADD all have a lot of information about alcohol and alcohol use disorder. At CBAM, expert clinicians offer Addiction Medicine services in a primary care setting, and we are currently conducting a clinical trial to test whether a medication called Horizant is useful and safe in treating alcohol use disorders. If you are interested in the clinical trial, you can find more information here or by calling 310-206-6756.