April is 'Alcohol Awareness Month'

Staff reports
The Chronicle-Express

\April is "Alcohol Awareness Month," a national public health awareness campaign sponsored by the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD).

Alcohol Awareness Month was developed in order to increase awareness and understanding of the causes and treatment of one of our nation’s top public health problems: alcoholism. Established in 1987, Alcohol Awareness Month allows communities to focus on spreading awareness and reducing the stigma associated with alcohol addiction. Observance of this awareness campaign also highlights the need for education on the dangers of unsafe alcohol consumption.

Alcohol is the most used substance by youth and adults in the United States. According to the National Institute of Health’s 2020 Monitoring the Future Survey, 55.3% of high school seniors used alcohol in the past year. Results of the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), demonstrated that 85.6 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 69.5 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 54.9 percent reported that they drank in the past month; and 6.3 percent reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month. Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. About 95,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes each year. The effects of alcohol and alcohol use disorders reach everyone.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period for a man, and four alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period for a woman, which translates to drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short time. For youth, only three drinks for girls and three to five drinks for boys constitute binge drinking, depending on their age and size. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 66 million, or about 24 percent of people in the United States ages 12 and older reported binge drinking during the past month.

The survey noted some important trends.

Preteens and teens: Rates of binge drinking among 12 to 17 year olds have been decreasing in the last decade. Still, according to the 2020 NSDUH, 4.9 percent of people in this age group reported binge drinking in the past month.

Young adults: Rates of binge drinking among 18 to 22 year olds have been decreasing in the past decreasing in the past decade but remain high. According to the 2019 NSDUH, 27.7 percent of people in this age group who are not enrolled in college full-time and 33 percent of full-time college students in this age group reported binge drinking in the past month.

Older adults: Binge drinking is on the rise among older adults – more than 10 percent of adults ages 65 and older reported binge drinking in the past month, and the prevalence is increasing. The increase in this group is of particular concern because many older adults use medication that can interact with alcohol, have health conditions that can be exacerbated by alcohol, and may be more susceptible to alcohol-related falls and other accidental injuries.

Women: The number of women who binge drink has also increased. Studies show that among U.S. women who drink, about one in four engaged in binge drinking in the last month. These trends are concerning as women are at an increased risk for health problems related to alcohol misuse.

Alcohol affects all tissues in the body. Even one episode can compromise the function of the immune system and can lead to acute pancreatitis in individuals with underlying pancreatic damage. Alcohol misuse over time contributes to liver and other chronic diseases, as well as increases in the risk of several types of cancer, including head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal cancers. Alcohol is also related to heart disease. The toxicity of alcohol damages and weakens the heart muscle over time. This makes it difficult for your heart to pump blood efficiently. More than half of the alcohol related deaths each hear stem from binge drinking, and binge drinking accounts for 77 percent of the annual economic cost of alcohol misuse.

For adolescents, binge drinking has a direct effect on the developing brain, causing issues that linger into adulthood in social, attention, memory, and other cognitive functions.

High-intensity drinking is defined as alcohol intake at levels twice or more the gender-specific definition for binge drinking. This dangerous drinking pattern means eight or more drinks for women and 10 or more drinks for men on one occasion. Research suggests that high-intensity drinking peaks around age 21 and is most common among young adults attending college. This pattern of drinking is of particular concern because it is associated with an eager greater risk of severe health and safety consequences.

There is help for people who are struggling with alcohol. The Finger Lakes Area Counseling & Recovery Agency (FLACRA), is a private non-profit agency with locations throughout the Finger Lakes region. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), also has meetings in a number of locations. Call 1-877-759-5919 to find a meeting near you.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 66 million, or about 24 percent of people in the United States ages 12 and older reported binge drinking during the past month.