Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence as a way to increase outreach and education about the dangers of alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. The program began in April 1987 with the intention of targeting college-aged students who might be drinking too much as part of their newly discovered freedom. An important purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month is to reduce the stigma associated with alcoholism (and substance abuse in general) by recognizing that alcohol use disorder AUD is a health condition that needs treatment, offering education and screening, and providing treatment resources.
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH, 2019), it is estimated that 14.5 million Americans ages 18 and older and an estimated 414,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 had an alcohol use disorder. AUD exists when a person can no longer control their alcohol use, compulsively abuses it despite negative consequences, and/or experiences emotional distress when not drinking (NIAAA, 2020). Nationally, 26.45% individuals 18 and older reported binge drinking (generally 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men, consumed within about 2 hours) while 6.6% admitted to heavy alcohol use (binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month). A serious emerging trend, “high-intensity drinking” is defined as consuming alcohol at levels that are two or more times the gender-specific binge drinking thresholds. Each year, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually and in 2015 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 31% of overall driving fatalities (10,265 deaths and 29% of all driving fatalities NHTSA, 2016]). Unfortunately, these deaths could have been avoided, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States (NSDUH).
Denial exists among those struggling with alcoholism or alcohol abuse. People often underestimate the amount they drink, the duration of their drinking problem, the impact it has on their life, family, and friends or exaggerate their ability to control/reduce/quit drinking. Denial is also common among friends and family members who are uncomfortable acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, and may unwittingly “enable” the person struggling with alcoholism to “keep the peace”. Monica (2021) provides several resources to help talk with someone who is in need of help. Alcoholics anonymous (https://aa.org/pages/en_US/find-aa-resources) can provide a local meeting or hotline to help those struggling with alcoholism to find help during times of crisis. Usually toll-free, calling these numbers can connect them with licensed treatment facilities or assist them in finding recovery resources and support groups (and Al-Anon groups for family members).
Suggested Topics for Faith Community Member Education
Contact a local treatment center, addictions counselor, or alcoholics anonymous to provide an educational program for your congregation. Invite the local AA group to meet at your faith community. Arrange for an addictions specialist to conduct AUD screening at a health fair or faith community event.
Attend SBIRT training to add this expertise to your FCN role, so you can offer screening brief intervention and referral to treatment services for your congregants.
Monico, N. (2020, June 1). Alcohol awareness month. [Blog post]. Addiction Centers of America. https://www.alcohol.org/awareness-month/
Monico, N. (2021, April 7). How to help an alcoholic. [Blog post]. Addiction Centers of America. https://www.alcohol.org/helping-an-alcoholic/
National Center for Statistics and Analysis (2016). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA]. Alcohol-impaired driving. In: Traffic Safety Facts: 2015 Data. U.S. Department of Transportation. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812350
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism [AIAAA]. (2020). Alcohol Facts and Statistics. National Institutes of Health. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact- sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
University of Missouri-Kansas City. SBIRT Training School of Nursing and Health Studies (n.d.). SBIRT Training. https://sbirt.care/training.aspx
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA] (2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact- sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics