April is Alcohol Awareness Month

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a month intended to increase knowledge and understanding of alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Alcohol is the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the United States, with 178,000 deaths per year from excessive alcohol use and 13,384 deaths from car crashes involving drinking. Alcohol misuse takes a large toll on the finances of the United States and its citizens. An estimated $249 billion is attributed to alcohol misuse costs and $68.9 billion per year to drunk driving crash costs. North Dakota alone spends an estimated $488 million on excessive alcohol use costs. Alcohol use disorder affects 29.5 million people ages 12 and up. 

The Center for Disease Control outlines multiple attributes of excessive alcohol use. These include binge drinking, which is five or more drinks on one occasion for men and four or more for women; heavy drinking, described as 15 drinks per week for men and eight drinks per week for women; and any alcohol use by anyone under the age of 21 or pregnant. 

Not only does alcohol cause an increased risk of death, but the risk of injury is increased as well. Short-term risks caused by alcohol use disorder may include injuries such as falls, drownings or burns. Alcohol misuse is also linked to increased numbers of violence like homicide, suicide and assault, as well as miscarriages, stillbirths and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Long-term effects of alcohol use disorder can range anywhere from liver and heart disease to several cancers and poor pregnancy outcomes. Alcohol misuse can also have long-term effects on individuals’ mental state such as memory problems like dementia and mental health issues like depression and anxiety. 

Many organizations and nonprofits have put their efforts towards alcohol use disorder treatment and recovery. NIAAA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; SAMHSA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and American Addiction Centers are a few groups dedicated to the rehabilitation of those suffering from alcohol use disorders. Fargo, North Dakota, is home to Sharehouse, a treatment facility offering multiple levels of care including residential, outpatient, NA/AA meetings and more. Christine Pryor, the Residential Coordinator of Sharehouse Fargo, was asked about the need for more accessible treatment for substance abuse disorders. “In my opinion, drug and alcohol use had been criminalized for so long, and the solutions were to put them in jail. Over the past 10 years we have seen change—law enforcement and the court systems are more willing to sentence addicts/alcoholics to treatment. The problem now is there are not enough treatment facilities in our community. I feel more treatment facilities would help to meet the needs of our community,” said Pryor. 

With the growing problem of alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder, April as Alcohol Awareness Month is the prime opportunity to outline these issues and inspire possible solutions within the community and beyond. 

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