Considering that awareness months and holidays are intended to highlight issues, diseases or causes most of us aren’t already, well, aware of, it may seem unnecessary to devote a whole month to alcohol awareness. After all, you can’t walk down the street, turn on the computer or open a magazine without seeing alcohol-related advertising or branded merchandise, and the success of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other public health campaigns have spread messages about the dangers of alcohol far and wide.
But familiarity can be dangerous, hence the need to stop and think about our own beliefs and behaviors for four weeks out of the year.
It’s true that most of us enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly, but Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) still affects about 15 million adults in the United States. About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the nation.
A few simple questions can help us understand whether our own drinking habits are problematic:
- Do I ever drink more, or longer, than I mean to?
- Do I ever drink to feel better?
- Do I drink to cope with stress or other problems?
- Do I feel anxious or grouchy without a drink?
A brief reflection on our own thoughts and beliefs could also help us realize that, even if our own drinking habits are controlled and responsible, we may be tolerant of (or even encouraging) problematic patterns in those around us, especially young people. Kids who are exposed to adults who binge drink are far more likely to do so themselves.
Alcohol continues to be the most abused drug among youth in the United States, and contributes to the deaths of more than 4,300 underage youth per year, as well as leading to 189,000 emergency room visits by people under age 21 for injuries and other conditions annually.
If we want to do more to prevent alcohol-related problems with our daughters, sons, nieces, nephews and other children in our lives, it’s important to role model responsible behavior around them, and to talk to them about our own alcohol use, even if all they notice is that we tend to have a drink in hand on holidays.
You can learn more (much, much more) about talking with children about alcohol at the Speak Now! Colorado website. We’re proud to work with this important campaign every month of the year.
You don’t have to use scare tactics to encourage or maintain responsible drinking, but it’s important to be honest with the children in your life, and with yourself, about alcohol.