NHM Health Focus:
Alcohol Awareness Month
April is Alcohol
Awareness Month. Often, people who are not alcoholic do not understand
why an alcoholic cant just use a little willpower
to stop drinking. However, alcoholism has little to do with willpower.
Alcoholics are in the grip of a powerful craving, or uncontrollable
need, for alcohol that overrides their cognitive ability to stop drinking.
This need can be as strong as the need for food or water. (NCADI)
Alcohol abusers include people of all ages, cultures, and occupations.
"When many people think of alcohol abusers, they picture teenagers sneaking drinks before high school football games or at unsupervised parties. Alcohol abuse is prevalent within many demographic groups in the United States. People who abuse alcohol can be:
- College students who binge drink at local bars.
- Pregnant women who drink and put their babies at risk for fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Professionals who drink after a long day of work.
- Senior citizens who drink out of loneliness."
Regular, long term use of alcohol can:
- "Damage the frontal lobes of the brain.
- Cause an overall reduction in brain size and increase in the size
of the ventricles.
- Lead to alcoholism (addiction to alcohol) and result in tolerance
to the effects of alcohol and a variety of health problems.
- Cause a vitamin deficiency."
"Alcoholism, also known as 'alcohol dependence,' is a disease
that includes four symptoms:
- Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
- Loss of control: The inability to limit ones drinking on any
- Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating,
shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a
period of heavy drinking.
- Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order
to 'get high'.
"Alcoholism, like other addictions, is a brain disorder. Research
has shown that genes shape how an individual experiences alcoholhow
intoxicating, pleasant, or sedating it isand how susceptible he
or she is to developing alcohol use disorders. Research has also shown
that chronic heavy drinking causes long-term, and perhaps permanent, changes
in the way the brain responds to alcohol. These parallel insights from
neuroscience research are paving the way for new medications that will
improve alcoholism treatment and relapse prevention." (NIAAA)
"Research shows that more than 40 percent of individuals who start
drinking before the age of 15 will develop alcohol abuse or alcohol
dependence at some point in their lives."(SAMHSA, USDHHS)
For those who drink but have not been specifically identified as at
risk for alcoholism, or alcohol abuse, screening is a first step. AlcoholScreening.org has online screening and extensive databases listing treatment centers as well as local or online support groups.
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum resources related to
alcohol and alcohol use: