Recognizing Alcohol Awareness Month

By Sunstone Counseling in collaboration with Vanessa Cheshier

Alcohol addiction affects millions of adults and is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. And unfortunately, addiction levels (for alcohol and drug use) are on the rise. While there is no singular cause or precursor for an individual to develop a substance use disorder or behavioral addiction, it is treatable and recovery is possible. 

Alcohol addiction can be a particularly insidious disease since alcohol is legal, readily available, and often part of social situations. While alcohol itself isn’t necessarily harmful when consumed safely and in moderation, it can have serious and deadly consequences for individuals, families, and communities. In fact, addiction costs the government over $35 billion a year and has taken more than 700,000 lives in the past 20 years alone.  

In recognition of April as Alcohol Awareness Month – which seeks to raise public awareness and educate people about the treatment and prevention of alcoholism – here are just a few of the ways alcohol can affect your physical and mental health, and how you can seek out help for you or a loved one. 

Your Brain on Alcohol

Drinking not only has the ability to negatively impact your social life, relationships, and job security, it can also wreak havoc on your physical health. And that’s not something that’s discussed often enough. 

Alcohol can disrupt your brain’s communication pathways, making it difficult for you to think clearly. These disruptions also make it more like you experience changes in your mood, memory, and coordination.

Heart Damage

Whether you drink a lot over a long period of time or drink too much in a single night, you are putting yourself at risk of heart damage. Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, strokes, and high blood pressure.

Increased Cancer Risk

According to the National Cancer Institute, there is a strong association between alcohol consumption and several types of cancers including oral, esophageal, liver, breast, and colon cancers. In fact, the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists alcohol as a known human carcinogen. 

Weakened Immunity

Drinking excessively can weaken your immune system, making you a target for illness and disease. Even drinking too much in a single night can make it hard for your body to ward off infections for a 24-hour period.

Worsened Mental Health

Alcohol can exacerbate existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, as well as interact dangerously with prescribed medications for mental illness. Using alcohol as a way to numb mental health challenges or temporarily feel better can backfire as you’re not able to create true coping mechanisms to treat and manage your symptoms. 


Help is Available

It can be difficult to recognize if you’re struggling with alcohol addiction but taking the time to observe and understand your alcohol use is important. There are resources available that can help you identify and understand your relationship with alcohol, including this one from the National Institute of Health. And, there are numerous ways and places to find treatment should you need it, including talking with your primary care doctor, finding a support group, and seeking out behavioral treatment (like counseling)

If you’re wondering if you or a loved one might have an addiction to alcohol, know that you are not alone. Talk to someone you trust and make a plan to seek out treatment. You can take back your life and develop a healthier relationship with alcohol for your physical and mental health.

In honor of alcohol awareness month, here is a list of recommended self-help reading:

  1. Understanding Alcoholism as a Brain Disease by Linda Burlison
  2. The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
  3. Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker
  4. Take Control of Your Drinking by Michael S. Levy
  5. The Alcohol Experiment by Annie Grace

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Filed under: Addiction, Awareness

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