April is National Alcohol Awareness Month
Reducing stigma through education
By GRAHAM JAEHNIG
April is the month every year set aside to raise awareness of alcoholism.
In addition efforts to increase outreach and education regarding the dangers of alcoholism and issues related to alcohol are central to the mission, according to the American Addiction Centers website, alcohol.org.
Recovered.org adds that Alcohol Awareness Month, which started in 1987, was initiated to help raise awareness of alcoholism and reduce stigma which may stop people from seeking treatment.
Michelle Morgan, retired psychiatrist and member of Keweenaw Support 4 Healthy Minds, said that stigma comes from a misunderstanding and a sense that the person “you are misunderstanding is somehow different from you in a negative way.”
The month is significant, because it offers communities a chance to gain more understanding of how individuals struggle with alcohol abuse, offers advice and help for those affected, and highlights the serious health issues caused by alcohol, states the recovered.org website.
Drug and alcohol stigma does happen and does have consequences, states the website NHS Inform, Scotland’s national health information service.
“Stigma is when a person, or group of people, are seen in a negative way or myths are believed about them,” the website states. “This may be because of a particular characteristic such as a disability, mental health condition or drug and alcohol use.” The site goes on to state:
Drug and alcohol stigma:
• stops people who need treatment and support from getting help as they feel judged;
• affects the friends and family of people struggling with an alcohol or drug problem;
• affects organizations and people who provide support.
In the U.S. the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) addresses the details of social stigma:
“How certain words are used to describe alcohol-related problems and the people who are affected by them perpetuate stigma. Stigma is a significant barrier in many people’s willingness to seek help for alcohol problems and can affect how they are treated in all aspects of life, including availability and quality of care. Reducing stigma is a step toward addressing these problems.”
The purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month, then, is reduce the stigma toward alcohol use disorder (AUD) through education of what AUD is.
AUD is treatable, but in order for those suffering with the disorder, the stigma often inhibits them from seeking that treatment.
AUD is not a choice one makes. According to the NIAAA, AUD is a brain disorder that can be can be mild, moderate, or severe. Lasting changes in the brain caused by alcohol misuse perpetuate AUD and make individuals vulnerable to relapse.
The good news, states NIAAA, is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, evidence-based treatment with behavioral therapies, mutual-support groups, and/or medications can help people with AUD achieve and maintain recovery. According to a national survey, 14.1 million adults ages 18 and older (5.6 percent of this age group) had AUD in 2019. Among youth, an estimated 414,000 adolescents ages 12-17 (1.7 percent of this age group) had AUD during this timeframe.
However, the online fact sheet states, several evidence-based treatment approaches are available for AUD.
One size does not fit all and a treatment approach that may work for one person may not work for another.
Treatment can be outpatient and/or inpatient and be provided by specialty programs, therapists, and doctors.