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Cheers to Alcohol Awareness Month

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April is alcohol awareness monthMillions of Americans enjoy relaxing with a glass of wine, enjoying a beer during the game, or commemorating a milestone with a champagne toast; however, it is important to keep in mind that the old saying, “If some is good, more is better,” can be dangerous when it comes to alcohol consumption. What better a time than during April, Alcohol Awareness Month, to think about the safety of our alcohol consumption habits.

The face of drinking in the United States might surprise you. The most recent report on the demographics of alcohol use in this country, “Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings”, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Office of Applied Studies, offers some interesting statistics:

  • Just over half of Americans aged 12 or older reported that they are “current drinkers of alcohol.”
  • Among adults aged 18 or older, the rate of alcohol use at some point in the past month increased as their education level increased.
    • 38.8 percent of adults with less than a high school education reported themselves to be current drinkers, while 67.9 percent of college graduates stated that they drank.
    • Young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 who were enrolled full time in college were more likely than their peers who were either part-time students or not enrolled in college to have used alcohol in the past month, binge drank, or drank heavily.
  • The rate of current alcohol use was higher among full-time employed adults than among unemployed adults, but the rate of heavy use was higher for unemployed individuals than for fully employed individuals.
  • More than one fifth of individuals aged 12 or older binge drank at least once in the 30 days leading up to the survey.
  • In terms of racial/ethnic groups and drinking rates, Caucasians were most likely to report current use of alcohol. Asians were least likely to binge drink.

With drinking rates so high in this country, and with a significant amount of binge drinking taking place, it is important that all consumers understand the risks of alcohol, particularly when consumed in excess. Drinking can increase the risk of cancer of the liver, esophagus, throat, and larynx; it also can increase one’s risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, immune system problems, heart problems, and brain damage. Between its role in chronic disease, car accidents, and other catastrophic events, alcohol abuse kills more than 75,000 people each year. The involvement of alcohol in emergency room admissions, suicides, homicides, and domestic violence is also significant.

When it comes to the line between alcohol use and abuse, knowledge is power. Check out the wide range of resource that NCL has to offer on topics such as the definition of a standard drink; teens and binge drinking; and parents, teens, and alcohol.

Despite clear findings about the health risks of alcohol, a significant body of research has also shown that drinking in moderation – meaning no more than one drink daily for women, or two for men – can offer certain health benefits, ranging from cardiovascular protection to decreased weight gain. Talk to your doctor to determine if and how alcohol can play a healthful – and enjoyable – role in your own lifestyle