“Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow”April is Alcohol Awareness month. This designation began in 1987 to call awareness to alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. The hope is to increase public awareness and reduce the stigma around alcoholism.This year’s theme is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow,” and this year’s focus is on underage drinking. It’s a fact that more than 1,700 U.S. college students are killed in alcohol-related incidents, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). Those incidents include traffic accidents, violence, suicide, and alcohol overdoses.
A Big Problem ExistsThis is a multi-faceted problem with a wide range of consequences for individuals, their families and communities. Alcohol is the number one substance of choice for our nation’s young, and is more likely to kill than all the other recreational drugs combined. Other jarring statistics include: Each day, 7,000 kids under 16 take their first drink Those who started drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than those who begin at the legal age of 21 More than 1,700 college students are killed each year from alcohol related injuries 25 percent of our nation’s children are exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their families Underage drinking costs our country $62 billion each year.
A Progressive DiseaseThe progression of alcoholism is a long one, so when young people drink irresponsibly, it can be harder for them to acknowledge or understand the problems that lie ahead. Many may not know that genetic predisposition exists and may not know in those early years who will, or won’t, move into full-blown alcoholism. Even ignorance of the short-term dangers have led to many preventable deaths from alcohol poisoning or accidents.Some of those poisoning incidents involve newer ways of “pushing the envelope” in order to find a better buzz in no time, like alcohol enemas (butt-chugging), eye shots (poured directly, and painfully in one’s eye), soaking gummies or other candies in booze, or smoking alcohol. These ways of avoiding the digestive tract send large amounts of alcohol directly to the bloodstream for an almost immediate high, and if it’s too much, the result can be death from alcohol poisoning.
Hazing RitualsHazing rituals that involve heavy drinking are now more coming to light and are being punished to prevent future activities of that nature. Drinking games? They’re a crapshoot, too. Prohibition certainly didn’t work, so preventive strategies seem to be the best bet, like educating the public at large and targeting youth in low-income areas where alcoholism rates are high. Changing the perspectives of social norms, restricting advertising aimed at our youth, and designated driver programs may also at least help. But education should begin early in our schools and communities to be the most beneficial.Ball State University in Muncie has taken action to shed light on another problematic issue exacerbated by heavy drinking, by requiring incoming freshmen to take an online course examining the connection between alcohol use and sexual violence. This new policy comes under a federal law designed to reduce violence on college campuses. This law, the Federal Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, asks campuses to track domestic violence, dating violence and stalking, as part of a national push to protect students from sexual attack.Other ways designed to help our youth have a healthy respect for the dangers of excessive drinking comes in the form of smart phone apps and moderation programs designed to help drinkers decide if their intake is problematic and ways to keep consumption down – although if one is already entrenched into an addiction, these efforts do little to help.
Establishing Drinking LimitsFor those individuals (and young people can become addicted to alcohol) treatment is most often needed. Established drinking limits and interactive tools for self-assessment are also available. But the best education begins at home, starting as soon as possible. “Just say no” is good in theory, but more is needed. Setting a good example is, of course, the best thing, but you can also teach your kids about the disease of alcoholism and how it effects lives. Teach them about peer pressure and how to circumvent dangerous activities.Teach healthy ways to relieve stress and instill knowledge of proper nutrition, so when they’re on their own they are less vulnerable. Discuss binge drinking, alcohol poisoning and show them the statistics. In the end, it’s up to each individual to decide what to do in social situations, but added awareness may make all the difference.
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