“Alcohol isn’t a drug!” I retorted to the substance abuse counselor at my university. I had been taken into the facility the night before because I had passed out at a party and spent the night at the university health center. All my other friends drank a lot too, but I was the only one who seemed to end up at the health center a couple times per year.
As the years passed, I found myself the first person at 4 pm happy hours, only to be there until the bar closed at 2 am. Slowly but surely, my alcohol use became increasingly problematic. I eventually ended up in rehab later in my adult life and quit drinking for good shortly after.
Quite frankly, I was uneducated about alcohol and its dangers. I did not understand alcohol abuse, addiction, and how it can show up in someone’s life. I did not understand how or why something would be seen problematic if it was so easily accessible, highly promoted, and often glamorized. April 7th is National Alcohol Screening Day, a day to raise public awareness to the harmful effects of alcohol on a person. Much of my alcohol abuse could have been prevented if I had simply known the facts.
Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States:
17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder and millions of more individuals engage in risky behaviors such as binge drinking that can potentially lead to alcohol abuse disorder.
Alcohol can affect every organ in the body:
The brain, liver, heart, pancreas, and stomach are all affected by alcohol, and can result in severe medical complications that might cause death. Alcohol is extremely addictive because your body builds up a tolerance and dependence to the substance – you need more alcohol to have the same effects. It is important to seek medical treatment for alcohol withdraw as it can cause seizures, and even death.
Some indications of risky or excessive drinking include:
- Drink more, or longer than you intended
- Try to cut down or stop drinking, but are not able to
- Have to drink more than you once did to get the effect you want
- Continue to drink even though it makes you feel depressed or anxious or adds to another health problem
- Loved ones and/or trusted friends have made comments about your drinking pattern
- Spend a lot of time drinking or thinking about alcohol
- Find that drinking often interferes with daily activities, family, friends and/or work
- Have been arrested or had other legal problems due to drinking
- Experience symptoms of withdrawal when you don’t drink (withdrawal symptoms include: shakiness, sweating tremors, headaches, anxiety, irritability, and/or insomnia)
If you think you have a problem with alcohol it is ok – you are not alone – help is out there. You deserve to get help and live a life that is not plagued by this horrible affliction. You can start by taking one of these alcohol screening tools (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK65513/). If you are ready to seek treatment, you can visit SAMHSA’s Behavioral Health Treatment Center Services Locator (https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/) or their National Helpline at 1800-662-HELP (4357). Alcohol abuse can happen to any person regardless of age, gender, educational status, or race. You do not have to wait until it is too late to take control of the alcohol use in your life.
Know the facts. Get the help. Live the life you deserve.
Staff Blogger: Stephanie Reaves, Peer Services Educator
Stephanie grew up in the Philadelphia area and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Princeton University in New Jersey. She is currently a student at Bryn Mawr College earning her Masters in Social Service.
Stephanie enjoys being active in her community, and began volunteering at health fairs and other community events with MHA in 2017 after healing from her own struggles with mental health and substance abuse.
Stephanie officially joined the team as a Peer Educator in 2019. She enjoys hiking, cooking, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She believes in the power of kindness and empathy to make a difference in the lives of others, and is involved in her church community and in various 12-Step programs in the area.