April is Alcohol Awareness Month. Marking April as Alcohol Awareness Month began in 1987 with the goal of raising awareness that alcohol abuse is a disease, and, like many diseases, it is a public health concern that can, and should, be treated medically. Dr. Nicole Steinhardt, DNP-BC, Sheboygan Internal Medicine Associates explains, “Alcohol Use Disorder is an overall term for a cluster of disordered behaviors related to alcohol consumption. This includes alcoholism, binge drinking, and others. We should recognize that individuals with alcohol abuse issues have a medical condition and need help from a provider trained to treat addiction.” Some signs that an individual is suffering from an Alcohol Use Disorder are:
Dr. Steinhardt says, “In addition to being a serious disease in its own right, alcoholism and other alcohol use disorders are closely related to other health issues. Alcohol is a toxin and chronic, high levels of consumption are damaging to your cells.” You may know that the liver works to detoxify the alcohol, however, in the meantime, it will still travel throughout the body and affect all your body’s systems. “This is why alcohol consumption is a risk factor for many other diseases.”
Here are some of the major connections between alcohol abuse and other diseases:
The good news is that alcohol consumption is a modifiable disease risk factor. Dr. Steinhardt reminds us that, “Social stigma often stops individuals from talking about their alcohol abuse, even with their doctor. Recognizing that alcohol abuse is a disease can help lower the stigma a person may feel and open the door to a conversation about treatment.” In fact, Alcohol Awareness Month starts with an alcohol-free weekend that is designed to be a test. Those individuals who find it challenging to go 72 hours without drinking may benefit by contacting their doctor or an addiction treatment professional.