April is Alcohol Awareness Month

In 1987, the advocacy organization the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) established Alcohol Awareness Month, held annually in April. Today, the nationwide observance held annually in April is a time to raise awareness and understanding of alcohol use and alcohol use disorder, educate about treatment and recovery pathways, and address stigma that people with AUD often face. 

AUD is a medical condition in which people have a reduced ability to control their alcohol use even if they experience social, professional, or health consequences as a result of their drinking. You might hear it referred to as alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, alcohol addiction, or alcoholism. AUD can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on how many symptoms of the disorder a person has.

Words matter. Changing our language can be a start to reducing stigma. This guide from Boston Medical Center can help you replace stigmatizing language.

A person’s risk of developing AUD is partly dependent on how much and how quickly someone drinks alcohol, including binge drinking. Other factors that make it more likely that a person might develop AUD are drinking alcohol at an early age, having a family history of AUD, having mental health conditions like depression, and having a history of trauma.

AUD treatment and recovery

If you’re concerned about your drinking, there is hope. AUD is treatable and there are more treatment options available than you might think. There are three FDA-approved medications to help people stop drinking or drink less: Acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. These medications can be used alone, or they can be used with behavioral treatments, like counseling, or self-help/12-step programs. They can also be used in the short-term, long-term, or for your whole life, depending on what you need or prefer. Learn more about medication for addiction treatment (MAT).

The Helpline can help you take the first step. Call 800.327.5050, text 800327, or chat with us online to learn more about your options.

Recovery is an ongoing process and setbacks can be part of that process. Having a strong supportive community can help people stay in recovery from AUD and avoid or address recurrence of use. Besides self-help/12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART Recovery, you can build your community through Peer Recovery Support Centers, recovery coaches, and by surrounding yourself with supportive people. MAT can also help you maintain recovery. You might also find other ways to help you support your recovery like faith, therapy, sports, meditation, or anything else that helps keep you feeling healthy.

Safer alcohol use

If you’re not ready for treatment, there are some strategies you can use to help you stay safe while you’re drinking alcohol, such as eating before you drink, deciding how much you’re going to drink, alternating alcoholic drinks with water or other nonalcoholic drinks, and having a safe way to get home if you are out. If you are thinking about cutting down the amount of alcohol you drink, you can find some strategies on the Rethinking Drinking website.

Talk to a doctor before making any changes to your drinking so they can help you avoid dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Support for families and loved ones

AUD affects families and loved ones, too. If you’re concerned about a loved one’s alcohol use, you can take steps to help your loved one, your family, and yourself. Learn how you can support your loved one and know that there is support for you, too. You might find it helpful to join a peer support group like Al-Anon or Learn2Cope, an advocacy group, or a learning community like the Helpline Champions.