Every April, people across America celebrate Alcohol Awareness Month, an initiative sponsored by Facing Addiction with the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). The theme of this year’s celebration is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.” During Alcohol Awareness Month, Partners for Prevention will begin their social media campaign on the damaging effects of alcohol and alcoholism. We urge Vermonters to promote treatment and recovery options and to support all those whose lives have been affected.

Alcoholism does not discriminate — it affects people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, geographic regions and socioeconomic levels. And, too many people are still unaware that alcoholism is a disease that can be treated, just like we treat other health disorders such as diabetes and hypertension. According to the 2018 Vermont State Health Assessment, 33,000 Vermonters are in need but have not received treatment for alcohol use disorder, and we need to address this real issue.

Alcoholism and alcohol-related problems touch all Vermonters, directly or indirectly, as a serious public health problem. Currently, nearly 17.6 million Americans have alcohol use disorder (AUD) or are alcoholic (NCADD). People age 12 to 20 years drink 13 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. and more than 90 percent is in the form of binge drinking. And, in purely economic terms, alcohol use problems in Vermont cost $513 million per year due to lost productivity, health-care costs, business and criminal justice costs (Centers for Disease, Costs of Drinking).

Research indicates that alcohol use during the teenage years could interfere with normal adolescent brain development and increase the risk of developing alcohol use disorder. In addition, underage drinking contributes to a range of acute consequences, such as injuries, sexual assaults, and even deaths — including those from car crashes. Alcohol and drug use are a very risky business for young people, and parents can make a difference. The longer children delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop problems associated with it. It’s important to help your child make smart decisions about alcohol and drug use.

We all have an investment in reducing the devastating impact that alcohol has on us as individuals, family members and members of our communities. We need to educate ourselves — as parents, teachers, clergy, employers, counselors, friends and neighbors — about the devastating power of alcohol misuse and the healing power of recovery.

Partners for Prevention is a community network dedicated to sustainable substance abuse prevention efforts for Rutland County youth and young adults. Stay connected by liking the Partners for Prevention on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/partnersforprevention or by checking out our website: https://www.partnersforprevention802.org/

This week’s Health Talk was written by Alan Saltis, regional prevention partnerships coordinator at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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