Written By: Frances M. Harding, Director, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention
We continue to celebrate National Prevention Week, and today’s theme focuses on preventing alcohol abuse. Alcohol consumption at high levels can pose serious safety and health risks and is associated with approximately 79,000 deaths per year.1 Nearly 18 million people aged 12 or older were classified with alcohol dependence or abuse in 2010.2
Several problems are associated with alcohol dependence, including liver damage, diabetes, cardiovascular complications, and chronic disease. These side effects take a toll not only on the person who drinks, but his or her family, children, friends, coworkers, and members of the public. That said, by not abusing alcohol, one can experience plenty of positive side effects – from simply feeling better in the mornings to improved physical health.3
National Prevention Week honors communities’ commitments to prevent alcohol abuse and provides a platform for families and community members to take action. It’s a great occasion to join a community coalition or volunteer with a local organization that’s working to prevent alcohol abuse. Today, across the nation, SAMHSA-supported events are bringing together families and communities to educate and empower them with information and ideas.
Though we are rallying together to prevent alcohol abuse, there is still work to be done. Drunk and impaired driving is an especially tragic problem in the United States. SAMHSA’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that an estimated one in 10 people aged 12 or older drove under the influence of alcohol in the past year, and rates of driving under the influence were highest for young adults aged 21 to 25 (23.4 percent).4 In 2010, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes – that’s one death every 51 minutes.5 For information and resources to address drunk driving in your community, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Web site, Stop Impaired Driving.
Family and friends can help to prevent alcohol abuse during National Prevention week and year-round by recognizing the warning signs. Signs to look for include:6
- Alcohol use resulting in repeated neglect of responsibilities at home, work, or school;
- Alcohol use in situations where it’s physically dangerous;
- Repeated legal problems on account of drinking;
- Continued drinking even though alcohol use is causing social or interpersonal problems; and
- Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress.
Together, we can help bring this issue to the forefront of our communities, build awareness around the importance of prevention, and take steps to prevent the occurrence of alcohol abuse.
Visit the National Prevention Week Web site to learn more about this new health observance and SAMHSA-supported resources and programs focused on prevention. Take and share the “Prevention Pledge” on SAMHSA’s Facebook page to commit to a healthy lifestyle year-round and get others involved! If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be abusing alcohol, help is available at http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alcohol and Public Health. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Vol. I. Summary of national findings, (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH Series H 41, HHS Publication No. SMA 11 4658). Rockville, MD. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/2k10NSDUH/2k10Results.htm#3.1.
- Know When to Say When. Retrieved April 16, 2012, from http://www.whentosaywhen.com.au/benefitsofdrinkingless.htm
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2011). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Vol. I. Summary of national findings, (Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, NSDUH Series H 41, HHS Publication No. SMA 11 4658). Rockville, MD.
- NHTSA.gov. Impaired Driving. Retrieved April 11, 2012, from http://www.nhtsa.gov/Impaired
- HelpGuide.org. Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse: Signs, Symptoms and Help for Drinking Problems. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/alcohol_abuse_alcoholism_signs_effects_treatment.htm#abuse