April is Alcohol Awareness Month: What You Should Know

Alcohol abuse is affecting more than 100 million worldwide and causing three million deaths per year.  The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says there are roughly 18 million people who struggle with alcohol use disorder in the United States.

During the pandemic Covid-19, nearly one in five Americans turned to “heavy drinking” to cope with the isolation, uncertainty, financial strain and higher chances of job loss, and mental health problems.  Liquor stores were considered “essential business” and delivered to your door.  Shut-ins were throwing Zoom cocktail parties.  Binge drinking increased and alcohol deaths soared.  Fatty liver disease increased and the national list for people seeking liver transplants rose by 50%.

What Do Alcohol Terms Mean?

According to Healthline.com, alcohol abusers are separate from alcoholics who need alcohol to get through the day. The majority of college students drink alcohol and almost half report binge drinking in the past two weeks yet they are not necessarily alcoholics; they would qualify for the title as alcohol abusers because they are not dependent on alcohol although they drink too much on occasion and their drinking habits often result in poor judgement and risky behavior.

The college students fit the category of being “almost addicted,” when the problems fall outside of normal behavior but falls short of meeting the criteria for a particular diagnoses such as alcoholism, psychopathy or substance dependence.” J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., Ph.D., with Eric Metcalf, MPH, authors of Almost Addicted (Hazelden, 2012).

What’s The Difference between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence?

Alcohol abuse is less severe than alcohol dependence.  The behavior of alcohol abuse will:

  • drink habitually.
  • often put themselves or others in dangerous situations as a result of their alcohol use.
  • experience problems at home, work or school because of drinking.
  • binge drink regularly.  Binging=5 or more drinks in 2 hrs. for men.  In women, 4 or more drinks in 2 hours.
  • does not experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • possibly lead to alcohol dependence.

Alcohol dependence is also known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction.  The substance abuser is physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol.  According to the National Library of Medicine, there are four main factors that define alcohol dependency  including: physical dependency and withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, fear, hallucinations, seizures, severe confusion.  Those who are dependent may exhibit these symptoms:  anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, nightmares, depression, irritability, clammy skin, pallor, sweating, hand tremors, loss of appetite, rapid heartbeat, delirium tremens, a dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal.  There is tolerance to the effects of alcohol and a need to drink more and more each time to achieve the same effect.

They may be only partaking in activities in which drinking is present.  Even after a short period of time without drinking, those with Alcohol Use Disorder will exhibit withdrawal symptoms.  Similar to the abuser of illegal drugs, alcoholic drink despite the fact they know the side effects are harmful.  They drink as a means of relieving stress.


Because of the intensity of alcohol dependence, treatment may often need to be longer:  one year or more for alcohol dependence as opposed to 90 days for alcohol abuse. In addition to support groups like AA, there are many medications that can target the underlying mechanisms of addiction such as naltrexone or acamprosate.  Certain anti-seizure and antidpression medicines have shown effectiveness, according to Dr. Kevin Roach, author of “To Your Health,”Treasure Coast Newspapers, April 13, 2023.

How do you define recovery:

  • Does it mean more than just not misusing drugs and alcohol?
  • When does it start?  Is it at the time at which you have a problem and seriously take steps to make a sobriety plan?
  • What if you have a relapse?  How do you count these periods?

According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), “recovery” is defined as a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives and strive to reach their potential.” In other words, it involves more than forfeiting the drugs that lead to the addiction.  It includes healing mentally, physically and emotionally from the causes of substance abuse.


A month of abstinence may test you at a rehab or after a self-imposed “Dry January” in which you drink mock cocktails because you are “sober curious.”  It may cleanse your body or lead to entertaining the thought that you could possibly stay sober for over thirty days.

According to the Betty Ford Institute Consensus Panel, there are three stages of abstinence:

  • Early 1-12 month of abstinence.
  • Sustained (1-5 years of abstinence).
  • Stable (more than five years of sobriety).

Guidelines for Drinking

Alcohol is both a stimulant and a depressant depending on how much you drink.  It is NOT governed by the Food and Drug Administration, but The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).  For this reason, alcohol is not referred to as a drug yet it acts as a highly visible popular one.

What Is Considered “Heavy Drinking?”

  • 3 drinks per day or 7 per week for women.
  • 3 or more a day or 15 a week if you’re a man.

To curtail excessive drinking habits, the Centers for Disease Control recommend the following for moderate drinking:

  • 1 drink for women per day.
  • 2 drinks for men per day.
Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

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