April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which is sponsored annually by the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD). What is Alcohol Awareness Month? Edmund Murphy, author for recovered.org, explains, “[Alcohol Awareness Month] offers communities a chance to gain more understanding of how individuals struggle with alcohol abuse, offers advice and help for those affected, and highlights the serious health issues caused by alcohol.”
Wisconsin is quite infamous for its drinking culture. Indeed, binge drinking culture is something many Wisconsinites grow up around and get indoctrinated into, as if it were a rite of passage for being an adult. A 2021 study conducted by 24/5 Wall St. used data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a joint program between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, to identify the U.S. counties with the highest excessive drinking rates. Out of the 50 drunkest counties, the top 11 were located in Wisconsin; Brown, Calumet, and Outagamie counties fall within the top 20. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, alcohol-related deaths have risen by nearly 25% in the state of Wisconsin. These rising numbers are not insignificant.
Available trending statistics and surveys continue to show an increasing problem with alcohol consumption and binge drinking. In Wisconsin, 1 in 4 people self-reported that they were partaking in “excessive drinking.” According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “Binge drinking is drinking so much at once that your blood alcohol concentration level is 0.08% or more. For a man, this usually happens after having 5 or more drinks within a few hours. For a woman, it is after about 4 or more drinks within a few hours. Heavy alcohol use is having having more than 4 drinks on any day for men or more than 3 drinks for women.” The culture around drinking is something Wisconsin builds and maintains year after year. When considering both numbers and reputation, it’s safe to say that our state has a risky relationship with alcohol usage and many are affected by excessive alcohol usage each year. Excessive use of alcohol can lead to alcoholism and a physical dependence upon alcohol.
What are some signs of Alcoholism/Alcohol Use Disorder? According to Mayo Clinic, the following symptoms may manifest in mild, moderate, or severe form(s):
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so
- Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or recovering from alcohol use
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home due to repeated alcohol use
- Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social or interpersonal problems
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid withdrawal symptoms
If your drinking patterns result in repeated problems functioning in your daily life, it’s critical to speak with a medical professional about your drinking habits. While alcohol use disorder can range from mild to severe, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious health problems, so seeking behavioral/medical treatment is necessary for one’s overall well-being. Alcoholism can significantly impact the user both physically and mentally with short-term and long-term effects, including as depression, anxiety, alcohol poisoning, memory problems, liver dysfunction, digestive problems, and more. Many people with alcohol use disorder resist the option of treatment because they don’t recognize their drinking habits as problematic. In some cases, an intervention from loved ones might be a helpful method for certain people recognize and accept that they are in need professional support for their alcohol abuse. If you’re concerned about a loved one and think they might have a problem with substance abuse, please seek out a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice about approaching the subject of drinking habits with this person.
Alcohol Awareness Month is an excellent time to check in with one’s drinking patterns. If you are concerned that you or a loved one may have a problem with substance abuse, here are some further information about alcohol abuse and resources to seek support:
- https://www.aa.org/ (Alcoholics Anonymous)
Foundations Health and Wholeness wants to see you and your loved ones heal and thrive. If you would like to make an appointment with one of our counselors for your healing journey, please call our client engagement team at 920-437-8256 to schedule an appointment. You matter! Foundations is here for you.
Maggie F., Grants and Content Manager
Eileen Kozlovsky, LPC, CSW