Last week’s post was a perfect lead in to National Prevention Week this week. National Prevention Week is supported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). It is an annual event held in late Spring lasting for one week. The focus is to increase public awareness, gather public support, and generate public action around substance abuse and mental health issues.
Since I (usually) post on Wednesdays, and it was Wednesday’s topic for the week, I am going to talk about the prevention of alcohol abuse. Generally when we think about prevention, we think about youth. After all, it is our job to teach them to make good choices, and help them to make good decisions. Especially around issues that can affect their future. But when we are talking about the prevention of alcohol abuse, we can also be talking about adults. If we can prevent kids and adults from abusing alcohol, then perhaps we can prevent some individuals from going down the slippery sliding slope into addiction.
Let’s take a look at prevention.
It can be described as efforts to stop or deter something from happening. Examples of different kinds of prevention efforts might be:
- Mandating that individuals to wear seatbelts when in the car
- Encouraging individuals to do preventative health care in order to avoid disease
- Requesting that individuals use stepstools in the workplace rather than chairs to avoid injury
You have heard all of these messages in your lifetime from several different sources. They all involve several key components of prevention:
- Pervasive, repeated, consistent communication: the same message is delivered over and over again by different people
- Education: information is provided regarding the issue, the goal of the prevention efforts, and around the why it is important to follow through
- Skills: concrete tips that empower individuals to take control of their situation, become their own best advocate, and make responsible and informed decisions
So, why apply prevention to alcohol abuse?
Clearly this is an area where changes can be made. Through the reduction and (in some cases) elimination of alcohol abuse, there can be saved lives through the decrease of physical damage from alcohol. There is also the potential to reduce the mental and emotional damage that often occurs through both primary and secondary alcohol use. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has spent some time gathering statistics. They have found:
- In 2012, 24.6 percent of people aged 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month (drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks on the same occasion on at least 1 day in the past 30 days)
- Nearly 85,000 people die from alcohol-related causes in the US every year making it the third leading preventable cause of death
- According to one 2012 study, more than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with an alcohol problem
So at any age, what can you do for yourself and others in the realm of alcohol abuse prevention?
- Just say no. Sure we have all heard and made fun of the campaign in the 80’s centered around this idea. However, it really is a fundamental building block of preventing alcohol abuse. Don’t worry about what others might think, don’t care about how it might look, don’t believe that everyone is doing it. Practice in front of the mirror and with others. Get to the point where it feels natural and is an automatic response so that when it comes up in a situation, you don’t have to think about it first.
- Get educated about alcohol and drugs. In order to make an informed decision, you must have the facts. Don’t rely on the rumors promoted by your friends and others. Talk to people who know the actual facts. Meet with a substance abuse counselor, check out SAMSHA, NIAAA, or the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc (NCADD) on the internet, or talk with someone involved in the local prevention efforts. Get the information you need to make the best decision for you, your health, and your relationships.
- Plan. “Let’s make a plan for that” is something my clients often hear (they probably get sick of me saying it!). But it is critical. If you are going out with friends, if you are in a risky situation, if you are uncomfortable, what are you going to do? Don’t react to the situation, respond and be your own best advocate because you developed a plan beforehand.
Everyone is responsible for the prevention of alcohol abuse. Step up. Start the conversation. Participate in local efforts. For the prevention of alcohol abuse to work, we all must be involved.
If you or someone you love has gone beyond the point of prevention and is struggling with addiction or codependency issues, Contact me today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation to talk about how we can work together or find the right person for you.