April is Alcohol Awareness Month

People drink to socialize, celebrate, and relax.  Alcohol often has a strong effect on people – and throughout history, we’ve struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power.  Why does alcohol cause us to act and feel differently?  How much is too much? Why do some people become addicted while others do not?

Here’s what we know:
Alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:

• How much you drink
• How often you drink
• Your age
• Your health status
• Your family history

While drinking alcohol is itself not necessarily a problem – drinking too much can cause a range of consequences, and increase your risk for a variety of problems.

Consequences of drinking too much
Alcohol enters your bloodstream as soon as you take your first sip. Alcohol’s immediate effects can appear within about 10 minutes. As you drink, you increase your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, which is the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream.  The higher your BAC, the more impaired you become by alcohol’s effects.  These effects can include:

• Reduced inhibitions
• Slurred speech
• Motor impairment
• Confusion
• Memory problems
• Concentration problems
• Coma
• Breathing problems
• Death
Other risks of drinking can include:
• Car crashes and other accidents
• Risky behavior
• Violent behavior
• Suicide and homicide

What Can Be Done?
Alcohol dependence is a serious medical problem, and it is important to assure that high-quality treatment for this condition is available to those who need it. However, most excessive drinkers are not alcohol dependent; therefore, it is also important to implement effective community and clinical prevention strategies for excessive drinking−such as increasing the price of alcohol, reducing alcohol availability, and screening and counseling for excessive drinking among all adults in primary care. A comprehensive approach to reducing excessive drinking that includes evidence-based community strategies, screening and counseling for excessive drinking among adults in healthcare settings, and high-quality substance abuse treatment for those who need it is likely to have the greatest impact on reducing excessive drinking and related harms.

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