How National Alcohol Screening Day Can Improve Your Health
This article contains extensive discussion about alcohol, alcohol use disorder, and related topics. If you or someone you know lives with alcohol use disorder or might be, please contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357, available in English and Spanish. The SAMHSA National Helpline is free, and it is reachable 24/7.
It can be challenging to discuss alcohol use disorder and alcohol misuse. Not only are dangerous drinking behaviors, such as binge drinking, commonly normalized in our society (which can make it tough to detect signs that may indicate a problem), the statistics on alcohol use disorder and other alcohol-related concerns have continued to rise throughout the years. Raising awareness about alcohol use disorder and its signs can be crucial, which is a significant part of what National Alcohol Screening Day aims to do.
So, what exactly is Alcohol Screening Day, and how can this date improve the health of yourself and others? What might a typical alcohol use disorder screening entail, and what are the facts about alcohol use disorder? Let's take this chance to discuss the answers to these questions and how to find help if you need it.
What Is Alcohol Screening Day?
Alcohol Screening Day is a national event that takes place in the United States on April 6th of every year. The first Alcohol Screening Day took place in 1999. It is a day dedicated to raising awareness about alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder. On this day, individuals are encouraged to get an alcohol screening test and are provided resources for finding and getting help if they need it.
An alcohol screening is typically comprised of a short series of questions. These questions are meant to gauge your relationship with alcohol and help individuals identify alcohol use disorder. One of the most commonly used alcohol screening tools is the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). In honor of Alcohol Screening Day, you can take this test yourself or get screened by someone else at an event in your area. You can also find information about how and where to take an alcohol screener so that others in your community can take a look at their behaviors and find support for concerns related to alcohol, too.
Facts On Alcohol Use Disorder And Alcohol Misuse
In addition to promoting screening tools, learning about alcohol use disorder can be just one way to observe Alcohol Screening Day and raise awareness throughout the year. Alcohol use disorder (which is sometimes abbreviated to AUD), and alcohol misuse aren't interchangeable terms, but they both deserve to be addressed. It can also be important to note that alcohol misuse is a risk factor for alcohol use disorder. Here's some of what we know:
In 2019, 5 million individuals residing in the United States above the age of 12 had alcohol use disorder, but only 7.2% of those living with the disorder got treatment. That same year, 25.8% of those 18 and older experienced binge drinking, which is a pattern of drinking that raises an individual's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, excessive drinking has increased by 21% in the United States. Experts suggest that this will lead to an increase in alcohol-related deaths, including liver cancer and liver failure, which are already prevalent and growing concerns.
Those who experience alcohol use disorder face a heightened risk of various health concerns, including liver disease, heart disease, stomach bleeding, other GI issues, stroke, depression, early mortality, and some types of cancer.
Alcohol use disorder can seriously impact virtually every area of your life. Alcohol use disorder and alcohol misuse can affect your mental and physical health, family life and other interpersonal relationships, educational pursuits, professional life, and more. If you live with alcohol use disorder, you aren't alone, and help is available.
What Does Treatment For Alcohol Use Disorder Look Like?
Various forms of treatment are available for alcohol use disorder, and the most effective course of treatment can vary from person to person. Treatment for alcohol use disorder may include detox, inpatient or outpatient care, peer support groups, and more. Medications* are sometimes, but not always, used in treatment. If a person has a comorbid or co-occurring condition, which is common, treatment may address these concerns as well. Common conditions alongside alcohol use disorder include depression, anxiety, eating disorders**, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Often, ongoing support from others can be advantageous in recovery.
If you or someone you know lives with alcohol use disorder, or if alcohol use disorder is suspected, one resource you can use to find care is the SAMHSA online treatment locator, available here: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/.
*Make sure to consult with your doctor before stopping, starting, or changing medications.
**If you or someone you know lives with an eating disorder or displays signs of an eating disorder, please call or text the NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237.
How To Decrease Your Risk And Improve Your Health
To honor National Alcohol Screening Day and take care of yourself, what can you do outside of getting screened for alcohol use disorder? There are several ways to decrease your risk and improve your health. Here are some steps that can be taken:
Understand That Anyone Can Face Alcohol Use Disorder.
Factors that can increase the risk of alcohol use disorder include, but aren't limited to, the presence of another mental health condition, a history of trauma, family history, low-income status, and being between the ages of 18 and 25. However, anyone can face alcohol use disorder.
Make Positive And Supportive Social Connections.
Positive, supportive social connections can be beneficial for anyone. If you are sober or sober curious, or if you want to reduce your risk, one thing you might consider is surrounding yourself with people who don't connect via drinking. You may be able to find these individuals through local meetups and organizations, support groups, and online spaces.
Know The Warning Signs Of Alcohol Use Disorder.
Warning signs of alcohol use disorder can include patterns of consuming more alcohol than intended, being unable to cut down or stop drinking despite the desire to do so, and an increased tolerance for alcohol. You might find that you need to drink more than before to get the same intended effect. Additionally, you may continue to drink despite the behavior causing interference with your family life or professional obligations. Engaging in risky behaviors, such as operating heavy machinery or driving under the influence of alcohol, and experiencing withdrawals from alcohol, can also be signs of alcohol use disorder.
One of the most effective ways to prevent alcohol use disorder can be limiting or stopping drinking altogether. One or two standard drinks per day maximum is the recommended limit, depending on who you are. A standard drink contains fourteen grams of alcohol, which may look like five ounces of wine or twelve ounces of a typical or average beer, for example. However, it's recommended that you don't start drinking if you do not drink already, and some people are advised to avoid alcohol altogether.
Take Care Of Your Overall Well-Being.
It's known that stress and traumatic events can increase the risk of alcohol use disorder and alcohol misuse. With this in mind, it can be vital to use self-care, employ stress management, and establish healthy coping skills when dealing with life’s stressors. This may look like paying attention to sleep hygiene and taking measures to get enough sleep, engaging in physical activity, eating regularly, and spending time with people who make you feel good about yourself. It could also mean having go-to tools for coping during rough times, like breathing exercises, journaling, or reaching out to others—instead of turning to a drinking habit.
If you notice symptoms of a mental health condition, are experiencing ongoing stress, face tension in interpersonal relationships, or otherwise need someone to talk to, consider speaking with a therapist or counselor who can help. Support groups, which you can often find for free, may also be useful. If you're low-income, you may be able to find cost-effective or free mental health therapy, whether that's online or in a face-to-face setting. Alcohol use disorder and other mental health concerns can be overcome with the right tools and support.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
If you’re concerned about your habits with substances such as alcohol, consider confiding in a professional. Online counseling platforms like BetterHelp can connect you with licensed therapists who are experienced in a variety of areas, including substance use and addiction. Opening up to the people in your life about your substance use can be difficult and even uncomfortable—and often, they may not have the expertise to be able to help you.
The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
Research has shown the effectiveness of online therapy in treating a wide range of mental health concerns. One study found that therapist-guided e-therapy successfully curbed harmful habits related to alcohol consumption, cannabis use, and gambling.
National Alcohol Screening Day provides ample opportunity for you or a loved one to take a screening test to assess your level of dependence on substances like alcohol. If you discover that you’re struggling with a concern such as alcohol dependence or a substance use disorder, help is available. You can reach out for support through an online counseling platform, like BetterHelp. Many therapists are trained in specific areas, such as addiction, and can give you tools that may help you move past unhelpful habits.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does alcohol screening mean?
An alcohol screening is relatively non-invasive and brief. Typically, an alcohol screening is a brief questionnaire consisting of a series of questions like: "How often do you consume a drink that contains alcohol?" "How many standard drinks do you consume when you drink?" and "Has someone in your life expressed concern related to your drinking habits?" You can find a self-test online for free, or you can get screened by someone else. Often, there are public events that offer alcohol screenings to observe National Alcohol Screening Day.
Why is alcohol screening important?
Alcohol screening is important because it can lead to the detection of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and other concerns related to alcohol, like alcohol misuse. Detection of concerns such as AUD can save lives and prevent the long-term effects of heavy alcohol consumption.
What are signs that your liver is struggling?
Signs that your liver health is negatively impacted can include but aren't limited to jaundice, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and swelling, confusion, difficulty with memory, fatigue, and itchy skin. Make an appointment to see your doctor if you notice any physical or mental health-related symptoms that raise concern, as they could be serious.