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Alcohol Awareness Month: Tackling the Nation’s Leading Cause of Preventable Death

By Steve Sarin 03/29/21
Given more than 500,000 COVID-19 deaths and 81,000 annual opioid overdoses, it's easy to forget the almost 100,000 Americans who die each year because of alcohol.
Image: 
Depressed man on screen in online therapy with therapist whose back is to the camera, holding a sign that says "you are not alone."
Covid-related restrictions have forced treatment centers to rethink how they provide treatment. Photo 71496559 © Verbaska | Dreamstime.com

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. As the nation focuses on COVID-19 and the overwhelming opioid epidemic, it’s critical that we not overlook alcohol, which continues to be the most used and abused addictive substance in the U.S.

Each April, the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month to raise awareness and foster a deeper understanding of alcohol use disorder causes and treatment.

Given more than 500,000 COVID-19 deaths and the 81,000 annual opioid overdoses, it can be easy to forget that almost 100,000 Americans die unnecessarily each year because of alcohol.

NCADD reports that one in every 12 adults, or 17.6 million people, abuse or are dependent on alcohol. Millions more Americans engage in binge drinking regularly, and seven million kids live with a parent who regularly abuses alcohol.

The results of casual alcohol abuse are deadly. Pre-COVID, up to 40 percent of all hospital beds in the U.S. were used to treat health conditions directly related to alcohol consumption. Almost 90 percent of adults in the U.S. report drinking alcohol during their lifetime, and more than half of adults said they consumed alcohol in the last 30 days. Most people indeed drink in moderation, but 40 percent of adults drink more than the low-risk guidelines recommended by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

A multitude of reasons can explain the laissez-faire attitude many of us have toward alcohol. We use booze to celebrate, commiserate, and enhance a variety of experiences. It can feel alienating to be the odd one out when passing up a drink at a concert hall, bar, or football stadium. But alcoholism spares no one. Your age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status are irrelevant; this progressive and fatal disease can affect anyone.

The bright spot is that alcohol use disorder is 100 percent treatable. Treatment centers and 12-step programs offer help and hope for those in need. As COVID forces many to adopt Zoom for business meetings and family gatherings, it’s also forced treatment centers to rethink how they provide treatment.

Before the pandemic, online treatment options were limited. Only a few centers across the country offered virtual treatment. Skepticism of online substance about treatment was widespread and valid. How would rehab centers verify client adherence to requirements to avoid substances? Perhaps more importantly, can therapists establish the trust and connection needed to create a productive therapeutic environment through a computer screen?

The answer is a resounding yes. One such skeptic, AspenRidge Recovery therapist Jeff Olson LPC, LAC, wasn’t always a fan of virtual substance abuse treatment. But the COVID-19 pandemic and AspenRidge Recovery’s online treatment program (REACH) caused Jeff to reconsider his initial bias. Jeff joined the telehealth team and is now thriving as a virtual substance abuse treatment provider.

“I had to adjust my clinical approach and learn how to establish and develop a connection with clients when we’re both miles apart,” Olson said.

Even during a global pandemic, options exist for everyone, no matter their location, to combat alcoholism. From local 12-step communities to a full-service treatment center, help is available.

Alcoholics Anonymous can be enough for some, but many (if not most) people benefit from a professional treatment program. Addiction does not develop overnight and can’t be treated in a day, and the best outcomes result from sustained group and individual therapy. While It’s important to treat the active addiction for 30 days, the real change comes from healing the underlying causes. The process will be challenging, but I can personally attest to the benefits of a comprehensive treatment program. It’s tough, difficult work, but there is a new life on the other side of addiction.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, call AspenRidge Recovery today to speak with a Client Advocate. They’ll help you find the best treatment option for your situation, even if it isn’t with us. You can call us 24/7 at 855.281.5588, or you can visit https://reachonlinerecovery.com and learn more about our virtual outpatient programs accessible in multiple states.

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