Each April since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) sponsors Alcohol Awareness Month to increase public awareness and understanding, reduce stigma and encourage local communities to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. For this year’s theme, NCADD chose, For the Health of It: Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction, “to draw attention to the need for early education to give kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives.”
Alcohol Awareness Month 2015 – Focus on Early Education on Alcoholism and Addiction to Prevent Underage Drinking
I wholeheartedly endorse this year’s Alcohol Awareness Month theme – a focus on EARLY education – for the following three reasons. [Note: in writing this section, I focus on alcoholism but please know it’s interchangeable with addiction (meaning an addiction or dependence on other drugs), as well.]
Alcoholism is a developmental disease.
People are not born alcoholics. Rather alcohol misuse changes brain structure and function, making a person’s brain more susceptible to the five key risk factors for developing the disease: genetics, early use, mental illness, social environment and childhood trauma. Check out, Want to Prevent Addiction? Assess Your Risk Factors.
Check out these two resources, as well: The Addiction Project > Adolescent Addiction and The Addiction Project > Why Do Some People Become Addicted?
Sharing brain science gives youth the facts they need to protect their brains and avoid underage drinking.
Little did we know until the Decades of the Brain (1990s) and Discovery (2000s) that the brain could take until age 25 to fully develop. Little did we know that the kinds of brain developmental activities that occur from ages 12 – early 20s, often through 25, explain why teens do the things they do (seek risks, not consider potentially negative outcomes, for example) and why alcohol and/or drug abuse can be so problematic for young people’s brains. Check out these two posts, Give Their Brains a Break | Underage Drinking Prevention and Want to Get Through to Teens? Talk to Their Brains.
Understanding drinking behaviors prevents and/or helps youth protect against Secondhand Drinking – the Other Side of Alcohol Misuse.
Secondhand drinking is what happens when someone misuses alcohol (this includes: binge drinking, heavy social drinking, alcohol abuse, alcoholism), which in turn changes how their brain functions, which in turn results in drinking behaviors. Drinking behaviors (driving while impaired, physical/verbal/emotional abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence [75% of domestic abuse is committed while one or both members are intoxicated], alcohol-related crime [up to 75% of crimes are committed by people under the influence of alcohol], crazy/convoluted arguments) are not intentional, rather the result of the ethyl alcohol chemical in alcoholic beverages interrupting normal brain functioning, which changes thoughts and behaviors.
When youth are exposed to or grapple with secondhand drinking, it changes how they enjoy their time at a minimum (following a drunk friend around to make sure she doesn’t wander off with some guy), it can also cost them their lives (being a passenger in a car driven by a drunk driver), and it can change how their brain functions. Check out these three posts:
- Secondhand Drinking Prevention
- Understand How the Body Processes Alcohol – Reduce Secondhand Drinking
- Mindfulness for Children – Preventing Underage Drinking | Drug Use
It’s Not Too Late to Get Involved in Alcohol Awareness Month 2015
NCADD has prepared an Organizer’s Guide filled with information and templates you can use to promote your effort or to raise awareness about Alcohol Awareness Month. Within their website, NCADD also offers the following information that can help:
- Frequently Asked Questions/Facts – Basic Facts as well as responses to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Talking With Children – Some general guidelines about talking with your kids about alcohol and drugs
- Tips for Prevention – Some specific suggestions about things that parents can do to help prevent alcohol and drug problems
- What to Look For – Signs and Symptoms? – as a parent what should I look for as signs of alcohol or drug problems
- Family History and Genetics – understanding the key role played by family history and genetics is very important in working with your kids
- Help for Parents – information about help and support for parents dealing with a child in trouble with alcohol and drugs
- Stories from Parents– parents sharing their experiences in the hope that they can help other parents.