Alcohol Awareness Month 2024

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In April 1987, the National Council for Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) hosted the original Alcohol Awareness Month. The initial goals of Alcohol Awareness Month were to accomplish the following:

  • Increase awareness of the harm caused by alcohol use disorder (AUD).
  • Increase awareness of the negative physical, psychological, and emotional consequences of alcohol misuse
  • Raise awareness about AUD treatment
  • Decrease stigma, misinformation, and fear about AUD treatment

After 32 years organizing Alcohol Awareness Month, the non-profit group Partners in Prevention took over, and built on the original mission: raise awareness, increase access, and reduce stigma around all facets of drinking, from the impact of low-to moderate daily consumption to the detrimental impact of binge drinking, heavy drinking, and alcohol use disorder.

Negative Consequences of Alcohol Consumption

We’ll now share information that hasn’t received significant attention in the media – yet. Reports published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show the following:

For perspective, the number of deaths attributed to alcohol each year is 75 percent greater than the number of deaths attributed to opioid overdose, but this figure does not receive enough attention. In addition, over twice as many men died of alcohol-related causes between 2015 and 2019, which means that we, as a collective, need to continuously remind everyone – but especially men – of the following message we’ve all heard almost all our lives:

Don’t Drink and Drive.

Although we prefer to discuss the consequences of alcohol misuse in human terms, the CDC recently published a study on the financial consequences of alcohol use in the U.S. Here’s what they reported:

The Real Costs of Alcohol Consumption

  • Top-line cost of excess drinking: $249 billion
    • Binge drinking accounts for 77%
    • Decreased work performance accounts for 72%
    • Health care accounts for 11%
    • Criminal justice expense account for 10%
    • Car crash expenses account for 5%

Followed by cigarette smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and poor eating habits, alcohol causes the most preventable deaths in the country. That’s another fact most people aren’t aware of – yet.

Now let’s take a look at how many people in the U.S. use alcohol. We’ll look at data on overall use, binge drinking, heavy drinking, and alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Alcohol Consumption in the U.S.: The Latest Data

The 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health provides current and reliable data on alcohol every year. The annual report includes data from more than 70,000 people nationwide, which allows us to make evidence-based conclusions about drinking across age and demographic groups in the U.S.

This is the most recent information on alcohol use, published in early 2023.

Alcohol Use in the Past 30 Days, 2022

  • Past 30-day use: 137.4 million
  • Binge drinking: 61.2 million (44.5%)
  • Among binge drinkers:
    • 18-25: 29.5% (9.8 million) – small decrease
    • 26+: 22.6% (50.1 million) – small increase
    • 12-17: 3.3% (834,000) – moderate decrease
  • Binge drinking, under age 21: 8.2% (3.1 million) – moderate decrease
  • Heavy drinkers: 18.3% (16.1 million) – no change
  • Among heavy drinkers:
    • 18-25: 7.6% (2.6 million) – moderate increase
    • 26+: 6.0% (13.4 million) – small decrease
    • 12-17: 0.2% (63,000) – significant decrease
  • Heavy alcohol use, under age 21: 1.7% (646,000) – very small increase

The latest guidance form the NIAA and SAMHSA indicate that both binge drinkers and heavy drinkers have elevated chances of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), compared to people who consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol. Therefore, in 2022, 77.3 million people age 12+ showed an increased likelihood of developing AUD compared to low-to-moderate drinkers. That figure include 3.75 million people under the legal drinking age.

Now let’s look at rates of AUD.

AUD 2022: Detailed Age Data

  • 12 + total: 10.5% (29.5 million) – no change
  • 12-17: 2.9% (753,000) – small decrease
  • 18-25: 16.4% (5.7 million) – moderate increase
  • 26+: 10.4% (23.1 million) – small decrease

Now let’s compare those AUD to rates of addiction to other substances. In 2022, the NSDUH included alcohol use disorder in their data on people with substance use disorder (SUD). In the following data sets, SUD includes people with AUD.

Past 12 Month Substance Use Disorder: 2022

  • Total diagnosed with SUD: 48.7 million
  • Alcohol: 29.5 million
  • Drugs other than alcohol: 27.2 million
  • Cannabis: 19.0 million
  • Opioids: 6.1 million
  • Legal opioids: 5.6 million
  • Legal stimulants: 1.8 million
  • Methamphetamine: 1.8 million
  • Cocaine: 1.4 million

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the most prevalent addiction disorder in the U.S., followed by cannabis. Those are the figures on addiction: now let’s look at the numbers on treatment.

Treatment Need and Treatment Received: 2022

People who needed treatment were those who received a clinical diagnosis for AUD or SUD. People who received treatment were those who reported receiving professional support in a designated alcohol or drug treatment center in the 12-months before taking the survey.

Needed Support for SUD in the Past 12 Months

  • 12+: 54.5 million
  • 12-17: 2.9 million
  • 18-25: 10.1 million
  • 26+: 41.4 million

Received Professional SUD Support in the Past 12 Months

  • 12+: 13.1 million
  • 12-17: 1.1 million
  • 18-25: 1.6 million
  • 26+: 10.2 million

Type of SUD Support in the past 12 Months

  • Community Support (AA or NA): 5.7 million
  • Peer Coach: 2.0 million
  • Telehealth: 3.5 million
  • Outpatient (designated treatment center): 2.2 million
  • Outpatient (any treatment): 12.6 million
  • Inpatient support: 1.3 million
  • Hospital inpatient support: 2.2 million
  • Emergency room: 1.9 million

This data reveals a problem we work to address every day, which is known as the treatment gap. The treatment gap is what it sounds like. It’s the numerical difference between the people who need treatment and the people who receive treatment.

Let’s take a look at the treatment gap for 2022.

The Treatment Gap: 2022

  • Overall, 12+: 76% in need received no professional support
  • 12-17: 63% in need received no professional support
  • 18-25: 84% in need received no professional support
  • 26+: 75% in need received no professional support

From our perspective, the treatment gap is far too wide, especially in the year 2024. Evidence-based treatment is available, and awareness about the dangers of alcohol and substance use disorder increases every year. But the numbers don’t lie. We need to expand our efforts to increase awareness about alcohol use disorder, increase education about treatment for alcohol use disorder, and increase access to treatment for alcohol use disorder.

We published an article the our blog about this topic. Please visit our website to read this helpful article:

Recovery Communities Help Close the Treatment Gap

Now let’s get back to the main purpose of this article: sharing information on National Alcohol Awareness Month.

National Alcohol Awareness Month: How We Can All Help

The most important this all of us can do is separate fact from fiction. First, in our own minds, and next, in the mind of our friends, peers, and loved ones, if we’re so inclined. Here are the primary messages people need to understand:

  • Millions of people in the U.S. need professional support for AUD or problem drinking
  • AUD is not a character flaw or a moral weakness: AUD is a medical condition that responds well to evidence-based treatment
  • Evidence-based treatment is available in every state in the country

That’s our mission: spread facts, and help people whenever we can.

There’s one more thing we need to address before we close this article. In recent years, research has shown that even low or moderate levels of drinking can lead to significant, long-term health risks.

The CDC recently issued this statement:

“Evidence suggests that drinking within the recommended limits may increase the overall risk of death from several types of cancer and some forms of cardiovascular disease. For some types of cancer, the risk increases even at low levels of alcohol consumption (less than 1 drink in a day).”

That’s not all. Another study showed the following facts about the relationship between binge alcohol consumption among moderate and heavy alcohol consumers and long-term health problems:

  • After an initial health assessment, moderate drinkers accounted for over 80% of health problems associated with alcohol nine years later.
  • Binge behavior among moderate consumers cause more problems than binge behavior among heavy consumers
  • Moderate consumption combined with binge consumption elevated risk of health problems associated with alcohol by over 400%

To learn how the CDC defines drinking levels such as moderate, heavy, and binge, click here.

These facts are still relatively unknown among the general public. In addition to the initial goals of National Alcohol Awareness Month – spread awareness about AUD and AUD treatment – sharing this new information about the health risks of alcohol is essential. We can use this month to help people who need treatment get the treatment they need, and to educate people about the risks of long-term alcohol consumption, with a specific focus on the dangers of binge drinking among people who consume a moderate amount of alcohol.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.