April is Alcohol Awareness Month

News Release
For Immediate Release: 4/27/2021

Julie Naughton, Department of Health and Human Services, (402) 471-1695 (office); (402) 405-7202 (cell) Julie.Naughton@nebraska.gov


Lincoln – April is Alcohol Awareness Month and the Division of Behavioral Health in Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services has an important message about alcohol use. For those struggling with alcohol use disorder and/or any other addiction -- help is available and people do recover.

Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. About 95,000 Americans die from alcohol-related causes each year. In Nebraska in 2020, there were 123 alcohol-attributable deaths.

“During the month of April, it is important to bring awareness to the signs and effects of substance use disorder and misuse of alcohol," said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “It is also important in April for communities and families to talk about alcohol, how to talk to a loved one who may have concerning behaviors, and how to find help.  Substance use disorder is a complex illness, but there is help and there is hope, no matter what your situation is."

Nationally and in Nebraska, alcohol is by far the most misused substance. According to the National Institute of Health's 2020 Monitoring the Future Survey, 55.3% of high school seniors have used alcohol in the past year. Results of the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), demonstrated that one out of four people who drink have abused alcohol in the last year.   25.8 percent of people ages 18 or older engaged in binge drinking in the past month; 6.3 percent reported that they engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month. Binge drinking is typically defined as five or more drinks for a man and four drinks or more for a woman in two hours.

Young adults are especially at risk. “The period of transition to adulthood in the late teens and early twenties can mark the initiation of substance use behaviors, misuse and binge drinking," said Dawson. “Moving out from the parental home and making independent decisions may lead to poor choices.  Research suggests that teens whose parents talked with them about alcohol avoidance before they begin their first year of college are more likely to not use alcohol or to limit its use—so don't be afraid to start that conversation. Parents can play a key role in giving their kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their health and their lives."

In Nebraska in 2020, 12.4% of young adults reported driving under the influence of alcohol during the past year.  Prevention work around the state has impacted young adult binge drinking.  Data shows binge drinking has decreased among both genders from 2013 (50.8% males, 44.1% females) to 2020 (34.0% males, 30.3% females).  Nebraska needs to continue to address the number one drug of use and binge drinking rates.

Concerned about a loved one's alcohol use?  Friends and family may be uncomfortable talking or acknowledging the gravity and reality of what they are experiencing.  A few suggestions for starting a meaningful conversation:

  • Try to be objective and open. Do your best to keep an open mind and remain curious.
  • Ask open-ended questions. These are questions that elicit more than just a “yes" or “no" response and will lead to a more engaging conversation. For instance, you might say, “Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?" or “Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?"
  • Let your loved one know they're being heard. Use active listening and reflect back what you are hearing. For example, you can say, “I'm hearing that you feel overwhelmed, and that you think drinking helps you relax. Is that right?"
  • Discuss the negative effects of alcohol, and what that means in terms of mental and physical health, safety and making good decisions.

In talking with your young adult about alcohol, look for opportunities to raise the topic naturally. For instance, for a teen starting college, discussions about majors and course selection can easily lead to a conversation about the ways in which alcohol use can disrupt academic success and career options. Emphasize that any decisions about alcohol need to be made in accordance with the law and their health. Other tips:

  • Discuss reasons not to drink. If you have a family history of alcoholism or drinking problems, be honest. Explain that your teen might be more vulnerable to developing a drinking problem.
  • Teach your college student to never leave any drink unattended—whether or not the beverage contains alcohol. And don't accept a drink from someone you don't know, especially if you did not see where it came from.
  • Realize that your college-bound student will most likely be in a social situation where drinking is happening, and some of the people they are with could be of legal drinking age. Discuss how they should decide whether or not to refuse a drink, and talk about the various reasons to avoid alcohol and how and when to say "no." 
  • Be prepared for questions. Your teen might ask if you drank alcohol when you were underage. If you chose to drink, share an example of a negative consequence of your drinking.
  • Remind your student that drinking to cope with stress, to forget problems, or to try to feel comfortable in a situation that feels unsafe or threatening is never a good idea.

Concerned about your own alcohol use? The National Institutes of Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends asking yourself the following questions:

  • Have you had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer, than you intended?
  • Have you more than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn't?
  • More than once, have you gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming or using machinery)?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?
  • More than once gotten arrested, been held at a police station, or had other legal problems because of your drinking?

For help and links to find treatment, please reach out to the Nebraska Family Helpline, 888-866-8660. To search for a local provider online, visit https://alcoholtreatment.niaaa.nih.gov/how-to-find-alcohol-treatment/step-1-search-trusted-sources-to-find-providers   

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