Alcohol Awareness: There is Hope and Help

By: Fred KnappLead Counselor, New Connections Program

April is Alcohol Awareness Month which is an annual opportunity to overcome the stigma of alcohol use disorder and increase education of the dangers of alcohol misuse.

According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 14.1 million Americans ages 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder and 25.8% individuals 18 and older had participated in binge drinking in the past month (4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men in about 2 hours).

Each year, an estimated 95,000 people in the United States die from alcohol-related causes. It is the third most preventable cause of death in the US, following tobacco use and poor diet/physical activity.

Drinking too much alcohol over time can cause serious health problems including: liver disease, digestive problems, heart problems, diabetes complications, eye problems, birth defects, bone damage, neurological complications, weakened immune system, and an increased risk of cancer. 

Some people are more affected by a certain amount of alcohol, while others are less affected. The reason for this is unknown, but it is known that an undefined amount of alcohol can cause changes in the brain leading to use disorder.

These are a few behaviors that may indicate that you or a loved one could be abusing alcohol:

  • The smell of alcohol on the breath, slurred speech, lack of coordination, nausea or vomiting, hangovers
  • Having memory loss or blackouts from drinking
  • Experiencing accidents or injuries while drinking
  • Alcohol use interfering with work, school, or other activities
  • Choosing to drink alcohol while or prior to driving or boating

Alcohol abuse can manifest to become an alcohol use disorder. There is no way to determine how much alcohol use it might take to move from simple use to an alcohol use disorder except, more. The amount is different for each individual, making identifying a problem challenging. These are some indicators of alcohol disorder:

  • Cannot control the amount they drink
  • Tolerance continuing to increase to create a "buzz"
  • Feeling sick, shaky or restless when not using alcohol
  • Continuing to drink, even though it is harming themselves or their loved ones
  • Putting drinking ahead of other activities
  • Making excuses or hiding drinking
  • Wanting to quit drinking, but still drinking

Many people with alcohol related issues don't recognize that they have a problem. An intervention from a friend or family member can help them to recognize and accept that they need professional help. Treatment for alcohol use disorder can vary, depending on individual needs. It may involve a brief intervention, individual or group counseling, an outpatient program, or a residential inpatient stay.

If you feel that you or a loved one are struggling with problematic alcohol use, know that you are not alone. It can be overwhelming to consider seeking help, but there are many resources available in our community. Your Life Iowa has a 24/7 hotline that the Iowa Department of Public Health created where Iowans can live chat, text, or call to receive use disorder information and find nearby help. To learn more visit, call (855) 581-8111 or text (855) 895-8398.

Broadlawns Medical Center’s New Connections is here in our Des Moines community for individuals seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder as well as other substance use disorders. New Connections provides integrated substance abuse and mental health treatment for the body, mind and community. 

As part of the Broadlawns Medical Center Behavioral Health Department, New Connections is a co-occurring treatment program presented by Addiction Treatment Services. New Connections employs a nationally recognized, evidence-based, interactive curriculum to help individuals discover their strengths, gain confidence, and learn skills to help individuals overcome their dependence on alcohol or other drugs and maintain abstinence based living. 

New Connections explores the daily challenges of living with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders while offering the opportunity to develop appropriate tools for:

  • Responsible thinking
  • Values 
  • Individual change 
  • Relationships
  • Transitions in living
  • Life skills 
  • Handling difficult emotions 

The decision to seek treatment for what appears to be a problem with alcohol is rarely easy. If you feel that you or someone you love drinks too much, or has problems as a result of drinking, seek help. Call Broadlawns New Connections at (515) 282-6610. All forms of insurance are accepted and financial assistance may be available.