As shocking and disparaging as the recent press release from the CDC announcing the worst ever year-on-year figures for fatal drug overdoses across the nation, the overall total is still way below the estimated 95,000 U.S. citizens who die needlessly from alcohol-related illness and accidents every single year.
“Alcohol is not the problem. It’s the temporary solution to your problem – usually, an underlying issue that needs to be treated.” – Alexa Morgenroth, Executive Director at SpringBoard Recovery, on “Arizona Midday.”
To highlight this year’s National Alcohol Awareness Month, a public health program organized annually by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), our very own Alexa Morgenroth, Executive Director at SpringBoard Recovery, spoke to Destry Jetton, from “Arizona Midday,” a local weekday TV program, produced by 12NEWS in Phoenix, Arizona
Here at SpringBoard Recovery, Alexa oversees operations and programming, while championing an ethical, inclusive, and compassionate culture. She believes clients should have a voice in their own recovery, and it is important to her that clients feel safe, empowered and are able to pursue their passions on their way to living their own purpose-driven life.
Prior to joining ourselves, Alexa held various positions throughout the drug and alcohol abuse field, including at the Arizona Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family, where she worked to develop statewide programs to combat the opioid crisis. However, before we get to Alexa’s interview on Arizona Midday, a little background behind the importance of this national annual event…
What is National Alcohol Awareness Month?
National Alcohol Awareness Month is a public health program organized by the NCADD with the dual aim of increasing both outreach and education surrounding the dangers of alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. Beginning in 1987, the initial aim of NCADD was to target a specific at-risk U.S. demographic – college-aged students who might develop alcohol issues as part of their new “college life.”
“29 people die every day from an alcohol-related [cause] – a death that is preventable.” – Alexa Morgenroth, Executive Director at SpringBoard Recovery, on “Arizona Midday.”
However, thanks to its ongoing acceptance and promotion in mainstream media, and its undoubted success, too, National Alcohol Awareness Month has since become a renowned campaign that continues to reach out and educate people about the causes and effects of alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder (or AUD – the medical label for alcoholism), as well as how to help yourself, family members, friends, and communities deal with any drinking problems.
Alexa Morgenroth on “Arizona Midday”
Alexa Morgenroth, Executive Director at SpringBoard Recovery, was recently interviewed by Destry Jetton on the popular local weekday TV program, “Arizona Midday,” produced here in Phoenix, Arizona by 12NEWS, about National Alcohol Awareness Month.
After providing a concise background to the history of the public health event, Alexa was asked about the warning signs for people engaged in alcohol abuse, to which she replied, “The top warning signs are an inability to stop or control your drinking or to stop and impose time limits on your drinking, and these are the signs of an individual struggling. This is the point where someone is crossing over that line of alcohol use to alcohol abuse.”
However, the advice was different for family members and friends: “The warning signs that families are more likely to notice are isolation, major changes in behaviors, and an increase in risky behaviors.” Alexa added, “29 people die every day from an alcohol-related [cause] – a death that is preventable.”
When asked “What should someone do if they recognize these warning signs in someone else or themselves?” Alexa stressed, “Approach somebody with a nonjudgmental form of communication.” She continued, “SpringBoard Recovery has trained specialists available daily to answer phones, walk individuals through this process, and provide treatment options.”
The advice was more than clear – for individuals, family members, friends, and so on. They can “call one of our trained specialists, and they can get answers, they can get help, and they can get a plan for their problem.”
Alexa then spoke about SpringBoard Recovery’s latest therapy: Accelerated Resolution Therapy. She said, “We provide group therapy, we provide individual treatment options, and we provide trauma therapy. We are really known for our Accelerated Resolution Therapy,” and then explaining “It restores connections within the brain to resolve trauma.”
Alexa continued, “Research shows that ART therapy is more successful, in a shorter amount of time, and produces long-lasting effects. Alcohol is not the problem. It’s the temporary solution to your problem – usually, an underlying issue that needs to be treated.”
She further explained how alcohol can create problems, and worsen existing ones: “Heightened anxiety, heightened depression, heightened stress – that is caused by the increase in alcohol, leading to an increase in dopamine levels – the feel-good hormone. The minute we stop using alcohol, those dopamine levels plummet, and our serotonin levels plummet.”
In conclusion, Alexa stated, “Alcoholism is a disease, and it should be treated as such. It does not mean you’re a bad person. It means you have a problem, something [else] going on that needs to be addressed.”
Alcohol Awareness Month Amid Troubling Times in the U.S.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has brought an additional focus onto the use (and abuse) of alcohol in the U.S. With an estimated 95,000 people dying every year from alcohol-attributable causes, alcohol is now the third-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., behind only tobacco, and poor diet/physical inactivity.
U.S. Alcohol Use & Abuse: The Latest Official Statistics
According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) – the latest official government data available, although, obviously, pre-pandemic – figures for binge drinking and other types of alcohol misuse, the prevalence of alcohol use disorder (AUD), underage drinking, and the socio-economic cost of alcohol use, have shown little sign of change compared to previous years.
If you then consider the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic upon these specific areas of alcohol use and misuse, the official figures for 2020, presumably, will certainly be no better, and potentially, far, far worse. Here are the most concerning aspects of recent alcohol use in the U.S., as demonstrated by the results of the 2019 NSDUH survey:
- Prevalence of Binge Drinking, Heavy Drinking & “High Intensity” Drinking
- In 2019, 25.8% of people aged 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past month (29.7% for men, and 22.2% for women in this age group), with 6.3% reporting that they engaged in heavy alcohol use.
- Additionally, an emerging trend known as “High-Intensity Drinking” (qualified by consuming alcohol at a level 2 or more times the gender-specific binge drinking threshold) showed that, when compared to non-binge drinkers, “high-intensity drinkers” were 70 times more likely to have an alcohol-related emergency department (ED) visit, and those who consumed 3 times their threshold of alcohol were 93 times more likely to have an alcohol-related ED visit.
- Prevalence of Underage Drinking (12 to 20-year-olds)
- According to the same 2019 national survey, 39.7% of 12 to 20-year-olds reported that they have had at least 1 drink in their lives, with around 7.0 million (18.5%) of this age group reporting drinking alcohol in the past month (17.2% of males, and 19.9% of females).
- Approximately 4.2 million (11.1%) reported binge drinking in the past month, and approximately 825,000 people (2.2%) reported heavy alcohol use in the past month. However, this does demonstrate a decline in year-on-year trends.
- Sadly, underage drinking continues to be a major factor in a range of acute consequences, such as injuries, sexual assaults, alcohol overdoses, and deaths, including those from motor vehicle accidents
- Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Treatment
- Again according to the 2019 NSDUH, about 7.2% of people aged 12 and older who had AUD in the past year received any treatment in the past year, and about 6.4% of adolescents, aged 12 to 17, who had AUD in the past year received any treatment in the past year. Additionally, less than 4% of people with AUD were prescribed an FDA-approved medication to treat their disorder.
- Unsurprisingly, people with AUD were more likely to seek care from a family physician for an alcohol-related medical problem, rather than specifically for drinking too much alcohol.
- Alcohol-Related Emergencies and Deaths
- The rate of all alcohol-related ED visits increased 47% between 2006 and 2014 – an average annual increase of 210,000 alcohol-related ED visits. Furthermore, alcohol contributes to about 18.5% of ED visits, and 22.1% of overdose deaths related to prescription opioids.
- Alcohol Abuse: The Consequences for Families
- Approximately 10.5% (7.5 million) of U.S. children, aged 17 and younger, live with a parent with AUD, according to a 2017 report.
U.S. Alcohol Research Data & Reports During COVID-19
Last year’s national Alcohol Awareness Month came at a time when the coronavirus was present in the U.S., albeit at a level where no-one could accurately foresee the horrific death toll that was to occur, or even the widespread social and economic damage that was to follow. As we have witnessed, much can happen in a year.
“From the stress of unemployment to feelings of isolation during physical distancing, there are many reasons the COVID-19 emergency may be influencing alcohol consumption.” – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
In November 2020, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board mirrored much of the rest of the U.S. when they announced colossal increases in statewide online alcohol purchases when compared to the previous year:
- Unit sales increased by 851%, and
- Dollar sales increased by 436%
Additionally, in 2020, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline – 800-662-HELP – for individuals and families seeking either mental health or substance use disorder (SUD) support witnessed a 27% increase in phone calls year-on-year.
Numerous medical research studies into alcohol consumption and its effects during 2020 provided further clear evidence of the same story. For example, in one study, the aptly-named “Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults,” it was found that 31.4% of participants reported binge drinking in the last 30 days, with 7.0% engaging in heavy alcohol use. Both of these percentages are far higher than in the official 2019 statistics detailed previously.
Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of the participants reported that their drinking had increased when compared with their drinking prior to COVID-19, citing a number of expected reasons, including increased stress, increased alcohol availability, and boredom.
Further studies have found similar results, such as one study conducted by the NYU School of Global Public Health which found that people with anxiety and depression are more likely to report an increase in drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic than those without mental health issues. The most important findings regarding the link between mental health and increased alcohol consumption showed:
- 29% of respondents increased their alcohol use during 2020; however, those with depressive symptoms were 64% more likely to have increased alcohol use
- Younger respondents (aged 19-39) had the highest probability of reporting increased alcohol use – regardless of their mental health status, and
- The probability of older persons (over the age of 40) reporting increased drinking was far higher among those with poor mental health
Ariadna Capasso, doctoral student, and the study’s lead author stated, “This increase in drinking, particularly among people with anxiety and depression, is consistent with concerns that the pandemic may be triggering an epidemic of problematic alcohol use.”
SpringBoard Recovery Treats Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
This year’s National Alcohol Awareness Month has come at an opportune time. Even more people than ever need to understand that excessive alcohol consumption is not only “bad for your health” – it can be both damaging and destructive for every important aspect of your life.
SpringBoard Recovery, located in Scottsdale, near Phoenix, Arizona, treats all substance use disorders, including AUD. Our outpatient alcohol rehab program will enable you to successfully develop a new lifestyle that does not depend on alcohol.
We take a holistic approach to your rehabilitation, helping you to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit with a well-rounded balance of evidence-based treatments, such as the Accelerated Resolution Therapy which Alexa spoke about in her interview with Arizona Midday.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): “Alcohol Use in the United States” (updated March, 2021)
- Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA): Get Involved in Alcohol Awareness Month webpage
- Arizona Midday: Alcohol Awareness Month with SpringBoard Recovery video
- National Survey of Drug Use & Health (NSDUH): 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)
- National Institutes of Health: “Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults” research study report
New York University School of Global Health: Increased alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic: The effect of mental health and age in a cross-sectional sample of social media users in the U.S. research study report