It is Alcohol Awareness Week. At least according to all the flyers posted all over my school’s campus, with photos and a stories of a victim from boozing too much. When I google the event, I find that April is actually Alcohol Awareness Month. Is my school getting a early start? Or is there a separate week or month to focus on alcohol abuse on college campuses? Either way, it is sobering to read those stories.
There was a different one posted in each bathroom stall and on almost every door to each building. A 20 year old fell off a balcony while intoxicated at one school and died. At another school, a guy passed out in the road walking home from a party and was killed when a car drove over him. 18 year old girl was found dead in her dorm room from alcohol poisoning on a different campus. All young people who probably thought they were just having fun, just fitting in, just partying, and not realizing the dangers of getting drunk. It took me two decades to learn for myself.
I have to keep reminding myself I was lucky. Even with all the dumbshit I did or horrible things that happened to me when I was actively drinking, I am alive. I survived. I am here to tell my own stories and not have them plastered on a wall for people to contemplate while they are peeing. (Unless you are reading my blog on a laptop on the toilet.)
I have started to read Sarah Hepola’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget. I am only on page 12 and so far I love it. It is me. It is my story. It is about my life! Well, it is Sarah’s story but so far I relate to so much of it. I have to force myself to put it down and finish my school work first. But a quote that sounds as if it came out of my own personal journal is this:
I think I knew I was in trouble. The small, still voice inside me always knew. I didn’t hide the drinking but I hid how much it hurt.
I have been making new friends that seem to accept that I do not drink. It is the old friends that have been irritating me lately. The ones that say they are proud of me, but continue to overindulge in bottles of wine. The ones that parade photos of being plastered online. The ones that perpetuate the glamour of getting shit-faced. The ones bragging about all the green beer they will chug this Thursday, as if that is the more important event in the world. I don’t know if I am jealous, concerned, or lonely. But all three feelings make me annoyed.
I am working Thursday night. I wonder how many years it will be that I volunteer to work St Patrick’s night to avoid the parties and Jamesons.
It is amazing how few people are aware that April is Alcohol Awareness Month in the United States. My gym is having a lot of events for Autism Awareness Month but no mention of Alcohol. I see a lot of people posting on Facebook about autism statistics, but when I posted about Alcohol Awareness, all I got was a joke mention that a friend will read it after she finishes her glass. I doubt I would have discovered this campaign if I was not battling alcoholism. Did you know?
April marks Alcohol Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign intended to raise awareness of the health and social problems that excessive alcohol consumption can cause for individuals, their families, and their communities. Excessive drinking is a dangerous behavior for both men and women. This year, CDC is drawing attention to the risks to women’s health from binge drinking, the most common type of excessive alcohol consumption by adults.
Information about alcohol and binge drinking can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website:
BINGE DRINKING AND RISKS TO WOMEN’S HEALTH
- Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks per occasion for women and 5 or more drinks per occasion for men. It is a common and dangerous behavior that contributes to more than 11,500 deaths among women in the U.S. each year—approximately 32 deaths per day.
- In 2009, more than 1 out of every 10 women reported binge drinking during the past 30 days. On average, women who binge drink said they engaged in this risky behavior at least three times per month. Among women binge drinkers, they consume, on average, almost six drinks per drinking occasion, which exceeds the threshold for binge drinking.
- Binge drinking usually leads to impairment, and women who binge drink with greater frequency and intensity put themselves and those around them at increased risk of experiencing alcohol-related harms, particularly if they are pregnant or may become pregnant.
- Binge drinking increases the risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke, all of which are leading causes of death in women.
GENDER DIFFERENCES AND ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
- Upon drinking equal amounts, women tend to absorb more alcohol when they drink, and take longer to break it down and remove it from their bodies compared to their male counterparts. These differences are caused by differences in body composition and chemistry between men and women. Even when they drink the same amount of alcohol, women tend to have higher levels of alcohol in their blood than men, and the immediate effects of impairment occur more quickly and last longer.
- Alcohol tends to leave the body at a slower rate in women who take birth control pills compared with those who do not. The result can be greater alcohol impairment in women who take birth control pills.
RISK FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT AND SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS
- Binge drinking is a risk factor for sexual assault, especially among young women in college settings. The risk for rape or sexual assault increases when both the perpetrator and victim have used alcohol before the attack.
- Women who binge drink are more likely to have unprotected sex and multiple sex partners, which can increase their risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
ALCOHOL AND PREGNANCY
- No amount of alcohol is safe to drink while pregnant.There is also no safe time during pregnancy to drink, and no safe kind of alcohol.
- Women who drink alcohol while pregnant increase their risk of having a baby with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). This group of conditions includes physical and intellectual disabilities, as well as problems with behavior and learning. Often, a person has a mix of these problems. FASDs are a leading known cause of intellectual disability and birth defects. FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink while she is pregnant or may become pregnant.
- Women should not drink alcohol if they are planning to become pregnant or are sexually active and do not use effective birth control because they could become pregnant and not know for several weeks. In 2001, about one-half of all pregnancies in the United States were unplanned.
- National surveys show that about 6 out of every 10 women of child-bearing age (18–44 years) use alcohol, and about one-third of women in this age group who drink alcohol binge drink.
- Female binge drinkers are more likely to engage in unsafe sexual activities compared with women who are not binge drinkers. Binge drinking increases the risk for unintended pregnancy which may lead to a delay in recognizing pregnancy. If a woman does not recognize that she is pregnant and she continues drinking, she can expose her developing fetus to alcohol without realizing it.
ALCOHOL AND CHRONIC DISEASES
Women are often more vulnerable than men to the long-term effects of alcohol on their health. Over time, drinking too much alcohol can lead to
- Cancer: Alcohol consumption increases the risk for breast cancer and cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- Liver Disease: The risk for cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women than for men.
- Heart Problems: Studies have shown that women who drink excessively are at increased risk for damage to the heart muscle than men. Binge drinking can lead to high blood pressure and increase the risk for heart attack and stroke.