Published: Apr 12, 2021 08:00 AM
BRIDGEPORT — The Hub: Behavioral Health Action Organization for Southwestern Connecticut, a division of the Regional Youth Adult Social Action Partnership (RYASAP) is working overtime throughout April — Alcohol Awareness Month — reminding residents about the risks and harms when casual social consumption turns into binge drinking.
According to a 2019 study from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a medical condition characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use and can be mild, moderate, or severe.
In Connecticut, alcohol consumption is higher than the national average — and consumption in southwestern Connecticut is higher than the state and national average. Binge drinking rates are also higher in southwestern Connecticut than the national average.
It is also clear that examples being set by adults are making a negative impression, especially more locally. Nationally and elsewhere in Connecticut, 30% of teens reported using alcohol in the previous 30 days; in southwestern Connecticut, that number jumps to 50% of teens reporting alcohol use in the same period of time.
On the other hand, self-awareness about excessive drinking seems to be growing, with a recent survey revealing that 8% to 10% of residents in the region feel the need to cut down on alcohol consumption.
As far as the CDC is concerned, about 90% of people who drink heavily don’t meet the diagnostic criteria of an AUD.
Signs of an AUD include:
*Inability to limit drinking;
*Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems;
*Needing to drink more to get the same effect; and
*Wanting a drink so badly you can not think of anything else.
People who fail to meet the criteria of an AUD may still have a problematic relationship with alcohol. If alcohol begins to interfere with your personal or professional life, relationships, or how you think and feel, it is time to consult a professional.
Access the free screening tool at alcoholscreening.org to see if your behavior is considered at risk of developing an AUD. This doesn’t replace a professional opinion, however.
Want To Cut Down?
If you recognize, or identify through screening, that you may be drinking too much, the website also offers a rich selection of resources.
Some strategies for reducing the potential harm of drinking alcohol include:
*Knowing what a standard drink is. This way you can understand exactly how much alcohol you are consuming.
*Keeping track of your drinking. There are many ways to do this, so use the method that works best for you — take notes in your phone, carry a drinking tracker card in your wallet, mark on a calendar on the fridge, etc. Making note of each drink before you drink it raises your awareness of how much you drink and how automatically you drink, and may help you slow down when needed.
*Understanding just how much alcohol you are consuming. Measure the amount of alcohol in drinks at home. Away from home, it can be difficult to keep track. Mixed drinks often have more alcohol than you think. You may need to ask the host or server not to “top off” a partially filled glass of wine or to give you water in between servings.
*Planning your alcohol intake. Decide how many days a week you want to drink and how many drinks you will have on those days. It is a good idea to have some days when you do not drink. People who abstain at least a couple of days a week tend to be the most successful at moderated drinking. Individuals who stay within the low-risk limits when they drink have the lowest rates of alcohol-related problems.
*Developing or revisiting healthy activities, hobbies, and relationships. If you have relied on alcohol to be more comfortable in social situations, manage moods, or cope with problems, then find other healthy ways to deal with those areas of your life.
*Acknowledging triggers. Certain people, places, or activities may prompt you to drink even when you do not want to. Especially at the start of changing your drinking, try to avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge to drink, plan something else to do instead of drinking. If drinking at home is a problem, keep little or no alcohol there.
*Disarming triggers. When you cannot avoid a trigger and an urge hits, remind yourself of your reasons for changing (it can help to carry them in writing or on a note in your phone). Or talk things through with someone you trust. Or get involved with a healthy, distracting activity, such as physical exercise or a hobby that doesn’t involve drinking. Or, instead of fighting the feeling, accept it and ride it out without giving in, knowing that it will soon crest like a wave and pass.
*Having your “No, thanks” ready. You are likely to be offered a drink at a time when you don’t want one. The faster you can politely, convincingly say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in. If you hesitate, it allows you time to think of excuses to go along.
For referrals, support, or more information, visit The Hub online at thehubct.org.