April 12, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

ADMH ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO GET THE FACTS DURING NATIONAL ALCOHOL AWARENESS MONTH

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama Department of Mental Health is encouraging people to get the facts about alcohol abuse during National Alcohol Awareness Month, which is observed annually each April. Dr. Tammy Peacock, ADMH associate commissioner for the Division of Mental Illness & Substance Abuse Services says, “According to a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior study, nearly 40 percent of Alabama’s youth in grades 9-12 reported having at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days. Even more alarming is that more than 23 percent of that same population reported binge drinking in the past 30 days.

For this reason, ADMH joins national organizations in raising public awareness of the consequences of alcohol misuse. Sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Alcohol Awareness Month efforts have traditionally focused on underage drinking and the need for communities to mobilize around prevention. Nationally, according to SAMHSA’s 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 10.4 million young people aged 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the past month.

A population even more at risk of substance abuse is adolescents with serious emotional problems including mental illness. According to another SAMHSA study, this population is nearly four times more likely to be dependent on alcohol or illicit drugs than adolescents with low levels of emotional problems. Though there are no clear numbers, it is understood that some adolescents begin to drink as a way to selfmedicate the symptoms of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Many also drink to fit in with their peer group in response to subjective feelings of isolation associated with social phobia, anxiety and other emotional problems. A person who has both an alcohol or drug problem and an emotional/psychiatric problem is said to have a dual diagnosis. To recover fully, the person needs treatment for both problems.

According to the American Medical Association, alcohol of any type is a very dangerous drug and the health and social consequences of its use can be harmful to adolescents in many ways. The brain goes through dynamic change during adolescence, and alcohol can interfere with its normal development. In school, adolescent drinkers have poor academic performance, score worse on vocabulary and memory retrieval tests, and have trouble recalling verbal information. Young people who drink have an increased risk of social problems, suicidal thoughts, and strokes.

In an effort to combat the epidemic of underage drinking, a variety of education tools are being promoted in conjunction with National Alcohol Awareness Month. Parents and others who want more information on underage drinking and prevention can visit www.stopalcoholabuse.gov. This is a comprehensive portal of prevention research and resources maintained by SAMHSA on behalf of the 15 federal agencies that make up the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Underage Drinking Prevention. For people of all ages who want to decrease their risk of developing a problem by reducing alcohol use, resources can be found at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Rethinking Drinking Web site at http://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/.

RESOURCES

For general information regarding substance abuse services in the state of Alabama, please visit the Alabama Department of Mental Health Web site at www.mh.alabama.gov, or call the Division of Mental Illness & Substance Abuse Services at 334-242-3961.

Information about National Alcohol Awareness Month can be found by visiting the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Web site at www.samhsa.org.

For more information on the American Medical Association visit www.ama-assn.org.

Information about dual diagnosis, its prevalence and its treatment can be found at
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/index.cfm?objectid=c7df9405-1372-4d20-c89d7bd2cd1ca1b9.

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