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April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and with it comes some pretty sobering alcohol statistics. Alcohol is the most commonly-used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.

In Arizona, alcohol is consumed more frequently than all illicit drugs combined, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Our state also has one of the highest death rates due to alcohol poisoning in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the country. That’s because alcohol use is not only dangerous, but drinking too much of it increases a person’s risk for injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. Alcohol is also directly associated with traffic fatalities, violence, suicide, alcohol overdose, unsafe sex and other detrimental outcomes.

Right about now, you’re probably picturing college students chugging beer and liquor. However, that’s not an accurate picture of who is really the most at risk. The CDC found that 76 percent of those who died nationwide from excessive drinking were between the ages of 35 and 65.

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center in Phoenix is increasing public awareness and understanding of the dangers of alcohol addiction among adults during Alcohol Awareness Month, while its sister property Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital is bringing attention to the dangers of underage alcohol use and abuse. Both entities are encouraging individuals and their families to take action to prevent alcohol abuse both at home and in the community.

“Although addiction is an enormous problem in our state, there is tremendous opportunity to educate people about treatment and prevention of alcoholism,” said Dale Parsons, Director of Therapy Services for St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center.

Parsons said that we can all do our part to prevent alcohol misuse or abuse. Among his advice:

  1. Take an online quiz to see if you or someone you know is addicted to alcohol: http://bit.ly/2p2w0YW
  2. Encourage friends or family members to make small changes, like keeping track of their drinking and setting drinking limits.
  3. Ask doctors and nurses to talk to their patients about the benefits of drinking less or quitting.
  4. Seek treatment and counseling.

St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center offers an alcohol treatment and counseling program for adults ages 18 and older. Its 12-step program, offered at its two outpatient locations in the Valley (in downtown Phoenix and the East Valley) – uses cognitive behavioral approaches to help adults achieve and maintain sobriety. For more information about this local alcohol treatment and counseling program, call (602) 251-8535 or (800) 821-4193.

For individuals younger than 18, the alcohol stats get even scarier. That’s because, the younger the individual, the more likely they are to become addicted. Those drinking before the age of 15 have a 40 percent chance of developing an addiction, compared to only 7 percent for those over the age of 21.

As Administrative Director of the Emergency Services Department at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital, Janet Backers sees the addiction challenges that young adults face on a daily basis.

“Adolescence is typically a time of pushing limits and heightened risk-taking,” said Backers. “The longer children and teens delay drinking and drug use, the less likely they are to develop any problems associated with it. That’s why it is so important to help them to make smart decisions about alcohol and drugs.”

In the United States, up to 40 percent of all hospital beds (except for those being used by maternity and intensive care patients) are being used to treat health conditions that are related to alcohol consumption. That’s why Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital works closely with the Tempe Coalition – an organization that advocates for the reduction of underage drinking and drug use among Tempe youth – to increase awareness about underage drinking in the community.

Representatives with both Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital and the Tempe Coalition stressed how important of a role that parents play in giving kids a better understanding of the impact that alcohol can have on their lives. Among their advice for parents:

  1. Learn how to talk to children about drinking and drug use. Parents and adults have more influence than they think.
  2. Send a consistent, clear message that underage drinking is not acceptable behavior or a “rite of passage.”
  3. Get to know your child’s friends and help them find ways to avoid drinking when they feel pressured by peers. Help them decide how they will exit a situation that is uncomfortable or unsafe.
  4. Be home for all parties and require the parties to be free of alcohol.
  5. Get help if you suspect your child may be abusing alcohol.

For more information about the alcohol treatment and counseling programs available to adults 18 years and older through St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center’s two outpatient centers in the Valley, visit http://www.stlukesbehavioralhealth.com/services/chemical-dependency/adult-outpatient/ or call (602) 251-8535 or (800) 821-4193. For more information about Tempe Coalition, an organization that aims to reduce underage drinking and drug use, visit https://tempecoalition.org.

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