This guest editorial about the call for an Alcohol Free Weekend is by Foster Norman, the CEO of Cobb County Community Services Board (CCCSB)
April is National Alcohol Month, and this weekend, Cobb County Community Services Board (CCCSB) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence—now called Facing Addiction with NCADD—encourage people to participate in Alcohol-Free Weekend, April 5-7, 2019. During Alcohol-Free Weekend, Cobb residents are invited to engage in three alcohol-free days. Those individuals or families who experience difficulty or discomfort in this 72-hour experiment are urged to contact CCCSB, local NCADD affiliates, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Al-Anon to learn more about alcoholism and its early symptoms.
In 2017, 19.7 million Americans ages 12 and older battled a substance use disorder: 74 percent of those with alcohol, 38 percent with illicit drug disorder and one in eight from both. Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States, and it is not surprising that the typical American sees approximately 100,000 beer commercials before he or she turns 18.
In Cobb County between 2013-2017, there were 77 alcohol-related traffic fatalities, and statewide in 2017, there were 368 drunk driving deaths. As if the loss of life were not tragic enough, there is also an economic impact to excessive alcohol use: about $2 of every $5 of the economic costs of excessive alcohol use were paid by federal, state, and local governments.
It is estimated by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps that more than 120,000 people in Cobb County drink excessively. Many Cobb residents struggle with sobriety as alcoholism impacts people of all ages, ethnicities, genders, and socioeconomic levels. Some people are still unaware that alcoholism is a disease that can be treated, just like we treat other health disorders such as diabetes and hypertension.
Adults are encouraged to participate in this weekend’s alcohol-free challenge. Parents, especially, can set an example for impressionable children that drinking alcohol is not necessary to have a great time. This is important because researchers are learning that alcohol can be particularly detrimental on a young person’s developing brain, limiting its proper growth and potential.
The good news is that people in communities across the country are making progress. It is now estimated that more than 20 million Americans are living lives in recovery. These individuals have achieved healthy lifestyles, both physically and emotionally, and contribute in positive ways to their communities. For those who are underinsured or uninsured in Cobb and adjacent counties, the CCCSB offers both crisis and outpatient services to assist in a journey to recovery. There also are a number of local not-for-profits who offer positive and life-changing assistance.
During Alcohol Awareness Month, we recognize the damaging effects of alcohol and alcoholism and commit our support to for individuals battling to overcome addiction. This awareness month and its theme “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow” urges all Americans to promote treatment and recovery options and to support all those whose lives are negatively impacted by alcohol. We invite you to take the alcohol-free weekend challenge.
Foster Norman is the CEO of Cobb County Community Services Board (CCCSB)