National Prevention Week: Preventing Underage Drinking and Alcohol Misuse

Tuesday, May 11th, is the day during “National Prevention Week” that focuses on preventing underage drinking.  With the exception of last year, due to COVID19, Allegany Council’s Prevention Department has partnered with Wellsville Giant and Wellsville Central School SADD advisors and students to participate in “Sticker Shock” on this specific day. “Sticker Shock” is a public awareness campaign in which red and white stickers shaped like stop signs are placed on multi-packs of alcohol.  The stickers remind people that it is illegal for any person 21 or older to purchase or provide alcohol to minors, and that breaking the law could include one year in jail or fines up to one thousand dollars. 

Thanks to Wellsville Giant, Cuba Giant, Bolivar Shop-N-Save, Fillmore Shop-N-Save, and both Wellsville Walgreen locations for supporting the campaign throughout the year!

Last month was “Alcohol Awareness Month”.  If you missed the blog post on PPAC Central from April 18, check it out for some interesting information on the teenage brain and how youth development is affected by alcohol use.  In the meantime, read the following article for some information that may be new to you.  Prevention occurs over the course of our life span, so, keep an open mind for the facts that follow.

Does Drinking Alcohol Increase Your Risk for COVID-19? 2 Doctors Explain.

According to an article written by Mercey Livingston on 7/25/20, Dr. Edo Paz, Medical Director at K Health, and Dr. Tom Moorcroft, founder of Origins of Health, discuss the above topic for educational and informational purposes only.  Three relevant areas include the immune system, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and sleep.

The immune system, which keeps us healthy and protects us from illness, cannot function at maximum capacity if it is weakened by a substance such as alcohol.  The result is higher susceptibility to contracting any contagious illness, including COVID-19.  In addition, if alcohol is present in a person’s system when he/she comes into contact with a virus, the body’s chances of fighting it off are decreased.  This is due to the fact that it is easier for the pathogen (virus) to “take hold” and lead to an infection.

Alcohol also alters gut bacteria, which also affects the immune system.  Short and long term alcohol use can impair immune function because it leads to changes in microbiome, which are the organisms in the intestines that aid in normal gut function.  It can also lead to cell damage of the gut wall that can lead to leakage of microbes in the bloodstream, triggering inflammation.

ARDS can occur with COVID-19 and happens when fluid fills the lungs and prevents the body from getting enough oxygen.  This can result in death or severe lung damage, and heavy drinking and alcohol use can increase the risk for this on its own.  Healthy lungs are linked to a healthy immune system, and long term alcohol use is associated with an increased risk of developing ARDS, as the body is less able to ward off infection.  

The final area discussed in the article is related to sleep, crucial for overall health and especially the immune system.  Skimping on sleep can lower proteins in the body that fight inflammation and infection, making a person more susceptible to illness.  For information on how GABA and melatonin (sleep hormones) are affected, visit the complete article.

In summary, the suggestion in the article is to avoid alcohol in order to keep the immune system functioning at its best.  If a person twenty-one or older does drink socially, consuming less is better.

For those who suffer from immunosuppression, are considered immunocompromised, and/or have a pre-existing medical condition, alcohol should be completely avoided.

For those who are struggling with alcohol use at this challenging time, help is available.  Contact Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse at 585-593-6738 to schedule an appointment.  Visit Allegany Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Inc.’s (ACASA) and Partners for Prevention in Allegany County (PPAC) for resources.

Remember, Prevention Works!

National Prevention Week 585 Prevention Podcast with ACASA’s Community Educator Ann Weaver.