According to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol contributes to more than 200 health conditions and about 99,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.[1] According to the CDC, one in six adults in the U.S. binge drinks with 25% doing so at least weekly.[2]

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month, which is a time to increase your personal awareness about alcohol abuse and alcoholism and to recognize these disorders, which can be treated.

Magellan Federal’s Senior Manager in the Adolescent Support & Counseling Services (ASACS), Allison Welliver, LMHC, MCAP, shares her insights on why this month is important. Welliver is a licensed mental health counselor and a master’s level certified addiction professional.

Q: Why is National Alcohol Awareness Month important?

Allison Welliver: National Alcohol Awareness Month is important because it brings awareness to alcohol abuse and dependency and allows people to be screened to see where their use of alcohol falls (low, moderate, or high risk for alcohol abuse or dependence). It also allows people to see how their use of alcohol compares to alcohol use by other people of the same age and sex.

Since alcohol is a legal drug, and so often used in social situations and celebrations, it can be difficult to see when alcohol abuse is happening.

Q: What are signs that someone is addicted to alcohol?

AW: Signs of dependence on alcohol can be behavioral/social or physical. Behavioral/social signs include secretive use, heavy drinking, drinking alone, drinking at inappropriate times of the day (in the morning), and continuing to drink despite the negative impact it has on your relationships, job, and health. Physical signs may include developing a tolerance, developing the “shakes” when not drinking alcohol, disrupted sleep, lethargy, or headaches, and needing a drink to alleviate negative symptoms.

Q: What is the connection between this addiction and mental health?

AW: Addiction and mental health problems are frequently comorbid, meaning that they often occur at the same time. It is a question of which comes first – does the mental health problem cause the addiction or vice versa? Many times, people turn to alcohol or other drugs to cope with mental health concerns that they are having. They could use alcohol to cover up depression or other pain underneath.

Q: What are some steps someone should take if they recognize they need help and what does Magellan offer to support someone who is dealing with alcohol addiction?

AW: First, reach out to a therapist. A therapist can evaluate your use and determine what setting is best to treat your alcohol use. Surround yourself with a positive, supportive network who understands that you need help. You may identify support through connecting with your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), if one is available to you. When contracted with an employer, Magellan offers EAP services to employees and their household members who may question if their use is abnormal, or if they have been having problems related to drinking. EAP services, including counseling, are free and confidential.

Q: Is there anything you would like to add or any resources you want to provide?

AW: There is a free online screening tool that anyone can use to gauge their level of alcohol use.

Additional Resources

[1] Helping Your Patients with Alcohol-Related Problems:

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: