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Monday, October 5, 2015

UNITE to Face Addiction: More Americans dead from drugs annually than killed in two wars


October is a very special time. Breast Cancer Awareness Month as it has become known started in 1985. There's a lot of pink during the observance… most of it well intentioned, some of it damn ironic. Take for instance any sporting event in the U.S. which features athletes adorned in pink equipment right before the broadcast cuts away to an alcohol commercial.

(The new episode looks at the UNITE rally, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, how the two are connected and how the movements are on different trajectories until NOW. Watch the YouTube Video or read the article.)

Alcohol use is the only proven dietary link to an increased risk of breast cancer. It's a point made in several previous episodes of The Sobriety :60+ that daily alcohol consumption of only 10 grams – about a spoonful, or the amount of alcohol in one drink – is enough to increase breast cancer risk 10 percent (see episode #2 and episode #3A.) For women drinking two a day, the risk of breast cancer is 51 percent higher than an abstainer. Risks are especially acute for women who started drinking in their teens, but all in, alcohol is linked to 15 percent of all breast cancer deaths. It's the Pink Ribbon risk hiding in plain sight… behind the Pabst Blue Ribbon.

The other reason October is a special time is the reason I'm in Washington, DC. The UNITE to Face Addiction event on the Washington Mall. Those in recovery, their families, those in the helping professions and family members of those lost to alcohol and other drugs poured into DC to show that we do recover, awareness of the disease of addiction needs to become as mainstream as the pink ribbons to overcome the stigma. 

Betty Ford was instrumental in fighting the stigma of both alcoholism and breast cancer. First, she became among the very first to publicly speak about a mastectomy, the result of breast cancer, in 1974. Up until then, it was called female cancer, and never spoken of. In 1978, her family intervened and got her into treatment for alcoholism, and she became an outspoken advocate for recovery.

Until today, the two movements have been on different trajectories. Awareness of breast cancer – which kills 40,000 women a year – and its treatment are at an all time high. The stigma is gone. Awareness of the dangers of alcohol use – which kills more than twice as many people – and its treatment are still a stigma loaded topic. It's changing slowly, but it's changing. Events like the UNITE event achieve what all the Race for the Cure races certainly achieved for awareness of and compassion for those with a deadly but treatable disease. With all the connections between cancer, especially breast cancer, and alcohol use coming to the forefront, there's a significant probability you won't see pink sports gear and beer commercials in the same October broadcast by the end of this decade. Because what causes problems, is one. I'm located between the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial on the Mall on purpose: Alcohol use kills more Americans in a single year than both conflicts combined.
 Visit alcohologist.com for a replay of CBS Sports' Power Up Your Health featuring Scott Stevens.  Host Ed Forteau led a discussion on risky myths of about "healthy" drinking.  Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on www.alcohologist.com, plus the NEW book, Adding Fire to the Fuel, is now available. Download the FREE Alcohology app in the Google PlayStore today.