April is Alcohol Awareness Month, don’t be afraid to talk about it

April 16, 2024
Dustin Lapray, Division of Behavioral Health

Imagine you are addicted to a drug, and you can get it at the gas station, grocery store, restaurant, at neighborhood pubs or downtown bars.

This is alcohol.

It is legal, socially acceptable, and for years, it has been killing just as many, or more, people in Idaho than all other drug overdoses combined. And that does not include the number of alcohol-involved roadway accidents that also take lives.

“People don’t talk about it nearly it as much, but just as many people are dying,” said Rosie Andueza, substance use disorder team program manager in the Department of Health and Welfare’s Division of Behavioral Health. “Why, as a country, do we just ignore alcoholism?”

So why are alcohol deaths ignored? Stigma, lobbying, corporate profits, and the fact that alcohol is legal all likely play a role.

“Opiates kill you faster; you take one wrong pill, you die,” Andueza said. Alcohol deaths often take time, a result of poisoning or disease.

“Those are deaths caused by your body physically shutting down because of excessive and/or prolonged alcohol use,” Andueza said. “There’s no magic formula, wherein if you drink this much and you weigh this much, then you have a problem.  It’s different for everyone and, frequently, women are impacted faster.”

The good news is that addiction is one chronic disease that does not have to kill. Recovery can and does work, and people who maintain a life of recovery will not die from their addiction. Treatment is often, but not always, a first step.

To access substance use disorder treatment services, Idahoans can simply call 2-1-1, the Idaho Care Line, where 2-1-1 staff determine the best route for the uninsured to obtain publicly-funded services. For people who are insured, 2-1-1 will assist in finding an appropriate treatment provider.

There are multiple pathways to recovery. Many people use 12-step or Celebrate Recovery programs, which are available in nearly every community in Idaho.

“I had to get over the denial,” Andueza said of her own recovery. “It’s like losing your best friend.”

Part of the alcohol problem is a social stigma, of camaraderie, family and friend traditions.

“How many people around you are active alcoholics?” Andueza asked. Considering that one in 10 Americans struggle with a substance use disorder, the answer includes a truth many Idahoans don’t want to face.


Dustin Lapray is a public involvement officer with the Division of Behavioral Health at DHW.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is dedicated to strengthening the health, safety, and independence of Idahoans. Learn more at healthandwelfare.idaho.gov.

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