Alcohol Education, Advocacy, & Policy Groups
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found that 88,000 people die every year on average from alcohol-related problems. These issues may range from short-term problems like a car accident involving a drunk driver to long-term harm caused by alcohol consumption like liver cancer. Alcohol abuse and addiction are two of the most widespread forms of substance abuse in the world, including in the United States. You likely know someone who struggles with some form of problem drinking, or you may drink excessively and wonder if you should drink less.
Because there are so many people who struggle with alcohol problems, there are dozens of nonprofit, government, and advocacy organizations that develop and implement education, prevention, and research initiatives to end alcohol abuse. Here are some of the most prominent:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): This organization is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAAA’s mission statement is to generate and disseminate knowledge regarding the effects of alcohol use and abuse on the health and wellbeing of adolescents and adults, especially in the United States. The information they provide is intended to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of alcohol-related health problems, including alcohol abuse, heavy drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol use disorder (AUD).
NIAAA guides medical research on the topic of alcohol abuse, both within the government organization itself and in association with other health institutions around the world. Education and research are geared toward preventing children and teenagers from beginning to abuse alcohol and continuing this problem throughout their lives, and offering effective intervention to stop problem drinking among all ages, including adults.
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD): The council is a volunteer-based nonprofit organization with an affiliate network, dedicated to fighting one of the leading health struggles in the US: alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism. NCADD also fights drug addiction, and the consequences of substance abuse and addiction on individuals, families, and communities. This nonprofit has served Americans for 70 years, providing information on drug and alcohol addiction and offering access to resources to get appropriate treatment. Alcohol Awareness Month is organized by NCADD.
Marty Mann founded NCADD after becoming sober with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). After her transformational experience, she started NCADD to spread the AA mission of health and abstinence. Since its founding in 1944, NCADD has helped remove the stigma of alcoholism and focus medical providers on treating addiction as a disease rather than a moral failure.
Alcohol Justice: This nonprofit advocacy organization works with individuals, especially young people, to promote evidence-based public health policies and organize campaigns against harmful practices perpetuated by the alcohol industry. Alcohol Justice formed in 1987 as one of the endowed Buck Trust agencies. The group has gone through a few name changes, but in 2011, it became Alcohol Justice to reflect their mission’s commitment to equity for all communities as an industry watchdog.
While many organizations working with alcohol problems focus on health effects and medical interventions, Alcohol Justice seeks changes in the corporations that make and sell alcohol. By altering practices, policies, regulations, promotion, and enforcement around alcohol consumption, Alcohol Justice seeks to reduce the number of people who struggle with addiction to this harmful substance. For example, a successful campaign against alcoholic energy drinks and alcoholic popsicles in 2007 pressured the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to warn producers of these products to remove stimulants from their alcoholic products or be removed from the market.
National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS): This nonprofit organization works to prevent pregnant women from consuming alcohol and provide education and resources for those who have friends or family members struggling with the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) or other fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). NOFAS also advocates for ending prenatal exposure to other drugs and raises awareness of harm that could be caused to the baby if the mother struggles with addiction.
On top of advocacy, education, and prevention programs, NOFAS supports women before and during their pregnancy to end their addiction to drugs or alcohol. They also educate the public, policymakers, and medical practitioners about issues around FASD. This organization aims for a world in which no children are exposed to intoxicating substances during fetal development.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD): Founded by Candace Lightner in California in 1980 after her teenage daughter died from being struck by a drunk driver, MADD spread across the US and Canada. Currently, this nonprofit advocacy organization is so popular that there is at least one MADD office in every state in the US and about one in every Canadian province.
Since the organization’s founding, drunk driving accidents and deaths have decreased by about half, but there are still about 300,000 people who admit to driving while drunk at least once every year. MADD creates several campaigns to encourage parents to talk to their children about the dangers of drunk driving, to encourage adults to find designated drivers or other safe rides home when they go out to parties or bars, and to change the laws around DUI punishments. One of the organization’s most successful recent campaigns, in June 2015, led to 25 states passing breathalyzer ignition interlock laws.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): One of the most popular mutual support groups in the world, AA has regular meetings encouraging members to talk about their struggles with alcohol and support each other in remaining sober. The group is so popular that the foundational 12 Steps have been adopted by numerous other groups, including other versions of Anonymous organizations, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA).
AA was also one of the first organizations providing help for those who struggle with alcohol addiction to overcome this problem with social support. Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith founded AA in 1935, publishing the Alcoholics Anonymous book in 1939, which featured the first version of the 12 Steps to Recovery. While AA has received a lot of criticism for its focus on morality and Christian spirituality rather than evidence-based medical treatments, millions of people have been helped over the many decades of the organization’s existence.
Al-Anon Family Groups: This organization focuses on the families and friends of people struggling with alcohol use disorder because AUD not only negatively impacts individuals, but also their loved ones. By providing emotional support through talk-based groups, family and friends are better able to encourage loved ones suffering from addiction to get help, stay in treatment, and maintain abstinence during the long-term recovery process. Al-Anon has several family groups all over the US and much of the world, including Alateen, which supports teenagers who have friends or family members struggling with AUD or problem drinking.