Shaquita Ogletree
The NIH hosted a special screening on Tuesday, September 18, in Washington on Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) based on an HBO Documentary, Risky Drinking. The documentary is a product of Oscar and Emmy winner Ellen Goosenberg Kent and journalist/producer Perri Peltz and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health.

About seventy percent of American adults drink alcohol and nearly one in three will abuse alcohol during their lifetime. The documentary included the spectrum of alcohol abuse told from the personal and real perspective of four individuals, Kenzie, Mike, Noelle, and Neal. Kenzie, a young woman who struggled with depression binged, drank multiple nights during the film. At times through the filming, she had as many as 14/15 drinks over the course of a few hours. According to the NIAAA, 18-34-year-olds are the largest binge-drinking cohort.

As a national problem, AUD dramatically affects an individual personal and professional relationships and can disrupt the lives of the drinker. Mike, who at fifteen years old soon became the caretaker when he visited his father in the Virgin Islands, struggled with alcohol and became violent at times with his wife. Noelle, a mother of two daughters, joined a social group that had frequent gatherings on Thursdays that involved wine. Noelle admitted to missing her daughter’s fifth-grade graduation as a result of drinking. And finally, Neal at fifty-seven years of age was physically dependent on alcohol. He began drinking at the age of fourteen, and in the last four years (of the film) he has been in and out of rehab twelve times.

The Risky Drinking documentary left many asking, “Am I at risk?” accomplishing the intended purpose of the film and the NIH. One of the goals is to help professionals think differently about alcohol use disorder. Less than twenty percent of alcohol use disorder individuals are receiving treatment and nearly eighty percent will relapse one year after sobriety, this national epidemic needs to be included in the conversation. Recovery for each of the people in the film looked different from support groups, to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, medication, and lifestyle change. The impact that alcohol is having on our society is imperative to understand. NICAA is focusing on defining recovery and measuring recovery.

In times of drug epedemics such as the current opioid problem, the abuse of alcohol can oftentimes get overlooked even though it can and is a constant presence in child welfare substance abuse cases.

Risky Drinking can be watch on HBO. For more information on the documentary and for resources related to AUD, you can visit NIAAA’s website: