ReThink the Drink: Alcohol Use During the Holidays

PORTLAND, Ore. (Catherine Cook/KGW) – The Oregon Health Authority says excessive alcohol use is one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease among Oregonians.

For many people the holidays and alcohol use go hand-in-hand, but Oregon health officials are trying to change that narrative with a new campaign called rethink the drink.

Daniel Gamboa is City Team Ministries Program Manager in Southeast Portland. He said, “Don’t get it twisted like alcohol is probably one of the deadliest drugs out there.”

Gamboa knows that firsthand. His path to sobriety started several years ago with help from City Team Ministries.

Gamboa shared, “I know these meetings saved my life. I would be dead right now if it wasn’t for the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Now he’s helping others find that same freedom.

“Not everyone who drinks alcohol is an alcoholic. Right?,” said Gamboa. “But for those of us that are, it is a fatal disease.”

Data from state health officials supports that. The Oregon Health Authority says heavy drinking among adults is rising and is the cause of one in five deaths of Oregonians 20 to 49 years old.

The state also points to excessive alcohol use as the third leading cause of preventable death and disease in Oregon.

“It hits really hard because I’ve known so many people who have died from this disease. And the reality is I will know more, and I will know more next year,” said Gamboa.

This month the Oregon Health Authority relaunched its Rethink the Drink campaign, it aims to encourage conversations about alcohol, decrease excessive drinking, and provide support during the holidays, a time when Gamboa notes social pressures are especially high.

“It’s almost expected that we that we drink,” Gamboa said.

Gamboa urges people to challenge that social construct, and to stand with those fighting addiction.

For those afraid of beginning that fight, Gamboa offer this: “Reality is there a lot of people out there that are going through the exact same thing. When we go these meetings it’s so good, because there is no judgement.”

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