OHA Launches ‘Rethink The Drink’ For Holidays

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At a time when many people in Oregon are celebrating the holiday season with friends, coworkers, and loved ones, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) is launching Rethink the Drink’s new winter advertising campaign to change the conversation about alcohol.

The campaign emphasizes the need for people to come together and support one another to be healthy and care for communities. That includes creating healthy environments that support people in their efforts to drink less alcohol. The campaign reveals how common alcohol has become in community settings and asks people to consider ways they can best support their friends and loved ones – and their entire community – to be healthy.

Rethink the Drink, informed by significant community and partner engagement, aims to decrease alcohol consumption and related harms in Oregon. Elements of this winter campaign include a website; statewide TV, radio, digital and print advertisements; and Facebook and Instagram pages. Oregon is the only state in the country to initiate a public health campaign of this scale to reach adults 21 and older.

While younger people in Oregon are drinking less, binge drinking and heavy drinking among adults are on the rise, and are responsible for an estimated 1 in 5 deaths among those ages 20-49. Overall, excessive alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death and disease in Oregon.

“During December and the holiday season, many people and communities come together at celebrations or events where alcohol may be present. We’re trying to start a new conversation to help dial down the pressure around alcohol, and help create more supportive community spaces for everyone,” said Tom Jeanne, M.D., M.P.H., deputy state health officer and epidemiologist at OHA.

“Our new campaign and messaging explore how alcohol has crept into so many settings of our daily lives, whether that’s at the hair salon, a child’s birthday party, or a baby shower,” Jeanne said “Even in moments when people are trying to improve their health, such as a 5k run or during a hike in the woods, many of us find ourselves drinking more. This campaign is about caring for one another and for our communities so that we can all be healthy and feel supported.”

Data show the first Rethink the Drink campaign was a significant success

Based on evaluation data from RMC Research for its first campaign in summer 2022, Rethink the Drink achieved its goals and exceeded expectations for the campaign. People in Oregon who saw the campaign:

  • Had more conversations about their own drinking, friends’ and families’ drinking, and what excessive drinking is.
  • Thought more about their drinking habits.
  • Were more likely to plan on cutting back their drinking than those who did not see the campaign.

People living in Oregon may be drinking excessively without realizing it

The share of Oregon adults who drink excessively is larger than most people realize – more than 1 in 5. Most people in this group are not affected by alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder. However, by drinking excessively, people increase their odds of developing an alcohol use disorder later in life.

OHA uses the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of excessive alcohol use, which includes both heavy drinking and binge drinking:

  • Heavy drinking, which can lead to chronic diseases and other problems over time, is eight or more drinks per week for women or 15 or more drinks per week for men.
  • Binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks on one occasion for women or five or more drinks on one occasion for men.

For more information on differences among genders for what’s considered excessive drinking, visit https://www.rethinkthedrink.com/what-is-excessive-drinking.

The unjust harms of excessive drinking

Certain populations experience more unjust stressors and disadvantages due to racism, discrimination, and historical disinvestment in these communities, which has led to higher rates of alcohol-related harms. These include Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people with lower incomes and less education.

Excessive drinking causes health harms that include increased risks for cancer, liver failure, heart disease and depression. Beyond the health harms to the individual, excessive drinking affects the entire community, costing Oregon $4.8 billion per year from lost earnings for workers and revenue for businesses, health care expenses, criminal justice costs and car crashes.

“We all have a role to play in building healthy communities and addressing alcohol and substance use in our state,” said Annaliese Dolph, director of Oregon’s Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission. “The Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission’s Strategic Plan calls for raising awareness of harm associated with alcohol misuse, especially using prevention techniques. This is exactly what the Rethink the Drink campaign helps accomplish. This is an example of state agencies working together with the Commission to carry out the Commission’s task of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of substance use services.”

Dolph added: “Preventing misuse across the lifespan includes having honest conversations to help people to think about the alcohol they are consuming, and decrease family and community norms permissive of misuse. This can increase the perception of harm from misuse and address the health harms faced by historically marginalized communities.”

Rethink the Drink is not telling people to stop drinking, Jeanne says. The campaign is asking people to pause for a moment, learn about the harms caused by excessive drinking, and think about the way alcohol is prevalent in their lives and communities. While the alcohol industry provides thousands of jobs for people in Oregon, and producers in our state make some of the world’s finest beers, wines and spirits, excessive drinking carries heavy costs for all Oregonians, whether they drink or not.

Note: If you or someone you care about is suffering from alcohol dependence or an alcohol use disorder, free confidential resources and support are available online or by calling or 1-800-923-435.

About Rethink the Drink

Rethink the Drink is an initiative of OHA’s Public Health Division with a goal to build healthier communities by decreasing excessive drinking and the harm it causes to individuals, families and communities. Recognizing the value of Oregon’s beer, wine and alcohol producers and businesses to the state’s economy, culture and identity, Rethink the Drink is not asking people not to drink. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the effects of excessive alcohol use. While people of all education and income levels drink excessively, certain populations experience higher rates of alcohol-related diseases. These include Black and Indigenous communities, as well as people with lower incomes and less education. Certain populations experience higher rates of alcohol-related disease due to discrimination and historical disinvestment in these communities that has contributed to fewer resources and support. Rethink the Drink is committed to OHA’s larger goal to end health inequities in our state by 2030.