A deadly disease marked by continued overuse despite the consequences
Alcoholism or alcohol misuse affects millions of people every year, and an average of six people die of alcohol-related deaths in the United States every day.The Centers for Disease Control
What’s Behind the Addiction?
The effects of addiction stretch far and wide, impacting husbands and wives, children and parents, teens and the elderly, executives, professionals, and blue-collar workers. Alcohol addiction has the ability to cause extreme mistrust and resentment within family dynamics. The damage can also creep into every area of a person’s life, from career or school to relationships and finances.
Most people with a substance abuse problem also suffer from one or more mental health disorders. Disorders most commonly associated with abuse range from anxiety and depression to panic disorders and bipolar. They also likely have experienced some form of childhood or adult trauma in the past and fall back onto the hamster wheel of addiction because they haven’t addressed this ongoing pain.
Alcohol is a depressant that helps numb the pain and allows an “escape” from everyday life for the individual. Self-medicating is never a long-term solution, though. Over time, the body builds up a tolerance to consumption amounts, forcing a person to drink even more to achieve the same effect. This can result in a number of physical and emotional health problems, some of them permanent.
The Facts On Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is a disease defined by a dependency on alcohol as well as a loss of control and overuse that continues despite the consequences. Those that become addicted and abuse alcohol over long periods of time run the risk of serious physical harm, including organ failure and even death.
According to the most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 6% of the US population (over 16 million people) were considered heavy drinkers. Other alarming alcohol stats from the survey include:
- As of 2017, over 140 million Americans consume alcohol — that’s more than 40% of the entire population.
- Out of those 140 million Americans, 66.6 million partook in binge drinking within a month of the survey, and 16.7 million were heavy drinkers during that time.
- Over 7 million teens admitted to drinking within a month of the survey, maintaining around the same average of underage drinking three years in a row.
- Roughly two out of every three individuals over the age of 12 perceived great risk of harm from having four to five drinks of alcohol every day.
- Approximately 14.5 million people developed a substance abuse disorder from alcohol in 2017.
Alcohol’s Negative Effects
Studies continue to show that heavy alcohol consumption is a leading preventable cause of death around the globe, and even a single episode of binge-drinking can bring on significant impairment issues. When too much alcohol is consumed, the body can’t metabolize it all, leading to a build-up in the blood stream and forcing the heart to circulate blood alcohol throughout the body. This causes drastic changes in body chemistry and functions.
Most Common Effects:
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Memory loss
In addition to temporary symptoms and impairment, alcohol misuse and addiction can also cause more serious and lasting health issues. These include:
- Liver disease – The liver metabolizes more alcohol than any other organ. Excessive drinking puts you at risk for fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, and inflammation.
- Digestive problems – Heavy drinking takes a toll on the digestive system, increasing chances for ulcers, heartburn, gastritis, and acid reflux.
- Pancreatitis – Close to 70% of pancreatitis cases are caused by alcohol abuse due to consistent inflammation.
- Brain damage – Alcohol in large amounts can affect information processing, balance, motor coordination, and the areas of the brain that control mood and emotion.
Withdrawal Symptoms and Dangers
We’ve established that drinking can cause serious health problems, but quitting alcohol after heavy usage comes with risks of its own. Symptoms from alcohol withdrawal can be extremely dangerous, and supervised medical detox is often necessary.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
More serious effects include hallucinations, fever, confusion, seizures, and high blood pressure.
Reach Out Today
We offer in-person intensive outpatient programs (IOP) for alcohol addiction as well as online treatment options through MBH Connect, our virtual IOP. We treat all addiction issues with a dual-diagnostic model that addresses not just the substance abuse but the mental health disorders behind it, allowing the patient to recognize emotional trauma and begin the healing process. If you or a loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol addiction, we’re here to help.