The purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month is to point out the stigma that still surrounds alcoholism and substance abuse in general. Alcoholism seems to have lost its place as the number one addiction problem in America.
Unfortunately, the opioid epidemic is front and center in most people's minds when the topic of addiction comes up in discussion. But has alcoholism really gone anywhere? Not according to the statistics reported by the National Institute of Health (NIH).
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 14.4 million adults in the U.S. ages 18 and older had a diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This includes 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women. And the main problem is that only about 7.9 percent of these people received treatment in the past year.
Another astonishing number --an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. The first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and physical inactivity. The current pandemic is excluded from these findings.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism, inebriety, dipsomania and drunkenness, depending on your century, is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD has devastated countless individuals and families for centuries. You can find references to this disease as far back as biblical times.
Alcohol is a controlled BUT legal substance, and the most available abused drug in the world. Most civilized societies around the world generally accept alcohol use, and the misuse of alcohol is fashionable within certain social situations. These trends make it difficult to notice when someone is having a dependence issue. The anxiety and inhibition lowering properties are most often seen as a positive side effect of alcohol. But alcohol comes with a long list of negative side effects.
One of those side effects is being unable to remember periods of time during which the individual was intoxicated. This side effect, known as a "blackout," can be a frequent experience of a person with AUD. Families and loved ones are often tasked with cleaning up after ill-advised decisions made while intoxicated.
Alcoholism comes with a series of long-term and short-term side effects. Accidents/injury, violent behavior, having unprotected sex, binge drinking, and alcohol poisoning are the short-term effects of alcohol misuse. Heart disease, stroke, bowel cancer, liver disease/cancer, mouth cancer, breast cancer, and pancreatitis are the long-term side effects of alcohol addiction.
Alcohol misuse can also lead to many mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Alcoholism in the patient with one or more of these mental disorders is a complication known as Dual Diagnosis.
Underage drinking is a serious public health problem in the United States. Alcohol is the most widely used substance among America's youth, and drinking by young people poses enormous health and safety risks. The consequences of underage drinking can affect everyone—regardless of age or drinking status.
Either directly or indirectly, we all feel the effects of the aggressive behavior, property damage, injuries, violence, and deaths that can result from underage drinking. This is not simply a problem for some families—it is a nationwide concern.
Unfortunately, many young people drink alcohol. Two years ago we found out that about 24.6 percent of 14- to 15-year-olds reported having at least 1 drink. We also found out that seven million young people ages 12 to 20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond "just a few sips" in the past month. And, while youth drink less often than adults do, when they do drink, they drink more. More than 90 percent of all alcoholic drinks consumed by young people are consumed through binge drinking.
And by the way, we'd like to point out to parents that the practice of parents letting kids take a sip of alcohol is "not benign," according to experts. A new study found that children whose parents allow them to take sips of alcohol are more likely to have favorable expectations about drinking. The same researchers found the 22% of children ages 9 to 11 have sipped alcohol, most often beer from their father. Children who sipped alcohol had more favorable expectations about drinking compared with their peers who hadn't tried alcohol. They were also more likely to agree with the statement "alcohol helps a person relax, feel happy, feel less tense, and can keep a person's mind off of mistakes at school or work." And. they also were more likely to agree with the statement "alcohol makes people want to have fun together."
As parents, it is our responsibility to understand the pitfalls of alcohol use and abuse by our children, and their friends.