Alcohol Use and Abuse
Many people fall victim to the false idea that alcohol addiction is easily self-diagnosable and able to be cured. Unfortunately, while one may be able to identify that he/she is suffering from an issue involving alcohol, the process of treating the dependency is not easy. First and foremost, this is a condition that cannot be cured. This is a chronic disease that can last for years or be lifelong. The fact that there is no cure can be both shocking and discouraging, however, it’s important to note that hundreds of thousands of Americans are in the same boat when it comes to alcohol addiction. We need to remove the stigma behind Alcohol Use Disorders (AUD) as a sign of weakness and recognize it for what is truly is – a disease.
Roughly 6.6% of the adult population in the US reports heavy alcohol consumption and one in four people report at least one episode of binge drinking (Campos, 2018). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. Generally, this means five or more drinks consumed by men or four or more drinks consumed by women in about two hours (CDC, 2019). Questions that can be asked to help determine if someone is suffering from an alcohol disorder include:
- Have your alcohol consumption habits affected your personal or professional life in a negative way?
- Do you have legal issues resulting from alcohol consumption?
- Do you feel guilty about your drinking habits?
- Do you begin each day with a drink?
- How many times have you consumed four or more drinks in a day?
- Do you feel a strong urge to drink alcohol?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are likely suffering from an AUD. AUD’s can range from mild, moderate or severe depending on the patient’s symptoms and the duration of the disease. In other words, the treatment plan for an individual who has been suffering from an AUD for over 25 years versus someone who has been battling an alcohol dependency for two years will vary greatly. While many find it admirable to attempt to quit alcohol consumption “cold turkey”, we strongly caution against this. Why? Alcohol withdrawal is a real thing, and depending on the severity of the alcohol consumption, symptoms can include sweating, rapid heartbeat, hand tremors, problems sleeping, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, restlessness and agitation, anxiety and seizures (“Alcohol use disorder”, 2019).
So, is it true that some people are more likely to develop alcoholism than others? The short answer is yes, however, one must keep in mind there are exceptions to the rules. The cause of alcoholism in a person can be contributed to environmental and social factors, however, genetic, physical and psychological traits can also influence a person’s likeliness to become an alcoholic. Studies indicate that a person born from an alcoholic is three to four times more likely to become an alcoholic later in life (Felson, 2019). This in no way means that you will become an alcoholic if one or both of your parents suffer from this disease; there are many people that never develop an issue. Yet it is important to highlight that if you know that your parent suffers from alcohol addiction, the odds of you becoming addicted to alcohol are greater.
Some studies indicate that alcohol consumption tends to begin during the teenage years, yet it appears that AUD’s occur more frequently in people are in their 20’s and 30’s. Do keep in mind that one can fall victim to this disease at any age (“Alcohol use disorder”, 2019). There are risk factors that can be a prelude to an AUD down the road:
- Drinking at an early age
- Young adults, especially those who binge drink, are likely to develop an alcohol dependency.
- Family history
- Genetic factors as well as relatives with AUD’s will increase one’s likeliness to develop alcohol tendencies.
- Social factors
- The saying goes, “You are an average of the five people you spend the most time with.”, and this holds very true when it comes to this disease. Friends or a close partner who drinks excessively will increase your risk of developing an AUD.
- People who have a history of emotional trauma or other forms of traumatic events (PTSD) are at risk of developing an addiction to alcohol.
- Depression/Mental Health
- Those diagnosed with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or bipolar are at greater risk of developing an AUD.
Campos, M. (2018, December 20) Alcohol use disorder: When is drinking a problem? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/alcohol-use-disorder-when-is-drinking-a-problem-2018122015585
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019) Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm
Alcohol use disorder. (2019) Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20369243Felson, S. (2019, May 10) The Basics of Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/understanding-alcohol-abuse-basics#1