Alcohol abuse is a common problem among both teenagers and adults in the United States. In fact, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance.1 Despite the fact that alcohol is legal, it destroys careers, lives, families, finances, health and more.
How do you know you have an alcohol problem? If you use alcohol to the point that it harms you physically or emotionally or begins to cause problems in your life, alcohol abuse is an issue for you. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV says alcohol abuse occurs when an individual continues drinking despite the obvious problems that come with chronic drinking.2
Who Is Abusing Alcohol?Alcohol abuse is very widespread and affects all ages. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 56 percent of people have had alcohol in the past month.3 In addition, more than 27 percent of Americans over the age of 12 had reported binge drinking in the past month.4 This means that close to one in four of all Americans are binge drinking. Statistics show that approximately 23% of adult men report binge drinking five times a month, averaging eight drinks each time they drink.5
Effects of Alcohol in Low and High DosesIn low doses, alcohol makes users feel relaxed and euphoric while lowering their inhibitions. According to Healthline, higher doses of alcohol yield much more significant effects, including:
- Slurred speech
- Angry outbursts and emotional volatility
- Sexual dysfunction
- Loss of coordination
- Visual impairment
- Memory impairment
- Lost consciousness
- Alcohol poisoning
- Fatal overdose6
Binge Drinking Is Alcohol Abuse
Many believe that they are not abusing alcohol if they go out on the weekends or drink heavily a few nights a week. They think that if they work all day and drink large amounts on the weekend that they are “normal” and don’t have a maladaptive relationship with alcohol — especially if they can quit drinking for weeks or months at a time before returning to their old habits.
Unfortunately, this behavior is the definition of binge drinking and it’s just as dangerous as the drinking habits of those who abuse alcohol regularly. A few more facts to consider:
- The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as when the individual’s blood alcohol content level is raised to .08 percent or higher.7
- A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showsthat more than 38 million people—or one in six people—binge drink alcohol.8
Risks Associated With Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages
Caffeinated alcoholic beverages are drinks that pre-mix plant-based stimulants, caffeine and sugar with high amounts of alcohol.9 While these drinks and drinks that combine energy drinks and alcohol are a trend among American young adults, they are the subject of extensive controversy, for a number of reasons. Here are just a few:
- Masked effects of alcohol. The caffeine and other stimulants in caffeinated alcoholic beverages can cover the depressant effect of alcohol, causing users to drink more alcohol than they usually would.
- Doesn’t mask other effects of alcohol. Caffeine does not mask alcohol’s effect on impulse control or inhibitions, lower the concentration of alcohol on the breath, or assist the liver in metabolizing alcohol.
- Increases the likelihood of binge drinking. It’s much more difficult to go out for a drink or two when choosing caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Those who combine caffeine and alcohol are three times as likely to abuse alcohol (i.e., drink five or more alcoholic beverages within two hours).
- Higher risk of poor choices. The CDC reports that those who drink caffeine and alcohol together are twice as likely to be sexually abused, to sexually abuse others, or to drive while under the influence.
Make no mistake – just because alcohol is readily available in every corner store, it is not a safe substance.
Chronic health problems like liver damage and kidney failure are all too common when a person drinks large amounts of alcohol regularly.10 Violence is more common when alcohol comes into play, and more people end up in front of a judge due to choices made under the influence of alcohol than because of almost any other drug.
The Difference Between Abuse and Addiction
People who live with alcohol addiction have all the characteristics of those who abuse alcohol but also have other issues in relation to their drinking. For instance, alcoholics usually have just one type of alcoholic beverage that they indulge in to the exclusion of all others while those who abuse alcohol are generally more open-minded about what they will drink. Also, alcoholics require more alcohol in order to get drunk. They have built up a tolerance due to their regular drinking.
Another difference is that alcoholics will only attend functions where they can drink or get away with being drunk. They may also feel the need to drink regularly — even daily — no matter what activities are going on. Unfortunately, both those living with alcoholism and an alcohol abuse issue may or may not have a clear view of their problem.
However, should either type of drinker try to stop drinking on their own, they are unable to do so. They both require medical detox and addiction treatment in order to stop drinking for any length of time.
Rehab at Michael’s HouseAt Michael’s House, we offer the highest quality alcohol abuse and addiction treatment available. Each specialized program at Michael’s House provides integrated treatment options, ensuring that our clients get the innovative mental health and addiction treatment they need to begin the recovery process.
“If you are struggling with addiction issues, please keep reaching out for help,” says Will M., whose story you can read at Heroes in Recovery. “Don’t give up. It took me several times of trying to pick up the phone and putting it back down.”Because people vary in the severity of their conditions and their readiness to begin alcohol and drug rehab, the wide range of services available at Michael’s House meets each person at his or her level of need and readiness to recover. If you have questions about whether you or a loved one may need help for addiction, please call our call center 24 hours a day at 760-548-4032.
1 “Alcohol.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed 12 December 2017. 2 Quinn, Brian. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Primary Care Version.” National Institutes of Health.April 1999. Accessed 12 December 2017. 3 Alcohol Facts and Statistics. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. June 2017. 4 Alcohol.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Accessed 12 December 2017. 5 “Fact Sheets – Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Men’s Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 12 December 2017. 6 Pietrangelo, Ann. “The Effects of Alcohol On Your Body.” Healthline. 9 June 2017. Accessed 12 December 2017. 7 “Single Episode Of Binge Drinking Linked To Gut Leakage And Immune System Effects.” National Institutes of Health. 14 May 2014. 8 “Binge Drinking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 10 March 2017. 9 “Fact Sheets- Alcohol and Caffeine.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 9 June 2017. 10 Alcohol’s Effects onthe Body. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.Accessed 12 December 2017.
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