Drinking is common in modern society. Rarely does a person go to a group function without alcohol being served. Office parties, informal dinners, concerts and sporting events, even weddings – most social occasions involve beer, wine or mixed drinks being served. There is no wonder there is so much alcoholism in our country.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):
- In 2014, 87.6 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 71.0 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.9 percent reported that they drank in the past month.
- In 2014, 24.7 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month; 6.7 percent reported that they engaged in heavy drinking in the past month.
- Nearly 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making it the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
- In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).
What is Alcoholism?
Because individuals’ bodies and minds handle alcohol differently, alcoholism is not an assigned number or even a blood alcohol content reading. Making a clean call as to whether someone has an alcohol problem can be tricky.
‘Disease,’ ‘misuse,’ ‘impaired control over drinking,’ ‘malady,’ ‘mental obsession,’ and many other creative phrases are used to describe alcoholism. But the ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision) – the handbook for medical billing – defines alcoholism as follows:
“A cluster of behavioural, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated alcohol use and that typically include a strong desire to consume, difficulties in controlling its use, persisting in its use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to alcohol use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state.”
Using that addiction-based understanding of alcoholism, nearly 14 million Americans are considered to abuse alcohol or be alcoholic.
How Harmful are the Effects of Alcoholism?
Alcoholism is a habit of far reaching consequences. Consider that about half of all convicted murderers admit they were drinking at the time of their offense. Think about the fact that every 48 minutes, someone is killed by an alcohol-impaired driver (about 30 per day). From that point of view, certainly alcoholism can be deadly!
But what about how alcohol affects the alcoholic himself? Sure it’s a bad habit, but can it kill a person?
Yes indeed. It sure can.
There are commonly-known links between alcohol use and major health issues such as liver disease and high blood pressure. And there are easily-observed results of drinking like impaired brain and physical function, that stem from alcohol’s interference with the communication pathways in our brains. But here are a few less-known facts:
- Up to 80% of alcoholics also suffer from Thiamine deficiency, which leaves their brain vulnerable to brain disorders such as hepatic encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis.
- Even a single incident of drinking can lower your immune system function for up to 24 hours afterward, leaving you susceptible to disease.
- Alcohol plays a part in 4% of the deaths worldwide each year – that’s 2.5 million.
- Alcohol consumption results in an estimated 18,200 to 21,300 cancer deaths per year in the United States alone.
Combine all this with increased risk of pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy and a host of other health complications – physical, mental and emotional – and the answer becomes appallingly clear. Yes, alcoholism can be deadly.
What Can be Done to Combat Alcoholism?
Quite a bit, actually. As with any addiction, the cure lies primarily within the alcoholic. Once a person recognizes that they have an issue that has grown beyond their control, reaching for and accepting help becomes easier. As does finding the motivation to build a different life for himself.
Inpatient facilities are the number one method of breaking alcoholism. They work in several ways:
- removing a patient’s access to alcohol
- guiding a patient through any withdrawal difficulties they may have
- creating an atmosphere that allows the patient to focus 100% on healing
- diagnosing any medical issues that may be exacerbating a patient’s addiction
- re-training a patient into new, cleaner habits and better behavioral patterns
Going to an inpatient treatment facility is one of the best things an alcoholic can do for himself and his family. A person who completes a 30 day or longer inpatient treatment regime doubles their chance of long-term success. Forget what your spouse or your parents or a Judge or anyone else may tell you is a good idea – multi-faceted treatment that doubles your chance of success is just plain smart.