- Table of ContentsPrint
- What Is Alcohol Abuse?
- Signs and Symptoms
- Effects of Alcohol Abuse
- Mixing Alcohol and Drugs
- Alcohol Abuse Treatment
- Am I Addicted to Alcohol?
- Alcohol Statistics
- Teen Alcohol Abuse
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol can be an addictive substance. Not everyone who consumes alcohol will become addicted. However, certain people may be more susceptible to addiction.
It should be noted that alcohol addiction and abuse are not the same. It's important to understand the facts on alcohol abuse. Alcohol addiction refers to a psychological and physical dependency on alcohol. Individuals who suffer from alcohol addiction may build up a tolerance to the substance, as well as continue drinking even when alcohol-related problems become evident.
Alcohol abusers are not necessarily addicted to alcohol. Abusers are typically heavy drinkers who continue drinking regardless of the results. Abusers of alcohol may not drink on a consistent basis. For example, an individual who abuses alcohol may only drink once a week. However, when that individual drinks, he puts himself into risky situations or drinks enough to cause problems, such as alcohol poisoning. Certain individuals who abuse alcohol may eventually become dependent on it.
Signs and Symptoms
Individuals who suffer from alcohol abuse do not always exhibit the same symptoms. The type of symptoms experienced by an individual will depend on a number of factors, such as the individual's background and medical history. While alcohol abuse symptoms do vary, there are signs and symptoms that can indicate a problem.
Signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Decreased involvement in extracurricular activities.
- Loss of interest in work or school.
- Lack of interest in family or friends.
- Preoccupation with drinking.
- Inability to control drinking.
- Erratic behavior.
- Violent behavior.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired judgment.
- Memory loss.
- Liver disease.
- Thiamine deficiency.
- Cetain cancers.
- Brain damage.
- Immune system obstruction.
Learn more about the effects of alcohol use.
Mixing Alcohol and Drugs
The signs and symptoms of alcohol use, as well as the short- and long-term effects of alcohol abuse don't always occur in isolation. In fact, an alarming number of people purposely combine their alcohol with drugs. This is frequently done with the intention of compounding the effects of both to achieve a greater state of intoxication. What these individuals aren't accounting for is the fact that not only the intoxication potentiated, but there can also be a synergistic, or additive influence on the numerous negative side effects of both. To be sure, the health consequences of mixing alcohol and drugs can be deadly.
Alcohol and Illicit Drugs
Alcohol and Prescription Drugs
Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Individuals who wish to overcome an alcohol abuse problem have a number of options.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than 1 people age 12 or older received substance use treatment in 2015 for alcohol use alone. Many of the individuals who are treated for alcoholism and alcohol abuse often seek outside help from treatment centers and therapy sessions.
Alcohol treatment centers are designed to help individuals who are addicted or who abuse alcohol in a number of ways. Typically, treatment centers require an individual to stay at the center for a specific amount of time. Many centers offer both long- and short-term treatment options.
During treatment, individuals go through detoxification. Detoxification is the process of removing alcohol from the body and getting rid of any physical dependency to the substance.
For someone struggling with alcoholism to successfully complete a treatment program, he must leave the center with a full understanding of his problem. Treatment centers are designed to provide support in the form of individual therapy, as well as group therapy. During therapy sessions, alcohol abusers can explore their reasons for abusing the substance, as well as what they can do to overcome their abusive behavior. Counselors and therapists at treatment centers are trained to provide alcohol abusers with constructive ideas and alternatives to drinking. During treatment, alcohol abusers are also provided with the tools needed to move on from abusing alcohol and into a more productive lifestyle.
Outpatient treatment is also an option for many alcohol abusers. Outpatient treatment centers are designed to provide abusers with a place to explore their destructive behavior. Many outpatient treatment centers provide anonymous group meetings, as well as other programs to help alcohol abusers overcome their issues. With outpatient treatment, individuals are not placed in a controlled environment and may be vulnerable to outside temptation during treatment. Typically, this type of treatment is ideal for individuals who have successfully completed an inpatient treatment program.
Am I Addicted to Alcohol?
If you're worried about your use of alcohol, you can take the following assessment to discover the severity of the problem and determine whether you may need treatment.
There are more people in the United States who drink on a regular basis than there are people who do not drink at all, according to the NSDUH. In 2015, 51.7% of Americans age 12 or older reported drinking alcohol in the month before taking the survey, and only 19% of respondents reported never having consumed alcohol.
Many people are unaware of the impact alcohol has on society. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), almost 88,000 people die every year due to alcohol-related causes.
Other alcohol facts indicate a startling problem with alcohol abuse in the United States. According to figures from the NSHUH and NIAAA:
- Alcohol abuse problems cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010.
- Over 50% of people age 12 or older who received treatment for a substance use disorder in 2015 sought help for alcoholism.
- Around 17 million adults can be classified as having an alcohol problem.
- Almost 25% of people age 12 or older were current binge drinkers in 2015.
- 7% of the U.S. population age 12 or older drank alcohol in 2015.
- Almost 6% of all global deaths are due to drinking.
Teen Alcohol Abuse
Adults are not the only ones who can suffer from alcohol abuse. Many teenagers are at risk of developing an alcohol abuse problem due to the accessibility of the substance and peer pressure. Out of all drugs used by teenagers, alcohol is used the most frequently, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In fact, around 10% of 8th graders, 21% of 10th graders, and 35% of 12th graders were current alcohol drinkers in 2015.
Many teenagers who choose to drink can easily develop an abuse problem due to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as drinking at least five drinks in two hours or less.
Teenagers who have an alcohol abuse problem may exhibit signs and symptoms to indicate there is a problem. Teen alcohol abuse symptoms include:
- Having alcohol paraphernalia.
- Becoming violent or abusive toward others.
- Staying away from family.
- Mood swings.
- Changing social circles.
- Breaking curfew or other rules.
- Smelling of alcohol.
Teen alcohol abuse may not seem like a huge issue; however, alcohol is considered a drug and must be treated as one. Alcohol has the ability to alter moods. Most teenagers cannot handle the effects of alcohol and are not responsible enough to deal with it. While many parents and guardians assume other drugs, such as marijuana, are worse than alcohol, they must realize how easily accessible alcohol is, and how much damage it can do to a teen.
Teens who abuse alcohol are at an increased risk in a number of ways. As studies have shown, teens that drink are more sexually active and participate in unprotected sex more often than teens who do not consume alcohol. These teens are also at an increased risk of becoming a victim of rape, robbery or assault.
According to the National Institute of Health, teens who abuse alcohol at a young age are much more likely to develop a dependency on alcohol when they get older. Teen alcohol abuse can also result in poor grades and troubled behavior.
Not only can alcohol abuse alter how a teen acts, it can also have adverse effects on the brain. Studies show that brain development continues past the teenage years. Alcohol abuse during the brain's formative years can negatively impact how the brain develops and can also lead to learning problems.