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The Epidemiology of Alcohol Abuse and Subsequent Conditions

Dr. Anna Pickering

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anna Pickering

April 3, 2019

A person’s first contact with alcohol usually happens at home, and not everyone starts off drinking heavily. Excessive use of alcohol or alcohol abuse can lead to disorders such as alcohol use disorder and alcoholism. Once a person is addicted to alcohol and other drugs, they might have a hard time quitting by themselves. If you’re struggling with an addiction, there is help available.

Alcohol has been abused, since its first known appearance over 8,000 years ago. Ethyl alcohol is made by using fermented grain, fruit juice, or honey. Not every person who consumes alcohol will get drunk, or addicted for that matter, but for the vulnerable population, it can lead to “a pattern of drinking that results in harm to one’s health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work” (Center For Disease Control).

Teens And Alcohol Abuse

Initial exposure to alcohol often occurs in the home, well before a person has reached the legal age to drink. Alcohol is a legal drug, and it’s available to nearly every teenager before they’re physically or mentally ready to deal with it. The question is, where do you start? Teens begin drinking based on three supporting factors: personal, social, and environmental (NIAAA).

So while they’re growing up, adolescents can either learn about alcohol by doing self conclusive research, or they can hear about it from parents, friends, siblings, teachers, or peers. When and where they get their information can later influence how they perceive alcohol and what role it plays in their life.

Alcohol Consumption As A “Rite Of Passage”

As it is, when a person is legally old enough to drink, there is this sort-of rites of passage which typically involves a night of binge drinking. Some people shake it off and say, “I’m never doing that again!,” but other people jump in for a life-long ride full of parties, hangovers, and regrets. A lifestyle which leads to death at worst but assuredly other life altering consequences. Statistically, people between the ages of 12 and 20 were responsible for 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. (CDC), clearly demonstrating that Alcohol Abuse often starts at a much younger age than 21.

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How Does Alcohol Work?

Behaviors are studied by various disciplines which include anthropology, sociology, anatomy, psychology, etcetera… Alcohol and other drugs have become a major focus for many of these studies. The “high” associated with alcohol is attributed to ethanol. As ethanol enters the body orally, it travels from the stomach to the small intestine where the majority of the alcohol is transferred into the bloodstream and is then transmitted into to the central nervous system, brain, heart, lungs and other vital organs (about 20% of alcohol is ingested by the stomach and 80% is ingested by the small intestine). As soon as the alcohol enters into the brain, it begins to muddle an individual’s motor skills and emotions. As the normal drinker’s brain begins to react with the alcohol, the brain tells them that they have consumed enough, and then they stop drinking.

What Is Alcohol Abuse?

With Alcohol Abuse a person might continue drinking, even though their brain has warned them that they are beginning to experience the adverse effects of alcohol. Alcohol Abuse “is associated with a wide range of negative health and social consequences, both acute (traffic deaths, or other injuries), and chronic (alcohol dependence, liver damage, stroke, cancer of the mouth and esophagus)” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcoholism is likely to be the next stop for any person who regularly abuses alcohol.

More On Alcohol Dependence and Alcoholism

Alcoholism is described by the NIAAA as “a disease which can strike at any age… and the craving that an alcoholic feels for alcohol can be as strong as the need for food or water. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite serious family, health, or legal problems.” An alcoholic is commonly identified by an individual’s inability to stop drinking once he or she has picked up the first drink. There are treatment centers and 12-step programs across the globe which can be a new beginning for anyone suffering from Alcohol Abuse, Alcoholism or any other Substance Abuse.

Frequently Asked Questions About Alcohol Abuse

What may work for one person may not work for another. This can all feel overwhelming and a lot of questions can arise, like:

  • How do I start getting sober?
  • Where’s the closest treatment center?
  • How do I know if I have a problem with alcohol?
  • How do I approach a loved one about their potential problem?
  • Is my kid learning everything they can from me about alcohol and drug abuse?
  • What other substances should concern me?
  • Is a 12-step group the only way to recover?

Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Other Substances

Not every person has the ability to single-handedly kick the nasty habit Alcohol or Drug Abuse. The sad truth is that from 2006-2010, alcohol claimed the lives of approximately 88,000 people (CDC). It is uncertain whether those deaths were affiliated with a lack of treatment, but one thing is certain, every person has access to it. So treatment, recovery and living sober are all a part of the process.

Currently, there are over 15,000 rehab centers, and over 60,000 12-step groups in the U.S. alone. Keep in mind that the most important part of recovery from any substance abuse disorder is coming to terms with the fact that there is a problem–once this has been achieved, the healing can begin. As far as the correct road to recovery goes, there really isn’t one.

How To Find Treatment For Alcohol Abuse

Rehab is a good starting point for somebody seeking treatment. This usually means in-patient treatment, and generally there’s a rehab facility within reach. Rehab isn’t necessary for everyone, but for some people, it’s their only hope.

Some other treatments might include:

  • Inpatient Therapy
  • Outpatient Therapy
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous
  • Holistic, Religious or Agnostic

“When relapse occurs many deem treatment a failure. This is not the case: Successful alcohol treatment typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases” (NIDA). Alcohol Abuse, Drug Addiction, and Alcoholism may need to be handled with care, and by people who specialize in treatment of them. One thing is certain; a person has to want sobriety before it can happen.

Even though relapse is always a possibility, it doesn’t always have to be absolute. If you have more questions about Alcohol and Drug Abuse for yourself or a loved one, please contact us today. You don’t have to allow alcohol to control your life anymore!

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (NIAAA) - Alcoholism: Natural History and Background

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (CDC) - Underage Drinking

World Health Organization - Substance Abuse

National Institutes of Health - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Strategies to Prevent Underage Drinking

Understanding the Effects of Alcohol: Digestive System - Alcohol and the Human Body

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