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.
- 66% of American adults surveyed report they have occasion to drink alcohol;
- their average weekly consumption of drinks is 4.2 drinks;
- 12% of surveyed adults report that they drink 8 or more drinks per week;
- about 38 million people report that they binge drink an average of 4 times per month;
- the United States averages 1.6 deaths per 100,000 people related to alcohol;
- the average American consumes about 28.3 gallons of beer per year.
That is a lot of alcohol use!
What is Alcoholism Then?
Because individual’s bodies and minds handle alcohol differently, alcoholism is not an assigned number or even a blood alcohol content reading. Making a clean call as 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 them self? 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’s 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 them self.
In-patient 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; and re-training a patient into new, cleaner habits and better behavioral patterns.
Going to an in-patient treatment facility is one of the best things an alcoholic can do for them self and their family. A person who completes a 30 day or longer in-patient 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.