Alcohol abuse is widespread and dangerousAlcohol is a social drug that is found in beer, wine and liquor. Within five minutes of alcohol being consumed, it begins to effect the brain, depressing central nervous system activity and reducing inhibitions. Drinkers may initially feel excited, outgoing and social. Continued consumption, however, leads to intoxication, loss of coordination, slurred words, loss of memory, unconsciousness and inhibition of normal breathing. Society frequently excuses alcohol overconsumption in conjunction with partying, college traditions (e.g., dangerous hazing), and holidays (e.g., New Year’s Eve). Since alcohol is legal for anyone aged 21 or older, it is not classified by the DEA.

Level 5 - Extreme Danger

Societal impact: 5

The impact of alcohol abuse on society is significant; in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that drunk driving killed 10,288 people. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism is associated with job loss, domestic violence and child abuse.

Recreational value: 4

Alcohol is a socially accepted drug and easy to obtain. Alcohol’s effects vary based on how much is ingested and the user’s tolerance.

Physical/emotional impact: 5

Immediate effects of alcohol abuse include decreased inhibitions and compromised decision-making abilities; individuals who are drunk are more likely to have unprotected sex and engage in other risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence. Physical effects of long-term use include liver damage, cirrhosis, brain damage and death. If a woman consumes alcohol while pregnant, damage to the fetus (“fetal alcohol syndrome”) may occur.

Potential for addictiveness: 4

The potential for addiction depends in part on genetics and family history, along with an individual’s environment and level of societal acceptance. Some individuals are able to enjoy only the occasional drink socially. Alcoholics, however, consistently drink to excess (both in public and alone); they are unable to stop drinking once they start, despite the negative consequences and painful withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol Abuse & Addiction Help

Alcohol is legal. It’s common to head out for drinks after work or for a night of relaxation. But this social acceptability hides a troubling reality – alcohol is one of, if not the, most abused substances in the country. From underage binge drinking to long-term alcoholics and DUI accidents, alcohol ruins lives every day. If you, or someone you know, indulges in alcohol on a regular basis, then you need to be on the lookout for the signs of alcoholism. This devastating and insidious addiction can develop over time. We help you find help for alcohol abuse here at with our Treatment Center Finder.