Alcohol is probably the easiest substance to abuse in America; it is legal to buy for anyone over the age of 21, and drinking, even at binge levels, is socially acceptable in many circles. Most people can drink without developing a problem; according to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 70% of Americans over the age of 18 drank alcohol in the past year, and 56% in the past month. Moderate levels of alcohol consumption even have health benefits, such as protecting healthy adults from developing coronary artery disease. People drink for a variety of reasons: to relax, to celebrate, at social engagements, among many others, and for most people, they can enjoy a drink or to without any repercussions. But for some, alcohol consumption leads to alcohol addiction that damages their health, family life, and beyond.

When Does Drinking Become Problem Drinking?

When a person’s life regularly suffers because of drinking alcohol, that person has a drinking problem. Alcoholism and addiction are characterized by craving alcohol and continuing to drink it, in spite of adverse effects on the user’s health and personal life. Symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Frequently drinking more than intended
  • Desire to stop drinking but inability to do so
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Choosing to drink alcohol instead of fulfilling personal or work obligations
  • Focusing excessive time and attention on obtaining and drinking alcohol

Alcoholism is a non-medical term describing anyone who has an addiction to alcohol. Severe problem drinking can develop into a chronic relapsing brain disease known as alcohol use disorder (AUD), which affects roughly 16 million Americans. AUD is characterized by:

  • Compulsive alcohol use
  • Inability to control alcohol intake
  • Emotional suffering when not drinking

People with AUD can benefit from medical treatment, but sadly, few seek medical help. Whether or not a person receives a medical diagnosis of AUD, any kind of problem drinking can lead to health problems, work difficulties, financial stress, and damaged personal relationships. The fallout from drinking can last for years, leading to divorce, job loss, and health problems that cannot be cured.

Alcohol Use and Abuse in America

While most people can drink regularly in a healthy manner, many do not. In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, roughly 27% of adults reported binge drinking and 7% reported heavy alcohol use in the past month. This type of drinking has serious ramifications:

  • Roughly 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes
  • Almost 10,000 of these deaths are from alcohol-related driving fatalities
  • Alcohol use contributes to more than 200 diseases and health conditions, including liver cirrhosis, cancers, and alcohol dependence
  • More than 10% of American children live with a parent who abuses alcohol

How Does Alcohol Affect the Body?

Drinking too much on a regular basis takes a toll on the brain and the body, causing problems such as:

  • Mood and behavior changes
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Problems with coordination
  • Heart problems such as high blood pressure, stroke, arrhythmias, and cardiomyopathy
  • Liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, fatty liver, and alcoholic hepatitis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancers of the mouth, liver, esophagus, throat, and breast
  • Weakened immune system

Treatment for Alcohol Addiction

It is important to seek help as soon as possible when an individual suspects he or she has a problem with alcohol dependence. The health problems listed above only get worse with time; earlier intervention may prevent permanent damage. Professional addiction advisors can assess the addict’s needs and assist with locating an appropriate treatment facility and choosing inpatient or outpatient and long-term vs. short-term treatment. If you or someone you love struggles with alcohol addiction, call our toll-free number today.