How Common is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol is a legal and easily accessible drug in the United States, but it does not come without its issues. Despite its legality, alcohol can cause a list of diseases and destructive behaviors to those who do not consume it responsibly.
Determining what a responsible amount of alcohol is can be a tricky and often double-ended question. Alcohol can affect individuals in vastly different ways depending on family history, environment, and even genetics.
With the exception of a brief prohibition in the 1920’s, alcohol is a widely accepted adult beverage in the United States. Because of this, it can be difficult to spot if a loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse. It is more common that you may think.
What is Alcohol Abuse?
To determine if a loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse, it is first important to understand what alcohol abuse is. Alcohol abuse can present itself in many forms, but the underlying issue revolves around an individual’s behavior when it comes to alcohol consumption.
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Individuals who abuse alcohol often take unnecessary and sometimes dangerous risks while drinking. Those who make risky decisions such as deciding to drink and drive instead of getting a ride home, or making aggressive contact with another individual while under the influence of alcohol are often signs of alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse can also present itself with neglect for other aspects of an individual’s routine. For example, calling into work because of a bad hangover or missing a deadline to go out and drink can be telling signs of alcohol abuse.
Alcohol Abuse vs Alcoholism
Simply put: the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is a matter of severity. While both conditions can lead to devastating results, alcoholism is a more severe form of alcohol abuse that has turned into alcohol dependence.
Alcoholism is considered a disease, and rightfully so. With this degree of alcohol abuse comes a dependence on alcohol that can completely dominate an individual’s life. An alcoholic has little to no control over the amount and frequency of alcohol they consume. Despite negative consequences, getting their next drink can consume their livelihoods. It is not uncommon for individuals suffering from alcoholism to ignore financial, social, and professional responsibilities as a result of their drinking habits.
While alcohol abuse is not as severe as alcoholism, it can still take over an individual’s life. The risky behaviors and drinking habits of someone who abuses alcohol makes them increasingly prone to alcoholism. The risky habits associated with alcohol abuse can also turn deadly very quickly, or at the very least lead to broken relationships and even jail time.
With alcohol abuse there is still a good chance to turn things around and change the role alcohol plays in your life. Choosing friendships and activities that are not centered around drinking or going out to the bar can distance the relationship you have with alcohol and help put you back in the driver’s seat of your own life.
Who is at Risk for Alcohol Abuse?
So who is at risk for alcohol abuse? The short answer is: everyone. Alcohol abuse can affect any race, culture, age, or gender. However, there are some individuals who are more likely to abuse alcohol than others.
According to Mayo Clinic, the following factors can increase an individual’s likeliness to abuse alcohol:
- A family history of alcoholism or alcohol abuse
- Drinking at a young age
- Relationships that encourage drinking
- Prolonged periods of drinking on a regular basis
- Environmental factors (i.e. viewing alcohol as ‘glamorous’)
The stereotypical college lifestyle is a common portrayal of alcohol abuse, but it isn’t always this blatant. Alcohol abuse could be as simple as your friend choosing to drive home after ‘only a couple beers’ even if they have a sober ride home offered to them. Aggressiveness or a tendency towards criminal behavior while drinking could also indicate alcohol abuse.
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 37.9% of college students in the age range of 18-22 reported binge drinking, and 12.5% reported ‘heavy use’ of alcohol. Both of these categories are classified as alcohol abuse, which can put these populations at a higher risk for alcoholism later on in life. It is estimated by this survey that 20% of college students in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol abuse.
Signs Of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse is by no means limited to the college aged population. There are many individuals that abuse alcohol and it can go unnoticed to friends and family.
If you suspect a friend or family member is abusing alcohol, it is important to look closely for the signs related to alcohol abuse. Keep in mind this is much more about their behavior surrounding the consumption of alcohol, and not necessarily limited to the amount of alcohol they consume.
Some common signs of alcohol abuse can include:
- Taking unnecessary risks while drinking alcohol, such as driving drunk
- Missing deadlines or priorities due to drinking or hangovers
- Planning all or most activities around the consumption of alcohol
- Depression, or change in mood or mental health
- Associating drinking with emotions, such as stress or anger
- Continuing to drink heavily several nights in a row
Get Help For Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can affect anyone, no matter what their demographic may be. If you suspect a loved one is suffering from alcohol abuse, or if you believe you have some symptoms of alcohol abuse, it is important to learn about what treatment options are out there.
Alcohol abuse is a battle no one should have to fight alone. Contact one of our treatment specialists today. All calls are 100 percent confidential.