ALCOHOL ABUSE & ADDICTION
The Most Common Addiction in the United States
Alcohol abuse and addiction continue to be the most popular substance abuse problems among Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 38 million Americans engage in excessive drinking and less than 20 percent actually seek treatment for it. They also report that 88,000 deaths are attributed to excessive alcohol use, annually. The legal nature of drinking has created an awareness gap for many who believe that binge drinking is less dangerous than abuse of other drugs. Prolonged and untreated alcohol abuse creates just as many health and lifestyle problems as other substance use behaviors.
What is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol addiction or “alcoholism” is defined as a pattern of alcohol use, leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. Although the DSM-V combines alcohol abuse and addiction into the same disorder with different levels of severity, the primary difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism is the level of tolerance that users experience. This includes the cravings and significant changes in brain chemistry that long-term alcohol abuse causes. Once addiction has taken hold, it becomes increasingly difficult for users to overcome alcohol use without specialized care.
Alcohol addiction is caused by prolonged and untreated alcohol abuse, which can develop through numerous different circumstances, including:
- Family History
- Singular or Repetitive Trauma
- Mental Illness (Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, Etc.)
Signs of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction
The widespread use of alcohol in social settings can often blur the lines between just what behaviors constitute abuse and which ones constitute “harmless” drinking. This is why loved ones of those at risk for alcoholism must remain vigilant in identifying changes in behavior that indicate abuse or addiction.
Some of the more common signs of alcohol addiction include:
- Constant Preoccupation with Drinking
- Increased Risk-taking Behavior in the Pursuit of Alcohol
- DUI, Incarceration or Other Legal Troubles Due to Alcohol
- Decline in Professional or Academic Performance
- Difference in Social and Behavioral Patterns
Alcohol abuse and addiction is prevalent among users of all ages, from adolescents to seniors.