Did you know that one in every 12 American adults, or 17.6 million people, suffer from alcohol use disorder or alcohol dependence? Such a startling figure is cause for concern for several reasons, notably that the number is likely to grow. There is, however, some uplifting news. The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) reports that as many as 20 million individuals are living in recovery from alcohol use.
As April winds down, we would be remiss here at NorthStar Transitions if we did not discuss alcohol use disorder. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which is a national observance that deals with alcohol addiction. While the above statistics might come as a surprise, the reality that alcohol is misused more than any other substance in the world shouldn’t.
Alcohol is interwoven with the lives of everyday Americans. Men and women drink when times are good and when they are not; they drink when feeling social and when they don’t; and most people never contemplate the role this age-old substance plays in their lives. The impact that drinking has on individuals, as a result, often sneaks up and causes irreparable harm in many cases.
In the United States, alcohol companies have carte blanche to plaster their advertisements on billboards, magazines, and television spots. Young people see their parents drink and they see actors on TV whose lives appear exciting; it is not difficult to form the opinion that alcohol can’t be that harmful. What most young Americans don’t realize is that regular alcohol use, particularly when used in excess, can change the trajectory of their lives.
The Road to Alcohol Use Disorder is Short
The fact that people can purchase the substance with ease, at low prices, almost around the clock is problematic. It may seem to some that alcohol is meant to be imbibed. The picture of alcohol use most regularly portrayed is positive; PSAs, showing more realistic portrayals of the harm wrought by drinking, are rare.
It is paramount that more is done to educate young Americans about the destructive nature of alcohol. They have a right to know that some 88,000 deaths annually are attributed to excessive drinking in the U.S. Alcohol has a hand in roughly 2.8 million deaths a year globally. The impact of consistent, heavy alcohol use on the human body is sharp and exacting; it can quickly progress to a dependence and alcohol use disorder.
NCADD reports that 40 percent of all hospital beds in the U.S. are occupied by patients whose health conditions stem from alcohol consumption.
Teenagers and young adults alike tend to think that alcoholism or alcohol use disorder develops over decades. They may also associate alcohol addiction with only the homeless or socioeconomically downtrodden. It’s unlikely that many young Americans consider that more than one person living in their college dorm already meets the criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Due to the drug’s social acceptance, alcoholism can hide in plain sight with relative ease.
The number of Americans, ages 25 to 34, dying from alcohol-related liver disease is on the rise. The number of deaths among that age-span nearly tripled between 1999 and 2016, according to The British Medical Journal. While men tend to drink more often and in a more hazardous manner, heavy drinking among young women is a growing problem.
Colorado Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Sadly, the stigma of addiction persists in the U.S. The shame people feel over being unable to control their drinking is punishing. Stigma and shame cause many to ignore or hide their issues with alcohol use. It is vital the those struggling feel able to seek help without social rejection. It is critical that the word gets out that alcohol use disorder is a treatable mental health disease and that recovery is possible.
Alcohol-related diseases are preventable when people seek help as soon as they believe they have a problem. The theme that Facing Addiction with NCADD chose for Alcohol Awareness Month this year is “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.” When we are committed, as a society, to have an honest discussion about alcoholism, we dismantle the barriers standing in between addiction and treatment.
Alcohol and substance use disorder is not a moral failing; there is no blame to place on individuals who struggle with the disease. Addiction is a form of mental illness; and, mental health conditions are treatable. With help, people do recover!
Please contact NorthStar Transitions if alcohol or substance use is negatively impacting your life. Our team of highly trained addiction counselors and clinicians utilize evidence-based therapeutic modalities to facilitate healing. We teach clients how to lead a healthy, fulfilling, and productive life in addiction recovery. We invite you to call 303.558.6400 to learn more about the NorthStar Difference.