Alcohol Abuse

Understanding Alcohol

Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States

According to the 2015 NSDUH, 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older (6.2 percent of this age group) had an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). This includes 9.8 million men (8.4 percent of men in this age group) and 5.3 million women (4.2 percent of women in this age group). About 6.7 percent of adults ( 7.4 percent of males and 5.4 percent of females) who had an AUD in the past year received treatment. 

An estimated 623,000 adolescents ages 12–17 (2.5 percent of this age group) had AUD. This number includes 298,000 males (2.3 percent of males in this age group) and 325,000 females (2.7 percent of females in this age group). About 5.2 percent of youth (5.1 percent of males and 5.3 percent of females) who had an AUD in the past year received treatment. 

Alcohol use disorder definition

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD): AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD can range from mild to severe, and recovery is possible regardless of severity. The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV), published by the American Psychiatric Association, described two distinct disorders—alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence—with specific criteria for each. The fifth edition, DSM-5, integrates the two DSM-IV disorders, alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence, into a single disorder called alcohol use disorder, or AUD, with mild, moderate, and severe subclassifications. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism)

Beer Addiction & Abuse

Beer has become synonymous with many activities in American culture. Drinking games on college campuses revolve around it, happy hours are the go-to activity for professionals, and you’d be hard pressed to find a sporting event without it. The rise of craft beer has even made beer consumption fashionable, with microbreweries and home brewers pushing the limits on what new flavors and tastes can be introduced. One unfortunate side effect of the craft beer revolution is that beers may have significantly higher amounts of alcohol than the average domestic draft — some can be as high as 11 or 12 percent.

Even people who drink during social activities or only drink craft beer are susceptible to an alcohol use disorder. Signs of a problem may include continuing to drink when everyone else has stopped or feeling the need to drink during uncomfortable or boring situations.

Wine Addiction & Abuse

Compared to beer, wine has a more concentrated amount of alcohol. An average pour of wine (5 oz.) is equivalent in alcohol content to 12 oz. of beer. Wine is often consumed at dinner parties or alongside gourmet cheese and cracker pairings. Its status as a “classy” drink can make it harder to spot when someone has a problem.

Women make up 59 percent of wine drinkers in the United States and are often the targeted audience in advertising campaigns promoting the drink. Because of this, women may be disproportionately susceptible to a use disorder. However, either gender can develop a problem with wine. If you or someone you care about has been drinking wine more frequently than intended or using it to combat anxious or depressive feelings, there may be a deeper issue at play. 

Alcohol Abuse

Know The Facts About Alcoholism 

88,000 Deaths

$249 Billion

10% of Children

An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

In 2010, alcohol misuse cost the United States $249.0 billion. Three-quarters of the total cost of alcohol misuse is related to binge drinking.

More than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems, according to a 2012 study by SAMHSA

signs of alcohol abuse

Alcohol dependence is roughly 60 percent genetic and 40 percent environmental, Willenbring says. People with a family history of alcoholism should watch their drinking very carefully or abstain altogether. About one-quarter of functional addicts have had a major depressive illness at some point in their lives, according to the NIAAA.

“If you are a functional alcoholic, you may not recognize that you are experiencing anxiety or depression. Escalating anxiety and depression can lead to problematic drinking in the future,” says Scott Krakower, DO, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York.

“Very often when someone is drinking too much and having trouble cutting down, there is a coexisting problem like anxiety or depression,” Willenbring says.

For people with anxiety and depressive disorders, alcohol consumption can disrupt their treatment and create a vicious cycle. “Alcohol can interfere with the medication so your anxiety problem grows worse,” says addiction specialist David Streem, MD, medical director of the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Center at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits are so much easier to give up than bad ones”.

 – W. Somerset Maugham

Spotting alcoholism in yourself or someone else can be tricky, especially when a person is functioning well at home and at work. One telltale sign is an inability to curtail drinking once you’ve started.

“You may set limits and then go over them,” Willenbring says. “You may say you are only going to drink on weekends, but then drink most days of the week.”

Even for functioning alcoholics, constant drinking eventually impairs the ability to function properly. “You may notice that things are getting a little harder for you,” says Krakower. “It gets increasingly difficult to get the job done. I always ask my patients: Are you functioning well, or could you be functioning better?”

According to a study published in November 2015 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the national cost of alcohol abuse (in terms of workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and other factors) climbed to $249 billion in 2010.

The World Health Organization recommends that everyone be regularly screened by their doctors for the presence of an alcohol use disorder, but many doctors neglect to do this. “Most doctors are not taught how to diagnose or manage alcohol use disorders,” Willenbring says. That’s why it’s so important to know when someone needs medical help and raise the issue with a healthcare provider.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Functional Alcoholics

Is your drinking out of control?

Intervention for Alcoholism

Genetics of Alcoholism

Sources: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH); National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); Everyday Health