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Facts On Alcoholism

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Alcoholism is a progressive degenerative disease that includes the following four components:

  • The loss of control

  • Craving

  • Physical dependence

  • Tolerance

Also known as alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction, there are many facts about alcoholism that need to be examined in order to better understand this damaging and destructive disease.

More specifically, there are physical, emotional, health, social, and behavioral aspects of alcoholism that ironically lead to as well as result from this disease.

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Drinking Alcohol Is a Pleasant Feeling For Most People

For most individuals who drink, alcohol is an enjoyable experience, especially when they drink in moderation and are engaged in social or recreational activities.

In fact, under most circumstances, drinking in moderation is safe for most adults.

A significant number of individuals, however, cannot ingest any alcohol because of the problems they encounter when they drink.

Exactly how many Americans cannot or should not drink alcoholic beverages?

To help answer this question, consider the following: according to one research study, approximately 14 million Americans are alcoholic or abuse alcohol.

Not only this, but in another research study it was found that roughly 53 percent of the adults in the United States have claimed that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem.

Facts On Alcoholism: Dangerous Effects

The outcomes of alcoholism are not only debilitating but in some circumstances, fatal.

For instance, excessive drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, such as cancer of the liver, throat, kidneys, larynx, colon, esophagus, and of the rectum.

Heavy drinking can also lead to brain damage, harm to the fetus while the mother is pregnant, cirrhosis of the liver, and problems with the immune system.

Furthermore, drinking increases the risk of work-related and recreational accidents and injuries as well as death from motor vehicle accidents.

And finally, suicides and homicides are more likely to be committed by people who have been drinking.

In straightforward economic terms, alcohol-related issues and problems cost American society nearly $200 billion per year.

In human terms, however, the cost of the following alcohol-related manifestations cannot be determined: wife battering, injuries, child abuse, failed health, broken homes, motor vehicle fatalities, illnesses, and destroyed lives.

Facts On Alcoholism: Some Basic Statistics

The scope of the damaging effects of alcoholism, unfortunately, is not fully realized until some relevant statistics are stated.

Consequently, the following statistics about alcohol abuse and alcoholism will be presented below:

  • In 2002, fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects were the leading causes of mental retardation in the United States.

  • The 9.6% of adult alcoholics drink 25% of the alcohol that is consumed by all adult drinkers.

  • American adolescents who start drinking before the of age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than youth who do not drink before the age of 21.

  • In the United States during 2004, 16,694 deaths occurred as a result of alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes. This amount was approximately 39% of all traffic fatalities. This amounts to one alcohol-related death every 31 minutes.

  • Alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse cost the United States an estimated $220 billion in 2005. This dollar amount was more than the cost associated with cancer ($196 billion) and obesity ($133 billion).

  • About half of state prison inmates and 40% of federal prisoners incarcerated for committing violent crimes in 1997 reported they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their offense.

  • Every year in the U.S. more than 150,000 college students develop health problem that are alcohol-related.

  • In the United States, one person is injured in an alcohol-related accident approximately every two minutes.

  • The 25.9% of underage drinkers who are alcohol abusers and alcohol dependent drink 47.3% of the alcohol that is consumed by all underage drinkers.

  • Every year, 1,400 American college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related inadvertent injuries, including motor vehicle accidents.

  • Every day in the U.S. more than 13,000 children and teens take their first drink.

  • 6.6 million American children under the age of 18 live in households with at least one alcoholic parent.

Are Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse the Same?

Many people think that alcoholism is the same thing as alcohol abuse. Although this is not correct, due to their similarities, it is understandable why people make this mistake.

To help clarify the issue, we will present definitions of both alcohol abuse and alcoholism below.

Alcohol abuse, unlike alcoholism, does not include the loss of control due to drinking, physical dependence, or an extremely strong desire for alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations in a twelve-month time-frame:

  • Experiencing recurring alcohol-related legal problems. Examples include getting arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, for damaging someone's property, or for physically hurting someone while drunk.

  • Drinking in situations that can result in physical injury. Examples include driving a vehicle or operating machinery.

  • Failure to attend to important responsibilities at work, home, or school.

  • Continued drinking in spite of ongoing relationship problems that are the result of drinking.

A Definition of Alcoholism

Also known as alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, alcoholism is a progressive degenerative disease that includes the following symptoms:

  • Craving: A strong and continuing compulsion or need to drink.

  • Tolerance: The need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol in order to "feel the buzz" or to "get high.

  • "Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms when a person stops drinking after a period of excessive drinking. Such symptoms include: anxiety, sweating, nausea, and "the shakes."

  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one's drinking over time or on any given occasion.

The Need for Alcoholism Treatment

It is important to emphasize that if you observe your family members or friends exhibiting any of the above behaviors or symptoms, consider suggesting that they discuss their drinking behavior with their doctor.

More specifically, your friends or family members may need alcoholism treatment for their "problem drinking."

Why Can't Alcoholics Use Willpower to Stop Drinking?

Many times, individuals who are not alcoholic have a hard time understanding why an alcoholic can't simply use willpower or self-control to stop drinking.

In the majority of circumstances, however, alcoholism has little to do with willpower or with being strong enough to "fight" alcoholism.

Stated more precisely, alcoholics are trapped in the forceful grip of an uncontrollable need for alcohol that takes priority over their ability to refrain from drinking. Indeed, this craving for alcohol can be as powerful as the alcoholic's need for food or water.

While a cure for alcoholism has not been discovered, fortunately, recovery from alcoholism is possible.

Although some people are able to recover from alcohol dependence without professional assistance, the vast majority of alcoholics, however, require clinical or medical treatment for their addiction.

The good news, however, is this: through treatment, support, counseling, and rehab, many alcoholics are able to abstain from drinking alcohol and re-establish their lives.

Causes of Alcoholism

A question that has entered the minds of many individuals is the following: why can some people drink alcohol without experiencing any problems or negative outcomes while others cannot? One answer to this question involves genetics.

More specifically, alcoholism researchers have discovered that having an alcoholic family member increases the risk of developing alcoholism.

Stated differently, there may be a genetic predisposition for some individuals to become alcohol dependent.

Moreover, researchers have found that different environmental factors can interact with an individual's genetics.

Examples include the relative ease of obtaining alcohol, one's family and friends, peer pressure, where and how a person lives, and a person's culture.

Conclusion: Facts On Alcoholism

One of the main facts on alcoholism is that for most people who drink, alcohol is a pleasant experience, especially when they participate in social or recreational activities.

In the vast majority of instances, therefore, drinking in moderation is safe and uneventful for most adults.

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A relatively large number of individuals, however, cannot consume ANY alcoholic beverages due to the negative consequences they encounter when they drink alcohol.

How destructive and damaging are the effects of alcoholism? In simple economic terms, alcohol-related problems cost Americans roughly $200 billion per year.

In human terms, regrettably, the cost of the following alcohol-related problems cannot be quantified or calculated: child abuse, illnesses, destroyed lives, injuries, wife battering, failed health, broken homes, and motor vehicle fatalities.

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