Alcohol use is tricky because unlike illicit drug use, it’s perfectly acceptable—not to mention legal—to indulge. For many, it’s simply a way to unwind with friends, celebrate life’s victories or enjoy the big game. For others, though, it’s an addiction that is robbing them of their health and well-being, leading to the need for a rehab or treatment program.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 61% of adults drank alcohol last year. In that same study, 20% of current drinkers admitted to having five or more drinks in one day at least once during that time period. In fact, binge drinking affects 13 million people in the U.S. alone. While we often focus primarily on the dangers of drinking and driving, alcohol can be dangerous to a person even if he or she never gets behind the wheel. In 2006, there were 22,073 alcohol-induced deaths, more than 13,000 of those from alcoholic liver disease.
So how do we know when casual drinking crosses the line into a serious problem warranting treatment?
The ABCs of Alcohol Abuse
One way to know when you’ve crossed the line from casual drinking to alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking. It affects your relationships, job and family in an adverse way. Problem drinking can also lead to physical injury and legal issues (arrests for driving under the influence are most common). If you’re suffering negative consequences and still can’t stop the behavior that is bringing them on, that’s a sure sign of a problem.
Despite the dangers, every day in the U.S. more than 13,000 children and teens take their first drink. American youth who drink before the of age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than young people who do not drink before the age of 21. In the college years, the dangers continue. More than 150,000 U.S. college students develop alcohol-related health problems.
Alcohol’s Effects on the Body
What can a few drinks hurt? While alcohol may seem relatively harmless, especially when compared to harder drugs, heavy drinking takes its toll. For starters, it can have extensive and far–reaching effects on the brain, ranging from simple “slips” in memory to permanent and debilitating conditions that require lifetime custodial care, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Even moderate drinking leads to short–term impairment, as shown by extensive research on the impact of drinking on driving. Long-term effects include blackouts, brain damage, liver disease and death.
Are You Addicted?
It’s a question that can be hard to ask, but if you’re wondering if your alcohol use is bordering on abuse, here are several questions to ask yourself:
- Are you using alcohol to escape?
- Have you tried to stop drinking and can’t?
- Are you drinking more than you did a few weeks or even a few days ago?
Recovery is Possible
The idea of seeking treatment can be scary. For years, many people felt there was a stigma attached to entering rehab, but that’s no longer the case. Getting the help you need from a staff that is experienced in alcohol addiction provides the best change of long-term recovery and a bright future no longer colored by abuse.