Alcoholism is perhaps one of the most misunderstood forms of addiction. Unlike other dangerous substances, alcohol is perfectly legal, widely accessible, and socially acceptable. However, alcohol abuse not only drastically impacts individuals and their family’s, but it also creates a lasting social impact on the community. Disturbing truths are revealed about alcohol addiction, especially its link to long-term, chronic illnesses that can be life-threatening. Below are 18 facts about alcohol abuse that you may or may not know.
By most standards, alcoholism is met with stigma and a common misconception that alcoholism contributes to an individual’s everyday dysfunctions. However, most people suffering from alcohol addiction are not homeless or guzzling multiple bottles of bottom-shelf vodka per day. According to a government survey, about 20% of alcoholics in America are high-functioning. Many are successful at work and at home, and in most cases, the symptoms of addiction are not fully apparent. A 2019 NSDUH study shows that about 14.1 million adults met the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). However, it’s not only the onset of AUD that’s of concern but other dual diagnoses that can significantly affect health and wellbeing. Alcohol abuse is commonly linked to issues such as:
- Crime and Violence
- Domestic Abuse
- Chronic disease
- Socioeconomic impact
- Workforce impact
Alcohol ruins lives. It’s important to see treatment with the onset of habitual use. With time, alcohol can have more devastating consequences. However, alcohol abuse and addiction is treatable. AspenRidge REACH offers a new way to receive adequate care that address co-occurring alcohol abuse and mental health. To learn more about our online programs contact us directly at 720-650-8055.
Dangers of Alcohol Abuse
The truth is that alcohol abuse can destroy careers and relationships, and it can ultimately lead to catastrophe if left untreated.
Alcohol affects the entire body, and too often the decisions we make while under the influence of a margarita can change our lives. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in drunk-driving crashes. Many alcoholics manage to hold their lives together, but their family and friends still suffer in the process. If you think alcoholism is not as dangerous as opiates, or other illicit drugs, keep reading. This article might change your perspective. Below are some facts about alcohol abuse that may surprise you.
1. Binge Drinking Can Be Life-Threatening
Binge drinking is not alcoholism, though the two behavior can sometimes overlap. Occasional heavy drinking is more dangerous than you may think. Depending on your alcohol tolerance and current health state, it can even be life-threatening. Depending on the concentration of alcohol in your blood, you may experience anything from mild euphoria to alcoholic coma. But the concentration of alcohol in your blood doesn’t always have to be that high to put your life in danger.
Alcohol greatly impacts motor skills making simple tasks dangerous. Car accidents are a perfect example of what alcohol consumption can do, even in smaller quantities. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 people die every day in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. Even with small concentrations of alcohol in your blood, your body doesn’t process and react normally. You can easily fall over hard objects, trip, or experience visual disturbances. While driving, visual disturbances can put your life as well as the lives of others in danger.
In addition, binge drinking can cause the following health effects:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Inflammation of the stomach, pancreas, brain, or spinal cord
- Risky behavior resulting in injury
- Blacking out or coma
- Alcohol poisoning
2. Chronic Alcohol Consumption Can Lead to Cirrhosis
A life-threatening condition that’s infamously known for its devastating effects on the human body is caused by alcohol consumption. According to the American Liver Foundation, up to 20% of heavy drinkers will develop cirrhosis in their lifetime. The liver is the filter of the human body. It breaks down fat, hormones, glucose, and toxins. When you consume high quantities of alcohol over a prolonged period, the liver becomes overworked, executing the task of removing alcoholic toxins from the body. In time, healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue. In advanced stages of cirrhosis, a liver transplant is needed to survive. To be eligible for the transplant, you must be sober for at least 6 months.
3. Alcohol Abuse Impacts the Skin
It’s well known that alcohol dehydrates your body. But did you know it also dries your skin? Dry skin is more prone to aging since there’s not enough sebum production to keep the surface smooth. However, wrinkles aren’t your only worry. Redness, flushing, hyperpigmentation, and acne are also on the list.
The liver is constantly bombarded with alcohol and can no longer function normally. This can cause dry skin, more visible wrinkles, and an overall droopy appearance. Skin conditions are not just superficial, though. Alcohol is known to drastically weaken the immune system, which means that in heavy drinkers, the body is exposed and susceptible to fungal infections. Other skin conditions that are connected with AUD include:
- Scalp rash
- Other vascular reactions
4. It Can Cause Permanent Brain Damage
Facts about alcohol abuse can be downright frightening. Because it’s celebrated in social circles and consumed regularly in various cultures, alcohol can seem relatively harmless. However, studies reveal horror stories linked to alcohol abuse. The brain is especially vulnerable to long-term damage with chronic alcohol abuse.
The consumption of alcohol not only slows us down and confuses us temporally, but it can also lead to permanent changes in our brain chemistry. A large percentage of people who consume alcohol on a daily basis are thiamine deficient, which can lead to Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome. The syndrome is also hard to diagnose, and only a small portion of people suffering from it are diagnosed before it’s too late. Symptoms of Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrom include:
- Mental confusion
- Paralysis of the nerves
- Difficulty with muscle coordination
Additionally, the American Academy of Neurology explored the impact of heavy alcohol abuse on the brain. The study determined that people who had more than 14 drinks per week had an average 1.6 percent reduction in the ratio of brain volume. Similarly, excessive alcohol consumption over a lengthy time period can lead to brain damage and may increase your risk of developing dementia.
5. It Makes Depression and Anxiety Worse
Alcoholism is often associated with depression and anxiety. Some people drink for the mild euphoria, while others seek relief from mental health issues and past trauma. But the truth is that alcohol actually makes things worse. It may mask symptoms temporarily but it does not address underlying concerns and, in fact, it can heighten feelings associated with depression, anxiety and even conditions like PTSD.
Mixing antidepressants and alcohol can also have detrimental health consequences. The most effective approach for long term recovery offers integrative services that combine group and individual therapy, holistic care, and medication assisted treatment (MAT) approaches. Alcohol is sometimes referred to as a depressant that interrupts the central nervous system (CNS) functionality. It can slow the body and change the chemical makeup in the brain, plus alter moods, energy levels, sleeping patterns, concentration, etc.
6. Quitting Alcohol Cold Turkey Can Kill You
One of the most surprising facts about alcohol abuse is the danger this substance poses to individuals working toward recovery. Alcohol and heroin carry serious impacts on the body, particular during detoxification. While one is considered taboo, the other is still widely accepted in everyday life. Both are highly dangerous and extremely addictive. Alcohol, in particular, can cause drastic withdrawal symptoms.
Not everyone experiences the same symptoms. However, if someone has battling alcohol abuse for two consecutive years or more, withdrawal complications become a more likely event. Quitting alcohol cold turkey can cause seizures and other other life-threatening issues. Medication addiction treatment is generally the safest way to detox from alcohol abuse. In a supportive environment, medical professionals can oversee detox to ensure that recovery is taken slowly and effectively.
7. Drinking During Pregnancy Can Lead to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Alcohol consumption doesn’t just affect you. It can also impact an unborn baby. Consuming alcohol while pregnant means it’s possible for a fetus to receive part of the alcohol concentrations inside the placenta. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) leads to liver damage, hormonal issues, heart defects and epilepsy in your child. On top of this, FAS also has an impact on the physical appearance of the child. Indicators include a smaller head, a thin upper lip, a flat mid-face and a smooth philtrum. While the effects from FAS vary, socialization issues or even disorders from the autistic spectrum appear in many children.
According to the Science Daily, a study determined that drinking alcohol while pregnant—even in small amounts—can increase the odds of miscarriage by 19%.
8. It Can Be Deadly When Mixed with Certain Painkillers
Certain painkillers contain strong opiates. When mixed with alcohol, drugs like Oxycontin and Methanol are absorbed too quickly in the body and can actually lead to an opiate overdose. Also, keep in mind that the effects of alcohol on the human body can last up to 17 hours. If you drink before bed and you take a painkiller in the morning, you might be at risk too.
In general, mixing alcohol with other substances can be a sign of a larger issue.
AspenRidge makes it easy to begin taking steps to assess for problem drinking. The AspenRidge staff created several self-assessment tools available online. If you are interested in learning more or speaking with staff about possible problem drinking, you are encouraged to visit the website below to take our “Am I Becoming An Alcoholic” Quiz.
9. It Can Cause Weight Gain
Most alcoholic drinks are filled with sugars that not only increases the total amount of calories you take in but also stimulate your insulin, a fat-storing hormone. Your body needs a small amount of glucose in your bloodstream to function. When your intake goes up, your insulin levels spike. The higher your insulin levels are, the more fat you store. Certain drinks like beer contain yeast, which can contribute to the growth of candida in the human body and slow your metabolism.
Drinking alcohol – particularly in excessive amounts – has many other serious health risks beyond possible weight gain, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, insulin resistance, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and some cancers
10. Alcohol Abuse is Never Under Your Control
Facts about alcohol abuse further clarify how the damaging effects of alcohol are never under the users control. Impairments of self control are common characteristics among individual who suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD). Compulsive behaviors are caused by the disruption in normal brain functionality. Particular substances can bind to the portions of the brain that control behavior, mood, thoughts, and much more. As tolerance and alcohol abuse builds, the brains chemical makeup begins to shift. The result is loss of control, which means that alcohol addiction takes the lead.
High functioning addiction tends to demonstrate how a person may have everything together, yet still be unable to break the hold of alcohol abuse. If you consume more than the daily or weekly limit outlined by the CDC, you’re at risk for developing dependency to alcohol, plus increase your risks of exposure to linked illnesses.
11. Pancreas Damage and Diabetes
Two long-term effects associated with alcoholism are pancreatitis and diabetes. When you consume alcohol over a prolonged period of time, your pancreas starts to produce too many enzymes that are no longer sent to your small intestine. The enzyme buildup leads to inflammation, which causes pancreatitis. This illness doesn’t come alone. Inflammation of the pancreas also causes diabetes. Depending on the type of pancreatitis (acute or chronic), you’ll experience abdominal discomfort, pain, nausea and diarrhea. Alcohol makes diabetes worse too. Most drinks are actually high in sugars.
12. Alcohol Abuse, Crime & Domestic Violence
Alcohol plays a large role in crime and violence. Excessive drinking lowers inhibitions, impairs a person’s judgement and increases the risks of aggressive behavior. In fact, about 40% of convicted murderers had used alcohol before or during the crime.
Alcohol abuse occurs at alarming rates involving crime and domestic violence. The Institute of Alcohol Studies reports that between 25% and 50% of domestic violence cases are caused by people who drink at the time of the assault. Keep in mind that the study didn’t focus on long-term drinkers. Some of these assaults could’ve even been caused by people who didn’t have a history of drinking.
Other criminal activity linked to alcohol includes:
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated assault
- Child abuse
13. Alcohol Addictions Aren’t Budget Friendly
Alcohol is expensive and people who depend on it drink at least five times per week. To fit the alcoholic definition, a woman must drink at least five times per week and a man must have at least seven drinks. Even cheap beer becomes expensive when you’re piling up bottles every week. In many cases, people suffering from addictions refuse to buy enough food or contribute their share to their families. Many households suffer because alcohol addicts have an issue prioritizing where their financial resources go.
14. Alienation from Friends and Family
The facts about alcohol abuse reveal the damaging effects this substance has on families and personal relationships. Addictions separate us from those we love. In the first stages of alcohol dependency, it’s not unusual to share a few drinks with close friends. Eventually, users may graduate to a more consistent use of alcohol, seeking substance for self-medicating purposes. In the long-term, shame and guilt can exacerbate the issue and cause many to self-isolate. According to Medical News Today, one of the first signs of alcohol use disorder is drinking alone or in secret.
When the body gets accustomed to alcohol, you’ll no longer crave companionship as much as you crave the short-lived euphoria. The alcohol addict will look forward to the next drink while sitting on the couch instead of spending time with their friends and family.
15. Men Greater Exposure to Addiction, but Women Experience More Physical Damage
While men are more likely to suffer from AUD, women metabolize it faster and, consequently, experience more organ damage than men. In males, the dopamine response to alcohol consumption is much stronger. Dopamine is also known as a “happy hormone,” and it can play a major role in why men are more tempted to consume more alcohol than women. In men, the euphoria state is more intense and lasts longer.
Alternatively, alcohol affects women differently. In general, women have less body water content than men of the same height and weight. Therefore, alcohol processes in women differently than men. Higher concentrations of alcohol get into a woman’s blood significantly raising BAC. As a result, women are also more likely to die from cirrhosis due to the fact that their liver metabolizes estrogen. Long story short, a woman’s liver is busier than a man’s. Extra toxins slow down the liver in females even more due to the extra estrogen that needs to be eliminated too.
16. Tooth Decay and Hair Loss are a Common Sign of Heavy Drinking
Most drinks are high in carbs and acids. Once these components cling to the teeth, they begin damaging the enamel. Cocktails are also known to stain the teeth. Hair loss appears due to nutritional deficiencies that come with heavy drinking. Alcohol can be high in calories and sugars, which can lead to weight gain. Regardless of its caloric content, alcohol lacks proper nutrients.
Even after 2 months of alcohol abuse, nutritional deficiencies and hair loss can occur. Your hair is highly dependent on your hormonal activity and the amount of nutrients it receives through your diet. When your hormones and diet are affected, hair loss occurs.
17. Unemployment and Workplace Risks
Even though many would argue that being addicted to alcohol doesn’t always mean you drink while you work, it can still impact job outlook. For functional addicts, going to work under the influence is not an unusual occurrence. However, just because a person is able to remain functional doesn’t mean that they are operating at expected capacity. In fact, many workplace injuries take place due to colleagues that are under the influence. As much as 16% of workplace injuries involve alcohol, and 15% of victims of job-related deaths have tested positive for blood alcohol.
Numerous studies and reports have been issued on the workplace costs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse, and they report costs that range from $33 billion to $68 billion per year. The costs typically involve loss of productivity, healthcare costs, traffic accidents, etc.
18. It’s Often Linked to Unresolved Issues and Trauma
Trauma based recovery is often a two pronged approach that is designed to address the facts about alcohol abuse and underlying trauma that may exacerbate or prevent an individual from recovering. Different techniques can be administered to help individual find healing for traumatic event and avoid relapse by self-medicating with alcohol abuse. At times, alcohol may seem like the perfect outlet for unresolved experiences, but it can trigger addiction.
The problem is that we often ignore the negative experiences that shaped the way we see the world. Unresolved issues cause many to use alcoholism as a survival strategy. Addressing the inner turmoil and deepest fears through therapy can help us overcome our past in a healthy manner.
Facts about Alcohol Abuse
If you or someone you love has a problem with alcohol consumption, don’t hesitate to take action. Various facts about alcohol abuse reveal the real challenges that individuals will inevitably face if substance abuse disorder is not dealt with as soon as possible. Alcohol abuse can pose serious, life-threatening conditions.
AspenRidge REACH – Online Alcohol Recovery
While alcohol abuse is common, it’s also treatable. With evidence-based treatment, those suffering from alcohol abuse can gain the confidence and skills required to sustain sobriety long-term. Facts about substance abuse paint a grim outlook for chronic alcohol addiction.
Finding resources for ongoing drinking issues is not always easy. Catching signs of abuse early minimizes the risks of adverse health effects and increases the probability of achieving sobriety.
AspenRidge REACH offers support for various substance abuse issues, as well as co-occurring disorders. All of our programs are flexible and tailored to meet our clients’ needs through various treatment modalities like EMDR, cognitive behavioral therapy, holistic care, medication assisted treatment, and more.
The Joint Commission also certifies our center, and our licensed counselors are trained, specifically, in substance misuse and addiction. We offer a few online alcohol treatment options, which include:
We take a step-down approach that helps our clients move from in-house transitional programs to outpatient care. We also provide ongoing family support services and can help address co-occurring disorders.
Contact us today at 720-650-8055 to learn more about our alcohol use disorder treatment options and address alcohol addiction.