Though alcohol consumption is considered more socially acceptable than the use of narcotics like cocaine or heroin, drinking is far from harmless. Alcohol can pose detrimental health and safety risks. According to the CDC, excessive drinking is the cause for more than 140,000 deaths each year in the United States. In acknowledgement of April being Alcoholism Awareness Month, we’re assessing the impacts of alcohol misuse and what can be done to address it.
A Culture of Drinking Young
While underage drinking has trended down in recent years, teenagers tend to drink more at a time than adults do. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that more than 90% of drinks consumed by youth are consumed through binge drinking. This behavior is dangerous not only because it can lead to car accidents, injuries, and hospitalizations, but also because underage drinking has been shown to have a detrimental effect on the development of a young person’s brain.
Compounding this issue is the steep rise in mental health issues being experienced by young people. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and substance use is yet to be fully revealed, but what does appear certain is that the pandemic had an observable impact on young peoples’ depression and anxiety, with alcohol consumption rising as a result.
How Heavy Drinking Leads to a More Dangerous Lifestyle
The NIAAA also found that early drinking is linked to a higher lifetime alcohol risk, with 46% of people with alcohol use disorders reporting that they began drinking at age 16 or younger. As heavy drinking continues into later life, health risks multiply. Cancer, liver disease, and heart disease have all been strongly linked to alcohol misuse.
Furthermore, as noted in our blog on the dangers of drinking and driving, 55.8% of injured or killed roadway users are found positive for one or more substances—with alcohol being one of the most common. On average, the CDC found that 30 people die every day on American roads from alcohol-related accidents.
Advocating for Effective Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder
The losses incurred from alcohol misuse are great, but there are measures we can all take to reduce these losses. By speaking openly with friends and loved ones about alcohol consumption, families and friend groups can better understand the toll drinking takes on them. Being mindful of people known to misuse alcohol and not serving it to them, as well as making sure they are aware of treatment resources available to them, can also prevent some of the more serious consequences that come with heavy drinking.
At Spectrum Health Systems, we’ve recently collected input from each of our divisions to better address alcohol use disorder. With this information, we’ve redesigned our treatment curriculum for alcohol use disorder, launching a 13-week program that helps clients understand the risk of alcohol misuse and provides individualized treatment for their needs. Groups discussing readiness for change, the effects of alcohol on mental and physical health, alcohol and family dynamics, the dangers of mixing alcohol with other substances, and a range of other topics are offered to clients in this comprehensive program.
With this program as well as others like our Massachusetts Impaired Driving Program, we are proud to be a gateway to recovery for people misusing alcohol. But we know that there is still more progress to be made in the treatment field. Studies show that more than 15 million people in the United States are in need of treatment for alcohol use disorder, yet fewer than 8% of this population receive treatment. As we continue our work to meet people where they are and remove barriers to treatment, we hope to help build a future where more people can find the resources they need to recover.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance use disorder, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab.