Alcohol: Do You Know the Facts?

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Alcohol use in our society is on the rise.
Since 2003, the number of Americans unable to control their alcohol intake almost doubled, with the steepest rise seen in females and those over 65.

Alcohol is a drug of choice.
Alcohol availability in our society made it a drug of choice. It is estimated that 47 millions of Americans suffer from mental illness, and the majority of them do not receive treatment. Almost half turn to substances, such
as alcohol, to cope.

The following are problems that lead to self-medication with alcohol:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Loneliness
  • Sleep problems
  • Anger

When does an alcohol use become a problem?

If someone struggles to feel good without alcohol, or partakes in heavy drinking or binge drinking on regular basis.

Binge drinking occurs after 5 or more drinks for men or 4 or more drinks for women on a single occasion.

Heavy drinking means having 7 drinks a week for women compared to 15 drinks for men.

Drinking too much can cause many health problems – liver inflammation leading to cirrhosis and liver failure, high blood pressure that increases risk of stroke and heart attack, heart failure and irregular heartbeat, pancreatitis, brain damage that can affect mood, cognition (thinking ability).

A variety of cancers are alcohol use related – esophageal cancer, head and neck cancer, liver cancer, colorectal cancer and breast cancer in women.

Alcohol intoxication increases the risk of:

  • accidents and car crashes
  • violent behavior
  • suicide and homicide
  • risky behavior – such as unsafe sex, experimenting with or overusing other substances

What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Anybody who meets two or more of the following symptoms qualifies as meeting criteria for an alcohol use disorder:

  • drinking more than originally planned
  • craving alcohol
  • drinking and being sick from drinking that interfered with responsibilities at home, work or school
  • continuing to drink even if it caused problems with family and friends
  • wanted to cut down or stop but could not
  • spending more time drinking than usual
  • drinking even though it caused damage to a person’s health
  • getting into situations that increase chances of getting hurt – such as driving, swimming, having unsafe sex, etc.
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

Alcohol in children and adolescents.

As children turn into adolescents, they often crave independence from parents and new freedoms. This can easily lead to alcohol experimentation, often in a form of binge drinking.

Unfortunately, binge drinking in teens can lead to:

  • increased likelihood of alcohol
  • addiction in adulthood
  • trouble at school
  • higher risk of suicide
  • change in brain development
  • memory problems
  • legal problems
  • alcohol poisoning.

Over 7 million children live in households where at least one parent has a drinking problem.

These children often suffer from emotional or physical traumas which can lead to:

  • low self-esteem
  • depression and anxiety
  • sleep problems
  • trouble concentrating
  • emotional detachment
  • stomach problems
  • feeling of shame and guilt
  • higher likelihood of becoming addicted to alcohol

Women and alcohol: a complicated relationship.

Two thirds of American women consume alcohol regularly. This statistic has been steady for a while but there has been increase in the amount of alcohol women drink. As per recent reports, 25% of females in US are heavy drinkers (more than 7 drinks a week). Increased stress at work and home, changes in perception as well as aggressive marketing to women has lead to increased consumption of alcohol by women. Higher socioeconomic status is associated with higher risk of alcohol abuse.

Women are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Since alcohol is water soluble, it reaches higher levels in women as their body contain less water and more fat than men. Also, women are usually smaller-framed and have lower levels of enzymes that break down alcohol and its byproducts. Alcohol lingers in female body longer so it has more opportunity to cause damage.

Another difference is that many women tend to drink alone, at home by themselves – often due to an undiagnosed or untreated mental health component of anxiety or depression.