Science has helped us gain a true perspective on alcoholism, from its causes to its consequences and every critical aspect in between. While it would be easier to bury our head in the proverbial sand and pretend the impact of alcohol on living a healthy life isn’t quite so powerful, that is just not realistic.
Studies that have been released in the past 5 years offer insight and answers for those who suffer from alcoholism and the people who love them.
The Cause of Alcoholism is More Complicated than ‘Genetics or Environmental’
There has long been a debate over whether addiction to alcohol is mainly caused by a person’s DNA or the environment in which they grow up. Recent studies have determined that it is in fact a mix of both factors. That many are predisposed to an addictive lifestyle because their genes set them up to do so. But also that the home or family life they experience impacts and changes the approach they take to alcohol consumption.
When a person genetically is predisposed to a life of alcoholism, this can become exacerbated by being surrounded by others who drink freely. In essence, their genes open the door but their conditions welcome them in to the addiction.
Alcoholism Does Not Discriminate Based on Age
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the abuse of alcohol can occur at any age and anyone from young teens to the very elderly can be affected. As of 2014, more than 16.3 million adults over the age of 18 and another 679,000 youth aged 12-17 are affected by an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). These alarming numbers speak to the seriousness of educating our younger population on the dangers of alcoholism, the signs that they or someone they love are an alcoholic, and how they can get help.
Knowing the Truth About Underage Drinking and its Consequences
The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health offered some startling statistics on the reality of underage drinking.
- 34.7% of 15-year-olds have had at least 1 drink
- 8.7 million young adults from 12-20 had consumed alcohol within the previous month’s time
- 5.3 million 12-20 year olds are considered binge drinkers
- Another 1.3 million people that age are considered heavy drinkers
The consequences of abuse of alcohol by underage consumers are clear and are risky in both the short and the long term.
- Alcohol use can cause interferences with normal development of the adolescent brain.
- It can cause a higher risk of development of AUD.
- Underage drinking is directly linked to such devastating consequences as bodily injury, sexual assaults, deaths and of course car accidents from driving while intoxicated.
More than a Medical Disorder, Alcoholism also is Linked to Mental Disorders
It used to be common thinking that alcoholism created (or at least strongly contributed to) mental disorders. Recent studies are now pointing to a more likely scenario – that alcoholism and such psychiatric illnesses as depression and anxiety tend to coexist. This means that whichever symptoms come first, being an alcoholic most certainly will walk side by side with experiencing depression, anxiety, sociopathic tendencies and more.
What this means is that treatment must take a well-rounded approach. Counselors and psychiatrists should not try treating one aspect of the illness without the others, but instead consider every component and make a treatment plan that assesses and works with the person as a whole.
Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse: How Long it Lasts May Be Hard to Predict
The sad truth about alcoholism is, even with help it is incredibly difficult to stay sober. Drinking is a socially acceptable pastime. Alcohol is available with very little limitation. It is offered at most sporting events, in the grocery store and at your favorite restaurant. Because of this, alcoholics find themselves inundated with the possibility of drinking again at every turn.
Studies show that there are some steps to take that can make staying sober easier and last on a more long term basis. While there is no known medical cure for alcohol abuse, there are options to prolong sobriety.
- Seek Counsel: Attending support meetings, seeking out a counselor or rehabilitation center, even asking for advice and assistance from a medical doctor are all places you can turn for professional assistance.
- Make New Habits: Studies show that those who create new habits to replace the position alcohol has always held in their lives tend to find more success in staying sober. This may mean completely changing where you go, who you hang out with, even how you shop – but a possible lifetime of remaining alcohol-free is worth the temporary inconvenience of change.
- Create a Support Team: Having a healthy group of people you can turn to when things get difficult is an excellent way to do battle with the hold alcoholism has on you. Knowing you can call someone when you get that overwhelming craving to drink can literally make or break your day.
- Face the Consequences of Your Actions: For some people, it may be true that experiencing the negative consequences that can result from overusing alcohol is the best way to shake the cravings and need to drink. Such things as time in jail, hearing how you’ve hurt someone you love when you were drinking, or loss of possession can impact a person deeply enough to cause a long-term aversion to alcohol.
Alcoholism Impacts Your Body’s Health
Sadly, some people may even experience the consequence of an alcohol-related illness before finally reaching the decision to leave drinking behind for good. Statistics from recent studies show that:
- 45.8% of liver disease is due to alcohol
- 48.5% of deaths from liver disease are alcohol-related
- Almost 1 out of every 3 liver transplants are caused by alcohol abuse
- Consumption of alcohol drastically increases the risk of cancers found in the mouth, esophagus, phayrnx, larynx, liver and breast