Alcoholism a Serious Problem
Alcoholism is an extremely serious problem in our world today, meaning that public knowledge and understanding of its symptoms and effects is highly important to reduce the statistics that show rising numbers in its causal injuries, diseases, and fatalities. Education on the effects of alcoholism that result from its use and abuse is one of the best ways to potentially lower the number of individuals who are addicted to and often negatively affected by the drug. It is important that these effects are realized not only by family and friends of those who are dependent on alcohol, but by those who are addicted. An estimated two-thirds of the American population consumes alcohol, but half of all the alcohol consumed in the country is consumed by only 10 percent of drinkers.
Alcoholism Statistics in the US
In the United States, nearly 14 million adults, or every one in 13 adults, abuse alcohol or have an alcoholism problem. In addition, several million more partake in risky alcohol consumption that could potentially lead to abuse, and over three million American teenagers aged 14 to 17 have an alcohol problem. Compared to adult drinkers who start drinking around age 21, youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are twice as likely to abuse alcohol and four times more likely to develop dependence on the drug. In fact, not only have 62 percent of underage high school seniors been drunk at some point, but 31 percent of them when asked will have drank in excess of five drinks over the course of the previous two weeks. The number of Americans aged 17 and younger involved in heavy alcohol consumption dropped by two-thirds between 1985 and 1997; although this number is continuing to decline, underage alcohol consumption is still a problem in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009, nearly 51 percent of American adults were current regular drinkers (who had consumed a minimum of 12 drinks in the past year), and 13.6 percent were current infrequent drinkers (who had consumed anywhere from one to 11 drinks in the past year). Unfortunately more than seven percent of the American population aged 18 and up have a drinking problem; this is nearly 13.8 million Americans, and 8.1 million of them are alcoholic. Based on these numbers, it is clear that alcoholism and alcohol abuse are serious problems that affect many people.
The number of people who undergo treatment for alcoholism and other alcohol-related problems is not nearly as high as the number of those facing these issues. In 1997, for example, only 3.1 million Americans received such treatment, and most of them were between the ages of 26 and 34. However, there are more than 3 million seniors in the United States who are alcoholics or struggle with serious drinking problems.
More Men Than Women Alcoholics
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse also seem to affect more men than women; in fact, while there are 3.9 women problem drinkers in the United States, three times as many men(early 9.8 million)re affected. However, women still need to be careful about their alcohol consumption, because according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, they can become more intoxicated than men even if they consume the same amount of alcohol. In addition, data obtained by Wechsler in a Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study confirms that compared to men, women are more likely to experience problems related to alcohol, for example, abusive relationships, unwanted sexual advances, and depression.
Women minority groups are also more likely to experience problems resulting from alcohol use. For example, some lesbians use alcohol to cope with the stigma of being gay as well as with their internalized homophobia, and 25 percent of women who struggle with eating disorders also struggle with alcohol abuse. Heavy drinking rates are highest among Latina female high school students; this 36 percent consume five or more drinks in a short period. In addition, 13 percent of black students of the same age report heavy alcohol consumption, and 40 percent of American Indian adult women are dependent on alcohol.
Approximately 53 percent of Americans have one or more close relatives who have an alcohol dependency problem. In addition, 43 percent of American adults have been exposed to the problem of alcoholism in the family, either as something they grew up with or something they experienced with a spouse or a partner. Today, it is estimated that 6.6 million children under the age of 18 live with a parent who struggles with alcoholism.
Unfortunately, 79,000 deaths each year in the United States are attributed to alcohol problems, deeming alcohol the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, preceded by tobacco and diet and activity problems. The number of deaths related to alcohol is fewer than that of deaths resulting from heart disease or cancer, but alcohol-related deaths tend to affect individuals of much younger ages.
AlcoholismExcessive alcohol uses results each year in approximately 2.3 million years of potential life lost; this is an average of the loss of 30 years of potential production time lost for each fatality.
Not only do alcohol problems cost lives, but it costs money. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, alcohol abuse and alcoholism, occurring in the United States and resulting in motor vehicle accidents, lost production, medical care, violent crime, the need for social programs, and more, cost American society anywhere from $40 to $60 billion each year.
Deaths Due to Alcoholism
Excessive alcohol uses results each year in approximately 2.3 million years of potential life lost; this is an average of the loss of 30 years of potential production time lost for each fatality. 2005 saw more than four million emergency room visits and more than 1.6 million hospitalizations related to various alcohol problems.
One-third of deaths resulting from alcohol problems take the form of suicides and such accidents as head injuries, drowning incidents, and motor vehicle crashes. About 20 percent of suicide victims in the United States are alcoholic, and 41 percent of the country’s fatal traffic incidents are related to alcohol problems. Alcohol-related car crashes occur every 48 minutes in the United States, and there are about 30 deaths each day as a result. Of all of the traffic suicides and accidents in the United States, one half of resulting fatalities and one-third of resulting injuries are related to alcohol abuse. Teen drivers, along with motorcyclists and drivers who have prior convictions for driving while impaired, are the most at risk for being involved in an alcohol-related crash. In 2009, 10,839 people lost their lives in crashes caused by alcohol-impaired drivers; this accounts for approximately one-third of all traffic-related deaths that year in the United States. In addition, over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for DUIs in 2009, which is less than one percent of the whopping 147 million number of self-reported alcohol-impaired driving episodes in America each year. Each year, alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes cost the United States more than $51 billion.
One of the major health issues resulting from excessive drinking is liver disease. In 2009, the number of deaths related to alcoholic liver disease was a soaring 15,183. The number of other alcohol-related deaths, excluding homicides and accidents, was 24,518.
“…about 92 percent of American adults report that they have been involved in binge drinking in the past 30 days.”In the United States, binge drinking, which according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, is a pattern that brings one blood alcohol concentration level to 0.08 grams or more. According to national surveys, about 92 percent of American adults report that they have been involved in binge drinking in the past 30 days. Although most binge drinkers are not dependent on alcohol, they are prone to many health problems, which is unfortunate considering that most individuals who partake in this activity are quite young, between the ages of 18 to 20. Ninety percent of alcoholic drinks consumed by teenagers are binge drinks.
Excessive underage drinking has many consequences that affect college students across the United States, whether or not they choose to drink:
- Academic Problems: In 2002, of college students who drink, approximately 25 percent reported falling behind, missing class, doing poorly on papers and exams, and receiving low grades as a result.
- Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: In questionnaire-based self-reports conducted in 2002 by Knight et al, 31 percent of college-level students that year matched the criteria for an alcohol abuse problem, and six percent showed alcohol dependence.
- Assault: In 2009, 696,000 students aged 18 to 24 became victims of assault; the perpetrators in these cases were other students who had been drinking.
- Death: According to data published in 2009, 1,825 college students aged 18 to 24 lose their lives due to unintentional injuries related to alcohol.
- Drunk Driving: A 2009 study by Hingson et al. published that 3,360,000 students aged 18 to 24 drive under influence.
- Health Problems and Suicide Attempts: While 150,000 students struggle with health problems resulting from alcohol use, between 1.2 and 1.5 percent in 1998 claimed to have attempted alcohol- or drug-related suicide within the past year.
- Injury: Hingson et al. report that in 2009, 599,000 18- to 24-year-olds in college were unintentionally injured when they were drinking.
- Police Involvement: According to 2002 data published by Wechsler et al., five percent of college students, at some point during their four-year degree, become involved with campus police or security as a result of their alcohol consumption. In addition, Hingson et al. confirmed the same year that 110,000 college students aged 18 to 24 were arrested for a violation related to the misuse of alcohol, for example, driving under influence or public drunkenness.
- Property Damage: Many colleges in the United States have major or moderate problems with property damage resulting from alcohol use; making these claims are more than 50 percent of administrators from colleges with low drinking levels and more than 25 percent of administrators from colleges with high drinking levels.
- Sexual Abuse: Hingson et al reports that approximately 97,000 college students aged 18 to 24 are victims of sexual assault or date rape resulting from alcohol use.
- Unsafe Sex: Of the 400,000 college students aged 18 to 24 who have unprotected sex, one-quarter report that they were too intoxicated at the time to know whether they had provided their consent.
- Vandalism: Eleven percent of college drinks admit to having damaged property while they were under the influence of alcohol.
Crime and Alcohol
Of the aforementioned consequences, it is clear that there is a strong relationship between crime and alcohol use. About three million violent crimes occur annually in the United States, and of those, 35 percent involve an offender who is drinking at the time of offense. Two-thirds of victims who have suffered domestic or partner violence reported there had been alcohol involved. In such cases, three out of four spousal violence incidents involved an offender who had been under the influence of alcohol. The FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System showed that in 1995, seven out of 10 violent incidents involving alcohol occurred in a residence, most often at 11 p.m.
Alcoholism and Health Problems
The health problems related to alcohol abuse and alcoholism vary, but they are of great concern because of their severity. For example, in a Harvard Medical School study, a link was shown between moderate drinking and breast cancer in more than 100,000 women. In addition, 9.6 percent of American adults living with mental health disorders are dependent on alcohol. In addition to disrupting one’s sleep cycle, which can deplete your energy and, over time, your brain cells, excessive drinking can also result in the brain blocking its ability to learn and create new memories. In addition, alcohol users who partake in binge drinking can potentially eliminate their ability to recall new verbal information because it can negatively affect their verbal declarative memory.
Although the United States falls in 32nd place on the list of the world’s top alcohol consuming countries, alcohol-related problems are a serious concern for the country because they can affect everyone. In fact, a government survey reports that addiction to alcohol lasts longer than addiction to any other drug; therefore it must be taken seriously.