Alcoholism is not a new problem. Alcoholic beverages have been around for thousands of years, but alcohol abuse wasn’t recognized as a national issue until the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now, alcohol is the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in America, with 88,000 people dying each year from alcohol-related causes.
That number is staggering, especially considering that alcohol is one of the most easily accessible addictive substances in the United States. Alcohol, unlike other addictive substances, is relatively safe when consumed in moderation. It becomes dangerous when abused or consumed excessively. While moderate alcohol consumption has not been linked to health risks, alcohol dependence has been linked to a variety of negative consequences, both short and long-term. Unfortunately, there are more than 3 million U.S. cases of alcoholism per year.
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence is encouraging communities around the country to spread awareness about the dangers of alcoholism, reduce the stigma around alcohol dependence, and educate people on proper alcoholism recovery methods.
What is alcoholism?
Alcoholism is excessive or heavy drinking accompanied by a physical or emotional dependence on alcohol. According to County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, “Excessive drinking is the percentage of adults that report either binge drinking, defined as consuming more than 4 (women) or 5 (men) alcoholic beverages on a single occasion in the past 30 days, or heavy drinking, defined as drinking more than one (women) or 2 (men) drinks per day on average.”
Health risks of alcoholism and excessive drinking
Alcoholism has been linked to a variety of health risks. Short-term consequences include alcohol-related injuries, violence, alcohol poisoning and an increased risk of unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
The long-term risks associated with alcoholism are more extensive, including high blood pressure, stroke, digestive problems, learning and memory issues, heart and liver disease, social problems, and increased risk of cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon.
Alcoholism across Oklahoma
In 2016, Oklahoma ranked seventh in the nation for binge drinking risks. Studies show 13 percent of Oklahoman adults reporting binge drinking in the last 30 days, with binge drinkers consuming an average of seven drinks in one sitting. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use costs the state of Oklahoma about $2.4 billion as a result of lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses and crime.
Signs of alcoholism
In order to combat alcoholism state-wide, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse at the individual level.
Individuals with signs of alcoholism:
- Can’t function normally without alcohol.
- Are unable to control alcohol consumption.
- Crave alcohol.
- Spend a substantial amount of money on alcohol.
- Behave differently after drinking.
If you or a loved one exhibit signs of alcoholism, consult your physician for more information on rehabilitation options near you.