According to the NIAAA, alcoholism is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States across all age ranges and socio-demographics. Unfortunately, over the past ten years, the death toll and bleak statistics associated with this disease have been on the rise—almost uniformly across all ages, sexes, and social classes. Alcoholism may be the new “in-vogue” disease. We see it glorified everywhere: by our favorite stars in the movies and on television, in magazine ads, and advertisements for drink specials on the marquees of lascivious cocktail lounges. It is no wonder that alcoholism has been steadily increasing over the last ten years. Alcohol abuse may be our nation’s most under reported health crisis.
The Rising Trend in Heavy Drinking
According to the DSM IV, in a study sample including over 43,000 participants and a survey including over 36,000 participants, various markers for increasing binge drinking or symptoms of alcoholism were reported by almost all socio-demographic subgroups, with the highest increases among women, ethnic minorities, older adults, and those with lower educational backgrounds.
The New Face of the Alcoholic
The study, conducted between 2002-2003 and 2012-2013, indicated many socio-demographic groups facing problems stemming from Alcohol Use Disorder; women being one group most affected. As the glass ceiling has been shattered by many women entering the work force in higher-stress, higher-powered positions, many women have developed drinking habits that match men’s who are in the same roles. Although high-risk drinking has increased across all subsets and demographics in the past decade, for women it has increased by an astounding 58%. High-risk drinking for women is defined as anything more than four drinks per setting per week, and five drinks per setting per week for men. This doesn’t constitute the sum of reasons that drinking among women is more prevalent in the modern day though. Researchers speculate that the stress of home-life for the stay-at-home mom can contribute to functioning alcoholism, and to no surprise; reaching for a glass of three of wine becomes easier and easier when your children just won’t unwind and the dishwasher is on the fritz. Staying at home can also be as isolating as it is demanding for the new mother, and as modernity is more accepting of drinking for women, relying on the bottle for companionship is an easy habit to develop. Alcoholism is also negatively affecting some of the hardest working members of our society: our ethnic minorities. Many of our minorities and immigrants face some difficult hurdles to jump, such as workplace discrimination (whether perceived or real), the difficulties of finding gainful employment when lacking proper education or dealing with language barriers, and stringent immigration policies. As such, since alcohol is so pervasive in our culture—where in other cultures it may not be as readily available, or maybe completely ubiquitous—it can quickly become a fast, cost-effective escape from very tiring days. Another concerning health trend on the rise and related to binge drinking, or Alcohol Use Disorder, is the high rate of consumption among our aging adult population: seniors. As many baby-boomers have retired and are looking to enjoy themselves and the fruits of their labors, a frightening amount are turning toward binge drinking to cut loose and let off steam. And while there is nothing wrong with enjoying a few adult beverages responsibly and on occasion, many are overdoing it to the detriments of their health. Many do not consider the added health risks that seniors face when they decide to binge drink, or even regularly consume alcohol. As many of our aging population already faces many health issues, alcohol only creates problems and exacerbates existing ones. Alcohol increases the risk of hypertension and stroke as well as osteoporosis and, perhaps most concerning, cognitive decline.
Dangerous Drinking: Rising Costs
According to the CDC, in 2006, excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States $223.5 billion dollars. This equals out to an astounding $1.90 per drink, or an extra $746 dollars in expenses for every single person in America. Binge drinking accounted for almost 75 percent of the total costs. Statistics from the CDC show on a broad scale what many of us already know in our hearts: alcohol abuse is expensive and affects every single one of us in some way or other. Most money lost from drinking annually resulted from lost hours in workplace productivity at an astounding 72 percent, followed by rising costs in healthcare stemming from issues directly or indirectly related to excessive drinking at 11 percent. Law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses combined with expenses from motor vehicle crashes make up the remainder at 14 percent. The numbers don’t lie: Americans love our alcohol, even if it costs us drastically. And while there is nothing wrong with moderate consumption by legal adults in responsible settings, problems can quickly develop and escalate in a matter of time. Therefore, it is wise to be able to identify some of the signs of developing alcoholism. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you love, being able to identify a problem before it worsens in severity can be tantamount in importance to hastening a healthy recovery.
Signs of Problematic Alcohol Use
If you or someone you are concerned for might be drinking too much, it is fruitful to look for signs. Thankfully, there are many symptoms that generally present in alcoholics, and though not all of them will be present for every alcoholic, any one or combination of these symptoms can be signs. Of course, it is common for the addict to try and divert concern for his or her problem. If you decide to confront your loved one, be sure to do it from a place of compassion; come from somewhere without judgment or scrutiny, and let them know you only have their best interest at heart. Here are many common symptoms and physical signs of heavy drinking:
- Alcohol intoxication: being drunk leads to behavior changes and mental problems. He or she may appear unsteady on foot, have inappropriate behavior volatile moods, impaired judgment, slurred speech, and impaired attention and memory.
- Physical Problems:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Weight gain or loss
- An odor of alcohol
- Social Problems:
- Missing work or failing to fulfill obligations
- Reduced socialization
- Interpersonal problems related to drinking
- Withdrawal symptoms, including:
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
- Extreme agitation or anxiety
Common Treatments for Alcoholism
Deciding that you or someone you know and care about may be suffering from alcoholism is a harrowing thought, but do not despair. Alcoholism is no longer the terminal diagnosis that it once was. Many treatments have been developed and effectively utilized over the years and with proven, but varying, success rates. Alcohol Use Disorder is not uniform for every patient; this means there are as many and varied paths to recovery as there are to alcoholism. If you or someone you know is suffering, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. There is a wide range of treatment options available that will fit the needs of all walks of life. Here is an overview of more traditional and widely accepted approaches:
- Assistance with placement in a private alcohol detox program. Clients who have developed a physical dependence upon alcohol need placed in a medical detox program, as alcohol withdrawal from one who is severely physically dependent is dangerous and can prove to be fatal. Being medically supervised by a team of understanding, caring staff who have specialized in the problems specific to the needs of the alcoholic makes going to a medical detox facility an extremely smart choice. Finding a high-quality medical detox facility that will accept your insurance is always prudent; one should consider doing so in advance of the date he or she is planning to be admitted, making the transition to recovery more seamless.
- Inpatient Care: Once the client has safely and successfully detoxed from alcohol and is stable enough to begin this next leg of the journey toward freedom from addiction, residential treatment is a well-recognized, prudent and sometimes very necessary next step. It offers two advantages: by removing the addict from the immediate vicinity of the substance and providing a safe place to heal, the addict’s chances of success are greatly increased. An inpatient setting also allows the addict to focus solely on his or her recovery with the stresses of everyday life interfering.
- It is unfortunate that addiction is a lifelong struggle for some, but that is no reason to give up hope. Many patients want to continue their treatment after completing a residential program, and this is where an intensive outpatient therapy shines. The patient is placed with a group of her peers where they can discuss the challenges of what can be a difficult transition and reintegration into society as well as their struggles and joys with newfound sobriety. A good IOP program should be designed to make attendance easy, offering day and evening hours, five to six days a week. This will allow for accommodation into everyone’s busy, hectic schedules. As discretion is sacred to the working professional who is suffering from addiction, a wide range of hours will also allow the patient the advantage of attending while maintaining confidentiality—without the additional worry of having to miss work or an employer discovering the patient’s illness.
Types of Therapies
- Some substance abuse counselors specialize in treating Alcohol Use Disorder, and are well-versed in effective cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—a goal-oriented approach to psychotherapy which actively encourages the participant to take a hands-on approach to solving problems. A counselor who specializes in your type of problem should be sought out. Your counselor should be knowledgeable about your problem, and you should feel comfortable relating your personal struggles related to the illness to your counselor.
- Trauma counseling: Many of us suffering from addiction are self-medicating deep-seated, underlying psychological scars that have never been properly resolved within the client. This can lead the client to wish to mask the pain of the scars he or she is carrying in very unhealthy ways, such as drugs or alcohol. When we can work through the trauma to find some sort of resolution and closure, we can begin to heal from the inside—and remove the self-destructive urge to drink. EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Redirection, a new, cutting-edge therapy is one form of trauma therapy used by many of our specialists.
- Medication-Assisted Therapy: Many addiction clients suffer from depression and other mental health issues. Addiction rarely manifests completely alone. As so, these comorbidities raise relapse rates if they are not treated alongside the addiction. Antidepressants are a common, proven, effective treatment. Many facilities also offer naltrexone therapy, which, according to SAMSHA can significantly reduce cravings for alcohol.
Alcoholism is a very serious illness and it effects many more people in our busy, overworked society than the general population realizes. It can destroy someone’s quality of life before finally taking it. But it is no longer the death-knell in one’s coffin. There is hope! Don’t let alcohol control your life anymore. Contact us today, and let us help you take that ever-important first step toward serenity and recovery right here in Boise, Idaho.