Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States. Its abuse affects not only physical health but also the mental health of an individual. In addition, alcoholism can take a toll on the lives of the loved ones of the afflicted as well as on the society as a whole. However, many people still consider it as a recreational substance of use, which is true only if it is casual drinking and not binge drinking.
Reports state that alcoholism is one of the leading and common causes of murders, suicides, spousal and child abuse, and many other crimes. It can also affect a person’s ability to perform his or her duties at school, work or home, which affects the economy as a whole. Driving or operating heavy machinery under the influence of alcohol is extremely dangerous not only for the individual concerned, but for anyone around him/her.
According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 136.7 million Americans aged 12 or older reported current use of alcohol, 65.3 million reported binge alcohol use in the past month, and 16.3 million reported heavy alcohol use in the past month in 2016. Thus, approximately 47.8 percent reported binge alcohol use and 11.9 percent reported heavy alcohol use.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse/addiction
The signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse can vary from person to person, but some of the common ones include:
- Alcohol affecting work or school life
- Drinking before or while driving a car
- Drinking despite health problems
- Legal problems related to alcohol
- Physically hurting someone or themselves
- Friends and family worried about a loved one’s alcohol use
Alcohol dependence/addiction can be identified if the person exhibits one or all of the following symptoms:
- Inability to stop or control drinking
- Excessive drinking to feel the effects
- Withdrawal symptoms (sweating, shaking, etc.)
- Weight loss, upset stomach too often
- Increased tendency to hide drinking behavior from friends and family
Effects of alcohol abuse/addiction
The health effects of alcohol abuse or addiction on the body can vary, but some of the common ones include:
- Loss of coordination
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
- Birth defects
- High blood pressure
- Damage to the heart muscle
- Reduced bone density
- Urinary tract problems
- Spider angiomas or spider web veins
- Red blotches on the face and neck
- Abscesses and skin sores
Alcohol can also affect the brain, resulting in other problems like trouble walking, blurred vision, slurred speech, slowed reaction times and memory issues. Serious neurological disorders caused by alcoholism include wernicke–korsakoff syndrome and hepatic encephalopathy. For women who drink during pregnancy, their child could suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.