The American Alcohol Problem: An Overlooked… - Caron Treatment Centers (2022)


The American Alcohol Problem: An Overlooked… - Caron Treatment Centers (1)

It’s 5:30 on a Friday at the end of a long week, and you’ve just gotten home. Your boss yelled at you, you had to deal with an angry customer, and all you want to do is kick back and blow off some steam with a few drinks. It’s been a long week, and you’ve earned a hard drink or three, right?

This is a pretty classic story in American culture. More than 85 percent of U.S. adults have had a drink at some point in their lives, and more than half have had a drink this month. But American alcohol use isn’t healthy.

America’s History with Alcohol

Alcohol was a part of North America long before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but the Europeans' arrival cemented alcohol culture in the Americas.

According to JSTOR, colonists in 1770 drank an average of three and a half gallons of alcohol a year, about double the modern rate. By 1830, that number had doubled, and colonists over the age of 15 drank more than seven gallons of alcohol a year.

Part of this huge alcohol consumption had to do with health, believe it or not. Before water purification measures, beer and other alcohol were safer to drink than water. But for some context, by 1830, the average person was consuming just under 2 bottles of 80-proof liquor every week.

This enormous drinking boom led to moral objections, and in 1919, Prohibition was enacted in the U.S. Alcohol was illegal, at least in name, but underground trade flourished. Organized crime came into its heyday, and speakeasies became a fashion of the day. Prohibition was, by and large, a failure, but it still didn’t get repealed until 1930, just after the Great Depression hit.

After World War II, alcohol started to rise in popularity again. We learned a lot about fetal alcohol syndrome and the risks posed by drunk driving. In 1984, the legal drinking age was raised from 18 to 21, and America came into its modern age of alcohol use.

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Problems with Our Alcohol Use

Today, more than 86 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 18 report that they have drunk alcohol at some point. 70 percent said they have had a drink in the last year, and 56 percent have had a drink in the last month. But the American relationship with alcohol is far from healthy.

It's true that American has one of the lowest alcohol use rates per capita of first-world countries, with Belgium, Germany, France, the UK, and Australia coming out ahead of us. But we have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than any of those countries. About 15 million American adults struggle with an alcohol use disorder.

In American culture, alcohol is used for celebration and commiseration alike. It has a sort of therapeutic role in our society; how often have you said after a long day or a stressful situation, “I need a drink”? Too often, we use alcohol in general and drunkenness in particular as a coping mechanism.

This unhealthy relationship gets imparted to us from a young age. College kids are notorious binge drinkers, and this is a culture adults help to perpetuate, accepting that college kids drink heavily. For many alcohol has been taboo up to that point, so when they go away to college and get their hands on it for the first time, they don't understand how to moderate.

Overall, this acceptance leaves Americans with a tremendously unhealthy relationship with alcohol. We learn from an early age to associate heavy drinking with both good times and bad. This leaves us with several excuses a week to get blackout drunk if we want to.

Alcoholism Stats

With the American relationship with alcohol being what it is, it’s hardly surprising that so many people suffer from an alcohol use disorder. More than 6 percent of adults in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder, about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 25 women. An additional 623,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 have alcohol use disorders.

About 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes every year in the United States. It’s the third-leading cause of preventable death in the country after tobacco and poor diet and exercise choices. Unfortunately, less than 7 percent of those suffering from an alcohol use disorder seek treatment for the disease.

The Secret Middle Age Crisis

Binge drinking certainly is a problem among high school and college students, but surprisingly, the group most affected by alcohol use disorders are middle-aged adults. In 2015, the CDC estimated that more than three-quarters of the alcohol poisoning deaths across two years were adults between the ages of 35 and 64.

Two Princeton experts suggested that this higher rate of alcohol poisoning death was a result of despair. White adults in that age group have had to deal with the complete transformation of the world they knew in a few short years. Right as they entered adulthood, 9/11, the war in Iraq, the recession, and Hurricane Katrina all hit, shattering their world.

These adults have had to adapt to a world very different than the one their childhoods prepared them for. Far from having career success, economic prosperity, and the golden age their parents conditioned them for, they’re facing an ever-more-divided world where they have to do their best to scratch out a life. Many of them turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

When Alcohol Becomes a Problem

Although alcoholism is so prevalent, so is normal alcohol use in our culture. It isn’t uncommon for adults to come home after work and have a drink or two without it becoming a problem. So when does alcohol use become an alcohol use disorder?

One of the quickest ways to find the line between alcohol use and alcoholism is to remember this phrase: alcohol is a problem when it causes problems. In other words, if alcohol starts to cause problems in your life, it may have morphed into an addiction. This can include being late to work because of a hangover, spending more money than you should on alcohol, and straining your relationships with loved ones.

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Illness, Not Moral Failing

One of the most important things to know when you or a loved one are dealing with alcohol addiction is that it is a disease. There is a huge stigma surrounding addiction and treatment in our culture because people view it as a moral failing. Addiction has nothing to do with being a bad person or being weak.

Addiction is a chemical process in the brain. When a person with an alcohol addiction stops drinking, there are physiological withdrawal symptoms because of that chemical dependence. When you’re seeking recovery, it’s important to know this.

First of all, there is no reason to be ashamed of seeking help for an alcohol addiction. You wouldn’t feel bad for going to your doctor when you break your arm or get the flu. Addiction recovery should be no different.

And you do need to seek out a program to help you with your recovery. Stopping drinking isn’t as simple as having enough willpower. The symptoms of withdrawal can be dangerous, and you’re combatting a physical addiction, which means trying to handle it on your own would be like trying to recover from a dislocated shoulder through sheer willpower.

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Even if alcohol hasn’t begun to cause significant problems in your life, an addiction still may be present. Alcoholism is a diagnosable illness, and so it comes with a defined set of symptoms. It’s important for you to know these if you believe you or a loved one may have an alcohol use disorder.

You or your loved one may have a hard time controlling how much you drink; one drink turns into three, and three turns into eight. You may also start giving up on your usual social activities or obligations in favor of drinking. When you don’t drink, you might sweat, shake, or become nauseous – these are early symptoms of withdrawal.

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors that can increase someone’s chance of becoming an alcoholic. You may know people with alcoholic family members who will never touch a drop of alcohol. Alcoholism is a genetically linked disorder, so their risk factor for addiction is higher.

Alcoholism is often comorbid with some other mental health issues, so if you suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or other such conditions, you may be at greater risk for addiction. Starting drinking at an early age, steady drinking over time, and spending time around people who drink are all risk factors, too. And bariatric surgery can increase your risk of developing an alcohol use disorder or relapsing.

Learn More About American Alcohol Use Problems

American alcohol use habits can be seriously unhealthy. We turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism, and over time that coping can turn into a disorder. Make sure you know the signs of alcohol use disorder and think about how healthy your relationship with alcohol is.

If you or a loved one are battling an alcohol use disorder, reach out to us at Caron. We have inpatient and outpatient treatment options, as well as family support for those dealing with addiction. Learn more about our admissions process today.

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What is considered the most effective treatment for alcohol use disorder? ›

A new study concludes that the Alcoholics Anonymous program is the most effective way to treat alcohol use disorder. The researchers said people who complete the organization's 12-step program have better success at abstinence as well as relationships with family members and friends.

Does America have a drinking problem? ›

As a whole, does America have a drinking problem? In short… yes. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85.6 percent of American adults over the age of 18 have consumed an alcoholic beverage at least once in their lives.

Can you get rid of alcohol use disorder? ›

No medicine can “cure” alcohol use disorder, but some can help as you recover. They can make drinking less enjoyable so you don't want to do it as much: Disulfiram (Antabuse) will make you feel sick or throw up if you drink.

How would you treat a patient with chronic alcoholism? ›

To disrupt this cycle, treatment can include continuing care to reduce the risk of relapse. The most commonly used treatment approach is initial intensive inpatient or outpatient care based on 12-step principles, followed by continuing care involving self-help groups, 12-step group counseling, or individual therapy.

What drug is commonly used to treat alcoholics? ›

Three medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol use disorder: acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Acamprosate and naltrexone reduce alcohol consumption and increase abstinence rates, although the effects appear to be modest.

What blood tests show alcohol abuse? ›

The MSV test is part of a full blood count (FBC) and is used to identify recently ingested alcohol. The test works by looking at the average volume of red blood cells in a specimen. MCV is elevated or decreased in accordance with the average cell size.

What country drinks the most alcohol? ›

Belarus, a country that drinks the most liters of pure alcohol than any other country in the world, was also classified as having one the riskiest pattern of drinking.

Why do Americans drink so much? ›

Why Are Americans Drinking More? New study reveals that alcohol consumption is rising among Americans of all ages. Stress, movies, availability, and even terrorism are among the reasons.

Which countries drink the most alcohol? ›

Top 10 countries with the highest alcohol consumption
  • Which country consumes the most alcohol per capita in the world? ...
  • 1) Seychelles – 20.50 litres.
  • 2) Uganda – 15.09 litres.
  • 3) Czechia – 14.45 litres.
  • 4) Lithuania – 13.22 litres.
  • 5) Luxembourg – 12.94 litres.
  • 6) Germany – 12.91 litres.
  • 7) Ireland – 12.88 litres.
28 Jun 2022

Is alcohol use disorder a mental illness? ›

The answer is yes, it can be considered one. Alcoholism, or alcohol addiction, is also referred to as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The classification of alcoholism as a diagnosable mental illness doesn't mean that there isn't hope for a life free from alcohol abuse and its related symptoms.

Is alcohol use disorder the same as alcoholism? ›

What Is the Difference Between Alcoholism and Alcohol Use Disorder? Alcohol use disorder is a diagnosis used by medical professionals to describe someone with an alcohol problem to varying degrees. Alcoholism is a non-medical term used most often in everyday language and within the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.

What happens to your body when you drink alcohol everyday? ›

Long-Term Health Risks. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including: High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.

Can a Dr tell if you are an alcoholic? ›

While there are no specific tests to diagnose alcohol use disorder, certain patterns of lab test results may strongly suggest it. And you may need tests to identify health problems that may be linked to your alcohol use. Damage to your organs may be seen on tests.

How do you get someone to admit they have a drinking problem? ›

Let them know the effect their drinking is having on you.
  • See how they feel about change. ...
  • Plan and pick a good time. ...
  • Avoid blame and accusations. ...
  • Use examples to explain. ...
  • Don't give mixed messages. ...
  • Be prepared for resistance. ...
  • Don't push the issue. ...
  • Don't give up.

What are some treatment options for someone who is suffering from alcoholism? ›

Types of Treatment
  • Behavioral Treatments. Behavioral treatments are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. ...
  • Medications. ...
  • Mutual-Support Groups. ...
  • Current NIAAA Research—Leading to Future Breakthroughs. ...
  • Mental Health Issues and Alcohol Use Disorder.

Can bone marrow damage from alcohol be reversed? ›

Alcohol-induced bone marrow damage is reversible. Bone marrow cell cultures performed in our cases are normal, showing that the toxic defect probably does not reside in the stem cell but is more peripheral. Normal bone marrow cell culture may be a typical feature of alcohol-induced bone marrow damage.

Can you get naltrexone over the counter? ›

Is naltrexone available over-the-counter? No, in the U.S., even low-dose naltrexone requires a prescription.

Which neighborhood quality of life is most affected by the overuse of alcohol? ›

In addition, living in worse neighborhoods appears to have an adverse effect on alcoholic symptomatology over time. Living in neighborhoods characterized by unemployment, poverty, poor family integration and high residential mobility is known to contribute to a greater risk for alcohol problems.

How far back can a blood test show alcohol? ›

Alcohol detection tests can measure alcohol in the blood for up to 6 hours, on the breath for 12 to 24 hours, urine for 12 to 24 hours (72 or more hours with more advanced detection methods), saliva for 12 to 24 hours, and hair for up to 90 days.

How far back can alcohol be detected in your urine? ›

Urine tests can detect alcohol in your system much longer after you've consumed alcohol. On average, a urine test could detect alcohol between 12 to 48 hours after drinking. Some advanced urine tests can detect alcohol even 80 hours after you've had a drink. Alcohol can stay in your hair for a period of up to 90 days.

How can you tell if someone has been drinking? ›

To gauge another person's level of intoxication, try looking for the following signs:
  1. a loss of coordination, such as stumbling or swaying.
  2. flushing of the face.
  3. bloodshot eyes.
  4. louder speech than usual.
  5. slurred speech.
  6. damp or clammy skin.
  7. mood swings or personality changes, such as aggression or depression.
  8. drowsiness.

What country drinks the least alcohol? ›

Top 10 Countries with the Lowest Alcohol Consumption in 2019 (in liters of pure alcohol per capita):
  • Somalia, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia (5-way tie) - 0.00.
  • Afghanistan - 0.013.
  • Libya - 0.027.
  • Yemen - 0.034.
  • Egypt - 0.14.
  • Syrian Arab Republic - 0.19.
  • Bhutan - 0.21.
  • Indonesia - 0.22.

What state drinks the most alcohol? ›

Per capita alcohol consumption of all beverages in the U.S. by state 2020. New Hampshire is currently the state with the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the United States.

What percentage of drinkers become alcoholics? ›

Nearly one-third of American adults are “excessive” drinkers, but only 10% of them have alcohol use disorder (alcoholism). Those numbers, published yesterday in a national survey, shine a new light on alcohol consumption in America.

What percentage of Americans are alcoholics? ›

Alcoholism Stats

More than 6 percent of adults in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder, about 1 in 12 men and 1 in 25 women. An additional 623,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 have alcohol use disorders. About 88,000 people die of alcohol-related causes every year in the United States.

What do Americans drink the most? ›

In 2020, bottled water accounted for roughly 24 percent of beverage consumption in the United States, making it the most consumed type of beverage that year. Value-added water and energy drinks were among the least favorite beverages that year.

What is America's drunkest city? ›

The drunkest city in the United States is Green Bay, Wisconsin. Approximately 26.5% of adults drink to excess. 50.5% of driving deaths in Green Bay involve alcohol. Wisconsin has a total of ten cities in the 20 drunkest cities list, four of them making the top five.

What age drinks the most alcohol? ›

Alcohol use in persons aged 12 or older in the U.S. by age 2020. In 2020, it was estimated that around 63 percent of those aged 21 to 25 years in the United States were current alcohol drinkers, the highest rate of all age groups. Those aged 21 to 25 also had the highest rates of binge use and heavy alcohol use.

What nationality drinks the most? ›

Here's the top ten countries ranked by the number of times respondents from each country said they got drunk per year:
  • Finland: 23.8.
  • United States: 23.1.
  • United Kingdom: 22.5.
  • Canada: 22.
  • Ireland: 20.
  • France: 17.5.
  • Sweden: 16.
  • Netherlands: 15.7.
3 Dec 2021

Which mental disorder is most commonly comorbid with alcoholism? ›

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), three mental disorders most commonly comorbid with alcoholism are major depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder. Less frequently co-diagnosed with alcoholism is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), dependent personality disorder and conduct disorder.

What mental illness does alcohol cause? ›

Alcohol abuse can cause signs and symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and antisocial behavior, both during intoxication and during withdrawal. At times, these symptoms and signs cluster, last for weeks, and mimic frank psychiatric disorders (i.e., are alcohol–induced syndromes).

Is alcoholism considered a disability for Social Security? ›

Does Social Security consider alcoholism or drug addiction to be disabling? The short answer is, “No.” If someone is “only” an alcoholic or drug addict, they will not be approved for disability benefits.

Is a bottle of wine a day too much to drink? ›

Drinking a bottle of wine per day is not considered healthy by most standards. However, when does it morph from a regular, innocent occurrence into alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism? First, it's important to note that building tolerance in order to drink an entire bottle of wine is a definitive red flag.

Does alcohol destroy brain cells? ›

Alcohol does kill brain cells. Some of those cells can be regenerated over time. In the meantime, the existing nerve cells branch out to compensate for the lost functions. This damage may be permanent.

What causes a person to be an alcoholic? ›

Research has shown that the two genes ADH1B and ALDH2, which control alcohol metabolism, are key factors in developing alcoholism along with several others. Some who do not have genetic risk factors may develop alcoholism if raised in an environment that encourages or normalizes maladaptive drinking behaviors.

What is the average lifespan of an alcoholic? ›

Conclusion. People hospitalized with alcohol use disorder have an average life expectancy of 47–53 years (men) and 50–58 years (women) and die 24–28 years earlier than people in the general population.

How long do you have to drink before liver damage? ›

Alcohol Related Cirrhosis: The most serious form of ALD, it occurs when the entire liver is scarred, causing the liver to shrink and harden. This can lead to liver failure. Usually the damage cannot be reversed. Between 10 to 20 percent of heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis typically after 10 or more years of drinking.

What alcohol makes you last longer in bed? ›

Scientists are suggesting that beer could make you perform better in bed. According to sex expert Dr Kat Van Kirk, beer provides men with many benefits that help them last longer in bed and perform better, Medical Daily reports.

Which is considered the most effective treatment for alcoholism? ›

AA shines. Most of the studies that measured abstinence found AA was significantly better than other interventions or no intervention. In one study, it was found to be 60% more effective. None of the studies found AA to be less effective.

What drug is commonly used to treat alcoholics? ›

Three medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat alcohol use disorder: acamprosate, disulfiram, and naltrexone. Acamprosate and naltrexone reduce alcohol consumption and increase abstinence rates, although the effects appear to be modest.

Can a blood test show heavy drinking? ›

Will a Blood Test Show Heavy Alcohol Use? The short answer is yes: blood testing can show heavy alcohol use. However, timing plays a significant role in the accuracy of blood alcohol testing. In a typical situation, blood alcohol tests are only accurate six to 12 hours after someone consumes their last beverage.

How do you help someone who can't stop drinking? ›

Things that can HELP:
  1. Choose a time when your loved one is not drinking and you're both calm and focused. ...
  2. Express your concerns in a caring way. ...
  3. Encourage your loved one to open up about the reasons why they're abusing alcohol. ...
  4. Consider staging a family meeting or an intervention if you'd rather not go it alone.

What is a secret drinker? ›

What is Secret Drinking? Secret drinking is a common practice among alcoholics who have a high tolerance for alcohol. Because they have to drink more to get the desired effect from alcohol, they might secretly drink before an event; some even have a name for this — pregaming.

What is considered an alcoholic? ›

What Is An Alcoholic? An alcoholic is known as someone who drinks alcohol beyond his or her ability to control it and is unable to stop consuming alcohol voluntarily. Most often this is coupled with being habitually intoxicated, daily drinking, and drinking larger quantities of alcohol than most.

Is there a pill that can stop you from drinking? ›

Disulfiram (Antabuse®): This medicine was approved by the FDA to treat alcohol dependence*. If you drink alcohol, this medicine causes unpleasant effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headache, flushing (reddening of the face, neck, or chest), sweating, and chest pain. These effects can last for an hour or longer.

Which behavior is most likely to indicate alcohol abuse? ›

The Prevalence of Alcohol Misuse and Drunk Driving

One of the most troubling behavioral signs of an alcohol use disorder is drunk driving.

Is there a pill that makes you sick if you drink alcohol? ›

Disulfiram works by blocking the breakdown of alcohol in the body. This leads to buildup of a toxic alcohol-related compound that can cause people who drink alcohol while taking this medication to become very sick. This reaction helps encourage people to avoid alcohol while taking the medication.

What is naltrexone used for? ›

Naltrexone is a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat both alcohol use disorder (AUD) and opioid use disorder (OUD).

How does naltrexone work for alcohol dependence? ›

Naltrexone blocks the parts of your brain that “feel” pleasure from alcohol and narcotics. When these areas of the brain are blocked, you feel less need to drink alcohol, and you can stop drinking more easily.

What is aversion therapy used for? ›

Aversion therapy is most commonly used to treat drug and alcohol addictions. 3 A subtle form of this technique is often used as a self-help strategy for minor behavior issues. In such cases, people may wear an elastic band around the wrist.

Is acupuncture effective for alcoholism? ›

While our and other animal studies revealed consistent results that acupuncture suppresses alcohol-related behaviors such as alcohol craving or consumption (13, 34), human studies have shown mixed results in the effects of acupuncture on reducing clinical symptoms related to alcohol addiction.

Can you buy naltrexone over the counter? ›

A prescription is required by your physician in order to get Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN). You cannot purchase LDN over-the-counter.

Why does naltrexone make me feel weird? ›

Fatigue, drowsiness, and sleepiness are very commonly associated with medications that exert effects on the opioid receptors in the brain. Naltrexone is more likely to exert this effect in higher doses.

What drugs should not be taken with naltrexone? ›

Which opioids should I avoid with naltrexone?
  • use ANY opioid (for example: heroin, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, tramadol, hydrocodone or other prescription or illegal opioids)
  • use illicit drugs.
  • drink alcohol.
  • take CNS depressants such as sedatives, tranquilizers, or other drugs.
25 Jul 2022

What does it feel like drinking on naltrexone? ›

People who drink alcohol after taking naltrexone have described the feeling as lacking the 'buzz' generally associated with alcohol intake, with some people describing it as drinking any other beverage.

Can you take naltrexone for the rest of your life? ›

You should always continue to take the naltrexone before you drink for the rest of your life. If you stop taking the naltrexone and drink then the drinking habit will simply re-establish itself.

What is the success rate of naltrexone? ›

Sobriety with oral Naltrexone has demonstrated only a 10% success rate.

Is a drug commonly used to treat alcoholism through aversive conditioning? ›

Aversive conditioning involves pairing alcohol with unpleasant symptoms (e.g., nausea) which have been induced by one of several chemical agents. While a number of drugs have been employed in chemical aversion therapy, the three most commonly used are emetine, apomorphine, and lithium.

Why is aversion therapy controversial? ›

Aversion therapy is controversial

Because aversion therapy involves the use of unpleasant stimuli, it's quite controversial. Some therapists think it's unethical because it uses punishment as a therapeutic tool. Any punishment may lead to feelings of shame and guilt, which in turn may impact your mental health.

Does aversion therapy work long term? ›

Recent research found that participants who craved alcohol prior to the therapy reported avoiding alcohol 30 and 90 days after treatment. Yet, research is still mixed on the effectiveness of aversion therapy. While many studies have shown promising short-term results, the long-term effectiveness is questionable.

How do you use Declinol? ›

As a dietary supplement, take 1 packet (7 ml) of Declinol with food 4 times per day for the first 7 days, then 2 times daily for the next 7 weeks, or as directed by your Practitioner. Continue use until your target alcohol consumption goal is reached.

How does acupuncture work for addiction? ›

Acupuncturists found that inserting and manipulating meridian points could possibly help reduce cortisol and balance dopamine levels to decrease withdrawal symptoms and cravings that come from drug and alcohol detox. NADA or AcuDetox is a specific acupuncture protocol developed to ease alcohol and drug detox symptoms.

How do ear seeds work? ›

Ear seeds provide a newer form of auriculotherapy, a type of acupressure that focuses on the ear. Proponents claim that using the seeds in certain spots can stimulate the pressure points to help reduce anxiety and stress. While this may work for some, clinical evidence is lacking and generally of lower quality.


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