Facts About Alcoholism

One of the key facts about alcoholism is that it is a progressive degenerative disease that includes the following four symptoms: craving, the loss of control, tolerance, and physical dependence.

Also known as alcohol dependence and alcohol addiction, there are many facets about alcoholism that need to be evaluated in order to better understand this dangerous disease.

More precisely, there are psychological, physical, social, behavioral, and health characteristics of this disease that ironically lead to as well as result from alcoholism.

Drinking Alcohol Is an Enjoyable Experience For Most People

For most individuals who drink, alcohol is a pleasant experience, especially when engaged in social activities and when drinking in moderation.

In fact, under most circumstances, drinking in moderation is not harmful for most adults.

A significant number of individuals, however, cannot consume any alcohol because of the problems they experience when drinking.

Indeed, according to one study, roughly 14 million Americans abuse alcohol or are alcoholic.

In another research study it was found that approximately 53 percent of the adults in the United States have stated that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem.

Damaging Consequences of Alcoholism

The consequences of alcoholism are not only damaging but in some cases, fatal.

For instance, excessive drinking can increase the risk for certain cancers, such as cancer of the throat, larynx, liver, and of the esophagus.

Heavy drinking can also lead to problems with the immune system, harm to the fetus while the mother is pregnant, chronic alcoholism, brain damage, and cirrhosis of the liver.

Moreover, drinking increases the risk of recreational and work-related injuries as well as death from motor vehicle accidents.

And finally, homicides and suicides are more likely to be committed by individuals who have been drinking.

In basic economic terms, alcohol-related problems and issues in the United States cost society almost $200 billion per year.

In human terms, the cost of the following alcohol-related issues cannot be calculated: failed health, destroyed lives, illnesses, wife battering, fatalities, child abuse, injuries, and broken homes.

Some Statistics and Alcoholism Facts

Unfortunately, the full extent of the damaging effects of alcoholism are not usually comprehended until some statistics on alcoholism are discussed.

According to numerous research studies, the following statistics about alcohol abuse and alcoholism have been discovered:

  • 6.6 million American children under the age of 18 live in households with at least one alcoholic parent.
  • In the United States, one person is injured in an alcohol-related accident approximately every two minutes.
  • Every year, 1,400 American college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related inadvertent injuries, including motor vehicle accidents.
  • About half of state prison inmates and 40% of federal prisoners incarcerated for committing violent crimes in 1997 reported they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of their offense.
  • Every year in the U.S. more than 150,000 college students develop health problem that are alcohol-related.
  • The 9.6% of adult alcoholics drink 25% of the alcohol that is consumed by all adult drinkers.
  • American youth who start drinking before the of age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than young people who do not drink before the age of 21.
  • Alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse cost the United States an estimated $220 billion in 2005. This dollar amount was more than the cost associated with cancer ($196 billion) and obesity ($133 billion).
  • In the United States during 2004, 16,694 deaths occurred as a result of alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes.
  • This amount was approximately 39% of all traffic fatalities. This amounts to one alcohol-related death every 31 minutes.
  • The 25.9% of underage drinkers who are alcohol abusers and alcohol dependent drink 47.3% of the alcohol that is consumed by all underage drinkers.
  • In 2002, fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects were the leading causes of mental retardation in the United States.
  • Every day in the U.S. more than 13,000 children and teens take their first drink.

Many people think that alcohol abuse and alcoholism are the same. This is not correct.

Alcohol abuse, unlike alcoholism, does not include physical dependence, loss of control due to drinking, or an extremely strong desire for alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following circumstances in a twelve-month period of time:

  • Continued drinking in spite of ongoing relationship problems that are the result of drinking.
  • Failure to attend to important responsibilities at work, home, or school.
  • Experiencing recurring alcohol-related legal problems. Examples include getting arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, for damaging someone’s property, or for physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Drinking in situations that can result in physical injury. Examples include driving a vehicle or operating machinery.

A Definition of Alcoholism

Also known as alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, alcoholism is a disease that includes the following symptoms:

  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one’s drinking over time or on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms when a person stops drinking after a period of excessive drinking. Such symptoms include: anxiety, sweating, nausea, and “the shakes.”
  • Craving: A strong and continuing compulsion or need to drink.
  • Tolerance: The need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol in order to “feel the buzz” or to “get high.”

Teenage Alcoholism

Focusing on facts about alcoholism is especially significant regarding teen alcoholism.

Stated differently, if you as a teenager or a parent of a teenager can read about, comprehend, and internalize some of the key issues and facts about alcoholism concerning teenage alcoholism, you or your teenage son or daughter will be in a much better position to avoid the negative consequences that are associated with teenage alcoholism in college, school, or in the workplace.

It is “alcohol awareness” and being in tune with facts about alcoholism that go a long way towards teen alcoholism prevention.

Alcoholism Treatment

The Treatment of Alcoholism. It is important to emphasize that if you observe your family members or friends exhibiting any of the above behaviors or symptoms, consider them as signs of alcoholism or symptoms of alcoholism and also consider suggesting that they discuss their drinking behavior with their doctor.

More exactly, they may need an alcoholism diagnosis and perhaps alcoholism treatment.

Frequently, people who are not alcoholic have a difficult time understanding why an alcoholic can’t simply use self-control or willpower to stop drinking.

In the majority of cases, however, alcoholism has little to do with willpower or with fighting alcoholism and being strong.

Simply put, alcoholics are caught in the compelling grip of an uncontrollable need for alcohol that takes precedence over their ability to stop drinking.

Indeed, this craving for alcohol can be as strong as the alcoholic’s need for food or water.

An Alcoholism Cure? While a cure for alcoholism has not been discovered, fortunately, recovery from alcoholism is possible.

Although some individuals are able to recover from alcohol addiction without clinical or professional help, many, if not most, alcoholics need professional assistance and treatment for their alcoholism.

The good news, however, is this: through treatment, rehab, support, and counseling, numerous alcoholics are able to refrain from drinking alcohol and restore their lives.

Causes of Alcoholism

Some Possible Causes of Alcoholism. A question that has entered the minds of many individuals is the following: why can some people drink alcohol without any negative consequences while others cannot? One answer to this question involves genetics.

More precisely, alcoholism research scientists have found that having an alcoholic family member increases the risk of developing alcoholism.

Indeed, there may be a genetic predisposition for certain people to become alcohol dependent.

Moreover, researchers have discovered that various environmental factors can interact with a person’s genetics.

Examples include one’s family and friends, the relative ease of obtaining alcohol, a person’s culture, peer pressure or peer influence, and where and how a person lives.

The Origins of Alcoholism

The following quote by William Swegan in an article entitled The Psychology of Alcoholism, represents one of the best summaries for the origins alcoholism we have found.

“Alcohol is a socially acceptable beverage in our culture, and most individuals do not intentionally drink compulsively. For vast numbers of people, becoming trapped occurs as a gradual process of falling into greater and greater physical and psychological dependence.

However, a small portion of those who drink exhibit extremely negative behavior traits from the onset, as one can see from my own case. Even then, however, the problems progress and the consequences continue to grow worse and worse as the person continues to drink.

Those who become trapped in compulsive drinking ultimately become rehabilitated, or descend into a useless life of total alcohol dependence, or die.”

The above quote was made by William Swegan, the “father of military alcoholism” and spokesperson for the early Alcoholics Anonymous movement.

In 1949, William Swegan studied at the Yale School of Alcohol Studies. In 2003 Mr. Swegan wrote a book entitled On the Military Firing Line in the Alcoholism Treatment Program: The Air Force Sergeant Who Beat Alcoholism and Taught Others to Do the Same.

Chapter 15 in this book is entitled “The Effects of Alcohol on Our Emotional Development.” The Psychology of Alcoholism was adapted from Chapter 15 of the aforementioned book.

Conclusion: Alcoholism Facts

One of the main facts about alcoholism is that for most individuals who drink, alcohol is a pleasant experience, especially when they participate in social activities.

In the vast majority of circumstances, therefore, drinking in moderation is not harmful for most adults.

A relatively large number of individuals, however, cannot consume ANY alcoholic beverages due to the negative effects they experience when drinking.

In plain economic terms, alcohol-related problems in the United States cost society roughly $200 billion per year.

In human terms, regrettably, the cost of the following alcohol-related issues and problems cannot be calculated: wife battering, failed health, broken homes, injuries, child abuse, fatalities, destroyed lives, and illnesses.