- Factors affecting alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm
- Conceptual causal model of alcohol consumption and health outcomes
- Ways to reduce the burden from harmful use of alcohol
- WHO response
- The American Alcohol Problem: An Overlooked… — Caron Treatment Centers
- America’s History with Alcohol
- Problems with Our Alcohol Use
- Alcoholism Stats
- The Secret Middle Age Crisis
- When Alcohol Becomes a Problem
- Illness, Not Moral Failing
- Symptoms of Alcoholism
- Risk Factors
- Learn More About American Alcohol Use Problems
Alcohol is a psychoactive substance with dependence-producing properties that has been widely used in many cultures for centuries. The harmful use of alcohol causes a large disease, social and economic burden in societies.
The harmful use of alcohol can also result in harm to other people, such as family members, friends, co-workers and strangers. Moreover, the harmful use of alcohol results in a significant health, social and economic burden on society at large.
Alcohol consumption is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions.
Drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, including alcohol dependence, major noncommunicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases, as well as injuries resulting from violence and road clashes and collisions.
A significant proportion of the disease burden attributable to alcohol consumption arises from unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic crashes, violence, and suicides, and fatal alcohol-related injuries tend to occur in relatively younger age groups.
The latest causal relationships are those between harmful drinking and incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis as well as the incidence and course of HIV/AIDS. Alcohol consumption by an expectant mother may cause fetal alcohol syndrome and pre-term birth complications.
Factors affecting alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm
A variety of factors have been identified at the individual and the societal level, which affect the levels and patterns of alcohol consumption and the magnitude of alcohol-related problems in populations.
Environmental factors include economic development, culture, availability of alcohol, and the comprehensiveness and levels of implementation and enforcement of alcohol policies.
For a given level or pattern of drinking, vulnerabilities within a society are ly to have similar differential effects as those between societies.
Although there is no single risk factor that is dominant, the more vulnerabilities a person has, the more ly the person is to develop alcohol-related problems as a result of alcohol consumption.
Conceptual causal model of alcohol consumption and health outcomes
The impact of alcohol consumption on chronic and acute health outcomes in populations is largely determined by 2 separate but related dimensions of drinking:
- the total volume of alcohol consumed, and
- the pattern of drinking.
The context of drinking plays an important role in occurrence of alcohol-related harm, particularly associated with health effects of alcohol intoxication, and, on rare occasions, also the quality of alcohol consumed. Alcohol consumption can have an impact not only on the incidence of diseases, injuries and other health conditions, but also on the course of disorders and their outcomes in individuals.
There are gender differences in alcohol-related mortality and morbidity, as well as levels and patterns of alcohol consumption. The percentage of alcohol-attributable deaths among men amount to 7.
7 % of all global deaths compared to 2.6 % of all deaths among women. Total alcohol per capita consumption in 2010 among male and female drinkers worldwide was on average 19.4 litres for males and 7.
0 litres of pure alcohol for females.
Ways to reduce the burden from harmful use of alcohol
The health, safety and socioeconomic problems attributable to alcohol can be effectively reduced and requires actions on the levels, patterns and contexts of alcohol consumption and the wider social determinants of health.
Countries have a responsibility for formulating, implementing, monitoring and evaluating public policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. Substantial scientific knowledge exists for policy-makers on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the following strategies:
- regulating the marketing of alcoholic beverages (in particular to younger people);
- regulating and restricting the availability of alcohol;
- enacting appropriate drink-driving policies;
- reducing demand through taxation and pricing mechanisms;
- raising awareness of public health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol and ensuring support for effective alcohol policies;
- providing accessible and affordable treatment for people with alcohol-use disorders; and
- implementing screening and brief interventions programmes for hazardous and harmful drinking in health services.
The harmful use of alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for population health worldwide and has a direct impact on many health-related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including those for maternal and child health, infectious diseases (HIV, viral hepatitis, tuberculosis), noncommunicable diseases and mental health, injuries and poisonings. Alcohol is specifically mentioned under health target 3.5: “Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance use, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol” .
WHO aims to reduce the health burden caused by the harmful use of alcohol and, thereby, to save lives, prevent injuries and diseases and improve the well-being of individuals, communities and society at large.
WHO emphasizes the development, implementation and evaluation of cost-effective interventions for harmful use of alcohol as well as creating, compiling and disseminating scientific information on alcohol use and dependence, and related health and social consequences.
The “Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol”, negotiated and agreed by WHO Member States in 2010, represents international consensus that reducing the harmful use of alcohol and its associated health and social burden is a public health priority.
The strategy provides guidance for action at all levels, including 10 recommended target areas for policy options and interventions for national action to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and the main components for global action to support and complement activities at country level.
The update of the evidence on cost-effectiveness of policy options and interventions undertaken in the context of an update of Appendix 3 of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of n Noncommunicable Diseases 2013-2020 resulted in a new set of enabling and focused recommended actions to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. The most cost-effective actions, or “best buys”, include increasing taxes on alcoholic beverages, enacting and enforcing bans or comprehensive restrictions on exposure to alcohol advertising across multiple types of media, and enacting and enforcing restrictions on the physical availability of retailed alcohol.
With growing awareness of the impact of alcohol consumption on global health and an increase in international frameworks for action, the demand for global information on alcohol consumption and alcohol-attributable and alcohol-related harm, as well as related policy responses, has increased significantly. The Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (GISAH) has been developed by WHO to dynamically present data on levels and patterns of alcohol consumption, alcohol-attributable health and social consequences and policy responses at all levels.
Achieving reduction in the harmful use of alcohol in line with the targets included in the SDG 2030 agenda and the WHO Global Monitoring Framework for Noncommunicable Diseases requires concerted action by countries, effective global governance and appropriate engagement of all relevant stakeholders. By effectively working together, the negative health and social consequences of alcohol can be reduced.
- the Global status report on alcohol and health 2018.
- The Global strategy refers only to public-health effects of alcohol consumption, without prejudice to religious beliefs and cultural norms in any way. The concept of “harmful use of alcohol” in this context is different from “harmful use of alcohol” as a diagnostic category in the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders (WHO, 1992).
- The disability-adjusted life year (DALY) extends the concept of potential years of life lost due to premature death to include equivalent years of «healthy» life lost by virtue of being in states of poor health or disability.
The American Alcohol Problem: An Overlooked… — Caron Treatment Centers
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.
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 a. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.