More than 140 million Americans over the age of 12 are current alcohol users, according to data collected by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2017. Compared to previous data retrieved by NSDUH, this number has increased by nearly four million since 2016.
Nearly half of these individuals are considered heavy drinkers, and nearly 17 million Americans would be considered binge drinkers, according to this data. While heavy and binge drinkers meet criteria for an alcohol use disorder (AUD), this data does not explore if the remaining 74 million people who use alcohol are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction.
Alcohol Abuse And Addiction
Approximately 43 percent of the United States population admits to using alcohol. Admittedly, alcohol is everywhere. People drink at parties, barbeques, sporting events, bars, weddings, concerts, the list is endless. Alcohol is one of the most accepted substances of abuse, and some consider it one of the most problematic.
It isn’t always easy to see the shift from social or casual drinking to a problem with alcohol, especially when it is so readily available and socially accepted. This is why there are specific diagnostic criteria to help determine if a person’s alcohol use could be considered alcohol abuse or addiction.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5), a person who has two or more of the following can be diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder and may be in need of substance abuse treatment:
- drinking or being hungover interfered with responsibilities, like work, school, or family obligations
- drinking longer or more than planned
- spending increased amounts of time drinking or recovering from drinking
- no longer engaged in enjoyed hobbies in order to drink
- unable to slow or stop drinking
- being involved in dangerous situations while drinking (driving, unsafe sex, swimming)
- continued drinking in spite of the problems it has caused with health or family
- continuing to drink after experiencing a blackout
- thoughts of drinking becoming so intense that other thoughts are pushed out (cravings)
- needing to drink more to have the same effects as previously lower amounts (tolerance)
- when the alcohol wears off, withdrawal symptoms emerge (shaking, sweating, etc.)
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How To Quit Drinking Alcohol
Avoiding alcohol is the key to quitting alcohol, although this is not a simple task. When an individual has spent a significant amount of time building habits, creating social circles, and relieving stress around alcohol use, it is difficult to simply stop.
A person who wishes to abstain from alcohol once they have stopped drinking may find it difficult to stay sober. Especially if they have not learned different ways of managing stress, developing appropriate coping skills, or understand how to manage cravings or withdrawal symptoms.
There are some steps a person can take when they wish to quit drinking alcohol. Initially, making a commitment to stop drinking is important. Identifying the cravings and choosing not to act on them can also help. Finding alternatives to activities that involve drinking can also help a person to stop drinking and stay sober.
Is It Safe To Quit Drinking Cold Turkey?
The answer to this question depends on the severity of alcohol abuse and addiction that an individual is facing. A person who experiences alcohol withdrawal within a few hours of not having alcohol would benefit from attending a detoxification program when they stop drinking.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from uncomfortable to fatal. It can result in high blood pressure, seizures, and delirium. Seeking medical assistance for severe withdrawal symptoms is strongly recommended.
It is important to recognize the nature and severity of a person’s alcohol addiction and take the necessary steps to safely detox from alcohol.
How Can I Tell If I Have A Drinking Problem?
While the criteria for diagnosing an AUD may be clear for some, there are usually behavioral changes that could also indicate a developing alcohol dependence or addiction.
Some of the warning signs of alcohol dependence include:
- often drink more than intended or planned
- missing dates, obligations, and responsibilities due to alcohol consumption
- being able to drink more than anyone else
- only going places where it is okay to drink
- avoiding events or activities that drinking is not accepted
- being the only one drinking at events with others
- unable to socialize without alcohol/doesn’t have fun unless alcohol is involved
- drinking alone / hiding drinking
- begins drinking earlier and earlier in the day
- uses alcohol as a stress reliever
- alcohol intake continues to escalate over time
If an individual is consistently focused on alcohol, alcoholism, or thinking about alcohol being a problem, it is a good indication that there is an alcohol abuse issue. Things such as comparing drinking habits to that of others or completing online surveys to assess alcohol abuse are also legitimate signs of a serious alcohol problem.
Alcohol Abuse And Addiction Treatment
Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction when deciding to stop drinking is a step that many people with AUD take. There are several different treatment options that a person can choose from.
Treatment options can include residential inpatient treatment, outpatient services, medication-assisted treatment, support groups, 12-step programs, non-12-step programs, biophysical addiction rehab, and demographically focused options.
With the overwhelming number of facilities and options, it is helpful to have assistance when deciding which form of alcohol abuse treatment is the best fit. We can offer our help to you or your loved one to make the most informed decision possible. Call us today.Sources
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2017
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration - National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2016
United States Census Bureau - Quick Facts Table
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism - Alcohol Facts and Statistics