While legal and widely available, repeated alcohol use has severe consequences
Alcohol Addiction: What You Need to Know
Alcohol is a depressant that slows down activity in the brain. As a result, it triggers the release of endorphins, those chemicals responsible for feeling pleasure and satisfaction.
But while alcohol may provide stress relief, help someone struggling to fall asleep, or make social gatherings seem a little more fun, the misuse of alcohol can lead to serious health problems and harmful consequences that affect every area of someone’s life including work and relationships.
With a substance that’s legal and widely consumed, it can be easy to dismiss regular drinking as no big deal. But when someone is drinking to excess in a manner where it’s impossible to live without it, that loss of control is too dangerous to overlook — especially when you realize that alcohol causes 88,000 deaths every year.
How It Works
From the first sip, it travels to your stomach and into your bloodstream before making its way around your whole body. So, it’s not surprising that alcohol has the power to affect your mood, muscles, and your brain. That can look different from person to person, depending on tolerance, but because your body can’t store or process alcohol (it sees it as poison), it tries to break it down and eliminate it through your liver. Doing this repeatedly over team can lead to a condition called cirrhosis.
The Stats on Alcohol Addiction
- National Survey on Drug Use and Health data in 2018 estimated that 5.8% of American adults over 18 — about 14.4 million people — have an alcohol use disorder. This includes 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women, or 7.6% of all adult men and 4.1% of all adult women.
- About 20% of the adult population in the US drinks alcohol as a way to fall asleep.
- Alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally, not to mention to poor health of millions. Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.
- Women who are dependent on alcohol are 50 to 100% more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than men who are dependent on alcohol.
- Researchers estimate that each year, 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. Another 97,000 in the same age bracket report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
- Alcohol abuse is considered the second leading cause of dementia, connected with 10% of diagnosed cases.
- In 2017, 22,246 deaths were attributed to alcoholic liver disease.
- Alcohol leads to more teenage deaths than all other drugs combined. It is a factor in the three leading causes of death among 15- to 24-year-olds: accidents, homicides and suicides.
“Alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million deaths each year globally, not to mention the poor health of millions. Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.”
Effects of Alcohol Addiction
- Behavioral changes
- Shrinkage of the frontal lobes of the brain
- Damage to the heart, liver, and stomach
- Slurred speech
- Infertility/sexual dysfunction
- Lung infections
- Thinning of bones
- Changes in coordination
- Impaired judgment/risk tolerance
- Frequent diarrhea
- Birth defects in children
- Weight gain
- Broken capillaries on the nose and face
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