America’s Growing Drinking Problem
Alcohol use in the United States is skyrocketing, and with it is an alarming number of alcohol-related deaths. While alcohol abuse did jump dramatically following the COVID-19 pandemic, it is by no means a “new” phenomenon. A recent study conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that between 2015 and 2019, alcohol accounted for nearly 1 out of 8 (12%) of all deaths among working-aged adults (20-64).
Among study participants, the leading causes of alcohol-related deaths differed between age groups but included car crashes, poisonings, alcohol-induced liver disease, and homicide across all groups. Esser and their colleagues also noted that the death rate varied state by state; citing a high of 21.7% in New Mexico and a low of 9.3% in Mississippi.
Currently, it’s unclear as to why different states have different outcomes. Many factors can contribute to the development of alcohol addiction. While the most common factors include genetics and family history, things like local state policy, ease of access, income, and many other socioeconomic factors can lead to drug or alcohol addiction.
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The Social Acceptance Of Alcohol Is Part Of The Problem
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcohol use disorder, is the most common substance use disorder not just in America, but globally as well. In the US alone, more than 10.2% (or 28.3 million) of people aged 12 or older reported struggling with alcohol addiction in 2020. This number is even more alarming when comparing it to the number of people who reported using alcohol within the last 30 days, which is nearly 140 million, or just over half of all people 12 and older.
So, why is alcohol so addictive, and why are so many people struggling to control their alcohol consumption? The answer boils down to 2 factors: legality and social acceptance.
Along with being a completely legal substance for of-age adults, alcohol is also extremely socially accepted. Many people use alcohol to celebrate special events, unwind after a long day at work, cheer on their favorite sports team, or simply alongside their dinner. While none of these actions in and of themselves are a sign of alcohol addiction, they do highlight how intertwined alcohol is in our everyday lives.
For those who may be struggling with their alcohol use, seeing others drinking on nearly every occasion can be difficult. You may simply want to fit in at an event or see others drinking and think to yourself, if they’re drinking, then surely I can too. Sadly, the truth is these instances only further your alcohol dependence, as you’re simply using the social acceptance of the substance as an excuse for your consumption.
The social acceptance of alcohol also means that young adults, especially teens, look at alcohol very differently from other drugs. Many teens may even view alcohol as a “normal” thing for adults to do, especially if they are living with a parent who has an alcohol use disorder.
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Younger Adults Are Also At Risk
It’s not just older adults who are seeing an alarming spike in alcohol-related deaths, it’s young adults and teens as well. When researchers examined alcohol-related deaths during the same period (2015-2019), they found that alcohol was responsible for nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths for individuals between 20 and 49.
The CDC also estimated that nearly 1 in 6 adults aged 20-49 binge drank, which they defined as consuming 4 or more drinks on an occasion for women or 5 or more for men.
Underaged drinking, specifically among those between the ages of 12 and 18, was responsible for more than 3,900 deaths in 2019 alone. The CDC also reports that in 2019, nearly 30% of high school students reported drinking alcohol in the last 30 days, 14% reported binge drinking, and 5% reported driving while intoxicated.
Alcohol use has skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic and with it an alarming spike in alcohol-related deaths. With nearly 1 in 12 deaths among working-aged adults being caused by alcohol, the time to start reducing these numbers is now.
Reducing Alcohol-Related Deaths
Alcohol doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, which means those struggling with an addiction need to find ways to live alongside this incredibly addictive, legal substance. The first, and most important, step you can take toward an alcohol-free life is to come to terms with your addiction. Acknowledging you have an alcohol use disorder is an empowering first step that can help you get the treatment you need before it’s too late.
Inpatient rehabs are a great option for those struggling to control their alcohol use, especially in social settings or around people or places that may trigger your need to drink. During a stay at an inpatient facility, you can safely detox from alcohol while under constant medical supervision, which can greatly improve your chances for a safe, meaningful recovery.
Often, those who complete a stay at a residential facility will continue treatment at an outpatient facility after leaving. Outpatient facilities can be a great way to help you transition to regular life outside of rehab, and help you learn valuable sobriety skills to help with long-term recovery.
Entering treatment for alcohol addiction doesn’t have to be hard, and no one should have to do it alone. If you’ve acknowledged that you need help, know that the hardest part is already behind you. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey, contact a treatment provider today.
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