Alcoholism is a complex illness that is often misunderstood. Even someone who is in the grip of alcoholism may not understand what is happening to them. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of 20 specific facts about alcoholism to provide a greater insight into this disabling and often chronic condition.
Fact One: Alcoholism is a Type of Addiction
The trouble with the term alcoholic is that it has become something we label people who enjoy drinking regularly. We have become flippant about alcohol dependence and addiction to such a degree that it’s almost considered a ‘joke’ that someone is an alcoholic. This is a damaging attitude to hold and so it’s good to note that alcoholism is a type of addiction illness.
Fact Two: Alcoholism is Widespread
Many people who have issues with alcohol feel isolated and alone in their suffering. In fact there are more than 15 million American adults suffering from some degree of alcohol abuse disorder or AUD.
Fact Three: Alcoholism Is Not a Lifestyle Choice
Although the choice to drink heavily for the first time was a conscious one, when someone has developed alcoholism they are no longer capable of controlling their compulsion. Many people falsely believe alcoholics have chosen to drink in preference to enjoying a healthy lifestyle, whereas this is very rarely the case.
Fact Four: Alcohol Abuse Can Result in Serious Social and Health Problems
The effects of prolonged alcohol abuse can be significant and can impact both the personal and professional life of an alcoholic. These issues include health problems, chronic diseases, neurological impairments and social isolation.
Fact Five: Alcoholism Is Inherited
Around 50% of the risk of developing alcoholism is made up of genetics. Although there is no specific gene that has been identified as a precursor to alcoholism, an individual can display the propensity for the illness at birth.
Fact Six: It Is Not Easy to Recovery from Alcoholism
Many people think that it is possible to just stop drinking and be cured of alcoholism; however this is just not possible. Recovery from alcoholism is actually very common but it is not achieved without considerable commitment and professional assistance.
Fact Seven: Alcoholism Can Affect Anyone
There is no stereotype of a person who will become or is an alcoholic as it is an illness that doesn’t discriminate. It’s important to accept that alcoholism can affect people from all walks of life and that it is a medical condition that can be treated.
Fact Eight: Withdrawal from Alcohol Can Be Fatal
There are lots of misconceptions about alcohol detox and many of them paint the process as extremely bleak and tortuous. In fact, withdrawal symptoms can be effectively managed in specialist facilities, where serious complications can be prevented.
Fact Nine: There Are More Male Alcoholics than Women
Research shows that men have very different attitudes towards alcohol and excessive drinking than women. They are much more likely to think they can handle their drink better than women can and in many cases, they are right. Women are much more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than men and as a result, tend to consume much less.
Fact Ten: Regular Binge Drinking Is Not Necessarily Alcoholism
Unfortunately, there are many people who are more than capable of occasionally drinking to excess without suffering any consequences. Although they may not drink heavily on a regular or daily basis, they tend to have blow-out sessions on the weekends or at celebrations. This kind of behavior is not the same as alcoholism although if continued for prolonged periods, can result in alcohol dependence.
Fact Eleven: Regular Binge Drinking Doesn’t Necessarily Make You an Alcoholic
There are many people who participate in binge drinking frequently. This is a behavior that’s actually pretty popular on college campuses all across the U.S. College students will binge drink on the weekends, and it happens all the time.
This type of drinking is very dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it leads to alcoholism. In most cases, it doesn’t. However, for some people, it certainly can. Most of the time, people are able to binge drink regularly, and not drink at all the rest of the time.
It should be stated, however, that this does not mean that bingeing is safe. It is not safe at all. This type of alcohol consumption regularly leads to fatal accidents. It should always be avoided.
Alcoholism Fact #11: Alcohol Abuse Will Develop into an Addiction
“I can hold my liquor.”
“I’m in control of how much I drink.”
“I can stop drinking anytime I want to.”
Have you heard people state these phrases? Maybe you’ve even said them yourself, wholeheartedly believing that they’re true. The fact is that abusing alcohol can quickly get out of hand. People like to think that they can manage their drinking. More often than not, they’re unable to.
Right now, you may only be abusing alcohol, and you might not be dependent on it yet. However, that can change in an instant. You could easily find that you’re an alcoholic after your next drinking session.
Please, don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can control alcohol. This is a common trap, and more often than not, you’ll find that alcohol really controls you.
Alcoholism Fact #12: Blackouts are Common and They’re Not the Same as Fainting
It’s important to know the difference between blacking out and fainting. Some people think that they are the same thing, but they’re not at all.
When you faint, you lose consciousness. This is caused by the temporary stoppage of blood flow to the brain. If you’re an excessive drinker, you’re not likely to faint while you’re drinking in most cases. You could if you have a health condition, such as a heart problem, that makes you prone to it.
Blacking out means that you have lost all memory of what happened to you. During a blackout you are still able to converse with other people. You really function just as you normally would. What usually happens is that the next day, you don’t remember anything. This can be a terrifying experience for many people.
Alcoholism Fact #13: Alcoholism is Extremely Expensive
Most people are unable to fathom the amount of money alcoholics spend drinking in a single year. The CDC states that the cost of drinking is draining the United States economy.
In 2010, excessive alcohol use reached close to $250 billion dollars.
- This works out to be about $2.05 per drink.
- 77% of these costs were because of binge drinking.
- Washington DC was responsible for $3.5 billion of these costs.
- California was responsible for $35 billion.
You may wonder how these costs are calculated. It breaks down like this:
- 72% of the total cost is due to loss in workplace productivity.
- 11% is due to healthcare costs.
- 10% is due to criminal justice expenses and law enforcement.
- 5% is due to car crashes linked to drinking too much.
- The remainder is for the actual alcohol consumed.
These costs have undoubtedly increased during this time. When you think about, no one can really afford to drink alcohol. It’s a very expensive habit.
Alcoholism Fact #14: Drinking Will Eventually Make You Feel Worse, Not Better
You’ve undoubtedly heard people say that they drink alcohol to help “drown their sorrows.” They believe that drinking will help them feel better, or bring them out of depression. The interesting part is that it can work; at least for a little while.
Alcohol is a depressant drug. While it might make you feel better in the short term, in the long term it’s only going to make you feel worse. Researchers say that depressed people are more likely to drink. However, they also indicate that alcohol is likely to lead to depression. In those who are already depressed, it can make it much worse.
Alcoholism Fact #15: Celebrities Are Known Alcoholics
There really is no stress like the stress of being famous. Your life isn’t your own when you’re a celebrity. You’re always operating on a schedule, expected to act just right, and you’re in the public eye. It’s not surprising that so many celebrities turn to alcohol. They simply cannot find any other way to cope.
There are so many celebrities who are alcoholics. Among them are:
- Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)
- Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, and others)
- Billy Joel (Pop/Rock Musician)
- Stephen King (Horror Novelist)
- Betty Ford (Wife of President Gerald Ford)
The late Robin Williams and Carrie Fisher also admitted to being alcoholics. This comes as a shock to many people. These individuals are thought to lead charmed lives with no cares in the world. Their struggles are very real, and for them, alcohol seemed a fair solution.
Alcoholism Fact #16: Drinking and Driving Is a Common Problem in the United States – and It’s Getting Worse
Drunk driving has been a problem for years, and it continues to be a problem today. Statistics tell us that:
- One-third of all drivers who are arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders.
- In 2013, close to 1,150 children ages 14 and under were killed in motor vehicle accidents.
- Of these, 200 of them were involved in alcohol-related crashes.
- 121 of them were in a car where the occupants had BACs of .08 or higher.
- In 2016, 10,497 people died in accidents involving a drunk driver.
- This works out to being one every 50 minutes.
- An additional 290,000 people were injured in drunk driving accidents.
It’s impossible to ignore a problem this major. Drunk driving will most likely only get worse in the years to come.
Alcoholism Fact #17: Women Can’t Hold Their Liquor as Well as Men Can
A lot of women are all about equality. However, there’s nothing equal as far as how well men and women hold their liquor. It turns out that the main difference is in how men and women both process alcohol. Even if one man and one woman are the same height and weight, men seem to be able to process it faster.
Men have less body fat than women do, and their blood volume is also higher. Their bodies contain a higher concentration of dehydrogenase. This is an enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol. This means that women are able to get drunk much faster than men.
Alcoholism Fact #18: Teenagers Can Become Alcoholics Too
Excessive drinking is often considered to be a rite of passage that many teens go through. Parents will frequently look the other way, assuming that it’s only a phase. What they don’t realize is that teens who drink can easily become alcoholics. In fact, underage drinking is one of the key risk factors for alcoholism in adults.
For teens who drink, their brains are not developed enough to handle the inclusion of alcohol. This means that their brains can quickly adjust to consuming it regularly so that it becomes the norm. It’s not unusual for a teenager to become an alcoholic by the time they’re an adult if they drink excessively.
Alcoholism Fact #19: Alcohol is the 3rd Leading Lifestyle Cause of Death in the U.S.
Did you know that 88,000 deaths in the United States are attributed to alcohol each year? This works out to be 2.5 million years of potential life lost an on annual basis. If these statistics surprise you, they should. However, they should also point to the fact that alcoholism is a very real disease.
Some people don’t realize that they can recover once they’ve become alcoholics. They may not even see the need to recover. Choosing to get help now can save your life, and this is something we want you to be aware of.
Alcoholism Fact #20: Drinking Too Much Can Eventually Kill You
You may already be aware of the medical problems that can result from drinking too much. You know that alcohol is toxic to the liver. You could end up with a liver disease such as cirrhosis. This can be fatal. However, alcohol can actually kill you in the short term too.