Alcohol Abuse, Addiction and Risk Factors: DUI AwarenessUpdated Nov. 21, 2019
In addition to making you unfit to drive, disrupting your mental health and wreaking havoc on your body, alcohol abuse will have a far-reaching negative impact on your life and future. People who consume alcohol irresponsibly often find themselves experiencing guilt, shame and confusion over things they did while drunk. Unfortunately, this can easily lead to further alcohol consumption, as you attempt to blot out these unpleasant emotions.
Alcoholism is a serious health problem in the United States and indeed, in western society as a whole. Despite being a known poison, alcohol is available for purchase by any person over the age of 21 in millions of stores around the country. Consuming alcohol is normalized and often glamorized to such a degree that people completely ignore the risks to their health to participate in the drinking culture. It seems we have the mentality that drinking alcohol can’t be THAT bad, as everybody is doing it.
While not quite everybody is doing it, the number and age of people who do drink regularly in the United States may shock you. A survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2013 found that over 52% of Americans aged 12 or above reported drinking alcohol on a regular or semi-regular basis.
One goal of this report was to assess whether alcohol consumption could be considered a risk-factor for taking other, illegal substances. Worryingly, it showed that over 33% of heavy alcohol users aged 12 and over also used illegal drugs. There is a clear correlation between the two types of substance abuse, as just 4% of illegal drug users reported that they did not drink alcohol. According to these results, people who consume alcohol heavily are nearly eight times more likely to abuse drugs, as compared to non-drinkers.
The rising risks of alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse is a self-perpetuating habit. Once you have started drinking on a regular basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to moderate your consumption or stop drinking altogether. This is because:
- Alcohol affects judgment and causes people to ignore risks. Drinking regularly leads to a sense of apathy or disconnection from long-term health concerns.
- Alcohol is readily available. Any person over 21 can buy alcohol in any supermarket, convenience store, liquor store, bar or restaurant.
- People who drink regularly tend to associate with other people who also drink. When your friends are all doing it, quitting alcohol can also mean quitting friendships.
- Drinking alcohol is portrayed as an acceptable habit in advertisements, the media and throughout our entire culture. People buy into the myth that alcohol makes them “better” by increasing confidence, relieving stress and eradicating loneliness.
- Alcohol is widely considered to be a gateway drug in that it often leads to other types of substance abuse. This type of lifestyle is incredibly difficult to break away from.
The longer that alcohol abuse it allowed to continue, the harder it will be to stop. After many years of drinking regularly, people tend to forget there was ever a time when they were happy, satisfied and functional without alcohol.
Why is it that some people seem able to drink alcohol without becoming addicted or psychologically dependent, whereas others cannot? This is a very complex question with no straightforward answer. There are several factors known to affect the likelihood that a person will abuse alcohol rather than drinking it responsibly. For instance:
If your parents or immediate family members have a history of alcohol or drug abuse, you may be genetically predisposed to get hooked on a substance if you use it yourself.
A person who grows up in a family where alcohol abuse is normalized is far more likely to become a drinker themselves.
If your friends drink regularly, you will feel pressured (directly or otherwise) to participate in their behavior.
Mental health issues.
People with debilitating mental health problems such as OCD, anxiety and depression may be more susceptible to becoming alcohol dependent.
Research focusing on people who abuse alcohol has demonstrated that these contributing factors rarely occur on their own. Usually, several are present it one individual. Environmental factors such as nurture and peer pressure are among the most common contributors. This shows just how difficult it is to end destructive habits when doing so conflicts with your day-to-day environment and the people you spend time with. Beating serious alcohol addiction often requires a complete life overhaul. The addict may have to move home, find a new job and cut ties with friends or even family members.
Becoming addicted to any substance changes your personality and priorities in ways you cannot anticipate. Your entire outlook on the world will alter and you will be powerless to do anything about it. If you are addicted to alcohol, managing your cravings by consuming alcohol will become more important to you than anything else in your life. The person you were before alcohol will be lost.
As an alcoholic, things that once mattered to you greatly will be shuffled to the bottom of your list of priorities. You may lose interest in school, work and your future. You may even believe that hurting your friends and family with your behavior is acceptable, if it is necessary to get your next fix. Concerns for your own health and emotional well-being will be right at the bottom of the pile. You may end up so detached from the consequences of your addiction that you become seriously ill.
Addicts are notoriously self-serving, egotistical, angry people – they cannot help it! Their brains have been totally rewired by the chemical they abuse so that they need more of it, in the same way that a starving person needs food, or a man lost in the desert needs water. In the grips of addiction, a person is willing to do almost anything to get access to their drug. While your friends and family will initially try to help you, they may eventually reach a point where they can take no more and leave you to fend for yourself.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are crippling. When you have access to alcohol, you may be able to function relatively normally – at least for a while. Though, your entire life will be based around getting your next drink. This could lead you to behave in ways you never dreamed possible before you became addicted to alcohol. You may drink while driving, or first thing in the morning before school, or even while you are caring for vulnerable people like young children. There will no longer be a line you are incapable of crossing.
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