English Freshman Comp.101
09 December 2019
The Health of Us, The Health Around Us
The excessive consumption of too many alcoholic beverages by individuals, too often, has been recognized as a major problem in society. Yes, this type of pattern drinking, otherwise known as alcohol abuse, is one of the most recognized public health issues today. The struggle that we face when it comes to this health epidemic is putting more control on a substance that is already recommended for moderated usage.
Many people are aware of how frequently the substance causes issues but have not comprehended its total damage to society. According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an average of 18 million people struggle with alcohol abuse in the United States. Alcohol abuse is affecting so many lives and it is important to be aware of the severity of this issue. It leads to social and economic problems, disease and death. In addition, family members and innocent bystanders often have to suffer the consequences of another individual’s over-consumption of alcohol, having a devastating effect on them and society as a whole.
Alcohol abuse can have an adverse effect on an individual both socially and economically. While one may think that they feel better while drinking, doing it in excess, can change their personality hastily. Studies have shown that there is a connection between alcohol consumption and anger, which then leads to aggression and acts of violence. For example, in 2015, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism did a study and found that 696,000 students between 18 and 24 were assaulted by a fellow student who had been drinking and 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 experienced alcohol-related sexual assault or rape (verywell.com 2017). Alcohol encourages these acts of aggression and violence because it disrupts normal brain function. When a person ingests too much alcohol, the mechanisms that would normally restrain impulsive behaviors are weakened and it causes a person to misjudge social cues and often overact. In turn, alcohol-induced acts of violence can lead to economic problems as well. A majority of times it is necessary for the law to be enforced when acts of violence are committed. This is costly for both the consumer and the government due to tickets, court fees, jail costs, and rehabilitation fees that may incur at sentencing.
Alcohol has a variety of effects on a person. Diseases such as cancer, heart and liver disease, and dementia are just a few examples of the damage that alcohol can cause on the human body. An example of the severity of over consumption of the substance within the body was evident in a study done in 2015. The study showed that out of 78,592 deaths due to liver disease in individuals 12 and older, 47 percent were due to alcohol (niaaa.nih.gov). Another study in 2013 showed that among all the cirrhosis deaths, 47.9 percent were related to alcohol (niaaa.nih.gov). The over-abundance of medical findings that directly link alcohol abuse to disease is astounding and the need for reduction of alcohol consumption among individuals is evident.
One of the main reasons that alcohol abuse has been deemed one of the most critical public health issues is due to the death statistics. Research has estimated that the average of 88,000 deaths per year is due to alcohol consumption (CDC 2016). Due to these findings, alcohol is now the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the United States (niaaa.nih.gov). The causes of death related to alcohol consumption are typically health issues, fetal miscarriages, and motorized vehicle accidents. In 2014, 31 percent of motorized vehicle deaths (9,967) were reported as alcohol-impaired driving accidents (niaaa.nih.gov). Furthermore, studies done on the relationship between alcohol intake and miscarriages have found that there is a 25 percent greater chance of miscarriage in the first trimester when consuming alcohol while pregnant compared to a 14 percent chance for those who refrain from drinking while pregnant (expectingscience.com). These alcohol-induced deaths could easily be avoided by monitoring the amount of alcohol being consumed by the individual. By limiting alcohol, rather than abusing it, one is decreasing their chance of death by means of alcohol and increasing their life expectancy, along with the lives of others.
Alcohol abuse is not limited to specific individuals however studies have shown that there are some key factors that contribute to the problem at hand. Information collected from particular surveys indicate that both race and gender play a role in alcohol abuse. However, one of the most significant factors contributing to the epidemic is age. Alcohol is the drug of choice among youth and adolescent drinking has continued to be a problem for years. It has been reported that an average of 7.3 million Americans from the ages of 12 to 20 consume alcohol (NSDUH 2016). The problem among youth is even greater because they tend to drink more heavily than adults causing them to make poor and irrational decisions. In turn, these substance-induced decisions lead to the devastating consequences of alcohol abuse, including death. Alcohol is the leading factor in injury death and the main cause of death for people under the age of 21 (pubs.niaaa.nih.gov). The effects of alcohol consumption on adolescents, not only causes problems for them, but it also can severely affect the lives of those around them.
Furthermore, statistics show that adolescent drinking promotes a large risk of becoming an alcoholic as an adult, increasing the severity of this public health issue. A national survey conducted on 43,093 adults showed that 47 percent of those that drank alcohol before age 14, had issues with alcohol dependence at some time in their lives in comparison with the 9 percent of those who waited until they were 21 (Hingson). The continuation and growth of alcohol abuse does not end there though, as it has been found that children of alcoholics are more likely to become alcoholics as well. This increases the growth of alcoholism because findings show that more than 10 percent of children in the United States live with a parent who has alcohol problems (niaaa.nih.gov). Alcoholism is a vicious cycle affecting all races, genders, the young, the old, and society as a whole.
Alcoholism doesn’t just happen; rather, the disease is caused by both biological and environmental factors, as well as social determinants, which makes it even more challenging to be controlled. Some biological factors that contribute to alcohol abuse are genetics and physiology. Research has shown that alcoholism is passed down from family members through 51 genes that scientists have found are linked to alcoholic dependence (alcoholrehabguide.org). This evidence indicates that the likelihood of family members developing drinking problems if previous generations had issues with alcohol abuse is great.
In addition to biological factors, some environmental factors are believed to increase alcoholism. Some of these factors are the increase of alcohol advertisements and how they are presented to consumers, how closely one resides or is located to an establishment that sells alcohol, and income status. Over the course of just 4 decades, advertisements for alcohol have increased by over 400 percent, and many of these ads promote drinking by making it look fun and acceptable (alcoholrehabguide.org). Alcohol campaigns are over saturating consumers with subliminal messages that promote alcohol consumption, without considering the negative impact the consumption of alcohol can have. Income has also been related to alcohol addiction. It was once thought that the poor consumed more alcohol than the more fortunate, but statistics have shown otherwise. 78 percent of those making more than $75,000 per year consumed more alcohol than the 45 percent of those with an income of less than $30,000 per year, in a recent consumption habit poll (alcoholrehabguide.org), indicating that alcohol abuse is more prevalent among successful people.
Social determinants such as family, home life, school, friends, and trauma can also be to blame for alcoholism in individuals. Some people are exposed to alcohol in their family and home life at an early age. According to the National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, this early exposure makes a child more susceptible to addiction in the future (therecoveryvillage.com). The pressure from school and friends can also encourage a person to start drinking as a way to be accepted and fit in, which can then cause them to continue abusing alcohol down the line. Traumatic events can also cause an individual to turn to alcohol. For example, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found higher rates of physical and sexual abuse in adolescents being treated for alcohol abuse (therecoveryvillage.com). Alcohol consumption is used as a coping mechanism to deal with the trauma however, in most cases, it just masks the problem and more problems arise from substance abuse.
Alcohol is a beverage that is legal to drink by people that are of age and is enjoyed by many in moderation. Unfortunately, when people misuse alcohol, the acceptance or non-acceptance of the consumption of alcohol becomes fuzzy and there are opposing opinions on its consumption. Due to this, there will never be full resolution when it comes to alcohol abuse because alcohol is not going anywhere. However, by continuing to keep the public informed about the problems that arise and are caused by this public health issue, hopefully, some resolution will come from the awareness that alcohol abuse in society today affects each one of us in one way or another and the epidemic will lessen over time.
In order to eliminate some problems caused by alcohol, prevention is necessary to decrease the overall misuse of the substance. It is pertinent to use different prevention methods targeted at specific groups and ages in order for them to work and be successful. For example, since adolescents are so persuaded by alcohol, it is better to provide them with tools that can help them to say no, or provide ways to change the dynamics surrounding them to help prevent or delay alcohol consumption (pubs.niaaa.nih.gov). Likewise, on college campuses, it has been found that informational based programs on alcohol and its harms are not effective. Rather, cognitive-behavioral intervention programs and motivational intervention methods that motivate the student or help change their behavior seem to be more successful among this demographic (pubs.niaaa,nih.gov). As long as the methods and techniques used are specifically geared to support the targeted abuser, alcoholism can be treated and prevented.
Alcohol abuse is a disease. It is a major issue within public health that is negatively impacting the 18 million people who struggle with alcohol addiction and many others. While the chances of the issue being completely resolved are slim, prevention and treatment of the disease are possible. By using prevention methods and treating the disorder, there will be an overall decrease in the social and economic problems that arise from alcoholism. In addition, the rate of disease and the number of deaths that occur each year due to alcohol will be reduced. If every person who consumed alcohol were to be informed of this information and awareness was spread about the severity of substance abuse I do believe our rates of alcoholism would decrease, but only change would tell.
“5 social determinants of alcohol abuse: how people & environment influence drinking behavior.” (n.d.). The Recovery Village: https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/social-determinants-alcohol-abuse/#gref
“Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: What Are the Differences?” (n.d.). Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-use-and-abuse
“Alcoholism: Natural History and Background.” (n.d.). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/healthdisparities/alcoholism1.htm
Arthur Hughes, M. R. (2016, September). “Prescription Drug Use and Misuse in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” NSDUH: https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR2-2015/NSDUH-FFR2-2015.html
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“Fact Sheets – Alcohol Use and Your Health.” (2016, July 25). http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.html
“Light Drinking During Pregnancy: 7 Things You Need to Know.” (2015). Expecting Science: https://expectingscience.com/2016/02/10/light-drinking-during-pregnancy-7-things-you-need-to-know/
“NIAAA—Understanding Alcohol’s Impact on Health.” (2016, September). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/impactsfactsheet/impactsfactsheet.htm
“Preventing Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism—An Update.” (n.d.). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa83/aa83.htm
Tee, B. (2017, July 6). “The Association Between Alcohol and Aggression.” Verywell: https://www.verywell.com/alcohol-facilitates-aggression-62647“Underage Drinking.” (2017, February). National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/underagedrinking/underagefact.html