How Common is Alcohol Dependence?


Let’s face the honest truth. Alcohol dependence can be prevented. It is a dangerous drug that affects more than just the one consuming alcohol. Perhaps that was one reason why America had a prohibition for so long. If prohibition taught us anything it is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t do away with alcohol. It also taught us that you cannot prevent someone from drinking. The only way to break the addiction to alcohol is to decide what you want to do it. The lure to alcohol is strong. Just how strong is it? Read on to find out.

Interesting Facts

We all know that drinking and driving do not mix. So much so that thirty percent of driving fatalities involve drinking and driving in a given year. You would think with as dangerous and illegal it is that it wouldn’t be such a high number.

There are close to fifteen million people who suffer from some sort of alcohol abuse in the US. Of those, only about eight percent seek treatment.

Forty percent of Americans, sixty- five million, confessed that the binge drinking in the last month.

Teenage binge drinking kills more than illegal drug use per year – around 4700 kids.

Almost two billion dollars is spent on the damage done by drunk driving per year.

Alcohol and Women

Men and women drink differently. That is why studies were done separately on the two. Here are the statistics on women and alcohol:

  • Over five million women have some level of alcohol dependence. These are women that are eighteen years of age and older.
  • One in two women drink. Of these women eighteen percent drink five or more drinks at a time.
  • Alcohol causes infertility by interrupting the menstrual cycle.
  • Binge drinking is more likely to lead to unprotected sex which explains the rise in STDs and unplanned pregnancies.
  • Women who drink while pregnant can give the child Fetal Alcohol Syndrome which causes mental and physical defects.
  • Almost half of all women drink some sort of alcohol every month. Twelve percent of them report binge drinking.
  • Alcohol use has increased among women every year. It is up by 87% in five years.
  • The increase in liver-related deaths for women rises every year.

Alcohol and Men

Those are pretty overwhelming statics. The ones for men aren’t any better. Take a look below.

  • Sixty percent of men report some type of drinking every month. Twenty-three percent of these are binge drinking episodes.
  • Men are two times as likely to binge drink.
  • Men are twice as likely to drink and drive.
  • Men are responsible for twice as many drunk driving deaths.
  • Men are more likely to commit suicide while intoxicated.
  • Alcohol increases cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, and the liver in men.
  • Excessive drinking is often a factor when men are the perpetrator in sexual assault.  

Alcohol Dependence is a Disease

You do have to go to the doctor to be diagnosed with alcohol dependence. Once you are diagnosed, you will have the diagnosis for the rest of your life. You can go into full or partial remission. There is no cure for alcoholism. The changes that it makes on the body and mind are irreversible.

Studies of the brain scans made of those who have alcohol dependence show that alcohol changes the way that the brain functions. There is damage to the part of the brain that is in charge of problem-solving and regulating emotions. There is a complete difference in the electrical activity of the brain.

These changes are something that you are going to have to deal with. You may need therapy to learn how to deal with the changes. You may even need medications to deal with the medical needs that resulted from your alcoholism.

The Financial Impact

We have seen the physical and emotional toll that alcohol takes on the human body. Now let’s explore the financial side of alcohol dependency. One interesting fact is that almost seven percent of binge drinkers spend more on alcohol in a month than they do on their housing costs.

On average 249 billion dollars is spent by taxpayers on alcohol-related expenses. This includes property damage and emergency services. Let’s break that down.

Here is a staggering statistic: in 2016 the US spent 191 billion on the damages done by binge drinking.

Underage Drinking – 24.3 Billion

Pregnancy-related drinking – 5.5 billion

Seventy-two percent of costs were to workplace issues, including disability, absenteeism, workmen’s comp, and unemployment.

These financial burdens are often picked up by men and women who don’t drink, hold regular steady employment, and pay their taxes. Is that fair? No, of course, it isn’t fair, but these expenses must be paid.

There is one area of this financial impact where money simply cannot be broken down. There is no number for the number of children that are in the foster care system due to their parents being addicted to alcohol and unable to care for them. Many of these children have extensive medical expenses due to abuse and neglect that are considered alcohol-related. Since most of these parents do not seek the help they are categorized under the abusive parent. It is further proof that alcohol dependency affects more than just the one with the drink in their hand.

The Signs of Alcohol Dependence

There are some physical signs of dependence that tend to make an appearance. For example, if you or a loved one is planning your day around when you will drink, you have an alcohol problem. Shaking, jitteriness, inability to focus, mood swings, unusual aggression are also signs of depression.

You should be concerned if you are unable to perform your normal routine without having a drink. The inability to work or hold a job due to drinking is a big factor in most instances. Excessive weight gain or sudden weight loss are signs that alcohol is taking a toll on your body. Stomach pain, bloating, and bloody stools are a sign that it is time to get medical intervention.

Getting help most alcoholics are ashamed or in denial of the seriousness of their problem. It can be quite a shock to have friends and family step in. They may resist treatment. There are many treatment options available. The sooner that you get help, the less damage is done to your mind and body.