The Truth About Alcohol

It’s no secret that alcohol is the most prevalent drug used in the United States of America. With its wide-availability, low price, and socially-acceptable status, many would-be alcoholics fly under the radar for years at a time. Many studies in the past have reported the supposed health benefits of low-to-moderate drinking, but new evidence continues to support the fact that no amount of alcohol is a safe amount (especially for a person suffering from alcohol or substance use disorder). 

According to the NSDUH – The National Survey on Drug Used and Health – over 85% of people aged 18 or older reported that they have used alcohol within their lifetime, with 55% reporting use within a month and 70% reporting use within the year. It’s no wonder that alcoholism doesn’t get the attention that the disease deserves; many people consider alcoholics simply “heavy drinkers”, with the notion that suggests that they just need to cut down on the amount they drink. For an alcoholic, no amount of alcohol is a safe amount.

What Amount of Alcohol is Too Much?

According to the same survey, around 25% of people said that they binge drank within the past month, with 7% stating that they engaged in heavy drinking within the same month. “Heavy drinking”, according to SAMHSA (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) is when an individual engages in binge drinking on 5+ days within the same month.

What is Binge Drinking?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined “as a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men – in about 2 hours”. Binge drinking can lead to a decrease in inhibition, which can pave the road towards risky sexual behaviors, harder substances, and drunk driving accidents. 

We often find that alcohol is the first drug that many of our clients had tried before moving on to other, heavier substances. While defining alcohol as a “gateway drug” may sound cliché and make a few eyes roll, we believe that heavy drinking in a person’s younger years can be a very reliable predictor of substance abuse disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) later in life. This is why it is so important to stop the progression of AUD during someone’s teenage years so it does not lead to full-blown alcoholism or drug addiction.

Is Any Amount of Alcohol Safe?

According to the Global Burden of Diseases Study – a study that reviewed the effect on alcohol use and health from 195 countries during the years 1990-2016 – the small health benefits that one may receive from drinking (possibly protecting against heart disease) are outweighed by the propensity for drinkers to develop cancer and other serious chronic diseases as a result of drinking. The report states that “our results show that the safest level of drinking is none… [and] this level is in conflict with most health guidelines, which espouse health benefits associated with consuming up to two drinks per day”.

Facts about Alcohol Abuse

When we really start to crunch the numbers, alcohol no longer appears to be as safe as our society portrays it to be. Here are just a few grim facts that details the seriousness of Alcohol Use Disorder:

  • More than 1,800 college students (aged 18-24) die every year from alcohol-related injuries, such as unintentional injuries and automobile accidents.
  • More than 700,000 students aged 18-24 are physically assaulted every year by another student while under the influence of alcohol, with 97,000 experiencing sexual assault.
  • Nearly 20% of college students meet – or exceed – the criteria for binge drinking and alcohol abuse disorder, with 25% of students reporting educational consequences from binge drinking, such as poor exam grades, missed classes, and falling behind.

If you believe that you or a loved one is beginning to exhibit signs of alcohol use disorder, there are many programs that offer relief from the consequences of heavy/alcoholic drinking. The reasons for binge drinking will vary from individual to individual, and relief from AUD usually requires a comprehensive treatment plan. We often find that a dual-diagnosis is the cause of problem drinking, with alcohol exacerbating an already life-altering mental health concern. With alcohol leading to almost 3 million deaths a year (in 2016), the study reiterates and demonstrates again and again how damaging alcohol can be to the lives of heavy drinkers.

What Are the Effects of Alcohol Abuse?

If heavy drinking has progressed to alcohol use disorder or alcoholism, immediate treatment is necessary to mitigate any future damage that may result from the abuse of alcohol. Here are just a few of the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol abuse:

  • Restless, erratic, or violent behavior.
  • Lack of interest in activities, friends, and family.
  • Depression and an increase in other mental health disorders.
  • Inability to control drinking.
  • Memory loss
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Brain damage
  • Cancer
  • Memory loss
  • Blackouts
  • Impaired judgment
  • Nausea and headache
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Risky sexual behavior
  • Vomiting and nausea

Due to college and pop culture atmosphere, drinking is often glorified and seen as a rite of passage for many college students and young people. This is why it becomes dangerous when people start to believe that drinking alcohol can have positive effects for health. The risks far outweigh the perceived benefits of everyday drinking.

North Carolina Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment

Once binge drinking or heavy drinking becomes a habit, many people find that they cannot stop drinking on their own accord. This is when many people decide that it is necessary from themselves or a loved one to seek treatment. The Blanchard Institute offers varying levels of care for people suffering from alcohol and substance abuse disorder. As an institute, we believe that treating the underlying mental health issues is just as important as treating the substance use disorder. We offer outpatient detox support, day treatment, an intensive outpatient program, an outpatient treatment program, and a recovery management program. To decide which program is right for you, we recommend contacting our admission staff to get started.

Curbing the progression of alcohol and substance abuse is one of the best things you can do for yourself, a friend, or a family member. The road to recovery is as rocky as you want it to be; working with The Blanchard Institute will help you get to the other side of the road less traveled.