Opioids grab the headlines lately. Still, the real story hasn’t changed. Alcohol use is the much bigger crisis in America. The numbers show it’s really not even close. Problem drinking is a serious problem.
It’s scary how it happens so easily. Having a few beers grows into a few too many, way too often. Having a couple glasses of wine becomes a couple bottles, a couple nights too many. From beer to wine to liquor, the speedy downhill process of alcohol use takes down good people daily.
Let’s quickly clear up some terminology. Alcoholism or alcohol dependence are terms used in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, and everyday conversations. Integro doctors will use the medical term, “Alcohol Use Disorder” (AUD). This describes the chronic, relapsing brain disease caused by alcohol use. This is the common condition we treat.
An AUD diagnosis would determine if a patient is classified as mild, moderate, or severe. This standard was established by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Estimates show 18 million Americans have alcohol use disorder. Men hold a nearly 2 to 1 margin over women. However, use among women is on the rise. Another 5% of problem drinkers are adolescents. More than 10% of U.S. children live with a parent who has an alcohol problem.
Some 100,000 a year die from excessive alcohol-related causes. This makes for the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Tobacco tops the list. Next is poor diet and physical inactivity.
The alcohol use disorder statistics are staggering. Yet, there’s a good chance they might be low. It is believed less than 10% of people with AUD ask for help or seek treatment…in their lifetime.
Drinking too much alcohol is dangerous. Research shows it can increase the risk of over 200 diseases. This includes certain cancers – breast, liver, larynx, pharynx, mouth, and esophagus. It can damage the brain, liver, and every other organ. Alcohol increases the risk of death. Common alcohol related deaths include car accidents, suicide, and homicide. If pregnant, drinking alcohol can harm the baby and lead to other problems.
“I could stop any time. It’s just a few drinks. It’s no big deal. Everybody does it.”
Those are some of the more common answers people give when confronted about their alcohol use. Here are some of the hard questions to ask:
– Are there cravings? Do you feel a strong need to drink?
– Do you maintain control? Are you able to stop drinking once you’ve started?
– Is there physical dependence? Do you experience withdrawal symptoms after drinking?
– What is your tolerance? Do you need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect?
– What is the impact? Is your drinking causing problems at home, or at work? Has it put you in dangerous situations?
For a diagnosis of AUD, Integro professionals follow specific guidelines. They were established in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM–5. The criteria includes 11 symptoms. A person only needs to have 2 of them in a 12-month period to be diagnosed. Severity is determined by how many of the 11 symptoms a person has.
The 11 Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder
– The person experiences cravings, strong urges to use alcohol.
– There have been unsuccessful efforts to stop, minimize, or control alcohol use.
– Alcohol is often consumed in larger amounts, and/or over a longer period than the person intended.
– Tolerance. This is defined by either of the following: a) The person needs significantly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or the desired effect. b) A significantly diminished effect from continually drinking the same amount of alcohol.
– Withdrawal. This is defined by either of the following: a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol. b) Alcohol (or other substance) is used for relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms.
– Continued alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous. This could be drunk driving, unintended injuries, unprotected sex, violence, and more.
– A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain or use alcohol, or recover from the effects of drinking.
– Failure to fulfill major personal obligations, such as at home, work, or school due to continued alcohol use.
– Alcohol use causes the person to avoid or eliminate activities which were important to them.
– Recurrent alcohol use despite knowledge the persistent social or interpersonal problems it caused or worsened.
– Recurrent alcohol use despite knowledge it caused or exacerbated an existing physical or psychological problem.
Binge drinking is another common problem. For men, this means having about five or more drinks in two hours. For women, it is having about four or more drinks in two hours. For women, binge drinking presents other risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), show binge drinking women are more likely to have unprotected sex, and multiple sex partners. Thus, placing them at higher risk for unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Binge drinking is also widespread among college age students. Roughly 100,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 report experiencing alcohol-related sexual assault, or date rape. That’s just the ones reported. Plus, physical assaults and injuries are also common with this group. Roughly 1 in 5 college students meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder (AUD).
NIAAA has defined Drinking at Low Risk for Developing AUD. For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any given day and no more than 14 drinks in a week. For women, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than 3 drinks on any given day and no more than 7 drinks in a week. You can see by those numbers, the slippery slope which exists to alcohol use disorder (AUD).
Alcohol is accessible, advertised, and widely accepted in society. This gives drinking an easy path to be a daily destroyer of behavioral health, physical health, careers, finances, and of course families and friends.
People with underlying behavioral health issues are especially at risk. They often turn to drinking as an escape from the effects of their anxiety, depression, and other disorders. Alcohol use only adds to such problems, and creates new ones.
Do you still think Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, Samuel Adams, and Bud are good buddies?
Alcohol Treatments and Therapies
If drinking is a problem, treatment is a solution. Most men and women with mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder can benefit from treatment. Many can stop or substantially reduce their drinking, and alcohol-related problems.
At Integro Health Systems, we don’t believe in a one size fits all approach. That includes relying solely on abstinence and willpower. The brain addicted to alcohol usually proves way too demanding and domineering for the 12 steps alone.
From start to finish, we take an integrated, personalized approach to treating alcohol use disorder. Everything we do is customized for the unique needs of the individual. Often effective treatment means addressing the problems in multiple ways.
– Detox. Breaking free of alcohol use on one’s own can often be dangerous. It can also be downright unbearable for the person, and any loved ones in close proximity to the detoxification process.
The professional detox unit at Integro completely transforms the process. Our facilities and staff were built to provide safe, comfortable, and effective treatment for men and women. We understand the power of alcohol use. We know how it often starts, and how it often is hoping to cross the finish line. Patients receive protection, and support, not judgment. They are cared for and respected. Body, mind, and soul.
– Medications. There are a handful of medications currently approved for helping people to stop or reduce their alcohol cravings. These medications also deserve credit for helping to prevent relapses. Integro doctors and providers can discuss medication options as one possible option in an integrated treatment plan for alcohol use disorder.
– Behavioral Therapy. Our experienced psychiatrists work with men and women on ways to positively change their drinking behavior. During individual therapy sessions, we listen to the person’s fears and concerns. We help them to identify their triggers for alcohol use, and recognize how to avoid them. We work on setting realistic, personalized goals. Of course, looking at any underlying behavioral health issues is also a key to every person’s continued success.
– Group Therapy. Mutual-Support Groups are a valuable tool at Integro. But they do have limited success if they are the only weapon for fighting alcohol use and relapse. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the best-known of 12-step programs. Integro believes in AA and an array of other alternatives which can provide the powerful layer of peer support for people quitting or cutting back on their drinking. People listen and learn. They offer and receive help. For many, regularly attending group therapy sessions becomes a very important part of their lives.
Call Integro today about urgent help for treating alcohol use disorder. Call (602) 535-8200.