Alcohol Dependence

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Alcohol dependence has become a serious problem throughout many parts of the industrialized world. Ironically, the more advanced and "developed" a nation becomes, the more it seems susceptible to the destructive social and personal problems that are directly or indirectly caused by alcohol dependence.

In sum, the people of the world need a heightened sense of "alcohol awareness" if they are to become more knowledgeable about and avoid the unhealthy, destructive, and at times, the fatal effects of alcohol dependence.

Drinking Alcohol For Most People Is Pleasant

For most people who drink, alcohol is an enjoyable experience, especially when they drink in moderation and are engaged in recreational and social activities.

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Moderate alcohol use can be defined as having up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

In most situations, fortunately, drinking in moderation is not harmful for most adults.

A significant number of people, however, cannot or should not consume any alcoholic beverages because of the problems they experience when they drink. Indeed, roughly 14 million Americans are alcoholic or abuse alcohol!

According to recent alcoholism research findings, moreover, it has been found that about 53 percent of the adults in the United States have stated that one or more of their close relatives has a drinking problem.

Indeed, statistics like these substantiate the claim that millions of Americans should not or cannot drink alcoholic beverages.

The Destructive Effects of Alcohol Dependence

The consequences of alcohol dependence are not only serious, but in many cases, fatal. For example, alcohol dependence has been shown to be linked directly or indirectly to certain types of cancer, such as cancer of the liver, throat, kidneys, larynx, rectum, esophagus, and of the colon.

In addition, alcohol dependence can also result in harm to the fetus while the mother is pregnant, cirrhosis of the liver, problems with the immune system, and brain damage.

Moreover, alcohol dependence increases the risk of death from motor vehicle accidents as well as work-related and recreational injuries and accidents.

Alcohol Dependence and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Unfortunately, the broad scope and the damaging consequences of alcohol dependence are typically not fully understood unless relevant statistics are overtly presented. It is with this in mind that the following alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse statistics are listed:

  • Every year in the U.S. more than 150,000 college students develop health problem that are alcohol-related.

  • Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.

  • Alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse cost the United States an estimated $220 billion in 2005. This dollar amount was more than the cost associated with cancer ($196 billion) and obesity ($133 billion).

  • Every year, 1,400 American college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries, including motor vehicle accidents.

  • According to a study undertaken in 2002, at least 762,000 children that are born each year have been exposed to alcohol during the mother's pregnancy.

  • American youth who drinking before the of age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than young people who do not drink before the age of 21.

  • The 9.6% of American adults who are alcohol dependent drink 25% of the alcohol that is consumed by all adult drinkers.

  • 66% of the population in the United States consumes alcohol.

  • The 25.9% of underage drinkers who are alcohol abusers and alcohol dependent drink 47.3% of the alcohol that is consumed by all underage drinkers.

  • 3 million Americans over the age of 60 are alcohol dependent or have serious drinking problems.

  • Every day in the United States more than 13,000 children and teens take their first drink.

  • In the United States during 2004, 16,694 deaths occurred as a result of alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes. This amount was approximately 39% of all traffic fatalities. This amounts to one alcohol-related death every 31 minutes.

  • 3.1 million Americans, roughly 1.4% of the population 12 and older, received treatment for alcohol dependence and alcohol-related problems in 1997.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence

Many people think that alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are the same. This is not correct. Alcohol abuse, unlike alcohol dependence, does not include the loss of control due to drinking, physical dependence, or an extremely strong craving for alcohol.

Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that results in one or more of the following situations within a twelve-month time frame:

  • Drinking in situations that can result in physical injury. Examples include driving a vehicle or operating machinery.

  • Experiencing recurring alcohol-related legal problems. Examples include getting arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, for damaging someone's property, or for physically hurting someone while drunk.

  • Failure to attend to important responsibilities at work, home, or school.

  • Continued drinking in spite of ongoing relationship problems that are the result of drinking.

What is Alcohol Dependence?

Also known as alcoholism and alcohol addiction, alcohol dependence is a progressive degenerative disease that includes the following symptoms:

  • Craving: A strong and continuing compulsion or need to drink.

  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one's drinking over time or on any given occasion.

  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms when a person stops drinking after a period of excessive drinking. Such symptoms include: sweating, nausea, "the shakes," and anxiety.

  • Tolerance: The need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol in order to "feel the buzz" or to "get high."

Self-Control and Willpower

Frequently, people who are not alcohol dependent do not understand why an alcoholic can't simply use willpower or self-control to abstain from drinking. In the vast majority of cases, however, alcohol dependence has little to do with self-control, being strong, and "fighting" alcohol dependence.

Why? Because alcoholics are caught in the powerful grip of an uncontrollable need for alcohol that takes precedence over their capability to refrain from drinking alcohol. In fact the need to drink for the alcoholic can be as strong as his or her need for shelter, food, or water.

An Alcohol Dependence Cure?

While there is no known cure for alcohol dependence, recovery from this disease is, fortunately, possible. Although some individuals are able to recover from alcohol dependence without professional assistance, most alcoholics need clinical, medical, or personal help or treatment for their addiction.

The encouraging news, however, is this: with quality treatment, support, counseling, and rehab, many people who are alcohol dependent are able to abstain from drinking and reclaim their lives.

The Causes of Alcohol Dependence

A question that many people have asked is the following: why can some individuals drink alcohol without experiencing any negative outcomes while others cannot? One answer to this question points to a person's genetics.

In fact, researchers have found that people who have an alcohol dependent family member are at a higher risk for developing this disease. In short, there may be a genetic predisposition for certain people to become alcohol dependent.

Moreover, alcohol scientists have discovered that different environment aspects can interact with a person's genetics, with both components affecting one's prospects of developing alcoholism.

These environmental factors include where and how a person lives, a person's culture, peer pressure, the relative ease of obtaining alcohol, and one's family and friends.

Conclusion: Alcohol Dependence

Unfortunately, alcohol dependence has become a significant problem in the United States and in other industrialized nations in the world.

It is with a certain degree of irony to observe that the more technologically advanced and "developed" a nation becomes the more it seems vulnerable to the devastating and at time fatal personal and societal problems that are directly or indirectly associated with alcohol dependence.

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In a word, the people of the world need to become more alcohol aware if they are to prevent and avoid the unhealthy, deleterious, and at times, the fatal consequences of alcohol dependence. Indeed, they need to realize that the more alcohol that is consumed in an abusive manner, the more likely it is that the drinker will become an alcoholic.

If this describes you, be honest with yourself and admit that you have a drinking problem.

Once you have taken this step, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional about getting alcohol treatment as soon as possible.

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