History & Facts about Alcohol:

  • Alcohol has been around for centuries, dating back to B.C. (Before Christ), and has become one of the most widely used “drugs” in the United States. Drinking alcohol socially to celebrate can be dated back to biblical times, as the bible mentions wine being served at a wedding as customary. Some even believe that the history of agricultural development was related to the need for the grain required to make beer, not just bread. So it’s safe to say that alcohol has played a big part in our history, but society has also been battling with it’s negative effects for just as long.
  • In the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, society began to really take note of the damages caused by alcohol, which led to making it illegal in the United States, and several other countries.  Unfortunately, this didn’t solve the problem, it sent the problem underground.  In 1933, the attempted prohibition of alcohol in the United States was over.
  • Drinking alcohol has become a part of American culture, and many other cultures around the world.  When a person says, “I don’t drink”, they are often the odd man out.  Champagne is synonymous with celebration, a cold beer and sports are a time honored tradition, and “happy hour” often marks the end of the work day.  Drinking in moderation generally doesn’t cause much concern.  However, there are unfortunately some who push the envelope, going far beyond a social drink here and there.  For many, drinking becomes a destructive way of life.
  • More than 38 million adults in the United States, report binge drinking an average of four times per month, and consume an average of eight drinks per binge. The binge drinking rates among youth are also staggering, at 5.3 million young people between the ages of 12 and 20 (CDC 2017). Our culture almost accepts drinking to get drunk as part of youth, especially in college.  Some very popular movies aimed at young viewers focus on getting drunk.  For example, Superbad, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dazed & Confused, …just to name a few.  And the adults are not left out…. the Hangover Trilogy is a perfect example of that.
  • Don’t get me wrong, I have seen a couple of the movies I mentioned above, and found some parts to be quite funny.  They are just comedy after all.  But that is the thing, young people are less inclined to separate fact from fiction. They often feel invincible.  I have never seen any of the “party” movies include horrifying images like this one:

    car all 3 had been drinking 3 teens died CDC
    This picture shows the aftermath of an accident in which 3 teenagers were killed, all had been drinking.  (Photo Credit: CDC/ Gwinnett County Police Department)
  • The CDC (2016), defines excessive drinking as:
    • any drinking by people younger than age 21.
    • binge drinking (For women 4 or more drinks during a single occasion. For men 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.)
    • heavy drinking (For women 8 or more drinks per week. For men 15 or more drinks per week.)
    • any drinking by pregnant women.
  • The dietary guidelines for Americans (2015), defines moderate drinking as 1 drink per day for women, and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Generally a standard drink is equal to:
    • 12-ounces of beer
    • 8-ounces of malt liquor
    • 5-ounces of wine
    • 1.5-ounces of distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Alcoholism:

  • Alcoholism, is a very common disorder, that is considered to be a chronic disease. The disorder is identified by uncontrolled drinking and a fixation with alcohol.  A person with this condition often has feelings of guilt associated with their drinking. They may often make repeated, unsuccessful, attempts to control the amount that they drink.  The person will continue to drink despite negative consequences, such as problems with family or friends, legal ramifications, loss of jobs, and deteriorating health.
  • The general experience of most alcoholics includes: craving alcohol and in some cases withdrawal symptoms, a tolerance for alcohol that exceeds that of most people (they have to drink a lot more than others to get the same effect), and an inability to control the amount they drink, once they start.
  • Drinking too much alcohol results in serious health consequences over time.  Alcohol is especially damaging to the brain and the liver.  Furthermore, alcoholics are often severely malnourished.  Alcohol provides an abundance of “empty” calories, which provide the energy to sustain a person, but have no nutritional value.  For example, empty calories do not contain any of the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins that we need to be healthy.
  • In addition to the deleterious effects on health, alcohol use also increases risk of injury or death due to car accidents, other accidental injuries, domestic violence, homicide, suicide, and legal problems.
  • In summary, there are many benefits to abstaining from alcohol.  However, it can be especially difficult to quit drinking.  The temptations are everywhere.  If you have decided to quit it is wise to announce your decision to your close friends and family, so they can support you in your recovery, by not exposing you to alcohol.  As for the “drinking buddies”, the people who you “only” got drunk with.  It might be best to end those relationships.
  • If you have been a heavy drinker for some time, when you stop drinking, withdrawal symptoms may begin as soon as 6 hours after your last drink.  Withdrawal from alcohol can be life threatening, in some circumstances, so it is very important to seek medical attention.  Additionally, if you detoxify from alcohol in a medical setting, you can be given medications, and other treatments, that will make the withdrawal process less uncomfortable.  In extreme cases, a person may experience seizures when withdrawing from alcohol, that can be life threatening.   So again, deciding to detox in a medical setting is the safest option.
  • Remember, giving up alcohol may be difficult, but the benefits are worth it!  Your health will improve, your mind will be clear, you will have healthier relationships with other people, you will have more money,…. the list of benefits goes on.  Try to keep your most important reason for quitting in your thoughts, when the going is tough.
  • Additionally, a support system is essential.  Even after detox things will not be easy for a while, but they will get better.  During the uneasy moments, you will need to have people you can call on, that will love and support you, when you need them.  Research undeniably shows that people with a strong support system, are increasingly successful at abstaining from alcohol, to a much greater degree, than those who are isolated.  If you don’t have a support system, think about joining a support group, going to church, or at least taking up an activity/hobby you enjoy where you can make new friends, who do other things, besides drinking.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this topic in the comments below. Discussion is welcomed.  I would also be happy to communicate with anyone who just needs someone to talk too.  You may contact me directly using the Contact form.  If you would like to share your story, to offer strength and hope to others, you may also use the Contact form. You may be able to offer support to someone else who is going through a difficult time.  You can choose to share your story anonymously and it will be posted in the section of our website entitled “Sharing our stories of strength, hope, struggles, and recovery”.

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism.  Please reach out for help.

 

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2016)  Fact sheets: Alcohol use and your health.  Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. (2017). National survey on drug use and health.  Retrieved from https://nsduhweb.rti.org/respweb/homepage.cfm

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.

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