As Recovery Unplugged kicks off our observance of 2021 Alcohol Awareness Month, we want to remind everyone struggling with chronic binge drinking and alcohol addiction that there is help, hope and healing available to you and your family. Events like Alcohol Awareness Month reinforce just how serious binge drinking and alcohol addiction is in the United States, and provide the opportunity for education and support for resources for communities and individuals, alike. If you or your loved one are currently struggling with binge drinking or alcohol addiction, you don’t have to do it alone. There are ways to identify the problem and get the help you need.
Binge Drinking and Alcohol Addiction in the United States
Binge drinking and alcohol addiction represents the largest and most immediate substance abuse threat facing the United States. Data from the National Institutes of Health indicates:
- Over 88,000 Americans per year die from alcohol-related circumstances.
- In 2019, 25.8 percent of people ages 18 and older (29.7 percent of men and 22.2 percent of women) reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
- 5 million people ages 12 and older (5.3 percent of this age group) had alcohol use disorder.
- 2 percent of people ages 12 and older who had AUD in the past year received any treatment in the past year.
- Alcohol contributes to about 18.5 percent of ED visits and 22.1 percent of overdose deaths related to prescription opioids.
- In 2015, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 10,265 deaths (29.0 percent of overall driving fatalities).
Binge drinking and alcoholism affects people of all ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds and usually requires at least some level of treatment.
What Are the Signs of Binge Drinking and Alcoholism?
It can be hard to tell the difference between a few “crazy nights” and a pattern of problematic binge drinking and alcohol addiction. None of us want to believe that we or our loved ones can succumb to alcoholism, but the signs may be impossible to ignore. The longer prolonged and untreated binge drinking continues, the more of an impact it will have on your health and quality of life. Some of the primary signs of binge drinking and alcoholism include:
- You drink even though you tell yourself you’re going to.
- Your drinking is causing you legal, financial or personal problems.
- You find yourself drinking the during the day or craving alcohol all the time.
- You black out from drinking and wake up not knowing how you got where you are.
- You lie to your friends and family about drinking.
Other signs of alcoholism include a decline in your career or education due to your binge drinking, inability to face the day without alcohol, drinking during the day even when you need to stay sober and engaging in high-risk behaviors, like getting behind the wheel of a car after you’ve gone over the legal limit of alcohol consumption. The federal limit to legally drive in the United States is a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%.
What Does Binge Drinking and Alcohol Addiction Do to the Brain?
Prolonged and untreated abuse of alcohol can result in multiple neurobiological health issues, including but not limited to:
- Decline in Neuronal Mobility
- Decreased Cognitive Function
- Memory Loss
- Visual Impairment
- Increased Risk of Stroke
- Declined Cooperation between White and Gray Matter
These brain effects can manifest through a variety of outward-facing symptoms, including slurred speech, loss of short- and long-term memory, seizures and more. Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that Up to 80 percent of alcoholics have a deficiency in thiamine, some of whom develop serious brain disorders such as Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome (WKS), the collective symptoms of which can include impaired muscle coordination, inability to form new memories, delusions and similar brain issues.
What Does Binge Drinking and Alcoholism Do to the Body?
The physical effects of alcoholism are practically too many to list. Alcohol abuse affects nearly every part of the body, including all major organs. Some of the most damaging physical effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Organ and Circulatory System Damage – Heart failure, liver disease (cirrhosis, hepatitis, jaundice, etc.), kidney disease, etc. Heart problems may include poisoning of the heart muscle cells, arrhythmia, hypertension, stroke and heart attack.
- Digestive Malfunction – Binge drinking and alcohol addiction can compromise the stomach’s ability to control bacteria, impairing absorption of nutrients and leading to malnutrition. It can also cause ulcers and alcoholic gastritis.
- Weakened Immune System Function – Alcohol abuse decelerates the function of disease-fighting white blood cells, leading to more frequent bouts of conditions like pneumonia, tuberculosis and more.
Alcohol abuse and addiction can also lead to bone issues, like osteoporosis and fractures, damage to the salivary gland, oral health issues like gum disease and tooth decay, respiratory and lung issues and much more. The longer your or your loved one’s excessive drinking continues, the more of an impact it will have on your long-term health.
Getting Help for Alcohol Addiction
Whether you’re on the verge of full-blown dependency after excessive binge drinking or struggling with long-term alcohol addiction, treatment is the best way to reclaim your health and quality of life. Treatment for alcoholism or chronic binge drinking should include comprehensive medical detox to help you deal with withdrawal symptoms in a safe and comfortable setting followed by targeted and customized behavioral rehab to help you address the root causes and sustaining factors associated with your drinking.
The journey to alcohol recovery looks different for everyone, but it should always include treatment. Start by going to a meeting or asking for help from a loved one to help you find a program. You can use your health insurance to pay for alcohol treatment, but each person’s level of coverage will vary according to their care needs and plan type. Recovery Unplugged is in-network with most insurance companies and is ready to help you take your life back from alcohol addiction and chronic binge drinking.
As we continue to observe Alcohol Awareness Month, you can use it as an opportunity to educate yourself on the disease of alcoholism and get the help you need for yourself or your loved one. Call us now to start your treatment today.