Alcoholism is something of a paradox. It is simultaneously accepted yet unacceptable. Drinking has become such a ubiquitous part of our society that alcoholism is often thought of as something distinct and less serious than drug addiction. The truth is that alcoholism is a very serious and dangerous form of addiction, and in some ways can be more harmful that addictions to other drugs. Perhaps its most dangerous aspect is that drinking itself is socially acceptable. Drugs like heroin and meth carry such powerful stigma that anyone that abuses them is automatically considered to have a serious issue and in need of help. Drinking alcohol, on the other hand, is just something we do, and it’s easy to blur the lines between social drinking or drinking moderately and having a full blown addiction.
Why Alcoholism is Accepted in our Society
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines excessive drinking as more than five drinks in a day for women and more than six for men. 86% of Americans over the age of 18 have had a drink in their lifetime, 70% in the past year, and almost 60% in the past month. The same study found that in the United States, 8% of men and 4% of women meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or addiction. What this shows is that drinking itself is very common, yet only a small percentage of those who drink actually have a serious problem. One reason people may turn a blind eye to those that have a real drinking problem is that they would have to feel bad about their own drinking habits if they gave any weight to another person’s alcoholism.
In stark contrast, 60% of people have certainly not partaken in casual drug use in the past month. Drug use is simply not socially accepted or even somewhat encouraged as a pastime in the same way that drinking is. It’s easy to come together as a people to work against drug abuse, but we tend to take a much more casual stance or just shrug away the idea of alcohol abuse.
Why Alcoholism is Truly Unacceptable
Alcoholism in the United States is in fact a serious epidemic. 75% of alcohol consumption comes from about 25% of drinkers. It costs our country 249 billion dollars every year, and kills an estimated 88,000 Americans a year, more than all other kinds of drug abuse combined. One out of every three emergency room visits is related to alcohol consumption. Alcohol has been linked to over 200 diseases and health issues, including heart disease, liver disease and cirrhosis, diabetes, stroke, depression, anxiety, and several types of cancer. Alcohol withdrawal can cause serious symptoms including seizures, hallucinations, and death.
Alcoholism also has terrible consequences for the children of alcoholics. More than 10% of American children have at least one parent with an alcohol problem. This increases the chances of developing their own alcohol abuse issue by 400%. Teen drinking has been proven to potentially interfere with normal brain development, which can cause lasting consequences for life.
There is a vast quantity of research and statistics proving how dangerous and detrimental alcohol abuse is to individuals and society. The purpose of this article is to briefly highlight how serious the problem is, and show why we should not view alcoholism as an acceptable addiction. By overlooking the severity of the issue and treating it as normal, we are denying alcoholics the attention and help they need, which causes our society as a whole to suffer. Whether we drink socially or not, we must come together to adopt a strong stance against abuse and work to remedy the issue.