Alcohol Abuse Is On The Rise, Increasing Both Health Care Costs And Health Issues

A troubling, upward trend is costing the U.S. billions of dollars and affecting our health.

Excessive drinking has increased significantly in the last decade, and has many researchers startled. Adult alcohol consumption "increased across all demographics. The jump was also especially large for older Americans, minorities, and people with lower levels of education and income."

Not only has excessive drinking increased, but so has alcohol dependence, and at a greater rate. The study cites "12.7 percent of respondents reported such behavior in the 2012-13 period, compared with 8.5 percent in 2001-02. That percentage increase is roughly equivalent to 10.5 million people at the current population." The cause can't be narrowed to a single source. Researchers point to numerous factors including alcohol availability, diminished alcohol taxes, marketing strategies, and a response to the end of the Great Recession.

Alcohol dependence is also costing the United States an estimated $250 billion annually in health care costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), "excess drinking caused on average more than 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year between 2006 and 2010." This is notably more than double the deaths caused by prescription opioids and heroin in the previous year. "Americans Are Drinking More Than Ever and It's Costing the U.S. Billions" www.fortune.com (Aug. 09, 2017); Robin Lloyd "Alcohol-Related ER Visits Soar, Especially Among Women" npr.org (Jan. 11, 2018).


Commentary and Checklist

A recent study shows alcohol and dementia may be more strongly linked than previously thought. A recent report in The Lancet Public Health found the majority of the early onset dementia cases studied were associated with alcohol use disorders. The French study of more than one million adults with dementia, between 2008 and 2013, showed that alcohol use is associated with a three times greater risk for all types of dementia.

Scientists concluded that the thresholds for “heavy” and “moderate” drinking should be lowered. Currently, the CDC defines heavy drinking as 15 or more drinks per week for men and 8 or more drinks per week for women.

Here is some information about alcohol treatment programs you may find interesting:

  • There are different types of treatments for substance and alcohol abuse.
  • Research shows that combining addiction treatment medications with behavioral therapy is the best path to success for most patients.
  • Treatment approaches tailored to each patient's abuse patterns and any co-occurring medical, psychiatric, and social problems can lead to sustained recovery and a life without drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Similar to other chronic, relapsing diseases, such as diabetes or asthma, drug and alcohol addiction can be managed successfully.
  • Relapse does not mean treatment failed. It does indicate that treatment should be reinstated or adjusted or that an alternative treatment is needed to help the individual regain control and recover.
  • Treatment for alcoholism may begin with a program of detoxification, which generally takes two to seven days. Detoxification is usually accomplished at an inpatient treatment center or a hospital.
  • Aftercare programs and support groups help people recovering from alcoholism manage relapses and cope with necessary lifestyle changes. This may include medical or psychological care or attending a support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • Alcoholism commonly occurs along with other mental health disorders. Patients may require talk therapy (psychotherapy or psychological counseling), medications, or other treatment for depression, anxiety or another mental health condition.
  • For a serious alcohol problem, it may be necessary for the person who is addicted to stay at a residential treatment facility that provides individual and group therapy, participation in alcoholism treatment support groups, educational lectures, family involvement, activity therapy, and working with counselors, professional staff, and doctors experienced in treating alcoholism.
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