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Alcoholism in America

27 Jul 2016Health Essays

Alcohol consumption is integrated into most cultures around the world. In some culture consumption of alcohol are so much part of their routine activities and daily lives that they are consumed with meals. On the other hand, there are some cultures that make access to alcohol restricted such that they are not made part of their everyday activities.

There are different reasons why a person drinks. It could be because alcohol helps them relax, it helps them gain confidence, or reduce anxiety, or even fight boredom. Some drink alcohol because they feel depressed or because they are dependent on it. And since alcohol consumption is well ingrained in the culture, many companies capitalize on this and many varieties of alcoholic drinks have been introduced and are available in the market today. The manufacturers of alcoholic drinks and beverages have even expanded their markets by including as among the possible consumers teenagers as young as 12 years old. The mass media has also spawned advertisements that entice and condition the minds of people that any celebration will not be complete without alcohol. It is present in parties, in a gathering of friends, birthdays, and the like. It is present in celebrations of life, of friendship, and of success.

In the midst of these, the problem of alcoholism is a cause for concern in every society. Alcoholism is synonymous with alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse. Drinking alcoholic beverages to a point that it interferes with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or occupational responsibilities mark alcoholism (Paul Ballas and Thomas Jefferson).

Problems Associated with Alcoholism

Since alcoholic drinks and beverages have been around for a long time, the problems associated with alcoholism had also been hounding the American society for so many years. In a recent study conducted by the Archives of General Psychiatry, they found out “more than 30 percent of Americans say they have had problems with alcohol.” (Steven Reinberg, 2007) Further, the study showed that “17.8 percent say they have alcohol abuse problems, and 12.5 percent are alcohol-dependent.” (Reinberg)

As the debate on whether alcohol is indeed harmful on a person’s health continues, the number of alcoholics in the United States has constantly increased through the years. In 1998, an estimated 25%-40% of patients in general hospital beds are seeking treatment for ailments that are alcoholism-related (Thomas R Hobbs, 1998).

As the number of adults hooked into alcohol increases so is the number of teenagers who are abusing alcohol. Although the minimum drinking age is 21 or 18 depending on the jurisdiction, it seems that more teenagers are drinking alcohol frequently. Most of these teenagers who are driven by their adventurous spirits and in their desire to experiment with almost anything will start by drinking one or two glasses. Later on, they will feel good after they are drunk and feel indestructible and shield from their problems. Eventually, they will begin to like its taste and soon will be consuming more alcohol than their body can take.

I believe that one need not look into the statistics to confirm the fact of alcohol is a serious problem in the United States. One only needs to be updated with the increasing number of celebrities and movie personalities who are undergoing rehabilitation for their alcohol problem.

Recent studies show that drinking among teenagers is a serious problem among teenagers. They found that “52% of eighth graders (and 80% of high-school seniors) have used alcohol at some time while 25% of eighth graders (and 62% of high-school seniors) have been drunk.

It is very alarming that most teenagers nowadays are into alcohol. It is not surprising that most of them are completely unaware of the harmful effects of taking alcohol on their body. It must be stressed that excessive alcohol drinking can lead to serious health problems such as depression, liver problems, and heart failure and permanent damage to the person’s brain and nervous system. According to Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association (2002), there is scientific evidence that may prove that even modest alcohol consumption in late childhood and adolescence can result in permanent brain damage. (“Psychological Effects of Alcohol on Teenagers”)

Aside from health issues, excessive consumption of alcohol also increases the possibility of violent behavior and victimization. Alcoholic teenagers are more likely to commit the crime or be a victim of a serious crime. As a teenager gets intoxicated he becomes more prone to engaging in violent behavior such as gang wars or fights. She may also be a victim of sexual assault, harassment or rape.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol increases the likelihood that the teenager may meet the accident while on the road. In a number of accidents which happen along the road, one will be surprised according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the youths are most often involved in alcohol-related driving accidents. Statistics shows that although young drivers make up only 14% of the US Population, youths aged 16-24 have been involved in 28% of the alcohol-related driving accidents

A drunk teenager is also more likely to engage in the risky sexual behavior. She is also very vulnerable to coercive sexual activity such as gang rapes or sexual assault. When this happens, it is very likely that he or she may acquire sexually transmitted diseases.

It is also worth noting that teenagers who are addicted to alcohol are more likely to be depressed and thus commit suicide. Some teenagers who are depressed and suffer from anxiety think that alcohol will help them find a solution to their problem. After taking it for so many times, they will only find out that their mental and emotional problems will not go away merely by drinking alcohol. They eventually feel that committing suicide will be the final solution to this problem. Although the cause and effect relation between suicidal tendencies and alcoholism has not yet been proven, studies have found that alcoholism and suicidal behavior are associated with each other. (Teens and Alcohol)

Habitual use of any intoxicating alcoholic drink is not only detrimental to the person concerned but also to his family and to society. It affects the entire family and his relationship with his parents, siblings, friends, and to the rest of the society. Living with an alcoholic member of the family causes stress and, often, children who grow up in such an environment have reduced chances of developing in a normal acceptable way.

More often than not, many people with alcohol problems are not aware that they may have done something bad when their drinking gets out of hand and this gives way to unpleasant consequences, be it to the person concerned or to his immediate surroundings. Not only are most of the accidents and crimes alcohol-related but alcoholism also affects productivity and has a myriad of social costs.

Different treatment programs are now available for alcoholics. Researchers are still ongoing to understand better alcoholism and to seek treatments that will benefit alcoholics. As the individual concerned is the one who is most decisive in breaking free from the vicious cycle of alcoholism, support groups also play an important role in reclaiming an alcoholic’s lost life and lost opportunities. In the USA, programs in the treatment of alcoholism are very common and very well supported. They have the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA was formed in 1935. Membership in AA is free of charge. AA consists of a group of recovering alcoholics who try to help each other stay sober. Their members have regularly scheduled meetings where they listen and share their stories to make them realize that they are not alone in their problem.

However, the first step to finding a solution to the problem of alcoholism is acceptance of the problem. Unless the person truly admits to himself that he has the problem and that he needs help, he will not gain peace and will not be truly healed.

References:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (1976). The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism, 3rd Edition. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc.: New York City.
  • Ballas, Paul & Jefferson Thomas. 2006. Alcoholism Health Article. Healthline. Retrieved August 14, 2007 from: http://www.healthline.com/adamcontent/alcoholism/
  • Hobbs, T. (1998). Managing Alcoholism as a Disease. Physician’s News Digest. Retrieved August 14, 2007 from: http://www.physiciansnews.com/commentary/298wp.html
  • Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Monitoring the Future Study, 2000 Data From In-School Surveys of 8th, 10th, and 12th Grade Students.
  • “Psychological Effects of Alcohol on Teenagers. The Marin Institute. Retrieved August 15, 2007
  • Reinberg, Steven. Third of Americans Have Alcohol Problems at Some Point. Washingtonpost.com. July 2, 2007. Retrieved August 14, 2007
  • “Teens and Alcohol.” The National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center. Retrieved August 14, 2007

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