The most frequently misused substance in the United States is alcohol. Currently referred to in the professional literature as Alcohol Use Disorder, though more frequently referred to by the term Alcoholism, according to the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism (NIAAA) its misuse impacts as 14.4 million adults ages 18 and older, including 9.2 million men (7.6 percent of men in this age group) and 5.3 million women (4.1 percent of women in this age group).
Due primarily to the fact that alcohol is legal, though also influenced by the cultural saturation of alcohol consumption, many believe that the impact of alcohol use relative to other drugs is benign. However, the NIAAA reports that “an estimated 88,0005 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.” Further, a landmark study in 2019 from researchers in Australia concluded that—after accounting for a number of factors, including damage, they caused to users (including illness, injury, and death), and the effects drugs have on users’ families and the wider community, such as through violence, crime, unemployment, economic costs, and relationship breakdowns—alcohol misuse caused the most pervasive community-wide damage, ahead of methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.
How to tell if you or a loved one is in need of alcohol addiction rehab or treatment?
The following criteria come from the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013:
- Alcohol is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than was intended.
- A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities, necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
- Craving or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
- Recurrent alcohol use results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
- Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
- Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems that are likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
- Physical or psychological issues that are likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol use.
- High tolerance for alcohol use.
- Withdrawal symptoms experienced without using alcohol.
If you or a loved one’s alcohol use meet at least two of these criteria in the past 12 months, then you may be suffering from a substance use disorder requiring treatment.