The mere mention of drinking alcohol can often elicit thoughts of adventure, happiness, fun, and even relaxation. Despite its well-known side-effects and health scares, alcohol is still a widely acceptable pastime for most American’s. Whether you’re an occasional drinker or you consume alcoholic beverages moderately, you should understand how alcohol affects your overall mental and physical health. In fact, research on alcohol and the human body has revealed some scary facts about alcohol abuse. We’re reviewing a few of those below.
If you or a loved one is battling with alcohol abuse, it’s important to address it immediately. Early diagnosis of alcohol use disorder (AUD) proves to be critical to combatting long-term health effects. Contact licensed addiction professionals with AspenRidge Recovery directly at (855) 281-5588.
As one of the leading causes of preventable death, alcohol abuse reveals the grim realities that tens of millions of Americans face each year. Drinking addictions can negatively impact livelihoods, relationships, and general outlooks. Alcohol can be especially dangerous simply because it’s a legal substance that is accepted in most social, professional, and personal circles.
1. Alcohol is the Most Commonly Used Addictive Substance in the U.S.
The scary facts about alcohol abuse begin, first and foremost, with just how common it is in our everyday. We know that alcohol is everywhere. A cool glass of Pinot Grigio in the summer. A soothing beer by a pub fire during autumn. A spiced eggnog with a Holiday pie. Alcohol is widely accepted among different cultures and nationalities. In the United States, it’s viewed as a recreational hobby, a relaxing diversion at the end of a long day. Still, scientifically-based facts reveal the true nature of alcohol and why it can be detrimental for most.
Alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the US. Nearly one in every 12 adults has issues with alcohol dependence or abuse. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 86% of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime, with 55% reporting alcohol use in the past month. Despite its short- and long-term damaging health implications, alcohol use doesn’t show signs of slowing.
2. Alcoholism is the Third Leading Cause of Preventable Deaths in the US
Alcohol causes a surprisingly high number of deaths. For example, most people are aware of the dangers of drunk driving. However, alcohol also causes other types of accidents. For example, it is especially deadly when combined with firearms or painkillers. Moreover, it can cause serious diseases and health conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 95,000 people die from alcohol-related problems every year. Furthermore, alcohol causes 31% of all deaths on the road. Among the scary facts about alcohol abuse is that every overdose or accidental death caused by alcohol-use is entirely preventable.
3. Alcohol Changes Your Brain
The human brain is an amazing thing. It overcomes many challenges and encounters many setbacks, most of which only pose short-term health effects. However, one of the things that makes the brain so powerful can also lead individuals to a substance use disorder.
The brain adapts to its environment. For example, living at high altitudes may—in the beginning—cause headaches and sickness. After a while, though, the body and mind adapt to its surroundings. On the same note, alcohol abuse makes the brain adaptive to higher and higher consumption of toxic beverages. In fact, alcohol can change nerve and brain connections in order to handle more quantities of booze. Moreover, the changes that happen might actually be permanent. Some of these studies are still touching the surface regarding long-term abuse. Only recently has alcohol been connected to diseases like cancer and dementia. As a result, some people will have problems even after they quit drinking. Don’t let alcohol abuse change your brain!
4. Alcohol and Adolescent Development
Want to know more scary facts about alcohol abuse? Look no further than the studies conducted on underage drinking. Currently, the legal drinking age in America is 21. Scientific studies suggest that a person’s brain is still developing well into their early twenties, which is partially the reason alcohol consumption prior to this is incredibly risky. The body and brain are incredibly vulnerable to substance use, especially in large quantities.
Alcohol and other substances are known to disrupt the natural process of physical and mental development. Alcohol consumption in adolescents is known to cause learning difficulties, memory problems, and high-risk addictive behaviors. In addition, in more extreme cases, alcohol has been known to cause permanent brain damage.
Research on alcohol abuse shows that 6.9 million youths between the ages of 12 and 20 report binge drinking. Additionally, 2.1 million youths report heavy drinking. Heavy drinking is understood as five or more drinks five times a week. Youth drinking is dangerous. It results in drunk driving. Moreover, it delays puberty and slows bone growth. Additionally, these youths are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.
5. 696,000 Students Have Been Assaulted by Someone who was Drinking
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 have been assaulted by a drunk peer. Moreover, these are just the assaults that are reported. Recent investigations suggest that even more assaults go unreported. Other studies show that alcohol abuse comes with an increase in violent behavior. These events ruin a person’s college experience. They are traumatic. Additionally, 50% of sexual assaults in college involve alcohol use. 74% of perpetrators and 55% of victims report drinking alcohol before the assault. This results in 97,000 reported sexual assaults.
6. Alcohol Makes Depression and Anxiety Worse
Many people turn to booze to escape their problems. In fact, self-medicating is one of the country’s leading causes of substance misuse, effectively leading tens of thousands toward substance use disorder (AUD), otherwise known as addiction.
In particular, alcohol abuse is known to make mental health problems worse. Alcohol increases anxiety and depression. This occurs because alcohol messes with your brain chemistry and, among those who are suffering from mental health issues, it becomes an unhealthy outlet to help deal with the stressors of everyday life. As a result, your brain doesn’t handle stressful situations properly. While mental health doesn’t cause alcohol addiction or vice versa, it can still exacerbate an existing problem or lead to self-medicating behaviors.
Scary facts about alcohol abuse: alcohol is involved in over a quarter of the suicides in the US (approximately 7,500 per year). Additionally, suicide is 120 times more prevalent among adult alcoholics than in the general population.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that alcohol abuse and mental health problems frequently go together. This is known as a dual-diagnosis. In total, about 7.9 million US adults face this problem.
7. Alcohol Causes Weight Gain
Alcohol abuse causes weight gain. For example, a frozen margarita has the same number of calories as a cheeseburger. An occasional drink won’t make you fat. However, alcoholics need more booze as their condition gets worse. This leads to more drinks and more calories. Additionally, binge drinking increases the risk of diabetes. Alcohol stops your body from absorbing insulin. This leads to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition. It can dramatically impact your lifestyle. You’ll need to watch what foods you eat and constantly worry about your blood sugar and insulin levels. Don’t let alcohol abuse dictate how you live your life!
8. Drinking While Pregnant Can Cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Alcohol abuse affects more than the person doing the drinking. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a very real condition. There is no safe amount of alcohol for pregnant women. FAS causes developmental disorders. These include physical and mental disabilities. As a result, people with FAS have a harder time in school. They have a more difficult time holding down a job. Moreover, some may require lifetime care. Alcohol abuse harms children even if they escape the symptoms of FAS. These children face a chaotic and challenging life. For example, they develop a fear of authority figures, feelings of guilt, problems fitting in, and other issues.
Family members are in need of more resources for substance abuse and alcohol use disorder. Find AspenRidge’s list of family resources here.
9. Alcohol Abuse can Cause Cancer
The list of scary facts about alcohol abuse should include the information found in a more recent study. Those drinking alcohol in greater quantities and more frequently are at a high risk of cancer. But even low amounts of alcohol consumption might still lead to an increased chance of being diagnosed with cancer.
Most people know that alcohol can destroy your liver and lead to associated diseases like cirrhosis and fatty liver disease. However, many don’t realize that alcohol can cause cancer. Moreover, it doesn’t only cause cancer in the liver. Drinking alcohol raises the risk of getting six kinds of cancer, according to cancer.org:
- Throat (Pharynx)
- Voicebox (larynx)
- Colon and rectum
Alcohol, in fact, accounts for about 6% of all cancers and 4% of all cancer deaths in the United States annually.
Additionally, cancer isn’t the only disease alcohol causes. As a result, these cancers are more difficult to treat. People with weak immune systems and other health issues don’t respond as well to cancer treatment. It’s just one more way that alcohol abuse can kill you. The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk for cancer.
10. People Aged 12-20 Consume 11% of All Alcohol in the US
The CDC reports that people aged 12-20 drink 11% of all the alcohol in the U.S. This is a huge amount of booze. Furthermore, 90% of this consumption happens in the form of binge drinking. The report goes on to say that these students are more likely to have problems in school. They are also more likely to be arrested or be injured in an accident. Additionally, they are at a higher risk of suicide or homicide.
11. Alcohol Weakens the Immune System
We’ve described some of the diseases that alcohol causes. However, alcohol abuse makes it more likely you’ll catch other diseases as well. Alcoholism causes a weakened immune system. As a result, you’re at a greater risk for lots of very unpleasant illness, including:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
Alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to produce the cells that make your immune system. Additionally, liver damage stops your body from removing harmful bacteria and toxins. As a result, alcohol abuse can cause you to be sick more often.
12. Alcohol Abuse can Destroy Your Voice
Your voice is one of your most unique features. It is how people know who is talking and helps you stand apart from the crowd. Alcohol dehydrates you. This damages your larynx and vocal cords. Furthermore, it irritates the mucous membranes in your throat. Alcohol abuse wrecks your voice. This does more than impact your singing. It alters a key part of who you are and how people identify you.
13. Binge Drinking can be Fatal
For the younger population, one of the scariest facts about alcohol abuse involves heavy drinking. Because youth and college students are more influenced by social culture and parties, binge drinking can be a favorite pastime. However, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in a short period of time can, ultimately, be fatal.
People say they feel like they’re dying when they have a hangover. However, binge drinking can kill you. Alcohol impacts the body’s central nervous system. This is the system that controls things like heart rate and breathing. It also controls the gag reflex. Specifically, alcohol lowers the CNS’s response. Binge drinking lowers these functions to the point of death.
One of the body’s natural responses to too much alcohol is to vomit. However, you may not be able to do this if your gag reflex is wiped out by alcohol abuse. This creates the risk of suffocating. Furthermore, binge drinking makes you prone to accidents. This includes drunk driving accidents and other risky behavior. It also includes things like passing out in the cold or slips and falls.
14. Alcohol Abuse Causes Sexual Dysfunction in Men
Lots of people use alcohol as a social aid. They feel looser and more able to talk with others. Some men use booze to work up the nerve to talk to potential sexual partners. However, alcohol abuse causes sexual dysfunction in men. Alcohol has a negative effect on Leydig cells. These cells are responsible for producing testosterone. Studies find that alcohol abuse lowers the amount of testosterone in the blood. It also reduces other important hormones. As a result, alcohol abuse can prevent you from having sex.
15. Alcohol can Ruin Your Skin
We’ve already mentioned that alcohol dehydrates you. But that isn’t the only way it can play havoc with your skin. Alcohol abuse causes Rosacea. This leads to premature aging, wrinkles, redness, and irritation. Alcohol also causes your pores to clog. This leads to acne and other skin conditions. The result is that you might be trading in your looks for a temporary buzz when you abuse alcohol.
16. Alcohol Abuse has Huge Economic Costs
This list has covered a lot of the individual costs of alcohol abuse. But there are lots of larger costs as well. Alcohol abuse puts a strain on the economy. The CDC estimates that alcohol abuse costs the US $249 billion in 2010 alone. They go on to point out that this equals $2.05 per drink. The costs come from a few different sources, like 72% of the total is in lost productivity; 11% comes from health care costs. The rest is made from criminal justice, property damage, and car accidents. Moreover, binge drinking caused 77% of those losses. As a result, it’s easy to see how alcohol abuse doesn’t just hurt the person drinking. That isn’t to say that alcohol abuse is cheap for the drinker. Even the cheapest drink adds up. As a result, families suffer because so much of their budget is dedicated to getting drunk.
Understanding the Scary Facts about Alcohol Abuse
Knowing the scary facts about alcohol abuse dismisses the glamorous lifestyle that’s portrayed on Blockbuster hits and TV commercials.
These facts make it clear that alcohol abuse is dangerous, costly, and ultimately can lead to lifelong struggles with various diseases like addiction and cancers. It produces many risks and harms with little to no benefit. Moreover, it doesn’t only affect the person drinking. There are real harms to the friends and families of those suffering through alcohol abuse, as well as society in general.
There are lots of treatment options for people dealing with alcohol abuse. These range from support groups to intensive inpatient treatment programs. More recently, with the acceleration of telehealth services, alcohol treatment can also be found online.
AspenRidge Recovery offers a variety of programs, including:
- Day Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- AspenRidge REACH Online IOP
- IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Outpatient Program
- Alumni & Aftercare Program
All of our programs aim to help thousands of Coloradans overcome alcohol use disorder. Our Colorado alcohol treatment programs provide short- and long-term care and can be tailored to fit individual needs, especially those that concern mental health conditions, or dual diagnosis. Contact us today 24/7 and we can help you verify your insurance.
Wondering if alcohol has become a problem in your life? Take our self-assessment quiz here: