Alcohol abuse is a widespread issue in the United States. Even though it’s legal for individuals over age 21 to purchase and drink alcohol, many consume alcohol at levels that pose safety and health risks for themselves and others. Excessive alcohol use can cause serious problems and, for some, may lead to dependence. Alcohol abuse can affect people of all ages, and problems associated with alcohol dependence take a toll on the individual who drinks, as well as their families, children, workplace, and communities.
Alcohol abuse can lead to risky and dangerous behavior. SAMHSA asserts that in 2010, almost 29 million people reported that they drove under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year. Men were almost twice as likely as women to drive under the influence (15 vs. 8 percent), and people aged 21 to 25 were most likely to take this risk (23 percent).
People wo drink heavily are more likely to use illicit drugs. Among almost 17 million heavy drinkers, 32 percent were current illicit drug users in 2010. Only 4 percent of people who did not drink at all and 7 percent of people who drank but not heavily reported using illicit drugs in the past month. Among heavy alcohol users aged 12 or older, over 54 percent smoked cigarettes in the past month, while only 18 percent of current drinkers who did not binge drink and 16 percent of people who did not drink alcohol at all were current smokers.
SAMHSA also states: Parents and adults who abuse alcohol expose their families to negative consequences. When parents drink to excess, their children are more likely to use alcohol excessively as they grow up. A recent study has shown that 16 and 17 year olds living with parents who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs are far more likely to drive under the influence than adolescents whose parents do not drive under the influence.A parent’s abuse of alcohol can lead to child abuse, neglect, injuries, and deaths due to motor vehicle accidents.
For anyone who drinks alcohol in excess, there are severe health consequences. Alcohol abuse can lead to dependency, also known as alcoholism. Signs of alcoholism include a tolerance to alcohol or withdrawal symptoms, which include anxiety,
shakiness, sweating, nausea, insomnia, depression, irritability, fatigue, or a headache if alcohol isn’t used. Excessive drinking is known to cause serious liver damage and also to affect the nervous system, muscles, lungs, pancreas, and heart. Excessive alcohol use is linked directly to increased burden from diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and chronic disease.
What Communities Can Do
Family Members and Friends
Recognize the warning signs. Family and friends can help to prevent alcohol abuse by knowing and recognizing the warning signs. Signs to look for include: Repeated alcohol use resulting in neglect of responsibilities at home, work, or school; Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous; Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of drinking; Cntinuing to drink even though alcohol is causing social or interpersonal problems; and Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress.
Create a positive learning environment and inform college students about the risks of alcohol abuse. Educators and school administrators can influence young people to change their attitudes about alcohol abuse and binge drinking.
Community Leaders and Organizations
Communities can implement prevention strategies that focus on changing the environmental conditions that foster problematic alcohol use. This includes policies that control access and availability, media messages, and enforcement actions. Working
with policymakers, community members can work to regulate the number of alcohol retailers in the community as a whole and in specific neighborhoods, and also restrict sales. Both strategies can help reduce alcohol availability, decrease crime rates, and improve the community.
Join a community coalition or volunteer with a local organization that’s working to prevent alcohol abuse and underage drinking. Pontotoc County Drug Free Coalition meetings on the first Tuesday of every month at 11:30 a.m. at Vision Bank’s Operation Center, 327 E. 14th in Ada, OK. Become media literate to learn that not all media messages (e.g., television ads, portrayals of alcohol use on TV and in the movies) are what they seem. Call attention to depictions of alcohol use that can be misleading because of the presenter’s point of view. Support and encourage others to get professional help if they have alcohol problems to find a substance abuse treatment program, go to http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ or call 1-800-662-HELP (4537) or 1-800-487-4889 (TDD).
This information is being brought to you by
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Pontotoc
County Drug Free Coalition as part of Nation Prevention Week 2012. Stay tuned
for more information throughout Prevention Week or visit us on the web at