Alcoholism is an accepted yet unacceptable addiction. This is a paradox to a degree, but it is the truth with this one, particular addiction. Alcohol is so acceptable in our society today that alcoholism is almost expected and accepted to a degree. When people hear about someone having a drug addiction, their first response is to either shun them or to help them. When people hear about someone having an alcohol addiction though, their response is to just sort of just shake their heads and say, “Oh well, I guess that’s just the way things are sometimes.” Americans have become so constantly overwhelmed with such a strong prevalence of social drinking and alcohol abuse habits that we now view alcohol addiction as just an unfortunate aspect of modern day society. Oh how far we’ve fallen.
Alcoholism, simply defined, is the most severe form of alcohol consumption. Alcoholism goes beyond social drinking, beyond occasional but rare “alcohol abuse” or “risky drinking,” and into a realm of actual addiction. An alcohol addiction is a very real, seemingly inescapable habit that is all but impossible to get away from. It is a crutch and a vicious habit that follows a person everywhere they go, and the statistics on addictions in this category are growing. Though there is no logical corollary as to why this would be the case, for some, key and truly illogical reasons alcohol abuse is becoming a socially accepted activity in the United States.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive drinking is defined as more than five drinks in one day for a woman and more than six for a man. According to the same study, eight percent of men and four percent of women in the U.S. qualify for having an alcohol abuse or addiction problem, depending on several factors. One school of thought on this is that, because alcohol consumption is so common, we tend to turn a blind eye to those who have a real drinking problem. On a psychological level, it is as though we would then have to feel bad about our own social drinking habits if we made a big deal about another person’s alcohol abuse problems.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, eighty-six percent of Americans of the age of eighteen or older have had an alcoholic drink at some point in their lives, seventy percent have had a drink in the last year, and almost sixty percent have had a drink in the last month. Yet only eight percent of adult men and four percent of adult women actually have a drinking problem. So here again we have a cultural pastime that is extremely common for the masses, yet is extremely dangerous for a relatively small percentage of people.
Let’s compare this to drug abuse. Have sixty percent of Americans over the age of eighteen partaken in causal drug abuse in the last month? Absolutely not. The reason why there is such a disparity between alcohol abuse and drug abuse in terms of how Americans view these problems is that drug use is not a socially accepted and in some ways encouraged past time like alcohol use is. Because of this disparity, we all come together to discourage and work against drug abuse yes, but we casually shrug off or just shake our heads at alcohol abuse.
Alcohol addiction in the U.S. is a terrible epidemic, costing the country two-hundred and forty-nine billion dollars every year with seventy-five percent of all alcohol consumption coming from only about twenty-five percent of those who drink. An estimated eighty-eight-thousand Americans die from alcohol abuse every single year. This “casual American pastime” kills more Americans than all forms of drug abuse combined.
More than ten percent of U.S. children have to grow up with at least one parent who has an alcohol problem, which then increases their own chances of garnering an alcohol problem by four-hundred percent. Today, science has proven that underage, teen drinking can interfere with normal adolescent brain development, potentially negatively impacting young people for life.
An entire dissertation could be written on the negative effects of alcohol abuse. The above information is just a brief look at the data recorded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The point is to showcase just how vicious this habit is, and why we as Americans must not be so accepting of alcohol abuse. If we allow ourselves to accept such habits as the norm, our society and our quality of living will continue to suffer for it. Rather, whether we engage in social drinking or not, a strong stance must be taken against alcohol abuse.