Recently, alcohol use has taken a back seat to the opioid epidemic. However, alcohol use remains a prominent presenting problem for both individuals using substances and the public in general. There are some unique factors to consider for treatment of alcohol use.
While drug and alcohol use both have a great impact globally, the national statistics for the United States paint a grim picture for those currently struggling. It is difficult to find precise data, as there are many different studies that have been conducted over the years, and it is not always clear if drunk driving deaths are included. However, over the last decade, data for annual alcohol related death in the United States ranges from 35,000 – 88,000. This means about 100 - 300 individuals per day over the last decade have died directly from alcohol, or potentially alcohol related issues. Some studies indicate that alcohol deaths exceed all other drugs combined, while others indicate alcohol is at least half of all other drugs. Regardless, these numbers are startling. The last piece if data worth sharing is prevention. The National Institutes of Health indicate that alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death. Again, this data is at least eight years old as of writing blog. One fact remains though, that the trend for both drug and alcohol related deaths appears to be increasing, not decreasing.
Unique Issues and Considerations
While alcohol and drugs are clearly both huge issues in this country, and globally, alcohol will have some unique considerations for family and friends, as well as the individual. First, alcohol is socially acceptable, while heroin, crack, and other drugs are not. Therefore, it is easier to justify use, minimize consequences, and less necessary to hide. When hiding is necessary, it’s easier, and more excuses can be made. Using IV opioids produces an instantaneous effect that will immediately put someone in a sedated state. Alcohol can take some time to produce noticeable effects. When it does, it can be written off as a celebration, coping with a tough time, or just going overboard sometimes. Lastly, people abusing alcohol tend to last farther into their substance use, as overdose is less likely. Heroin may contain any number of chemicals that are not expected and immediately kill the individual. Alcohol is regulated and taken in a fashion that is typically slower. In our experience, working in treatment for many years, those using alcohol currently tend to range in age from young adults to the elderly. Heroin users tend to be on their 20s and 30s, because their lives are typically claimed earlier due to overdose. Alcohol death may be much slower and later in life. This can include cirrhosis and kidney failure. Long term alcohol death is not pretty and is quite painful.
Alcohol use can be treated. Counseling is one effective way of treating this issue. Many forms of counseling, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy have been deemed effective treatments for alcohol use disorders. As alcohol and drug use, or behavior abuse, affect the brain permanently, we also recommend some form of long-term community-based sober support group in addition to counseling, such as 12-step recovery. We recommend attendance at these for life, and encourage you to see this as a wonderful addition to your life, with many benefits, rather than as a burden. The 2 million individuals sober in AA alone can attest to that. If we add in all of the other 12-step fellowships, we can assume there are many millions of additional individuals who have successfully dealt with their substance or behavioral problem and are once again living happy lives
At Independent Recovery, we are fully equipped to help with alcohol use disorders of any severity. We will empower you to create a unique recovery program that works for you. We will provide you with suggestions, but never push ideology or dogma onto you. We are here to collaborate with you and be a part of your journey. Head on over to our Get Started page and let us know how we can help!