Is the Scope of Alcohol Abuse in the US Getting Worse?

Scope of Alcohol Abuse Today

Alcohol use disorders (AUD) in the United States are on the rise during today’s challenging situation with COVID-19.  Of course, the scope of alcohol abuse was already at shockingly high levels before the virus came along.  For example, in a survey conducted by the NSDUH in 2018 shows that 86.3 percent of people over the age of 18 reported drinking alcohol at some point in their life.  More than 70 percent said they drank in the past year, and 55 percent drank in the past month.  Of those, about 26 percent reported heavy alcohol use or binge drinking in the past month.

Because of the numbers above, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) once again stresses the importance of educating the public and policymakers, destigmatizing the disorder, and convincing individuals to seek treatment for their drinking problems.  According to their statistics, only about 7.9 percent of adults and 5.0 percent of youth received treatment for AUD in 2018.

Why is the Scope of Alcohol Abuse Getting Worse Today?

While we are calculating the deaths caused by COVID-19, the increasing number of deaths from AUD-related problems continues to rise as well.  In past years, approximately 88,000 people died annually due to their drinking issues.  That number will increase substantially as people use alcohol to help cope with the anxiety and challenges posed by the virus lockdowns.

Post-disaster studies show that substance use and abuse increases dramatically during major traumatic events. Here are a few examples that support the validity of that statement:

  • Some survivors of Hurricane Ike turned to alcohol for solace.
  • After Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, substance abuse soared.
  • During the events surrounding 9/11, binge-drinking and drug consumption increased.
  • Hurricane Sandy saw an increase in opioid abuse.

Impact of Virus Lockdowns on AUD

Experts predict that more than 30 million people will be left jobless during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Also, as we struggle to adjust to social-distancing, joblessness, and the isolation imposed by stay-at-home mandates, some people become bored, lonely, or depressed and worry about how they can provide for their families. 

These emotions can lead to increased substance use as a form of self-medication to escape the fears and stress.  In this way, the scope of alcohol abuse and drug abuse will increase, taking even more lives.

Do You Have an Alcohol Use Disorder?

It’s not difficult for social drinking to escalate into alcohol abuse.  So, if you consider yourself a casual drinker, pay attention to these signs of AUD as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5):

  • Intense cravings for alcohol
  • Often drink more than you intended
  • Continued to drink despite consequences
  • Lost interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Struggle with withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Engaging in dangerous activities while intoxicated
  • Drinking has interfered with your job or performing daily responsibilities
  • You have driven while drunk
  • Practiced unsafe sex while drunk
  • Are unable to control or cut down on your drinking

Meeting two or more of the above criteria indicates an alcohol use disorder is present.  If you meet two or three of the criteria, you may have a “mild” AUD.  The presence of four or five indicates a “moderate” problem, while six or more indicate a “severe” alcohol use disorder. Those who meet at least two of the criteria over the course of a year-long period have a “lifetime” diagnosis of AUD.

Is AUD Different from Alcohol Abuse or Alcoholism?

The definition of AUD, according to the DSM-5, is as follows:

Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD.  AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.”

If you suspect that your alcohol consumption is out of control, please contact us at Awakenings Rehabilitation today.  We can conduct a confidential assessment and help you get the high-quality treatment you need and deserve.  Remember, sudden abstinence from heavy drinking can be dangerous, so let our professionals help.  Our goal is to minimize the scope of alcohol abuse and save lives.

Sources: – Results From the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health Detailed Tables – Psychiatric Comorbidity and Substance Use Outcomes – Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM-IV and DSM-5 – Alcohol Use Disorder


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