Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Alcohol is a substance that is used by so many people of all ages and backgrounds throughout Colorado and the U.S. It can be something that’s enjoyed responsibly by people who are legally old enough to drink it, but it can also lead to abuse and addiction, including binge drinking and alcoholism.

While alcoholism can impact anyone of any age, binge drinking is something that more frequently happens among younger people and in particular high school and college students, so towns in Colorado such as Boulder have seen the consequences of this first-hand and have tried to take steps to curb binge drinking among young people.

Below explores some of the information about alcohol addiction in Colorado, and we’ll look at what makes alcohol so addictive, as well as alcohol abuse facts and statistics relevant to Colorado and the nation.

What Makes Alcohol So Addictive?

People frequently wonder why alcohol is so addictive. A lot of it has to do with how it impacts the brain and chemicals in the brain, which is the case with other drugs as well.

When you drink, feel-good endorphins are released in your brain, and they trigger you to feel a sense of pleasure. Endorphins from alcohol are released into a certain part of the brain that’s associated with addictive behavior, and also judgment and decision-making.

When you introduce a substance to your brain that triggers feel-good chemicals, your brain starts to want to repeat what led to that trigger continuously. This creates cravings, and eventually, you may lose control of your drinking altogether.

When you drink and you feel good, you want to keep recreating that feeling, and this is particularly true in heavy drinkers because the more they drink, the more endorphins that are released.

Along with the endorphins released when you drink, researchers also believe that drinking can release dopamine which is another chemical that makes you feel happy and good.

The Five Types of Alcoholics

Here we review the five classes of alcohol dependence including young adult type, young antisocial type, functional type, intermediate familial type and chronic severe type.

Young adult alcoholics account for 31.5 percent of all people with alcohol dependence, the National Institutes of Health reports. Unfortunately, they are also the least likely to seek help for their condition.

While alcoholism is usually fairly equal among both genders, most alcoholics of this type are male. A 2001-2002 NIAAA survey notes past-year alcohol use among 19 million young adults, with 10 million of them being male and 9 million being female. That being said, when dealing strictly with college-aged individuals, binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption are more common among women than men. U.S. News reports rates of excessive drinking among first-year college students reached 60 percent for males and 64 percent for females. These alcoholics are usually the stereotypical young twenty-something, and most do not have any dependency on other substances. The majority of young adult alcoholics have a family history of alcoholism.

Next in line are young antisocial alcoholics, which are essentially exactly what they sound like. This group makes up 21 percent of all alcoholics, per Psychology Today. Often being in the same age bracket as young adult alcoholics, it can be easy to confuse the two. That being said, this group is more likely to have started drinking at a young age. The Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependency claims 54 percent of young antisocial alcoholics suffer from antisocial personality disorder — a mental illness that comes with unpopular character traits, such as irresponsibility and rudeness.

Many of these alcoholics also have family members who have battled alcohol dependence. Poly-drug abuse isn’t uncommon for the young antisocial type. Fortunately, they are more likely to seek treatment than their young adult counterparts.

Functional alcoholics may be the most difficult type to treat. They rarely think they have a problem. Likewise, they’re so good at keeping their lives intact while abusing alcohol that others often don’t see them as having a problem either. According to PsychCentral, about 19.5 percent of alcoholics fit this subtype. Age has a great deal to do with alcohol consumption behaviors, and it shows in the functional alcoholic, who is generally a bit older than the young adult and young antisocial types.

Binge drinking may be a regular part of their lifestyle. In a society where a few drinks every day is considered acceptable, it’s easy for a functional alcoholic to pass himself off as being just like everyone else. The functional type generally has a job — a good one — and even a spouse and kids at home. He may drink to cope with stress or emotions. He often has a college degree that only further negates the stereotype of alcoholism being akin to laziness and a lack of willpower. Only 17 percent of functional alcoholics bring themselves to ask for help.

Right behind the functional alcoholic at roughly 19 percent — per ABC News — is the intermediate familial alcoholic. These addicts often aren’t inclined to seek treatment, as only a quarter of them do. They often suffer from co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression at a rate of 50 percent and bipolar disorder at 20 percent, as published in The Brain, the Nervous System, and Their Diseases.

The intermediate familial alcoholic is usually a bit older. The average age is 38 years old and most began drinking by the time they were 17, according to the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

Chronic severe alcoholics comprise the smallest group among all people with alcohol use disorders at 9 percent, according to the South Coast Today. A family history of alcoholism is highly common in this group. Most of these individuals started drinking at an early age and continued to dive deeper into their addiction for years on end.

Antisocial personality disorder and schizophrenia are common among chronic severe alcoholics. As a result, many are homeless.

Despite accounting for fewer alcoholics than any other group, more of them get professional treatment than any other kind of alcoholic. They have the highest risk of adverse health events stemming from their alcohol abuse.

Self-Assessment Questions

Self-assessment tests can be difficult, especially because admitting you have a problem with alcohol can be a very difficult first step. Below we include a few questions for those people who are ready to honestly examine if they have a troubling relationship with alcohol.

  • Do you hide your drinking from friends and loved ones?
  • Do you always need to drink following a stressful situation?
  • Is drinking causing any negative consequences throughout your life?
  • Is it difficult to function without having a drink?
  • Have you broken promises to yourself about drinking less?

The National Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence offers a more in-depth self-assessment test.

Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Addiction in Colorado

People in Colorado often wonder what the difference between alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse are.

One of the best ways to differentiate between alcohol abuse and addiction is to look at the signs and symptoms of each.

Signs of alcohol abuse include excessive drinking even when adverse consequences occur as s result, using alcohol to the point that it’s causing you physical or mental harm, or using alcohol as a way to self-medicate.

Alcohol addiction involves the signs of alcohol abuse but also includes a physical and mental dependence on alcohol, and the inability to control one’s drinking. When an alcoholic attempts to stop drinking, they will often experience withdrawal symptoms, and alcoholics tend to have a high tolerance for alcohol.

Alcohol Abuse Facts and Statistics in Colorado

Many people not only in Colorado but nationwide are often shocked when they hear true alcohol statistics. Alcohol has become such an ingrained part of life in our society. It’s glamorized on television and in movies, and it seems like a favorite national pastime for many people, but alcohol abuse can contribute to many physical and mental consequences. It’s important for people in Colorado and throughout the U.S. to understand the real facts about alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

The following are some national alcohol abuse facts and statistics:

  • According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 86 percent of people over the age of 18 said they drank at some point in their life, and 70 percent said they drank in the past year
  • Nearly 27 percent of people aged 18 and older reported that they had engaged in binge drinking in the past month
  • It’s estimated that more than 15 million adults over the age of 18 meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder or AUD
  • Around 1.3 million adults receive treatment for AUD at a specialized facility in 2015
  • There are more than 620,000 estimated young people between the ages of 12 and 17 that reported had AUD in 2015
  • There are around 88,000 deaths related to alcohol each year, and it’s the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
  • Throughout the world alcohol misuses is the fifth leading risk factor for both premature death and disability

What about in Colorado including metro areas like Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, as well as smaller cities and towns like Palmer Lake?

When Should I Seek Out Alcohol Abuse Treatment?

If you’re ready to admit that you have a problem with your drinking, then you’ve already completed the first step. Depending on how severe your alcoholism it’s recommended to seek out a treatment center. Their experienced medical staff will be able to assist you through the often painful alcohol detox and withdrawal process and help you build a new life of sobriety.

Having the assistance of a community of people who are dedicated to your success will greatly reduce your chances of relapse. In order to continue to live an alcohol-free life, you’ll also need to get treatment for any co-occurring disorders that may be enabling your alcoholism, including depression, unresolved trauma, or other mental health disorders.

Reach out to Palmer Lake Recovery if you’re serious about ending your addiction to alcohol once and for all.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.