Alcohol Abuse and 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, 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 Is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a substance that acts as a depressant, so it slows down the functionality of the central nervous system and other parts of the body. The fact that it’s a depressant explains why when you drink, particularly excessively, you may have slurred speech, coordination problems and slowed reaction times.
Alcohol has a significant impact on the thinking and logical reasoning skills of the person drinking it, so they will often exhibit impaired judgment which can lead to a likelihood of participating in dangerous or risky behaviors or activities.
While in general alcohol is classified as a depressant, many of the effects and their intensity depend on how much you drink. For example, if you have a single glass of wine it may be more like a stimulant effect, and you may feel looser or more relaxed. However, when you excessively drink alcohol it acts more like a depressant, and the more you drink, the more pronounced these depressive effects can be.
At very high levels, alcohol can lead to severe depressive effects including alcohol poisoning, unconsciousness, coma, or even death. There are different levels of alcohol content in different types of drinks. For example, beer tends to have the lowest alcohol content, and liquor has the highest.
Many people don’t realize that they might meet the criteria for having a drinking problem, which is why it’s important for alcohol addiction information to be widely available in Colorado, not just in major cities like Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs, but statewide.
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.
What Is Alcohol Abuse and Addiction?
People in Colorado often wonder what alcohol abuse is versus addiction, and what the differences 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.
Alcoholism 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
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?