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What’s the first image that comes to your mind when you think of an alcoholic beverage? The answer probably varies from one person to the next because the fact of the matter is that drinking in America falls on a variable spectrum. You could’ve envisioned a heartwarming toast given at a graduation party or a severe and debilitating case of alcoholism.
An alcoholic drink is a fermented drink that contains ethanol. The drink could be supplied as beer, wine, or a spirit. Around 33% of the world’s population has at some point consumed alcohol.
As a recreational drink, alcohol exceeds consumption levels all across the globe and predominantly in the United States. An estimated 86% of the population of the United States has consumed alcohol at some point.
Notwithstanding the fact that alcohol is more of a social drug than it is a taboo one (at least not in the United States), there have been numerous incidents to correlate with these concerns over the addictive and destructive nature of the drug.
There is a strong debate to suggest that the very first fermented beverage to have ever been produced dates back to the Neolithic era of the Stone Age around 10,000 BCE. However, as time went on, social and religious constraints limited the use of fermented (ethanol-based) drink consumption.
With that being said, several communities adopted the process of fermentation to create a culture out of it. This led to the birth of various drinks and cocktails particular to several countries and communities.
In the United States, alcohol is widely regarded as a social drink and not necessarily as a recreational drink. The prevalence of its use can be estimated by the fact that 86.3% of the entire population has consumed alcohol: 77% of whom have had it in the last year and 33% of whom have had it in the last month.
There’s an aisle dedicated specifically for alcohol in nearly every major departmental store, with some even brandishing their own variations. The fact of the matter is that alcohol is a lax drug. Laws pertaining to the consumption of alcohol are usually centered around over-consumption or consumption while in a position where full alertness would have been required.
Not everyone who consumes alcohol is an alcoholic. Conversely, not everyone who consumes a heavy amount of alcohol is a chronic alcohol abuser. General descriptive guidelines are therefore necessary to differentiate between varying levels of alcohol use.
Estimates suggest that around 17.6 million people living in the United States suffer from some form of alcohol dependence or chronic alcohol abuse (a term different from heavy alcohol consumption).
Alcohol is a depressant; a psychoactive drug that causes euphoria reduces anxiety and increases sociability. In general terms, the ethanol in alcohol alludes or numbs the conscious parts of your mind. Admittedly, the sensation is often well-liked and therefore chased.
The addictive nature of alcohol is attributed to your brain's pleasure sensations. To put this in context, alcohol releases dopamine and endorphins. These natural ‘happy chemicals’ induce your mind to feel a sense of euphoria.
Once you stop drinking alcohol your brain actively recalls that sensation. Admittedly, your brain doesn’t overtly ask for alcohol - just for that sensation. However, since you’ve attributed that sensation with alcohol consumption, you find yourself reaching for more and more alcohol.
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a condition in which you find yourself addicted to alcohol to the extent that the addiction outweighs the numerous health, social, and financial constraints that your drinking imposes.
Around 14.4 million people in the United States (5.8% of the population) suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder. 9.2 million men and 5.3 million women are said to suffer from one form or another of AUD. Of those with alcohol use disorder, only 7.9% of adults aged 18 and over received professional treatment in the past year from a facility specializing in alcohol treatment and rehabilitation.
It is, however, important to understand that AUD is a generalized term and not necessarily seen as a definitive diagnosis of a condition.
If you or anyone you know falls through with the DSM-5 criteria for AUD and has experienced this within the last year, it is best to seek professional help via therapy, support groups, or rehabilitation centers.
An estimated 88,000 people (with 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes. Alcohol is therefore placed third in the leading preventable causes of death in the United States.
Alcohol consumption is usually prevalent in men with them being twice as more likely to develop alcohol dependence than women. The prevalence of heavy drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol use disorders are highest among men aged 18 to 24 and men who are unemployed.
Around 56% of men in the United States frequently consume alcohol compared to 46% of women.
Alcohol use and dependence is a prevalent yet often unrecognized issue predominant in the United States. The addictive and destructive nature of the beverage has several disastrous effects on a person’s emotional and physical well-being.
If you or someone you know suffers from alcohol-related disturbances or disorders, contact a physician immediately. Your physician can ascertain alcohol dependence (to a reasonable extent) by ordering several tests.
These tests include Alcohol Ethyl B Test (Ethyl B Test).
Sarwat Makkani, MD
Yanelquis Torres, MD
Adnan Sohail, MD
Fabiola Baptiste, NP
Raga Mohamed Ali Osman
Sipra Talvikki Autio