At-risk drinking in America is on the rise. In fact, there are statistics that empirically show that at-risk drinking is prevalent in almost half of Americans and risky drinking behavior is not showing any signs of being a passing phase for those engaging in alcohol misuse.
A study conducted by the Boston University School of Public Health found that approximately 40 percent of United States adults are drinking “too much”, or drinking to the extent that risks to health are possible. Even worse, of those 40 percent of people engaging in alcohol misuse, it was found that 73 percent are still drinking unhealthy amounts up to four years later. This indicates that unless something occurs to interrupt the behavior, alcohol misuse is likely to continue for some time with ever-increasing chances of negative health consequences as a result.
Health Effects of Alcohol Misuse
The health ramifications of alcohol misuse are vast and vary in degree. The CDC lists some of the short-term effects associated with alcohol misuse as alcohol poisoning, injury from impairment (such as falls or car accidents), risky behavior due to lowered inhibitions, miscarriage or stillbirth, and violence.
Some of the long-term effects listed include multiple types of cancer, mental impairment like memory loss and learning problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, stroke, digestive issues, mental health issues, and social consequences like unemployment. All of these are possible and even probable when at-risk drinking goes unaddressed.
The term “at-risk” is defined by the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality as “exceeding low-risk limits, and defined by consumption associated with important risk for consequences; in the US, more than 14 U.S. standard (14 g) drinks per week or >4 drinks for men per occasion, >7 and >3 respectively for women”. You might have someone in your life that meets this definition without realizing that they could be putting themselves at risk for chronic alcohol misuse. If so, you may be wondering how to help them.
The solution is awareness. Many people are unaware of what being at-risk for alcohol misuse truly means and unaware that they are exhibiting unhealthy behaviors. Being self-aware is the first step toward making a change. Emphasizing the risks of alcohol misuse in public health messaging can help provoke self-examination and desire to change.
What about prevention of at-risk drinking for those who are just beginning to drink? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that interventions targeted at those about to turn 21 can help prevent transitions into at-risk behaviors once the person is of legal drinking age. An intervention simply refers to the process by which friends and family members, with the assistance of a mental health professional, interrupt unhealthy behavior patterns by offering help and encouraging addiction treatment.
Education on alcohol misuse and other substance use disorders is a highly effective tool in helping people avoid the behaviors that lead to addiction. If addiction is already present, proactive addiction treatment can help people regain control of their lives and form new, healthy habits that lead to better health and increased enjoyment of life. For more information on Washington State addiction resources and other helpful recovery tools, contact us today for confidential 24/7 assistance.