Opioid use disorder should be great cause for concern among Americans. Current data shows that as many as 142 Americans die of an opioid-related overdose every day. However, America’s greatest foe has long come in the form of a liquid—alcohol. New research shows that drinking and alcohol use disorder rates in the United States are troubling and need to be addressed.
With the country fixated on opioids, it is hard to devote much energy to any other substance use related issue. But, while lawmakers and health experts fixate on prescription opioids and heroin, alcohol has continued stealing lives in relative darkness. Therefore, it is so important to remember that people misuse alcohol more than any other substance. It is not just the fact that millions of people drink regularly. It is that millions of Americans drink regularly in seriously harmful ways, such as binge drinking.
Great efforts and amounts of money have been spent to educate young people about the dangers of heavy imbibing. Accompanied by a long list of health conditions that can arise from high rates of consumption, including addiction. Left unchecked, people who binge drink regularly are at a far greater risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Binge drinking is often defined as having four drinks for women and 5 for men, during a two-hour period.
21st Century Alcohol Use
As many as 30 million Americans binge drink at least once a week, a study published in JAMA Psychiatry reveals. Just for perspective, that’s more than the population of each state, but for California, SF GATE reports. About the same number of people report being dependent on the substance or abusing alcohol.
Opioid statistics show that somewhere between 2 and 3 million Americans have an opioid use disorder. That number is likely a low ball. But whatever the actual number is it’s still a far cry from alcohol use disorder rates in America. The study showed that adult alcohol use rose in every demographic, especially among:
- Older People
- People With Lower Incomes
- And Those With Less Education
“This should be a big wake-up call,” says David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who wasn’t involved with the research. “Alcohol is our number one drug problem, and it’s not just a problem among kids.”
In 2001-02, 8.5 percent of survey respondents reported alcohol abuse or dependence, according to the article. That figure rose to around 12.7 percent in 2012-13, a 10.5 million person increase. With such high numbers, greater focus needs to be placed on the impact this will have on society. The cost of life is staggering.
Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment
Roughly one-fifth of people with an alcohol use disorder have ever been treated, according to Bridget Grant, a researcher at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and lead author of the paper. Even though alcoholism is a mental illness, too, about 60 percent of people with depression get some kind of treatment. Without treatment, the outcome is never good.
If you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder, please contact Synergy Group Services for help. We can assist in breaking the cycle of addiction and impart the skills necessary for living a life in recovery.
If you are working a program of recovery, you know that you cannot drink or drug—no matter what. Addiction recovery requires an effort every day to abstain from mind altering substances. It is no easy task, but one that can be accomplished through vigilant adherence to the principles and traditions of recovery.
It practically goes without saying that there are more people active in addiction than there are in recovery. And despite significant efforts to change this fact, it is unlikely that it will ever be accomplished. Simply put, it is much easier to continue one’s destructive ways, than it is to work towards a healthier way of life. The teeth of addiction sink deep.
Recently there has been much talk about opioid addiction. Especially regarding helping people with an opioid use disorder find both treatment and, ideally, long-term recovery. It hasn’t proved to be easy to accomplish, but there is hope on the horizon. In the midst of an opioid epidemic, many have lost sight of the drug that arguably has the longest history of causing the most damage. Alcohol! The drug is legal, can be acquired with little effort by practically any group and many abusers are not convinced that they have a problem that needs to be addressed.
Dry January — A “Litmus Test” for Addiction
At this time, every year, people around the world observe “Dry January.” The goal being, abstain from New Year’s Day to February 1st. After a month of heavy drinking at the end of each year, many welcome an opportunity to defog their mind from alcohol. December is notorious for throwing caution to the wind regarding one’s health. Why not do the opposite in January?
For many Americans alcohol is no big deal, having a laissez faire take it or leave it attitude. Others consume a few drinks after work throughout the week, exercising moderation when it comes to booze. Then there are those who are often unaware that their drinking has become problematic, even though they are still able to fulfill their responsibilities. While the first two groups may find a month-long moratorium on alcohol to be a walk in the park, the latter may find something altogether different.
If you are in the last group and attempt to abstain from alcohol this month, you may be able to white knuckle it through to the end. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have control over your alcohol. Those of you who give it a try and are unsuccessful, would do yourself a great service to evaluate the role of alcohol in your life. It is likely that you will find your drinking is actually a hindrance, potentially compromising your health. If that is the case, it is important to keep remember that you are not alone, millions of Americans have an untreated alcohol use disorder. Even more people engage in heavy drinking, with around 25% of adults binge drinking.
Recovery May Be Waiting For You
If you find at the end of January, you were unable to abstain from alcohol the entire month, it doesn’t mean that you are an alcoholic. But there is a good chance, and you would do yourself a great service to speak with an addiction professional about your drinking. Through such discourse, you may find that alcohol has had a negative impact on your life and you need help finding a different way of living.
If your own experience has shown you that assistance is needed, please contact Synergy Group Services. Our experienced staff can aid you in getting your life back, through living a life in addiction recovery. If alcohol is a problem, recovery is the best solution.
There are a number of drugs prescribed to people with alcohol use disorders. In the United States, the use of Vivitrol (naltrexone) has become quite common for the treatment of both opioid use disorder and alcoholism. With some patients, Vivitrol has been found to reduce their craving for alcohol. Used in conjunction with antabuse, which makes someone ill if they consume alcohol—those recovering from alcohol dependence and/or addiction can have a better chance of abstaining from booze in early recovery.
Addiction recovery is no easy task, and if there is something that can help reduce the risk of relapse, it is often advised to utilize such a resource. Researchers continue to develop new drugs to help mitigate the urges to drink, something that is particularly useful when it comes to alcohol. Unlike many other commonly abused drugs, alcohol can be found in grocery stores or the corner market. Magazines, television and the Internet bombards people with advertisements portraying only the good side of alcohol, they fail to express the slippery slope that can accompany continued alcohol use.
With all medications, extensive research is supposed to be conducted—followed by clinical trials to determine the drug’s efficacy. This is to insure that the drug works and figure out which side effects patients may expect. Unfortunately, the aforementioned steps are not always taken, leading to patients being given ineffective drugs. Such may be the case with a medication prescribed in Europe to reduce cravings for alcohol.
In 2013, nalmefene, sold under the brand name Selincro, was approved in Europe to reduce drinking. However, a group of researchers identified some issues with the clinical trials that led to the drug’s approval, ScienceDaily reports. The findings were published in the journal Addiction.
After analyzing the clinical trials conducted on nalmefene, the researchers from the University of Stirling found that it was impossible to determine how effective that drug was for those with heavy drinking disorders, according to the article. At best, the drug would reduce a patient’s average alcohol consumption by one beverage.
“It’s vitally important that we know that prescribed drugs are effective in treating the intended problem,” said Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, a pharmacist and Lecturer in Alcohol Studies at the University’s Institute for Social Marketing. “In this case, we found problems with the registration, design, analysis and reporting of these clinical trials which did not prevent the drug being licensed or recommended for use.”
It is worth noting that after the drug Selincro was approved it was recommended by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). It would seem that they may need to evaluate such a recommendation with these new findings.
Alcohol Use Disorder Recovery
Those who have unhealthy relationships with alcohol put their life at serious risk. Heavy use can lead to an alcohol use disorder which, if left untreated, inhibits one’s ability to function and can lead to a number of serious health conditions—some of which can be fatal.
At Synergy Group Services, we specialize in treating alcoholism, we can help you or a loved one break the cycle of addiction and give you the tools necessary for sustaining long term abstinence from all mind altering substances.
New research indicates that “virtual reality” may play an important role in addiction recovery in the future. Researchers in South Korea conducted a multiple week experiment with 3D television screens which showed a reduction in alcohol cravings, Reuters reports.
Researchers studied 10 patients, all of which had an alcohol use disorder. First, the patients went through a week-long detox program. After detox, the patients began the virtual reality sessions which consisted of three different types, twice a week for five weeks. The types of reality sessions included:
- A Relaxation Session
- A Situation Which Triggered Alcohol Cravings
- A Reality Which Made Drinking Seem Unpleasant
The third reality involved aversion stimulation; the participants were given a vomit-tasting drink. Over the course of the sessions, brain scans indicated changes in areas of the brain thought to be sensitive to alcohol, according to the article. Lead researcher Dr. Doug Hyun Han of Chung-Ang University Hospital in Seoul found that after participants were exposed to the unpleasant drinking scene, there were indications of reduced alcohol cravings. Han points out that more research is required to determine the efficacy of virtual reality as viable treatment method.
“Although this pilot study seems to indicate that virtual reality may produce some changes in brain metabolism, this is not yet studied as a treatment approach,” said Dr. Bernard Le Foll, head of the Alcohol Research and Treatment Clinic at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada, who was not involved in the study.
“Much more research work needs to be done to be able to determine if ‘virtual reality’ treatment will have a place in the treatment of alcohol use disorder,” in western countries, he told Reuters.
The research will be published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
Alcohol use disorders affect millions of Americans. If you are struggling with alcohol, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. At Synergy Group Services we offer individualized treatment plans for the treatment of alcoholism.