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.
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.