Alcohol may cause one to feel high, relaxed or sleepy, but its long-term effects can change the way the brain reacts to alcohol. Thus, alcoholism or alcohol dependence is a disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use leads to 80,000 deaths each year in the United States, making alcohol use a leading cause of preventable death.
In 2016, 136.7 million Americans (aged 12 or older) reported current use of alcohol, 65.3 million reported binge alcohol use, and 16.3 million reported heavy alcohol use in the past month. Widely available in all 50 states and advertised regularly, most people tend to forget that alcohol is an addictive drug. Many drinkers are able to control their alcohol use, but for those who cannot, the consequences could be devastating.
Heavy alcohol use, if left untreated, can affect every aspect of one’s life. It can take an enormous emotional toll on individuals along with their family and friends. It can also put a great financial stress on the health care system and the society as a whole. A chronic life-long disease, alcohol dependence can be both progressive and life-threatening.
A central nervous system depressant, alcohol consumption is as old as the hills so to speak since it has been recorded since ancient times. Unlike most other psychoactive drugs, alcohol is legal, frequently advertised and is easy to obtain. Classified as a substance abuse disorder, the phrase “alcohol abuse” refers to a behavioral pattern. A person dependent on alcohol continues to use alcohol despite experiencing negative consequences, including professional difficulties, blackouts, health problems and DUI arrests.