The Weight of Alcoholism
Alcohol abuse and addiction is a public health crisis that has been ongoing for at least the last several centuries. Ancient civilizations in and around present-day India were the first to ferment grain into alcohol. Civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea are credited with brewing the world’s first beer. It was weak stuff, of course, and it was mostly used to sterilize instruments and other items. Nevertheless, beer persisted, grew stronger and became what it is today: the most commonly-drunk alcoholic beverage in the world.
Even with the weak beer, liquor, and eventually, wine, the effects of consuming too much alcohol are well-documented dating back as far as the birth of the alcoholic drink. Despite this, alcohol continued to be enjoyed by people all over. Liquor moved out of India and spread in to Russia, where vodka was eventually developed. Indigenous people fermented their own grains and created their own alcoholic beverages in present-day Latin America. Granted, the potency of these beverages was nothing like the extreme potency of the drinks given to Indigenous people in the present-day United States, but it was similar.
Until last year, men living with alcoholism were the most-represented demographic of people living with the disease, as well as the associated fatalities. But from 2007 through 2017, something strange happened – the number of women dying as a result of alcohol-related behaviors jumped over 80%. This terrifying fact has been eclipsed by the still-more terrifying Opioid Crisis, which is still ripping through the United States, casting its spell of addiction and killing those who aren’t able to reach effective treatment, and arrive at a place of acknowledgement of the problem.
In 2017, 72,000 people lost their lives to drug overdoses, with roughly 60,000 dying of opioid overdose. The same year, there were 88,000 alcohol-related deaths, including deaths from cancers resulting from excessive consumption. For people who are vulnerable to opioid addiction and overdose, alcohol was and remains a key player in the activity of people who are actively using.
In addition to being consumed by basically every culture on Earth, alcohol is also the most frequently abused drug in the world, even given that the Opioid Crisis is hardly restricted to the United States. People are living with opioid addiction all over the United States, Mexico, Canada, England, Spain, Russia, and Australia. But the United States and all of Europe are all the world’s leading consumers of alcohol, and both regions are front-and-center in the world-wide Opioid Epidemic.
Most of the world’s major religions view temperance as part of a moral base – sensible, knowing how drinking to excess can negatively affect the way that a person conducts themselves. Alcohol often comes into play when discussing addiction to other drugs because it is invariably in the mix – you will have an extremely difficult time finding an individual who has used hard drugs, but never tried alcohol. Because drugs and alcohol are so closely interwoven, you will rarely find a drug user who is not also presently using alcohol to medicate themselves.
Alcohol and Women and Teens
A new culture of high competition in the professional world has pervaded college campuses. The old college culture of parties with music and drinks lives on, but rapidly gaining popularity on college campuses is binge drinking. It is actually accurate to say that binge-drinking has become quite normal on college campuses, and among college-aged people. Men, of course, were the first to engage the trend, but a steady uptick in alcohol consumption by women has landed more and more women in situations where binge-drinking is encouraged.
‘Binge-drinking’ isn’t necessarily something that someone goes out intending to do; it could be something as simple and innocuous as arriving late to a party, and drinking quickly to ‘catch up’ to friends. The more women drink, the more likely they are to be victims of assault, robbery, kidnapping, or a variety of other violent crimes. What’s more, continued excessive drinking puts women at elevated risk for reproductive issues and heart disease.
While women have received the message that drinking heavily is in, the story of teens and alcohol is an interesting one: until recently, alcohol was almost seen as a rite of passage, and everyone had teen friends who made a habit of sneaking into their parents’ beer, wine, and liquor collection. Today, with access unlike ever before, teen drinking is down, but teen vaping and marijuana smoking is much more common.
Alcohol and vaping are both dangerous for teens. While the brain continues to develop, its growth and progress can be hampered by the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, THC. Vape fluid also contains a number of poisons that are unhealthy for humans. Though alcohol has fallen from the top spot with teens, don’t underestimate its power – only about half of the world’s teens claim to be actively abstaining from drinking alcohol.
Alcohol and Men
Despite the changes in the demographics of people most likely to binge drink and people most likely to abuse alcohol, men still dominate those categories. Excessive drinking is far more pronounced in Indigenous, White, and Hispanic men than other groups of men. Alcohol can make some men dangerous – it’s estimated that roughly half of sexual assaults occur after the perpetrator has been drinking or using drugs.
While some men can become violent after drinking, others can fall into the grasp of alcoholism, and some of them will pay with their liver, kidneys, stomach, or prostate, as alcohol dramatically raises the risk of cancer and other disorders. What is also clear is that not only are men the primary target and consumers of the alcohol industry at large, men are also the ones reaping the benefits from all of the sales: the executives of the alcohol industry, of course, are men to an overwhelming degree.
Alcohol and the War on Drugs
Alcoholism is the place where the United States so-called, ‘War on Drugs’ seems to fall flat. The Drug Policy Alliance says, ‘We look forward to a future where drug policies are shaped by science and compassion rather than political hysteria.’ This statement is felt by many of the compassionate people working in rehabilitation centers that treat people living with addiction. Drug policies the world-over are past due for a series of information-based updates that focus on healing and on holistic medicine.