Heroin and prescription opiates alone have caused roughly over 45,000 deaths in the last year, accounting for the majority of overdose deaths in America. For the past year, headlines regarding the opioid crisis have warned, time and time again, that this is a growing and catastrophic issue for society. Countless articles recount how the prescription drug market and growth in the illegal production and distribution of heroin and synthetic opioids like fentanyl all played a part in the tragedy.
The opioid crisis is real and has been a medical and societal issue for years, now reaching a critical point. However, it is just as critical to remember that opioids are not the only issue here.
Drug use is prevalent throughout the US not solely because of faulty laws, but because of a widespread cascade of issues going back decades. In terms of lives claimed and damage dealt, dangerous and lethal drug isn’t fentanyl – it’s alcohol.
Rather, it’s the excessive consumption of alcohol. Alcohol use claimed about 88,000 lives per year before 2010, being responsible for about 10 percent of all deaths in adults aged 20-64 – a massive percentage of the population. People use alcohol on social occasions to celebrate special moments, and to toast to one another – but many use it to cope with personal and financial issues, drown out deep sorrows, or unwind after a hard day’s work, drinking more and more until the drinking can’t stop.
Sometimes, alcohol use leads to disease. More often, it is the cause for road and work accidents. And then there are times where years of alcohol use lead to alcoholism, and the inability to cut off from the drink – a deadly and serious addiction.
Alcohol is ingrained in society, as the prohibition proved. But binge drinking and excess consumption does not have to be a major issue. Stopping teens from binge drinking and helping both children and adults understand that legal drugs like prescription medication and alcohol require careful and responsible consideration is important. These measures have already helped cut back on the damage alcohol does, reducing deaths caused by alcohol year after year.
To further understand why it’s important to find ways to cut back immediately, it’s important to see what happens under the hood when alcohol makes its way through the body on the regular.
More Than Just the Liver
Even at “reasonable” or “responsible” levels, alcohol use will take years off your body’s biological clock. There is no way around this fact – while research previously hinted at the possibility of alcohol as part of a healthy and balanced diet, there is very little research currently valid that suggests this is true. At the very most, a small amount of alcohol here and there can protect the heart from a heart attack. But in most cases, alcohol consumption – even moderate consumption – raises the risk of other diseases and can lead to a quicker death.
But excessive alcohol consumption has very clear physical consequences. Aside from viciously attacking the liver – the organ that goes through the trouble of filtering and metabolizing alcohol – alcohol also damages the heart, the brain, and the pancreas, while potentially kickstarting cancer in the mouth, throat, breast, and liver.
Brain damage through alcohol consumption leads to lapses in memory, trouble concentrating, changes in mood and behavior, as well as permanent problems with both coordination and critical thinking/rationalization, leading to tremors and reduced cognitive capabilities.
Alcohol and Mental Impairment
We have discussed how excessive alcohol use can severely damage the organs of the human body and leave us mentally struggling – compromising how we think, reason, and remember things in our lives.
But more than that, alcohol also has a direct effect on our interactions with other people, ranging from mildly positive effects to wildly dangerous and lethal. While it is a myth that alcohol is guaranteed to make you more aggressive or angry, alcohol does lower your inhibitions, thus cutting down on the amount of thought and consideration put into any action. There is a reason alcohol was often referred to as “liquid courage” – in a way, it takes away fear and anxiety. But there are many times when fear and anxiety keep us from doing very dangerous things, including instigating violence when provoked or otherwise threatened, or agreeing to situations that end up in injury, or worse, death.
Alcohol also impairs a person’s ability to move, both on their feet, and in the operation of heavy machinery. This can lead to accidents in the workplace, on the highway, and elsewhere. Sometimes it’s as innocent as a trip down a small flight of stairs, with some bruising and no broken bones – at other times, it can cause a tragic collision or end in amputations and death at construction sites and in shipping yards.
Get Help Today
From liver cirrhosis to heart failure, throat cancer, car wrecks and brain damage, alcohol has a long list of very dangerous side effects associated with long use. No matter how normal it might seem to consume more than the CDC recommends – and no matter how much you may believe your tolerance allows your body to drink much more than is ever recommended – if you binge drink often or generally consume excessive amounts of alcohol, then it is safe to say that you are at risk for a life tragically cut short. Or, worse yet, several lives tragically cut short.
We are all in control, and totally accountable for our actions – until we are not, and everything is suddenly where it should never be. Do not wait until it’s far too late and get help. Treatment exists, and it works. From talk therapy for overcoming emotional pain associated with self-medicating through alcohol, to treatments that specialize in helping you cut alcohol out of your life and make it through withdrawal symptoms alive, there are countless clinics with residential and outpatient programs to help you accommodate addiction treatment and therapy into your life. Sober living homes give you a chance to adjust to living without the drink in a temptation-free environment, where you can work and interact with others who are on a similar path.
There are countless ways to treat alcoholism and put you on a straight path towards better health. And there is no way that excessive alcohol leads to a good end.