Alcoholism

Aired:
Season 15
Episode 1509

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Alcoholism reduces a person’s life expectancy an average of 10 years. Severe cognitive problems are common, and approximately 10% of all dementia cases are related to alcohol consumption, making it the second leading cause of dementia.

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Overview of Alcohol Consumption

People drink to socialize, celebrate, and relax.  Alcohol often has a strong effect on people – and throughout history, we’ve struggled to understand and manage alcohol’s power.  Why does alcohol cause us to act and feel differently?  How much is too much? Why do some people become addicted while others do not?

Here at NIAAA, we are constantly researching the answers to these and many other questions about alcohol.  Here’s what we know:

Alcohol’s effects vary from person to person, depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • How much you drink
  • How often you drink
  • Your age
  • Your health status
  • Your family history

While drinking alcohol is itself not necessarily a problem – drinking too much can cause a range of consequences, and increase your risk for a variety of problems.

Consequences of drinking too much

Alcohol enters your bloodstream as soon as you take your first sip. Alcohol’s immediate effects can appear within about 10 minutes. As you drink, you increase your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level, which is the amount of alcohol present in your bloodstream.  The higher your BAC, the more impaired you become by alcohol’s effects.  These effects can include:

  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Slurred speech
  • Motor impairment
  • Confusion
  • Memory problems
  • Concentration problems
  • Coma
  • Breathing problems
  • Death

Other risks of drinking can include:

  • Car crashes and other accidents
  • Risky behavior
  • Violent behavior
  • Suicide and homicide

People who drink too much over a long period of time may experience alcohol’s longer-term effects, which can include:

Alcohol use disorder
Health problems
Increased risk for certain cancers

Getting Help

Today there are more options available for treating alcohol use disorder (AUD) than ever before. Decades of research have led to advances in medications and behavioral therapies to help people recover. Professionally led alcohol treatment now takes place in a variety of settings, including outpatient care that can help many people recover while still living at home.

To learn more about treating AUD, visit the following:

► NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator

This online tool is designed to help consumers find quality treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Navigator focuses on evidence-based alcohol treatment, telling you what you need to know about AUD and treatment options, and helping you find the right treatment for you—and near you.

► Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help

This guide is written for individuals, and their family and friends, who are looking for options to address alcohol problems.  It is intended as a resource to understand what treatment choices are available and what to consider when selecting among them.

Medline Plus

Conduct an off-site search from MedlinePlus.  These up-to-date search results are based on search terms specific to Second Opinion.

Resources

Find Treatment
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.
Treatment Navigator
Unlike many other resources you may find online, the Navigator has no commercial sponsors. Instead, it is produced by the leading U.S. agency for scientific research on alcohol and health, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Treatment for Alcohol Problems
This guide is written for individuals, and their family and friends, who are looking for options to address alcohol problems.
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