Alcohol Abuse

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Alcohol Abuse

What is alcoholism? Who is an alcoholic?

Alcoholism, as lay people generally know it, is the fondness, desire, or even need for alcohol in an extreme sense to the point of addiction. Alcohol is the most widely used legal drug worldwide that also predisposes people to dependence or abuse (addiction) in certain parts of the world. Different cultures have varied features of the extent of alcoholism in their societies, especially with different levels of accessibility, rules, and norms of drinking. For instance, some countries have higher levels of alcoholism (e.g., about 10% of the U.S. population), accompanied by higher levels of people's tolerance for alcohol, and then may consider alcoholism as normal and not deviant.

Some others, such as many countries in the Middle East and Asia, have laws and religious prescriptions that encourage the prohibition of the import and sale of alcohol, where society's alcoholism levels, and at times distress levels, are extremely low. On the other hand, there are also some other countries, like France and Italy, where drinking alcohol is acceptable and not regulated, and still addiction to alcohol is low. Moreover, different cultures relate to alcoholism differently. Some cultures deny the existence of alcohol addiction and consider talking about any degree of alcoholism or its consequences as taboo. Other countries minimize alcoholism as an issue or concern that warrants any kind of societal or community attention. Still other societies recognize alcoholism as a mental health issue and spend a substantial portion of their resources in abating the problem. In the United States, the direct and indirect costs of alcoholism (i.e., money spent for the prevention, detoxification, and rehabilitation of alcoholism and amount spent because of absenteeism, loss of productivity, and medical claims) amount to an exorbitant $148 billion each year.

Prevalence Of Adolescent Alcohol Abuse

In terms of prevalence, the 1994 national student survey data showed that 25 percent of 8th graders and 50 percent of 12th graders reported consuming alcohol within the previous month (Johnston, O'Malley, and Bachman, 1995). A substantial proportion of those drinkers consumed heavily: 15 percent of 8th graders and 28 percent of 12th graders reported having five or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks, and just under 3 percent of 12th graders reported daily use of alcohol. The prevalence of adolescent drinking varied along demographic lines. Boys reported more heavy drinking than did girls, and among high school seniors, white adolescents reported more heavy drinking than did Hispanic or African American adolescents. For example, 1994 national data for 12th graders found that 32 percent of non-Hispanic Caucasians, 24 percent of Hispanics, and 14 percent of African Americans reported consuming five or more drinks in a row in the previous two weeks (Johnston et al., 1995). However, the researchers cautioned that ethnic differences could be due to differences in school dropout rates instead of drinking. One needs to remember that inconsistent definitions, as well as inter- and intracultural diversity, make comparisons among ethnic groups especially ...
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