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Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Alcohol Epidemic: The Other Drug Outbreak in America

Author: Justin Mckibben

I came across an article the other day that asked a very interesting question- what if the media covered alcohol the way it does other drugs. To be clear, I’m not writing this to shame people who drink alcohol. This is all about perspective.

More recently the conversation about the drug epidemic in America has been focused on opioid abuse and addiction, of course with good reason. The rate at which opioid abuse, opioid overdoses and related deaths have risen immensely in the last few years. The alarming numbers prove that both prescription opioids and illicit opioid drugs are a very real threat. Thousands of people die every day, and experts see no sign that it will not get worse before it gets better.

And yet, similar statistics associated with alcohol are nothing short of staggering if you look at them the way we look at heroin or methamphetamine.

So, let us imagine for a moment a world where we treated alcohol like the drug it truly is. What if we treated drinkers like we do addicts?

Alcohol Drug Addiction

For decades a devastating and potentially fatal drug has wreaked havoc across the country, ending countless lives and altering countless others. This insidious substance can be found in pretty much every neighborhood in America. You can find it on almost every street corner, and the overwhelming majority of adults have consumed this substance at least once.

Alcohol has many aliases, include:

  • Beer
  • Liquor
  • Spirits
  • Booze
  • Drank
  • Giggle Water
  • Moonshine

The drug comes packaged in a long list of names, with a variety of mixes that can be more or less potent depending on the source. Some use massive labs to concoct their drinks, while others brew out of secret unregulated areas in their homes.

The Alcohol Epidemic

No matter where you go, there will be a prominent presence of alcohol users. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 86.4% of people 18 or older report to have drank this dangerous drug at some point in their life
  • 70.1% of people report to have consuming this substance in the last year
  • 56% of people admit to have taken the drug in the last month

Looking closer at the drug, we see that many users go from recreational consumption to excessive use. The NSDUH shows:

  • 7% report to heavy use in the past month
  • 26.9% of people 18 or older admit to binge drinking in the past month

As with most other drugs, this substance also leads to sometimes debilitating addiction, or alcohol use disorder (AUD). NSDUH reports:

  • 1 million Adults age 18 or older suffered from AUD in 2015
  • 8 million of them were men
  • 3 million were women
  • 623,000 adolescents age 12-17 years old had AUD

All 50 states in America have been hit hard by the alcohol epidemic at some point or another. One reason the outbreak of this drug has been so tragic is because in so many places it has become social acceptable for people to consume alcohol!

In fact, many have minimized the use of alcohol or even celebrated it! In several communities around the country there are all-out events where drug use is actually publicly promoted! Events like “Craft Beer Fest” or the infamous “Oktoberfest” have become hotbeds for excessive abuse of this incredibly hazardous substance. Young adults often talk about getting “wasted”, “tipsy” or “turnt” as slang for ingesting such high levels of the drug they are inebriated.

Alcohol Related Deaths

According to data collected by the federal government, alcohol is the second deadliest drug in America. If you combine:

  • Heroin- connected to almost 13,000 overdose deaths in 2015
  • Prescription opioids– 22,598 overdose deaths

You still have less than half of the deaths of alcohol. In fact, an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol related causes every single year!

Because of binge drinking and other risk behaviors, mild to moderate alcohol overdose has almost become far too common. Beyond that, there are numerous ways this deadly drug has contributed to an inordinate number of deaths over hundreds of years! On a global scale, the alcohol drug is the leading risk factor in premature death and disability.

  • In 2012, 3.3 million deaths in the whole world were alcohol related
  • 2013, 45.8% of liver disease deaths for individuals 12 and older were alcohol related
  • In 2013, 47.9% of all cirrhosis deaths were alcohol related

The health effects of the alcohol epidemic are very real.

Alcohol Epidemic Hurts Others

It isn’t just the people who use this lethal drug that suffer from the adverse effects of the alcohol epidemic. Even the people are the users are often put in serious danger. For example, driving while under the influence of the alcoholic drug has been a very severe problem for a long time.

  • In 2014, over 31% of driving fatalities were alcohol related- 9,967 deaths

Also, public health officials from all over America have stood up to expose other terrible effects of alcohol use. Alcohol use also has a great deal of influence on:

  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual assault

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) 90% of acquaintance rape and sexual assault on college campuses involves alcohol use by the victim, the assailant or both.

  • Violent crime

To that point, in 2010 sources indicated that more than 4.6 million emergency room visits were alcohol related.

  • 40% of violent crime is alcohol related.
  • 37% of current convicted offenders in jails admit to being on alcohol during their arrest

The War on Alcohol?

So with such glaring instances of the impacts of alcohol use on Americans, and young people in particular, surely drug policy officials and politicians are aggressively pursuing legislation to engage in a full on War on Alcohol, like they have with the War on Drugs, right?

Well… not so much.

It may come as a shock, but U.S. federal and state officials seem to think banning alcohol is out of the question! Citing the past attempts at alcohol prohibition as a major failure that instigated higher crime rates, while also claiming the vital part alcohol production and sales play in the economy, lawmakers seem content with allowing the drug to remain in circulation.

Thankfully officials are still willing to provide emergency response services to individuals who have overdosed on alcohol or been injured in alcohol-related accidents. While city officials are fighting for the option to deny the overdose antidote Narcan to opioid users who overdose multiple times, none of these officials seem to believe alcohol related illness or drunk driving accidents should be ignored the same way.

Drunk driving in many areas on multiple occasions does constitute jail time, but it seems being in possession of one of the deadliest drugs in America still doesn’t come with a mandatory minimum sentence. The Alcohol epidemic seems to have avoided a lot of the stigma that other drugs are held to, yet experts insist more should be done to decrease the astonishing rates of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Alcohol may be legal, and it may be more mainstream than most drugs, the alcohol epidemic in this nation is still a very real threat. The fact it is legal and easily accessible makes the problem so much more serious. This article isn’t meant to demonize alcohol, but it is meant to point out the severity of alcohol use and the damage that comes with it. Maybe this kind of perspective can also diminish the stigma attached to other illicit addictions, if we are willing to acknowledge the similarities.

Alcohol is more dangerous than people give it credit, and alcohol addiction is incredibly dangerous.

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Many States Banning New Powdered Alcohol Product Palcohol

Many States Banning New Powdered Alcohol Product Palcohol

Author: Shernide Delva

More and more states are banning the powdered substance known as “the Kool-Aid for underage drinkers.’ The substance, Palcohol, is essentially a powdered version of alcohol intended to be mixed with beverages like soda or fruit juice. One six ounce packet of Palcohol is equivalent to one standard mixed drink.

Although Palcohol was approved by the Alcohol U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau last year, it became the focus of intense scrutiny. Legislators to child advocates alike were pushing to ban this substance from being sold in stores. One of the biggest concerns is the product getting into the hands of children. Also, since the product is in powdered form, it can be snorted, added to energy drinks, and given to people unknowingly. All of these are real dangerous risks.

Over half the country has already banned the substance. Now, California is joining those states in banning Palcohol, fearing the potential danger it poses to youth looking for a cheap buzz. The maker of the product, Lipsmark LLC, is fighting an uphill battle as more and more states jump on the bandwagon.

On Monday, legislation in California to ban the substance received unanimous support from the state’s Senate Appropriations Committee, which determined that banning the product in California would not impose “any significant state cost to taxpayers,” state Senator Bob Huff, who authored the bill, told the Orange County Breeze.

Palcohol has yet to hit any shelves in the United States, and already the product has been banned and raised controversy from legislators to child advocates. Everyone is bracing for the worse possible outcome:

“This product must not be allowed to reach store shelves,” said Huff. “It presents an array of potential health problems as it can be snorted, added to energy drinks, slipped to unknowing recipients, or even added to beverages already containing alcohol in an attempt to create a dangerously potent concoction.”

Furthermore, a 2013 study conducted by the U.S Centers for Disease Control revealed the “societal cost” of binge drinking was $32 billion for one year. A product like Palcohol could contribute to those costs and result in more problems. Allowing young people to have access to a product like Palcohol does have potentially harmful side effects.

Similar alcohol products exist in other countries, and now Palcohol is determined to be the first in the United States. The website offers no timeline as to when Palcohol will hit the market for now.   The powder will come in packets that include flavors such as:

  • Cosmopolitan
  • Powderita – tastes just like a Margarita
  • Lemon Drop

All packets will contain the same alcohol content as one shot of alcohol. Currently, the website states there is not a set date for the product’s release. However, this may change shortly. The website promotes the product as product of convenience. The owner, Mark Phillips, created it while hiking.  Phillips did not want to carry any other liquor other than water. After a long hike, Phillips craved an adult beverage and thought of how great it would be for him to have packets he could easily carry along with him. The idea eventually led to Palcohol.

Although Phillips’ idea does not seem ill-intended, products like these lend easily to abuse. There are too many people who are struggling with binge drinking.  This product should at least be a monitored carefully before its release. What do you think?

Products like Palcohol offer convenience for the moderate drinker, however, can be dangerous to those who suffer from substance abuse.  Therefore, caution behind products like this is warranted. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Should Parents Be Penalized for Giving Minors Alcohol?

Should Parents Be Penalized for Giving Minors Alcohol ?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Growing up, I was not exactly popular when it came to the high school in-crowd. It’s okay; I got over it, I promise.  Nonetheless, I remember hearing about parents who were “totally cool” with having their teenager bring friends over to drink. Their ideology was, if they are going to do it anyway, might as well keep an eye on them, right?  Not exactly…

In fact, the state of Maryland has had enough of parents promoting underage drinking. Just recently, the state released a bill stating any parent caught giving alcohol to underage minors will face heavy fines, even jail time.

The Maryland Senate passed the bill unanimously in an effort to prevent alcohol-related tragedies.  The bill, titled Senate Bill 564, was introduced by Montgomery County Senator Brian Feldman as a response to a recently accident involving high school students, Alex Murk, and Calvin Li. The two teens were tragically killed in a car accident after they had been drinking at a party under parental supervision.

The bill, nicknamed Alex and Calvin’s law, now must pass through the Maryland’s House of Delegates. If passed, parents who host underage drinking parties and provide alcohol to minors will be fined double what was fined prior. The fine would increase from $2,500 to $5,000 maximum and jail time would be a consideration.

“Federal data shows that parents and other adult family members are a leading source of alcohol for U.S. teenagers,” said Kurt Gregory Erickson, president of the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program and a registered Maryland lobbyist.

Erickson is a proponent of both Bill 564 and a similar House Bill that also calls for alcohol restrictions related to the fatal crash.

“At minimum, this legislation addresses the supply-side of underage drinking’s supply-and-demand paradigm,” said Erickson. “At maximum, this potentially lifesaving bill will serve as a deterrent to parents’ enabling of unlawful teen drinking and its too often life-changing consequences.”

A 2013 study conducted by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that when it came to high school seniors:

  • 42% had consumed alcohol
  • 6% had binge drank
  • 7% had been a passenger in a car driven by someone who had been drinking

The statistics are very daunting when it comes to minors and the access they have to alcohol. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the second most likely group to give alcohol to minors is parents. The most common are non-family members who are of legal age.

Even with all these statistics, parents argue that they are giving alcohol to minors more as a preventative strategy, than as a way to promote irresponsible reckless behavior. After all, if the number one way underage minors gain access to alcohol is outside of the home, one could argue that you might as well try and control the drinking by keeping it in the home.

Do Parents Who Serve Alcohol at Home Raise Responsible Drinkers?

Parents teach their children how to walk, swim, and drive a car. However, should parents also teach their teen how to drink responsibly? It’s this question that results in some parents decided to allow teens to have alcohol under their supervision.

While it may seem like a great idea, the research says otherwise. In fact, a study reveals that teens who drink with adult supervision are actually more likely to develop problems with alcohol than children who are told not to touch the stuff until they are 21.

Be the Example.

Instead of letting children drink in the home, experts suggest that parents lead by example through encouraging moderation. Keep children away from excessive drinking in the home and special occasions. Project a healthy image. By learning how to exemplify healthy behavior, children will understand moderation early on and make better decisions in their own life.

While promoting drinking in the home may seem like a way to prevent risky drinking outside of the home, the truth is it causes more harm than good.  Parents’ approval of underage drinking sends the wrong message to teens. Send the right message. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Researchers Are Using Instagram to Monitor Underage Drinking?

Researchers Are Using Instagram to Monitor Underage Drinking?

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

In the past few years, Instagram has soared in popularity. Now researchers are finding ways to utilize the popular app to monitor the drinking habits of teenagers.  Using photos and text from Instagram, researchers are able to expose patterns of underage drinking more cheaply and faster than conventional surveys. They also are able to gain information on new patterns of drinking such as what alcohol brands are favored among different demographic groups.

Researchers believe exposing these patterns can help promote effective underage drinking intervention. As we know, Instagram is extremely popular among teens. Large amount of information is readily available about this target population on Instagram. As Jiebo Luo, professor of computer science at the University of Rochester, and his colleagues describe in a new paper, underage drinkers “are willing to share their alcohol consumption experience” in social media.

Compared to standard surveys, researchers believe Instagram will be a more accurate method to monitor alcohol consumption. Often, teenagers are not honest when they respond to an administered survey about alcohol use. One example is the “Monitoring the Future” survey by the federal government. The accuracy of results is skewed because of the small size of the representative sample. Also, the answers may not be answered honestly by teens who are worried about divulging the truth.

How Instagram is Being Used

Although Instagram does not offer a way of searching users by age, the research team was able to target users that fit their profile by applying computer vision techniques.  Luo and his team have been pioneering techniques that teach computers how to extract information from the internet. They are able to use computers to analyze the profile faces of Instagram users and get sufficiently accurate guesses for their age, gender and race.

After the computer gathered a group of underage users to study, the researchers monitored drinking related activities via their Instagram photos by analyzing social media tags and monitoring the alcohol brands the users follow.

The study revealed that underage alcohol consumption, like with adults, happens on weekends and holidays and at the end of the day. The drinking is not limited to one specific gender. Both female and male teenagers were engaging in drinking at similar ratios.

However, when it came to alcohol brands, the results varied. Different genders followed different brands. Also, teenagers tend to drink certain brands of alcohol more commonly than adults. Researchers found that certain brands attracted younger audiences in social media. This information could be useful for people working to prevent underage drinking.

“There are several ways we can go about doing that,” said Luo. “We can keep government agencies or schools better informed and help them design interventions. We could also use social media to incorporate targeted intervention and to measure the effect of any intervention. And perhaps other things we haven’t thought about.”

The researchers hope that information like this is used in a positive way to address the problem of underage drinking. They are worried though that the information could be used by brands to target these underage drinkers. The next important step is to collaborate with people who are working to reduce underage drinking and collaborate with professions who are working on addressing other youth problems such as tobacco use, drugs, teen pregnancy, stress or depression.

Elizabeth Handley, clinical psychologist and research associate at the University’s Mount Hope Family Center had this to say about the study,

“This new method could be a useful complement to more traditional methods of measuring youth drinking. It could provide important new insights into the contexts of youth drinking and be a valuable tool for evaluating the effectiveness of school or community-based preventive interventions.”

Utilizing social media to prevent and tackle underage drinking could be an effective intervention tactic. How do you feel about it being used?

Underage drinking has been known to cause a variety of health implications in the long run. Let someone know if you are having a problem with abusing substances. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125

Why More Than a Third of Teenagers are Drinking Alone

Why More Than a Third of Teenagers are Drinking Alone

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

A survey revealed that over a third of teenagers admit to drinking alone. As a response, researchers delved into the reasons why solitary drinking is increasing in popularity among teenagers. The researchers discovered that teenage alcohol consumption may be due to the inability to control impulses and negative emotions.

Researchers from two U.S. universities, Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh, wanted to know why teenagers were falling into the pattern of solitary drinking. They investigated and from their results, they concluded that drinking alone results in an increase in the presence of negative emotions.

Teen Solitary Alcohol Consumption

Typically drinking is motivated by social factors such as a desire to fit in with peers, be more social and increase confidence. Nevertheless, many people opt to drink alone. Solitary drinking is not always bad though. Millions of Americans drink one or two glasses a day on their own without suffering any consequences. However, overtime drinking alone may lead to an increase in alcohol consumption, and could contribute to alcohol abuse.

The team at Carnegie Mellon University found that drinking alone is not that uncommon among U.S. teenagers. In a study published in 2013 in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, researchers found that over a third (38.8 percent) of all teenagers drink by themselves at least some of the time.

Drinking alone is shown to increase the chances that an adolescent will develop alcohol use disorder as adults.  Teenagers who drink alone often deal with negative emotionality which is defined as the inability to balance your negative emotions with positive ones. Negative emotions are feelings that tend to destabilize a sense of mental and psychological well-being.

Common examples of negative emotions are:

  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Jealousy and envy

Negative emotions can counterbalance with positive emotional states such as:

  • Joy
  • Love
  • Empathy
  • Gratitude

However, some people have such a large number of negative emotions that they find it challenging to balance out with their small number of positive emotions.  Psychologists often refer to a long pattern of negative moods and feels as negative emotionality. People affected by negative emotionality may experience damaging effects to their well-being such as symptoms of depression, anxiety and a poor ability to adapt to stressful situations.

Impact on Teenagers

Solitary drinking has an even more damaging effect on teenagers as they are still growing into their own. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh used data gathered from 161 teen alcohol consumers to help determined how negative emotionality affects alcohol consumption in a solitary setting.

All the participants took a screening test called Lifetime Drinking History designed to identify their typical pattern of alcohol use. Each participant also took several screens to identify their personality straits and level of negative emotionality. These surveys included the Constructive Teaching Questionnaire and the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire.

In the end, the researchers concluded that the chances a teenager will drink alcohol alone depends on their level of negative emotionality. They also found that the ability to resist consuming alcohol while in a negative emotional state directly correlates as a determining factor in teens’ solitary drinking.

Essentially, teenagers able to control their impulses had a lower chance of participating in solitary drinking while in a negative state of mind. Teenagers who are able to control their impulsive behaviors experience a 79 percent reductive in their chances of becoming alcohol consumers while in a negative emotional state.

So there you have it: teenagers who are more negative and more impulsive are the ones who tend to engage in solitary drinking.  And like most habits, this type of negative behavior and interaction with oneself usually progresses into adulthood.

If you find that you have trouble managing your negative emotions, it might be time to seek counseling to understand how to manage your emotions in a healthy state. Don’t wait until it’s too late and you develop unhealthy ways of coping with your emotions like falling into a negative cycle of addictive behavior.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125  

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