Alcohol can affect not just the person who consumes it but also those around them. Excessive alcohol consumption can have a severe and detrimental impact on society. It’s responsible for many alcohol-related accidents, violence, and crime. Heavy drinking can also increase the risk of physical and mental health complications and hinder productivity and economic growth. As a result, taxpayers pay millions of dollars in healthcare and law enforcement expenditures annually. Excessive drinking is also responsible for codependency, abusive behavior, and the breakdown of interpersonal relationships. Understanding the numerous societal effects of excessive drinking will assist us in reducing alcohol-related issues in our society.
The Financial Cost of Alcoholism
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the economic cost of excessive alcohol use in the United States in 2010 was approximately $249 billion, with healthcare costs accounting for approximately $27 billion, criminal justice costs accounting for approximately $25 billion, and workplace productivity costs accounting for approximately $179 billion. Almost 77% of this cost was attributable to binge drinking. This amount equates to around $807 per person. And in terms of who pays for what, just $2 of every $5 was paid by local, state, or federal governments, implying that taxpayers, or the general public, are covering the bulk of alcohol-related economic costs.
In addition to the economic burden, alcohol use disorders can also affect an individual’s personal cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that heavy drinkers spend around $5,096 on alcohol annually. And the financial cost doesn’t just end there. As heavy drinkers are more likely to be involved in alcohol-related accidents and are more likely to develop chronic health conditions, their medical expenses are also likely to increase. Depending on various factors, including the severity of the underlying condition and the individual’s health insurance coverage, drinking-related medical bills vary widely.
For example, the cost of treating alcoholic hepatitis (liver inflammation caused by heavy alcohol consumption) over five years totaled over $145,000. In addition, the average emergency room visit can cost around $1,000 with insurance. That number is nearly $200 more expensive for those who are uninsured.
The Effects of Alcoholism on Crime
Alcohol use can increase the likelihood of crime, such as murder, suicide, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Excessive drinking can reduce inhibitions, impair judgment, and raise the likelihood of aggressive behavior. As a result, alcohol-related violence and crime rates are increasing across the nation. Drunk driving is one of the most frequently committed alcohol-related offenses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-impaired drivers are responsible for 32 deaths a day in the United States, or one death every 45 minutes.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), 40% of violent crimes in the United States involve alcohol. This includes 37% of sexual assaults and rape cases, 15% of robberies, 28% of aggravated assaults, and 25.5% of simple assaults. Alcohol is responsible for a greater number of homicides in the United States than drugs like heroin and cocaine.
The use of alcohol is a major risk factor in intimate partner violence, as it can facilitate aggressive, intimidating, and controlling behaviors. It is called intimate partner violence when one partner in a romantic relationship harms another in any of these ways. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption increases both the frequency and intensity of domestic violence. An estimated 55% of offenders of domestic violence had consumed alcohol previous to the assault. In addition, abused women are 15 times more like to abuse alcohol themselves as a coping mechanism.
The Effects of Alcoholism on Mental Health
During intoxication and withdrawal, alcohol can produce symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and antisocial behavior. As a depressant, alcohol alters the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to negative emotions. Individuals who routinely consume high quantities of alcohol increase their risk of developing mental health disorders and/or exacerbating preexisting mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Alcohol can also have a negative impact on mental health by interfering with interests, relationships, and self-esteem, leading to social difficulties.
Individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorder or an underlying mental health condition are at a higher risk for alcohol abuse. Additionally, individuals suffering from mental disorders may use alcohol as a coping mechanism, resulting in a downward spiral of addiction and severe health consequences.
The Effects of Alcoholism on Work Performance
Heavy alcohol consumption can have a substantial impact on one’s work performance. It can result in decreased productivity, absence from work, workplace accidents, and increased medical expenses. It can also impair cognitive performance, like problem-solving, reasoning, concentration, reaction times, and coordination. Alcohol can affect relationships with coworkers, leading to conflict and a decline in work performance.
Many studies have also found that unemployment and excessive drinking go hand in hand. The causative effect can go both ways: heavy drinkers are more likely to lose their jobs, and unemployment can often lead to increased drinking.
The Effects of Alcoholism on Relationships
Chronic heavy drinking can negatively affect your interpersonal relationship with your partner, family, and friends. The most severe and harmful consequences may be on romantic relationships and marriage. Studies suggest that alcohol abuse is one of the leading causes of divorces in the United States, and it’s a major source of strain in many households. Alcohol addiction is associated with codependency in relationships as well as verbal and physical abuse. Relationships typically deteriorate due to conflicts, financial difficulties, infidelity, lack of communication, mistrust, or domestic violence. Alcohol dependence also diminishes sex drive, exacerbating an already troubled relationship and finally leading to divorce. The abuse of alcohol within a relationship can have devastating impacts on all members of the family.
The Effects of Alcoholism on Family
Alcohol use disorder is known as a family addiction because when one family member suffers from alcohol dependence, the entire family is affected. The detrimental effects of parental drinking on non-drinking family members, particularly children, continue to be a source of concern and must be addressed as a public health concern.
Parental alcohol abuse raises the chance of low academic performance, attendance, and a higher school dropout in their children. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one in 10 children in the U.S. lives with a parent struggling with alcohol addiction. When a parent is focused on maintaining their alcohol dependence, they are often unable to provide for their child’s basic needs. This includes nutrition, safety, education, structure, stability, affection, and healthcare. If these basic needs are not met, young children will grow up surrounded by instability and insecurity. Studies have indicated that these children are more susceptible to various cognitive, emotional, and behavioral issues due to parental alcohol abuse. These children are also more likely to be abused or neglected by their parents, and they are more likely to develop chronic stress as a result of their living situation.
Alcoholism and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
Any alcohol consumption will inevitably end in some degree of harm, but drinking during pregnancy can cause serious harm to the unborn child. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy may result in fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). It is the most severe manifestation of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), a set of conditions resulting from prenatal alcohol exposure. FASDs can occur when alcohol passes through the umbilical cord from the mother’s blood to the baby’s. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume during pregnancy or while trying to conceive, nor is there a safe period to consume alcohol during pregnancy.
FAS symptoms include physical abnormalities such as facial features, growth problems, behavioral and learning difficulties, poor coordination, hyperactivity, and attention deficits, which tend to worsen over time. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of congenital disabilities, developmental impairments, and learning disabilities.
The impacts of alcoholism on society are extensive and far-reaching. They harm not just the individuals who abuse alcohol but also their families, friends, and communities.
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