According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 95,000 people (approximately 68,000 men and 27,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Timothy Kowaleski, DO, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute, and addictionologist with PPG – Psychiatry, discusses how alcohol use disorder (AUD) is still on the rise and where those dealing with the addiction can turn for help.
It’s no secret that all types of substance abuse have gone up since COVID-19, but alcohol has made a significant jump. In fact, it is one of the most abused substances in the nation. Data also supports the increase in hospitalizations and alcohol-related issues over the last several years, either due to addiction before COVID-19 or an increase brought on by stress, anxiety and/or a lack of purpose during the pandemic. And sadly, by the time I become involved, it’s no longer a one-time incident. We are focusing on how to cope while treating a substance use problem.
In most cases, a substance use disorder is the persistent use of alcohol (or other drugs), causing health problems, disability, impairment, and failure to meet responsibilities at home, work or school. When you have a substance use disorder, like alcoholism, your body has an abnormal response to whatever substance you are using. Your brain is constantly signaling a need for the substance to survive, making the cessation of it incredibly challenging. Generally, when using something like alcohol, a person will experience an abnormal amount of dopamine in response to the substance. So, it doesn’t matter what you’re addicted to; This reaction can make it extremely difficult to stop.
Knowing the risk factors
Many people underestimate the effects that alcohol can have on the mind and body, and no amount of alcohol is healthy for the brain. In fact, certain factors could increase your risk of developing alcoholism or AUD. A few of the known factors include having:
- more than 15 drinks per week if you’re male
- more than 12 drinks per week if you’re female
- more than 5 or more drinks in a 2-hour period for men
- more than 4 or more drinks in a 2-hour period for women
- a biological family member with alcohol use disorder
- a mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia
You may also be at a greater risk for AUD if you:
- are a young adult experiencing peer pressure
- have low self-esteem or self-worth
- experience a high level of stress
- live in a family/culture where alcohol use is common or accepted
Where to turn for help
If you live in Allen County, call 260-427-5801 to connect with a recovery coach about addiction. To learn about other resources for recovery, please contact the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine any time, 24 hours a day, at 260-373-7500 or 800-284-8439.