Name: James McWhorter
From: Huntsville, AL
The Fight Against Alcoholism
29 May 2020
The Fight Against Alcoholism
My family has received its share of the effects of alcohol addiction, specifically, my late father. When he and my aunt were children, their mother was an alcoholic. The psychological toll that their mother’s alcoholism took on them is something my aunt is reluctant to share. For my aunt, her reaction to the problem was moving away from home with the first chance she got. My father, on the other hand, turned to drinking to temporarily remedy his stress and frustration. His struggles with alcohol followed all the way to his first marriage with the mother of my stepsister. Relationships and the crucial elements of trust and comfort were forgotten through his battle with the addicting substance. Soon, he started attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings regularly to combat his addiction. During this fight, his first wife still insisted on separation and soon after, divorce. After a year of rehabilitation and support within AA, my father started his new life, met my mother, and soon had me. I wouldn’t be sitting here today if it weren’t for my father’s success in beating alcoholism. If this nation wants to remedy the addiction crisis, then we need to perform a serious reconstruction of the stigmas and programs surrounding addiction as a whole.
Alcoholism is a major problem ravishing our nation today. It has many effects and symptoms on the body. For the brain, it can ultimately cause memory loss and mood swings. It can deteriorate muscle and thus cause prolonged weakness. It can bring about an irregular heart rate, high blood pressure, and an increased chance of strokes. For the lower internal organs, it can cause numerous liver diseases, stomach ulcers, chronic gastrointestinal problems, and even pancreatitis. A major effect of alcoholism is its participation in fatal accidents. According to a study done in 2018 by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, approximately 88,000 people die from alcohol-related accidents. Specifically, in 2014, alcoholic driving comprised 9,967 deaths, which was 31% of all driving fatalities that year. Another major effect of alcoholism is the toll of which it takes on families and relationships. According to a 2012 study, nearly 10% of the nation’s children live with an alcoholic parent. Family members and friends of alcoholics can and will experience a wide range of emotions. These can include depression, stress, anxiety, resentment, shame, and detachment. These emotions can find their way into social situations without alcohol and even the workplace. For a society, constantly producing citizens who grow up with a resentment for others’ mistakes is not a great way to be. That is why the problem of addiction must be fixed. Not only does addiction cause major problems for the addicted, but also for those around them, ultimately causing a negative disposition in society and further stigmatizing those addicted. This causes an endless cycle of mayhem.
Alcoholism can also be named alcohol use disorder (AUD). According to the same study from 2018 mentioned above, approximately 14,400,000 adults aged 18 and older reported to have AUD. This number comprises about 5.8% of the age group of 18 and older. Also noted was that only 7.9% of these 14,400,000 received treatment in the past year. This leaves 92.1% untreated or at least unresponsive to the study. The study also considered a youth age group with range 12 to 17 years old. Of what was reported, an estimated 401,000 of this youth had AUD. Of these, only 5% received help, leaving a staggering 95% assumedly untreated. I feel that the population who went untreated did so out of fear of judgement. There is a belief today that addiction displays an inherent element of weakness. This stigma and the various stigmas behind other personal issues needs to be eradicated. These untreated probably felt that their problem happened with everyone else, or simply that the possibility of public shame was more threatening than admitting that they have a problem.
Addiction and specifically alcoholism can be fought on both individual and societal levels simultaneously. The battle boils down to stigma. As stated above, many people are told to believe or misperceive that those with addiction problems are weak. This judgement only furthers the problems for those addicted, as public shame takes over. There is also a misperception that relates to peer pressure. Not everyone is drinking alcohol in high school and college, so stop telling the youth today that it is perfectly normal to binge drink or engage in heavy activities or outrageous parties. Underage drinking also needs to be further watched, putting forth the idea that it is still illegal and that it is not “cool” or normal to engage in the act. The social, political, and theological standpoints and misperceptions on alcoholism and other addictions in this nation are the reason behind addiction’s rising number of cases. If we release this notion that everyone is either strong or weak and that everybody either drinks or doesn’t, only then will we defeat alcoholism and other addictions on a mass level.
“Alcohol Alert.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa83/aa83.htm
“Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 18 Feb. 2020, www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics.