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Alcohol Addiction in New York

 

Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease caused by long term, habitual alcohol consumption. The disease of alcohol addiction is widely known by varied common terms such as alcoholism, alcohol dependence syndrome, and alcohol use disorder.

This disease has several distinguishing characteristics that determine a positive diagnosis. Accepted medical conclusions of a positive diagnosis is made if two or more of the following signs are deemed present:

  • Chronic, heavy alcohol use.
  • Strong urge or desire to drink
  • Inability to pace, or limit drinking
  • Inability to stop drinking
  • Dependence manifested through symptoms of withdrawal when use is halted
  • Increased tolerance for the substance
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Health problems associated with alcohol consumption
  • Personal and social problems resulting from use
  • Drinking overrides responsibilities and consumes the addict’s thoughts and time.

 

Alcohol Addiction Statistics in New York

Statistics revealed in a data report issued by the New York City Department of Health relating to alcohol abuse

  • Over 1/4th of New Yorkers under the age of 21 report recent alcohol use.
  • Approximately half of New Yorkers 21 years and older (53%) report alcohol consumption.
  • Of the adult New Yorkers who report drinking, 11% are heavy drinkers and 42% binge drink.
  • 33% of those who have committed suicide in New York State had been drinking at the time of the incident.
  • Alcohol was involved in 37% of suicides by hanging, 37% of intentional poisonings, and 39% of suicides by firearms.
  • One in ten hospitalizations in New York City is alcohol-related
  • Percentages of emergency department visits related to alcohol use in the state of New York range from <2% to > 4% depending upon the county of residence.
  • The areas noted as having the highest proportion of emergency department visits related to alcohol consumption are: Greenwich Village and SoHo in Lower Manhattan, Gramercy Park-Murray Hill and Chelsea-Clinton in Manhattan, North and West Queens, and Greenpoint and Southern Brooklyn.
  • New York City statistics show that alcohol use accompanied 46% of homicides, 26% of deaths due to accidental injury and poisonings, and 28% of motor vehicle accident deaths.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reporting on a survey conducted by The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), reveals that 56% of adults in NYC who drink alcohol on a regular basis consume beer, 25% consume wine, and 20% consume spirits.
  • Reported by the Council on Addictions for New York State Inc., alcohol consumption is “known to be a human carcinogen;” this, according to the National Toxicology Program, is “based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in human studies that indicate a causal relationship between consumption of alcoholic beverages and cancer.”
  • The US Dept. of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 36%, or 422, of the 1168 total fatalities due to car accidents in New York in 2012 were a direct result of drunk driving (based on a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher).

 

What does exposure to alcohol do to the body?

Alcohol is distributed by the bloodstream throughout the body. A small portion is excreted from the kidneys through urine and some through respiration. When a person consumes a larger amount than the body can process, the person become inebriated, or drunk. The following describes the immediate effects of one standard alcoholic beverage on the body: Slowed central nervous system responses, an impact on coordination and balance, increased blood pressure, and potentially, an irregular heartbeat.

Alcohol levels and consumption defined as per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The levels of alcohol in each of the four main types of alcohol based on one standard drink include:

  • 12 fluid ounces of beer (about 5% alcohol)
  • 8 to 9 fluid ounces of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
  • 5 fluid ounces of table wine (about 12% alcohol)
  • 5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)

 

Consumption guidelines

Low risk: consumption levels deemed low risk for men are defined as no more than 4 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week. For women, low risk consumption equals no more than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 drinks per week. In order to maintain a low risk status, consumption must remain within both the daily and weekly limits. Binge drinking is considered having 5 or more drinks in one sitting.

These totals probably surprise most people, which is exactly why alcohol abuse and alcoholism is such a problem. The line between what is thought of as normal consumption and abuse is very fine. However, the physical, emotional, and mental impact on those that do cross the line is immense.  Immediate bodily responses can be anticipated, and long-term abuse can cause permanent damage.

 

Health risks associated with alcohol use disorders

There are short and long term risks associated with consistent, prolonged alcohol use. Alcohol affects nearly every organ and system within the body. The main areas of impact include the immune system, the heart, brain, pancreas, the immune system, and the liver.

Brain: Alcohol impacts the brain’s communication and reward centers in terms of neurotransmitter functioning and endorphin levels. This disruption influences mood, concentration, focus, motor responses, and behavior.

Heart: Alcohol can cause fluctuations in heart rhythms and create other problems such as cardiomyopathy, a raise in blood pressure, arrhythmias, and stroke.

Liver: Heavy consumption is highly destructive to the liver, leading to inflammation and damage including: Fatty liver (Steatosis), hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.

Pancreas: The pancreas produces toxic substances as a result of alcohol use that can lead to pancreatitis; a potentially fatal occurrence causing inflammation and swelling to blood vessels in the pancreas.

Immune System: Alcohol abuse weakens the immune system. This causes greater susceptibility to infection and disease.  This negative immune response can interrupt the body’s ability to fight infection within 24 hours of binge drinking.

 

Short Term Health Risks

Short-term health risks may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nutritional and vitamin deficiencies
  • Anemia
  • High blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal inflammation
  • Blood sugar fluctuations
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Memory lapses
  • Blackouts
  • Heart rhythm anomalies
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dulled motor skills
  • Loss of equilibrium and balance

 

Long Term Health Risks

Long-term health risks may include:

  • Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is defined as a brain disorder caused by a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency; also termed “wet brain.”
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis
  • Liver failure
  • Cancer of the liver, pancreas, esophagus, stomach, and kidney
  • Permanent memory loss
  • Mental illness
  • Respiratory distress
  • Chronic depression
  • Coma
  • Overdose
  • Death

 

Treatment

Treatment begins with detox and withdrawal. Upon ending use of the addicted substance, the body will begin to show the signs and symptoms of withdrawal. The signs of alcohol withdrawal can include: Heightened anxiety, profuse sweating, chills, shaking, tremens, nausea, vomiting, headache, and body aches.

Inpatient detox begins with medical supervision on a 24 hour basis. Inpatient medical detox procedures are advantageous to patients with an alcohol addiction in that the process is tempered by the administration of medications to ease discomfort and slowly wean toxins from the body.

Inpatient treatment includes a wide array of cognitive-behavioral therapies and counseling that helps the patient come to terms with their disease and examine their perceptions, actions, and behaviors. Two very important aspects of inpatient treatment are relapse prevention and a quality aftercare program.

One of the most difficult steps involved in addiction recovery is accepting and admitting to having a problem. This acceptance is what deters most addicts from seeking treatment. Whereas once involved in a rehabilitation program, patients will quickly learn that they are not alone in this struggle, they will learn self-acceptance, and find the support they need to live a life of sobriety.

Treatment is almost always essential for any hope of long-term recovery. Addiction as a concept is not just the apparent physical aspects, but is also the mental and emotional turmoil resulting from the illness. With proper treatment, self-care, and determination, recovering addicts can live a life of happiness and all-around well-being.