Treatment for Alcoholism
Do Americans Drink Too Much?

Excessive alcohol consumption has plagued the United States for centuries. Since alcohol was first brought onto U.S. soil, countless individuals, families and communities have been ravaged by the consequences of alcohol misuse and alcoholism. As a whole, does America have a drinking problem?

In short… yes.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85.6 percent of American adults over the age of 18 have consumed an alcoholic beverage at least once in their lives. 25.8 percent of people over the age of 18 have engaged in binge drinking, and 14.5 million Americans currently suffer from a diagnosable alcohol use disorder. Between 2006 and 2014 the rates of alcohol-related emergency room visits increased by 47 percent. Currently, there are an estimated 210,000 emergency room visits directly related to alcohol every year. Additionally, alcohol misuse and alcoholism remains the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. These deaths can be attributed to alcohol-related health conditions like liver disease, liver cancer and heart disease, as well as alcohol-related accidents and driving while intoxicated.

If you or someone you love has been struggling with alcohol misuse of alcoholism, there is help available. Unfortunately, fewer than 8 percent of individuals who are in need of treatment end up seeking any degree of professional help. At Guardian Recovery Network we have developed an accessible, multi-staged program of alcohol addiction recovery — contact us today to learn more.

Alcohol Misuse in America

A fair amount of American adults are able to control and enjoy their drinking; utilizing alcohol as a social tool or enjoying a glass of wine at dinner time. However, an increasing amount of Americans drink to excess on a regular basis. Part of the reason why is simply because alcohol is now more accessible and prevalent than ever before. In the current day and age, a person can enjoy a pint of beer while getting a haircut in a trendy barber shop. Movie theaters, bowling alleys and mini golf courses serve wine and beer; some grocery stores have bars in the back, so you can sip a hard seltzer or cider as you peruse the aisles for milk and eggs.

The ongoing global pandemic has also contributed to increased rates of excessive alcohol consumption. According to a study published by the American Psychiatric Association, over 25 percent of Americans admit to drinking much more than normal in order to cope with COVID-related stress. Despite this fact, the start of the new year brought about many resolutions (as it always does). However, a surprising amount of people who vowed to “not drink and start going to the gym more” fell off the wagon almost instantaneously. Outside of Omicron stressors and a lack of conviction, why do Americans drink so much?
There are several reasons why people drink heavily, and the reasoning behind alcohol consumption always varies significantly on a person-to-person basis.

People might engage in excessive alcohol consumption because:

  • They are attempting to self-medicate an underlying issue. This could be an underlying mental illness like anxiety or depression, unresolved trauma, or a chronic health condition.
  • They are attempting to cope with consistently high stress levels, which might result from a high-stress occupation, unfavorable living conditions or any number of personal circumstances.
  • They are looking to “have fun.” Some people drink because they like drinking. They might work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekdays and go out drinking every weekend, drinking heavily but suffering no major personal consequences.
  • They are suffering from a diagnosable alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, many people continue drinking despite harmful effects because they have become physically dependent on alcohol.

While an estimated 14.5 million adults throughout the country suffer from an alcohol use disorder, the majority of Americans who admit they “drink too much” do not meet the criteria needed to be officially diagnosed. The American Osteopathic Association conducted a study that found around 9 percent of adults continue to drink regularly despite related harm to their personal and/or professional lives. It is important to note that problem drinking is a precursor for alcoholism. Even if you do not currently meet the diagnostic criteria, it does not mean that you are safe from developing an alcohol addiction. It is a good idea to take care of an alcohol problem as early on as possible.

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The Difference Between Heavy Drinking, Problem Drinking & Alcoholism

There is a significant distinction to be made between heavy drinking, problem drinking and alcoholism. No matter where you lie on the spectrum, we recommend seeking some degree of professional help. Alcoholism is a progressive medical condition, and the longer the symptoms of problem drinking are left unaddressed, the more likely they are to develop into a physical and psychological alcohol dependence.

Heavy Drinking

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy drinking as the consumption of more than 4 drinks per day and more than 14 days per week, in the case of men, and more than 3 drinks per day or 7 drinks per week, in the case of women. If you engage in heavy drinking it means you are consuming a significant amount of alcohol by volume — it doesn’t mean you can’t quit on your own, or that you have suffered any significant consequences as the result of your drinking.

Problem Drinking

Problem drinking occurs when your alcohol consumption begins to negatively impact your overall quality of life. If you drink two glasses of wine in the evening and experience no consequences, you are probably not considered to be a “problem drinker.” Problem drinkers often get into trouble at work because they show up hungover or intoxicated, or because they are caught drinking on the job. They might experience strained interpersonal relationships, or struggle to keep up with bill payment and other responsibilities as a direct result of their drinking. Many problem drinkers can quit if they find a good enough reason to do so. If you have been struggling to quit on your own, you might be walking the line between problem drinking and full-blown alcoholism.

Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence or alcohol addiction, is a chronic and progressive medical condition. A person who has been struggling with alcoholism will continue drinking despite severe consequences, and often despite repeated attempts to quit. If your drinking has developed into an alcohol use disorder, the best option is seeking professional addiction treatment. There are many potential treatment options, ranging from outpatient treatment and peer support groups to medical detox and inpatient rehab. The best option for you will depend on your unique clinical needs.

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Am I an Alcoholic?

How can you tell if you are an alcoholic? The American Psychiatric Association utilizes a specific set of diagnostic criteria laid out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (or the DSM-V). When officially diagnosing alcohol use disorders, medical professionals look for the presence of two or more of these criteria. We have included the criteria below — contact Guardian Recovery Network directly with any additional questions.

 Alcohol misuse and dependence in America

Alcohol Dependence Quiz

  • Question #1: Do you often use alcohol in larger amounts or over a longer period than you intended?
  • Question #2: Have you wanted to cut back on alcohol or made unsuccessful attempts to do so?
  • Question #3: Do you spend a great deal of time finding, using or recovering from using?
  • Question #4: Do you have strong urges or powerful cravings to use alcohol?
  • Question #5: Has your use of alcohol resulted in your inability to meet your obligations at work, home, or school?
  • Question #6: Have you had to cut back on or abandon social, professional, or recreational activities due to your use of alcohol?
  • Question #7: Have you repeatedly used alcohol when it was hazardous to do so, such as while driving a car?
  • Question #8: Have you experienced social or relationship problems due to your substance use and kept using anyway?
  • Question #9: Have you kept using alcohol knowing that it has caused or worsened physical or mental health issues?
  • Question #10: When you attempt to cut back on or stop your use of alcohol, have you experienced uncomfortable physical or mental health symptoms (withdrawal)?
  • Question #11: Have you needed more alcohol to feel the effects you’re seeking (tolerance)?

Quiz Results

If you answered “yes” to two or more of the following questions, there is a good chance that some degree of treatment is necessary. We recommend reaching out to Guardian Recovery Network directly or speaking with another addiction treatment specialist who can help point you in the right direction.

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

  • Behavioral Therapy – One of the most effective and widely employed treatment options for alcoholism is behavioral therapy. In many cases, people begin drinking because of an underlying issue. This might be unresolved trauma, an underlying mental illness, or any number of other concerns. Individuals often benefit from a combination of one-on-one and group therapy sessions. Family therapy is also frequently utilized.
  • 12 Step Program Involvement – Peer support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous often prove beneficial when it comes to the maintenance of long-term sobriety. Not only do peer support groups help foster a vital sense of community, but incorporating meetings into daily routine helps keep people connected and accountable. There are several options for ongoing peer support.
  • Medication Assisted Treatment Options – If you have been suffering from a particularly severe alcohol use disorder, medication assisted treatment might be necessary. In most cases, MAT is only utilized in a medical detox setting. However, because the psychological symptoms associated with post-acute alcohol withdrawal can be severe, an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication might be beneficial.

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A Multi-Staged Approach to Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Alcohol use disorders range in severity, and the best treatment options for you or your loved one will depend on your unique clinical needs. However, it is generally recommended that a person enter into a multi-staged addiction treatment program.

Does America have a drinking problem alcohol addiction recovery

Medical Detox

The symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal occur in several distinct stages. The duration of the alcohol withdrawal process depends on several factors, including age, weight, metabolism rate, the amount of alcohol being consumed and the frequency of use. When left untreated, the symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable and dangerous. In severe cases they can even be life-threatening. This is why attempting to detox on your own is never a good idea. If you are serious about overcoming alcohol addiction, we recommend entering into a medical detox program before the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal begin to take hold.

Residential Inpatient Treatment

Residential inpatient treatment is an immersive model of treatment where clients come to live amongst other sober peers and participate in a daily treatment program in a facility that is professionally staffed by medical professionals, licensed therapists, group facilitators and support staff. Clients participate in a daily schedule full of recovery related activities including group therapy, individual therapy, recovery meetings, educational workshops, life skills courses, recreational therapy, social activities, yoga, meditation and at some of our centers, 12-Step work. At Guardian Recovery Network facilities, our residential inpatient programs typically last between 28-60 days, but length of stay varies person-to-person.

Outpatient Treatment

Guardian Recovery Network’s intensive outpatient treatment programs are a flexible form of addiction treatment that allows individuals to go to work, attend school, engage in their day-to-day lives and live at home or at sober living while simultaneously participating in a treatment program. Individuals attend treatment 3-5 days a week for 3-5 hours per day. Our IOP locations typically have different time tracks to accommodate different schedules, including a morning track, afternoon track and evening track. Some of our IOP facilities offer demographic-specific groups, such as women’s groups, men’s groups and young adult groups. A client’s duration in this stage of treatment is based on what is deemed clinically appropriate, but IOP typically lasts at least 60 days.

Sober Living & Aftercare

While in treatment, our clients work closely with a team of professionals including an individual therapist, professional case manager and at some facilities, a 12-Step mentor. This team works together to help clients craft detailed, strategic aftercare plans for the time following treatment. Aftercare could include continuing treatment in an intensive outpatient setting, taking up residence in a sober living home, continuing personal therapy work, active involvement in a recovery community, participation in 12-Step work and maintaining connection with other Guardian alumni. It could also include taking medications that reduce cravings and prevent relapse; and continuing to see a psychiatrist to manage medication pertaining to mental health.

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    If you have been struggling with alcohol addiction and you have been struggling to quit on your own, Guardian Recovery Network is available to help. We treat alcohol use disorders at their roots, beginning with the thorough and effective treatment of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and continuing with the next appropriate level of care. The moment you make the decision to reach out for help and contact us directly through our website or over the phone, you will be put in touch with one of our experienced Treatment Advisors, who will then walk you through our simple and straightforward admissions process.

    We begin with a brief pre-assessment which helps our clinical and medical team determine which treatment options are going to be the most beneficial for your unique case. We then offer a free, no obligation insurance benefit check and provide information on additional coverage options whenever necessary. Finally, we arrange local transportation to one of our medical detox or treatment centers. All you have to do is reach out for help, and we will take care of the rest. We look forward to speaking with you and answering any additional alcohol addiction questions you might have.

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    Reviewed for accuracy by our National Director Of Clinical Services:

    Tommy McGee
    LMHC, CAP


    Tommy has more than 16 years of experience in the mental health and addictions field working in supportive, clinical and administrative roles. He has experience working with clients from various ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. He has worked with clients with co-occurring disorders, both adult and adolescent persons, Native American groups, and in programs with a focus on treating clients of ultra high net worth.