According to a study performed in November of 2012, 70% of all people surveyed know a friend or family member who they believe might be an alcoholic. 83% of potential alcoholics are not currently in treatment. Fortunately, beyond the popular 12-step programs, there are many ways to identify alcohol addiction and to recover without humility.
We’ve surveyed over 750 people and interviewed experts to provide you with several shocking statistics, health facts, along with recovery methods that don’t involve popular 12-step programs.
With knowledge comes the power to change. With change comes the opportunity to impact the course of your life and the lives of people around you. Whether you use this guide to merely understand and recognize a possible addiction problem or to pull facts to help a loved one, it’s our hope that you’ll share all or parts of this page with others who may also benefit from the knowledge.
Shocking Alcoholism Statistics
Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, calls alcohol addiction “a disease that is characterized by the sufferer having a pattern of drinking excessively despite the negative effects of alcohol on the individual’s work, medical, legal, educational and/or social life.”
Dr. Dryden-Edwards also shared a few startling statistics:
- Alcohol abuse affects about 10% of women and 20% of men in the United States
- Most addiction begins in a person’s mid-teens
- Nearly 2,000 people under 21 years of age die each year in alcohol-related automotive accidents
Costs associated with DUI are borderline unbelievable, based on a California government study:
|Cost of annual auto insurance increases||$40,000|
|Towing and storage fee ($137 per day)||$685 (5+ days)|
|Fines and attorney fees||$4,000|
|DMV reinstatement fee||$100|
|Estimated Minimum total||$45,435|
A study by Potsdam University in New York reveals similar statistics in other states, not annualized:
We asked 750 adults in the US if they had a friend or family member they believed might be an alcoholic. We were astonished to learn that 526 (70%) of participants replied with “Yes”. Even more shocking, those people who replied with “Yes” stated that 83.5% of those potential alcoholics were not currently in treatment! Below find the data from our research:
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “alcohol gets V.I.P. treatment in the body, absorbing and metabolizing before most other nutrients. About 20 percent is absorbed directly across the walls of an empty stomach and can reach the brain within one minute. Alcohol metabolism permanently changes liver cell structure, which impairs the liver’s ability to metabolize fats (often resulting in fatty livers).”
This article provides several astonishing statistics of bodily impacts resulting from over-consumption, including the table below:
|Increases risk of gouty arthritis|
|Increases the risk of cancer in the liver, pancreas, rectum, breast, mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus|
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
|Causes physical and behavioral abnormalities in the fetus|
|Raises blood pressure, blood lipids and the risk of stroke and heart disease in heavy drinkers. Heart disease is generally lower in light to moderate drinkers.|
|Raises blood glucose|
|Lowers blood glucose, especially for people with diabetes|
|Enlarges the kidneys, alters hormone functions, and increases the risk of kidney failure|
|Causes fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis|
|Increases the risk of protein-energy malnutrition,; low intakes of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, vitamin B6 and riboflavin, and impaired absorption of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and zinc.|
|Causes neuropathy and dementia; impairs balance and memory|
|Increases energy intake, but not a primary cause of obesity|
|Causes depression, anxiety and insomnia|
Other Effects of Alcohol Addiction
There are many negative effects of alcohol addiction identified by doctors and psychologists around the world. The National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) published an article to help identify signs and symptoms of alcoholism, which includes many common effects including:
- Repeatedly Neglecting Responsibilities
- Dangerous Situations
- Legal Problems
- Relationship Problems
Identifying Alcohol Addiction
Am I an Alcoholic?
Wine, beer and liqueurs have been around for thousands of years. Alcohol is used in church as part of worship rituals, in weddings to celebrate unity, and served at every meal in some countries in part from tradition and in part to support better digestion.
Therefore, before you label yourself or another as a person suffering from alcohol addiction, take a moment to answer the questions below.
- Do you lose time from work due to drinking?
- Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
- Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
- Is drinking affecting your reputation?
- Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
- Have you had financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
- Do you turn to inferior companions and environments when drinking?
- Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
- Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
- Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
- Do you want a drink the next morning?
- Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
- Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
- Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
- Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
- Do you drink alone?
- Have you ever had a loss of memory as a result of drinking?
- Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
- Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
- Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?
According to the Office of Health Care Programs, Johns Hopkins University Hospital, developers of this screening quiz, if you answered 3 of these questions with a Yes it is a definite sign that your drinking patterns are harmful and possibly considered alcohol dependent or alcoholic. You may want to seek an evaluation by a healthcare professional.
Ways to Avoid Crossing the Line of Addiction
If you find yourself in a scenario where you’re unsure if you’ve become an alcoholic, start with the following list of ways to avoid crossing the line completely:
- Set Your Limit and Stick To It
- Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach
- Select Social Venues Wisely
- Ignore Peer Pressure
- Re-Gift Alcoholic Gifts or Politely Don’t Accept Them
Is My Friend or Family Member an Alcoholic?
We can predict with certainty that sharing the quiz above with a family member, friend, co-worker or acquaintance will not be accepted with gratitude. In fact, you may get a better response inviting a teenager to a game of shuffleboard, or worse, a fashion model to an arm-wrestling contest. So how does one approach such an uncomfortable scenario? Below are a few ways to identify and then introduce the topic to specific people in your life, with the hope of helping them identify whether or not the makings of alcohol addiction are present.
Megan Hevey, a graduate from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, wrote a paper entitled “Alcoholism & It’s Effects on the Family” identifying “Three Phases of Alcoholic Drinking”:
Phase One: Difficulty Stopping
Phase Two: Denial
Phase Three: Withdrawal
Observe the Children of Potential Alcoholics
Hevey’s paper also points out that, “Many families have a tendency to feel they must protect the alcoholic member by helping them hide their addiction. This leads to dysfunctional family roles and can severely hinder a child’s perception of what’s appropriate when it comes to alcohol.”
Hevey then identifies several signs of potential family alcohol addiction and the roles a child my unknowingly take on:
- The Overly Responsible. The responsible child is the one that becomes their own parent. Externally they look fine because this is how they want their environment to be. They have numerous characteristics such as being goal oriented, but they struggle to ask for help.
- The Placater. The placater is emotional responsibility for all the family members. This is the warm, caring, child that’s emotionally closed to their own feelings because they’re interested in everyone else’s.
- The Adjuster. The adjuster is the child who shrugs their shoulders and says they aren’t bothered. They don’t draw attention to themselves and are flexible but emotionally withdrawn.
- The Scapegoat. The scapegoat is the child that acts out and has no problem telling everyone that something is wrong. These children are actually closer to seeing the truth of the situation, however, they question authority, can be exceptionally angry, and have a more difficult time entering into the mainstream society.
Our Research & Findings
We asked a simple question to over 200 people in our brief focus group on alcohol addiction a simple question: “How can you identify someone as being an alcoholic?” We then took the common themes from their answers and listed them below. We also received quite a few humorous answers we thought you might enjoy at the end of this guide (click here to skip to that section).
Percentage of Answers
|Drink more than one daily||42||23%|
|Not able to stop drinking||28||15%|
|Changes to physical appearance||26||14%|
|Changes in behavior||24||13%|
|Irritable when not drinking||11||6%|
|Gets drunk alone||10||5%|
|Withdrawals when not drinking||9||5%|
|Drinking causes fights (regularly)||2||1%|
|Change in speech||1||1%|
We can infer from the study that the number one indicator of an alcohol addiction is drinking more than one per day, followed (by large gab) by not being able to stop drinking, which happens to be Phase One of Hevey study on alcoholism above.
Introducing the idea of a drinking potential problem may be the most difficult entry point to recovery, for the person you believe has the addiction. Here are a few suggestions that might help:
For Family Members
- Hold a family meeting to discuss intervention as a starting point
- Ask the most influential member of the family to get involved
- Discuss your concern with those closest to the effected friend (girlfriend, best friend, etc)
- Speak with the friend’s parents or guardians and present the facts
- You don’t want them to lose their job, so avoid team leads, managers and directors
- Slip the quiz above onto their desk in a sealed envelope with a note “from a friend who cares”
- Talk with them after work to avoid conversations in the building that others might listen in on
- Identify friends of the acquaintance and speak with them first
- Write a short “from a friend” note with sincerity and compassion
Alcohol Addiction Recovery
It’s important to remember that even our leaders and personalities we look up to find themselves beyond the edge of no return and end up seeking treatment. Celebrities such as Robin Williams, Martin Sheen, Stephen King and Craig Ferguson are just a few names you might recognize who have all recovered from alcohol addiction. This isn’t proof that you will recover, but we hope it’s enough to at least provide hope.
Think Outside the 12-Steps
There are unlimited alcohol addiction recovery methods and techniques used by experts, specialists, and PhD’s around the globe. Below are a few common methods that do not involve immersing yourself in a room full of strangers and announcing your problem in a public format. Note that 12-step programs can be a good fit for some people, but there are other options such as those listed below.
Art Therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses art materials, such as paints, chalk, markers, and clay. It combines traditional psychotherapeutic theories and techniques with an understanding of psychological aspects of the creative process. Participating in the process of making art helps begin the individual’s own healing and can help guide him or her to find discoveries within him- or herself.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) describes a number of therapies that have a similar approach to solving problems, which can include, but are not limited to, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, and depression. CBT works to change individual’s attitudes and behavior. It focuses on thoughts, images, and beliefs that we have and how they are related to our behavior and coping process.
Equine Therapy Learning (EAL) is an innovative, transformative, and solution-focused program that utilizes the natural herd dynamics of horses as co-facilitators for therapy. A unique non-riding experience with horses teaches individuals to cultivate skills such as patience, communication, and working with others.
A Focus on Nutrition and Exercise can have a big impact on individuals struggling with their non-12 step recovery. Balanced meals are a building block to stabilizing alcohol addicts and returning their bodies back to a natural, healthy state. A healthy diet teaches addicts what it feels like to be physically satisfied without drugs and alcohol.
Music Therapy is a form of therapy that allows individuals to express themselves through music. A Stanford study discovered that strong musical beats can stimulate the brain and eventually the brainwaves can match the rhythm of the music. Alternatively, slower beats have shown to stimulate the part of the brain that is associated with a meditative or hypnosis state, while faster beats were connected to alertness and concentration.
Positive Approach Therapy restores an addict’s integrity and self-esteem by promoting self-worth, self-discovery, and introspective happiness. Replacing negative, destructive thoughts with positive thinking and an optimistic view of the future may help individuals with their recovery process. Traditional 12-step programs may reinforce the negative view that many individuals already have on themselves. Positive approach does just the opposite.
Yoga Therapy, such as restorative and flow yoga, is extremely beneficial to a recovery addict’s wellbeing as it improves flexibility and core strength. Pilates may also help build strength and muscle tone.
Humorous Answers to Our Study on Identifiers
As promised, below is a partial list of answers we received from our focus group that were somewhat humorous in nature. We figured you the reader could use a break at this point in the guide. We’re only publishing this list because so many readers, including the focus group, asked us to share. We hope you enjoy the feedback and do not take offense.
How can you identify someone as being an alcoholic (humorous answers)?
- If they are drinking while filling out this survey
- Someone who drinks more than me
- Lists a beer manufacturer as a friend on Facebook
- Receives notifications when favorite beer manufacturer makes a tweet
- Drinks the cheapest most disgusting alcohol just to get drunk
- Subscribes to a beer magazine
- Watches football
Millions of people all over the globe are facing problems with alcohol, either directly or indirectly. Many of these people are sharing their experiences and posting tips online. We searched for resources that appeared to provide the most credible information and have listed many of them in the list below.
The road to recovery truly does start with awareness of the problem; awareness that can be identified without much effort using the ideas presented above. Choosing to take action before and after the problem is confirmed may lead to improved health, wellness, productivity and higher self-esteem.
When 70% of the country says they know someone with an alcohol problem, and you discover that you’re one of them, we hope you’ll recognize that you are truly not alone. There are many options for recovering from alcohol addiction without a 12-step program, but the easiest place to start may be simply asking someone who cares about you to stand by your side and you help you choose the road to recovery that best fits who you are and best aligns with your comfort level.