An Analysis of the Effects of Alcoholism

An Analysis of the Effects of Alcoholism


Effects of Alcoholism – they are many and varied. Let us consider them by the various people and groups of people they can affect:

1) Individuals

2) Society as whole

3) Families

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Let’s take a look at these three groups one at a time:

Effects of alcoholism on Individuals

Alcoholism can affect the individual in many ways, ranging from relatively minor consequences to incapacitation and even death at the other end of the extreme. The disease potentially affects everything in a person’s life, as the consequences of drinking snowball into bigger and bigger problems. There is a definite sense of progression with the effects that alcoholism has on an individual. Over the long run, things always get worse….never better.

Health problems. Financial problems. Nights in jail. Drunk driving. Broken marriages. Abusive relationships. This stuff is really a no-brainer. Alcohol ruins people in a devastating way.

But even the more subtle, sneaky, closet drinker is slowly tearing their life apart with their secret addiction. Just because some people are better at hiding it does not mean that the disease is not still ravaging their life.

Let’s consider how alcohol can destroy a person from the inside out:

* Emotionally – alcoholism numbs the feelings we have and makes it so that we self-medicate any time we start to get sad, angry, or scared in any way. We stunt any emotional growth or progress that might be made were we to be sober instead.

* Socially – alcoholism fixed my anxiety at first, but eventually I drank in isolation–afraid to venture out into public because I was such a madman. I could only seek out other hard core alcoholics and drug addicts that consumed like I did.

* Spiritually – alcoholism is like trying to find God while running on a hamster wheel. We live in fear and abandon our hopes and prayers we might have once had.

* Physically – The physical effects of alcoholism are well documented and there is a high morbidity rate. Most say that the average alcoholic that continues to drink will die something like 22 to 36 years ahead of their time (depending on which data you look at). This is complicated because most alcoholics also smoke cigarettes and some abuse other substances as well, which also affect their health. Those who do recover from alcoholism will sometimes quit smoking, or continue to smoke, so mortality rates can become very confusing when trying to look at things like this.

* Mentally – “water on the brain.” Yes, a lifetime of drinking does in fact turn your brain into mush eventually. This is well documented as well.

Effects of alcoholism on society

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Let me state the obvious here: alcoholism has a negative effect on society. But how bad is the problem, and to what extent does alcoholism hurt us?

We all know that drug addiction and alcoholism are costly to our society, in a number of different ways. But let’s gain some perspective here. First, consider this fact: a government study that looks at the costs to our society for both drug and alcohol addiction show that alcoholism accounts for 60 percent of the total cost, while the rest of the illicit drugs only account for 40 percent. This is a startling fact in itself, as most people would probably believe that drug addiction is more costly to our society than alcoholism. Turns out that the alcoholism costs us more than all of the other drugs combined!

And what goes into determining this “cost” to our society?

Any and all of the negative consequences attributed to drinking: drunk driving accidents, accidental deaths, overdoses, missed days of work, lost jobs, broken homes, broken marriages, the cost of the booze itself, the potential years of life lost for each alcoholic, and on and on and on.

Because alcoholism affects so many aspects of a person’s life, the effects it has on society as a whole seems to be magnified. Addiction is a complicated problem, and thus can be difficult to measure. The drinking problem of one person can potentially affect an entire community, depending on the situation.

The overall cost to our society from alcoholism:

1) Lost time and money
2) Lost lives
3) Broken homes and families
4) Lost productivity (missed days of work, lost jobs, etc.)
5) Litigation and criminal costs

Effects of alcoholism on families

Consider the fact that 1 out of every 4 families has problems with alcoholism.

This is devastating enough in itself, that virtually every person in the world will have some contact with the disease of alcoholism. The network effect is such that nearly everyone will be exposed at some point in their life; the only question is how closely they will be related with the person they know who has a drinking problem.

In other words, either you will be an alcoholic, or someone in your family will, or someone who you are close to in the future will. Indirect contact with the disease is inevitable. Because of the way we network with others, make friends, and meet new people, all of us will have some experience in dealing with alcoholism eventually.

Photo by mark_donoher

And what are the direct effects that alcoholism has on families?

1) Alienates children – kids take it the hardest, because they don’t know if the “switch has been flipped or not” with their alcoholic parent. Living this way has a negative effect on grades, social skills, and just about every other aspect of a child’s life.

2) Perpetuates abuse – well known and well documented. What might be understated is the amount of verbal abuse that is simply “put up with.”

3) Divorce.

4) Worse than divorce in some cases – the family holds together despite the dysfunction and potentially passes the disease on to others. Consider that children of an alcoholic parent are 4 times more likely to become alcoholics themselves.

5) For young addicts and alcoholics, they have proven that group therapy is worse than no therapy at all, but family therapy has shown some degree of promise. This points to the fact that addiction is a family disease and needs to be treated as such in most cases.

Action items – what you can do about the effects of alcoholism

1) If you’re an alcoholic, or think you might have a problem with alcohol, then get honest with yourself and ask for help. I’m convinced it matters very little how you go about doing this as long as you are honest with yourself and others. If you’ve truly surrendered to the disease then you will find your way to recovery. When the student is ready the teacher will appear. Go here or here if you still need some motivation.

2) If you are the friend or loved one of an alcoholic, then learn what you can do to help them, and consider getting some help yourself. A good place to start is at an Al-Anon meeting.


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