Alcoholism is a devastating disease, and the extent of pain and damage it is capable of causing cannot be realized by anyone who hasn’t struggled with it personally or seen a loved one do so.
Mental-health experts define alcoholism as a chronic and often progressive disease characterized by an inability to control one’s drinking, a preoccupation with drinking alcohol, continuing to drink alcohol even when it poses clear problems to one’s health or personal and professional life, a physical and psychological tolerance to alcohol requiring one to consume more and more to achieve the same intended effect, and withdrawal symptoms from stopping or reducing alcohol consumption.
The damage alcoholism is capable of causing to one’s health, relationships, and career is well documented. But alcoholism’s destructiveness doesn’t end there. This is a disease capable of causing death to those who let it reign untreated.
Here are some sobering statistics about death and mortality from alcoholism.
- Between the years of 2007 and 2010, excessive alcohol use resulted in approximately 88,000 deaths in the United States. There were over 2.5 million potential years of life lost due to excess drinking during that four-year period. In working-age adults between the ages of 20 and 64, one out of every ten deaths was related in some way to excess alcohol consumption.
- Things haven’t slowed down at all since 2010. The final results from 2011 have been released, and there were a total of 26,654 alcohol-induced deaths in the United States. This includes accidents and homicides that were fueled by alcohol.
- Alcoholic liver diseases alone, such as cirrhosis, were responsible for 16,749 of those deaths.
- Worldwide, there are over 2.5 million deaths annually which are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. This amounts to almost 4% of all deaths around the world each year.
- Excessive alcohol use is one of the four leading risk factors for developing any of the four leading noncommunicable deadly diseases: cancer, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The other three risk factors are tobacco use, physical inactivity, and poor diet.
- Alcohol causes many more deaths among men than it does women. The percentage of male deaths worldwide which are caused by alcohol is 6.2 while the percentage of female deaths is 1.1.
Finally, excessive alcohol use has been shown in studies to increase one’s chances of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases — some of them deadly — and to worsen these diseases among those who already have them. This is because of its ability to reduce the user’s judgment and inhibitions and because poisoning the body with too much alcohol has a severely negative effect on the immune system.
In conclusion, alcoholism is not only a disease that can ruin your career, drive your family and friends away, and cause you to lose everything for which you’ve worked hard in your life — it can also kill you, as it does millions of people around the world every year.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism or you suspect they may have a problem with alcohol, don’t keep it to yourself and don’t wait to get help. Alcoholism is like a ticking time bomb, and every day you wait to deal with it is a day it could go off. Take action today and call for help.