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Excessive Alcohol Use Is Not Alcoholism, Says CDC

Excessive alcohol use is almost universally considered to be the original addiction. Humanity’s complicated relationship with alcohol goes back thousands of years, but for the majority of this time alcoholism wasn’t a widely known or recognized issue.

Alcohol consumption and even binge drinking was common, but it was viewed as a voluntary behavior until relatively recently when we realized that there were cases of individuals becoming ill when deprived of alcohol. When it was discovered that people were actually becoming hooked on mind-altering substances like alcohol, we began looking for ways of alleviating the attachment when it occurred and finding early warning signs or indicators.

As such, one of the obvious indicators of future alcoholism is excessive drinking, or the intentional abuse of alcohol. However, a study by some of the most prominent addiction researchers has made a rather unexpected discovery concerning the relationship between excessive or binge drinking and alcoholism.

Excessive Alcohol Use and Its Dangers

First, it’s important to have an understanding of some key terms and concepts, particularly for excessive drinking and the behaviors that the term encompasses. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol use refers to a number of different substance abuse behaviors that includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, alcohol consumption by individuals who are under the minimum legal drinking age, and the consumption of alcohol by pregnant women.

Binge drinking refers to an episode of alcohol consumption during which an individual’s blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.08% or higher; for this to occur, a male would need to have consumed five or more drinks over a two-hour period while a woman would need to have consumed four or more drinks over the same amount of time.

Heavy drinking is distinguished from binge drinking by pertaining to the amount of alcohol consumed over a period of seven days; men are considered heavy drinkers if they consume 15 or more alcoholic drinks per week and women are considered heavy drinkers if they consume eight or more drinks per week.

Naturally, the consumption of any amount of alcohol— no matter how small an amount—by pregnant women or by those under the age of 21 would be considered excessive alcohol use. The reason why patterns of excessive alcohol use are concerning is because it’s by exhibiting this type of alcohol consumption behavior that individuals begin to experience a loss of health, damage to relationships, and a decline in job or school performance as a direct result of their excessive alcohol use.

Moreover, excessive alcohol use had previously been believed to be the precursor to alcoholism because of the sheer frequency with which those who experienced consequences due to their excessive alcohol use would continue to escalate instead of decrease their drinking habits in order to alleviate the negative effects.

In other words, the idea was that those who excessively used alcohol had a very strong chance of either meeting the criteria for alcoholism or of developing alcoholism in the near future.

The CDC Now Distinguishing Excessive Drinking from Alcoholism

In a collaboration between the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), it was discovered that of all the individuals who met the criteria for excessive alcohol use, the vast majority of them were not actually alcoholics or dependent on alcohol.

The study—appearing in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease—analyzed data on over 138,000 American adults who participating in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In the survey, participants answered a number of questions that were intended to gauge their substance use and abuse behavior, including questions pertaining to binge drinking, current and average alcohol consumption habits, and whether they were alcohol dependent.

The results of the study found that about one in three American adults meet the criteria for being an excessive drinker with the majority of them binge drinking regularly or on multiple occasions. However, only about one in thirty adults meet the criteria for alcoholism or being dependent on alcohol. Additionally, only about 10 percent of occasional binge drinkers met the criteria for alcohol dependence with 30 percent of those who binge drink ten or more times per month met the criteria for alcoholism.

Contrary to popular belief, the study indicates that the vast majority of those who drink alcohol excessive, even on a semi-regular basis, are not actually alcoholics. In other words, there are many people binge drinking occasionally whose alcohol consumption behavior haven’t resulted in alcoholism.

The findings of this study have forced experts to reevaluate their perceptions of alcoholism, particularly with regard to the consumption behavior previously believed to either indicate alcoholism or indicate a strong chance of alcoholism in the near future.

Additionally, this study led to some strategies that could be effective in curbing the high rates of alcohol abuse, such as raising federal alcohol tax and making alcohol retailers liable to any harm that comes to those who buy alcohol while being underage.

Beat Alcoholism with a Personalized Treatment Plan

Alcoholism is a very serious disease that too frequently results in lasting health problems and even death. However, nobody who is experiencing alcohol dependence has to lose his or her life to this disease. We at Drug Treatment Center Finder have made it our mission to match any alcoholic or drug addict to the rehab and treatment program that best addresses his or her specific needs. For a free consultation and assessment, call Drug Treatment Center Finder today at 855-619-8070. Our specialists are available day or night to help you begin your journey back to lifelong happiness and health.