Alcohol has been ingrained in human culture for millennia. Virtually every American’s life is touched by it in some way, yet there are still many things people don’t know about it. In recognition of Alcohol Awareness Month, let’s look at a few facts you might not know about the world’s most common addictive drug:
It’s been drunk for 9,000 years – According to Iain Gately’s “Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol,” one of the earliest traces of an alcoholic beverage was discovered in the Neolithic village of Jiahu in modern-day China. Archaeologists found traces of fermented grapes, hawthorn berries, honey and rice in jars dating back to as late as 7,000 B.C. Historical cultures all over the world discovered ways to ferment local sources of sugar, including fruit, grains and honey, to make a variety of intoxicating beverages.
It shortens lives by 2.5 million years annually – Alcohol is a major killer, shaving years off of American lives. It’s the third leading cause of lifestyle-related death in the United States. About 88,000 deaths in the nation are attributes to excessive alcohol use. An average of 30 years of life is lost with each alcohol-related death. Leading alcohol-related deaths include liver disease, liver cirrhosis and traffic collisions.
It costs America $224 billion annually – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that excessive alcohol use burdens the national economy to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars each year, or $1.90 for every single drink consumed. The vast majority of the lost revenue is in lowered productivity, where alcoholics and binge drinkers miss work or perform below their ability due to the effects of their drinking. Other burdens on the economy include the cost of health care and criminal justice spent on self-destructive and criminal behavior caused by alcohol.
It’s more damaging to women – While hard drinking is generally considered to be a masculine activity (and more men than women drink excessively), women experience worse health effects from heavy consumption. Due to differences in body size, body fat, enzymes and hormones, women’s systems are hit harder by alcohol. Women are more likely than men to get liver disease and brain damage from drinking, and are much more likely of becoming the victims of sexual violence. Women are also less likely to seek treatment for alcoholism. Once in treatment, however, women have an equal chance of achieving recovery.
Underage drinking is 11 percent of total drinking – The legal drinking age in the United States is 21, yet people below the age of 21 drink more than 1 out of 10 alcoholic beverages in the country. About 90 percent of those drinks are consumed during binge drinking sessions. This type of dangerous underage drinking causes about 189,000 emergency room visits each year.
It’s important to be aware of how alcohol can affect drinkers and what to do when someone begins using it excessively. Sovereign Health is a leading provider of treatment for alcoholism, substance abuse and all co-occurring mental health disorders. For information about our holistic and evidence-based care, call our 24/7 helpline.
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About the author
Wade Sands is a writer and editor for the Sovereign Health Group. Throughout his storied career, he’s held court on a dizzying range of topics, from video games and real estate to addiction and behavioral health treatment. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.