Alcoholism Statistics and Family
Everyone has choices in life about whether or not to use potentially addictive substances. Some people, however, may have a genetically based tendency or a predisposition that creates an addictive personality. Addiction to alcohol has been found to have both genetic and environmental causes. Children who are raised in families where one or both parents are alcoholics have a greater chance of becoming addicted to alcohol themselves at some time in their life.
Alcoholism Risk is Higher for Children of Alcoholics
The risk for becoming future alcoholics is greater for children raised in alcoholic homes. This fact holds true whether children are biological children of alcoholic parents or adopted children who grow up with the daily influence of alcohol in the home. This is the reason for the belief that alcoholism is influenced by environment and genetics, or by a combination of both.
Today in the United States alone there are an estimated 28 million children who have alcoholic parents. This figure is staggering when it is considered that at least 11 million of those children are under the age of 18. The predisposition towards alcoholism seems to be more prevalent in male children of alcoholic parents.
Not only are children influenced by parents use of alcohol, another huge risk factor is the attitudes of the parents towards using alcohol. If parents are extremely permissive when it comes to the idea of their children using alcohol during their adolescent years, those children have a greater chance of becoming addicted either as teenagers or adults.
Alcoholic Families Usually Have Other Issues
Families who have issues with alcohol addiction often have other problems in addition to alcoholism. Some of these problems include:
- A partial or complete lack of effective communication
- Poor or non-existent parenting skills
- Poorly run and managed homes with no set schedules, structure or discipline
- Ineffective role models for children who then grow up to repeat family issues in their own families
- More conflict in the home including arguing, fighting and sometimes physical abuse
- Family isolation from the community due to alcohol abuse
- Financial issues and struggles that lead to a more stressful life
Statistics Show Large Numbers of American Adults Choose to Drink
When looking at statistics of how many American adults choose to drink at least one time within a one-year period, the alarming numbers of those who become alcoholics and who raise children who eventually become alcoholics is eye-opening:
- The number of adults who have had at least one drink in the past year: 59.5% of women and 72% of men
- People who chose to have either three or more drinks on the day they drank: 22% of women and 42% of men
When one looks at the numbers of people who chose to have a binge drinking experience, the numbers are even more alarming. Over 29% of women and 43% of men chose to binge drink when they drank in the past year.
The Dangers of Heavy Drinking and Binge Drinking
A very cold and startling statistic about drinking is that it is now the third leading cause of death, when death is from a lifestyle choice, in the United States alone. Nearly 2.5 million people worldwide die each year due to the harmful effects caused by drinking too much, including about 80,000 Americans. Drinking also leads to over one million emergency room visits per year and to nearly three million visits to doctor’s offices to treat severe side effects of drinking.
In addition to the risk of death, there are illnesses caused or exacerbated by excessive drinking such as cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol is also believed to be a causal factor in cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and other potentially dangerous health conditions like anemia. Alcohol can also be a contributing factor to depression, other mental illnesses and to dementia in later years.
Accidental injury is another huge risk caused by overuse of alcohol. Injuries can happen from driving a vehicle while impaired, from violence due to disputes or other accidents like burns and drownings. When alcohol use is mixed with the use of firearms, injuries become even more severe and potentially deadly.
Use of Alcohol Portrayed in Media
Unfortunately, the use of alcohol is often portrayed in the media as harmless and in some cases as humorous. The reality for those who live in a family with alcoholics or who have been raised by alcoholic parents is much different. It can be devastating and tragic and can also lead to a range of family problems.
The physical and economic effects of alcohol abuse on families and on society as a whole throughout the years have been devastating. In fact, economic costs of people using too much alcohol are staggering, with estimates of upwards of over $223 billion. Many family and societal issues prevalent today, from crime to illness to family dysfunction can often be blamed on the negative effects of alcohol abuse.
The Cycle of Alcohol Abuse Can Be Broken
The cycle of alcohol abuse in families, while it is tough to overcome, can be broken. There are more effective alcohol and substance abuse treatment programs today than ever before. Awareness is being raised about the potential disastrous effects of alcoholism on society as a whole. The cycle can be broken when young people are educated about the facts of alcohol abuse and ways that they can avoid becoming a future statistic.
If a child grows up in a home with alcoholic parents and chooses to abstain from alcohol use in their own lives as an adult, this can change the cycle of alcohol addiction. The ripple effect this has on future generations can become a positive force in society and can lead to many positive health changes. It can also be a good way to break the harmful, tragic cycle of addiction seen with alcohol abuse.
- About 43% of U.S. adults — 76 million people — have been exposed to alcoholism in the family — they grew up with or married an alcoholic or a problem drinker or had a blood relative who was an alcoholic or problem drinker.
- An estimated 6.6 million children under 18 live in households with at least one alcoholic parent.
- About 43% of adults in the US (76 million people) have had a parent, child, sibling or spouse who is or was an alcoholic.
- Currently, nearly 14 million Americans adults-abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to drug addiction. In addition, approximately 53% of men and women in the United States report that one or more of their close relatives have a drinking problem.
- One-half of all traffic fatalities and one-third of all traffic injuries are related to to the abuse of alcohol. Accidents and suicides that are associated with alcohol problems are especially prominent in the teen years.