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Alcohol Use Disorder: The Facts & Figures

The Swedish physician Magnus Huss introduced the term alcoholism in 1849 to describe a chronic alcohol intoxication that was characterized by severe physical pathology and disruption of social functioning. The rise of "the modern alcoholism movement" in the 1940s firmly embedded the terms alcoholism and alcoholic into scientific and popular use. In its latest diagnostic classification, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) now calls the disease 'Alcohol Use Disorder'.

According to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (SAMHSA), alcohol is, by far, the most widely consumed substance in the U.S., and the prevalence of dependence is much higher than for any other drug. According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 7.2 percent or 17 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older had an Alcohol Use Disorder in 2012. This includes 11.2 million men and 5.7 million women. The rates of alcohol use by persons 14 years or older were higher than rates for tobacco, illicit drugs, and non-medical use of prescription drugs. Epidemiological studies of the U.S. population have found that the amount of alcohol consumed is positively correlated with rates of problems with health, finances, friendships, happiness, home life, work or employment (Clark & Hilton, 1991. Research findings consistently document an association between alcohol and violence (Collins & Schlenger, 1988; Roizen, 1993).

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Twenty-five percent of adults in the U.S. report either currently having alcohol-related problems or drinking patterns that put them at risk for developing problems. The definition of at-risk drinking behavior differs for individuals based on their age, gender, and alcohol consumption (NIAAA, 1995).

The idea of a place where people addicted to alcohol or other drugs could be cared for by those who specialized in the treatment of this disorder is quite old. Egyptian records dating back to some 5,000 years indicate the presence of people who provided care in their homes for people who were "mad from wine or beer". In America, the idea of creating special institutions and special professional roles for the care of "inebriates" began in the late 18th century and blossomed in the mid-19th century.

Treatment enables people to counteract addiction's powerful disruptive effects on the brain and behavior and to regain control of their lives. The chronic nature of the disease means that relapsing to alcohol or drug abuse is a possibility, with symptom recurrence rates similar to those for other well-characterized chronic medical illnesses-such as diabetes & hypertension-that also have both physiological and behavioral components.

A first treatment for chronic drunkenness may have been devised by ancient Romans, who lowered habitual drunkards into snake-filled pits, thinking the terror would shock them into abandoning their wayward practices (Sournia,1990). Today, Sunspire Health utilizes a number of evidenced-based behavioral and pharmacological treatments that have been shown to be most effective in the treatment of alcohol addiction. Studies indicate that just getting help is one of the most important factors in treating alcohol addiction.