As we settle into the ‘20s, it seems as though society as a whole is inflamed, with few resources available to put out the rapidly spreading fire. Some parts of the world are literally on fire, such as much of Australia, while others are engulfed on a more figurative level. For example, despite what we know about the dangers of binge drinking and Big Pharma, substance abuse and addiction still wreak havoc on communities across the globe.
Addiction has a profound effect on American families, in every way imaginable — physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. For a number of the nearly 21 million Americans who struggle with substance abuse, the problematic use of mind-altering substances begins at a young age. Notably, binge drinking is most prevalent among young adults, and youth between the ages of 12 and 20 consume 11% of the country’s alcohol, even though 21 is the legal drinking age.
Studies indicate that teen alcohol use is on the decline, however, and here at home, there’s good news in the realm of alcohol abuse. Data compiled by Ball State University and released in December 2018 found that binge drinking rates declined from 40.2% of students in 2015 to 21.5% in 2017. Further, BSU students are utilizing designated drivers in greater numbers, which improves safety for everyone on the road.
But substance abuse spans well beyond alcohol culture and binge drinking. In modern times, addiction is more nuanced than ever, encompassing various substances and behaviors, from opioids and other prescription drugs to gambling and sex. Fortunately, substance abuse treatment has kept up with the times, and those seeking to break free from addiction have myriad tools and resources at their disposal.
Binge Drinking, Opioids, and the College Experience
Much has been made about the nation’s so-called opioid “epidemic” in recent years, and for good reason. Across Indiana, overdose deaths have been rising over the past two decades, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH). In 2017 alone, the overdose death rate among Hoosiers was about 29.4 people per 100,000, the majority of which involved an opioid. Interestingly, Indiana is in the top 10 of states with the highest opioid prescribing rate, at a whopping 74.2 prescriptions for every 100 persons.
Yet Indiana’s opioid crisis is just the beginning — especially among young people, alcohol abuse is prevalent across the state. In fact, data indicates that men between the ages of 18 and 25 are the demographic that’s most likely to binge drink. Further, binge drinking (defined as the practice of consuming a large quantity of alcohol in a single session) is unfortunately common among college students, many of whom view excessive alcohol consumption as an integral part of the college experience.
Binge drinking and alcoholism are intrinsically linked, and a tendency to drink to excess is indicative of a propensity to abuse alcohol. Alcohol affects everyone differently, and your estimated blood alcohol content (BAC) is dependent on a variety of factors, such as your gender, weight, types of drinks consumed, and elapsed time. In Indiana, you are considered intoxicated when your BAC reaches 0.08%. And it may only take you a few drinks for you to reach that point.
Recovery Options for Those Struggling with Addiction
No matter the source of one’s addiction, whether it’s alcohol, opioids, or a negative behavior such as gambling, there is help available. People from all walks of life have found success in 12-step recovery programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA). Many addicts are turned off by the “spiritual” nature of 12-step programs, however, and may find that other types of recovery support groups are a better fit.
For example, SMART Recovery (or Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a secular, science-based recovery approach that offers free meetings across the country. It’s important to note that some types of addiction may require medical intervention at the inpatient level in the early stages of recovery. Alcohol withdrawals can be fatal without medical assistance, and opioid users may also wish to wean themselves off the drug in a clinical setting.
If you’re looking for behavior-based recovery options, it’s important to first address the mental and emotional effects of your addiction and the way it may be negatively impacting your life. Those who are prone to periods of compulsive gambling, for instance, often face crippling financial consequences, along with poor mental health. Further, gambling is highly stigmatized, and compulsive gamblers are commonly stereotyped as irresponsible, greedy, aggressive, and more.
Unfortunately, negative stereotypes accompany most forms of addiction, often serving as a roadblock to treatment for addicts who don’t want to be judged.
Addiction Recovery Starts with You
When it comes down to it, recovery can only happen at the individual level. It’s easy to justify your behavior and sweep any red flags under the rug, because it’s hard to admit that you’re an alcoholic who needs help. But make no mistake: No level of daily alcohol consumption is truly safe, and it’s never okay to put yourself in debt for the chance to win big.
Further, if you bring your addiction into the workplace, stealthily sipping on alcoholic beverages or placing online bets using your work computer, it may be time to seek help. Your path to recovery starts by admitting that you have a problem and seeking out resources, whether it’s a 12-step meeting, a medical treatment center, or the listening ear of caring friend.
Even if your health coverage is lacking, you have plenty of no-cost options at your disposal. Myriad recovery support groups and meetings are available online. And as you set out on your recovery journey, remember that you’re never alone.