April is Alcoholism Awareness Month: The costs associated with alcoholism

The costs associated with alcoholism touch the full spectrum of everything that makes us human.

Drinking too much can cost you dearly

It impacts us physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and legally. It affects our relationships with others as we can devolve into another person, and we spend a great amount of our timing drinking or recovering from drinking. It impacted my responsibilities at home, work and in school. I also found myself in extremely dangerous situations on more than one occasion.

Physically, drinking can impact or cause:

  • Heart: can cause stretching and drooping of heart muscle, irregular heart beat, stroke and high blood pressure
  • Brain: impacts mood and behavior
  • Liver: fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis
  • Pancreas: drinking causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis
  • Cancer:  drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers such as mouth, esophagus, throat, liver and breast

The physical effects of alcohol consumption are widely known. But the mental and emotional impacts are devastating as well. They vary on how much you drink. Light, or casual drinkers may experience feelings of relaxation, while heavy drinkers may experience things like insomnia, paranoia and hallucinations. It doesn’t stop there though, heavy drinkers may also experience:

  • Depression
  • Dysthymia
  • Anxiety
  • Personality changes
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Denial

The legal and financial ramifications can be staggering too. I can remember my counselor in rehab telling me how we wished I would’ve gotten a DUI, that perhaps this may have help me come to terms with my drinking problem earlier. While first offence DUI’s can cost around $10,000 in Michigan, there are many other ways alcohol contributes to our overflowing jails.

We all know that alcohol can make you do things you normally wouldn’t do sober. Domestic violence, underage drinking, robbery, assault and sexual assault are in many cases attributable to alcohol, but did you know that:

  • Alcohol use is a factor in 40 percent of all convicted murders.
  • The US Department of Justice estimates that the majority of criminal offenders were under the influence of alcohol alone while committing their crimes.
  • About 3 million violent crimes are committed every year where the victim believes the offender was drunk.

Shocking, right? Again, this is the drug that, from a cultural perspective, we encourage people to use.

My excessive alcohol use caused me to devalue myself, my family, my friends, my career and my education. Have you experienced something similar? What has it cost you?

Photo credit: Nick Sherman

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