Heavy Drinking and Alcoholism Treatment in WA State

Heavy Drinking in Washington State: Should Alcoholics Consider Detox and Rehab?

Heavy drinking has been a big problem in WA State for a very long time. Many people do not realize that they need treatment in order to stop once they become alcoholics. But the reality is that the majority of people with drinking problems are living their lives in denial.

Heavy drinking is often believed to be the step right before alcoholism. People often think that there is nothing wrong with it as long as it does not become a habit. But even if drinking excessively doesn’t cause a person to become an alcoholic, it is still dangerous.

Heavy drinkers can think of all kinds of ways to reason away their actions and behaviors. But the reality is that unless they stop, they will become alcoholics. On this page, we want to do our part to make people aware of the dangers of heavy drinking. We also want them to know where to turn to get help to quit.

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How do You Define Drinking?

Drinking is defined as any level of alcohol consumption. It can refer to having one drink, or dozens of drinks. Of course, there are different levels of drinking. It's important to understand what they are; especially if you're someone who consumes regularly.

What is Moderate Drinking?

Moderate drinking is defined as consuming small amounts of alcohol per day. According to the CDC, moderate drinking involves one drink per day for women, and two for men.

You may have heard the phrase, drink in moderation. However, it should be noted that moderate drinking might not be appropriate for everyone. For example, the following individuals should not drink at all:

  • Women who are pregnant
  • Anyone under the age of 21
  • People who are on certain medications that may have a negative interaction with alcohol
  • Anyone who is a recovering alcoholic
  • Anyone who needs to drive, or operate heavy machinery

Heavy use may also be called at-risk drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines this as:

  • Men who drink more than four drinks on any day
  • Men who drink more than 14 drinks per week
  • Women who drink more than three drinks per day
  • Women who drink more than 7 drinks per week

Most people don't realize how strict these limits are. They may think that having too much occasionally is not a problem. The truth is that consuming too much, too often leads to too many risks.

According to SAMHSA, binge drinking is defined as consuming 5 drinks for men, or 4 for women. These drinks must be consumed within a 2-hour period, and result in a BAC level of 0.08 or higher.

This behavior is very common in the United States, specifically among college students and young adults.

Any consumption outside of moderate alcohol use is problematic and dangerous. In fact, they can all be described as abuse. It's even possible for alcoholism to result if these drinking behaviors continue long enough.

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The Definition of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse is defined as the misuse of this substance without an addiction present. Someone who abuses it might not feel compelled to drink. They also might not go through withdrawal when they stop drinking. Abusers tend to drink for fun, and they drink in excess.

Some examples of alcohol abuse include:

  • Only consuming it excessively one time per week
  • Underage drinking
  • Using heavily only on weekends
  • Mixing it with medications or illicit drugs
  • Drinking when you shouldn't because of a medical condition

What is the Meaning of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism refers to the disease of addiction. Sometimes it may be called having an alcohol use disorder. Someone who suffers from alcoholism is called an alcoholic.

Alcoholism is characterized by several features. These include:

  • Having cravings for this dangerous drug
  • Feeling a strong and regular need to drink
  • Experiencing the loss of control when drinking, and being unable to stop
  • Having withdrawal when not consuming it
  • Becoming tolerant, and needing more to drink to get the same effects

Alcoholism Facts and Statistics in the United States

Alcoholism is a very serious problem in our country.

The NIAAA tells us that:

  • In 2015, more than 86% of people over the age of 18 have had at least one alcoholic drink.
  • More than 70% of these individuals said that they consumed it in the last year.
  • 56% of them stated that they had drank within the last month.
  • Almost 27% of people 18 and older said that they had binged within the last month.
  • 7% of them reported heavy use within the last month.
  • More than 15 million adults had an alcohol use disorder in 2015.
  • Of this group, 9.8 million were men, and 5.3 million were women.
  • Not even 7% of these individuals had gotten any type of treatment.
  • Close to 625,000 adolescents had an alcohol use disorder in 2015 as well.
  • Only 5.2% of them received treatment for alcoholism.

Alcohol Addiction Statistics in Washington State

Heavy drinking is a serious issue in Washington State; both for adults as well as for young people.

When it comes to underage drinking, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board reports that:

  • Car crashes are the main cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 20.
  • The number of fatal car crashes involving alcohol is more than twice the rate for drivers between 16 and 20 than it is for those 21 and older.
  • Alcohol use has also been linked to suicide, homicide and death by drowning.
  • Someone who starts drinking at the age of 15 is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence that someone who does not.
  • Underage drinking costs the State of WA more than $1 billion per year according to the CDC.
  • These costs include medical care, loss of work productivity and more.
  • Students who admitted to drinking within the last 30 days generally reported drinking 1-2 days each month.
  • Most students who drink heavily are consuming hard liquor.
  • Close to 20% of 10th and 12th graders admitted to riding in a car with a driver who had been drinking.
  • 9% of high school seniors state that they have driven after drinking alcohol.

Regarding adult alcohol use, the CDC reports that:

  • As many as 18.1% of adults binge drink in Washington State.
  • On average, people who live in WA who binge drink consume as many as 6.9 drinks per occasion.
  • The total cost of alcoholism in Washington is close to $6 billion per year.
  • This breaks down to $2.23 per drink.
  • It also breaks down to $863 per state resident.

In 2015, The Washington Post reported that more than 56% of state residents had consumed alcohol within the last month. This trend has not changed, and it is likely to only get worse.

What are the Side Effects of Drinking Heavy?

Drinking heavy does have side effects, even if you're not an alcoholic. These side effects are varied, and they touch all aspects of your life.

The Mental and Emotional Effects of Alcohol

Consuming too much alcohol has many negative effects on the brain. This is a depressant drug. This means that it can affect how you think, feel and behave. It can even impact your mental health long-term.

Drinking heavily may result in:

  • Aggressive and even violent behavior
  • Bouts of anger
  • Abrupt mood swings
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Symptoms of depression

The Social Effects of Alcohol Use

The social effects of alcohol use should not be ignored. The impact on relationships, families and within society in general is tremendous.

Some of the common social effects of alcohol use include:

  • Being a victim of alcohol-related physical or sexual abuse
  • The risk of divorce
  • The risk of alcoholism in children
  • The breakdown of important friendships
  • An increase in drunk driving accidents

The Short-Term Effects of Alcohol Misuse

Most people drink because of the positive effects of alcohol. It helps them loosen up and feel relaxed. However, there are some negative short-term effects too. These can include:

  • Decreased coordination
  • Becoming unconscious
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Problems with hearing and vision
  • Diarrhea and an upset stomach
  • Blackouts or memory lapses

The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on the Body

The longer someone drinks, the more devastating it is. Heavy consumption should not be done long-term. When it is, it can result in:

  • The risk of alcohol poisoning
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Ulcers in the stomach
  • Gastritis
  • Malnutrition
  • The risk of cancer in the throat and/or mouth

The Problem of Heavy Drinking Among Washington College Students

Washington State University’s President was quick to act when a freshman was found unconscious from alcohol poisoning in October 2019. He died later at the hospital. That made him one of around 2,000 college students who die from alcohol poisoning each year. The University’s President assembled a task force to do research into the number of alcohol-related incidents among WSU students.

They were also charged with coming up with a plan to combat heavy drinking on campus. With any luck, the plan will also curb alcoholism as well. It includes:

  • Coming with a mandatory alcohol education program for all incoming freshmen.
  • A new way to screen for alcoholism or heavy drinking.
  • New methods of intervening when students have drinking problems.
  • A partnership with the ER at Pullman hospital.
  • Additional ways to involve the local community.

The mandatory educational program is called Booze, Sex and Reality Checks. As we mentioned, it is mandatory. Any freshman who does not complete it will not be able to attend school the second semester of their freshman year.

Our Outpatient Alcohol Rehab at Northpoint Seattle in WA State

At Northpoint Seattle, we have one of the best outpatient alcohol treatment programs in Washington State. We have two locations. One is in Bellevue and the other is in Seattle.

We understand the value of personalized treatment plans for our clients. Everyone we work with has had their own experience with alcoholism. They need an approach that is tailored to their needs, and that is what we provide.

We also know that our clients need very different types of treatment, based on their individual circumstances. That is why we offer three levels of care. Our clients can participate in partial hospitalization, traditional outpatient, or our intensive outpatient program.

How to Stop Drinking Heavy Successfully

People who drink heavily should seriously consider stopping. However, it's not always easy to quit using alcohol. Here at Northpoint Seattle, we deal with this challenge all the time.

It might be tempting for you to just quit drinking. However, this could cause problems for you as well. If your heavy drinking has progressed to alcoholism, you may go through withdrawal. Symptoms like delirium tremens can be fatal if they aren't treated promptly and correctly.

What's more, consuming heavily has taken a big toll on you, both physically and mentally. It helps to have the support of others while you go through this trying time. Talking with a counselor and working in a group setting can be so beneficial to recovering alcoholics and heavy drinkers.

The best option is for you to get professional help. We can assist you with that through our IOP program. Intensive outpatient treatment offers you so many benefits that other programs don't. You can get the help you need on your schedule, without having to go inpatient.

Do you need to learn more about heavy drinking, or do you have questions about alcohol treatment? We can help you. Contact us.