There are many myths surrounding alcoholism – what an alcoholic looks like, how someone with alcoholism acts; you see it all the time in movies or on television. A disheveled, down and out man in dirty clothing, drinking from a bottle tucked into a brown paper bag.
The truth is, this portrayal is only one of many common myths that are associated with alcoholism. Not everyone fits this stereotype.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million Americans over the age of 18 suffered from alcohol use disorder in 2015. With so many individuals battling alcoholism, these myths are not only misleading, but they can be harmful. We dispel some of the most common ones below:
Myth: I Only Drink on Weekends, So It’s Okay
Alcoholism is defined by how much a person drinks in a day or over the course of a week, not how often they drink. If other words, you do not have to drink every day to suffer from alcoholism.
In fact, the CDC lists binge drinking as the most common and most deadly form of excessive alcohol use. Binge drinking can often lead to further alcohol dependence.
One in six adults engage in binge drinking an average of four times per month. If you’re unsure whether you have a problem with binge drinking, here are a few signs to be mindful of:
- You have more than four drinks in a single day
- You have more drinks than you planned to
- You black out or have lapses in memory caused by drinking
- You are surprised or feel guilty about how much you drank
Myth: If I Can Hold My Liquor, Then I Don’t Have a Problem
Those who believe this myth might be surprised to find that being able to “hold your liquor” might not be a good thing. If you need to consume more alcohol in order to feel any effects, this can actually be a sign that you are building a tolerance to alcohol and may be heading toward dependence.
Myth: Drinking Only Affects Me And No One Else
Alcoholism affects more people than yourself. Excessive drinking can be especially destructive for families. According to a 2012 study, more than 10 percent of American children live with and must deal with a parent with alcohol use disorder.
Children may experience abuse or neglect as a parent struggling with alcoholism becomes unaware of their actions. In addition, alcoholism can put a financial strain on families, causing additional conflicts and stress.
Myth: I Only Drink Beer Which Isn’t as Bad as Liquor
This myth is particularly dangerous. The common misconception that beer or wine are both safer than liquor is wrong. Drinking one 12-ounce beer is the same as drinking a 5-ounce glass of wine or a cocktail containing 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Additionally, the amount of alcohol that you drink, not the type, is what leads to and defines alcoholism.
Myth: The Cause of Alcoholism Is a Lack of Willpower
Willpower or the lack thereof does not cause alcoholism. The causes of alcohol use disorder vary and can range from your environment to your biology. Some of the more common factors can include:
- Genetics – If your parents or grandparents had an alcohol addiction, this can increase your risk of alcohol dependence.
- Sex – Men are almost twice as likely to develop alcohol use disorder as women.
- Age – Younger individuals are more likely to develop alcoholism – especially those who begin drinking during their teens.
- Social Pressures – Peer pressure, particularly among teens and young adults, can increase a person’s risk of excessive drinking and developing alcoholism.
These are only a few of the many factors that can contribute to alcohol use disorder; however, it’s clear that a person’s level of willpower does not cause or prevent alcoholism.
Alcoholism and Seeking Help
While there are many misconceptions and myths about alcoholism, one thing is certain: alcohol abuse negatively impacts a person’s health, life, and family. Fortunately, there are options for seeking help.
Whether you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism or another form of substance abuse, Real Recovery is here to help. When you’re ready, reach out to us to learn more about our treatment options that can set you onto the road to recovery.