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A Report on Alcohol Abuse and Its Consequences

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Words: 3936 |

Pages: 9|

20 min read

Published: Oct 2, 2020

Words: 3936|Pages: 9|20 min read

Published: Oct 2, 2020

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. History
  4. Current Status
  5. Harmful Effects of Alcohol Abuse
  6. Possible Solutions
  7. Future Implications
  8. Summary

Introduction

In contemporary society, alcoholic beverages have seamlessly integrated themselves into the social fabric, becoming a customary element of social interactions for a substantial portion of the population. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced within social circles characterized by high visibility and influential societal dynamics, where the presence of alcohol frequently accompanies communal gatherings. Given the prevalence of alcohol during socializing, it is easy to overlook or underestimate the scope of the harmful effects of alcohol. Therefore this essay will explore the issue of alcohol use and abuse, and its consequences for health and social well-being.

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Background

It is paramount to acknowledge that "alcohol is a potent psychoactive substance with a propensity for fostering dependence." Alcohol stands as the most widely consumed and abused substance on a global scale, and its legality renders it readily accessible. While alcohol use is notably pervasive among college students, it extends its reach across various age groups. "On average, every individual aged 15 years or older consumes 6.2 liters of pure alcohol annually, making alcohol the foremost risk factor for premature mortality and disability among those aged 15 to 49, contributing to 10 percent of all deaths in this age bracket." The risks of succumbing to alcohol abuse can originate from a seemingly innocuous act, such as a single instance of drinking at a college gathering, or surface later in life, perhaps following a divorce or job loss in one's mid-thirties.

Alcohol abuse, as defined, involves the misuse of alcoholic substances, characterized by an intense craving to consume and a compromised ability to halt consumption, despite the evident negative consequences. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, "heavy alcohol use is exemplified by engaging in binge drinking on five or more days within a single month. A standard drink comprises 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of any type of vodka." The data is striking as it unveils a disconcerting reality where some individuals consistently exceed these recommended standards, filling their glasses to the brim and consuming alcohol in quantities that lead to dependence and addiction. This pattern of behavior often evolves into daily, round-the-clock alcohol consumption, resulting in a chronic condition.

When one contemplates the ramifications of sustained alcohol abuse, it becomes evident that this practice inflicts significant harm across multiple dimensions of life. Chronic alcohol abuse exerts a profound toll on an individual's health, interpersonal relationships, family dynamics, and financial stability. Furthermore, the ripple effect extends beyond the individual level, impacting the economy and the overall health of populations worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, "Alcohol consumption contributes to 3 million annual deaths globally, in addition to causing disabilities and deteriorating the health of countless individuals, accounting for 1 in 20 deaths." Consequently, alcohol abuse assumes the status of a grave and pressing issue in the contemporary world, steeped in a complex historical backdrop.

History

Alcohol has woven itself into the fabric of human culture for countless centuries, arising from the fermentation of grains, fruit juices, and honey. Early signs of fermented beverages trace back to ancient Egyptian civilization, with China dating an alcoholic drink to approximately 7000 B.C. Meanwhile, in India, the utilization of sura, an alcoholic beverage distilled from rice, can be traced back to the period between 3000 and 2000 B.C. Several Native American civilizations also developed alcoholic beverages in pre-Columbian times, albeit with a predominantly ritualistic purpose. In this era, alcohol often bore the moniker of "Spirits."

The concept of recreational and excessive drinking found its way to the Americas with European settlers. These settlers used alcohol as a tool to weaken the resistance of indigenous Americans, leveraging it in their quest for land, resources, and women. The historical accounts indicate that numerous distinct indigenous groups across the vast continent encountered alcohol for the first time, or with extremely limited prior exposure. For some eastern indigenous communities, this introduction occurred in the 16th century, while for certain midwestern and western tribes, it might have transpired as late as the mid-19th century. In the century following this contact, a substantial portion of these communities developed significant vulnerabilities to the detrimental social and physical effects of alcohol use, vulnerabilities that have endured despite ardent attempts to mitigate them.

Alcohol was ubiquitous among early European colonists, serving practical purposes in their daily lives. It often substituted for drinking water, which was frequently contaminated, and had medicinal applications, offering relief from fatigue, indigestion, fever, aches, and pains. With the increasing availability of hard liquor and the growth of local brewing and distillation, drinking escalated, becoming less regulated. Between 1800 and 1830, annual alcohol consumption in the United States was estimated to range between 5 and 9.5 gallons per capita, in stark contrast to 2.6 gallons in 1978.

The early eighteenth century saw the British Parliament passing legislation that promoted the use of grain for distilling spirits. Consequently, affordable spirits flooded the market, reaching their zenith in the mid-eighteenth century. In Britain, gin consumption soared to a staggering 18 million gallons, leading to the widespread proliferation of alcoholism. The nineteenth century marked a shift in attitudes, with the temperance movement advocating for moderate alcohol use, a stance that eventually evolved into a fervent call for complete prohibition. In 1920, the United States enacted legislation that prohibited the manufacturing, sale, import, and export of intoxicating liquors. This gave rise to a thriving illegal alcohol trade, which persisted until the repeal of prohibition in 1933.

Throughout history, humanity has relied on alcohol in myriad forms, from its role in religious rituals and medicinal practices to its function as an energy source and thirst quencher. Alcohol has served as a means to relax, a social lubricant, an accompaniment to meals, and an enhancer of courtship and mating customs. For countless individuals throughout the ages, alcohol has been a constant companion, enhancing the quality and pleasures of life.

In the present day, an estimated 15 million Americans grapple with alcoholism, and alcohol is implicated in 40% of all car accident fatalities in the United States.

Current Status

As per the data provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 2.3 billion individuals currently engage in alcohol consumption. This prevalent practice is observed in over half of the population across three WHO regions, namely the Americas, Europe, and the Western Pacific. Among these regions, Europe stands out with the highest rate of alcohol consumption globally. Notably, alcohol abuse finds a more common foothold in high-income countries, contributing to its growing significance in the United States.

To gauge the extent of current alcohol consumption, it's essential to consider the average daily intake among drinkers, which amounts to approximately 33 grams of pure alcohol. This quantity is roughly equivalent to two glasses (each containing 150 ml) of wine, a large bottle (750 ml) of beer, or two shots (each measuring 40 ml) of spirits (WHO, 2018). However, individuals engaged in day-long drinking likely triple or quadruple these figures. Globally, 27% of all individuals aged 15 to 19 are categorized as current drinkers. The prevalence of current drinking is most pronounced among individuals in the 15-19 age group in Europe (44%), followed by the Americas (38%) and the Western Pacific (38%). Projections indicate that global alcohol consumption is poised to rise over the next decade, with notable increases anticipated in the South-East Asia, Western Pacific, and Americas regions. Overall, alcohol abuse remains an escalating concern, both at the local and global levels, demanding concerted public health measures and community motivation to make even a modest impact on this pervasive issue.

Harmful Effects of Alcohol Abuse

The detrimental consequences of alcohol misuse cast a heavy burden on public health, affecting individuals worldwide. Health issues stemming from dangerous alcohol use manifest as both acute and chronic conditions. Short-term repercussions encompass injuries, accidents, violence, and sudden fatalities. In contrast, long-term consequences encompass alcohol dependence, strokes, liver damage, and various types of cancer. Chronic alcohol abuse can also inflict damage on memory functions, with research revealing that long-term memory impairment persists even after seven years of abstinence from alcohol. This suggests the presence of enduring, irreversible damage. Regrettably, fatalities linked to alcohol are distressingly common. "Of all deaths attributed to alcohol, 28% were due to injuries, such as those resulting from traffic accidents, self-inflicted harm, and interpersonal violence; 21% stemmed from digestive disorders; 19% were caused by cardiovascular diseases, with the remainder attributed to infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders, and other health conditions."

"The extent and diversity of these problems can be attributed to variations in the quantity, duration, and patterns of alcohol consumption, as well as differences in genetic susceptibility to specific alcohol-related consequences and disparities in economic, social, and environmental factors. Some individuals may exhibit signs of alcohol abuse after only a few months of heavy drinking, while others may indulge in excessive alcohol consumption for years before exhibiting symptoms. Alcohol-related problems, affecting both individuals and society as a whole, continue to impose substantial social and economic burdens. In addition to the adverse health impact, a wide spectrum of social issues, including domestic violence, child abuse, fires, accidents, and crimes against individuals like rape, robbery, and assault, have all been linked to alcohol misuse. It is estimated that 20 to 40 percent of patients in large urban hospitals are there due to illnesses caused or exacerbated by their alcohol consumption. This implies that nearly half of every 100 patients in such hospitals may attribute their presence to alcohol use. Despite the severity of alcohol-related problems, many individuals have yet to grasp that these issues can be effectively addressed through evidence-based medical and psychosocial interventions, just as other health conditions respond to preventive measures and treatments."

Alcohol abuse extends its impact to various facets of life, leaving a profound imprint on society. To illustrate, in 2010, the United States grappled with the economic repercussions of alcohol misuse, with an estimated cost of $249.0 billion, underscoring its significant burden on the economy. Furthermore, the alarming statistic that over 10 percent of U.S. children reside in households with a parent facing alcohol-related issues sheds light on the profound disruption it introduces to family dynamics and the potential implications for the mental well-being of the children involved. These grim realities emphasize the potent influence of alcohol and underscore how averting short and long-term effects could be as straightforward as abstaining from drinking.

Possible Solutions

Educating the populace about the health risks and adverse consequences of alcohol abuse stands as a critical imperative. The key to ameliorating this issue lies in collective education. People of all age groups must cultivate a heightened awareness of the genuine perils associated with alcohol consumption. Schools can play a pivotal role in this effort, with teachers and even law enforcement officers engaging students in conversations about the dangers of alcohol. Some might recall programs like DARE, where police officers would visit schools to educate students about the risks of drug and alcohol use, a valuable initiative in promoting awareness.

Beyond schools, health fairs provide an excellent platform for disseminating information, and community members can contribute by distributing informative flyers within neighborhoods. Hospitals, too, present opportunities for education, as they serve as centers of health awareness and information dissemination. A collaborative approach, where individuals actively discourage impaired driving, further strengthens the campaign against alcohol misuse. Real-life testimonies from individuals who have grappled with alcohol abuse, leading to conditions like liver disease or cancer, can be highly impactful. By sharing their stories with schools and communities, these individuals can offer a sobering look at the devastating consequences of alcohol abuse, allowing others to learn from their experiences.

Notably, it is imperative that teachers possess a deep understanding of substance abuse to effectively educate their students. Research has illuminated this need, revealing that teachers often confront challenges when addressing substance abuse among students. Some educators inadvertently normalize substance use during adolescence, while others silently endure these issues without intervention. A few educators recognize the necessity of specialized support from other social services. Consequently, schools should ensure that teachers are well-versed in substance abuse education, as evidenced by a study conducted in a rural Canadian high school. This study revealed that over one-third of students had used marijuana (37%) and alcohol (38%) in the past week, rates significantly exceeding Canadian averages. The study emphasized that school-wide initiatives require the active involvement of the entire staff to enhance awareness of substance abuse, foster interprofessional collaboration, and establish a sense of interdependence among educators.

The challenge is exacerbated by the widespread promotion of alcohol, a legal substance, through various channels. Alcohol advertisements are pervasive on television commercials, billboards, social media platforms, and even in popular TV shows and movies. This saturation of alcohol-related content makes it exceedingly accessible and relatively inexpensive for the general population. While some countries employ alcohol excise taxes, fewer than half utilize price strategies such as prohibiting below-cost selling or volume discounts. Advertising regulations vary widely, with the majority of countries implementing some form of restriction on beer advertising. Total bans are more common for television and radio, while the internet and social media remain less regulated, a particularly concerning issue given the ubiquity of social media usage among the population.

Our primary focus should be on enhancing public health rather than generating revenue. By making alcohol less accessible and more expensive, we can discourage its consumption. Additionally, initiatives like television programs or commercials highlighting the detrimental effects of alcohol, similar to anti-smoking campaigns, can play a crucial role in educating the public and promoting better public health.

One noteworthy intervention in the field of public health, introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO), is SAFER. This WHO-led initiative represents a comprehensive roadmap designed to assist governments in accelerating progress toward better health outcomes, particularly in combating non-communicable diseases by addressing the harmful use of alcohol. It aligns with the aim of achieving development targets and fostering overall well-being. Despite limited progress since the endorsement of the 'Global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol' by the World Health Assembly eight years ago, SAFER injects renewed momentum into our efforts.

So, what does SAFER entail? This initiative outlines five strategic actions that governments should prioritize in their implementation to promote health and development:

  1. Strengthen restrictions on the availability of alcohol.
  2. Enhance and enforce measures to combat drink-driving.
  3. Facilitate access to screening, brief interventions, and treatment.
  4. Enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion.
  5. Increase alcohol prices through excise taxes and pricing policies.

Given the widespread use of alcohol, many individuals underestimate its profound threat to public health. These strategies encompass the critical areas that require attention and offer guidance to governments worldwide on how to save lives. The most significant impact will be achieved by fully implementing all the SAFER interventions.

Primary care plays a pivotal role in offering patients guidelines and information for maintaining good health, as well as delivering services related to screening, diagnosis, intervention, and treatment of fundamental health issues, including alcohol abuse and dependence. Within this context, nurses assume a crucial position in the realm of primary care. They assess patient needs, develop and deliver care plans for individuals and families, and frequently play a role in identifying, addressing, and referring patients with alcohol, tobacco, and other drug-related concerns.

Primary care activities related to alcohol abuse primarily revolve around early prevention and intervention, as well as the identification of problems and subsequent referrals to specialized care when necessary. These activities align with the levels of prevention, consisting of:

  1. Primary prevention: Educating patients about the adverse effects of alcohol abuse.
  2. Secondary prevention: Conducting screenings and early identification of alcohol abuse.
  3. Tertiary prevention: Providing treatment options such as rehabilitation programs and medications to reduce the urge to consume alcohol.

This approach emphasizes the role of general nurses in offering primary care. Both registered nurses and advanced practice nurses can assume distinct roles in addressing patients with alcohol abuse issues. Nurse practitioners, for instance, extend their responsibilities beyond primary care to encompass the secondary care of patients grappling with alcohol abuse and dependence, where primary care pertains to preventive and health maintenance aspects and secondary care involves diagnosing and managing acute illnesses.

Nurses engaged in primary care must receive adequate education and training to effectively:

  • Collect routine alcohol and other drug histories.
  • Implement primary prevention measures, including anticipatory guidance and alcohol abuse education.
  • Assess potential alcohol-related problems.
  • Formulate diagnoses of abuse based on patient assessments and data analysis.
  • Undertake suitable nursing interventions.
  • Identify acute alcohol-related illnesses and make appropriate referrals to physicians or specialists in addiction nursing.
  • Provide ongoing care, including follow-up, monitoring, health maintenance, or healthcare support during recovery.

In summary, nurses, particularly those in primary care roles, possess the knowledge and skills required to address alcohol-related problems effectively. Their role encompasses preventive measures, early identification, diagnosis, and support for individuals struggling with alcohol abuse. Through comprehensive education and training, nurses can play a pivotal role in promoting better public health outcomes in the context of alcohol abuse.

Future Implications

Research findings reveal that 37% of the 155 surveyed countries lack provisions for access to postgraduate training programs for professionals engaged in the treatment of substance use disorders. Additionally, 40% of the 147 countries surveyed do not offer access to such programs for individuals involved in the prevention of substance use. These statistics highlight a concerning gap in many countries' approaches to ongoing professional development. Particularly in the healthcare sector, where professionals are entrusted with the well-being of others, continuous education and training are of paramount importance.

It is imperative to define precisely which individuals are at risk of developing alcohol-related problems and to assess the potential risks versus benefits of alcohol consumption. These steps are fundamental in designing effective interventions to mitigate alcohol-related issues and providing accurate public health information. However, the absence of supplementary educational seminars and programs in many healthcare systems poses a significant challenge. Without these resources, healthcare professionals may struggle to assess patients accurately or provide them with the necessary education and guidance.

Given that nurses play a pivotal role in primary care settings, they routinely encounter individuals grappling with alcohol abuse and dependence. Consequently, it is essential to integrate education about alcohol abuse and related issues into the core nursing curriculum. Surprisingly, despite the critical importance of this knowledge, comprehensive education on alcohol abuse has not been consistently included in general nursing programs. There are notable gaps in the content of nursing curricula when it comes to educating nurses about substance abuse.

Historically, long-term effects of alcoholism and appropriate nursing care for such conditions were addressed in professional nursing curricula developed during the 1940s. However, the time allocated to alcohol abuse education in nursing schools has been disproportionately limited, typically spanning just 1 to 5 hours. This inadequate emphasis on substance abuse education is especially concerning given the extensive health implications associated with alcohol abuse and dependence. Topics related to alcohol abuse and dependence have primarily been presented in courses focused on psychiatric or medical nursing, with a primary focus on long-term effects and medical complications. Consequently, nursing schools allocate minimal time to substance abuse education, and postgraduate programs often lack opportunities for advanced education in this field.

Nurses constitute one of the largest groups of healthcare professionals responsible for patient care, including individuals who use and abuse psychoactive substances. In light of this, a study was conducted to evaluate the theoretical and practical knowledge acquired by nurses during their undergraduate and postgraduate studies, as well as their perceptions regarding individuals who use alcohol. The study involved a cohort of nurses who participated in a survey encompassing questions related to sociodemographic characteristics, attitudes and beliefs of nurses, and inquiries about formal nursing education pertaining to alcohol use and its consequences.

The findings were illuminating, with 70% of the participants reporting limited or no exposure to information concerning the physical, family, and social issues associated with alcohol use. Additionally, 87% indicated insufficient information regarding high-risk populations related to alcohol use, while a staggering 95% reported a lack of education on nursing procedures for patients with alcohol abuse issues. In conclusion, the study revealed that formal education concerning alcohol use and its consequences is notably deficient, especially concerning the provision of adequate care and management for patients grappling with alcohol-related problems or addiction.

Moving forward, one of the central implications for all healthcare providers is the need for enhanced education. Education is a cornerstone of the nursing profession, with continuous learning being an integral part of daily practice. Hospitals and healthcare institutions must prioritize ongoing education for their nursing staff, ensuring that they remain up-to-date with current practices, signs, symptoms, and relevant knowledge. Empowered and well-informed nurses can make a substantial contribution to mitigating the issue of alcohol abuse by confidently engaging with patients, discussing risks, consequences, and providing essential guidance and support.

Summary

Alcohol stands out as the most widely consumed and misused substance on a global scale. Unfortunately, the problem of alcohol abuse continues to escalate with each passing year. The ubiquity of alcohol, found readily available in fridges and at virtually any social gathering, often obscures the negative consequences linked to its consumption. This paradox raises questions in people's minds: How can something so common and legally accessible be harmful? It's a difficult realization for many to grasp. In 2015, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that approximately 1.3 million individuals, roughly 3.3 percent of those aged 12–20 (3.6 percent of males and 3.0 percent of females), engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month.

Addressing this issue requires a collective effort involving teachers, nurses, doctors, parents, government agencies, and society at large. It is crucial to educate individuals about the grave importance of avoiding the misuse of such a toxic substance. Alcohol can wreak havoc on families, physical health, mental well-being, and even lead to fatal outcomes. The addictive nature of alcohol, especially when consumed regularly, presents a frightening prospect. People of all ages, including healthcare providers, law enforcement officers, and educators, need to be informed about the risks associated with alcohol abuse. This problem is pervasive globally and far from being eradicated, but there is growing recognition and awareness surrounding it.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the World Health Organization has formulated a global strategy aimed at reducing the harmful use of alcohol. This comprehensive strategy delineates ten areas for national action, encompassing leadership, awareness, health service responses, community involvement, drink-driving policies, alcohol availability, marketing regulations for alcoholic beverages, pricing policies, mitigating the negative consequences of alcohol use, and addressing the public health impact of illicit and informally produced alcohol. Vigilant monitoring and surveillance are integral components of this strategy.

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Additionally, the World Health Organization has introduced the SAFER program, which outlines five interventions designed to save lives and enhance public health and well-being. The overarching objective is to educate individuals about the detrimental consequences of alcohol abuse, curtail the accessibility of alcohol in retail outlets, and increase its cost. Achieving this goal demands collective national efforts to combat this pervasive issue and effect meaningful change.

References:

  1. World Health Organization. (2018). Global status report on alcohol and health 2018. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565639
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Understanding alcohol use disorder. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders
  3. Rehm, J., Shield, K. D., Gmel, G., Rehm, M. X., & Frick, U. (2019). Modeling the impact of alcohol dependence on mortality burden and the effect of available treatment interventions in the European Union. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 29(8), 923-932. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.euroneuro.2019.04.006
  4. Esser, M. B., Hedden, S. L., Kanny, D., Brewer, R. D., Gfroerer, J. C., & Naimi, T. S. (2014). Prevalence of alcohol dependence among US adult drinkers, 2009-2011. Preventing Chronic Disease, 11, E206. https://doi.org/10.5888/pcd11.140329
  5. Shield, K. D., Parry, C., & Rehm, J. (2013). Chronic diseases and conditions related to alcohol use. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 35(2), 155-173. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arcr352/155-173.pdf
  6. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP19-5068, NSDUH Series H-54). https://www.samhsa.gov/data/report/2018-nsduh-annual-national-report
  7. World Health Organization. (2021). SAFER: A World Health Organization initiative to prevent and reduce alcohol-related death and disability. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/safer-alcohol-control-initiative
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A Report on Alcohol Abuse and Its Consequences. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-report-on-alcohol-abuse/
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A Report on Alcohol Abuse and Its Consequences. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-report-on-alcohol-abuse/> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
A Report on Alcohol Abuse and Its Consequences [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Oct 10 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/a-report-on-alcohol-abuse/
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