In the United States, public awareness about addiction and addiction counseling has grown tremendously in the past decade or two. But it’s easy to take for granted a link between awareness and recovery. Most people are more aware of the physical disease that addiction can be, and most are aware of various addiction counseling resources and support programs that are available. But this does not mean it’s any easier for those impacted to reach out, find a counselor, recognize their problem, and get the help they need.
Globally, alcohol abuse is a huge problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol abuse leads to the death of 2.5 million people each year (with many more injured or ill). 4% of all deaths are related to alcohol, says WHO, and despite education campaigns, it’s younger generations who are more at risk. Back here in the U.S., the emphasis on youth holds true: 5.9% of adolescents aged 12-14 consume alcohol on at least a monthly basis, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration. The vast majority of those receive their alcohol for free, and nearly half get it from a family member.
While many youth start drinking for peer- and social-related reasons, some turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism for underlying problems. And once they’ve reached the point or alcohol abuse and dependence, they’re at a much higher risk to develop depression and various other mental health problems, regardless of the reason they started drinking in the first place. Often, therapists and counselors find themselves working with adult clients whose problems with alcohol, family relationships, job instability, and self esteem are all intertwined—and have been for a long time.
A few other facts concerning alcohol use and mental health:
- Addiction therapy for alcohol abuse is complicated, and different people respond better to different approaches. Individual therapy, group support, detoxification programs, and various supplemental activities (exercise, meditation, etc.) can be used quite successfully.
- Some school-based intervention programs work better than others. (Often, awareness of the facts is not enough.)
- Young adults with lower impulse control are more likely to abuse alcohol.
- People who abuse alcohol or drugs in adolescence are much more likely to still be doing so during middle age. This strikes a blow to the “just being kids” excuse for not finding counseling for teens who appear to be losing control.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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