Alcoholism in America remains in the closet in spite of its acceptance by the medical community as a disease. And since this disease is listed as a mental disorder, it is doubly stigmatized. Worse, most people have no idea what it takes to be an alcoholic. Most see alcoholics in their mind as a person who lives on the street, is unemployed and who is at least 40 years old. In truth, none of those generalizations is truthful.
Few people ever think of someone in the 12 to 25 age group as being alcoholics. According to the National Institute of Health, people from age 12 to 18 reported 3.4% are heavy drinkers. For college students 18 – 22 reported 12.5% are heavy drinkers and binge drinking is 3 to 4 times the afore listed rates.
Because alcoholism is a mental disorder those in the age group described above are least likely to believe they are an alcoholic. Here are some of the common reasons given by 12 to 25-year-olds for why they are not an alcoholic:
• I’m too young
• I don’t drink every day
• I can stop anytime
• I’m doing all right in school
• I’ve never gotten a DUI
• I’ve only blacked out a couple of times
Chief among the reason for not being an alcoholic is age. There is a perception that to become an alcoholic takes many years of heavy drinking, drinking every day, and being at least 40. But in truth, if you drink because it makes you feel good, because it gets rid of bad feelings, because everyone your age is doing it and because it allows you to be more social are all indicators that you might have a drinking problem.
What follows is the Johns Hopkins University test for being an alcoholic. Go through these and see how many apply to you.
1 Have you lost time from your work because of your drinking?
2 Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
3 Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
4 Is drinking affecting your reputation?
5 Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
6 Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
7 Do you turn to lower companions or environment when drinking?
8 Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
9 Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
10 Do you want a drink the next morning?
11 Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
12 Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
13 Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
14 Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
15 Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
16 Do you drink alone?
17 Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
18 Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
19 Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
20 Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?
You need only have answered yes to 3 of these questions to most likely be an alcoholic.
For the young person, questions 15 to 19 are probably the most telling and most likely to have said “yes” to. Answering yes to even one of these questions suggests an underlying problem.
Being an alcoholic is as much a why question as it is a how much question. That is, if you drink because you are feeling depressed, because you cannot be social otherwise, or because you have some really negative feelings, then you have a drinking problem. You have nothing to lose by deciding you have a drinking problem you cannot fix. Help is everywhere in the form of Alcoholics Anonymous.
The good news for young people is that there are thousands just like you out there. And even better, if you live near a city, there most likely are meetings for you. They are called “Young People Meetings.” And within these groups, you will find a secondary group that refers to itself as “never had a legal drink.” And the really good news is, within each meeting you go to you will find someone else who has exactly the same problem as you who have found a solution to that problem, and others. You need only ask, and they will tell you how they did it.
It does not matter if there are no young people’s meetings near you, the regular AA meeting will help you more than you can imagine. The first step is in saying that you have a problem you cannot resolve. Take that problem to a meeting and in time it will be resolved.
For more information please visit Alcoholics Anonymous’ Internet site at: