More Than 15 Million Americans Have Alcohol Use Disorder, Study Says

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SEATTLE, Wash. (WXMI) — Millions of Americans — many of the 70 percent who consume alcohol — welcomed 2019 with a drink in their hand. For more than 90 percent of them, the cheer can be managed.

But according to the National Institutes of Health, more than 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder.

Teena Richardson in Seattle was among them.

“I wasn’t drinking wine anymore, it had escalated to hard alcohol. I wanted to get the buzz as fast as I could get it. and I wanted to hide it so that nobody knew,” Richardson, who says she nearly lost everything to her addiction.

Her husband of 28 years threatened to leave. Two adult children said they’d make it without her if she didn’t quit the bottle.

It’s a decision that’s especially facing an increasing number of women.

The recent study found that between 2006 and 2014, alcohol-related visits to the emergency room increased 47 percent to five million.

The largest increase was for women between the ages of 45-64.

“If I went to somebody and said you could eliminate 15 percent of Emergency Room visits, would you do it? And they’d be like, ‘Absolutely.’ Well that means cutting out alcohol. ‘No, no, we’re not going there,” said Dr. Eric Shipley, Medical Director with Overlake  Medical Center in Seattle.

About 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death behind only smoking and obesity.

“It’s one of the most dangerous drugs there is. It’s a little slower to kill you. It might take 10 years before it causes cirrhosis. but it’s gonna kill you.”

“It can teach young people — and people generally — not to start,” said President Trump.

For those who do start but then can’t stop, there’s a number of treatment options.

Richardson tried outpatient therapy and alcoholics anonymous, but relapsed after a year. Then she went to Schick Shadel hospital for a 10-day aversion therapy program aimed at taking away the craving for alcohol.

“What we do is we pair the experience of nausea with the thought, smell, taste and sight of alcohol,” said Dr. Erick Davis, Medical Director Schick Shadel.

The hospital also uses sedation therapy to drill affirmations into the brain. Richardson says she hasn’t had a drop of alcohol in seven years.

“Now I’m present and I’m mindful of where I came from, and the test of alcoholism gave me a testimony. I’m on the other side of it,” she said.

Studies show the number of drinkers and the overall amount of alcohol consumed is staying fairly steady, but there’s a growing problem with binge drinking, which accounts for about three-quarters of the $250 billion alcohol misuse costs the country each year.

Locally, there are several options for those who need help with alcohol disorders, including Ozark Guidance in Northwest Arkansas and Harbor House in Fort Smith.

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