What is striking is that the GWU researchers don’t recommend counseling only alcoholics, who require years of treatment, but also people who aren’t addicts but simply drink too much.
“Since there are so many more people who drink in hazardous or harmful amounts, about 60% of the costs of alcohol to society are from people who are not dependent,” says Eric Goplerud, who heads an alcohol abuse program at GWU called Ensuring Solutions. “There are people who drink even though they have sore stomachs, or drink and get into a fight and get hurt or engage in unprotected sex.”
Each year, alcohol abuse costs the United States an estimated $185 billion, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. But only $26 billion, 14% of the total, comes from direct medical costs or treating alcoholics. Almost half, a whopping $88 billion, comes from lost productivity–a combination of all those hangovers that keep us out of work on Monday mornings, as well as other alcohol-related diseases.
The distinction that this article makes between dependence and misuse is rare. It’s easy to hear reports about substance abuse, drug abuse and alcohol abuse and assume they are talking about addiction. You find the same thing with articles (even research) about co-occurring problems. (Ex. – 20% of people with [fill in the blank] also have alcohol problems.)
There’s a big difference! The implications for the cause, pattern, duration and intervention are huge. Keep an eye on those terms and don’t make assumptions.