The Blue Cross Blue Shield System (BCBS) created a first-of-its-kind metric for measuring Americans’ health from birth to age 64: The Blue Cross Blue Shield Health IndexSM. The BCBS Health Index highlights which illnesses — from major depression to substance use disorder —are lowering the quality of life of people across the nation.
According to the data BCBS has compiled, a national total of 7.7% of Americans are effected by either substance or alcohol use disorder making these issues the 6th and 7th highest impacting health issues in the nation. This data indicates that over 25 million Americans face this these issues. To better understand what the disorders really are here are the definitions according to the BCBS data.
Substance Use Disorder — National Health Impact 3.4%
Also known as a drug use disorder, a substance use disorder involves an overuse of, or dependence on, a medication or toxin. Addiction can cause serious mental and physical injury, overdose and even death.
Alcohol Use Disorder — National Health Impact 3.3%
The National Institutes of Health define alcohol use disorder as a “chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol use, loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state when not using.” Very high blood alcohol levels can result in coma or death, and withdrawal from alcohol can cause hallucinations or even seizures.
What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Substance Abuse?
Friends and family may be among the first to recognize the signs of substance abuse. Early recognition increases the chances for successful treatment. Signs to watch for include the following:
- Giving up past activities such as sports, homework, or hanging out with new friends
- Aggressiveness and irritability
- A significant change in mood or behavior
- Disappearing money or valuables
- Feeling rundown, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal
- Sounding selfish and not caring about others
- Paraphernalia such as baggies, small boxes, pipes, and rolling paper
- Physical problems with unclear cause (for example, red eyes and slurred speech)
- Getting drunk or high on drugs on a regular basis
- Lying, particularly about how much alcohol or other drugs he or she is using
- Avoiding friends or family in order to get drunk or high
- Planning drinking in advance, hiding alcohol, and drinking or using other drugs alone
- Having to drink more to get the same high
- Believing that in order to have fun you need to drink or use other drugs
- Frequent hangovers
- Pressuring others to drink or use other drugs
- Taking risks, including sexual risks
- Having “blackouts,” forgetting what he or she did the night before
- Constantly talking about drinking or using other drugs
- Getting in trouble with the law
- Drinking and driving
- Suspension or other problems at school or in the workplace for an alcohol- or drug-related incident
What Are Some of The Physical Health Consequences of Alcoholism?
Alcohol has been linked to over 200 diseases and health issues, including:
- Fetal alcohol syndrome
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Mouth cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Breast cancer
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Restless leg syndrome
Even small amounts of alcohol can cause:
- Memory loss
- Balance problems
- Hearing loss
- Slowed reaction times
- Blurred vision
- Lowered inhibitions
Understanding the Phases of Intoxication
The acronym BAC is most often heard in the context of a DUI arrest. In general, states consider a BAC of 0.08 or greater to be the legal intoxication amount. BAC can also help to clarify the relationship between the volume of alcohol in the blood and the effects the individual drinker experiences. The following is an overview of different BAC levels and known side effects:
- 0.07-0.09 percent: At this stage, individuals usually experience pleasurable effects as well as a minor impairment in speech, memory, balance, hearing, reaction time, and vision. Inhibitions have likely lessened at this point. Individuals usually believe they are functioning better than they actually are, which can lead them to operate a vehicle.
- 0.125 percent: The euphoric effects of alcohol will likely still be felt. Physical coordination and judgment skills may be significantly impaired. The person drinking may appear to have slurred speech and be off balance. Vision, hearing, and reaction time will likely be impaired.
- 0.13-0.15 percent: Now the person will likely experience less euphoria and possibly anxiety or restlessness. There may be a dramatic loss of motor skills and coordination. Vision may be significantly blurred. The person’s perception and judgement may be significantly impaired.
- 0.25 percent: This results in impairment of all mental, sensory, and physical capabilities so great that the person is at risk of choking on vomit, falling, or getting into a serious accident.
- 0.3 percent and above: Consciousness may diminish, ranging from a stupor to a coma to death.
The following is a selected sample of the criteria used in DSM-5 for alcohol use disorder. In the past year, have you:
- Had a desire for a drink that was so acute that it was difficult to think about anything else?
- Continued to use alcohol despite being aware that drinking was causing anxiety or depression, complicating a health problem, or leading to a blackout?
- Found that on more than one occasion drinking caused exposure to a dangerous activity, such as driving,swimming, operating machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unprotected sex?
- Realized that more alcohol is required than in earlier times in order to achieve the desired intoxicated feeling?
Individuals who are concerned that they may have an alcohol use disorder may consider their specific experiences in view of DSM-5 criteria. Although a qualified clinician, therapist, or other addiction specialist should make a diagnosis, it may be a helpful starting point to consider these criteria. It is important to keep in mind that alcohol use disorder can be treated with effective rehab services. A diagnosis is an important first step in recovery.
This information is not meant to scare you but to raise your awareness as to how substance abuse can affect your health.
Could you have a problem? Is it affecting your health? With our primary care services we can offer a routine physical to help you gain knowledge of where your overall health is. We can offer referrals for specialists in order for you to get the help you need. To make an appointment at any one of our 3 locations call 817-345-0303.