Essays on Alcohol Addiction

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Carnegie Mellon University
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1.  Essay (1,000 words maximum):

Epidemiological research focuses on how rates of alcohol use and drinking problems vary over time and in different societies. Based on the readings and epidemiological evidence that we have examined in this course, how would you describe the current status of drinking problems in the U.S. among adolescents and adults as (1) compared the 1970s in the U.S. and (2) as compared to other societies today? Be sure to answer both parts of the question and identify the sources of your epidemiological data (although you dont need to include formal citations and references). Please avoid the use of graphics and describe these epidemiological trends and patterns in words only. Type your answer below, using as much space as you need (within the 1,000 word limit):


Alcoholic drinks have always been part of the human social life for many years. Epidemiologists define alcohol or drinking problems as any situation contributed by drinking that may directly place the drinker at risk. Alcohol use problems may also lead to other effects such dependence. Each of the above-highlighted effects can have adverse health consequences on the user. For instance, the epidemiologists identify alcohol dependence as alcohol dependence which affects the majority of drinkers. Epidemiologists are mainly concerned with the alcohol consumption measure which includes drinking volume and patterns. One of the main ways in which the epidemiologists study the rate of alcohol consumption in the United States is by tracking and analyzing per capita consumption of alcohol based on the sales data (Patrick & Schulenberg, 2014). This information enables the epidemiologists to approximate and determine the rate of alcohol consumption by each individual in the country. According to the epidemiologists, before 1970, the United States per capita consumption rate was approximated by dividing the total alcohol sold by the total number of residents with 15 years or above. However, since 1970 the measurement changed and the denominator was introduced in the formula to include the total number of residents with 14 years and above. This followed the fact that rate of alcohol consumption among the teenagers was increasingly becoming a major alcohol problem in the United States. In 1997, per capita alcohol in the United States stood at 2.18 gallons of ethanol annually.

As compared to 1970s, the rate of underage drinking today has become significant a major problem. In the 1970s, the rate of drinking among adolescent was very low. As a result, many states reduced the minimum drinking age from 21 to 18 years. This went through many years until the late 1980s when all states in America adopted the minimum legal drinking age of 21 years (Ames & Cunradi, 2004). This policy was made compulsory to every state following the increased number of alcohol-related road accidents among the young people. Although the rate of alcohol consumption among the youths and adults declined significantly, it later became a major problem again. Today, underage alcohol consumption still remains a pervasive and major problem in the United States with serious health and safety effects. With the increased problems or consequences related with alcohol consumption, policymakers have been forced to adopt more strict laws including the zero-tolerance laws that make it an offense to drive after drinking for people under the age of 21.

The rate of alcohol consumption among the young people in the United States has significantly increased in the past decades (Patrick & Schulenberg, 2014). Therefore, in spite of the underage drinking laws, the results from the national surveys show that it is still a major problem among the young people. The surveys show that underage drinking is still unacceptably high among the adolescent as compared to the adults. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health approximate that alcohol is a drug that is widely used by the majority of adolescents in America than even tobacco and other illicit drugs. The survey firm in 2008 found that approximately 10.1 million adolescents in the United States were involved in alcohol use. The survey further found that the rate of drinking increases with the age. For instance, approximately 39% of the current 8th graders have tried alcohol. 58% and 72% of 10th and 12th graders respectively have also tried alcohol. However, the rate continues as one goes up the ladder. The rate of alcohol consumption in colleges has significantly increased. Approximately 85% of college students currently have engaged in alcohol consumption.

The National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions show that today people how to start using alcohol at the age of 15 or below are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who start at 21 years or later (Patrick & Schulenber, 2014). The prevalence rate of lifetime alcohol consumption is reported to be highest among men aged between 25 years and 55 years. The prevalence rate is also reported to be lowest among the boys between 18 years and 24 years. Similar trends are also reported among the women in the United States. In comparison to the other societies, alcohol consumption rate in the United States is quite low. Other countries like France, Germany, Australia and the United Kingdom are among the societies that have higher per capita consumption levels than the United States.

Various factors are identified to be associated with the increased or high alcohol consumption levels. For instance, the unregistered and illegally produced alcoholic beverages and duty-free purchases are among the key factors considered to be contributing to increased alcohol consumption rate. Alcohol use among the elderly people is relatively lower than the rate of consumption among the young people in the United States. People with over 65 years and above are generally considered to consume less alcohol and reported fewer cases of alcohol related problems than their young counterparts. It is now clear that underage drinking in the United States can be understood in the context of overall development. The rate of underage alcohol consumption is a phenomenon that is intertwined with the biological and psychosocial processes during the adolescent stage. The maturational processes influence the way adolescent interact, use, and respond to alcoholic beverages. The decision to engage in alcohol use among many adolescents in the United States is highly influenced by normal maturational or biological and psychosocial changes that each individual experiences. These changes vary with the individual; for instance, genetic, social, and psychological factors are the variables that influence adolescents alcohol use. Based on the epidemiological evidence discussed above, it is clear that America has a drinking problem, and its getting worse by every day. The study shows that majority of young people in the United States engage in alcohol use. The same observation is noted among the adults. Approximately one in every seven adults struggles with a serious alcohol problem in the United States.

2. Essay (1,000 words maximum):

The so-called disease model of alcoholism (alcohol abuse, etc.) has become the dominant conceptual framework in the study and treatment of alcohol problems in the U.S. However, a number of scholars and practitioners have been highly critical of the disease conception of alcohol problems. Identify and discuss at least three (or more) criticisms of the disease model from the links below :(


Despite disease model becoming a dominant conceptual framework for alcohol problem study, some of the scholars have remained highly critical about this conception. According to Cook (2008), the use of disease model has been exaggerated. Addiction is not about disease, but instead, its about connection. According to Cook (2008), the strategies enacted to help curb the drinking problem in the United States is effective but woefully incomplete. The policymakers focus more on enacting the laws to punish the drinkers like the zero-tolerance laws. However, they forget the most critical aspect; the influence of supply of alcohol. Although the repercussion laws are indeed crucial and important, they do not focus on the solving the problem. As long as the supply of the alcoholic substances are still open and accessible to the majority of people as it is today, the laws will have little impact on the management and control of alcohol addiction. Enacting the laws that punish the offenders are just part of the picture, but not the whole of it. According to Cook (2008), beer and liquor are very accessible and more readily available today than in the 1950s and 60s. The fact that alcohol products are very cheap and accessible to many people; it is still a major threat to many lives in the United States. Most of the lives have been destroyed and societal costs increased due to the availability of the destructive effects of alcohol. Therefore, as Cooke (2008) explains, addiction should not be viewed as a disease, but as a connection. The policymakers should try to seal the loopholes in the supply of alcohol products if a significant impact in the reduction and control of destructive drinking is to be realized in the United States.

Secondly, Patrick and Schulenberg (2014) explain that alcohol addiction is not a disease but just a bad habit caused by various social factors. The disease model addiction proponents explain that drugs of abuse can cause sustained and sometimes irreversible structural changes in the users brain; therefore, they are unable to make healthy choices. However, critics like Patrick and Schulenberg argue that the brain changes due to the new experiences; thus, addiction is learned from various places and people. The authors explain the predictors of alcohol use among adolescents including the influence of parents and peers, drinking attitudes and reasons for using alcohol, and influence of school and work. According to Patrick and Schulenberg (2014), parents and peers play a pivotal role in adolescent experiences. As a result, they can greatly influence and expose them to new experiences including alcohol use. Attitudes regarding alcohol use highly correlate to a drinking problem. Alcohol users especially adolescents are motivated by the attitudes and reasons for drinking which also serve as the beginning of the problematic behavioral problems. Since addiction is just but a bad habit caused by influence from the social environment, it is possible to treat it with the methods that aim at redirecting the thoughts such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Therefore, the authors argue that alcohol addiction should not be perceived as a disease, but rather a bad habit that is caused by influence from highly influential people like parents, peers, workmates, and schoolmates.

Martinez et al. (2013) argue that there are differential social and health consequences from alcohol use in the United States racial groups. Although the policymakers have enacted the laws to prevent and help curb the destructive drinking menace in America, the benefits of policy have been minimal. According to Martinez et al. (2013), some racial groups have higher rates of alcohol consumption in the United States; thus, putting them at a greater risk of drinking problems. The disease model of addiction provided the background for patients to be able to receive treatment. However, this has not been the case as the rate of alcohol consumption continues to increase among the youth and adults equally. Availability of addiction treatment has been a monumental advance in the American health policy system, but the benefits can barely be seen. Furthermore, the disease model of addiction has provided key evidence-based facts that have been used in the policymaking....

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