Alcohol abuse is a problem that encompasses more than alcoholism (a chronic, lifelong acquired disease in which a person is dependent upon alcohol); one can abuse alcohol without being dependent on its effects. Over 17 million people in the United States are either alcohol abusers or alcoholics. Alcohol abuse is a problem for people of all demographics, but is highest among people aged 18-29. People who start drinking at a young age are much more likely to become alcohol abusers than people who do not start drinking until the age of 21, but there is little objective, independent evidence to suggest a correlation. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan threatened to veto the Democratic House of Representatives' bill that would federally raise the drinking age to 21, citing states' rights concerns.
Since the drinking age was raised to a nationally uniform 21, drunk driving-related deaths have dropped substantially, at almost the same percentage as driving-related deaths that do not involve alcohol. Drinking age opponents and independent studies suggest that vehicle safety, seatbelt wearing, and increased use of designated drivers account for the substantial decrease in alcohol- and non-alcohol-related driving deaths. Furthermore, the trend started in 1969 but plateaued in the mid- to -late-1990's when cops 'n shops programs became popular. However, the introduction of cops 'n shops and slowing of the decrease in drunk driving deaths may be unrelated.
The health effects of alcohol abuse are well documented and range from mild to severe. Effects include:
- chronic liver damage
- reduced memory and brain function
- Stomach ulcers
- Heart disease
Alcohol withdrawal (colloquially known as "The DTs") can vary in extremes from minor shakes and discomfort to full blown seizures, hallucinations and even death in some cases. The level of withdrawal is correlated to the amount one drinks over length of time. Symptoms include:
- tremors of the extremities (particularly hands)
- intense cravings for alcohol
- death (in severe cases)
Conservative values are an excellent way to combat alcohol abuse. For example, conservative Christian group Teen Challenge reported a 70% cure rate for addicts graduating from its program. Most secular programs report cure rates of 1-15%.. The most common, and successful, recovery program is Alcoholics Anonymous.