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Getting drunk occurs when a person drinks more alcohol than the body can break down, leaving the alcohol to circulate throughout the body. Over time, excessive alcohol use, both in the form of heavy drinking or binge drinking, can lead to numerous health problems, chronic diseases, neurological impairments and social problems, including but not limited to: dementia, stroke and neuropathy, cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation and hypertension, and psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the economic cost of alcoholism and alcohol abuse as $223.5 billion ($746 per person) or about $1.90 per drink. Those numbers were derived from the costs of losses in workplace productivity (72 percent), health care expenses for problems caused by excessive drinking (11 percent), law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses related to excessive alcohol consumption (9 percent), and motor vehicle crash costs from impaired driving (6 percent).

According to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), the cravings for intoxicating drinks can be as powerful as a need for food or water and must be treated as a disease rather than an individual’s inability to exercise willpower. Alcoholism has little to do with what kind of alcohol one drinks, how long one has been drinking, or even exactly how much alcohol one consumes. But it has a great deal to do with a person’s uncontrollable need for alcohol.

AA also stress the importance of youth intervention and prevention strategies. They can show that teens who experiment with alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent when they are older than those that wait until age 20.

While some people are able to recover without help, the majority of alcoholics need outside assistance to recover from their disease. Yet, with support and treatment, many are able to stop drinking and reclaim their lives.

For more information on AA groups in the area, visit www.aa.org