Alcoholism impacts people from all walks of life. At Alpine Recovery Lodge, we understand the difficulty of identifying and dealing with alcoholism, and believe more information always helps. It’s surprising when you realize how many people are turning to alcohol to help them cope with life’s challenges. People who suffer from alcoholism are often very good at hiding it from their friends, family and co-workers. It’s part of the reason why so many people don’t seek help sooner: they think because they are successfully hiding it from people that they must not have a problem.
In Utah, which is a largely Mormon state (which means that many don’t consume alcohol), some surprising facts have emerged that show just how damaging and far-reaching alcoholism is for people.
Despite being occupied by what is largely a dry population, Utah has some of the most unique alcohol consumption characteristics in the country. In our experience, these statistics add complications to the available treatment for alcoholism in Utah.
These alcoholism facts related to Utah may surprise you and have you thinking twice about what alcoholism may look like in your own neck of the woods.
1. UTAH TEENS ARE MORE LIKELY TO GET WASTED THAN THEIR PEERS NATIONWIDE.
A 2016 report on underage drinking in Utah found that while Utah teens are less likely to drink than teenagers in other states, Utah teens who do drink are actually more likely to drink to excess. Compared to a report released in 2013, the numbers have remained steady with teenager alcohol consumption amongst the worst, when it occurs.
According to the report, compiled by The Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, 17 percent of Utah high school seniors polled said they drank alcohol in the past 30 days, compared with 40 percent nationwide. However, of the Utah teens who drank, 72 percent engaged in binge drinking.
This is much higher than the 55-percent national average. The new data collected in the 2016 report shows that it has only declined a small amount. So while the average US teenager has actually begun to consume less alcohol than the generations before them, Utah remains largely stabilized.
This disturbing statistic means that many young Utahns are at risk of developing alcoholism, according to the report. With no change in over 10 years, the risks remain ever-present.
2. UTAH DRINKERS ARE JUST AS PRONE TO DANGEROUS DRINKING HABITS AS PEOPLE IN OTHER STATES.
Utahns are less likely to consume alcohol than people in other states — about 25 percent of the adult UT population consumes alcohol in any given month, compared to a national rate of about 50 percent. Based on this statistic, you might think that Utahns would consume alcohol only lightly or moderately. But this is far from the truth — among Utah residents who drink, unsafe drinking habits are just as common as in the rest of the country.
There is an interesting tension that exists here with stereotyping based on alcohol laws in the area and what is actually happening. Reconciling that tension is not made easier by the fact that people assume alcohol rates are low in Utah because of religious beliefs. As is the case with many social expectations, the influence of religion can actually drive people to participate in unfavorable activities. Living up to social norms and religious expectations can have the opposite effect that it intends with some people or communities.
According to a recent Utah Statewide Substance Abuse Epidemiology Profile, rates of heavy drinking and binge drinking among Utah drinkers are consistent with national rates. Since heavy drinking and binge drinking correlate highly with alcoholism, this means that Utah drinkers are just as prone to alcoholism as the rest of the nation, despite the low state-wide consumption rate.
This means that there are often pockets of people who are influencing or accessing alcohol consumption in a non-traditional way in the area. This tension can be confusing for people to navigate and ultimately can contribute to more alcohol consumption as a way to cope with what is right and what is wrong, according to society, family, or religion.
3. UTAH ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION HAS A HIGHLY UNUSUAL AGE DISTRIBUTION.
One way in which Utahns’ alcohol consumption patterns are unique is that problem drinking is just as prevalent in older people as it is in young people. In almost all other states, young people are much more likely to drink alcohol and to engage in risky drinking (e.g., heavy drinking, binge drinking) compared to older adults. This is not the case in Utah.
Utah has a flatter distribution of alcohol consumption and abuse, with adults in their 30s, 40s, and 50s actually consuming slightly more alcohol than people in their teens and 20s, according to the National Alcoholism Center (NAC). Older adults are also more likely than young people to engage in heavy drinking. According to NAC, this unusual pattern may actually complicate statewide alcoholism prevention efforts, as alcoholism awareness campaigns are usually targeted at the youth population.
It’s interesting to think about why this might be: is it because of the zero-tolerance related to underage drinking? Does the risk of drinking at a young age deter people from trying it and then indirectly impact alcohol consumption later in life? It’s hard to know how these statistics play out in real life and what the lasting impacts of them really are.
Related: Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Utah
4. UTAH ALCOHOL LAWS DON’T STOP THOSE DETERMINED TO DRINK.
We know that the law does not stop people from getting their hands on alcohol, drugs, or other illicit substances if the person is determined enough. If teenagers want to drink alcohol, they will find a way. Alcoholism or substance abuse doesn’t mean you drink alcohol: some people drink high concentrations of cough syrup or huff gasoline to get high. It’s not always drugs and beer that get people in trouble.
Utah’s alcohol laws are much more restrictive than those in other states, particularly when it comes to serving alcohol in public. Nevertheless, some statistics indicate that these laws might not do much to curb problem drinking.
It’s safe to assume that much of this drinking takes place at home, but the fallout of the drinking spills over into other areas of life for people who suffer from alcoholism. It might not present as a problem right away, but over time, alcoholics have a hard time controlling their drinking and it impacts their lives, work, and relationships. Not only does drinking at home void the effects of public serving limitations, but it could also lead to problem drinking. Drinking alone at home is a major warning sign that you might have an alcohol problem, and it is especially dangerous when you are depressed.
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