The years of early adulthood are important to forming healthy consumption habits. Over 90% of the alcohol consumed by the teenage group can be classified as binge drinking and this age range is universally accompanied by a greater percentage of introductory consumption behavior. This is an especially risky intersection of behavior and environment. Our survey data suggests this trend is constant, as “first drink” statistics of southern respondents were in line with national respondents.
The rate at which southern respondents qualified as “heavy” alcohol users, was also in line with the national average (47.9% versus 47.1% nationally).
Reasons for drinking across southern states were in line with national trends and were reported as follows:
- 60.4% used alcohol to cope with stress (to relax, unwind, or deal with life)
- 42.5% used alcohol to cope with mental health symptoms like anxiety or depression
- 59.0% used alcohol recreationally or socially
- 36.0% used alcohol out of boredom
- 17.8% reported being physically dependent on alcohol
- 19.4% used alcohol as part of their daily routine (i.e., a drink with dinner)
Alcohol’s Impact on Quality of Life and Health
Unhealthy consumption habits can have drastic impacts on one’s life. The obvious side effects of alcohol misuse such as impacts on physical and mental health can lead to a variety of health complications. The external side effects of alcohol misuse on one’s life are often present but commonly ignored and can range from impacting career and financial position to personal relationships and parenting. The southern survey respondents were slightly more likely to report some adverse effects on their lives compared to national results:
- 55.5% (vs. 53.5%) reported alcohol affected their physical health
- 49.4% (vs. 44.5) reported alcohol affected their mental health
- 46.0% (vs. 41.9%) reported alcohol affected their relationships with loved ones
- 33.4% (vs. 34.0%) reported alcohol affected their finances
- 29.7% (vs. 29.5%) reported alcohol affected their hygiene
- 27.7% (vs. 25.3%) reported alcohol affected their career or job
- 24.1% (vs. 21.7%) reported alcohol affected their abilities as a parent
- 11.9% (vs. 13.2%) reported alcohol affected their legal status (incarceration, fines, etc.)
Southern heavy drinkers were much more likely to report these effects compared to light or moderate drinkers. They were twice as likely to say that drinking impacted their mental health, their legal status and their abilities as a parent. They were two and a half times more likely to say it impacted their relationships with loved ones.
When residents of the southern states were asked to rank the areas alcohol use most impacted their lives, the results echoed our national survey with the heaviest impacts being: physical health, mental health and relationships.
Survey participants were asked to weigh alcohol’s impact on their health, by specifying physical and mental health complications related to alcohol misuse. Southerners were more likely to report depression, high blood pressure and liver disease.
Related Topic: Alcohol and Depression
Again, those that qualified as heavy drinkers increased their chances for these effects. Southern heavy drinkers were:
- 4.4 times more likely to report nerve damage
- 3 times more likely to have seizures
- 2.4 times more likely to report cirrhosis
- 2 times more likely to have liver disease
Detox, Rehab, and Recovery
We found that residents of the southern geographic area were more likely to seek out support from communities during their recovery journeys, such as a support group or rehab facility, than their national counterparts.
While southern residents were more open to seeking outside help during recovery, our study found that 35% did not or would not consider outside help.
This statistic is discouraging because detoxification can be one of the most physically demanding parts of recovery from alcohol abuse. Seeking professional and community support is a powerful tool for anyone beginning their recovery journey and is strongly encouraged. Taking advantage of these resources can make a difficult experience more comfortable and significantly safer, especially when facing the most severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Strong communities can be the pillar of strong recovery, but not all detoxifications and recoveries are made equally. Some detox and recovery journeys can result in physically and psychologically demanding withdrawal symptoms. On average, respondents reported withdrawal symptoms lasting 4.66 days and ranging anywhere between 2 and 8 days in 95% of respondents.
Southern respondents reported experiencing a wide range of withdrawal symptoms when detoxing from alcohol:
Southerner heavy drinkers were 3 times more likely to experience hallucinations. They were also 3 times more likely to experience seizures. Most troubling, these heavy drinkers were 2.7 times more likely to experience Delirium Tremens (DTs), a potentially fatal side effect of alcohol withdrawal.
Individuals detoxing from heavy alcohol consumption and those detoxing from polysubstance use (I.e., detoxing from multiple substances) faced a significantly more challenging detox and reported higher rates of withdrawal symptoms in every category.