Why Alcohol is One of the Toughest Addictions to Kick

Woman drinking alcohol at home, can not quit.

When we examine the addiction issue in the United States today, we begin to see very quickly that this is a growing, expanding problem. We begin to see very quickly that this is an issue that encapsulates people and which causes extensive, harsh, crippling issues for all.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are approximately twenty-five-million Americans who are actively addicted to drugs and alcohol. This is a greater number than any that the U.S. has ever seen before. It is also a greater per-capita number than any that’s ever been seen before too.

In fact, according to SAMHSA, that twenty-five-million represents about fourteen percent of the entire U.S. population that is over the age of twelve. When we look at it this way, the United States becomes one of the top, most addicted countries in the world. Who would have thought that one of the greatest countries in the world with one of the greatest health care systems and infrastructures would also be one of the most heavily addicted countries in the world?

The Current Situation of Alcoholism in the United States Today

USA map made from alcohol bottle corks

In a monumental project, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism performed extensive research and examination to determine exactly what the extent of alcoholism in the United States was. The research program was called the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. In this program, more than forty-three-thousand Americans were interviewed in regards to their lifetime histories of alcohol and drug use experiences. According to the interviews, four-thousand, four-hundred, and twenty-two people meet the criterion for alcohol dependency of either physical dependence, psychological reliance, or both.

Of that four-thousand, four-hundred and twenty-two people, about twenty-five percent of them had gotten some form of treatment at some point in their lives. This shows just how expansive the treatment gap is in the United States. It shows that, while about ten percent of Americans are addicted to alcohol, only about twenty-five percent of those addicted ever actually get any help for their habits. The rest are left to fend for themselves, and they are not that good at doing that. Alcoholism is not something that one can kick on their own. Almost never.

Alcoholism has spread and grown to be the single most prominent addiction problem in the United States today. Not only are more people addicted to alcohol than any other substance, but alcohol causes more health problems, more difficulties, more troubles, more crisis, and more deaths than almost all other health issues. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more than twelve million Americans have an alcohol misuse habit of one kind or another.

Why is Alcoholism so Tough to Quit?

A lot of people wonder why alcohol is so hard to stop using. There are a few reasons that contribute to this substance being one of the most addictive drugs in the world:

  • Prevalence in society. Alcohol misuse is already very prevalent in our society. We have had this problem for quite some time. It is not new. With that in mind, it is very easy for a person to pick up a drinking habit. All they have to do is go to a local bar. Alcohol can be found almost everywhere. Picking up a drinking habit is not only very easy to do, but it is also legal. An alcohol addiction is the only drug addiction that is legal, technically.
  • Staying away is hard to do. Once people get a taste for alcohol, it is hard to walk away from it. Alcohol consumption becomes a pretty consistent habit pretty quickly, and it is more than a little difficult to walk away from the habit. It is more than a little bit difficult to walk away from the habit because, unlike with hard drugs and even prescription drugs, it is extremely easy to get ahold of alcohol. There is nowhere that a person can go that will ever be truly free from alcohol. A change of environment might be all that is needed to get away from one’s sudden interest in drugs, but this is not the case with alcohol.
  • Alcohol forms powerful chemical dependencies in a user’s body. Withdrawing off of alcohol is even more difficult to do than withdrawing off of other drugs are. Alcohol withdrawal can and often does cause Delirium Tremens, which is a truly dangerous and unpleasant health condition. Delirium Tremens can even be fatal if one does not come down off of alcohol in a monitored, controlled, staffed rehabilitation and detoxification setting.
  • A lack of proper treatment. Another reason why alcoholism is hard to beat is that it is difficult simply to find help for an alcohol habit. Ten million Americans might be addicted to alcohol, but barely over two million will ever get help for their habits. And since it is almost impossible to beat a drug or alcohol habit on one’s own, just the lack of proper treatment for alcoholics in the United States is a factor in and of itself in the continuation of this problem.
  • Alcoholism is used to “solve a problem.” People don’t just start drinking for the sake of drinking. At least not to the degree that alcoholics almost always take it. Not by a long shot. When people suffer from a crippling life crisis, they sometimes fall into a mindset where they think that alcohol can “solve their problems for them.” After all, when they’re drinking, they’re certainly not thinking about their problems, hence why they misconceive alcohol to be “solving” their problems for them.

This is just a brief glimpse at why kicking an alcohol habit is so difficult. In reality, an alcohol addiction is a little bit different for each person who is affected by it. Everyone will struggle with this problem differently, so it becomes a matter of getting everyone off of alcohol addiction in a way that is workable and conducive to sobriety for them.

What America Would Look Like Without Alcohol Addiction

We can harken back to the turn-of-the-century or even mid-twentieth-century utopian novels, novels that depicted a “perfect” world. One or two of these books had drug use as being a prevalent factor in them, but many did not. The underlayment, however, in every depiction of a utopia, has been of a world with no destruction, crime, violence, brutality, rudeness, abuse, rape, murder, theft, etc.

America would look like a very, very different place were drug and alcohol to be a thing of the past. In fact, if the entire world did not struggle with drug abuse or drugs of any kind, we would be living a very different lifestyle, and the quality of living would be world’s different. One could even go so far as to say that the entire quality of living and the entire status of our planet would be on an entirely different plane than it is on now.

This should be a utopia that we should all work for. Alcohol is the hidden killer. The drug that causes untold damage but which is allowed and in fact encouraged so much in our society in tandem. That has to change.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.