Researchers Say Alcoholism Is on the Rise. These Low-Cost Programs Can Help

Darnell Johnson, 50, a resident of a sober home in Chicago, looks out the window of his apartment
Darnell Johnson, 50, a resident of a sober home in Chicago, looks out the window of his apartment. Johnson says he was a "weekend social drinker, but it would last all day." Now when he smells alcohol or sees how it affects others, he remembers the bad times. M. Spencer Green/AP Photo

Opioid misuse has reached such epidemic proportions that it’s now considered a national emergency.

But opioids aren’t the only substance Americans struggle with.

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry revealed that the misuse of alcohol is on the rise, along with several illnesses typically associated with heavy drinking.

Researchers say one in eight American adults now meet the guidelines to be medically diagnosed with “alcohol use disorder.” Heavy drinking often leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases.

Testing and Screening for Alcoholism

Doctors are best suited to diagnose alcohol use disorder and recommend treatment options, but self-assessment tests are a discreet way to assess the role alcohol plays in a person’s life.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence offers an online self-test to help people understand their relationship to alcohol and how it might affect their health.
The American Academy of Family Physicians website has a printable questionnaire to help people recognize the signs of alcohol misuse.

JAMA Psychiatry offers an overview of the questions physicians use to detect alcohol misuse in patients.

10 Affordable Ways to Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder

People who want or need to stop drinking sometimes turn to private inpatient or outpatient treatment to get the help they need. Though effective, those options can be pricy — even with medical insurance or Medicaid.

Fortunately, there are some affordable alternatives.

  1. SMART Recovery offers free online and local support group meetings. Its website includes resources and tools to help adults and teens recover from addictive behaviors.
  1. Women for Sobriety helps women learn to abstain from alcohol and make positive lifestyle changes. The organization offers online community support, face-to-face group meetings (contact for locations) and a wealth of resources on its website.
  1. Alcoholics Anonymous is widely known for its free, 12-step approach to help people quit drinking. The organization also offers a program for teens and a program for friends and family members of people struggling with alcohol misuse.
  1. Check the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator or state-by-state directory to find no- or low-cost treatment centers near you.
  1. The Salvation Army offers faith-based programs at its Adult Rehabilitation Centers around the country.       
  1. Chabad.org is a great resource to find Jewish recovery communities and treatment centers.
  1. Celebrate Recovery is a Bible-based program with in-person meetings held in churches across the country. Visit its website to watch videos, sign up for a weekly newsletter and learn more about the organization’s smartphone app.
  1. Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) offers free online and in-person support groups for people seeking sobriety in a secular environment.
  1. LifeRing is a secular self-directed program with free local, online and email-based support groups.
  1. The Veterans Administration offers a number of treatment options to veterans struggling with alcohol misuse.

It can be tough to take the first step to get help, but thanks to organizations like these, no one has to struggle alone.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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