Why Alcohol Use Disorder Is Treated Less Than You Think

The State of Problematic Drinking

The third-leading preventable cause of death in the country is sitting around your dinner table, lining the walls of your neighborhood grocery store, and in every-other Instagram photo in your feed. Alcohol-related causes kill approximately 88,000 people per year in the United States. That’s 2.5 million years of potential life lost in just 365 days alone. A small slice out of hundreds of years of excessive alcohol use taking lives and livelihoods.

Nearly 40 million Americans drink more than what is safely recommended. That’s over 15 percent of the U.S. population. And an estimated 15 million of those people have what’s known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), characterized by drinking more and for longer than a person wishes, a persistent desire to quit or cut down, and a strong desire to drink. These numbers are both enormous, and enormously understated in capturing the impact of problematic drinking, because the burden is not only carried by those with an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Excessive alcohol use costs the U.S. over $223 billion per year due to lost workplace productivity, health care, and crime. 20 percent of American adults have been harmed by someone else’s drinking over a 12-month period. Over 10 percent of children in the U.S. live with a parent with alcohol use problems.

The Treatment Gap

In spite of the progress being made in the health and wellness sector, opening up conversations around mental health and prioritizing physical wellbeing, the prevalence of unhealthy drinking behavior is on the rise. Comparing two nationally representative surveys of over 30,000 U.S. adults between 2001–2002 and 2012–2013, high-risk drinking has increased by nearly 30 percent, and the incidence of AUD has increased by 50 percent.

It’s the paradox of alcohol dependence: problematic drinking has become both normalized and stigmatized in culture, leaving an unfathomably large community feeling alone. Less than 10 percent of people with AUD receive treatment in the current system in a given year. Stigma, cost, and inaccessible, rigid treatment modalities are often cited as reasons people don’t seek help. And if someone does seek treatment, they’re often only presented with a single solution to a multidimensional problem. That single solution might not work for their schedule, their beliefs, their goals, or their budget.

A New Approach

That’s why we created Monument, a brand new way to get treatment. Available entirely online, Monument is built to help people reach their goals for sobriety or moderation with a combination of video therapy, physician-prescribed medication, and digital community.

Studies show that FDA-approved medication can be effective in treating AUD, and our medical experts have seen the efficacy of this method in their own practices. Whether it’s medication to stop drinking or cut back, these options are currently prescribed to less than 9% of patients who are likely to benefit from them. The therapy component provides a platform to work on changing behaviors, building healthier coping responses, building relapse prevention skills, establishing boundaries, improving communication skills, and increasing confidence. Digital community creates an always-available support network.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ method to change your relationship with alcohol, which is why we provide multiple modalities for online alcohol treatment. We believe combining these aspects of care increases chances of long-term success for the largest population of people. Plus, it’s what worked for our founder, Mike, after trying out a few other treatment options that didn’t work for him. Read more about his story here.

Our Promise

Yes, the state of alcohol dependence in the US (and across the globe) is daunting. But we promise not to let the breadth of the problem paralyze us into inaction. We will continue to build the tools to help those looking for support. We will continue to ask and listen to how we can make treatment work for more people. And we won’t stop until we live in a world in which a healthy relationship with alcohol is attainable and celebrated by all.

If you think drinking less can give you more, we’d be honored if you would consider joining Monument. And for those not seeking support, we ask you to please provide it. Encourage your friends and family and peers throughout their journey, and let us know if we can be helpful along the way.

Contact us at support@joinmonument.com.

Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.

About the Author

Team MonumentMonument is an online platform for those looking to change their relationship with alcohol. We connect members to a free anonymous community, therapist-moderated groups, and a collection of resources to provide the support and information they deserve. Members seeking medical treatment are introduced to a licensed physician and a specialized therapist to develop a personalized treatment plan specific to their goals. Monument is affordable, accessible, and research-based, so a healthy relationship with alcohol is attainable and celebrated by all.