Alcohol use disorders often begin gradually, and most people are able to deny a drinking problem until something serious happens, such as an injury or a DUI arrest. Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense in every state of the U.S., and it may lead to jail time, heavy fines, and more tragically, the loss of health or life due to an auto accident.

The use of alcohol in dangerous situations and the use of alcohol to the point of risking life are both signs of a type of alcohol use disorder known as alcoholism. Alcoholism is one disorder on a spectrum of alcohol use disorders.1 It is a medical disease – one that is characterized by a high tolerance to the substance as well as cravings, social and physical consequences, and, in severe cases, withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not present.

Almost all alcoholics will experience personal and relationship problems as a result of their drinking. A DUI arrest can even cost a person his freedom. Many people recognize a need to seek help when they face legal consequences. Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common (and deadly) signs that a drinking problem has gotten out of hand.

“In college, I discovered alcohol, and it quickly became a problem for me,” Jason S. shares in his Heroes in Recovery story. “I am innately shy and introverted, and alcohol relieved me of all of the social pressures and anxiety that I tend to experience. I was also uncomfortable with who I was, and alcohol and cannabis allowed me to feel comfortable in my own skin.

“For a while, it was solely fun and games, going to parties and meeting new people, but the drinking and drugging eventually became debilitating. I started to black out, became physically ill, and found myself getting in trouble with the law as a result of drinking too much….”

DUI checkpoint

Drinking and Driving: A Serious Problem

The message to avoid drinking and driving is one that is often stated in the United States. While some might view it as no more than a trumped-up warning, it’s important to understand that operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated carries a serious risk of death or injury to the driver, pedestrians, and others on the road.

Consider the following statistics:

  • Half of drivers who are killed in motor vehicle accidents test positive for drug and alcohol use.
  • Approximately one-third of drivers arrested for drunk driving have been convicted of the offense before.
  • In 2011, more than 1.2 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • The highest incidences of drinking and driving occur among people between the ages of 21 to 25.
  • Around 32 percent of fatal drunk driving accidents involved drivers between the ages of 21 to 24.
  • The average adult male can only handle around one alcoholic beverage per hour.
  • In 2011, 226 children were killed in drunk driving accidents.
  • In 2010, there were almost 300,000 cases of drunk driving per day.
  • In America, 27 people die each day from drunk driving-related accidents.
  • Almost a quarter of teen car accident fatalities involve alcohol.
  • One in three people is involved in a drunk driving accident during a lifetime.
  • In 2011, 9,878 people died in drunk driving-related accidents.
  • A person is injured in a drunk driving-related accident approximately every 90 seconds.
  • The average drunk driver will admit to having driven drunk 80 times before the first arrest.

Are All Drunk Drivers Alcoholics?

It is possible to be arrested for a DUI during a night of bad choices, but the choice to drive drunk does indicate that a problem is at hand. Often, drunk driving is a strong signal that it is time to re-evaluate and assess for alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder.

If someone you love has recently been arrested for a DUI, be watchful of their behaviors surrounding alcohol. If you think they may have a problem, encourage them to get help. In some cases, getting professional help may enable the person to mitigate some of the legal consequences associated with a drinking and driving charge.

No matter what happens in the courtroom, however, your choice to seek supportive help can save lives. Contact us at Black Bear Lodge today to learn more about our evidence-based alcohol detox and addiction treatment program located northeast of Atlanta, GA.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM IV and DSM V. Jul 2016. Accessed 15 Oct 2017.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Statistics. 2017. Accessed 15 Oct 2017.