You may know that actor and musician Robert Pattinson is currently in the middle of a very public breakup with his girlfriend, actress and musician Kate Bosworth. Rumors have been swirling for months that this would eventually turn into a battle over alcohol and drug use, and now it’s all finally out in the open.

The truth is, Pattinson has been battling alcoholism for years and has recently had to address his problematic drinking habits once again. While not as famous as some of his Hollywood counterparts, whose drinking problems led to run-ins with the law or tabloid fodder, the actor has privately suffered from addiction for some time and has finally decided to be “open and honest about [his] issues”. He is now working with a specialist to address his drinking problem and recently wrote about his experiences in a candid and heartfelt essay for the Sunday Times.

Pattinson revealed that he “barely tasted alcohol” in the five years leading up to the release of his 2011 album, Dirty Work. As a result of his newfound sobriety, he said he has “found an identity and a sense of purpose”. While his essay is meant to be an open and honest account of his attempts to stay clean and sober, it is also a clear attempt to rehabilitate his reputation as a drinker. For the sake of his sobriety, and in order to protect the loved ones he cares about, let’s examine the facts about his alcohol problem and how best to approach his recent essay for the sake of educating ourselves.

Alcoholism Is A Serious And Increasingly Common Problem

If you’re reading this, then you’ve undoubtedly either witnessed someone you know suffering from alcoholism or have known someone who is affected by it. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcoholism is now considered to be a disease rather than a moral failing or a sign of weakness. For those who are unfamiliar, alcoholism is a “complex and chronic disease” that can lead to health problems such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and cancer. It is also associated with cognitive decline, and for some, a loss of teeth.

Alcoholism has actually been around for a very long time. Herodotus, the 5th century BCE Greek historian and geographer, believed that drinking alcohol resulted in courage, strength, and good health. In fact, up until the early 20th century, Germany was actually a wholly alcohol-free country. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the country started to see an increase in alcoholism. This was largely due to the temperance movements that started in the United States in the mid-19th century.

These days, approximately 17 million people in the U.S. suffer from alcoholism. That’s roughly 7% of the population. And the numbers are rising. Between 2002 and 2012, the prevalence of alcohol dependence in the U.S. nearly doubled, increasing from 6.2 million to 11.4 million. These are sobering statistics.

The Link Between Drinking And Driving

One of the major health concerns related to alcoholism is its connection to driving under the influence (DUI). A 2014 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that “teenage binge drinking is associated with subsequent driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs”, and that “adult binge drinking is a predictor of subsequent driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs”. So, if you happen to be driving and drink alcohol, you may end up in a bit of a pickle. Or, if someone is driving and has been drinking, they may try to pull you over in order to test your alcohol level. This is called “driving while intoxicated”, or DWI, and it’s considered a crime in most places. In a 2009 study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, researchers analyzed data from 10 different countries and found that “the most consistent predictor of arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol was the number of drinking drivers within a society.” This means that where there are more people who drink and drive, there will also be more people who get arrested for DUI.

The Link Between Drinking And Depression

It’s well-known that drinking alcohol can result in the user becoming depressed or anxious. But what is less well-known is that depression is actually one of the primary symptoms of alcoholism. Studies have shown that people with depression are between 4 and 7 times more likely to also have alcoholism. This is more than likely because those who suffer from depression are more likely to be isolated and turn to alcohol as a means of “self-medication”. In fact, if you think about it, those who are depressed are also more likely to be feeling blue, which makes them more likely to drink. So, if you’re experiencing depression, or if you know someone who is, then it may be time to have a serious talk about cutting back on your alcohol intake. A good place to start would be with your doctor, who can recommend proven therapies to help you get back on track.

How Does Alcoholism Affect The Brain?

Alcoholism isn’t just about drinking alcohol. It’s also about the effects of alcohol on the body and the brain. Like with many other substances, consuming alcohol can result in the build-up of tolerance, which is when increasingly larger amounts are required to produce the desired effects. Tolerance can also lead to withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop drinking or go on a major drinking binge. This is why it’s so important to keep up with the daily tasks that are necessary to stay sober. It’s also why it’s so important to avoid all alcohol-related products, websites, and people, especially if you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism or has a history of it. These products can and often do contribute to further cravings and, eventually, a vicious cycle of alcoholism. It’s also why it’s important to understand the warning signs of alcoholism if you or someone you know is showing any signs of it.

Alcoholism And Memory Loss

Alcohol has been known to be extremely dangerous in cases of extreme intoxication or when mixed with certain medications. There are also a number of studies that have shown a connection between excessive alcohol consumption and memory loss. In fact, heavy drinking can lead to “progressive cognitive dysfunction”, and in very rare cases, even dementia. This is why it’s good practice to always stay hydrated while drinking, and why it’s also good practice to never drink and drive. It’s not always easy to remember, but if you end up in an accident due to intoxication, you could find yourself facing severe medical bills. These are some of the reasons why it’s important to seriously consider cutting back on your alcohol intake if you’re already drinking too much. It’s also why it’s essential that you get help if you know someone who is struggling with alcohol abuse.