How does alcohol abuse affect your physical and emotional wellbeing? Social drinking is the term often used to refer to the drinking habits of individuals who do not drink regularly, but only do so if dining out and attending other social occasions. However, drinking alcohol is usually intertwined with various social etiquettes and calls, which are often answered by many. These are normally the starting point when people who drink do not realize that they may have crossed the boundaries of moderate drinking and have graduated into becoming alcoholic and alcohol abusers. With a large rise in alcohol consumption and alcoh0ol related hospitalizations during the COVID-19 lockdown, it is a good idea to reconsider habits.
Alcohol use is up across the board no matter how you measure it. First the lockdown order. Nielsen reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for one week in March compared to 2019. In April, the World Health Organization’s Europe office put out a warning urging governments to “enforce measures which limit alcohol consumption.” By September a study released in the U.S. revealed that heavy drinking among women, which is four or more drinks within two hours, had risen 41%.
Alcoholism is regarded as a disease that is lingering and long-lasting because the body becomes used to the presence of alcohol within the systems. This makes the drinker dependent on the alcohol and does not have any control over how much is drank and how long he or she will go on drinking, seemingly unsatisfied, during occasions when alcohol drinks are present and flowing. Alcoholism is being quite aware that the drinking problem is harming relationships, work, finances, and health but the affected individual goes on drinking nevertheless. Alcohol abuse on the other hand pertains to the fact that an individual may drink heavily on occasions but is never totally dependent on alcohol to get through normal daily living activities. Whichever category an individual drinker may fall into, overtly drinking alcohol is a problem that cannot be solved by the drinker alone since he or she will not have adequate will to stop the drinking and may not have the appropriate resources to start rehabilitation, go through with all the processes or stages of withdrawal and come out successful at the end (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2010a).
The causes or origin of bad drinking habits that eventually lead to alcohol addiction have no known cause. While studies have shown that there are certain genes and social groups that are at high risk of developing the habit of drinking and becoming alcoholics at the end; but the said genes and how they make a person an alcoholic addict has not been identified through research. Mainly, it is how much a person drinks over time that increases and influences the possibility of becoming alcohol dependent. The high risk for becoming an alcoholic includes but is not limited to the following: 1) men who have 15 or more drinks a week, 2) women who have 12 or more drinks a week, and 3) anybody who gets five or more drinks per occasion in one week (Downs, n.d. a).
The signs and symptoms of being dependent on alcohol include constantly disregarding responsibilities related to work, home, and school. This includes continually finding excuses for skipped commitments, not being able to take proper care of the children or failing to attend classes, and eventually dropping out of school. Another sign of being an alcoholic is when an individual takes alcohol in situations where it’s physically hazardous to do so; like when operating machinery, driving, or mixing prescribed medications with alcohol. People who often make excuses to have a drink to cope with stress to relax are another exhibited sign of becoming an alcohol addict or dependent (Smith et al., 2011b).
Effects on the Body
Many individuals go through their entire life drinking alcohol but did not become alcoholics or alcohol abusers. As earlier said, there is no particular gene or social group that makes one an alcohol dependent. But certain risk factors influence people to start drinking and then become hooked on it, sometimes unconsciously. Hence, by the time they become aware of the problem they can no longer function independently without having the substance in their system; which leads to social, personal, and health problems. And while they may be aware that their drinking is becoming the root of all their problems, financial or otherwise, they seem not to care – probably because their correct sense of judgment is often clouded by the substance they have just ingested (WebMD, 2011a). The risk factors that usually lead to alcohol dependency are: a) genes, b) being male, c) early use of alcohol, d) mental health, e) use of other substances, f) environment, g) friends, h) problems with others and i) no purpose or satisfaction in life (WebMD, 2011b).
Genes have always played a major role in the lives of people in the accomplishment of goals in their lives. This means that following the footsteps of their relatives or kin before them in certain things has something to do with having the same blood or genes physically speaking. So it goes that if one’s father is a drunkard then there is a big possibility that some of his children will inherit the trait and become drunkards themselves in the future. However, there is no scientific explanation for this. But from a psychological point of view, the children who may have been used to seeing an alcoholic parent at home may at some point in their lives become alcoholics since it is a scene they were used to and may have considered normal.
A male is more prone to becoming an alcoholic than a female probably because males in certain cultures have to show that they are the best of the two species, therefore the male must be able to prove that he can withstand the effects of alcohol even when he has already passed the mark where social drinking become habitual. Those who have started drinking liquor at an early age make them equally more susceptible to becoming alcohol dependents in their later years since they have an increased tolerance for the effects of alcohol compared to those who have just started drinking at a later age. This situation often makes it hard for the early age drinker to draw the bottom-line on when or where he or she should stop drinking because the effects of the alcohol do not kick in immediately and it sometimes takes more than a few cases of beer or a dozen wine bottles before they feel the euphoria of the alcohol.
In addition to the foregoing, people suffering from mental health illnesses like depression or schizophrenia are more likely to be alcohol drinkers because the blurring or calming effect of the alcohol holds their fears or problems at bay even if only for a small amount of time. In tandem with this situation are the personal problems an individual may have which include the environment he or she lives in, the influence of friends or relatives they have closely living around them; and the kind of life they currently have impacted their addiction to alcohol. It is quite unfortunate for individuals whose drinking problem may be the effect of the environment and the people they have around them because they will have a more difficult time in trying to get the alcohol out of their system when the surroundings are not appropriate in developing a better life and when the people who should be supportive are the ones making it harder to overlook liquor drinking.
Like any other kind of substance, alcohol has the temporary effect of blocking out harsh realities, thus making the person who has problems feel more tranquil and comfortable with his or her surroundings. As a result, drinking larger quantities becomes need over time to achieve the desired effects making the individual reliant on drinking to cope up with the difficult areas of life. Such occurrences often happen because the alcoholic may not be aware of how deep he or she is addicted to the substance. Often, the alcoholic or the alcohol abuser does not see any problem with himself or herself and usually blames others if negative issues arise in relation to the drinking habit. This makes it equally hard for well-meaning family and friends who try to dissuade the addict from continually drinking (A.D.A.M., 2011).
As of a survey done in 2009, the prevalence of alcohol abuse in the United States 18 years of age and over who are currently regular drinkers is fifty-eight percent (58%); and 18 years of age and over who are infrequent drinkers is thirteen percent (13%) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2010). In relation to this, the government has a website portal that provides useful information where individuals with substance abuse can call a toll-free number, view a related website with links to various referrals that provides assistance to those in need (Answers.USA.gov, 2011).
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are not only personal problems but social problems as well since these incidences do not just affect one’s overall health that may lead to death; but likewise has a negative impact on relationships, social interactions with others, and work. The ultimate goal for the treatment of being dependent on alcohol is to totally stop drinking. Abstaining from a habit is naturally hard for those who have waddled in the alcohol problem for quite a long period of time. Countless individuals with this kind of dilemma are not fully aware that they actually have an alcohol problem, not unless they are told by concerned friends, families and acquaintances alike. It is important to understand that alcoholics and alcohol abusers will not be able to solve this type of problem on their own. The presence of friends and family members who are willing to support the alcoholic in all the stages of the treatment process is very essential for it to become successful and avoid any recurrent episodes in the future. The primary step would be to try and reduce the drinking frequency and assist the individual to go for moderate drinking which is 12 ounces or 354.9 ml of beer; 5 ounces or 147.9 ml of wine and 1.5 ounces or 44.4 ml of 80-proof spirits (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2010b). If this method does not work, stop drinking totally and give advice for entry into a rehabilitation center.
It is best to make the alcoholic and his or her family understand that the most effective way to start treatment is for the affected person to be in a monitored and supervised setting – which means he or she must enter a rehabilitation center for alcoholics. While many may opt for home treatment as much as possible, the problems regarding substance withdrawal is often a threatening scenario that can be best achieved in a place where experienced professionals and equipment are on hand to deal with the situation (Downs, n.d. b).
A medical diagnosis is often done prior to a medical care plan that would be drawn up for a particular person with an alcohol drinking problem. All cases are uniquely different from each making initial approaches vary in accordance to tolerable levels subject to appropriate medical standards. When an individual is released from a treatment facility, the management of the case continues for long-term duration to prevent relapse. The long term procedure involves counseling and therapy sessions, mental health support and medical care. This also includes being referred to support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Al-Anon, etc. (Downs, n.d. c). Realistically, drinking usually starts again after treatment or rehabilitation has already been accomplished. This is a very common scenario among alcoholics and alcohol abusers, which is why it is of paramount importance to have a good support group system that includes family and friends. Recurrent drinking after treatment generally leads to more health complications prior to one’s entry in a rehabilitation facility. Therefore, the rehabilitated individual’s family must do their best to help their family member stay sober and avoid drinking splurges even once in a while, so a more positive outcome can be achieved.
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia. (20 March 2011). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Alcohol Dependence; Alcohol Abuse; Problem Drinking; Drinking Problem. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001940/
Answers.USA.gov. (2011). Substance Abuse. Retrieved from http://answers.usa.gov/system/selfservice.controller?CONFIGURATION=1000&PARTITION_ID=1&CMD=VIEW_ARTICLE&ARTICLE_ID=10256&USERTYPE=1&LANGUAGE=en&COUNTRY=US
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (22 October 2010). Alcohol Use: Prevalence. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/alcohol.htm
Downs, M. (n.d. a). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved from http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/alcoholism/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier
Downs, M. (n.d. b). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved from http://health.nytimes.com/ health/guides/disease/alcoholism/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier
Downs, M. (n.d. c). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse. Retrieved from http://health.nytimes.com/ health/guides/disease/alcoholism/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier
Mayo Clinic Staff. (06 May 2010a). Alcoholism. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcoholism/DS00340
Smith, M., Robinson, L., and Seagal, J. (July 2011a). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse: Signs Symptoms and Help for Drinking Problems. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/ mental/alcohol_abuse_alcoholism_signs_effects_treatment.htm
Smith, M., Robinson, L., and Seagal, J. (July 2011b). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse: Signs Symptoms and Help for Drinking Problems. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/ mental/alcohol_abuse_alcoholism_signs_effects_treatment.htm
WebMD. (22 February 2011c). Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: What Increases Your Risk? Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/alcohol-abuse/alcohol-abuse-and-dependence-what-increases-your-risk
WebMD. (22 February 2011b). Alcohol Abuse and Dependence: What Increases Your Risk? Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/alcohol-abuse/alcohol-abuse-and-dependence-what-increases-your-risk
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