Drinking recreationally is something that is done in almost every part of the world. Although some countries ban alcohol entirely, there are others that celebrate it, while keeping it under tight control.
Still, the problem of alcohol abuse and alcoholism is present in our modern day society. No matter where you’re from, there’s a chance you have heard of the negative effects of alcohol. In fact, it is oftentimes compared to illicit drugs. That’s no surprise, considering alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances n the world.
But what exactly is alcohol and what does alcohol abuse mean? What are its effects? What happens when someone becomes an alcoholic? Here’s what you need to know.
What’s an Alcoholic Drink?
Before we explore alcohol abuse and what it does, let’s first talk about what alcohol is. An alcoholic drink or beverage is a drink that contains ethanol. Ethanol, commonly referred to as “alcohol” is a depressant that reduces anxiety, induces euphoria, and promotes sociability—even at low doses.
Substantial amounts of ethanol could easily lead to drunkenness, and sometimes even unconsciousness.
What leads to alcoholism and physical dependence is long term use and frequent, high dose intake. It is socially accepted as a recreational activity, although drinking responsibly is recommended. In fact it is one of the most widely used recreational drugs.
It is one the most profitable industries in the market, with the drink industry able to reach around $1 trillion per year.
Alcoholic drinks can be divided into three classes: beers, wines, and spirits. These drinks typically contain between 3% and 40% of alcohol by volume.
Drinking alcohol too often can lead to alcoholism. However, because of the prevalence of social drinking in our culture, it can be hard to know when exactly you are beginning to abuse the drink. Too much alcohol can lead to bigger problems, and so it is important to do something about the situation before it escalates.
But why do people abuse alcohol? The primary reason for abuse is because it serves as a stress-reliever. Work and family-related stress can push a person into drinking away their problems. But it could also be because of peer pressure or a lack of interest in other recreational activities.
People who abuse alcohol are prone to making poor decisions, and are known to indulge in risky behavior. This may lead to accidents, criminal activities, or even death.
If you fear that someone you love is beginning to abuse alcohol, there are signs you could look out for.
Alcohol affects the circulatory system, leading to heart disease and other health issues. High concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream can cause symptoms like memory problems, slurred speech, slowed reflexes, lack of coordination, and blacking out. Keep an eye on these symptoms if you want to identify alcohol abuse.
Even higher doses can lead to breathing problems, coma, and even death.
If you notice various behavioral changes in the person, this may also be an indication of alcohol abuse. They may openly discuss their strong desire to drink, and may present an inability to stop drinking.
They may contemplate suicide, lie about their drinking habits, or simply have an increased tolerance for alcohol.
Typically, a person who abuses alcohol will attempt to drink under all stressful circumstances. They may begin neglecting their responsibilities. Some even attempt to drive while drinking, which as we all know can have fatal consequences—both for the person and other people on the road.
Some people drink to reduce stress. Some have alcohol abuse running in their family. Whatever the cause for alcohol abuse, it may lead to various physical and psychological effects.
Common short term effects include mood swings, inability to focus, insomnia, lowered body temperature, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, and drowsiness. Some people lose their consciousness, some experience coma, and in the worst cases, excessive drinking may cause death.
Long term consumption of alcohol may cause the death of brain cells, leading to different brain disorders and lowered mental function. Liver damage is also associated with excessive alcohol intake. This may lead to liver cirrhosis, a serious condition that requires a transplant in order to treat.
Withdrawal may occur if the person suddenly stops drinking. This may include simple symptoms such as nausea, shaking, irritability, and profuse sweating. But in some cases, alcohol withdrawal may become a serious medical emergency.
Some alcoholics experience seizures, severe vomiting, hallucinations, and fevers during withdrawal.
If you are an alcoholic, be sure to consult your doctor before attempting to quit. It should be medically supervised, or else the withdrawal could be dangerous.
The treatment for alcohol abuse and alcoholism involves helping the patient learn how to control their condition. Recovering from alcoholism involves abstaining from the drink while managing the withdrawal symptoms.
Abstinence is oftentimes considered the only way to manage this problem.
In order to help the patient in this fight, they may be educated on alcohol dependency and healthier drinking habits. It may be a long process, but with commitment and support from people who care, any alcoholic could eventually recover.