What is alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse is a serious problem. It is a habit of frequent and/or excessive alcohol consumption. It interferes with your daily life. You can suffer from alcohol abuse if you drink too much alcohol at once or too often during the week. It’s also a problem if you can’t stop drinking and it hurts your relationships. Alcohol abuse can keep you from functioning at work and in other areas of your life.
Alcohol abuse can lead to physical dependence on alcohol, this is called alcoholism. Too much alcohol at any given time can also lead to alcohol poisoning.
You abuse alcohol when:
You drink 7 glasses a week or more than 3 glasses on each occasion (for women).
You drink more than 14 drinks per week or more than 4 drinks on each occasion (for men).
You drink more than 7 drinks per week or more than 3 drinks on each occasion (for men and women over 65).
Drinking these amounts of alcohol harms your health, your relationships, your job and/or causes you legal problems.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse:
- You’ve been trying to quit drinking alcohol for a week or more, but just can’t get through a few days.
- You can’t stop drinking once you start.
- You acknowledge that you need to stop or reduce your use.
- You are unable to carry out your duties at work or at home while drinking.
- You feel guilty after drinking.
- Others tell you that you have a problem.
- You feel upset by criticism about your drinking.
- You have a drink in the morning to get you back on your feet after drinking too much the night before.
- You have physically hurt someone else or yourself after drinking too much. This can be due to accidents or violence.
- You hide your consumption or your alcohol.
- You have blackouts and memory lapses after drinking too much.
- You are depressed.
- You receive tickets for traffic violations or for driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Your alcohol consumption disrupts your relationships.
- Your hands are shaking.
Alcohol also has other effects on your health. It can cause cirrhosis, liver disease. It is a major cause of death and injury due to accidents. It can harm your baby’s health if you drink alcohol during pregnancy. It can cause a bleeding ulcer and irritate the lining of your stomach. Alcohol can also make you gain weight, make you sick or dizzy, give you bad breath and crack your skin.
What are the causes of alcohol abuse?
People abuse alcohol for many reasons. It may be due to social pressure, a desire to relax, a coping mechanism for anxiety, depression, tension, loneliness, self-doubt or unhappiness, or a history families of alcohol abuse.
How is alcohol abuse diagnosed?
Many people who abuse alcohol learn from family and friends that they have a problem. Generally, doctors think a person is abusing alcohol when:
Repeated drinking interferes with your responsibilities at work, home, or school.
Repeated drinking puts you or someone else at physical risk (driving, using machinery, mixing alcohol with medication, drinking alcohol during pregnancy).
Repeated drinking leads to legal problems.
Repeated drinking harms your relationships.
Is it possible to prevent or avoid alcohol abuse?
If you have a family history of alcoholism or alcohol abuse, you may need to try hard to resist alcohol or limit your drinking. There are other ways to reduce your alcohol consumption:
Limit yourself to one drink when alone or with friends.
Seek treatment for underlying mental health issues.
Avoid spending time with other people who abuse alcohol.
Talk to your doctor.
Consider joining a support group of others facing the same problem.
Your doctor can screen for alcohol abuse.
Treatment of alcohol abuse
If you are the one suffering from alcohol abuse, the first step is to recognize that you need help. Many studies show that people who struggle with alcohol abuse can benefit from some form of treatment. However, each person is different. Not all treatments work the same for every person. The sooner a person seeks treatment, the better the results.
Behavioral therapy can be used to treat alcohol abuse. Therapy can take the form of support groups, counseling, or a combination of both. Some prescription drugs can treat alcohol abuse by helping people to stop or cut down on alcohol consumption. As with all medicines, some can cause side effects.
Once you’ve found a treatment that works for you, it’s important to stick with it. In addition, it is useful to avoid situations where a lot of alcohol is consumed.
Living with alcohol abuse
Living with alcohol abuse means recognizing the triggers that make you want to drink. For example, hanging out with other people who drink will make your life difficult. You may be stressed or unhappy in your life and have no counselor or friend to talk to. This could cause you to turn to alcohol to help you cope.
Living with alcohol abuse will continue to be a struggle if you don’t recognize that you need help. You will continue to endanger your safety, your job or your relationships.