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Alcohol Abuse
Substance Abuse >> Alcohol Abuse And Alcoholism

ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM:
Every day millions of people feel the negative after-effects of drinking alcohol but are unaware that they have a drinking problem. In time, what starts out as an innocent social activity becomes a habit and then gradually crosses over into a physiological and psychological addiction causing havoc in your life. Many signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse are easy to see, but others are more difficult to recognize. Over time, heavy consumption of alcohol does extensive damage to almost every system in your body. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism has a major impact on society causing thousands of innocent deaths each year and exacerbating situations involving violent crimes and domestic violence. WHEN DOES DRINKING BECOME PROBLEM DRINKING?
Alcohol abusers, or problem drinkers, are people who clearly drink too much on a regular basis. Their alcohol use is self-destructive or can present a danger to others, but they are able to set limits and establish some measure of control over their drinking.

When alcohol abuse progresses to alcoholism, also called alcohol addiction and alcohol dependence, the drinker loses control of the amount they drink, and they cannot stop using alcohol despite the severe physical and psychological consequences of excessive drinking.

Some myths about alcohol:
Myth: Alcoholics have no will power. If they were stronger they could just stop drinking.
Fact: Alcoholism affects brain chemistry which causes you to feel compelled to drink alcohol. Usually you can only stop drinking if you receive continuing help and treatment.
Myth: I can’t be an alcoholic. I have control over it because I only drink on the weekends.
Fact: When you abstain from drinking for a certain period of time and then consume a large quantity of alcohol in a very small span of time, this is called binge drinking. It is a common symptom of alcohol abuse.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: ALCOHOL ABUSE vs. ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE
Alcohol ABUSE: How can I tell if I have a problem with alcohol?


Some of the common symptoms of alcohol abuse include the following:
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE
Health
  • Continuing to drink even though you have health problems that are affected or caused by your drinking
Financial issues
  • Paying bills late; collection agencies calling
  • Inability to keep track of your money
Legal issues
  • Driving while under the influence (DUI)
Risky behavior
  • Putting yourself or others in danger
Employment or school
  • Continuing to drink even though you realize your job or education is in jeopardy
  • Missing work or school, or going in late due to alcohol use
Family and friends
  • Feeling annoyed when other people comment on, or criticize your drinking habits
  • Feeling remorse or guilt after drinking
  • Associating with questionable acquaintances or frequenting out of the ordinary locations when drinking
Social life
  • Scheduling your day around drinking
  • Focusing recreational activities around obtaining alcohol, drinking or recovering from alcohol use
  • Drinking alone or in secret

Alcohol DEPENDENCE: How serious is my drinking?

When does alcohol abuse become alcohol dependence?
Many of the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse overlap with the signs and symptoms of alcohol dependency. There is a fine line between the two, but the crossover occurs when the person becomes dependent on alcohol. An alcoholic is unable to control their drinking, they have built up a tolerance to alcohol which over time requires them to drink larger quantities of alcohol in order to obtain the same effect, and they will usually experience withdrawal symptoms when they don't drink.

Some of the common symptoms of alcohol dependence include the following:
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE
Cravings
  • Strong and overwhelming desire to drink alcohol at a specific time or the next morning
  • Creating a ritual of having drinks before, with, or after dinner, and becoming annoyed when this pattern is disturbed or questioned
Tolerance
  • A tendency to drink more than intended to feel the same effect, or being unable to stop drinking once you start to drink alcohol
  • Consuming a large quantity of alcohol without appearing intoxicated
Effects on memory and motivation
  • Not remembering conversations or commitments; sometimes referred to as a "blackout"
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies that were once pleasurable

EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ADDICTION

Health and behavior effects of alcohol abuse
Short-term alcohol use can have these effects depending on the quantity of alcohol you consume:
  • Loss of inhibition and impaired judgment
  • Dizziness, blurred vision and slurred speech
  • Uncoordinated movements and increased reaction time
  • Unconsciousness and even death
Social effects of alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction have a major impact on society. The effect is seen in decreased job productivity and attendance; increased healthcare costs; and frequently plays a part in the escalation of situations involving domestic violence and violent crimes.

U.S. alcohol-related deaths reported in 2006:
  • Automobile fatalities: 41%
  • Teenage deaths: 25% of all automobile fatalities
  • Homicides: 31%
  • Boating accidents: 20%
ALCOHOL SCREENING QUESTIONS: ABUSE vs. DEPENDENCE
Alcohol abusers, or problem drinkers, are people who clearly drink too much on a regular basis and whose alcohol use is self-destructive or can present a danger to others, but they still demonstrate the ability to set limits and establish some measure of control over their drinking.

Alcohol ABUSE Screening Questions
Would you answer yes to one or more of the following during the past 12 months?
  1. Have you, more than once, driven a vehicle while you were drinking, or after having had too much to drink?
  2. Have you gotten into situations while drinking, or after drinking, that increased your chances of getting hurt—like swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or near heavy traffic?
  3. Have you continued to drink even though you knew it was causing you trouble with your family or friends?
  4. Have you gotten into physical fights while drinking, or right after drinking?
  5. Have you had a period when your drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family, or caused job or school problems?
  6. Have you gotten arrested, been held at a police station, or had any other legal problems because of your drinking?

When alcohol abuse progresses to alcoholism, also called alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, the drinker loses control of the amount they drink and cannot stop using alcohol despite the severe physical and psychological consequences of excessive drinking.

Alcohol DEPENDENCE screening questions
Would you answer yes to three or more of the following during the past 12 months?
  1. 1. Have you had times when you ended up drinking more than you meant to, or kept on drinking for longer than you intended?
  2. Have you, more than once, wanted to, or tried to stop or cut down on your drinking but found you couldn’t?
  3. Have you found that you have to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want, or that your usual number of drinks has much less effect on you than it once did?
  4. When the effects of alcohol are wearing off, have you had trouble sleeping, or experienced physical symptoms such as shaking, feeling nervous, nauseous, restless, sweating or rapid heartbeat? Have you sensed things that aren’t really there, felt bugs crawling on your skin, or had seizures?
  5. Have you taken a drink or used any drug or medicine (other than over-the-counter pain relievers) to avoid having bad after-effects of drinking, or to get over an after-effect of alcohol use, or hangover?
  6. Have you continued to drink even though you knew it was making you feel depressed or anxious, causing a health problem or making one worse, or has caused a blackout?
  7. Have you had a period when you spent a lot of time drinking, being sick, or getting over the negative after-effects of drinking?
  8. In order to drink, have you given up, or cut down on activities that were important to you, interesting or pleasurable?
Adapted from: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Deborah Cutter, Psy.D., and Robert Segal, M.A., contributed to this article. Last modified on: 1/30/08.

Reprinted with permission from http://www.helpguide.org/. C 2008 Helpguide.org. All rights reserved.

You can find the original article at
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/alcohol_abuse_alcoholism
signs_effects_treatment.htm



SOURCE: www.helpguide.org

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