For most people, alcohol is something they drink in moderation. They will have a glass of wine with dinner or maybe a beer or two in the pub at the weekend. However, when that glass of wine with dinner turns into two or three, or when the couple of beers at the weekend starts to become five or six, it may be that alcohol has crossed the line from social or moderate use to habitual or problem drinking.
Because alcohol is socially acceptable in society, it is easy to forget that it is a drug and one that is highly addictive. While not everyone who drinks alcohol will develop a problem, those who abuse it are at risk of developing devastating addictions that can impact on their health, their relationships, and their finances.
Alcohol abuse occurs when a pattern of drinking develops that affects a person’s ability to fulfil responsibilities at home, in work, or in school. Those who abuse alcohol may drink at inappropriate times or may take dangerous risks while under the influence. For example, they may drive to work after a night of heavy drinking and operate machinery, which could be extremely dangerous to both themselves and their colleagues.
It is important to remember that alcohol abuse and addiction is an illness. Those who abuse alcohol tend to continue to do so even when it has a negative impact on their life. Abuse of alcohol for many people tends to develop into addiction; it is at this point that the individual has no control over his or her actions. The desire to drink overtakes everything else and becomes the most important part of the person’s life.
Why People Abuse Alcohol
There are many reasons why people abuse alcohol. It may be that they have suffered a traumatic event in their past and are now self-medicating with alcohol. They see the effects of alcohol as helping to numb the pain and make it easier to cope. Others find that alcohol helps to give them more confidence when it comes to dealing with others.
Nevertheless, when a person is unable to function without alcohol, it starts to become a problem. This continued abuse of alcohol will inevitably lead to dependence and will begin to cause other problems with the person’s health, finances and relationships.
Alcohol addiction affects individuals of all ages, races, gender and backgrounds. There are a number of factors that make a person more susceptible to alcohol abuse. Some of these are listed below.
- Genetics – people with a family history of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are four times more likely to develop an addiction themselves. Research has shown that those who abuse alcohol have a number of genes that increase their risk for alcoholism. Nonetheless, not everyone with these genes will abuse alcohol. In many instances, a family’s attitude to alcohol will play a role, as will the environment in which a child grows up.
- Stress – those dealing with stressful events such as a bereavement may be more likely to abuse alcohol. Many people drink alcohol as a coping mechanism when faced with a difficult life situation.
- Mental Health Problems – those with mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety disorder are more likely to abuse alcohol as they struggle to cope with their condition.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
If you are worried that you may be about to cross the line from social or moderate drinking to alcohol abuse, or if you are concerned that you have already crossed this line, you need to take a look at your drinking habits. Those who abuse alcohol commonly display the following characteristics:
- Regularly drinking despite it causing negative consequences in their life. Continuing to drink even though they know it will cause problems with their spouse or parents, for example.
- Neglecting responsibilities at home, work or school because of drinking. This could include neglecting the children, avoiding spending time with family or friends, underperforming at school or work, etc.
- Drinking when inappropriate such as before driving or before operating heavy machinery. They may also continue to drink when advised not to on medical grounds.
- Getting into trouble with the police because of their drinking – for example being arrested for violent behaviour while intoxicated or for driving while under the influence.
- Drinking to make themselves feel better – feeling as though they need to drink before they can go on a date or face the day ahead.
Is Addiction Inevitable?
Although not every person who abuses alcohol will go on to develop serious addictions, they are more likely to. Those who are drinking excessively may not realise that they are drinking to dangerous levels but they may not have developed a dependence on it yet.
However, they are at risk of alcohol abuse developing into addiction in response to certain triggers such as the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or a diagnosis of illness. Those who drink every day or binge drink have an even higher risk of developing alcoholism.
How is Alcohol Abuse Different from Addiction?
While those who abuse alcohol are at risk of developing addiction, there are some subtle differences between the two. People who abuse alcohol still have a measure of control over their drinking whereas those who have become dependent lose all control. Alcohol abusers do not tend to have intense cravings for alcohol and will not experience withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating and nausea when they are not drinking.
Help for Alcohol Abuse
If you have been abusing alcohol and are worried that you are in danger of becoming addicted, call Addiction Helper today. We can provide you with advice on where to get the help you need to stop your life from spiralling out of control.
Taking action now will prevent you from requiring detox and rehabilitation. Our team of highly trained professional staff are ready to discuss your situation with you now, and will provide you with the information you need to put your life on the right track again.