Alcohol abuse is described as the recurring use of alcoholic beverages causing negative consequences to the person's life such as with health, relationships, work or school, finances, legal problems, etc.. These problems can range from mild to severe. The severity of an alcohol abuse problem depends on factors including the type of alcohol you drink, how much you drink, and how long you have been drinking. Alcohol abuse is sometimes referred to as alcoholism.
Every year, more money is spent promoting the use of alcohol than any other product. Perhaps through its elaborate and creative marketing, the most basic, yet important fact about alcohol is often overlooked — alcohol is a drug — the most commonly used and widely abused psychoactive drug in the world. Alcohol is consumed more frequently than all other illicit drugs combined and is the drug most likely associated with injury or death. In 2007, Americans consumed appox 7.7 billion gallons of alcoholic beverages and approximately 14 million people in the United States suffer from alcohol abuse, that's 1 in every 13 adults according to the NIAAA.
When used in moderation, alcohol becomes a harmless way of unwinding after a long, hard day at work or as an enjoyable aspect of socializing with others. Alcohol helps us to relax: it gives us confidence in an unfamiliar situation, enables us to interact with others or is a means of celebrating an occasion. However, when alcohol consumption is overdone on a regular basis, the situation changes from social use to alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
Once the line is crossed from moderate alcohol use to alcohol abuse, for many, it is difficult to imagine a life without alcohol. Alcohol abuse will often result in loss of employment, which can lead to financial problems including the loss of living quarters. Alcohol abuse will cause the abuser to drink at inappropriate times causing alcohol abuse behavior that can lead to legal consequences, such as criminal charges for drunk driving or public disorder, or civil penalties for tortuous behavior. Finally, individuals with alcohol abuse problems may continue to consume alcohol despite the knowledge that continued consumption poses significant social or interpersonal problems for them (e.g., violent arguments with spouse while intoxicated, child abuse). When these problems are accompanied by evidence of tolerance, withdrawal, or compulsive behavior related to alcohol abuse, a diagnosis of alcoholism, rather than alcohol abuse, should be considered. No one associated with alcohol abuse goes unscathed.
Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
Alcohol abuse - excessive drinking
- You’ve lost control over your drinking. You often drink more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer than you intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.
Alcohol abuse - loss of control
- You want to quit drinking, but you can’t. You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful.
Alcohol abuse - neglecting interests and hobbies
- You have given up other activities because of alcohol. You’re spending less time on activities that used to be important to you (hanging out with family and friends, going to the gym, pursuing your hobbies) because of your alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse consumes social life
- Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus. You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects. Often, drinking is the center of your social life.
Alcohol abuse despite consequences
- You drink even though you know it’s causing problems. For example, you recognize that your alcohol abuse is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway.
Alcohol abuse and responsibilities at home, work, or school.
- Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.
Alcohol abuse and dangerous behaviors
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor’s orders.
Alcohol abuse and legal issues
- Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or drunk and disorderly conduct.
Alcohol abuse effects relationships
- Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships. Getting drunk with your buddies, for example, even though you know your wife will be very upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink.
Alcohol abuse and denial
Denial is one of the biggest obstacles to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds many ways to rationalize alcohol abuse, even when the consequences are obvious. Unfortunately, denial often increases as drinking gets worse. And by keeping you from looking honestly at your behavior and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol abuse problems with work, finances, and relationships. It’s a vicious cycle.
For example, you may blame an ‘unfair boss’ for trouble at work or a ‘nagging wife’ for your marital issues, rather than look at how your drinking is contributing to the problem. While work, relationship, and financial stresses happen to everyone, an overall pattern of deterioration and blaming others may be a sign of alcohol abuse trouble.
If, once again, you find yourself rationalizing your drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to discuss the subject, take a moment to consider why you’re so defensive. If you truly believe you don’t have an alcohol abuse problem, why do you feel the need to cover up your drinking or make excuses? Is it possible that your drinking means more to you than you’re ready to admit?
If you are having alcohol abuse problems, you may deny it by:
- Drastically underestimating how much you drink
- Downplaying the negative consequences of your drinking
- Complaining that family and friends are exaggerating the problem
- Blaming your drinking or drinking-related problems on others
Alcohol abuse help and treatment
When alcohol abuse becomes a dominating force in someone's life, it's time to get help. Alcohol abuse treatment is designed to help individuals regain control of their life by helping them to eliminate their dependency on alcohol. A combination of educational life repair therapy and social programs can be very beneficial to an individual experiencing alcohol abuse problems. In addition, alcohol abuse treatment often incorperates alcohol detoxification followed by long-term alcohol abuse treatment.
Alcohol abuse treatment, whether it be short term or long term, is designed to help alcoholics to not only treat alcohol abuse, but to hopefully eliminate it altogether. The hope is that patients will not only be sober when they leave the treatment center, but will also be able to resist the urge to drink alcohol in the future. The fee for alcohol abuse treatment programs will vary from one facility to another and may be determined by the level of alcohol dependency, the methods needed to remedy the addiction and whether or not the individual requires short term or long term care.
Finding the right alcohol abuse treatment that matches your individual need is imperative, making in depth research all the more important. We are here to help with that research and all information regarding alcohol abuse and treatment. Please explore the rest of our links for information and resources. If you are concerned about someone else’s alcohol abuse or your own, please fill out the form below and we will get back to you to discuss the specifics of your situation and available options for you. If there is anything we can assist you with in finding information or resources, please feel free to call us anytime, day or night. We are here to help.