According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an estimated 17 million adults struggle with a drinking problem. Of these, nearly 25 percent admitted to binge drinking within the last 30 days. These figures are made more alarming by the fact that around 88,000 people die each year as a result of alcohol. Alcohol abuse is a serious threat not only to public health but also to alcoholics themselves.
Hazardous to Health
In small amounts, consuming alcohol regularly has been associated with lower risks of heart disease and a longer life expectancy. However, these benefits quickly disappear once consumption reaches more than one drink per day. Instead of preventing health problems, excessive drinking encourages them. Alcoholics are at a greater risk of:
- Heart attack
- Gastric ulcers
- Fatty liver disease
- Multiple nutrient deficiencies
- Lymphoma and cancers of the mouth, esophagus, throat, liver
- Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders
- Premature death
Alcohol is widely known for its ability to loosen inhibitions and make people uncharacteristically impulsive. This weakening of judgment carries a potential for all kinds of trouble. For instance, many people believe they can drive just fine while they’re drunk, even when they can barely walk straight. This behavior causes thousands of motorist deaths and injuries each year. Overindulging can also make unprotected or promiscuous sex seem like a good idea at the time, which opens up the risk of STDs, unwanted pregnancy,, and emotional or psychological consequences. People who drink to excess regularly are more likely to do these things with greater frequency, further increasing their risks.
Socioeconomic and Legal Impacts
Of course, the effects of alcohol abuse on a person’s social, financial and legal situations cannot be overlooked. In many cases, this is where the worst and most lasting damage occurs. Alcoholics can behave unpredictably, and may become aggressive under the influence or when they can’t drink. This can lead to more frequent arguments or conflicts with friends, loved ones or co-workers. Eventually, these relationships may dissolve under pressure. It’s not uncommon for people with alcoholism to have great difficulty maintaining positive relationships.
Alcohol also threatens a person’s financial situation. If the drinking habit affects work performance and attendance, losing the job is a very real possibility. After being fired once for this, finding another similar job may be extremely difficult. What’s more, substance addictions have a way of becoming a top priority in a person’s life. Over time, increasing amounts of money is spent on alcohol than on more important things, like food and bills.
Many people who struggle with alcoholism may even wind up on the wrong side of the law. Because drinking heavily can cloud judgment, things, like getting into a fight or urinating in public, can seem perfectly acceptable. However, worse things can happen if someone drinks to the point of blacking out. There are reports of people committing serious crimes in this state and having no recollection of the events whatsoever.
Signs of Alcohol Abuse
To know if someone has a problem with alcohol, you must know what to look for. The official standard of alcoholism in the United States is more than one drink daily for women, and more than two for men. Alcoholism is roughly twice as likely to affect men than women. Statistics show that 9.9 percent of alcoholics are men, while only 4.6 percent are women. In addition to these potential signs, there are others that you should look for:
- Unusual changes in behavior or habits
- Smelling like alcohol
- Finding alcohol in strange places, usually hidden there to conceal the person’s usage
- Personal hygiene is suffering due to apathy
- In contrast, personal hygiene may be too good, brushing or showering more often to wash away the scent of alcohol
- Frequently seeming ill or unduly fatigued, both signs of a hangover
- Lying about whereabouts or activities
- Neglecting obligations such as appointments, bills, housekeeping and maintaining relationships
- Excess interest in alcohol or alcohol-seeking behavior
- Stealing money or valuables or asking for money often, usually to pay for alcohol
Becoming familiar with alcohol withdrawal symptoms can also be a reliable way to tell if someone has a problem. The body and mind become dependent on alcohol rapidly, to the point where it’s necessary for normal functioning. If the need for alcohol is not met promptly, neurotransmitters go haywire, resulting in withdrawal symptoms. The length of time this takes depends on the severity of the dependence. Many alcoholics won’t experience withdrawal until later the next day. Others, however, may begin experiencing it just a few hours after drinking. Indeed, withdrawal can be so severe that many alcoholics keep drinking simply to avoid it, even when they want to stop. Symptoms can include:
- Hand and head temors
- Gastric disturbances
- Nausea and vomiting
- Cognitive difficulties
- Intense fatigue
- Irritability, anxiety and mood swings
- Inability to feel pleasure
- Cravings for alcohol
- Seizures, coma and death may occur
What To Do About It
Alcohol addiction is a very serious problem, but also a very treatable one. The first step is getting help. If you see any of the signs of alcoholism in yourself or a loved one, consider finding an inpatient treatment center for the best chances of recovery. The nature of inpatient treatment means that you live in the center full-time during your treatment. This provides stability and and alcohol-free environment while also safeguarding you against the pressures of everyday life. Under these circumstances, the opportunity and desire for relapse are lessened significantly. In addition, patients receive professional, personalized care that is tailored to their unique needs and challenges.
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