Alcohol Abuse

All You Need To Know About Alcohol Abuse​

Clinically Reviewed by: Dr. Robin Campbell, LMFT, PHD

Alcohol abuse has a significant and harmful impact, causing over 3 million deaths each year. Understanding and acknowledging the toll of alcohol abuse is crucial in preventing the development of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and avoiding the devastating consequences it brings.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse, also known as alcohol misuse, entails a pattern of excessive alcohol consumption. Many individuals who engage in alcohol abuse consume a significant amount of alcohol daily. This behavior can have detrimental effects on personal and social life, as well as work productivity. Moreover, it serves as the initial step toward the development of alcohol use disorder.

What Does Alcohol Abuse Do to a Person?

The effect of consistently abusing alcohol is usually felt in the body. A person who abuses alcohol might develop health complications such as

  • Liver problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Digestive health issues
  • Breast cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Rectum cancer
  • Chronic insomnia
  • Reduced Bone Density

The danger with alcohol abuse is that most adverse effects are not felt immediately. This causes individuals to continue their harmful drinking habits until it is too late.

How Many Drinks a Day is Considered Alcohol Abuse?

Knowing how to measure a drink is important in calculating the acceptable number of drinks. A standard drink is defined as:

  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (e.g., rum or whiskey)
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer

Alcohol abuse can be identified by:

  • Consuming 14 or more drinks per week
  • Consuming 4 or more drinks daily for men
  • Consuming 3 or more drinks daily for women
  • Consuming more than 7 drinks weekly or 3 daily for those older than 65

Alcohol Abuse vs Alcohol Addiction- What’s the Difference?

Alcohol abuse denotes a pattern of excessive drinking, whereas alcohol addiction is a medical condition characterized by intense cravings and dependency on alcohol for daily functioning. It’s crucial to distinguish between the two, as alcohol abuse often precedes the development of alcoholism.

Causes of Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse can be triggered by various factors, including:

  • Seeking relaxation and stress relief
  • Social pressures
  • Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression
  • Feelings of worthlessness or unhappiness
  • Family or personal history of alcohol abuse

Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Signs of alcohol abuse may include:

  • Decreased productivity following alcohol consumption
  • Gradual increase in alcohol cravings
  • Feeling the need for 1-2 drinks daily
  • Defensiveness when drinking habits are criticized
  • Experiencing depression after excessive drinking
  • Memory lapses after alcohol intake
  • Increased aggressiveness and violence
  • Favoring alcohol as the highlight of the day
  • Failed attempts to quit drinking

Risk Factors for Alcohol Abuse

Certain factors increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse, including:

  • Gender: It’s been observed that males are more susceptible to alcohol abuse than females. This doesn’t mean women are immune, but understanding these gender-based differences can help us tailor interventions effectively.
  • Early Start: When someone begins drinking alcohol during their adolescence, it sets the stage for potential issues later on. Early alcohol exposure can shape one’s relationship with it throughout their life.
  • Binge Drinking: Engaging in binge drinking, where large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short time, significantly raises the risk of alcohol abuse. This pattern can quickly spiral into more serious problems.
  • Family History: Having a family history of alcohol abuse or addiction can increase an individual’s vulnerability. Genetics and learned behaviors within families can contribute to the development of alcohol-related issues.
  • Social Influences: The people we hang out with and societal norms can strongly influence our drinking habits. Peer pressure and societal expectations can push individuals toward excessive alcohol consumption.

How is Alcohol Abuse Diagnosed?

Healthcare professionals diagnose alcohol abuse through a series of questions and assessments. They may inquire about experiences such as sickness from drinking, attempts to quit, disruption of daily activities, withdrawal symptoms, and binge drinking. Physical and mental examinations may also be conducted to rule out other conditions.

Questions they might ask include

  • Have you ever gotten sick from drinking?
  • Have you ever tried to stop drinking? Did it work?
  • Has drinking disrupted your daily activities?
  • Do you experience nausea, insomnia, and sweating when the alcohol effects wear off?
  • Do you regularly binge drink?
  • Do you need to drink more now to experience the same effects as before?
  • They might also ask for physical and mental examinations to rule out any other conditions.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse

Natural Remedies:

  • Thiamine supplements to counteract nutrient depletion.
  • Regular aerobic exercise to aid recovery and combat dehydration.
  • Mindfulness exercises such as yoga and visualization to refocus thoughts.

Medications:

  • Disulfiram (Antabuse) to induce discomfort when alcohol is consumed.
  • Naltrexone to reduce alcohol cravings.
  • Acamprosate (Campral) to restore chemical balance in the brain.

Therapy:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to alter thinking patterns.
  • Support groups and counseling to provide peer support and prevent relapses.

How Can Alcohol Abuse Be Prevented?

To prevent alcohol abuse, consider these strategies:

  • Abstain from alcohol or set limits on consumption.
  • Reduce time spent with individuals who abuse alcohol.
  • Seek support from friends or join a support group if you suspect an issue.
  • Educate yourself about alcohol abuse and its consequences.
  • Exercise caution if you have a family history of alcohol abuse.

When Should You Contact Your Doctor?

If you believe you are abusing alcohol, it’s crucial to seek help promptly to prevent the progression of alcohol use disorder (AUD). Encourage friends or family members struggling with alcohol abuse to do the same.

Recover From Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol abuse is a pressing concern that should not be taken lightly, as it is the first step toward the more severe condition of alcohol use disorder. Seeking medical assistance is paramount to avoid the devastating consequences that can ensue. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for alcohol abuse is essential for addressing this serious issue effectively. Contact our team at New Hope Health Care today to start your recovery. Have questions? Don’t hesitate to call us at 866-806-1027. Help is only a call away!

FAQ's

Alcohol abuse, also known as alcohol misuse, refers to a pattern of excessive alcohol consumption. People engaging in alcohol abuse often consume significant quantities of alcohol daily, leading to detrimental effects on personal, social, and work life. This behavior is a critical precursor to the development of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Consistent alcohol abuse takes a toll on the body, potentially resulting in various health complications, including liver problems, high blood pressure, stroke, digestive issues, and even cancer. Additionally, it can lead to chronic insomnia and reduced bone density. Unfortunately, many of these adverse effects may not become evident until it’s too late.

Alcohol abuse can be identified by the quantity of alcohol consumed. A standard drink is defined as 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Alcohol abuse is often recognized by consuming 14 or more drinks per week, 4 or more drinks daily for men, 3 or more drinks daily for women, or exceeding 7 drinks weekly (or 3 daily) for those over 65.

Alcohol abuse signifies a pattern of excessive drinking, while alcohol addiction is a medical condition characterized by intense cravings and dependency on alcohol for daily functioning. Understanding this distinction is crucial, as alcohol abuse frequently precedes the development of alcoholism.

Preventing alcohol abuse involves various strategies, such as abstaining from alcohol or setting consumption limits, reducing time spent with those who abuse alcohol, seeking support from friends or joining a support group if concerned, educating oneself about alcohol abuse and its consequences, and exercising caution if there’s a family history of alcohol abuse.

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