What is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse is the second most common substance abuse problem in the United States followed behind nicotine addiction. However, not everyone that drinks will become addicted to alcohol nor will alcohol abuse be a problem for all drinkers. Some people can have a couple of drinks, occasionally, without worry. Others may find they divulge in alcohol abuse which can, and often does, lead to alcohol addiction.
It is not fully understood why some people abuse alcohol and others can share drinks with family or friends without any major worry or concern. However, a history of addiction in the family is considered a strong risk indicator for alcohol abuse or addiction in immediate family members. Therefore, if your mother or father suffered from problematic drinking or alcoholism, your risk of alcohol addiction is significantly higher than that of someone without a family background of alcohol addiction.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) results when drinking causes distress and harm to the user, however, according to the CDC most people that drink excessively are not dependent on alcohol. A study confirmed that 90% of adults who drink excessively are not actually alcohol dependent. Cases such as these represent the nature of alcohol abuse in our society.
Alcohol Use Disorder, or alcohol abuse, results in continued drinking despite understanding of the negative impact that alcohol consumption has on your life and regardless of the health consequences or any other consequences that come from your alcohol use. Alcohol abuse is typically referred to as problematic drinking that the user continues to participate in regardless of potential consequences or negative side effects.
Alcohol Consumption Impacts on the Drinker
Regular use of alcohol can have devastating impacts on the body. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, regular consumption of alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine or liquor can lead to an increased risk of cancer, liver disease, cirrhosis, and other serious health complications. For the purposes of reporting, heavy alcohol consumption or heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking (or consuming 5 or more alcoholic drinks for men or 4 or more for women on the same occasion such as the same night or on at least 1 day) for 5 or more days in a single month.
Excessive drinking can cause:
- Live disease
- Kidney disease
- Cancer of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, liver or breast
Risks Related to Alcohol Use while Pregnant
Drinking alcohol while pregnant could lead to serious side effects for your unborn baby. If you are a woman and you know that you are pregnant or you are trying to conceive, consider limiting your alcohol consumption during this time for your own safety as well as for the safety of your unborn child.
Alcohol use while pregnant is dangerous and according to the CDC drinking during pregnancy could cause Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs) which may appear in the child as:
- Smaller than average head size
- Poor memory or attention span
- Low body weight
- Smaller body size
- Abnormal facial structure
- Learning disabilities
- Cognitive deficit
- Poor judgement and reasoning skills
- Sleep problems
- Low IQ
- Hearing and vision problems
There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant and we do not know how even a single glass of wine or 1 beer would impact the developing fetus. Beware, and avoid drinking alcohol during pregnancy if at all possible.
Signs of a Drinking Problem
Drinking alcohol is not necessarily a problem, it’s excessive drinking or drinking in situations where alcohol is not considered acceptable that could be a telltale sign of a drinking problem. If you’re not sure whether you might be suffering from alcohol abuse, consider closely the following signs of a drinking problem:
- Drinking so much that you get drunk.
- Drinking so much that you feel sick.
- Drinking in situations where alcohol is prohibited such as at work or at school.
- Saying or doing things while you are drunk that you later regret.
- Participating in dangerous activities while under the influence of alcohol, such as driving a car.
- Drinking so much that you forget things or blackout.
Additionally, if you drink to alleviate stress or to mask symptoms of anxiety, depression or other emotions you may be experiencing, this too could be a sign of a drinking problem.