What is Alcohol?
Alcohol is a recreational substance that forms from the fermentation of grains, fruits, or other components to produce a depressant such as beer, wine, cider, or spirits. Pure alcohol is colorless but the odor can be very strong and the taste is usually equally strong and hot. Alcoholic drinks vary in color and taste based on the types of ingredients that are fermented to produce the ethanol as well as the processes that are used.
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in the United States. Studies estimate that 86.3% of all United States residents 18 and over report drinking alcohol at some time in their life with 70% having reporting drinking in the past year. The consumption of alcohol is potentially risky and some people shouldn’t drink at all. Even moderate alcohol use could lead to addiction and excessive alcohol use may cause injury, illness, or death.
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.
Are there Benefits to Drinking Alcohol?
Studies have proven that not all consumption of alcohol is bad. In fact, although there are many widespread risks of alcohol use there are also some situations in which the regular consumption of alcohol in moderation can be beneficial. Moderate drinking benefits come from consuming small amounts of alcohol on a regular basis.
Men should consume no more than 2 drinks per day and women should consume no more than 1 drink per day. A drink is defined as 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor, 12 ounces of beer or 5 ounces of wine. Moderate alcohol consumption may help to reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. Studies prove that alcohol, when consumed in moderation, can have the following effects on the user:
- Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
- Reduced risk of ischemic stroke.
- Reduced myocardial infarction.
- Reduced risk of gallstones.
Unfortunately, even moderate alcohol use places women at a significantly increased risk for breast cancer and bone fractures and slightly higher intake significantly raises the risk of colon cancer and colon polyps. Regular alcohol intake for women may not be beneficial when compared to the potential risk factors associated with such alcohol use.
Identifying Alcohol Use Disorder & Addiction
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic brain disease characterized by a compulsion to consume alcohol regardless of the consequences and risks imposed by such use. Individuals that suffer from AUD cannot control their drinking, struggle to cope with cravings for alcohol, and often try to quit but fail for various reasons. If you suspect that you or someone you love is struggling with a drinking problem or may suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder, SJRP can help. Call our admissions team at 833-397-3422 to discuss the following signs of AUD and the appropriate treatment options available:
- Feeling like you should cut down on your drinking, or scale back, but struggling to do so.
- Feeling like people are always criticizing you about your drinking.
- Feeling bad or guilty about your drinking or the things you have done while drunk in the past.
- Drinking early in the morning or during times when alcohol is not allowed because you need to “steady” your nerves, calm yourself, or feel better from a lingering hangover.
You may suffer from a drinking problem if:
- You continue to drink despite feeling anxious or depressed about your alcohol use.
- You drink more than you intended to, even though you made a conscious effort to change.
- You choose alcohol over activities such as spending time with family or participating in activities that you once enjoyed.
- You feel symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when you don’t drink or when you cut back on your drinking.
- You have suffered legal trouble as a result of your drinking, but you continue to drink anyway.
- You struggle with health complications from your drinking, but you continue to drink.
These are just some of the potential signs of a drinking problem that may signify a need for help. If you or someone you love is struggling with daily alcohol use, give our admissions team a call to discuss treatment options that are available to help you get well. Our Florida alcohol rehab center provides medical detox and residential treatment. Most insurance is accepted. We are ready to help you get well.