April is Alcohol Awareness Month, which is meant to help the general public better understand the nature and prevalence of alcoholism. This is imperative as there may be side effects, sometimes fatal, to individuals who suffer from this disease and others around them. We need to disregard the stigma associated with alcoholism in order to help those both directly and indirectly affected by it. Through providing the proper education about alcohol and paving the road to recovery for those who need it, we can hope that the estimated 75,000 lives taken by alcohol abuse every year will diminish.
“74% of teens say that their parents are the number one influence on their decision to drink.”
Drinking alcohol is often associated with socializing, celebrating, and relaxing. While moderate alcohol consumption is not usually a problem, excessive drinking can result in a wide range of consequences and risks. Moderate daily alcohol intake is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men, suggested by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They also do not recommend that people who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.
What is the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism?
There is a distinction to be made when discussing alcohol abuse and alcoholism, which may also be referred to as alcohol dependence. Alcohol abuse is the act of participating in unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits. This can range from drinking every day or drinking too much at a time. When an individual continues to drink, they may develop a dependency on alcohol mentally and/or physically- a clear indication of alcoholism beginning to surface. This is considered a chronic disease with signs and symptoms, which is also influenced by lifestyle and genetics. It should be treated like any other disease, despite the common misconception that alcoholism results from a lack of willpower or control.
Both alcohol abuse and alcoholism cause health problems which may lead to damage of the liver. Risky behaviors or situations may also arise as alcohol interferes with judgment. Expensive legal action may be needed as a result of drunk driving or harming someone else while under the influence. Overall, many aspects of someone’s life may be harmed due to alcohol.
Signs & Symptoms
- Experience withdrawal symptoms (sweating, shaking, anxiety, and nausea) when you stop drinking.
- Failure to stop drinking or controlling how much you consume.
- Resorting to drinking instead of participating in other activities.
- Continuation of drinking even though you are completely aware it is interfering or harming your relationships and causing health problems.
- Sense of guilt after drinking.
- Witnessing the physical signs of alcohol dependency such as a sore or upset stomach, redness of the nose and cheeks, and weight loss.
- Justifying your drinking habits or hiding them by going to different stores to buy alcohol.
- Continuous use of alcohol may lead to serious damage to the liver, nervous system, brain, stomach, and heart. Damage done by alcohol is not limited to the person’s health, but to other aspects of their life like their job, family, other relationships, finances, and mental well-being.
- The first step in being treated for alcoholism is for the person to accept and acknowledge the fact that they have this substance dependency. They must also know that this disease is curable and can be treated just like any other disease and be motivated to make themselves better. Detoxification, rehabilitation, and maintenance of sobriety are the steps in a successful recovery from alcoholism. Anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications may be prescribed but should be taken carefully as it is possible to become addicted to them. Other medications may be used in different stages of treatment like naltrexone or acamprosate that help with the cravings.
If you or someone you know show the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, please seek help. With the proper support and motivation, this disease can be beat and the goal of complete abstinence from alcohol can be achieved. Individuals suffering from alcoholism do not only need external support, but need to be motivated themselves and have the courage to rely on self-help to allow them to reach their goal. Visit websites like Self-help Groups for Alcoholics if you are seeking help or Al-non Family Groups if you know someone dealing with alcoholism.