How to Identify Alcohol Abuse

Identifying alcohol abuse can be very difficult. Direct questioning is typically answered with hostility and vehement denial. Alcohol can be hidden very well in soda cans or paper cups – breath mints and gum can conceal the smell.
You can identify alcohol abuse by the following signs:

  • Turning to alcohol as a method of dealing with life stresses and obstacles
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society altogether
  • Too much sleep/inability to sleep
  • Inability to meet basic obligations
  • Fluctuating moods
  • Otherwise inexplicable depression
  • Drinking enough to get drunk regularly and frequently

If you believe there is a pattern of alcohol abuse in your life or the life of a loved one, recovery is key. The suggestion of alcohol abuse treatment should be made with care – firmly, but non-judgmentally.
It is not uncommon for loved ones to withdraw even further when confronted with suggestions of their alcohol abuse. They may blame others for their problem or rationalize their behavior somehow. They will likely deny that an alcohol abuse problem exists, and they may even genuinely believe that.
Alcohol abuse is a problem that cannot be ignored. The situation will worsen to the point of financial ruin, legal problems, family turmoil, personal incapacitation or even death. Treatment has been shown to be effective, but it is ultimately a choice the alcohol abuser has to make. Should they make that decision, support from friends and loved ones is critical throughout the process.

What can this article tell you that you don’t already know about the physical effects of alcohol? It’s because of these immediate effects that you drink alcohol in the first place; that “loosening up” feeling, calming your anxiety or fear, mellowing you out, and feeling buzzed and a bit unreal. “Disinhibition” is a term that means lowering your inhibitions; you feel and act more social, more courageous, and more daring. This isn’t necessarily a good thing if you’re drinking in a biker bar and tell the biggest, badest Hell’s Angel that he’s got the face and smell of a dead orangutan. The physical effects of alcohol occur because this legal drug is a central nervous system depressant; that’s where the mellow feeling comes from. Do you know that alcohol also depresses your breathing and heart rate, sometimes to the point of death due to alcohol poisoning? Remember, alcohol is a toxic substance that affects your body in many dangerous ways. With a drink or two, you may feel pleasantly buzzed. Keep on drinking, and you may end up in the morgue.

There are things you need to know about the long-term physical effects of alcohol. Chronic drinking takes a terrible toll on your body over time because your body regards alcohol as a poison. Some of these long-term physical effects include:

  • Irreversible brain damage, also called “wet brain”
  • Irreversible liver damage, also called cirrhosis of the liver
  • Delirium Tremens (also called “DTs” a state of psychosis that can be fatal)
  • Alcohol gastritis; chronic stomach pain
  • Hepatitis, a liver disease that can be fatal
  • Myopathy (muscle wasting)
  • Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas causing pain, cancer & can be fatal)
  • Scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency leading to malnutrition)
  • Pellegra (niacin deficiency causing skin damage, diarrhea, and suicidal depression)
  • Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (caused by thiamine deficiency, a B vitamin; results in loss of short-term memory, confusion, uncoordinated movements, nerve damage in arms and legs, chronic tremors)
  • Marchiafava-Bignami Disease (causes agitation, confusion, dementia, seizures, coma and death)

Do these conditions, most of them fatal, sound anything like the fun you may have after a drink or two of alcohol? What seems fun today will very likely kill you in a few years, a fact that alcoholics tend to deny, disbelieve or don’t care about. This is the folly of alcohol-induced confused thinking: “It won’t happen to me.” Yet it will. Alcoholism catches up with you sooner or later; this is the reason it is called a chronic, progressive and eventually fatal condition. You may not have any of these nasty physical effects – yet. But no one plays for free. Every time you drink to excesses, the danger and damage to your body increases. Stop. Think. Understand. Is this dismal future what you want to do with your future? Do you want to end your life strapped to hospital bed, screaming in agony and delirium? You deserve better than this. Suffering and dying this undignified way is not your destiny. Now is the time to turn it all around. Are you ready to accept the truth about the physical effects of long-term alcoholism?

Do you know that alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence are two completely different conditions? One is an addiction, and one is not. One does not have a withdrawal syndrome, and the other does. One involves risky and irresponsible behavior while drinking, and the other involves a need to drink every day or binge-drink. Both are serious types of problem drinking.

Alcohol dependence is a form of addiction; your body undergoes physical changes to adapt itself to the constant presence in your body. Also called alcoholism, this condition produces very serious withdrawal symptoms that can be fatal. Alcohol abuse is not an addiction to alcohol; it involves excessive drinking and then engaging in risky and irresponsible behavior.

Try this simple quiz about alcohol abuse:

Over the Past Twelve Months,

  • Have you frequently failed to fulfill your major role obligations at work, school or home because of excessive drinking?
  • Have you frequently engaged in risky or hazardous behavior after drinking to excess?
  • Have you had legal consequences because of excessive drinking?
  • Have you continued drinking to excess despite experiencing the three consequences listed above?

Any ‘yes’ answer to these questions could indicate that you have a serious problem with alcohol abuse that will only grow worse if you don’t do something about it. To help you further understand alcohol abuse, ask yourself these questions:
1) How often have you missed school or work because you’re hung over or wake up late? Does your spouse or partner complain about your drinking because it interferes with your relationship and you duties at home? Have you neglected your children because you were drunk or hung over?

2) Does your drinking make you a risk to yourself and others? Do you drink and drive? Do you operate machinery when you’re drunk or hung over? Do you start physical fights when you drink too much? Do you engage in risky sexual behavior when you’re drinking?

3) How many times have you been arrested for DUI? Are you getting a divorce because of your drinking? Have you been arrested for assault, domestic violence, reckless driving, hit and run, or any other legal problem due to your excessive drinking?

4) Do you continue to drink heavily even though you’ve experienced negative consequences, your friends and family have advised you to slow down or stop?

In its way, alcohol abuse is just as dangerous and life-threatening as alcohol dependence. But it”s only alcohol abuse; I’m not an alcoholic, you may say. True, but alcohol abuse is not a condition to take lightly. Denial is just as pervasive in alcohol abuse as it is with alcohol dependence. Alcohol abuse will catch up with you eventually: how would you feel if, while driving drunk, you injured or killed another person? Alcohol abuse does not always lead to alcoholism, but it certainly can. Since alcohol is a powerfully addictive substance, continuous alcohol abuse may turn the corner, and you will find yourself addicted. This doesn’t have to happen. Alcohol abuse can destroy your life just like addiction can. Ask yourself one last question: how would you like to spend 15 years in prison because you negligently killed someone while you were drunk?

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