It isn’t what you plan, but sometimes, drinking causes you to cross the line from occasional use or social use to problematic everyday drinking. This leads to alcoholism or alcohol abuse, which is related to genetics, social environment, and psychological issues. Certain ethnic groups are more at risk for alcohol abuse than others, such as Native Alaskans and Native American Indians. Alcoholism tends to run in families, too, and heavy drinkers suffer from numerous mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Do I have a Drinking Problem?
Drinking is more acceptable in many cultures and the effects of alcohol use vary from person to person. When social drinking becomes problem drinking, then the alcohol is in control. You may suffer from alcohol abuse if you:
- Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
- Feel ashamed or guilty regarding your drinking.
- Need to drink for the purpose of relaxation.
- Experience “black outs” after drinking.
- Have family members or friends who are concerned about your drinking.
- Drink in excess on a regular basis.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Substance abuse physicians and counselors do not consider alcohol abuse to be the same as alcohol dependence, which is essentially alcoholism. Alcohol abusers do have the ability to limit their drinking, whereas alcoholics do not. However, excessive use of alcohol is dangerous and self-destructive either way. The common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
- Continuing to drink regardless of problems in relationships, work, or other.
- Repetitively neglecting responsibilities due to the drinking.
- Using alcohol while driving or operating heavy machinery.
- Having repeated legal problems due to the drinking.
- Drinking to relax or reduce stress.
When Alcohol Abuse turns in to Alcoholism
Not all people who use or abuse alcohol develop full-blown alcoholism. However, frequent abuse of this substance is a major risk factor for alcoholism. Certain losses or tragedies often trigger binge drinking or other substance use issues. When a person becomes reliant on alcohol in order to function or feel physically well, then he or she is considered an alcoholic.
One of the first warning signs of alcoholism is tolerance. This is when you can drink considerable amounts without getting drunk or feeling “buzzed.” Tolerance is when a person requires more and more alcohol in order to feel the same effects. Another warning sign is withdrawal. This is when someone has certain symptoms when alcohol has not been in his or her system for a while, such as tremors, anxiety, or mood swings. In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol causes hallucinations, seizures, nausea, vomiting, fever, and confusion.
Denial of Drinking Problems
Denial is the biggest obstacle when considering rehabilitation (rehab) for alcohol abuse or dependence. For many alcoholics, the desire to drink is so strong that it causes problems with rational thinking and the consequences are ignored. Denial also leads to serious problems with relationships, work, social life, and finances. A person who is dependent on alcohol will deny this by:
- Downplaying the amount he or she drinks.
- Avoiding accepting consequences that are related to drinking.
- Complaining that friends and family members exaggerate regarding the problem.
- Blaming the drinking on other people or things.