Individuals who consume alcohol to avoid feeling bad or to make themselves feel good may have a problem with drinking. Alcohol abuse often sneaks up on people without them realizing it, especially because many people are unaware of the warning signs. Drinking is widely accepted in many different cultures, so the line between problem drinking and social drinking is not always clear. However, no matter how much or how often people drink, if it is causing problems in their lives, they have a problem with alcohol.
Alcoholism vs. Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol effects will vary, depending on the individual. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there is a distinct difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Alcoholism is when an individual displays physical signs of an alcohol addiction and continues drinking in spite of associated problems, such as family conflicts and troubles meeting employment responsibilities. Alcohol abuse is when a person consumes more than the recommended limit but is not yet addicted to alcohol. If you believe you have a problem with alcohol, please feel free to call our 24-hour helpline at .
According to the Wright State University website, over 14 million Americans, or roughly one in every 13 adults, suffer from problem drinking or alcoholism.
There are a variety of signs and symptoms associated with alcohol abuse, including:
- Frequent lateness to school or work
- Suffering from blackouts
- Friends and family noticing excessive drinking
- Driving while intoxicated
- Feelings of depression in between drinks
A person does not have to drink copious amounts of alcohol every day to qualify as a problem drinker. In fact, according to Medicine Net, many people who abuse alcohol can go days and even weeks without having a drink; however, they do have a problem if drinking alcohol affects their lives in a negative manner. If they are also displaying any of the above symptoms, they are likely abusing alcohol. If individuals let alcohol rule their lives, it is time to consider seeking advice from a physician or alcoholism specialist.
Certain individuals are more at risk of developing an alcohol abuse problem than others. For example, alcoholism is often hereditary, so individuals who have alcoholic family members are more likely to develop a problem themselves. Other risk factors include anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse affects each individual differently. Each of the following may be a short-term effect of alcohol use:
- Impaired vision
- Impaired judgment
The amount an individual drinks and how often will influence the way alcohol makes the person feel. While the short-term effects of alcohol are common, the long-term effects of alcohol abuse can be serious and even fatal. Long-term or serious effects include:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Injuries sustained due to lack of coordination
- Sexual problems
- Liver damage
- Brain damage
“Despite the seriousness of these alcohol abuse effects, many individuals will remain in denial about their drinking problem.”Despite the seriousness of these alcohol abuse effects, many individuals will remain in denial about their drinking problem. This is usually due to guilt or fear of reprisals from friends or family. Some people are too embarrassed to admit they need help with their alcohol dependence. If you believe you have a problem with alcohol, please feel free to call our 24-hour helpline at .
Long-term support is vital for people who are recovering from alcohol abuse. Ongoing therapy, attending support groups and having regular checkups with a physician are all part of a long-term alcoholism treatment plan. Approximately 70 percent of people with alcoholism consume alcohol less often and improve their overall health with treatment, according to MedicineNet.com.
A medical professional will diagnose an individual with alcohol abuse problems by studying his or her medical history and looking at the individual’s mental health and family information.
Abstinence — when a person completely stops drinking alcohol — is the best form of treatment for individuals who abuse alcohol; however, a good support network is essential for this to be successful. People with alcoholism who need more help can opt for treatment in a residential detoxification center. This involves staying in a specialized center and undergoing assisted detox followed by cognitive behavioral therapy. Assisted detox includes the use of prescribed medication to help an individual manage uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.
Once a person is physically comfortable, treatment will begin to focus on the psychological dependency. A trained therapist will help individuals address their alcohol problems, including how alcohol has affected their lives. Teaching people to recognize what may trigger their drinking is an important part of the therapy, as individuals can learn to avoid these triggers in the future. According to Wright State University, many people who abuse alcohol do it as a way to escape stress, feelings of anxiety and any problems in their lives. Teaching people important problem-solving skills helps them deal with any potential stressors in their lives and prevents them from turning to alcohol as an escape.
Unsure where to start? Take Our Substance Abuse Self-Assessment
Take our free, 5-minute substance abuse self-assessment below if you think you or someone you love might be struggling with substance abuse. This evaluation consists of 11 yes or no questions that are designed to be used as an informational tool to assess the severity and probability of a substance use disorder. The test is free, confidential, and no personal information is needed to receive the result. Please be aware that this evaluation is not a substitute for advice from a medical doctor.
Get the Help You Need Today
If you feel you have a problem with alcohol, please call our confidential helpline at to find the best treatment centers in your area.