Alcohol abuse is not to be confused with alcoholism. Those who abuse alcohol are not necessarily addicted to alcohol; however, prolonged excessive use could eventually lead to alcoholism. Alcohol abusers do not possess a dependence on alcohol, but usually drink more than is considered healthy. Distinguishing alcohol abuse symptoms from alcoholism can be tricky. How do we know if a person is just enjoying a good time or if the alcohol consumption is taking over their life? Fortunately, there are ways to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse and seek help before it becomes too late.
Alcohol abuse symptoms
Many people wonder about recognizing the early signs of alcohol abuse. These can include: sneaking drinks, gulping first drinks, frequent memory blanks while engaging in drinking, unwillingness to discuss drinking habits, and feelings of guilt over drinking. An alcohol abuser will demonstrate a pattern of excessive drinking and usually sets out to drink in order to feel the “high” that excessive alcohol ingestion brings. Other common alcohol abuse symptoms can include: often turning up late for work or school due to hangovers, frequent injuries that occur during times of excessive drinking, trouble with the authorities for drinking and driving or aggressive behavior. Physical signs of alcohol abuse are drunkenness, drowsiness, slurred speech, short attention span, uncoordinated movements, memory problems, and aggression.
Knowing the signs
Many people who routinely abuse alcohol believe that it is not a big deal and that they can control their habit. Most of them do not recognize alcohol abuse symptoms and may need outside help in acknowledging the problem. The following is a series of questions to help you detect whether you or a loved one may have an issue with alcohol abuse.
- Have you missed work or school more than once due to hangover problems?
- Have you become angry when others have commented on or criticized your drinking habits?
- Have you felt that you should curb your drinking?
- Have you decided to reduce your drinking and found that you cannot?
- Have you exhibited overly aggressive behavior under the influence of alcohol (i.e. getting into fights)?
- Have you encountered problems with the authorities in situations when you were drinking?
- Have you had sexual experiences while under the influence of alcohol that caused you to be regretful?
- Do you “binge drink” on a regular basis (four or more drinks for women and more than five for men)?
- Do you have “blackout” periods whereby you cannot remember certain instances while you were drinking or afterward?
- Is excessive drinking a normal part of your weekly social activities?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to the majority of these questions, then there is most likely alcohol abuse.
Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Physically, excessive drinking can cause certain cancers, such as those of the throat, esophagus, larynx and liver. It can also cause liver cirrhosis, brain damage, problems with the immune system, and damage to a fetus during pregnancy. Excessive alcohol consumption also increases the risks for automobile accidents and on-the-job accidents. Alcohol abuse can be a detriment not only to your health, but also to your personal relationships, your job or schooling, and can even get you in trouble with the law.
Since an alcohol abuser is not necessarily an alcoholic, that is, not addicted to alcohol, he/she may respond favorably to loved ones who express concern over the drinking issue, and may choose to curb the abusive behavior. However, consulting a healthcare professional about excessive drinking can improve the chances of solving the problem. They can advise you on seminars or meetings, refer you to a support group, and talk to you about limiting or abstaining from drinking. They will provide information on specific alcohol abuse symptoms and the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on the body. A medical doctor will generally give you a physical exam and a mental health assessment. It is to your benefit to always be honest with your doctor; it is imperative to tell the complete truth regarding your symptoms and drinking behaviors in order for a professional to be able to help you.
Loved ones are a key resource; they are usually first to recognize alcohol abuse symptoms and can provide invaluable support to help you cope with alcohol abuse. An important factor in abstaining from alcohol abuse is to avoid situations where alcohol abuse is made easy.