According to a 2017 study by JAMA Psychiatry, one out of every eight Americans struggles with alcohol abuse. These statistics are staggering, given the public health opioid crisis also taking place in the country. Not everyone that ingests alcohol will abuse it, but it is important to know the facts and the risks associated with alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse can be defined as the development of unhealthy drinking habits and behaviors. Many times, individuals are aware that their behavior is unhealthy and could be detrimental to their lives, but cannot easily give up their habits. Educating the public on the dangers of unhealthy drinking habits and risk of alcohol abuse can hopefully help fight this nationwide issue.
Unhealthy Drinking Habits
Those who are abusing alcohol are not physically dependent and addicted to alcohol, but they are at a higher risk of developing an addiction. Individuals dealing with alcohol abuse are usually heavy drinkers who continue to consume alcohol regardless of the consequences. It is not only a matter of how often someone consumes alcohol, but also their intention when they do. Unhealthy drinking habits contributing to alcohol abuse include:
- Drinking disrupting daily life at home, school or work
- Binge drinking
- Drinking alone
- Experiencing temporary blackouts and memory loss
- Showing signs of irritability and mood swings
- Creating excuses to drink
Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol has an effect on the body both inside and out. When you consume alcohol excessively, you may experience some long and short term side effects. These side effects differ depending on a variety of factors including a person’s medical history, the amount of alcohol consumed, or any other drugs that may have been mixed with the alcohol. Some of the short-term side effects of alcohol abuse are:
- Impaired vision
- Coordination loss
- Mood shifts
- Slowed breathing
- Slurred speech
- Lapse of judgement
- Short-term memory loss
Although the short-term side effects are less severe temporary, they do have the ability to leave permanent damage to both the individual and those around them. This includes the dangers of driving under the influence, engaging in criminal activity and even accidental self-harm.
There are several long-term side effects associated with heavy or prolonged alcohol consumption as well. If left untreated and alcohol abuse persists, these long-term side effects can be extremely detrimental to the body. People who have consumed alcohol for an extended period are more likely to develop these long-term health complications:
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Fatty liver disease
- Fibrosis of the liver
- Cancer of the mouth, throat, liver and breast
- Nerve damage
- Respiratory infections
- Nerve damage
Whether an individual is suffering from short or long-term effects of alcohol abuse, it is critical to seek the treatment options available. If alcohol abuse is not treated, it will leave the individual suffering from alcoholism and the potential long-term health issues.
The Road to Alcoholism
Signs of alcohol abuse, especially moderate level alcohol abuse, can often go unnoticed by friends or family. Despite the various warning signs, some may not be recognizable as a quality of alcohol abuse. What begins as a minor issue can easily turn into a dangerous addiction over time, which is why it is so important to be aware of the consequences of alcohol abuse.
While not everyone that abuses alcohol will develop a psychological dependence, alcohol abuse can spiral into dependency and alcoholism if left untreated. When alcohol abuse begins to directly cause harm or effect a person’s life negatively, it can be diagnosed as an alcohol addiction. Early warning signs that you or a loved one are heading down the road towards alcoholism should not be ignored.
Alcohol Abuse Treatment
Choosing to undergo treatment for alcohol abuse or addiction is not an easy task, but it is the critical first step to recovery. Alcohol abuse can leave damaging effects on your physical, psychological and social health and must be treated as soon as possible. Addiction to alcohol is a medical disease and can affect any person regardless of age, race, gender, profession, socioeconomic status and profession.
When alcohol abuse escalates to alcohol use disorder, or alcoholism, the brain is affected and it is more difficult to treat. Fortunately, recovery for everyone struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction is possible. Individuals suffering from these disorders can get the medical and psychological help they need to regain control of their lives and be free of alcohol addiction.