At Refresh Recovery, we provide a safe and inspiring place to begin a journey where alcohol can be set aside and decipher someone’s true focus, objectives and behaviors.
Is drinking alcohol hurting your current lifestyle or affecting those you love or work with as a result? Wondering if alcohol has an impact on the quality of your life and not sure if you have a problem or not? What used to be a clear answer of yes and no, is currently marked as a spectrum, meaning that use of substances such as alcohol may not need to be as intense for it to have a negative effect on someone’s life.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol has been promoted through social media channels and its availability has increased in many countries due to easier access to home delivery and online marketing. The people most likely to increase their alcohol consumption were already drinking too much before the pandemic. The SarsCov-2 virus only made it worse. In addition, bars and nightclubs and other places which sell alcoholic drinks are attracting crowds who neither practice social distancing nor wear face masks.
As we begin to plan a return to a ‘new normal’, the habit of alcohol consumption might continue what used to be a moment of fun, stepping away from reality or simply coping with changes such as isolation, stress and intensified existential paradigms.
Alcoholism vs. Alcohol Abuse
There are important differences between alcoholism and alcohol abuse.
If there are significant and recurrent bad outcomes in the way you drink, you might be abusing alcohol. Maybe you have problems problems with the law, with your family or romantic partners, or trouble holding down a job because of your drinking habits.
Abusers tend to be consistent heavy drinkers (women who consume more than 8 or 9 drinks weekly, or men who take more than 14). You may be an occasional binge drinker (more than 3 drinks for women or more than 4 drinks for men in less than 110 minutes). You might have a drinking problem no matter the frequency of your compulsion if you have experienced terribly negative consequences in your life.
On the other hand, alcoholism is a chronic disease characterized by a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. People with an alcohol addiction need to drink in order to function. You might be struggling with alcohol dependence if:
You started to drink more to get the same effects. If you cannot stop drinking even when you want to and suffer intense cravings. And or if spending a long time without alcohol makes you feel physically sick, such as having tremors, seizures, hallucinations, nausea, and headaches.
Connection between alcohol abuse and alcoholism
Up to 90% of people who abuse alcohol do not currently fit the diagnostic criteria for severe alcohol use disorder (acute alcoholism). Nevertheless, they are at an increased risk of becoming alcoholics.
If you are genetically predisposed to addiction or have family suffering from substance use disorders (SUD’s), you may be more likely to struggle with alcoholism. But regardless of your genetic makeup, excessive drinking can also lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of alcohol abuse, triggering physiological pathways that cause a dependence. If not taken seriously, alcohol abuse can quickly progress to a severe alcohol addiction.
Long-term alcoholism can result in cirrhosis, cancer and even heart strokes. What many times isn’t spoken about is mental health and the progressive and lengthy deterioration of mental health including depression, anxiety and social consequences.
Loved ones are many times found in a triangle of wanting to get help for their loved ones before they accept they have a problem and can lead to codependence and family trauma. For resources of loved ones, please look up our community resources to have the tools and skills to support these challenges in San Diego and nationally.
Risks of alcohol for teenagers and growing kids
Alcohol is especially harmful to children and teenagers:
- Drinking is harmful to developing bodies. Young people who drink are more vulnerable to sexual assaults and other kinds of violence.
- Drinking alcohol from a young age can lead to alcohol abuse and alcoholism later in life.
- Children and teenagers are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol also plays a big part in car accidents, aggressive behavior and dropping out of school.
Alcohol Side Effects
Many of us drink alcohol to relax and socialize. Alcohol can be part of a healthy lifestyle if you drink in moderation and exercise and have a good diet. But overdrinking affects our mental and physical health.
Binge drinking can cause death, disease and injury and is a major factor in ill health and social disturbances.
No level of alcohol consumption can be considered safe. To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury for healthy men and women, people should drink 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day at the most.
However, some people need to take more care. You are at greater risk of harm from alcohol if you are engaging in a risky activity such as driving or operating machinery, if you are under 18, if you are older than 65, or if you are taking other medicines or drugs. Drinking heavily can put you at risk of short-term injury or illness. The effects can also accumulate, harming your health over your lifetime.
Short- and long-term effects of Alcoholism
In the short term, drinking too much alcohol can lead to fatal alcohol poisoning, road accidents, hangovers, vomiting, headaches, memory loss, dizziness, lack of judgement, loss of coordination, and deliberately harming yourself and others.
Drinking more than 2 standard drinks a day can seriously affect your health over your lifetime. It can lead to dependence and addiction, especially in people who have depression or anxiety, and can increase your risk of suicide. Even drinking small amounts increases your cancer risk.
Regular heavy drinking can affect your body long term:
- Brain: Drinking too much can affect your concentration, judgement, mood, and memory. It increases your risk of having a stroke and developing dementia.
- Heart: Heavy drinking increases your blood pressure and can lead to heart damage and heart attacks.
- Liver: Drinking 3 to 4 standard drinks a day increases your risk of developing liver cancer. Long-term heavy drinking also puts you at increased risk of liver cirrhosis (scarring) and death.
- Stomach: Drinking even 1 to 2 standard drinks a day increases your risk of stomach and bowel cancer, as well as stomach ulcers.
- Fertility: Regular heavy drinking reduces men’s testosterone levels, sperm count and fertility. For women, drinking too much can affect their periods.
We at Refresh Recovery want to answer your questions regarding alcoholism treatment.
If you or someone you care for are going through a vicious cycle of alcohol abuse, learn more about our alcohol rehab programs and our outpatient/inpatient treatment options for alcoholism.