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Alcohol Abuse

Drinking is a social event throughout the world that is widely accepted and equally misunderstood. For some, moderate social drinking never amounts to anything more than mere fun, but for others, a few drinks can quickly turn into a potentially dangerous condition known as alcohol abuse. Although in itself alcohol abuse is not generally deadly, the consequences of overdrinking or repeat binges on alcohol will quickly become all too clear for some.


Abuse of alcohol leads to many health-related and personal problems.

What is it that makes some people quickly become addicted to alcohol while others can causally drink on occasion without ever suffering any major consequences from their behaviors? Why do some become alcoholics while others can stop at any given time without any major repercussions? Alcoholism, and alcohol abuse for that matter, are often the byproduct of genetic predisposition, social interactions, mental stability and individual circumstances beyond our control.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

According to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, alcohol abuse is a situation that involves drinking which leads to problems at work, school, home, in personal relationships, with the law or otherwise. People who abuse alcohol are not necessarily addicted to alcohol, they do not suffer from symptoms of withdrawal when they quit drinking, but there are legitimate consequences that result from their decisions to over consume alcoholic beverages.

What is Alcoholism or Alcohol Addiction?

Unlike alcohol abuse, people who suffer from alcoholism or alcohol addiction are dependent on the alcohol. They crave alcohol, they feel sick or otherwise out of control without alcohol, and when they have it they cannot control the amount of alcohol that they consume. Most people who are addicted with:

  • Drink until there’s no alcohol left
  • Drink until they pass out or get sick
  • Drink in situations when it’s inappropriate
  • Drink to cover up symptoms of withdrawal
  • Drink to mask emotions

Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

According to the CDC, if drinking alcohol has led to any consequences or problems in your life, then you may have a drinking problem. You may have a problem with alcohol abuse if:

  • You feel ashamed about your drinking
  • You feel guilty about the amount of alcohol you drink or the amount of time you spend drinking
  • You feel like you need to cover up your drinking habits or hide them from others
  • You lie about the amount of alcohol you have drank or about other elements of drinking
  • Your loved ones are worried about your drinking but you continue to drink
  • You have drank so much that you passed out or forgot what happened
  • You drink to feel good
  • You drink to cover up with you’re really feeling
  • You consume more alcohol than planned on a regular basis

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

If you suspect that someone you know may be abusing alcohol, what can you do to help? The first step is to be fully aware of the common signs of alcohol abuse; they are:

  • Drinking to cover up stress, guilt, shame, depression, anxiety or another feeling
  • Drinking as a means of self-medicating another problem
  • Drinking in situations that are no longer social
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking after a promise is made to quit
  • Drinking after a promise is made to cut back
  • Drinking in potentially dangerous situations such as while driving
  • Drinking when a spouse or loved one doesn’t appreciate the behavior
  • Drinking even when you know that there are definitive consequences involved for your actions
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, home or school as a result of your decision to drink

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Unlike alcohol abuse which is a situation in which you make poor decision but you are not controlled by your body to drink, alcoholism is a situation in which you will literally crave alcohol and feel sick without it. The following signs of alcohol addiction signify a serious problem and a need for professional help:

  • Tolerance that requires you to drink more alcohol than you once needed
  • Symptoms of withdrawal when alcohol is not consumed
  • Inability to control drinking even when you want to cut back or quit
  • Giving up hobbies or other activities that were once important in order to drink
  • Feeling like you cannot go a single day without alcohol
  • Having a desire to quit but a nagging urge to keep it up
  • Drinking even after you have suffered serious consequences

Denial and How it Affects Your Ability to Quit Drinking

Unfortunately, denial is a major player in the role of quitting and in getting help. According to the University of Utah Health Services, denial is often the result of, “enabling by others.” This occurs when loved ones or family members drink with the individual and make it seem like maters are alright; in all actuality, there is a problem brewing and the person needs help.

Denial will reinforce an addict’s refusal to acknowledge that there is a problem and this in turn will lead to a lack of desire to cut back or quit—it’s the old, “if it’s not broke, why fix it,” routine. Here’s how to tell that someone you love is in denial about a drinking problem:

  • The individual underestimates the amount of alcohol consumed
  • The individual masks, downplays or covers up the consequences of drinking too much
  • The individual complains to others that THEY are the ones with the problem or that THEY are making a “big deal out of nothing”
  • The individual regularly places blame on someone else for their problems with alcohol
  • The individual flat out refuses to accept or admit that there is anything wrong with their drinking habits
  • The individual rationalizes the actions and behaviors saying that they drink because they are bored, or unhappy or others
  • The individual refuses to discuss the potential that there’s a problem and avoids interaction with those who are likely to bring the problem up

How Alcohol Abuse Effects Your Life

Your life can literally be ruined in a matter of minutes as a result of the decision to abuse alcohol. Misuse, such as drinking and driving, is responsible for 88,000 deaths annually according to the CDC. IN addition to the potentially deadly consequences that can arise from alcohol abuse, alcohol has the following effects on your life:

  • Increased risk of injury
  • Increased risk of illness
  • Premature birth if drinking while pregnant
  • Increased violence in the household
  • Increased risk of trauma
  • Increased risk of abuse in relationships
  • Increased risk of child neglect
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Increased risk of sexual promiscuity
  • Increased risk of disease transmission
  • Increased risk of overdose
  • Increased risk of neurological problems such as dementia
  • Heart problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicide
  • Increased risk of liver disease
  • Increased risk of pancreatic cancer

Getting Help for Alcohol Abuse

If someone you care about may have a drinking problem, it’s important that you don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can be so overwhelming that the problem just sits on a back burner, untouched and potentially refrained from consideration until it becomes so severe that there’s no possible way to turn a cold cheek and look the other way. Helping someone who is abusing alcohol begins with:

  • Attempting to talk to the individual about the problem (remember the role that denial may play in this process)
  • Doing your best to be supportive and understanding
  • Avoiding a situation in which the individual feels like you are pointing fingers or placing blame (again remember the role of denial)
  • Providing assistance in the means of finding treatment, support groups or other forms of counseling and therapy
  • Keeping yourself healthy by attending support groups such as Al-Anon for Families

The first step to helping someone who is addicted to alcohol or who has a drinking problem is to help them to admit that they need help. This process can be very challenging, especially when denial is a key factor. If you cannot seem to break through to the individual, you may consider seeking the professionally qualified help of a trained interventionist to assist you.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “getting a loved one to agree to accept help, and finding support services for all family members are the first steps toward healing for the addicted person and the entire family. Reluctance is often a problem in the attempt to get help, with proper support and encouragement, most will find their way into treatment.

Where do calls go?

Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: Rehab Media Group, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.

By calling the helpline you agree to the terms of use. We do not receive any commission or fee that is dependent upon which treatment provider a caller chooses. There is no obligation to enter treatment.

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