Alcohol is everywhere in our society, at parties, events, billboards, commercials, TV and movies. Due to the disinhibiting effects, alcohol is used as a social lubricant. For others, alcohol can “take the edge off.” Despite alcohol’s integration into society, it still is classified as a drug, leading as one of the most widely used drug substances in the world.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant in liquid form. Depending on one’s size, weight, age, and sex, the amount consumed varies to produce effects, or intoxication. Also, alcoholic drinks differ in alcohol amounts– beer is about 5% alcohol, wine is usually 12-15% alcohol, and hard liquor is about 45% alcohol.
Alcohol addiction is difficult to identify because it is so widely used in our society. Onlookers cannot determine the manner in which another drinks, only the individual can truly know if they are simply drinking socially or have a problem. The disease of alcoholism lies in the mind and the body. Prolonged heavy use of alcohol can lead to a physical addiction to alcohol. Alcoholics are bodily and mentally different from others in their reaction to alcohol.
Immediate effects of alcohol consumption include:
- Lowered inhibition
- Slurred speech
- Increased aggression
- Disturbed sleep
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired coordination
Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to an uncomfortable hangover, which consists of a headache, nausea, thirst, fatigue and dizziness. Long-term use of alcohol can lead to alcohol withdrawals when abruptly ceasing alcohol intake.
Alcohol withdrawal consists of:
- Severe anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
- Clammy skin or sweating
Permanent damage to the liver and brain can be done by consuming large amounts of alcohol and by not feeding the body properly.Alcoholics can experience black out drinking, becoming angry and/or violent while drinking, and becoming defensive when confronted with questions about their drinking. One of the main symptoms of alcohol abuse is when one continues to drink after their drinking has continuously caused problems. If one is exhibiting alcoholic tendencies, such as the inability to stop drinking on their own, they most likely suffer from the disease of alcoholism. Other signs of alcoholism include:
- Drinking despite alcohol-related physical, social, psychological, or occupational problems
- Drinking to the point of physical or mental damage
- Neglect of other activities
- Excessive use
- Persistence of Use
- Impaired control
- Large amounts of time spent in alcohol related activities
Denial is a serious element of those suffering from the disease of alcoholism. They tend to be very defensive and angry when confronted about their drinking. Those with untreated alcoholism will push those away that truly care about them and who ask the alcoholic to take a look at their drinking and the effects it has on them and their surrounding lives.
Many alcoholics describe their drinking in stages: fun, fun with problems, and then just problems. Initially, they can still drink large amounts of alcohol without any consequences. They then begin developing an increased tolerance and seek out more opportunities to drink. The drinker sporadically begins to lose control and experiences blackouts. Problem drinkers begin to use alcohol, rather than as a social lubricant. Alcohol abuse entails aggressive behavior becomes a habit and the drinker begins to avoid family and friends.
Heavy, habitual drinkers usually have to be detoxed medically, under the supervision of a licensed doctor. Unsupervised detox can be extremely dangerous, with risks such as seizures or possibly death. They can go into a series of tremors or hallucinations that only a doctor can treat. They will need certain medications to detox in a safe, appropriate way, with the least amount of possible stressors.