Drinking beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages is a rite of passage in our society. Many young people look forward to their 21st birthdays because they can now purchase alcohol legally. But as we’ve all learned, far too painfully, alcohol can become a problem, and not just for young people. And when it does become problematic, society and individuals pay a price for the risks of alcohol abuse.
We don’t necessarily measure alcohol abuse by a specific number of drinks. For us to understand it, we should view it more through the lens of what alcohol does to a person and their lifestyle. But the numbers of people who engage in heavy drinking are high. Roughly one of every four adults participates in an episode of binge drinking each month, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
One of the risks of alcohol abuse is that it can graduate into an avoidable set of deeper problems, both physically and mentally. That’s where treatment plays an important role.
Definition of Alcohol Abuse
The impact of alcohol on our lives differs widely, person to person. Drinking in moderation is usually considered as two drinks for men and one for women. Nevertheless, exceeding those levels does not necessarily mean that you are abusing alcohol.
The key is in what alcohol does to your life. Abuse begins when alcohol starts to cause difficulties in your relationships, finances, or job.
According to Harvard Medical School, alcohol abuse is the second most common substance abuse problem in the United States. As we’ll see, alcohol abuse is different from alcoholism — but can be just as problematic.
Risks of Alcohol Abuse
Excessive drinking introduces substantial risks in a person’s life. First and foremost, it has consequences for your health. People who abuse alcohol experience a high rate of liver disease, cardiovascular difficulties, high blood pressure, and other physical problems.
Substance abuse also can occur in parallel with mental disorders such as anxiety or depression. When that happens, it’s known as a “co-occurring disorder,” and typically requires a separate, integrated treatment regimen. Doctors have found that it’s more effective to address both the mental health and substance abuse challenge at the same time.
Alcohol abuse also raises the chances of legal problems, such as drunk driving, and violence as it skews your judgment.
The estimated cost to society of alcohol abuse has been estimated at more than $250 billion a year, including lost productivity, according to the University of Washington Medical Center.
How Alcohol Abuse Differs from Alcoholism
The defining characteristic of alcoholism, also known as alcohol use disorder, is an emotional and/or physical reliance on alcohol. Drinking becomes the center of a person’s life, continuing in the face of personal, professional, financial, or emotional problems, according to the Harvard Medical School. Symptoms of the disorder can include:
- Drinking alone
- Driving drunk
- Blacking out from drinking
- Moodiness/personality changes
- Failing to take care of hygiene or personal appearance
In that sense, there is no fixed number of drinks that pushes someone into the direction of a disorder. Researchers estimate that only about 10 percent of heavy drinkers reach the category of alcoholism.
But you can still abuse alcohol without being an alcoholic. Heavy drinking typically involves exceeding 14 drinks per week. This level of drinking can still cause personal and professional problems, and damage your health, even while falling short of alcoholism.
The risks of alcohol abuse lead to many dark consequences. As hard as it is to ask for help, sometimes professional support is what you need. Right Step Houston helps individuals understand and overcome alcohol abuse. Our team of specialists provides alcohol as well as drug counseling that can stop the abuse and put your life back on track. Our programs include alcohol addiction treatment, medical drug detox programs, and addiction therapy programs, along with various aftercare programs. Call us today for a confidential consultation at 1.844.768.0169.