Alcohol Addiction and Abuse

Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions in America. The social acceptance of drinking can often lead to denial—and, if left untreated, severe consequences.

Understanding Alcohol

Alcohol is a legal, controlled substance that lowers anxiety and inhibitions. It has a broad range of side effects, from loss of coordination to slurred speech. Not everyone who drinks is considered to be an alcoholic. However, anyone whose life is negatively affected by alcohol on a consistent basis is considered to have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol is commonly consumed as a drink in various forms, including beer, wine and hard liquor.

Beer Addiction and Abuse

Beer is an alcoholic drink typically made from water, barley, hops and yeast. Beer generally has the lowest alcohol content by volume (ABV) when compared to wine or hard liquor. A beer’s ABV ranges from two percent to 12 percent. The most commonly consumed beers (Budweiser, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Corona, Busch) have an ABV range of four to six percent. For the average person, it takes approximately three to five beers to be over the legal driving limit.

Beer has become synonymous with many activities in American culture. Sporting events and happy hours are the chosen go-to activities by many professionals. Many college campus social activities revolve around drinking games.

Microbreweries and home brewers are pushing the limits on new flavors and tastes that are being introduced. Craft beer has risen to be fashionable acceptable to consume. One of the side effects of the craft beer revolution is that these beers have a greater amount of alcohol content (11%-12%) than domestic draft beers.

Everyone who drinks, whether it is only during social activities or craft beers, is susceptible to an alcohol use disorder. There are many signs of a problem: continuing to drink when others have stopped or feeling the need to drink during uncomfortable or boring situations. Get help for a beer addiction now.

Wine Addiction and Abuse

Fermented grapes or other fruits are used to make wine. Wine is commonly sold as white or red. There are a wide variety of flavors. Examples of white wines are chardonnay, pinot grigio, Riesling, and moscato. Examples of red wines are merlot, cabernet, pinot noir, and zinfandel. The various types are based on the grapes used.

Wine has a more concentrated amount of alcohol when compared to beer. An average 12 ounce beer has the same alcohol content as a five ounce glass of wine. It is considered to be a “classy” drink and is often consumed with gourmet cheeses or at dinner parties. Because of the social status connected with drinking wine, it is difficult to spot when someone has a problem.

Fifty-nine percent of wine drinkers in the United States are women. Women are therefore the target audience in advertising campaigns promoting the drink. Because of this, women may be disproportionately susceptible to a use disorder. It should be noted, however, that either gender can develop a problem with wine. If you or someone you care about has been drinking wine more frequently than intended or using it to combat anxious or depressive feelings, there may be a deeper issue at play. Get help for a wine addiction.

Liquor Addiction and Abuse

Liquor is the umbrella term for all hard alcoholic drinks or spirits like tequila, vodka, gin, rum and whiskey. Liquor has a much higher ABV than beer or wine and is often mixed with sodas, juices or water. When not mixed into drinks, liquor is consumed as a shot or “neat.” Because carbonation speeds up the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream, an individual can become intoxicated quicker by drinking liquor mixed with soda. Carbonation speeds up the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, so drinking liquor mixed with soda can cause quicker intoxication. The lower liquid content of shots makes them easier to consume, which leads to a higher risk of abuse and subsequent drunkenness.

For many longtime drinkers, different drinks are associated with different feelings of intoxication. Science has not proven this. Studies seem to show that alcohol produces the same effects in everyone, regardless of the type of drink being consumed. However, the social setting in which an alcoholic beverage is consumed may impact the drinker’s perception of their own intoxication. Someone having a glass of wine at dinner is more likely to report feeling tired and happy, while tequila shots at a high-energy party can produce a vastly different kind of intoxication.

Those with a severe alcohol use disorder may feel that they can’t start their day without a swig of vodka, or finish it without a glass of whiskey on the rocks. Regardless of the type of liquor consumed, alcohol of any kind possesses serious addiction potential. Get help for a liquor addiction now.

Understanding Binge Drinking

A subset of problem drinkers is binge drinkers. Binge drinking for men are those who consume five or more alcoholic drinks over a two-hour period. For women, binge drinking is the consumption of four or more drinks in the same time period. An infrequent binge drinker may be able to stop on his or her own. However, someone addicted to alcohol may want to stop drinking and not be able to without help. In most cases, prolonged binge drinking can develop into alcoholism.

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Immediate Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant.  It slows down mental and bodily processes. After the first drink of alcohol, some users may experience a decrease in feelings of anxiety or stress. Alcohol has been referred to as a social lubricant. This means that drinkers are more likely to feel confident when meeting new people and less concerned about how they are perceived by others.

Because alcohol is legal and socially accepted, it can be hard to tell the difference between casual use and abuse. In general, any usage of alcohol that results in negative consequences is considered abuse. Some of the negative consequences of alcohol use include:

  • physical harm or illness
  • strained relationships
  • problems at work
  • financial difficulty

When abuse becomes more frequent, it can escalate into addiction.

Addiction to Alcohol

Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is marked by a craving for alcohol and the inability to stop drinking. Signs of an alcohol addiction include:

  • frequently drinking more than intended.
  • wanting to stop drinking but being unable to.
  • developing a tolerance to alcohol.
  • feeling symptoms of withdrawal when stopping.
  • letting personal and professional responsibilities flounder in favor of drinking.
  • spending an extreme amount of time trying to get and drink alcohol.

 

Take our quiz to find out if your drinking may be a problem.

High-Functioning Alcoholics

There is a specific class of alcoholism known as high-functioning alcoholism. High-functioning alcoholics are individuals who are capable of keeping the alcoholism from interfering with their professional and personal lives.

A New York Times article estimated that as many as half of all alcoholics are high-functioning alcoholics. Lawyers, professors and doctors make up a large portion of these individuals.

High-functioning alcoholics very rarely recognize they have a problem until they face severe alcohol-related consequences. The danger of high-functioning alcoholism is that it can continue for years without a person ever recognizing they have a problem.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Because it is so common in today’s culture, alcohol is often abused alongside other drugs. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol poses a serious risk when mixed with other drugs of the same class, such as benzodiazepines and some painkillers. Alcohol on its own can be dangerous, but combining with other substances can quickly prove lethal.

Statistics of Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

7x

Adults who first used alcohol before they turned 15 are 7 times more likely to develop

alcoholism than adults who first used alcohol at the age of 21.

40+ percent

Over 40% of all drug-related emergency room visits of people under the age of 20 were caused by alcohol abuse.

2 million

Over 2 million people found treatment for their alcoholism in 2011.

Get Help for Alcohol Addiction Now

You don’t have to go through the recovery process alone. People who can assist you with the struggles you’re facing are available. Reach out and get in touch with one today.