Having a quiet drink at the end of a long day or a few loud ones with some mates on the weekend is a big part of our culture. Alcohol is so ingrained into our lifestyles it can be hard to decipher what’s a healthy amount and when we might be doing harm. One of the biggest myths about alcohol abuse is that if your not an alcoholic you don’t have a problem.
Alcohol abuse can appear in many different ways such as binge drinking, reliance to facilitate social interactions or to get through difficult or stressful times. We often forget that alcohol is a drug, it alters the way our brains functions and places a huge strain on our bodies. Physically it can do a lot of damage to our bodies, even in what some might consider a ‘normal’ consumption range particularly to our livers, stomachs and brains, is linked to obesity and is even responsible for several forms of cancer and diseases. Technically there’s no healthy amount to drink but doctors recommend a maximum of 1-2 standard drinks a day with several days a week not drinking. There’s a growing trend of people who choose not to drink at all purely for the improved health and well being they find accompanies an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Another big myth is binge drinking is only something young people do. In fact excessive drinking occurs in all age groups particularly at social events such as BBQs, dinners and work outings or just catching up with friends at the pub. It may seem like a bit of fun but the frequent consequences of drunk driving, domestic violence, sexual assault, street violence and accidental injuries are serious problems in our society. Alcohol alters our moods and behaviours and our ability to handle and react to certain situations. It doesn’t have to be a serious event to indicate alcohol abuse might be a problem; if you frequently find yourself arguing with partners or friends, regretting embarrassing or poor decisions the next day, getting into violent altercations, or frequently neglecting home, work or study responsibilities to drink or because of hangovers these are strong signs that you need to reconsider how much alcohol you are consuming.
Alcoholism can be incredibly harmful to your relationships. Aggressive and negligent behaviour towards loved ones such as partners, children or parents is often a product of alcohol abuse and can be place a huge strain and have traumatic consequences on those involved. Alcohol abusers are much more likely to get divorced, have problems with domestic violence, struggle with unemployment, and live in poverty.
Alcoholism can be a slow building problem that can often go unnoticed. Our bodies have the ability to gradually build up a tolerance to drugs such as alcohol so that the drinker will need to consume higher and higher amounts to get the same effect they desire. Severe alcohol dependence can become evident when a person physically or mentally feels they need to drink. They will feel withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, shaking or trembling, sweating, fatigue, headache, insomnia and irritability when they are not drinking.
If you feel that you have a problem with drinking the important thing to do is to seek help and talk to someone you trust whether a loved one or a health care professional. Reflect on the reasons or circumstance surrounding your drinking and how you can work towards reducing or cutting out alcohol. There is a wealth of support services that can help you learn to manage, reduce or quit drinking and help you get back on the right track for your health and well being.