What Is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse is a rampant problem that many people face and, even though it is legal, alcohol is our most misused substance. While it is true that most people who consumes alcohol will not become addicted, there are certain people who may be more susceptible to addiction.

What is well known about alcohol abuse is that the effects of alcohol can vary significantly between individuals. The factors that have influence over those effects include genetics, family history, a person’s health, age, and how much and how often one drinks. And while alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are not the same, alcohol abuse can lead to addiction to alcohol.

Alcohol addiction is a chronic disease that involves the continual and uncontrolled use of alcohol regardless of the impact that it is having on the patient, their families, their relationships with others or their careers. Patients who suffer from alcohol addiction are often diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or even alcohol dependence where the patient’s body requires the presence of alcohol just to continuing functioning normally. Without it, an alcohol addicted individual will experience severe and possibly life-threatening withdrawal.

Typical Signs of Alcohol Abuse

Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking

Binge drinking is excessive drinking that is defined as 5 or more drinks in 2 hours for a man and 4 or more drinks for a woman. It is estimated that 1 in 6 American adults engage in binge drinking approximately 4 times each month, and binge drinking occurs most frequently among adults aged 18-34.

Although binge drinking itself is not completely correlated to alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, it can lead to a variety of significant health issues, including accidents, violence and domestic abuse, alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, cancer (including breast, mouth, liver, and colon cancer), and memory loss.

Alcohol & Pregnancy

Alcohol abuse is responsible for a variety of significant health impacts during pregnancy and there is no known level of use that is considered safe. The reason consuming alcohol during pregnancy is dangerous is because it can affect the fetus throughout its development. In some cases, it can result in miscarriage, stillbirth and a wide range of developmental issues including physical, behavioral, and intellectual impairments. Furthermore, children born with fetal alcohol syndrome can suffer from low body weight, coordination issues, hyperactivity, learning disabilities and vision or hearing problems. It is recommended that women never drink while pregnant.

Underage Alcohol Use

Many teenagers and minors engage in alcohol abuse because of peer pressure and the ease of acquiring alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcohol tops the list of substances abused by those who are underage. According to their 2018 study, more than 8% of 8th graders, 18% of 10th graders, and 30% of 12th graders were active alcohol drinkers. The typical signs of teens who engage in alcohol abuse include diminished energy levels, poor concentration and coordination, mood swings, changing social circles, declining academic performance, and general behavioral issues.

There are many health and social risks for teens who drink. They can be more sexually active than their peers, and studies show that they participate in unprotected sex more often than teens who do not consume alcohol. Teens who abuse alcohol are also at an increased risk of rape or assault and they also get injured or die in car crashes involving alcohol at disproportionate rates as compared to the general public.

Studies also show that alcohol abuse by underage drinkers can have adverse effects on the adolescent brain. Brain development in adolescents continues into the early 20s and alcohol abuse during the brain’s formative years can negatively impact how the brain develops. It can also lead to learning problems and increase the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder in the future

Signs and Health Effects of Regular Alcohol Use

The effects of alcohol abuse and heavy alcohol consumption in general can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Impaired judgment
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Memory loss.

Risk of significant personal harm or long-term health problems are increased with chronic alcohol consumption. People who use excessive amounts of alcohol are at higher risk for the following health outcomes:

  • Cancers
  • Increased risk of heart problems, such as cardiomyopathy
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Brain damage
  • Weakened immune system
  • Ulcers

Identifying Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol abuse has the potential to lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is a chronic disease in the brain that is defined by the compulsive use of alcohol, an inability to control how much you drink, and negative feelings when you are not drinking. Signs that may indicate an alcohol use disorder include:

  • Neglecting personal/family responsibilities
  • Declining performance at work
  • Depression
  • Fighting with family member
  • Inability to control drinking.
  • Failing in attempts to stop drinking
  • Needing increasing amounts of alcohol to feel its effects
  • Drinking and driving
  • Experiencing withdrawal when not drinking.

The Medical Treatment of Alcohol Abuse

Patients who suffer from alcohol abuse will benefit from the types of medication assisted treatment (MAT) that New Life Medical Addiction Services offers. These medications have the effect of minimizing the cravings for alcohol and decreasing the risk of relapse. In combination with behavioral therapies, the drugs that New Life uses to treat alcohol use disorder include:

Campral (also known as acamprosate), helps to control the anxiety, restlessness and insomnia that often accompany alcohol withdrawal and acts on the GABA and glutamate neurotransmitter systems. Campral is shown to help people maintain longer-term recovery, especially in those patients who are severely alcohol dependent.

Disulfiram (Antabuse), deters drinking in patients who have a high level of motivation to quit. However, if a person takes disulfiram and then uses alcohol, the result is nausea, flushing, and heart palpitations.

Naltrexone, which acts on the opioid receptors in the brain to block the reward of drinking and potentially reduce cravings for alcohol. An extended-release form (Vivitrol) is available and only needs to be administered by injection once a month.

Counseling for Alcohol Misuse and Addiction

New Life has licensed certified mental health specialists and licensed certified drug and alcohol councilors on staff to provide counseling to our patients in recovery. These trained professionals are skilled at helping people better understand the root causes of their addictions and to help them stick with their recovery by changing their attitudes and behaviors towards drug use and by helping them engage in healthy life skills.

The kinds of counseling that New Life offers includes:

  • Individual counseling, which can include discussing the problems and stresses which could have been the trigger for alcohol abuse. It can also include setting goals, talking about setbacks, and celebrating the progress a patient has made in the path to recovery.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps our patients recognize the negative patterns of thinking and behavior which lead to their issues with alcohol and reveals ways to change that behavior. It also provides the kind of coping skills that helps our patients manage the stressors that cause them to drink.
  • Group counseling, which gives our patients a chance to learn about the difficulties and challenges others are having and to illuminate strategies for dealing with the situations they may come across.
  • Family counseling, which includes partners or spouses and other family members who are close to the patient. Family counseling can be a critical step in the healing process when bad or disruptive behavior has damaged family relationships.
  • Peer coaching where staff members who have had their own problems with alcoholism and alcohol abuse can provide insight through their own experiences.

You don’t need to be sentenced to life of misusing alcohol. Contact us today to start your new life! Call: 856-942-3700 or send us a Text Message

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