Alcohol Effects On Behavior
Slurred speech, motor impairment, confusion and memory problems are just a few common consequences of alcohol consumption in the short-term. This can make drinkers more prone to accidents, injuries and violent behavior. Alcohol is a factor in more than half of fatal burn injuries, drownings and homicides. Its also a significant factor in moderate to severe injuries, suicides and sexual assaults. Alcohol plays a part in 40 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes.
Heavy drinking may also result in risky sexual behaviors like unprotected sex, which can lead to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. These alcohol addiction effects can have lifelong consequences.
Alcohol Use Disorder Assessment Tests
If youre unsure if your drinking places you at risk for developing AUD, or if you think you may already be struggling with alcoholism, there are several assessment tests which can be completed to better understand your level of alcohol use. Some of these assessments include:
CAGE: CAGE is a simple assessment that can help to identify alcohol problems using a 4-question test.11
C Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
A Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
G Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
E Eye opener: Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
Two positive responses indicate further assessment is necessary.
MAST: The Michigan Alcohol Screening Test is a self-scoring questionnaire developed in 1971 to help identify alcohol dependent drinkers.12,13 Different forms of the test have been utilized over the years, with various iterations containing as few as 10 to more than 20 yes/no questions to assess the presence and severity of a persons drinking. It is still considered one of the most accurate screening tests.
AUDIT: The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test was created by the World Health Organization as a tool to detect alcohol problems experienced within the past year. A score of 8 or more on typically indicates harmful or hazardous drinking.
An Irresistible Urge To Behave In A Certain Way Especially Against Ones Conscious Wishes
He has an irresistible urge, that no matter how much he fought it with his conscious mind, he could not win. Alcohol always won. Does this mean he was hopeless? By no means! Treatment isnt a cure for an addict or alcoholic but what it provides is a period of time where the alcoholic is forcefully separated from his or her compulsions. It is also a time to learn how to handle your compulsions. That is what he has never learned. It is what I tried to teach him. It is why I tried to help him develop a plan for the weekends when the compulsion would be the strongest. It is why I told him he needed to go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting every night.
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Effects Of Alcohol On Different Populations
Alcohol affects everyone in different ways. Genes, environment and diet can influence whether a person is prone to develop an alcohol-related disease, while factors such as age, weight and sex can impact alcohols more immediate effects.
Women tend to be more vulnerable than men to the effects of alcohol due to differences in how their bodies absorb and metabolize alcohol. For women, is defined as consuming four or more drinks during a single occasion, while heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks per week. For men, binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks during a single occasion, while heavy drinking is 15 or more drinks per week.
The effects of alcohol addiction may also have a more serious impact on seniors, as aging changes how the body handles alcohol consumption. Alcohol abuse may worsen some health problems like diabetes, osteoporosis, memory loss, high blood pressure and mood disorders. It may also increase the likelihood of accidents such as falls and fractures.
To get help with a possible alcohol use disorder or other substance use disorder, or give us a call at .
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. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. . Alcohol Use Disorder.
. American Psychiatric Association. . Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders .American Psychiatric Publishing 490-491.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Drinking Levels Defined.
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The Definition Of Alcoholism
Alcoholism is the most severe form of alcohol abuse and involves the inability to manage drinking habits. It is also commonly referred to as alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorder is organized into three categories: mild, moderate and severe. Each category has various symptoms and can cause harmful side effects. If left untreated, any type of alcohol abuse can spiral out of control.
Individuals struggling with alcoholism often feel as though they cannot function normally without alcohol. This can lead to a wide range of issues and impact professional goals, personal matters, relationships and overall health. Over time, the serious side effects of consistent alcohol abuse can worsen and produce damaging complications.
You dont have to suffer from alcohol addiction in silence. There are many treatment options available to help you overcome alcohol abuse and achieve long-term sobriety. We can help you find the right alcohol rehab facility that fits your needs. to get started on your road to recovery.
The biggest struggle in my life was the constant feeling of emptiness and being alone. Substances turned on me and they were no longer fun nor a solution. My addiction put me in risky situations Quitting was out of question, I was powerless.
Risks Associated With Alcohol Addiction
Some of the long- and short-term social, physical, mental health issues associated with alcohol addiction include:
- relationship issues
- problems with law enforcement/legal system
- loss of employment
If someone is showing these signs, letting them sleep off the alcohol, or giving them a cup of coffee is not a guaranteed solution, and can actually be dangerous. The best thing to do is to get them medical attention.
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When You Stop Being An Enabler
Many times when an enabling system is removed, the fear will force a person with an alcohol use problem to seek help, but there are no guarantees. This can be extremely difficult to accept.
Take some time to learn more about enabling and the family disease of alcoholism, attend an Al-Anon meeting in your area. It may also be helpful to learn more about the resources and information available for families affected by alcoholism.
Attending Al-Anon in person will help you feel more empowered as you stop enabling, and less alone in the process. Unfortunately, none of us can control what another will do.
Yet we do have the power to set boundaries and respect our own lives. Consider 10 things to stop doing if you love an alcoholic that can help you take back your own life whether or not your alcoholic gives up drinking.
If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.
Physical Signs Of An Alcoholic
No matter how good your partner may be at hiding behaviors of alcohol misuse, physical signs and symptoms are often more difficult to hide. These signs may include unexplained weight loss or weight gain, broken facial capillaries, flushed skin, premature aging, dry skin, brittle hair and fingernails, unexplained bruises, and jaundice. Hand tremors are also a common sign of alcohol abuse, particularly early in the morning upon waking.
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Brain Chemistry During Alcohol Use
Like any other addictive drug, alcohol affects the brains chemistry. When a person drinks alcohol, the drug causes their brain to release the neurotransmitters, which are chemicals responsible for signaling pleasure and reward. In the brain, alcohol increases the effects of neurotransmitters that slow the body down while also decreasing the effects of neurotransmitters that speed the body up. The combined effect results in many of the intoxicating effects of alcohol.
So What Are The Differences
The differences lie in how each person chooses to deal with their disease. There are people who have found a solution to their drinking issue in Alcoholics Anonymous, and those with an addiction to heroin who have found theirs in the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. That being said, there are also those who have found solutions in both. There are many alcoholics who have become addicted to other substances, and there are a lot of people who are addicted to drugs and when they stop the drugs, they become addicted to alcohol. Had Bill Wilson also identified as an addict, the minutia and taboo surrounding identifying as one or the other may have been non-existent.
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Negative Impact Of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol misuse can impact every aspect of your life in ways you may not expect. After surveying over one thousand people who had chosen to stop using alcohol, a 2021 poll by The Recovery Village found physical health , mental health and relationships to be the most common negative impacts.
Drinking also impacted peoples careers, parental abilities, finances, hygiene, and legal status. When asked to rank these impacts, it didnt matter if you drank heavily or not, or tried to stop using alcohol or not: physical health, mental health and relationships still took the biggest hit in respondents lives.
Among more than two thousand respondents reporting health complications directly related to their alcohol use:
- More than 1 in 3 reported depression
- Nearly 1 in 3 reported high blood pressure
- 1 in 6 reported liver disease
- 1 in 10 reported cirrhosis
- 1 in 10 reported cardiovascular disease
- 1 in 7 reported a weakened immune system
- 1 in 10 reported nerve damage
- 1 in 12 reported pancreatitis
- 1 in 11 reported seizures
- 1 in 13 reported cancer
But what is excessive drinking? There are two types:
Five Signs That Drinking May Be Getting Out Of Control
According to Health Canada guidelines, heavy drinking is considered having 5 or more drinks on at least one occasion per month for males, and 4 or more drinks for females.
A statistic like that leaves a lot of gaps some people drink on a daily basis, for example, but may not reach the 5-or-more threshold. Obviously, counting drinks isnt the only way to determine whether drinking is becoming problematic.
Heres a few other ways to tell whether drinking has crossed the line from moderate/social use to something potentially more serious:
- Youre engaging in risk-taking behaviour, like having unsafe sex or extra-marital affairs, or mixing medications and drugs
- You routinely choose drugs or alcohol, or activities that involve drugs or alcohol, over activities that dont involve drinking or using. That might mean youre missing your childs summer concert in favour of going to the bar, even though the consequences will be negative
- Youve already been in a car or bike accident related to drinking and using
- Your behaviour is changing, particularly at home and around the kids
- If you told anyone the truth about how much you were consuming, they would probably be worried or angry about it, so you hide the behaviour.
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Risk Factors For Excessive Alcohol Use And Alcoholism
There are both short-term and long-term health risks for excessive alcohol use and alcoholism.
Short-Term Health Risks
Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that can be dangerous and harmful to the user. They are most often the result of binge drinking.
Short-term side effects and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
- Injuries, including vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns
- Violence, including homicide, sexual assault, partner violence, and suicide
- Alcohol poisoning
- Risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviors can potentially lead to unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
- Miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders in pregnant women
- Memory loss or blackouts
- A hangover
Long-Term Health Risks
With time, excessive drinking can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious health issues.
Long-term side effects and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
- High blood pressure
- Mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety
- Learning and memory issues, including dementia and poor school and work performance
- Social issues, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment
What is the definition of being an alcoholic?
An alcoholic is a person who has a psychological and physical dependence on alcohol. Alcoholism is a severe mental disorder. It often prevents those experiencing it from stopping drinking, despite potential or actual negative causes.
How Does The Physical Addiction Differ Between Drugs And Alcohol
When discussing illegal drugs as a common group and comparing this group to alcohol, we can point to some differences in how the addiction changes our physical body:
The more serious effects of alcohol abuse, in terms of its physical effects on our bodies, are depression, high blood pressure, ulcers, alcoholic hepatitis, damage to the heart, liver, pancreas and immune system, comas, strokes and certain cancers.
The more serious effects of drug abuse, again, in terms of its physical effects on our bodies, are overdoses, violent or accidental death, organ failures due to accumulated toxicity and getting a disease, like HIV, while addicted.
Though the physical wakes left by alcohol and drugs differ, it is crucial to understand addiction in terms of its total cost to human beings. The Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs rates drugs, including alcohol, according to the level of harm they do us, as whole human beings, and alcohol rates as the most dangerous substance, at a 72 on their developed scale, while Ecstasy, for example, rates a 9. But it is their similarities, and not their differences, that the addicted person feels most closely, whether it is pain pills or vodka that soothes their inner turmoil.
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Physical Symptoms Of Alcohol Addiction
When alcoholism is severe, an individual may develop a physical dependence on the drug.
Symptoms of dependence include becoming tolerant to some ofalcohols effects and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when alcohol is not consumed. A person who is physically dependenton alcohol may also experience cravings an intense need or desire to drink.
Dr. Kevin Wandler of Advanced Recovery Systems describes how tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are indicators of alcoholdependence.
Tolerance symptoms include a need to drink more than you once did to achieve the desired level of intoxication. People experiencingthis phenomenon might even switch up their drink of choice moving from beer or wine to hard liquor, for example, toaccommodate their need for more alcohol.
Not everyone with an alcohol use disorder develops a physical dependence to alcohol, but people may exhibit other physicalsymptoms. Because long-term heavy alcohol use can damage almost every organ in the body, a person with an alcohol usedisorder can develop an array ofalcohol-related diseases and disorders that cause many symptoms.
Common physical symptoms of an alcohol use disorder:
- Experiencing repeated blackouts
- Mood swings, depression, anxiety or panic attacks
- Sleeping problems or insomnia
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
Do Not Take Over Responsibilities
Are you doing some of the chores around the house that the person with the alcohol use problem used to do? Have you taken on parenting responsibilities with your children that the two of you used to share?
If you are doing anything that the alcoholic would be doing if they were sober, you are in a way enabling them to avoid their responsibilities.
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Their Lives Revolve Around Drinking
Those who suffer from alcohol addiction prefer to have friends who drink and attend activities and events where alcohol is easily accessible. They may avoid sober activities, and mistrust or dislike anyone who doesnt drink. They may take a flask to places that dont serve alcohol, drink early in the morning, or stay drunk all day.
Start With The Medical Approach
When someone is in the grip of addiction, their clarity quickly withers away. Suggest or schedule a routine check-up appointment. Inform the doctor of the addiction prior to the visit, and do so for multiple reasons. Theyll be better able to identify the issues and see past the excuses of the addict. Doctors will still protect doctor-patient confidentiality, but in their medical and professional opinions, they can also recommend courses of action to take, which can be very eye-opening for the addict. In some cases, it has been proven to help them think clearly when someone outside of their social or family circle is able to recognize issues. Before they are too far gone, its a wake-up call.
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Stigmas Associated With Drug And Alcohol Addiction
The social stigma attached to addiction tends to be stronger when the substance one is addicted to is illegal: It has been documented, for example, that most people who work in the healthcare industry have negative views of people who use illegal drugs, which obviously affects the treatment they offer.
The stigma around illicit drug use can also affect ones sense of worth, especially when we consider that a predisposition to low self-esteem is contributing factor to alcohol and drug abuse, taking illegal drugs, and being labeled as less by society, can easily exacerbate an existing problem.