A Simple Alcohol Abuse Definition
Few people would disagree that excessive drinking is harmful, but, even moderate drinking can be considered alcohol abuse if there is a “continued use of alcohol despite the development of social, legal, or health problems” as defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
What are the Characteristics of Alcohol Abuse?
It may be considered alcohol abuse if the person drinks alcohol:
- Continuously or daily despite having physical or psychological health problems from doing so
- On occasion in excessive amounts
- While under age
- While engaging in activities where alcohol consumption increases the danger to themselves or others such as swimming or driving
- While using other substances
- Despite it causing distress to self or others
- Despite failure to fulfill family, employer, financial, legal, or social obligations
- At socially unacceptable times, places, or events
- Despite it causing them to commit unwanted, violent, criminal, or immoral, or dishonest acts
What Are the Side Effects of Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse can lead to many physical dangers including health risks involving the brain, liver, heart, pancreas, central nervous system, immune system, and increased risk of certain cancers in the throat, mouth, esophagus, breast, and liver.
Impaired motor skills from alcohol abuse are a leading cause of accidental injuries involving car crashes, falls, or operations of dangerous machinery. Alcohol abuse is often associated with assaults, firearm mishaps, sexually transmitted disease, and other dangerous risks.
Psychological effects of alcohol abuse include impaired cognition, memory, judgment, emotional stability, and loss of inhibitions that result in immoral, dishonest, criminal, or dangerous behaviors. Many people who abuse alcohol suffer from increased anxiety, depression, mood swings, aggressive behaviors, stress, and insomnia from the imbalances in neurotransmission functions between the brain and central nervous system effecting every other part of the body.
The Difference between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
Like alcohol abuse can cause distress or harm to the person using alcohol or others, these same characteristics are associated with alcoholism. The difference, however, is that alcoholism is also characterized by tolerance, dependence, uncontrollable use, denial, and withdrawals.
Tolerance increases as the brain becomes desensitized to alcohol consumptions. The adaptations result in physiological changes that require the person to use more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. When dependency develops, it creates overwhelming urges to use alcohol, the need to use it to feel a sense of “normalcy”, and withdrawals when the person’s blood alcohol content drops to a certain level.