Alcohol AbuseWith the start of a new year, people often set their resolutions to get their life back on track. Losing weight, eating healthier, quit smoking, climb out of debt, etc. Well, for most of these, there seems to be a ton of information about how to obtain these new resolutions. Articles boast, “Let us help you to find the new you!” Well, there’s another part of getting your life back on track that is more than just losing weight or quitting smoking to get healthier. I thought of this topic, because recently here in Ireland, Drink Aware have been running campaigns on reducing alcohol intake.

To help in the efforts of raising awareness about alcohol abuse in both Ireland and the United States, This is the first in another short series. This series is on Alcohol Abuse. This Week, will be educational to inform us about alcohol abuse. Next week will be about triggers and relapse prevention.

Statistics

  • According to reports by the CDC this past October, about 79,000 people in the United States die each year from consuming too much alcohol.
  • In Ireland, 40% of women, and 70% of men meet criteria for alcohol abuse
  • Irish Citizens drink about 20% more than the entire rest of Europe
  • Worried about the government cutting funds for health care? 8.9% of the total health care budget in Ireland was spent JUST on treating alcohol related injuries and diseases.
  • According to the Chief Medical Officer of Ireland, a 30% reduction in alcohol-related harm would save taxpayers an estimated €1 billion a year.

Okay – so we get it… alcohol abuse appears to be a bit of a problem… 

Top Booze Myths Uncovered

From DrinkAware.ie 

1 – She can hold her drink just as well as he can.

Women build up a higher concentration of alcohol in their bodies than men. Why? Proportionately, women have less body water than men; therefore, their alcohol levels become proportionately higher. Some evidence also shows that women metabolize alcohol differently from men.

2 – I’m so hungover because I mixed different drinks together

All the alcohol contained in each drink is the same, the only thing that differs is it’s flavourings. While some evidence does show clear liquors cause a bit less of a hangover than dark liquors, you still have a hangover because of the total amount of alcohol you have consumed.

3 – Have a little bit of “hair of the dog,” it’ll lessen your hangover

Again, wrong! Hangover is your body going through withdrawal of the alcohol and dehydration. While you may initially feel better after having a drink when you wake up, you are just prolonging the inevitable. Remember, it takes one hour for your body to process 1 standard drink. That means if you went out and had 10 beers last night, it’s going to take your body 10 hours to process all the drinks. Also, alcohol is a diuretic – so while you’re taking in all that alcohol, if you aren’t replenishing yourself with water, you become extremely dehydrated. Wondered where that headache in the morning came from? When your body is dehydrated, it pulls water from your brain to fuel all your other organs. SO DRINK WATER!

4 – Just go workout and sweat, you can sweat the hangover away!

Again – Wrong! You need to rehydrate. Only 5-10% of the alcohol in your body is processed through urine and/or sweat. Also, don’t overdo it on the exercising, it will just put more stress on your already deprived body. Getting out in the air and walking around the block may help get your blood pumping and help you feel a little better, but an extreme workout will just make you feel worse.

5 – It was that last drink that got me, I shouldn’t have let you buy me that last drink!

What damages your body is drinking for long periods of time, and quickly consuming mass amounts of alcohol. Long term drinking can lead to alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, etc. So make sure you are watching your overall intake of alcohol.

6 – I shouldn’t have said those things to my boss, it was the alcohol that made me do it

Whether it’s something you said to your boss, a friend, a partner, etc… You are still able to control your behaviour while you drink. Granted, drinking alcohol loosens your inhibitions, but you still do have control.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence

  • Tolerance: if you need more alcohol to get the same levels of intoxication, your body has built up a tolerance to alcohol.
  • Withdrawal: this is the physical effects of your body craving alcohol because it has become physically addicted to it. If you drink to avoid any of these symptoms, it is a HUGE red flag…
    Anxiety or Jumpiness       Depression
    Shakiness or Trembling    Irritability
    Sweating                                  Fatigue
    Nausea & Vomiting             Loss of Appetite
    Insomnia                                 Headache
  • Loss of Control: This occurs when you drink more alcohol than you wanted to drink, for longer than intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.
  • You Want to Quit Drinking, but Can’t: you have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your attempts to have been unsuccessful
  • You have given up other activities because of drinking: You’re spending less time on activities that were at one point important to you. These could be hanging out with friends and family, going to the gym, pursuing hobbies, etc.
  • Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus: you spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about drinking, or recovering from drinking. You have few, if any, interests or social involvements that do not revolve around drinking alcohol.
  • You drink even though you know it causes problems: this could be drinking even though you know it’s destroying a relationship, making your depression or anxiety worse, or causing health problems.
  • Drinking to avoid feelings: drinking to avoid feeling depression or pain, or to relax and feel better is a sign that you are drinking for the wrong reasons.

In Sum –

Alcohol can definitely cause some health problems if you drink heavily, and keeping an eye on to how often you drink, how much, and the reasons surrounding it can help you to keep a hold of your drinking. Tune in Monday for a post about identifying drinking triggers. If you feel you have a problem, and would like to seek treatment, Local AA groups exist in most cities of the world. Also, checkout what therapists or drug treatment centers are in your area. Often alcohol abuse is the result of another problem, so a therapist can help you to identify that trigger.

What are your experiences with alcohol and alcohol abuse? Have you noticed other signs that someone has a problem as well? Therapists, if you are looking for worksheets, keep an eye out on my resources tab: addiction, I will try to add some worksheets soon!

Works Cited & More Information

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism: Data/Statistical Tables 

NIAAA: Alcohol Screening & Brief Intervention for Youth – A Practitioner’s Guide

Alcohol Action Ireland: Overview of Alcohol-Related Harm Facts and Statistics

HelpGuide.Org: Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Addiction Recovery Basics: 10 Warning Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

DrinkAware.ie: Top Ten Booze Myths Uncovered

Addiction Inbox: The Economic Cost of Heavy Drinking

Addiction Inbox: 7 Myths the Alcohol Industry Wants You to Believe

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

Alcohol Abuse: When it becomes more than just having a good time
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