Alcohol abuse is defined as the continued use of alcohol despite suffering negative consequences in the areas of social, legal, or personal health
Even though drinking is common, alcohol can be a dangerous substance, especially when it is abused – many people cannot use alcohol without abusing it. Not being able to limit one’s alcohol consumption, no matter how infrequently drinking occurs, is a tell tale sign of alcoholism, and alcohol abuse is the beginning stage. It occurs every time someone gets drunk or suffers an unfortunate experience as a result of over – consumption of alcohol.
The effects of alcohol abuse
Although most drinkers have been drunk at some point in their lives, many can continue to consume alcohol socially without abusing it. There is a cross-section of drinkers however who cannot drink without abusing alcohol.
While some signs of alcohol abuse are obvious, others can be subtle, often due to the availability and acceptance of alcohol in many social and professional circles.
Some common signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Drunkenness and intoxication from alcohol (acute alcohol poisoning)
- Poor decision making
- Impaired judgment
- Getting into fights
- Inability to drink in moderation
- Difficulty functioning the day after drinking
- DUI and automobile accidents
- Emotional turmoil
- Legal consequences
- Depression and anxiety
- Suicidal ideation
- Reduced productivity at work
- Broken relationships with family and friends
- Physical harm (liver, pancreas, heart, stomach, and kidney ailments and brain damage)
Alcohol abuse can spiral out of control in individuals surrounded by either work associates or friends for whom alcohol intake is a part of normal routine. While some people can drink alcohol in moderation without any negative consequences, others are more susceptible to alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse: How it starts and steps to stop
Alcohol abuse begins for many at a young age. Alcohol is the beverage of choice at parties and nights out with friends. A major milestone in young Americans’ lives is their 21st birthday, when they reach the legal drinking age. Most have tried alcohol long before the age of 21 however.
Underage Drinking Statistics (updated January 2011)
- During the past month (30 days), 26.4% of underage persons (ages 12-20) used alcohol, and binge drinking among the same age group was 17.4%.
- Alcohol use remains extremely widespread among today’s teenagers. Nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade.
Alcohol is America’s most pervasively abused substance: A 2006 poll showed 64% of Americans are drinkers, with nearly three-quarters of them drinking in the last week.
There are 8.1 million diagnosed alcoholics in the United States. According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, 14 million Americans are alcohol-dependent.
Aside from its physical toll, the social and economic effects of alcoholism are staggering, as documented in our Alcoholism Statistics section.
The younger an individual is when they begin drinking, the easier it is to become an alcohol abuser
“Nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade.”
Young people often feel peer pressure to drink heavily and often, without realizing that alcohol is just as addictive as other drugs – and just as dangerous. According to alcohol industry watchdog the Marin Institute for Youth:
- Every day, more than 11,000 young people try their first drink.
- People who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol problem than those who wait until they’re 21.
- Nearly a third of high school students say they had 5 or more drinks in a sitting in the past 30 days.
Treatment for alcohol abuse
Step 1: Alcohol abusers need to admit they have a problem.
Alcohol abuse is a condition than can go unnoticed for years as an abuser’s tolerance for alcohol grows, ultimately progressing into full-blown alcoholism.
Quitting cold turkey has a very low success rate for alcohol abusers and can sometimes lead to life-threatening seizures and blackouts. If there is a physical dependence on alcohol, it is important to quit with the supervision of qualified medical professionals.
Step 2: Seek treatment to learn tools for recovery
There is no cure for alcohol abuse – only treatment, including counseling, therapy, and support. Treatment provides tools to abstain from alcohol when faced with stressors, triggers, and the temptation to drink.
Have questions? Let our trained counselors help. Call now.