Drinking alcohol is an accepted part of the culture in many parts of the world. Those who engage in this activity find that it benefits their life in a number of ways. Moderate drinking helps people relax and feel a bit more sociable. There is even research that suggests that an occasional drink can be good for health. Most individuals who drink alcohol will “enjoy” the benefits of this drug without too many adverse effects.
Those people who regularly overindulge in alcohol can find that it begins to negatively impact their life. If this overindulgence occurs over a long period, it is likely to lead to alcoholism. Even those people who only abuse alcohol for a short time period can find that it causes a lot of damage in their life. The risks of harmful drinking include:
* Hangovers mean that people perform less well in college or work.
* Heavy drinking leads to decreased inhibitions. People do things they later deeply regret.
* Heavy drinking can lead to sexual promiscuity. This can lead to unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
* Drinking too much alcohol makes people more prone to accidents.
* People who drink a lot tend to make poor decisions. This can mean that they end up in situations that are dangerous.
* Heavy drinkers are more likely to be a victim of crime.
* Drinking too much is damaging to both physical and mental health.
* Using alcohol at harmful levels may lead to chemical addiction.
There is a lot of debate about what amount of alcohol use should be considered harmful. The usual recommended levels are not more than 1 drink per day for adult women and 2 drinks a day for adult men. There are those who argue that these limits are too low. These are people who drink more than this and claim not to suffer any adverse consequences as a result. It is certain, though, that regularly going above the recommended levels of safe drinking puts people more at risk of the dangerous consequences associated with alcohol. There is also the argument that there is no safe limit for alcohol use because it is a powerful toxin that can be dangerous even in low doses.
Those individuals who claim to not to experience negative results from drinking above safe limits can be deluded. This is because alcohol can do a lot of physical and mental damage before symptoms become noticeable. It is known that as people become physically addicted to a substance, they will experience denial. This defense mechanism can make it hard for such individuals to competently judge the impact of alcohol on their life.
It is helpful to be able to distinguish between harmful drinking and alcohol abuse. Drinking at harmful levels may be something that people do occasionally. Just because a person goes a bit wild at a party does not necessarily mean that they have a systematic or ongoing problem with drinking. It is different from alcohol abuse which is a more habitual type of behavior. The individual who regularly abuses alcohol is at far more risk of developing an addiction. The behaviors that distinguish alcohol abuse from occasional harmful drinking include:
* The individual often ends up in dangerous situations because of alcohol.
* Alcohol is interfering with the person’s ability to meet their responsibilities.
* The individual continues to drink too much even when there are obvious negative consequences of this behavior.
* Legal problems due to alcohol use such as a DUI or other criminal penalty.
Just one of the above behaviors can be enough to indicate that the individual has moved from harmful drinking to alcohol abuse.
Not everyone who engages in harmful levels of drinking will develop a chemical addiction to alcohol. People can go through periods of their life where they drink heavily. For a lot of individuals, this time of hard drinking will occur during their college years. At this time, they will likely experience some of the negative consequences of alcohol abuse, but they never cross the line to addiction. A lot of these people will just return to social drinking once the responsibilities of adulthood become a bigger part of their life. Studies have shown that up to 75% of those who abuse alcohol can later moderate or give up without any type of intervention.
A minority of those who abuse alcohol do end up becoming physically addicted. Once this chemical dependence occurs, it will be a lot more difficult to break away from harmful drinking. This is because the human body adapts so well to the presence of alcohol in the bloodstream. The cells and tissues become accustomed to working under toxic conditions. When alcohol levels fall too low, the body finds it hard to readjust. This leads to withdrawal symptoms that can be quite severe. Chronic alcoholics can respond so badly to the fall in blood alcohol levels that they can have seizures and possibly even die.
Many of those individuals who engage in harmful levels of drinking may be unaware of the real risks involved. Even those people who appreciate the risks may occasionally drink a bit too much. For long term health and mental well-being, though, it is important that the individual treats alcohol with extreme caution. There is no requirement for the person to become a fall-down drunk before alcohol can negatively impact their life.
Once an individual has become physically addicted to alcohol, it is highly unlikely that they can ever learn to moderate. The only solution is permanent abstinence from this drug. Those who are chemically addicted to alcohol usually find it difficult to stop. There are many treatment options such as rehab that can help them break away from substance abuse.