At times, it seems as if everyone drinks alcohol and culture is suffused with occasions that require the use of alcohol to grease social interactions and allow people to relax enough to have fun. Before you begin using alcohol, you should know the facts on alcohol use and the problems it can cause for society at large as well as for individuals.
Why Do People Drink Alcohol?
Alcohol use generally starts in the teen years, when young people drink to cover their self-consciousness and reduce their inhibitions. They may want others to think of them as “fun people” and for social acceptance into certain groups. The person may want to feel wilder, sexier or more social than they really are. In the college years, drinking may increase. The pressure of work and study schedules may increase the need to “blow off steam” on the weekends. This can be a form of mood regulation in which tension is relieved by alcohol use. In the adult years, drinking may become an accepted form of socialization. People meet for drinks, drink at holiday parties, drink at sports events and drink at dinner. People may drink to relieve work stress, to escape family problems or simply to feel happier. Alcohol can become an ever-present feature of your life, unless you monitor your drinking to ensure it does not become a problem.
How Much Do You Drink?
If you follow the social conventions that include alcohol use, you may find yourself drinking on a regular basis. Try being mindful of your drinking for just one week. Do you stop off at a bar after work with your co-workers? Do you have a beer with lunch? Do you drink alcohol while watching ball games with friends on weekends? Do you crave a beer when you get home after work? Do you drink at family get-togethers? You may find that your alcohol exceeds your ideas of how much you drink.
Are You at Risk for Alcohol Addiction?
If your alcohol use alarms you, consider whether you are at risk for becoming an alcoholic. If you have a family member who has had problems with alcohol addiction, you could be at risk as well. If you started drinking earlier than most people, it could be sign of a physical dependence on alcohol. If you have friends or spouse that always drink, they could be putting you at risk for alcohol addiction. If you take medications regularly, it could heighten the effects of alcohol, putting you at risk for addiction. If you find you drink steadily during the week, or binge drink on weekends, it could be a sign that you are at risk for alcohol addiction.
Over the long tern, excessive alcohol use affects a wide range of physical functions. Though liver damage is one of the most well known effects of alcohol abuse, other organs of the body can also incur damage. Alcohol addiction can have detrimental effects on bone density and bone growth. It can affect the endocrine system and disrupt normal growth patterns. It can cause neurological effects. Alcohol abuse can lower hormone levels and interfere with fertility. It can cause damage to areas of the brain and interfere with normal brain chemistry. It can even have permanent effects on the brain.
Alcohol addiction has a “chicken or egg” aspect. Psychological issues such as depression and anxiety cause people to drink to cover up these unpleasant feelings. In turn, chronic drinking can cause problems that lead to even more anxiety and depression. So the problems become circular and increase in severity. People who are addicted to alcohol not only have to deal with their compulsions to drink; they must also deal with unresolved emotional problems that may be the trigger for excessive drinking.
With chronic alcohol use comes a variety of legal troubles. The drinker may get caught driving under the influence and may face imprisonment or loss of driving privileges. The drinker may become aggressive while under the influence and get into fights, causing a variety of legal costs. Chronic alcohol use may lead to loss of employment, which can then cause problems with indebtedness and bankruptcy. In addition, the addicted person may cover their behaviors with lying, theft and other problems that lead to a break in relationships. Divorce can be the result. Child custody and child support issues may also cause problems.
What to Do if You Have a Problem
Many of these issues can be avoided if the person indulges in alcohol use in a thoughtful and reasonable way. If your drinking has already reached a point of addiction, get help. Don’t wait, and don’t be ashamed. Early treatment can help you to regain control over your drinking and your life. You can avoid the more serious effects of alcohol addiction if you act now to get the help to restore your sobriety and maintain your normal life.