Alcohol Abuse – Causes, Treatment, Aftercare

With alcohol being a legal substance and readily available in supermarkets, corner shops, pubs, clubs and even cinemas, it can be easy to forget that it is a toxic substance and one that is highly addictive. Drinking within the government’s guidelines of fourteen units per week for men and women is said to be moderate drinking, but anything over this is considered to be alcohol abuse.

The government reduced the guidelines for men in January 2016 from twenty-one units per week to fourteen. However, many people have admitted to regularly drinking over the current and old amounts every week with some even saying they would easily drink fourteen units or more in one drinking session.

This shocking level of alcohol abuse is a major problem here in the UK and leads to a host of challenges for drinkers and the economy as a whole. Those who are regular alcohol abusers are in danger of developing a host of physical and mental health problems, which means there is a burden on the National Health Service and the taxpayer.

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse can be described as an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, where the drinker regularly drinks more than the recommended amount. Those who abuse alcohol do not necessarily have a dependence on alcohol, nor can they be classed as alcoholics, but if they continue to abuse this substance, they are in danger of developing this more serious condition.

Alcohol abuse includes drinking every day, binge drinking or drinking large amounts of alcohol every weekend. The difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence is that those who have become dependent have built up a tolerance to the effects of alcohol. They need to drink more of the alcohol to feel the same effects as before, and they may experience physical withdrawal symptoms when they are not drinking.

It is all about control; those who can be classed as alcohol abusers tend to have some measure of control over their drinking. While they often drink more than they should, they do not feel the need to drink. Problem drinkers lose their ability to control their drinking and often find that once they start drinking, they cannot stop. They may also find that when the craving for alcohol occurs, they are unable to resist even if they know that drinking could cause adverse effects on their health and their life in general.

Signs of Alcohol Abuse

If you are worried that you are abusing alcohol, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you often feel guilty about your drinking or feel that you need to cut down?
  • Have other people expressed concerns about your drinking habits?
  • Have you been embarrassed or ashamed about things you said or did while intoxicated?
  • Have you felt the need to have a drink early in the morning to get rid of a hangover?

If you are worried about someone you care about and whether or not he or she is abusing alcohol, look out for the following signs:

  • They have neglected important responsibilities in favour of drinking
  • They often drink more than the recommended daily or weekly alcohol limit
  • Their life revolves around drinking; they always try to arrange events or activities where alcohol will be present

The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse

Continued alcohol abuse leads to an increased tolerance to the effects, meaning that the individual needs to drink more and more alcohol every time in order to get the desired effects. The more a person abuses alcohol, the higher the risk of developing a host of both short- and long-term problems.

The short-term risk of alcohol abuse includes accidents and illnesses. The body is capable of processing approximately one unit of alcohol per hour. Those who drink more than this will feel the effects of alcohol, which include light-headedness and slurred speech. Intoxication can lead to poor judgement, and this often results in accidents or injuries. Those who drive or operate heavy machinery while under the influence of alcohol are at higher risk of injury. The irony is that alcohol often causes individuals to believe they can do things they should not do, including driving and working with heavy machinery.

Alcohol abuse often results in those affected becoming violent or aggressive. Because alcohol affects people’s judgement and reasoning, it is not uncommon for those under the influence of alcohol to get offended by something that someone has said or done, when they would never react this way if they were sober. Alcohol often leads to arguments and physical altercations, which can, in turn, result in injuries and even death.

Another consequence of alcohol abuse is risky sexual behaviour. Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and people are more inclined to take risks. This can result in unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Binge drinking also raises the risk of alcohol poisoning, which could cause seizures.

Over the long term, there are many consequences of alcohol abuse. With alcohol linked to hundreds of illnesses, those who continue to drink more than the recommended weekly amount are risking a host of mental and physical health problems.

Alcohol abuse has been linked to heart disease, liver disease, strokes, nerve damage, brain damage, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, pancreatitis, and some forms of cancer.

Consequences of Alcohol Abuse

Those who abuse alcohol are at risk for alcohol addiction, meaning that they have become physically or psychologically dependent on alcohol. Those who become addicted to alcohol will be unable to cut down or quit drinking even if they want to. This can have devastating consequences for themselves and their family members.

When alcohol begins to affect a person’s daily life, it has become problematic. It can lead to a host of social problems such as domestic abuse, relationship breakdowns, unemployment and homelessness. Alcohol addiction affects the quality of life for the entire family and can have a devastating effect on all members, particularly children.

Early Intervention

If you are concerned that you are guilty of abusing alcohol, it is a good idea to address the matter as soon as possible. You may be of the opinion that because you are not addicted to alcohol, it is not harming you, but you would be wrong. Alcohol abuse puts your health at risk, and if you continue in this vein, you will be risking the more serious illness of addiction.

Think about what you want from your life and then think about whether your family members, goals, and dreams are more important than alcohol. If the answer is yes, then you are in a good position to get your drinking under control again.

At this stage, you may not need to give up alcohol completely, but you do need to take a close look at your drinking habits to determine your level of risk. Try to be as honest as you can when it comes to your drinking habits and look closely at how alcohol has affected various aspects of your life. Pay particular attention to times when you may have missed out on a specific opportunity because of drinking, or on times when you spent more money than you wanted to on an unplanned drinking session. Consider the impact of your drinking on your life and the lives of the people you love.


Denial often gets in the way when it comes to accepting an alcohol problem. You may already have a problem with alcohol but are unable to see it. This is common among those affected by addiction. Many believe that they may drink a little more than they should but that they do not have a real problem.

It is often the case that they are just unable to see the truth of their situation, and this could be because they are embarrassed or ashamed to admit that they have crossed the line from moderate to problem drinking. Denial is a defence mechanism that helps to protect individuals from an unpleasant reality. Nevertheless, it is not something that can continue in the long term. Denial will only serve to make the problem worse if it continues.

Getting Help

Here at, we know how important it is for those struggling with alcohol problems to get help as soon as possible. There are various treatments that are useful when it comes to overcoming alcohol addiction, and many of these treatments are effective in dealing with alcohol abuse before it gets to the stage of dependency and addiction. Contact us for advice and information on the treatment providers in your area from where you can get the support you need to tackle your alcohol abuse problems.

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