It is hard for some people to imagine how alcohol could be problematic. For most individuals, alcohol is something to be enjoyed with family and friends, and many of their social activities revolve around eating and drinking.
However, let’s not forget that alcohol is an addictive substance and one that affects almost every cell in the body. The fact that it is legal and encouraged means that most people just cannot comprehend how dangerous it can be to those who develop a dependence on it. Alcoholism is a very real illness that is devastating the lives of many people in the UK and it costs the taxpayer billions of pounds every year.
Alcoholism is an illness that begins when an individual abuses alcohol. While even drinking in moderation cannot be classed as ‘safe’ anymore thanks to warnings from Public Health England that there is no safe limit, there is no doubt that drinking more than the recommended weekly limits is harmful to health.
The weekly guidelines for alcohol consumption state that men and women should consume no more than fourteen units per week. People are also encouraged to have a number of alcohol-free days every week. Unfortunately, studies have shown that many individuals are still drinking more than this amount, with some admitting to drinking the full fourteen units in one drinking session!
This type of alcohol abuse is extremely harmful to health, with hundreds of illnesses linked to excessive alcohol consumption. Alcohol causes both mental and physical health problems, and those who drink to excess are at risk of becoming addicted.
Alcoholism is another name for alcohol addiction, and it occurs when a person’s pattern of drinking begins to have an adverse impact on his or her daily life.
Alcoholism starts with exposure to alcohol, and for many people, this happens during their teenage years. Thankfully, most teenagers who experiment with alcohol never go on to be anything more than moderate drinkers.
Unfortunately, some start to abuse alcohol, and the more they drink, the more their body gets used to the effects. As time goes by, the affected individual may begin to notice that he or she needs to drink more alcohol in order to experience the same effects as before. This means that the person is developing a tolerance.
Alcohol use is optional in the early days, but over time, alcohol becomes more important to the individual, and he or she will begin to arrange his/her life around it. The person may experience intense cravings for alcohol and will find it difficult to stop once he/she starts. It begins to affect all aspects of their life.
Those with alcoholism will often neglect important areas of their life including schoolwork, their job, their home life, and the people they love. They may find themselves in hazardous situations while under the influence of alcohol, and many could start to experience blackouts where they cannot remember parts or all of what happened while they were drinking.
Physical dependence on alcohol results in the individual experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking. The person may sweat more, shake and experience bouts of nausea or vomiting. Alcoholics quickly learn that having an alcoholic drink is enough to make these unpleasant symptoms subside, and this means that many get caught in a cycle that they cannot break.
Abuse of any substance is dangerous to health, but alcohol abuse has proven to cause many illnesses, including seven forms of cancer. The fact that alcohol is legal means that most people do not realise the seriousness of abusing this substance. Many do not even consider alcohol to be a drug, despite the fact that it is a highly addictive chemical substance.
Alcohol is a toxic substance that affects every part of the body, and excessive consumption can damage internal organs. The liver is the organ that processes alcohol; it can process one unit of alcohol per hour. When people consume alcohol at a faster rate than that, they will begin to feel the effects of this drug. Chronic alcohol abuse places a strain on many of the body’s organs, particularly the liver. Many alcoholics suffer from liver damage, and some who have been abusing alcohol for many years will damage their liver so badly that they will need a transplant.
Alcohol abuse leads to mental health problems such as depression, paranoia, anxiety and psychosis. Some people with alcohol addictions will experience suicidal tendencies.
Alcoholism is known as a family illness because it affects more than just the affected individual. Alcohol tends to play a major role in many domestic violence incidents, as intoxication can make individuals aggressive and violent and prone to lashing out.
Those who live with alcoholics will constantly be on edge because of the mood swings and unpredictable behaviour of their loved one. Children of alcoholics may suffer long into adulthood, and many will go on to develop addictions when they get older.
Children are often referred to as the forgotten victims of addiction. Alcoholic parents frequently neglect their children and are unable to care for them. If the children fall under the radar of social services, they may not get the love and care they need and might become socially withdrawn and isolated. Many are reluctant to make friends because they do not know how to form normal relationships. Some will become the target of bullies because they are neglected and are not well cared for.
Some children will be removed from their family home if their alcoholic parents are unable to care for them. Even though their home life has been chaotic and unpleasant, being placed into care can be a very traumatic experience for kids, especially when separated from siblings.
Alcoholism is an illness not confined to the family unit. This illness results in many hospital admissions every year due to illness and injury. In fact, alcohol costs the taxpayer billions of pounds every single year in the United Kingdom.
Money is spent on the National Health Service and the cost of policing crime related to alcohol. Many car collisions are caused by those who have been driving while under the influence. Those involved in these accidents will require hospital care and then there will be the cost of prosecuting and imprisoning people found guilty of drink-driving. This all places a huge burden on the economy, but it could all be avoided.
Because alcohol results in poor judgement, many individuals will commit crimes while under the influence. Violent crime is often linked to alcohol consumption, and those who are addicted to alcohol may commit acts of burglary or theft to fund their habit.
There are many innocent victims of crimes perpetrated by those who are intoxicated, including muggings, assault, and rape. The effect on the wider community can be devastating.
Despite the fact that alcohol abuse and alcoholism have such wide-reaching consequences, it is important to remember that those affected are ill; they have not decided to become alcoholics, and they have no control over their behaviour.
Alcohol changes the way the brain functions, so those who suffer from this illness often make poor judgements that affect many others in the process. It is easy for those with no experience to expect alcoholics to simply stop drinking. Nevertheless, it is never that simple. People with alcoholism cannot stop drinking even if they wanted to. They need help and support to overcome this illness.
Here at Recovery.org.uk, we know the importance of effective treatment when it comes to alcohol addiction. Those affected will need to detox before they can begin learning how to live without this substance that they have relied upon for so long, and this can be incredibly tough.
Detox is the process of stopping drinking and then waiting for all traces of alcohol to leave the body. Nonetheless, as alcohol affects almost every cell in the body, and because the body adapts to the presence of alcohol during addiction, it reacts when alcohol no longer arrives. This can result in many withdrawal symptoms and varying degrees of severity.
Withdrawing from alcohol can be a complicated process so it is advisable for those undergoing this process to do so under the supervision of a medically trained professional. A medically supervised detox is the safest way to quit alcohol.
Once detox has been completed, a rehabilitation programme can begin. Those who want to overcome alcoholism will learn the cause of their addictive behaviour and how to avoid succumbing to it again in the future. With treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy, motivational interviewing and twelve-step work, it is possible to beat alcoholism.