From social drinking to alcohol abuse: It’s a thin line
Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Submitted by the National Drug Abuse Control Council – September 13, 2011 - Noticing that there is a drug problem in illegal drug abuse is relatively easy. If you start using these drugs, there is already a problem because it is illegal. Sooner rather than later you will end up in trouble. With alcohol however, it is more difficult to figure out if there is a problem. It is legal, it is accepted, and it makes you feel good after a hard work day, what could go wrong? Much can go wrong. And for many people who today live in regret because of alcohol abuse much has gone wrong.
Alcohol is one of the substances that has been in human history too long to remember. A brightly colored cosmopolitan is the drink of choice for the glamorous characters in Sex and the City. James Bond depends on his famous martini—shaken, not stirred—to unwind with after confounding a villain. And what wedding concludes without a champagne toast? We have been seeing it ever since we were children. It has become acceptable to society as a safe substance. It is part of our culture—it helps us celebrate and socialize, and it enhances our religious ceremonies, it helps us cope with heart break, and in mourning. There is a reason to drink every day.
But in all of this, there is a thin line between social drinking and alcohol abuse. Most people cross it without even noticing. However, there is a vast difference in the life of a social drinker and the life of alcohol abusers. In one of them, you spent time that ended in a good time. In the other you will find yourself sobering up in jail, in a hospital, or in deeper problems than you were before. In one of them you will be drinking with the family. In the other you will be drinking because you have lost that family. Alcohol abuse has caused people to end up in accidents, physical confrontations and hurting their families to grave levels.
How does this happen? How do people cross the line without noticing? In our society where drinking is too common to us and alcohol is accessible in every shop, it is way too easy. The drinks start increasing, the money goes faster; Sunday is a good day to drink, and Monday you skip work because of a hangover. Something is happening.
Alcohol abuse is gradual. It happens slowly. People who started drinking earlier, in their teens have higher chances of becoming alcohol abusers than those who start in their twenties. This is because people who start drinking later have fully developed bodies and drink more responsibly. Teenagers tend to drink more recklessly and at that age their bodies and brains and not fully developed. It is a competition among teenagers; who can drink more. That is why when they get to their twenties, they have already developed a high tolerance to alcohol.
Tolerance to alcohol is the amount of alcohol you have to drink before you start feeling the effects of alcohol, before you start feeling the high. A high tolerance level is an early symptom of alcohol abuse. When you start increasing the amount you drink because you do not get high as fast as you did before it means your tolerance is building up. If you drink more than other people without getting drunk it means that your tolerance level is higher than before. Building up tolerance means over time you will need to drink more to feel the same effect, and you will have started down a slippery road.
If you have tried to stop drinking and you experience withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, shakiness or trembling, insomnia, or irritability it is because you have been drinking more than you should; you have been abusing alcohol. When you have been drinking heavily your body has gotten used to this kind of drinking and experiences changes when you stop. Many people feel scared at this time. They feel too weak to withstand the changes. However, this is a time to reflect on the damage your body has gone through. It is a time to ask questions about your drinking. It is a time to make a commitment to yourself to change your drinking habits. Your body can be recovered and your life too. It can return to where it was before drinking became a problem.
The body is affected severely by alcohol abuse. There are few organs that are not affected. The body metabolizes the standard drink that is 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor in one hour. When you ingest more than you can metabolize for the time you are drinking you are putting your body under intense stress to discharge of the alcohol. When you do this often, your organs get affected. The nervous system is affected first. It can cause instant problems like loss of control while driving or unexplained feelings of violence. Later on, it causes the weakening of the nervous system making you prone to many illnesses. The liver is also severely affected by alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse causes inflammation and swelling of the liver. Over time it causes scarring of the liver and slows down its functions. Other organs that also get affected are your brain, your stomach and your kidneys. Alcohol abuse also takes a toll on your job, your reputation in the community and your family. Drinking too much causes so many problems that after a while drinking becomes the problem.
We cannot tell you to stop drinking. We, at the National Drug Abuse Control Council, want to help you stay on the safe side. We want to help you enjoy that time and not sober up in a tragedy. It has happened to too many people. Alcohol abuse can be avoided by identifying your drinking habits. It does not take much effort or time to think about how much you are drinking, how much you are spending on drinks, how many days of the week you drink, and the reasons why you drink. This is important information that will tell you if you are socially drinking or abusing alcohol. Small thoughts and small adjustments will make an impact on the rest of your life. They will make an impact on your family, on your health, on your finances and on many other aspects of your life.
Alcohol has been here a long time and so has alcohol abuse. You know someone whose life has been affected because of alcohol abuse, someone in jail, without a job or in a broken family. Don’t be another one. Take control of your drinking; don’t let your drinking take control of you.
For more information on Alcohol or other drugs, feel free to contact the National Drug Abuse Control Council Office at 227-0528 or visit our Facebook account – NDACC San Pedro. Our Drug educator for the Cayes is Ms. Kristina Romero and our Outreach Caseworker/Counselor is Mrs. Joyce Ellis and they are here to help you!