Alcohol: Problem Use

A couple of drinks ... you're feeling relaxed, light headed and loosened up. A couple more ... you no longer feel shy (if you ever felt shy), you're talking faster, feeling happy, maybe slightly euphoric. A couple more ... you're feeling a bit drunk, you over compensate, you're off balance, slur your speech. You have an impaired perception of your environment (although you won't think so) and you'll find it difficult to make the decision of whether to stop drinking or ...

Continue drinking ... just a couple more ... you're becoming louder, emotions are exaggerated, you're lacking in coordination, unable to stand and unable to identify your own drunkenness (although everybody else can). Chances are you'll become easily upset or aggressive. So you have a couple more ... you're confused and disorientated, you feel nausea, you might blackout, unaware of danger or pain, no concept of safety for yourself or others. You might even say inappropriate and offensive things. But you won't think they are.

Still drinking? Just one more ... Your mental, physical and sensory functions are now seriously impaired. You are frankly a danger to yourself and others. By the end of the night you're in a drunken stupor, unaware of where you are or who you are with. You're an easy target if you fall into a vulnerable, alcohol induced coma from which you won't wake easily. And if you're very drunk, you increase the risk of choking on your own vomit whilst you sleep.

Many people have had this experience of a heavy night out, but is rarely the objective before we start. Most people drink because as humans they perceive a benefit, and in the early stages of drinking, feelings of relaxation and mild euphoria are usually reached. In our experience, we see that as a drinking session progresses we try to maintain those feelings without sensing that we are not in control or that the alcohol is affecting our brain and behaviour. We can write it off as bad night and endure the jokes and mickey taking. However, the reality of what has happened and the sometimes embarrassing things that are said and done can sit with us. Difficult feelings of guilt, remorse and shame are uncomfortable to sit with, especially if this starts to happen more regularly. We have seen many people turn to alcohol to cope with these difficult feelings, not understanding that it was the alcohol that caused the problem in the first place. Drinking in this way can frequently lead to a more problematic relationship with alcohol and potentially what is medically recognised as alcoholism.

More About Alcoholism

'Alcoholism; A disorder characterized by a persistent pattern of alcohol use that causes harm or distress. It typically involves cravings for alcohol, inability to control the amount consumed, withdrawal symptoms in its absence, and the need to consume greater quantities in order to feel the same effects, and often results in impaired social functioning and significant damage to physical health.'

The American Heritage Medical Dictionary, 2007

While we understand and accept that alcohol plays such a big part in our culture, and very often drinking doesn't become a problem, it is important to recognise its potential to cause harm. Alcoholism (also known as alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder) occurs when you drink so much that your body eventually becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol becomes the most important thing in your life. People suffering from alcoholism continue to drink even when drinking causes negative consequences, like losing a job. They may know that their alcohol use negatively affects their lives, but it's often not enough to make them stop drinking.

The cause of alcoholism is still unknown - it develops when you drink so much that chemical changes in the brain occur. These changes increase the pleasurable feelings you get when you drink alcohol, which makes you want to drink more often, even if it causes harm. Eventually, the pleasurable feelings associated with alcohol will diminish and a person with alcohol dependency will engage in drinking to prevent withdrawal symptoms, which can be quite unpleasant and even dangerous. Alcoholism typically develops gradually over time, and it's also known to run in families.

On a personal level, alcoholism can lead to difficulties in marital and other relationships, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, difficulty finding or keeping a job, impaired school or work performance, homelessness and legal problems.

We believe that the more we drink in quantity and regularity, the more we increase our chances of developing a tolerance of and then a dependence on alcohol. Alcoholism has the capacity to devastate lives irrespective of your job or social status. But for professional sportspeople, alcohol can have an adverse effect on your livelihood in very practical terms whether you are an occasional drinker or you are worried you have become alcohol dependent.

If alcohol is costing you more than money then consider picking up the phone and talking through your situation with us.

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0870 220 0714
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