Alcohol abuse: the not-so silent killer

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Research shows that more than 17 million people in the United States are dependent on alcohol.

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, is the most severe form of alcohol abuse. It is a chronic disease that affects family and professional responsibilities, as well as the individual’s physical and mental health. People who are dependent on alcohol will more than likely continue to drink, despite facing family, health or legal obstacles because they need it to get through the day. Alcoholics also have a high tolerance and suffer from withdrawal, which includes sweating, insomnia, nausea, depression, headaches and irritability, to name a few.

No age is exempt from alcohol addiction, however, abuse is highest with adults ages 18 to 29 and lowest among adults ages 65 and older. Depending on the user’s tolerance, some common effects of drinking include risk of injuries, increase in violence, liver disease, developing some types of cancer, slower reaction times, problems with hearing and seeing and a lower tolerance of alcohol.

The difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse is very small; however, if someone is abusing alcohol but not yet dependent on it, they may experience some tolerance and some withdrawal but nothing as severe as an alcoholic.

Abuse can be noticed when a person is seen with a pattern of drinking that results in repeated disruption of responsibilities to work, school or home responsibilities. Other warning signs include:

  • Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while operating a vehicle or combining alcohol with prescription medication
  • Having legal issues, such as being arrested for driving under the influence
  • Reaching for alcohol as a stress reliever
  • Continuing drinking despite having relationship problems that are caused or made worse by drunkenness.
  • No longer participating hobbies or activities that they were once involved in.
  • Lost control over drinking and can’t limit the amount they are drinking.

Since 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc., has designated April as Alcohol Awareness Month. This month focuses on increasing public awareness, reducing stigma and encouraging local communities to address alcoholism and alcohol-related problems.

We can all do our part to prevent abuse. A few ideas you can utilize this month to raise awareness are:

  • If you suspect that someone is already an abuser, don’t ignore the problem. Help them seek treatment. Recovery will be an ongoing process, which will require new coping skills, treatment, time and patience. All problems that led to the abuse in the first place will have to be faced.
  • Share tips with parents to help them talk with their kids about alcohol usage. The earlier they talk to their children, the less likely they are to drink underage. Plus, the longer children wait to start drinking, the less likely they are to develop.
  • Talk with anyone you know who may be suffering from the disease. Challenge them to keep track of their drinking by setting limits.
  • Encourage alternative activities to teens/young adults that they can do in place of drinking.

If you think that you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol addiction, please call Dr. Schumacher, M.D., at (614) 299-9909 to set up an appointment.