For many years, alcohol has been the drug of choice for most Americans. For most of US history, alcohol has been legal to make, buy, and consume. Due to its legal status and the belief that it’s safe to drink, most Americans have tried alcohol and consume it occasionally. But eventually, some drinkers find themselves slipping into unhealthy drinking.
In reality, alcohol is one of the most addictive and dangerous substances out there. Most people don’t look at it this way, but alcohol contributes to the death of 90,000 people every year in the US. Yet outside of drinking and driving, society struggles to understand how dangerous alcohol abuse can be.
The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse
Including traffic accidents and chronic diseases, alcohol kills more people every year than any other drug. One of the most common health problems linked to alcohol abuse is cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis actually refers to the scar tissue that grows in the liver as liver cells are damaged. Alcohol kills liver cells every time someone drinks and causes terrible damage to the liver over time. As more scar tissue grows, the liver stops working as well and can make a person really ill. This liver damage also leads to a higher chance of liver cancer.
In addition to liver issues, alcohol abuse causes a slew of heart problems. Drinking raises your heart rate and blood pressure. High blood pressure is a big factor in heart attacks and strokes. Drinking alcohol also weakens the heart over time, which can cause heart failure. Heavy drinking binges contribute to irregular heart rhythm that causes chest pain and shortness of breath. Even the extra weight gain that comes with drinking puts stress on the heart.
Alcohol can also damage the pancreas and the kidneys. Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of pancreatitis (pancreas inflammation). Alcohol also puts strain on the kidneys by raising blood pressure and dehydrating the body. In addition, as liver function decreases, the kidneys become stressed because they have to help do the work of the liver. Over time, excessive drinking stresses the liver, kidneys, pancreas, and heart, which means overall health and quality of life drops.
Some Risks are Immediate
While the problems listed above occur over time, alcohol can cause problems even for first time drinkers. It’s possible to get alcohol poisoning and have serious effects from it any time you drink alcohol. Alcohol poisoning is the shutdown of the body when too much alcohol is absorbed into the blood. It causes unconsciousness, slowed breathing, and vomiting. These things combined can kill a person or cause brain damage from lack of oxygen.
Risks Beyond Physical Health
Besides health issues, alcohol abuse often causes social and emotional troubles. Families suffer when an alcoholic isn’t available to meet the needs of the family. Serious alcohol abuse limits someone’s ability to be emotionally available, active around the home, and connected to the needs of the family. As families and marriages suffer, many alcohol drinkers find themselves drinking more to cope. It can become a vicious cycle.
Financial problems are also common. Someone with a serious alcohol abuse problem usually has trouble with attendance and performance at work. Some miss hours, leading to smaller paychecks, while some may lose their jobs completely. The cost of daily alcohol also adds up, and the health problems mentioned above can be expensive to treat. Worst of all, some alcoholics find themselves in trouble with the law. A single DUI charge can cost over $10,000 in fees, fines, and lawyer costs.
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Signs of an Alcohol Abuse Problem
Alcoholism can be a subtle foe. It often convinces the drinker that they don’t even have a problem. While it may be obvious to everyone else that someone has a drinking problem, the person drinking is often the last one to realize it.
This is partially because addiction creates denial. It actually convinces the person that they can quit anytime they want. They can also often think that others are to blame for their problems. For example they may blame their family, coworkers, or society in general. Alcohol does this in such a cunning way that a person could suffer from alcoholism for years without seeing it.
Even though it can be hard for someone to see their own drinking problem, there are certain signs and symptoms that are common among alcoholics. If you find that you have done any of the following, you may want to seek treatment from a program that offers help for alcohol addiction.
- Lying about your drinking
- Drinking in secret
- Hiding alcohol or empty bottles
- Having trouble with relationships due to alcohol
- An inability to stop drinking once you start
- A preoccupation with thinking about drinking
- Making drinking a priority above safety and stability
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as the shakes or even seizures
- Experiencing blackout from drinking on a semi-regular basis
- Drinking to deal with emotions
These are only a few signs that a person may be suffering from alcohol addiction, and if you can relate to any of the above then you may have an issue with alcohol abuse. Remember that alcohol addiction is a serious illness and withdrawal symptoms can be fatal if not undergone in a medical setting. Finding a safe medical detox from alcohol abuse is necessary to avoid seizures, tremors, and other complications. Don’t attempt to quit without talking to your doctor or a medical detox specialist.
If you or someone you know finds that they can’t stop drinking alcohol when they want to, or that once they start drinking, they can’t stop, they may have an issue with addiction. When someone is harming themselves with alcohol abuse, it’s important that they get help. While alcohol is legal and commonly used, alcoholism and alcohol abuse are serious issues for the drinker and their family. Quite often, someone needs help to change their current patterns. Luckily we work with treatment centers that specialize in alcohol addiction, and they are well equipped to help you break free from your alcoholism and find the life of sobriety that you have always wanted. Give us a call today at Never Alone Recovery to learn about the treatment options available for alcohol abuse and addiction. We offer free consultation and up-front insurance benefit verification to ensure treatment is covered by your private insurance policy.