Alcohol Abuse Help
Alcohol Abuse Help
There is a
difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism. Sometimes that difference is very slight, but
it is nevertheless significant. A simple
way of explaining alcohol abuse is to state that it is using alcohol
inappropriately, or to excess. Having
too many drinks is a form of alcohol abuse, or drinking too frequently is a
form of abuse, or even drinking to calm down or relax can be a form of abuse.
Most anyone who
has an experience with alcohol can identify with feeling “tipsy.” That is the intoxicating effect of
alcohol. “Tipsy” of course is a step
away from drunk, but it is in the general area of under the influence, which is
why people who exceed the .08 blood alcohol limit do not necessarily understand
why they are being cited for drunk driving.
They didn’t “feel” drunk. Not to
split hairs, but it is important to understand that alcohol is the most abused
drug in America,
mainly because people cross the line from having a social drink with friends,
to having too many drinks.
Abuse does not
necessarily mean addiction
doesn’t mean a person is an alcoholic.
Alcoholism is a brain disease characterized by the inability of the
person to stop drinking. They may be a
binge drinker, who consumes excessive amounts of alcohol over a short period of
time, be that a few hours or even a few days, but otherwise does not
drink. They may have developed a
psychological dependence on alcohol, or a physical dependence. The brain chemistry is altered and the brain
“thinks” it needs alcohol to function.
People who abuse
alcohol may be on their way to becoming an alcoholic, because of the amount of
alcohol and the frequency of their use, but even that is not an automatic
indicator of the onset of the disease.
One in about nine people who have an ongoing relationship with alcohol
will develop the disease, leaving the other eight either without any symptoms
or concerns for the disease, or in some in between state.
What makes alcoholism and other drug addiction interesting
to examine is the rapid advancement of the disease in some people. There are those who will take a drink and
experience what alcoholics call “the click” and they are almost immediately
afflicted with the disease. They want to
repeat the experience. They liked the
way they felt. Yet others may drink
heavily and often, yet are not going to become alcoholics.
Abuse is bad too!
When people talk
about the social problems of alcohol they will focus on alcoholics. They focus on drunk driving. Not everybody who has a DUI is an alcoholic,
most in fact are people who abuse alcohol.
Why all the fuss? The vast
majority of drinkers will not be alcoholics, so it stands to reason that the
vast majority of alcohol-related health issues, alcohol-related traffic deaths,
or alcohol-related crimes involve people who drink, but are not by definition
help is needed when we see that a person is on the path to becoming an
alcoholic, or is engaging in behavior, i.e. excessive drinking, that is counter
to their best interest. People who abuse
alcohol can develop the same diseases that alcoholics develop, such as heart
disease, diabetes, liver and kidney
disease, etc. Again, there is sometimes
a fine line between abuse and disease.
The DSM-IV has specific criteria for determining that difference.
What is Abuse versus
DSM-IV –TR Criteria for Substance
Dependence include three or more of the following that must be present in
order for an individual to be diagnosed with a chemical use disorder:
• Substance taken for
a longer time and in greater amounts than intended
• Desire or efforts to
reduce or control use
• Much time spent
trying to obtain substance
• Social, recreational
or occupational activities given up or reduced
• Continued use
despite knowing problems caused by substance
for Substance Abuse
Maladaptive use of substance shown by 1 of the following:
• Failure to meet
• Repeated use in
situations where it is physically dangerous
substance-related legal problems
• Continued use
despite problems caused by substance
Abuse often first
step to addiction, must get help
You can see
through looking at these criteria that a person can demonstrate some of these,
by by definition, is an abuser and not an alcoholic. Because there is such a fine line, people who
are abusing need help just like people who struggle with the full disease of
The best and
most immediate form alcohol abuse help is Alcoholics
Anonymous. There are meetings in every
town, most every day and at most any time of day. People meet to discuss their
problem with abuse and learn how to cope with the pressures of drinking.
Many people do not like to attend AA meetings because that
organization promotes abstinence. They
have learned to live without alcohol and enjoy all of life’s offerings without
having to drink. Many people would
rather just learn how to “cut back” or control their drinking urges. The
alcoholic does not have that luxury.
Al-Anon a great resource for the family
Al-Anon help those who live with the one who needs alcohol abuse help. The age old saying “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m
just a problem drinker,” probably fits a majority of people who begin to
experience family squabbles because of their drinking. Family members and friends need to understand
about alcohol abuse and alcoholism in order to effectively deal with a drinker
and help themselves emotionally and psychologically.
A couple of
books that come to mind are outstanding in providing alcohol abuse help. The first is “Getting Them Sober” by Toby
Rice-Drew, a national best seller and an excellent read. The other is “Why Don’t They Just Quit?” by
Joe Herzanek. Both books provide expert
help in leading family and friends through the process.
Get help EARLY, the
earlier the better
Finally, if a
person will seek alcohol abuse help early from a treatment center, before the
disease of alcoholism enters full bloom, the chances are better than average
that they will respond well to the program and not suffer through a lifetime of
misery due to the disease. Alcohol abuse
is a warning that rough seas are ahead.
Help is available from lavish resident treatment centers, to free local
meetings. The important thing is to
recognize that the problem exists and take action.