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
Abusing alcohol 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 alcoholics.
Alcohol abuse 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 addiction?
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
DSM-IV-TR Criteria for Substance Abuse
Maladaptive use of substance shown by 1 of the following:
• Failure to meet obligations
• Repeated use in situations where it is physically dangerous
• Repeated 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 alcoholism.
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
Organization like 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.