If we were to explain that the most deadly drug on the planet was legal, would you believe us? The answer is, no, and you’ll probably do a separate Google search to determine if what we’re saying is authentic. Let us save you a click – yes, the most dangerous substance is one that is available for the masses. Not only is alcohol readily available to those who can prove they are of age. It is freely marketed as an elixir that can make you feel sexy, accomplished, and pretend you are someone that you dream of becoming.
Unfortunately, the effects of alcohol produce are merely a mirage. While you may feel amazing for a couple of hours, that feeling is going to subside. You are likely to experience a hangover, which can be debilitating if you’ve consumed enough alcohol. The kids in high school who drank beers may have seemed like the cool kids to you. The advertisements we see on television, YouTube, or billboards may appear glamorous, but the reality of alcohol is that it has a dark side. Alcohol companies don’t want you to know this, but alcohol kills tens of thousands each year.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism backs up those statements. Their most recent statistics showed us that 88,000 people died of alcohol-related causes in 2015. Alcohol-impaired driving deaths accounted for 9,967 deaths, which is 31 percent of all driving fatalities. In addition to statistics from the United States, alcohol accounted for nearly 3.3 million deaths globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that alcohol contributed to more than 200 diseases and injury-related health conditions.
While it’s easy for us to discuss the adverse effects of alcohol, sometimes a friend or loved one may fly under the radar when it comes to alcohol addiction. Many people are able to hide their addiction and function normally throughout life. You may wonder how you can tell if someone is struggling with alcoholism, and you want to know how you can help them. Determining if someone has an alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be complicated, but we hope to clear up some of that confusion below.
When Does Your Alcohol Use Become a Disorder?
Despite its inherent danger, alcohol is an unfortunate reality. Most people who consume alcohol do so as a simple ritual. A beer after work or a glass of wine with dinner is a common occurrence in many cultures.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released statistics that showed 52 percent of Americans aged 12 or older had drunk alcohol in the last month.
Another twenty-three percent admitted to binge drinking in the previous month, which means they consumed five or more drinks on at least one occasion. Another six percent were heavy drinkers who binge drank on five or more occasions.
Heavy drinkers will find that alcohol use has impacted their lives negatively. These issues are a warning sign of an impending alcohol use disorder.
SAMHSA reports that at least 18 million people over the age of 12 struggle with alcoholism.
Signs of addiction include:
- Spending extensive amounts of energy trying to get alcohol, using alcohol, or recovering from alcohol
- Using alcohol excessively or in larger amounts than initially intended
- Developing a tolerance to alcohols effect, where greater amounts are necessary to achieve the desired effect
- Unable to fulfill responsibilities, such as work, school, or at home
- Using alcohol despite negative consequences
If someone meets at least two of these criteria, they may be struggling with alcoholism. If this is the case, they will need immediate medical help. Heavy drinkers should never detox alone because seizures can occur during withdrawal. They are often severe enough to be fatal without supervision.
Other signs that someone is struggling with alcoholism include:
- Brushing their teeth at odd times in an attempt to mask the odor of alcohol
- Intoxication at strange times, such as during the day or in the morning
- Suspicious or dishonest behavior
- Secretive behavior
- Unable to be reached frequently
- Inability to pay attention
- Stealing money or asking for money without explaining why
- Shift in priorities
- Late to events
Risks of Alcoholism
Consuming large amounts of alcohol can cause several side effects. The most immediate effects may include:
- Slowed reaction times
- Poor balance
- Impaired judgment
- Loss of coordination
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also mentions that excessive alcohol use places you at an increased risk for:
- Injuries or accidents that include falling, burns, drowning, or motor vehicle accidents
- Violence, which includes intimate partner violence, suicide, homicide, or sexual assault
- Potential for risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex with strangers
- Miscarriage, stillbirth, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
If you believe someone is struggling with alcoholism, you must talk with them and discuss their options. Remember, you cannot be judgemental. There could be underlying issues that are pushing them to drink, and this must be dealt with delicately. Professional help is your best option in this situation.