Alcohol addiction is an issue that affects many people around the world. It can cause long-term physical and psychological damage, including alcohol dependence and alcohol abuse. The purpose of this article is to provide answers to the most frequently asked questions about addiction so that those affected and their loved ones can understand the condition more clearly and take steps to recovery.
What Is Alcohol?
Alcohol is an intoxicating substance found in various drinks, such as beer, wine, and liquor. It is created by the fermentation of yeast, sugars, and starches. When alcohol is consumed, it enters the bloodstream and can affect nearly every organ in the body.
Alcohol can have both short-term and long-term effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. Short-term effects can include impaired coordination, disturbed sleep, and difficulty concentrating.
What Is Alcohol Abuse?
Alcohol abuse is the inability to control alcohol consumption. This can result in alcohol-related problems, such as health issues from alcohol consumption and criminal behavior when intoxicated. People who are alcohol abusers often continue to drink despite the potential or actual negative consequences of their drinking habits.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse can include drinking more than intended, irritability when not drinking, making excuses to drink alcohol, and neglecting responsibilities in favor of drinking.
Alcohol abuse can also lead to physical dependence. A sign of this can be when a person experiences withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and anxiety, when they are unable to access alcohol. If left untreated, alcohol abuse can develop into alcohol addiction.
What Is a Standard Drink?
Generally, 14.0 grams (or 0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol constitute a standard drink. Here are some examples:
- Five ounces of wine with an alcohol content of 12%
- Eight ounces of malt liquor with an alcohol content of 7%
- Twelve ounces of beer with an alcohol content of 5%
- One-and-a-half ounces (a “shot”) of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled alcohol (i.e., whiskey, vodka, gin, or rum)
What Is Alcohol Intoxication?
Alcohol intoxication occurs when a person consumes alcohol in an amount that causes them to experience physical and mental changes.
This can include changes in coordination, slurred speech, impaired judgment, and difficulty walking or standing. A person’s alcohol level, also known as their blood alcohol concentration (BAC), is what determines the degree of intoxication.
In the United States, when a person’s BAC is 0.08% (or 80 mg/dL) or higher, they are considered above the legal limit for driving. However, this does not mean that a person can’t be intoxicated at lower levels.
Is There a Safe Level of Drinking?
No. Alcohol addiction is a serious health concern, and there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. While moderate drinking (defined as up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women) may not lead to alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder (AUD), it can increase your risk compared to not drinking alcohol at all.
Heavy alcohol use is defined as more than 15 drinks or more per week for men and eight drinks or more per week for women. This can lead to alcohol abuse and other health problems. If you are drinking more alcohol than intended, it could be a sign of alcohol dependency.
Does Excess Alcohol Consumption Always Result in an Alcohol Use Disorder?
No, not always. Factors like age, gender, frequency of consumption, and environment can all play a role in the development of an alcohol use disorder (AUD). It is possible to consume alcohol excessively without having AUD.
Signs of alcohol use disorder can include alcohol cravings, impaired control over drinking, and physical and psychological dependence on alcohol. Plus, continued drinking despite the presence of social or interpersonal problems caused by alcohol, and withdrawal syndrome when alcohol is stopped abruptly.
How Do I Know I Have a Drinking Problem?
There are many warning signs that can indicate alcohol dependency. If alcohol has started to take over your life, or if you experience any of the following symptoms, it may mean that you have a drinking problem and should seek help:
- Feeling unable to stop drinking alcohol once you’ve started, even when you want to
- Needing alcohol to relax, or feeling anxious if you can’t have it
- Having alcohol cravings
Conquer Your Alcohol Addiction
Alcohol addiction is an illness that can be managed and treated with the right support and treatment plan. Take control of your alcohol consumption today and work towards conquering alcohol dependency once and for all.