It isn’t what you plan, but sometimes, drinking causes you to cross the line from the occasional use or social use to problematic everyday drinking. This leads to alcoholism or alcohol abuse, which is related to genetics, social environment, and psychological issues. Certain ethnic groups are more at risk for alcohol abuse than others, such as Native Alaskans and Native American Indians. Alcoholism tends to run in families, too, and heavy drinkers suffer from numerous mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression.
Do I have a Drinking Problem?
Drinking is more acceptable in many cultures and the effects of alcohol use vary from person to person. When social drinking becomes problem drinking, then the alcohol is in control. You may suffer from alcohol abuse if you:
- Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
- Feel ashamed or guilty regarding your drinking.
- Need to drink for the purpose of relaxation.
- Experience “blackouts” after drinking.
- Have family members or friends who are concerned about your drinking.
- Drink to excess on a regular basis.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Substance abuse physicians and counselors do not consider alcohol abuse to be the same as alcohol dependence, which is essentially alcoholism. Alcohol abusers do have the ability to limit their drinking, whereas alcoholics do not. However, excessive use of alcohol is dangerous and self-destructive either way. The common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
- Continuing to drink regardless of problems in relationships, work, or other.
- Repetitively neglecting responsibilities due to the drinking.
- Using alcohol while driving or operating heavy machinery.
- Having repeated legal problems due to the drinking.
- Drinking to relax or reduce stress.
When Alcohol Abuse turns into Alcoholism
Not all people who use or abuse alcohol develop full-blown alcoholism. However, frequent abuse of this substance is a major risk factor for alcoholism. Certain losses or tragedies often trigger binge drinking or other substance use issues. When a person becomes reliant on alcohol in order to function or feel physically well, then he or she is considered an alcoholic.
One of the first warning signs of alcoholism is tolerance. This is when you can drink considerable amounts without getting drunk or feeling “buzzed.” Tolerance is when a person requires more and more alcohol in order to feel the same effects. Another warning sign is withdrawal. This is when someone has certain symptoms when alcohol has not been in his or her system for a while, such as tremors, anxiety, or mood swings. In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol causes hallucinations, seizures, nausea, vomiting, fever, and confusion.
Denial of Drinking Problems
Denial is the biggest obstacle when considering rehabilitation (rehab) for alcohol abuse or dependence. For many alcoholics, the desire to drink is so strong that it causes problems with rational thinking and the consequences are ignored. Denial also leads to serious problems with relationships, work, social life, and finances. A person who is dependent on alcohol will deny this by:
- Downplaying the amount he or she drinks.
- Avoiding accepting consequences that are related to drinking.
- Complaining that friends and family members exaggerate regarding the problem.
- Blaming the drinking on other people or things.
Illicit Drug Abuse
Illicit drug use and abuse often lead to severe consequences, as in jail time or a prison sentence. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 70 percent of prison entrants report using substances in the year prior to incarceration. Men are more likely than women to have used drugs before entering prison, also. Among young people aged 18 to 44, around 73 percent have used an illicit drug during the previous 12 months.
Illicit drug use and addiction is one of the worse types of addict problems. Illicit drugs are illegal to make, use, and/or sell, and include cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, and various hallucinogens. Also, most of these substances are highly addictive and carry serious health consequences and risks, even when consumed in small or infrequent doses. While it begins as experimentation, illicit drug users often find themselves dealing with the mental and physical effects of the drug and withdrawal from the substance. A person can become addicted easily and endanger the safety and health of others. Researchers have found that addiction is a brain disease, which is characterized by chronic relapses and abnormalities in certain brain pathways.
Categories of Illicit Drugs
Illicit drug effects are dependent upon the substance. The main categories are opioids, stimulants, sedatives, and hallucinogens. These drugs are categorized based on their effects. These include:
- Opioids – Painkillers and heroin that alter chemicals in the brain responsible for mood regulation, slow down the central nervous system, and decrease breathing effort.
- Stimulants – Methamphetamines, and cocaine lead to increased heart rate, excessive brain activity, and a state of hyperactivity.
- Sedatives – Drugs such as Xanax and Valium are sedatives, and these cause a slowing down effect, drowsiness, and confusion.
- Hallucinogens – LSD, mushrooms, and marijuana can alter the perception of time, space, and reality.
The Signs of Illicit Drug Addiction
There are certain behaviors that indicate an addiction to an illicit drug. These include:
- Aggressive behavior, violence, and/or mood swings
- Unusual or sudden change of energy level
- Preoccupation with obtaining and using a certain drug
- Isolation from family and friends
- Chronic mental and physical health problems
- Inability to attend work or social activities
- Legal consequences, such as loss of job or an arrest
- Behavior that violates values and/or morals for the purpose of getting a drug
- Inpatient rehab program – This is best for individuals who suffer from severe illicit drug addiction. Doctors, therapists, and counselors monitor the addict to provide safety and a healthy environment for recovery.
- Outpatient rehab program – These facilities work for the addict who wishes to maintain his or her job or for those who have families. The person attends group activities and classes at the facility but returns to home and daily activities.
- 12-Step program – NA and AA are both good 12-step programs that offer support to people with addictions. These programs use the 12-step concept in order to help a person manage obsessions and compulsions of addiction.
- Psychotherapy – Drug addiction often coexists with emotional and or mental health issues. This can lead to self-destructive patterns without appropriate psychotherapy.