Around 20% of Australians don’t drink alcohol at all, of which a little less than half have never consumed alcohol, and a little over half have given up for at least the previous 12 months. That leaves around 80% of Australians who do drink, of which approximately half drink at least once per week. Sadly around 5% of the population drinks on a daily basis, leading to alcoholism and alcohol abuse.
Regular and prolonged alcohol use causes a myriad of physical and psychological problems, such as:
- Cardiovascular disease – stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease and circulatory problems
- Cancer – liver, breast, oesophagus, pharynx, larynx, colorectum
- Liver diseases
- Mental health issues – depression, anxiety, dementia
- Self-harm and suicide
And these issues are specific to the individual, and don’t take into account the toll it has on their family and friends. Financial stress, violence and mental abuse are just some of the potential affects the loved ones of an alcohol abuser could be subjected to.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. A combination of an individual recognising the signs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse in themselves, or a family member or friends recognising the signs and talking to the person about them could have positive life changing consequences for everyone involved.
But what are the signs of alcoholism and alcohol abuse that we should be looking for?
High tolerance levels
Like with any drug, the more you of it, the more tolerant your body becomes to it. This means you need more and more alcohol to get the same ‘buzz’. If you’re at a point where you need an excessive amount to feel much at all, then chances are you’re drinking to often.
If you feel anxious, get the sweats, feel depressed, experience nausea and/or vomiting, struggle to sleep, lose your appetite, get fatigued or start shaking when the affects of alcohol starts wearing off, then you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms and you probably have an alcohol dependency issue.
Can’t stop at one or two
If you’ve set yourself a goal to consume just one or two drinks, but by the end of the night you’ve had a lot more, guess what? You don’t have your drinking under control and alcoholism could be the root cause.
Keep falling off the horse
Repeated failed attempts to quit drinking alcohol is a sign of alcohol dependency, despite your tremendous desire to stop. You may have even given up the booze for a while on several occasions, but in the end you’re always dragged back in.
If you drink alone, or you try and hide you drinking from others, you may have a problem. Hiding your drinking from others is a sign that you either know you have an alcohol dependence issue, or you’re worried others might think it. If you’re worried others might think you have an alcohol dependence issue, bite the bullet and ask them. It may be the best question you ever ask.
Boozing becomes the priority
Are you putting a session on the drink ahead of pre-arranged activities? When you call friends or family to rearrange a catch-up, miss important appointments, or skip work for the bottle, it’s cause for concern. Don’t let alcohol become more important than activities you used to enjoy taking part in.
Planning to drink
If the first thought that comes in to your head when planning a social event is how to incorporate alcohol, there’s an issue. Priority number one for catching up with friends, family and work colleagues should be about spending time with people you care about, not if there’s booze available to drink.
Alcohol becomes your focus
When you get to the point that you’re constantly thinking about alcohol, it’s time to seek professional help. If you wake in the morning and feel like a drink, it’s time to seek professional help. Putting everything aside to think solely about when you’ll have your next drink is the very definition of alcoholism. Do something about it.
You’re hurting others
It’s one thing doing damage to yourself, it’s quite another when others are dragged into your alcohol-fuelled world. Alcohol abuse can drain the bank account, destroy the family unit, and put the handbrake on career progression or even potentially cost you your job. Get help!
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse – the next step
If you recognise any of these signs in your own life, or the life of a friend or family member, it’s time to address the issue immediately. If you think you have a drinking problem, there’s a good chance you do. Accepting you have a problem is the hardest step, it takes enormous amounts of courage and bravery. But once you do, seeking help will be far easier than if you’re in denial.
However, you need will to talk to someone to get the help you need. If there is someone you love and trust completely, they would be a great starting point. Otherwise you’ll need to seek out a professional such as a doctor or counsellor.
But that is just the beginning of the journey. It will be tough, but the outcome will be an extraordinary positive on your life from a physical, mental and emotional perspective, not to mention the impact it will have on those who love you.