Alcohol Abuse: How Much is too Much?
Alcoholism is a devastating condition that can damage one’s own life and the lives of loved ones. However, because drinking is legal, many don’t consider the various risks that indulging in alcohol consumption can have, especially for those with an addictive personality. While drinking in moderation doesn’t seem to have many negative health effects, binge drinking or heavy consistent drinking can come with a wide range of negative effects, and, in many cases, inpatient rehabilitation may be necessary. But how much drinking is too much?
What are Healthy Levels of Alcohol Intake?
While the standards for healthy levels of alcohol intake varies between individuals and cultural practices, the USA’s acceptable maximum levels of alcohol intake typically fall between one and two small glasses of wine or 12oz beers per day. However, this doesn’t mean that not drinking all week warrants one to drink 14-21 units of alcohol; this over-consumption is a characteristic of binge drinking, which has its own devastating side effects including poor judgment, memory loss, and dangerous behavior.
Any amount of drinking above these standards can be considered abusing alcohol, especially for those who consume more than this level of alcohol on a regular basis. In low doses, alcohol doesn’t seem to have many negative effects on the human body because it can be quickly metabolized by the liver; however, those who have a history of addiction, alcoholism or not, or binge drinking should not drink alcohol in any proportions.
Signs of Alcoholism
The stereotypes that surround the alcoholic, while sometimes accurate, are typically far from the truth of everyday alcohol abuse. Often, alcoholics don’t show many outward signs of addiction and seem to have their lives in order. People classified as high-functioning alcoholics, such as Ulysses S. Grant and Winston Churchill, are prime examples of this; they seem to function well to the average person, but, sadly, they are slowly destroying their bodies and their minds through their unhealthy habit.
There are a variety of signs that accompany alcoholism; one of the most common of these symptoms is withdrawal symptoms upon cessation. For those with a milder form of alcoholism, this withdrawal syndrome may include sweating, irritability and anxiety; however, in serious cases, hallucinations and even seizures can occur.
Drinking in situations that don’t warrant drinking is another huge sign that one is abusing alcohol. This may mean drinking prior to driving a motor vehicle or other heavy piece of machinery, or it may mean drinking prior to work. This is a strong sign that one is no longer in control of their alcohol consumption.
Development of tolerance occurs when drinking is taken to an excessive level. If one has to drink consecutively more in order to feel the same effects, a level of tolerance has occurred and is a strong sign that one should take a break from drinking.
Another common symptom is difficulty in moderating the amount of alcohol consumed. With many alcoholics, after one drink, it is hard to say no to subsequent drinks. This can lead to dangerous situations, bad choices and blackouts. There are a variety of other minor signs that can affirm alcoholism, such as: drinking alone, drinking in the morning, feeling guilt after consuming alcohol, and reckless behavior while intoxicated.
Because of the vast amount of negative effects that alcohol has on the human body, as well as one’s personal life, alcoholism is an extremely dangerous addiction. Some of these negative effects of continuing an alcohol addiction include: increased risk of cancer, serious risk of liver damage, heart conditions, Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome from thiamine deficiency, as well as a variety of negative effects on proper brain functioning. Even if none of these conditions have occurred yet, it doesn’t mean that one isn’t at risk for them.
For those who have any of the above signs of alcoholism, it may be necessary to enter a rehabilitation program in order to live a healthy life. The highest success rates for recovery from alcoholism are through an inpatient rehabilitation program, which provides one an alcohol-free atmosphere and psychological support; this can give one a strong foundation of sobriety from which to start their new life. Additionally, for those with serious alcohol addiction and withdrawal syndromes, an inpatient facility can provide the medical help needed in order to safely detoxify oneself.