Alcohol Abuse and Its Effects

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Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Any one or more of the following signs may indicate a drinking problem: 

  • Family or social problems caused by drinking.
  • Job or financial difficulties related to drinking.
  • Loss of ability to control drinking.
  • "Blackout" or the inability to remember what happened while drinking.
  • Distressing physical and/or physiological reactions if you try to stop drinking.
  • A change in the amount of alcohol needed to get the desired effect.
  • Marked changes in behavior or personality when drinking.
  • Getting drunk frequently.
  • Injuring yourself or someone else while intoxicated.
  • Breaking the law while intoxicated.
  • Starting the day with a drink.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse on an Individual's Health and Work

  • The measurable dollar costs of workplace substance abuse from absenteeism, overtime pay, tardiness, sick leave, insurance claims, and worker's compensation can be substantial.
  • The hidden costs resulting from diverted supervisory and managerial time, friction among workers, and damage to equipment can also affect organization productivity.
  • Workers who abuse alcohol affect everyone. Studies show that alcohol abusers are far less productive, miss more likely to injure themselves or someone else and file more workers' compensations claims than do alcohol-free workers.
  • Long term overuse of alcohol can cause liver damage, heart problems, sexual dysfuction, and other serious medical problems.
  • Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Taken in large quantities it causes not only the euphoria associated with "being drunk" but also adversely affects your judgement, your ability to think and your motor function. Drink enough alcohol fast enough and it can kill you.
  • In some cases, alcohol use can lead to physical and psychological dependence.

The Progression of Alcohol Abuse and Dependency

Patterns vary, but generally follow these stages: 

  • Early Stages - The person drinks to change feelings or to escape from problems, makes promises to quit but breaks them, drinks more to achieve the same effect, has trouble stopping after the first drink.
  • Middle Stages - The person denies drinking, drinks in secret, hides the alcohol, looks forward to opportunities to drink again, drinks of almost all social occassions, frequently becomes intoxicated, denies problems related to alcohol even though they are obvious to others.
  • Later Stages - The person now lives to drink, liquor comes before everything else, ambition and sense of responsibility diminish, absence from work occurs, defensiveness and denial increase as relationships deteriorate and self-respect fades.
  • And Finally - The person hits "rock bottom." Drinking continues despite painful and injurious results such as divorce, alienation from family and friends, job loss, physical disability, and social and personal ruin. 

When Counseling is Needed
Through counseling, individuals and families can learn about alcohol abuse and its effect on them and their loved ones. A counselor can provide guidance on what can be done and how problems can be resolved. A counselor can also get people in touch with needed treatment services or with self-help gropus such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Alanon. These groups share common problems and meet to give each other help and support.

Treating Alcohol Abuse and Dependancy
It is always better to seek treatment for alcohol abuse or dependency before problems become critical. Alcoholism is progressive. When left untreated it almost always becomes a threat to life, health, and happiness. Each person who abuses or depends on alcohol is different. Individual recovery programs depend on length of abuse or dependency, attitudes of the individual, family and friends, and the person's willingness to do something about it once a program of recovery has been introduced.

The goal of treatment is to learn to live productively and comfortably without drinking.