What is alcohol abuse and dependence?
Despite often being used interchangeably, the terms alcohol abuse and dependence are quite different. Alcohol abuse is the excessive consumption of alcohol within a short space of time. Alcohol abuse may cause loss of inhibition, resulting in poor decision making and risky behaviour. It may also lead to dependence as tolerance levels increase overtime. In such cases, alcohol consumption is used as a coping strategy and withdrawal symptoms are experienced in its absence.
What are the signs of alcohol abuse and dependence?
Signs of alcohol abuse include:
- Regular drinking to achieve an intoxicated state
- Rapid drinking
Signs of alcohol dependence include:
- Worrying about when your next drink will be
- Drinking alone regularly
- Hiding or secretive behaviours around drinking
- Arguments about drinking habits
Teenagers are particularly susceptible to peer pressure influenced drinking. As the brain is still developing during adolescence, its rewards centres are more frequently activated by behaviours such as alcohol consumption. No one should ever feel pressured to drink; saying no can be crucial. Some ways to combat peer pressure include:
- Avoid peers who pressure you to drink or do risky behaviours
- Suggest an alternative activity to drinking alcohol, or drink non alcoholic beverages
- Find friends who resist peer pressure
- Talk to a trusted adult about any problems you may encounter
Given that alcohol is a depressant, it can temporarily enhance mood and confidence. A depressant is a substance that alters neuronal arousal by disrupting the chemical balance in the brain and nervous system, leading to the relaxed feeling that is commonly associated with drinking alcohol.
Long term effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Heightened aggression
- Fluctuations in mood
- Disruptions to sleep and concentration
- Brain damage
Such consequences can be particularly damaging for those with a pre-existing mental illness.
Developing Healthy Coping Strategies and Treatment Options for Alcohol Dependence
While moderate social drinking is usually fine, an overreliance on alcohol as a coping strategy will pose problems. Rather, alternative coping strategies may include:
- Reaching out to a trusted friend or family member
- Engaging in self care
- Establishing new and healthy social connections
Alternatively, you may like to seek additional help:
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