Alcohol Abuse Introduction

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Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Signs, Symptoms, and Help for Drinking Problems

It’s not always easy to see when your drinking has crossed the line from moderate or social use to problem drinking. But if you consume alcohol to cope with difficulties or to avoid feeling bad, you’re in potentially dangerous territory. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and take steps to cut back if you recognize them. Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it. In This Article:

* Understanding drinking problems
* Signs & symptoms of alcohol abuse
* Signs & symptoms of alcoholism
* Drinking problems and denial
* Effects of alcoholism
* Getting help for alcohol abuse
* When a loved one has a drinking problem

Understanding alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many interconnected factors, including genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health. Some racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans, are more at risk than others of developing alcohol addiction. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems. Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate. Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking. The bottom line is how alcohol affects you. If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem. Do you have a drinking problem?

You may have a drinking problem if you...
* Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
* Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
* Have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking. * Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
* “Black out” or forget what you did while you were drinking. * Regularly drink more than you intended to.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse
Substance abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence). Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.  Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:

* Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking. For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over. * Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor’s orders. * Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct. * Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships. Getting drunk with your buddies, for example, even though you know your wife will be very upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink. * Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress. Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss. The path from alcohol abuse to alcoholism

Not all alcohol abusers become full-blown alcoholics, but it is a big risk factor. Sometimes alcoholism develops suddenly in response to a stressful change, such as a breakup,...
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