With alcohol being so easily accessible it’s not surprising alcohol abuse and addiction can take place. In fact, Canadians spend on average 2.16 billion dollars a month on wine and beer at liquor stores. Although alcohol is handled more as a food than a mind-altering substance, the negative consequences are frightening. In 2015, Dr. Greg Taylor, Canada’s public chief health officer, stated that at least 3 million Canadians risk acute illness such as injury. Additionally, 4.5 million risk chronic conditions such as liver disease and cancer. Lastly, he mentions that around 3000 are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder each year.
Research from Toronto Health Check indicates that in Canada in 2015/2016, more hospitalizations for conditions entirely caused by alcohol rather than heart attacks occurred. Specifically in Toronto, men were 3 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to women for conditions entirely caused by alcohol.
The Definition of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse can be defined as drinking too much alcohol too often, interfering with your daily life. It is also a problem if drinking harms your relationships or it causes you to be unable to function at work or in other areas of your life. When a man drinks five or more drinks on one occasion or when a woman drinks four or more drinks on one occasion, alcohol is being abused. It takes the liver about 1 hour to process 8-10g of alcohol. Regardless of the amount of alcohol, food, or non-alcoholic beverages consumed, the processing rate remains constant.
Since alcohol is such a widely accepted substance, it’s important to know particular symptoms of alcohol abuse.
Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
- You or a loved one have tried stopping using alcohol for a week or more but can’t make it past a few days
- You or a loved one can’t stop drinking once you start
- You or a loved one recognize you need to stop or cut back
- You or a loved one are unable to perform at work or home when you are drinking
- You or a loved one feel guilty after drinking
- Others are telling you or a loved one that you/they have a problem
- You or a loved one feel annoyed by criticism of your drinking
- You or a loved one have a drink in the morning to get yourself going after drinking too much the night before
- You or a loved one have physically hurt someone else or yourself after drinking too much; due to violence or an accident
- You or a loved one have to hide your drinking or your alcohol
- You or a loved one have blackout and memory lapses after drinking too much
- You or a loved one are depressed
- You or a loved one are getting traffic or driving tickets while under the influence of alcohol
- You or a loved one are experiencing issues within your relationships
- You or a loved one have shaky hands.
If you recognize any of these alcohol abuse symptoms in yourself or a loved one, action needs to be taken. More often than not, symptoms of alcohol abuse indicate that one has an alcohol addiction.
Alcohol addiction ranges in severity from person to person. Some people can drink heavily all day, while others dabble with alcohol abuse and then stay sober for a while. Someone typically has an addiction if they heavily rely on drinking and can’t stay sober for an extended period of time. This is similar to alcohol abuse. Although alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction share similar symptoms, there are some essential differences to recognize.
Alcohol Addiction Symptoms
- Increased quantity or frequency of use
- Gradual increase of tolerance of alcohol
- Consuming alcohol at all times of the day or in inappropriate places, like work or church
- Avoiding being in situations where there is a lack of alcohol
- Avoiding contact with friends and family
- Function in everyday life depends on alcohol
Of course, noticing the symptoms in the earlier phases of the addiction will provide the opportunity to avoid negative consequences. If you recognize similar tendencies in yourself or a loved one, avoid the shame and guilt. Instead, show up with love and compassion for yourself or others.
How Alcohol Affects Our Body
After a long and stressful day at work reaching for a drink can bring a sense of calmness. From a neurological standpoint, alcohol works as a depressant of the central nervous system. It slows down your brain. Alcohol can interfere with memory formation, storage, logical reasoning, and motor coordination. It can be damaging all while stimulating the reward system in your brain. This gives you that euphoric feeling/addiction potential. Reports from Toronto Public Health show that if someone has an alcohol addiction, they run the risk of experiencing chronic diseases and medical conditions such as:
- Breast Cancer
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Heart disease
- Stomach Ulcers
- High blood pressure
- Low birth weight
Drug and Alcohol Counsellor Sophie Solmini discusses the crucial role that the liver plays in how our body breaks down alcohol. This organ performs over 500 functions in the body! If chronic alcohol consumption impairs the liver, further dysfunctions can take place. This can lead to other diseases such as the ones mentioned above.
So what can you do when it comes to alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction?
Alcohol Abuse and Addiction Treatment
Many facilities are available to help those with alcohol abuse. If you’re located close to the GTA region, here at SAMH our alcohol addiction facility employs the most compassionate, knowledgeable, and experienced team.
Our addiction treatment plan starts with an initial nursing assessment. In the first 72 hours, all clients are closely monitored to see if onset begins after the admission. We offer a medical doctor to speak with to address concerns or any uncomfortable symptoms that you may be experiencing.
At SAMH, we form individual treatment plans for all of our clients which will include:
- Medically assisted detoxification
- Evidence-based treatment that will address addiction and/or mental health issues
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Family therapy
- Free lifetime Aftercare programs.
If you or a loved one have any questions regarding alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, please reach out. We’re here to help.