Alcohol misuse is when you drink in a way that’s harmful to your health, impairs your judgement, leads to interpersonal issues and creates dependency. It can range from occasional binge drinking (4 drinks or more on any day for men, 3 for women) to chronic heavy drinking (more than 14 drinks per week for men, 7 for women).
Alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD), is a chronic relapsing disease characterised by an inability to control or stop drinking despite the negative consequences it may cause. It is also associated with the emergence of a negative emotional state when alcohol is no longer available.
The causes of alcohol misuse and addiction involve a combination of factors:
- Genetic predisposition
- Biological & Environmental
Because alcohol, like other drugs, has a powerful effect on the brain, producing pleasurable feelings and blunting negative ones, it is attractive to people coping with stress, emotional pain, or life difficulties. However, this tends to bring only temporary relief and can cause changes in the brain that enhance negative emotional states between bouts of alcohol consumption and can lead to addiction.
The symptoms of alcohol misuse and addiction vary depending on the severity of the problem and the individual’s overall health. Here are some common symptoms to look out for:
- Increased tolerance: finding that they need to consume larger amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effect.
- Withdrawal symptoms: shaking, sweating, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, and in severe cases, seizures or hallucinations.
- Loss of control: struggling to stop or reduce your drinking even when alcohol causes significant problems in your life, and spending a significant amount of time obtaining, consuming and recovering from alcohol’s effects.
- Neglecting people, responsibilities and activities: performing poorly at work or school, and losing interest in hobbies and social activities that were once important to you.
In advanced stages, Alcohol misuse can lead to a range of health issues, including liver disease, gastrointestinal problems, cardiovascular complications, and an increased risk of accidents and injuries. Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairments may also arise or get worse.