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Reflection: Alcoholism and Its Impact on the Society

Alcoholism and Its Impact on the Society
Credit: Promises Treatment Centers

This write-up was prepared sometimes in 2009 while attending a job interview in Ireland. The Hanley Centre in Dublin as a pre-requisite to the interview asked me to prepare a write-up on the topic which was presented to the Interview Panel. The Hanley Centre is a charity organisation that helps people with addition problems. Read the piece on “Alcoholism and Its Impact on the Society” below. It might help someone knowing the impacts of alcoholism…

We all know that drinking alcohol can be a very sociable and enjoyable experience. In fact, to most of us it is considered an essential part of our social life. But what happens when it goes beyond that? What happens when alcohol starts to creep into other areas of your life? What happens when it starts to affect not just you but other people around you? There is a darker side to drinking alcohol and there is a blurred line between the acceptable consumption of alcohol and alcoholism itself. Here we discuss the Alcoholism Facts to give you a better understanding of alcoholism.

Alcoholism, also known as “alcohol dependence,” is a disease that includes four symptoms:

  • Craving: A strong need, or compulsion, to drink.
  • Loss of control: The inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion.
  • Physical dependence: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety, occur when alcohol use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
  • Tolerance: The need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to “get high.”

What is Alcohol Abuse?

Alcohol abuse differs from alcoholism in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol, loss of control over drinking, or physical dependence. Alcohol abuse is defined as a pattern of drinking that result in one or more of the following situations within a 12-month period:

  • Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities
  • Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery
  • Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk
  • Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by the drinking. Although alcohol abuse is basically different from alcoholism, many effects of alcohol abuse are also experienced by alcoholics.

Ten Warning Signs of Alcoholism

What are ten warning signs of alcoholism? Here are alcoholism signs that are listed in no special order:

  1. Drinking alone
  2. Making excuses, finding excuses to drink
  3. Daily or frequent drinking needed to function
  4. Inability to reduce or stop alcohol intake
  5. Violent episodes associated with drinking
  6. Drinking secretly
  7. Becoming angry when confronted about drinking
  8. Poor eating habits
  9. Failure to care for physical appearance
  10. Trembling in the morning

Impacts and Effects of Alcoholism

  1. Alcohol and Driving
  • In the period from 2003 to 2005, approximately 120 people were killed each year in alcohol-related crashes
  • In the same period, almost one third (31%) of crash deaths were alcohol-related
  • Where Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels were available for drivers killed, almost six out of ten had alcohol in their blood
  • One in every six drivers with alcohol in their blood, who were responsible for fatal crashes in 2003, were not above the legal limit
  1. Alcohol and Families
  • Between 61,000 and 104,000 children aged under 15 in Ireland are estimated to be living with parents who misuse alcohol
  • A study of women who attended the Coombe Women’s Hospital found that almost two‑thirds (63%) of the 43,318 women surveyed said they drank alcohol during their pregnancy. Alcohol consumption, particularly in the first three months of pregnancy, can lead to disorders in how the brain develops in the womb
  1. Alcohol, Mental Health and Suicide
  • Alcohol‑related disorders were the third most common reason for admission to Irish psychiatric hospitals between 1996 and 2005
  • Alcohol use is often a factor in suicidal behaviour. In 2006/2007 alcohol was a factor in 41% of all cases of deliberate self-harm
  • One Irish study of people from three counties who died as a result of suicide, found that more than half had alcohol in their blood
  1. Alcohol and Crime
  • Almost half of the perpetrators of homicide were intoxicated when the crime was committed
  • Alcohol was found to be a factor in almost half of all cases of sexual assaults on adults according to a major survey of sexual assault and violence in Ireland. In such cases, where only one party had been drinking, the perpetrator of the sexual assault was the one drinking in the majority of cases (84% of female and 70% of male sexual assault cases)
  1. Alcohol and Injuries
  • More than one in four of those attending accident and emergency departments have alcohol‑related injuries, almost half of which occurred to people aged under 30 years
  • Alcohol is a factor in one in four traumatic brain injuries
  1. Alcohol and Health
  • Hospital discharges for alcohol-related liver disease increased by 147% between 1995 and 2004
  • Alcohol-related deaths also increased during the same period, from 3.8 deaths per 100,000 to 7.1 deaths per 100,000
  • Many cancers, including cancer of the mouth, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and female breast, are causally related to alcohol consumption
  • Cancer of the liver has had the highest rate of increase of all cancer types between 1994 and 2003, increasing by 10.7% for females and 7.4% for males, compared to an increase for all cancers of 1.1% for females and 1.1% for males.
  • There is a risk relationship between the amount a woman drinks, and the likelihood of her developing the most common type of breast cancer. Drinking one standard alcoholic drink a day is associated with a 9% increase in the risk of developing breast cancer, while drinking 3‑6 standard drinks a day increases the risk by 41%
  • High levels of alcohol use and heavy drinking among young women are reflected in the fact that one in four women discharged from hospital for alcohol‑related conditions were aged under 30, compared to 17% of men under 30 discharged
  • Between 1995 and 2004, there was an increase of 29% in the proportion of teenage girls aged under 18 discharged from hospital for alcohol‑related conditions compared to an increase of 9% for males under 18

Seven physical effects of alcohol abuse

Here are seven physical alcohol abuse effects based on various blood alcohol concentration levels:

  1. Inhibitions Become Reduced – at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05, changes in a person’s behavior begins to be noticeable. Alcohol abuse effects and reduced inhibitions can put a person at higher risk for actions they would otherwise not participate in, such as sexual activity, continued drinking or illegal drug use.
  2. Loss of Muscle Control – at the level of 0.10, slurred speech will likely be evident. Impaired judgement and poor coordination are physical effects of alcohol abuse that can lead to falls and accidents.
  3. Memory Loss and/or Blackouts – since alcohol depresses the brain’s control mechanisms, as blood alcohol levels increase, periods of time and certain situations and events may not be remembered afterward.
  4. Confusion – when blood alcohol levels reach 0.30, the person will act in a confused manner, unable to have a logical conversation, for example.
  5. Stupor – at a blood alcohol concentration of 0.40, a person can hardly function, acting seriously dazed and disoriented.
  6. Coma – at a blood alcohol level of 0.50, a person is at risk for coma, which can be life-threatening.
  7. Death – with blood alcohol levels of 0.60 and higher, respiratory paralysis and death become very much a possibility.

References:
• Alcohol-related harm facts and statistics – http://alcoholireland.ie/?page_id=110 (Read 8th June, 2009)
• Alcoholism Facts – http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=52888 and http://www.alcoholismfacts.net/ (Read 8th June, 2009)
• Alcoholism signs – here are ten warning signs of alcoholism you should know… – http://www.safemenopausesolutions.com/alcoholism-signs.html (Read 8th June, 2009)

Credit: Adewale Ademowo

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