Alcohol abuse is an alcohol disorder where the person’s drinking causes distress or harm. It is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism “as the continued use of alcohol despite the development of social, legal, or health problems.”
Characteristics of Alcohol Abuse
The most common characteristics of alcohol abuse are:
- Failing to fulfill obligations at work, school, or home
- Drinking alcohol despite legal problems such as arrests for driving under the influence, domestic violence, or committing other crimes while under the influence
- Binge drinking or drinking alcohol in excess
- Frequently drinking
- Drinking alcohol at socially unacceptable times, events, or places
- Drinking alcohol although it causes distress to your family and loved ones
- Engaging in dangerous activities such as driving, swimming, or boating while drinking alcohol
- Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of alcohol
- Underage drinking
The Difference between Abuse and Dependency
Alcohol abuse is not the same as alcohol dependence or alcoholism which causes the person to have intense cravings or experience physical withdrawals when they stop using alcohol. In contrast, a person who abuses alcohol may be a binge drinker or drink excessive amounts of alcohol and will not experience cravings or withdrawals when they quit.
The Impact of Alcohol Abuse on Society
Alcohol abuse goes way beyond the person who drinks. Even moderate levels of drinking can have consequences to others, unexpectedly. Impairments in judgment, emotional disturbances, and other maladaptive behaviors that occur as a result of alcohol abuse are responsible for many problems in society. The extensive harm to others is incalculable because alcohol abuse increases auto crashes, spousal and child abuse, domestic violence, disregard and neglect, and an economical impact due to healthcare treatment, lost productivity, and court administration costs.
Health Risks from Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol is a CNS depressant and although in some people it may initially produce euphoria it ultimately causes drowsiness and sedation with decreased cognition and motor skills. People who abuse alcohol are more prone to accidental injuries, sexual assaults, suicides, fatal falls, poisoning overdose and other serious health risks. Excessive drinking can cause liver disease, kidney disease, heart problems, weakened immune system, sleep disorders, bleeding problems, digestive problems, stroke, brain damage, eye problems, diabetes complications, bone loss, neurological complications, and psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, and harmful or suicidal tendencies.