The trend of alcohol has been gaining momentum despite people largely being aware of its far-reaching ill effects on human health, especially addiction. Global alcohol consumption has increased by a whopping 70% in recent years and is expected to continue like that up to 2030.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization has reported that around 3 million premature preventable deaths occur due to excessive abuse of alcohol and resulting harmful effects every year.
Uncontrolled long-term misuse of alcohol results in an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), which deteriorates a person’s mental and physical functioning. Alcoholism is a chronic medical condition that if not taken care can manifest itself as life-threatening health ailments.
As per NIAAA stats, approx 30 million people aged around 12 or older are suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder and around 28 million or 11% of adults aged 18 or more have been suffering from alcohol addiction.
As per NIAAA alcohol has emerged as the 4th major cause of avoidable deaths. There has been approximately a 25% increase in alcohol-related deaths as compared to past years and a 30% increase in accidents due to drunk driving.
Furthermore, mental disorders due to alcohol addiction are the second most common reason for suicide.
It all starts with experimenting, especially for teenagers. And with the widely accepted trend of alcohol consumption in society, experiments turn to obsessions leading to a frightening increase in alcohol consumption.
The alcohol tolerance of a first-time drinker is less as compared to somebody who drinks occasionally, which in turn is lesser than a binge drinker. The more alcohol you consume, the more your body gets accustomed to it and hence increases the cravings and the cycle goes on.
After a point of time leisurely drinking stops being an option and the compulsion starts taking over you completely and you even start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Having said that, the journey to becoming an alcoholic can largely be categorized into 3 stages which are popularly known as the ‘stages of alcoholism’. These are the early stage, intermediate stage and addiction stage or final stage.
It begins with consuming around 2 drinks or less in a day. People may not drink regularly but ingest more amounts as part of trials. It’s hard to differentiate them as alcoholics as they completely return to being themselves after the alcohol levels go down.
Behavioral signs of first-stage drinkers:
- Alcohol starts to seem relaxing.
- Drinking comes to mind in times of stress.
- Social gatherings feel incomplete without alcohol.
- Occasional mood swings.
Binging can be understood as an increased intake of approximately more than 5 drinks at a time in a day.
Psychological and physical reliance starts to become apparent. A person starts feeling less high from the same amount of alcohol as earlier and resisting a drink gets harder.
Signs of the intermediate stage or increasing addiction:
- Binge drink almost regularly.
- Experiencing alcohol’s effects physically like blackouts, anxiety and increased compulsions.
- Unable to stop the habit of binging despite being well aware of the after-effects.
- Issues start arising in personal life and relationships due to alcohol.
When a person takes more than 60 gms of alcohol at a time or 4 or more drinks on any day almost every day to feel the desired “high”, they’ve surely reached the addiction stage of alcoholism.
Alcoholism completely takes over their lives, making it hard to survive without alcohol. It is a medical condition that requires an alcohol treatment program.
Symptoms or signs of addiction stage:
- Memory loss
- Anxiety and insomnia
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Visible effect on social behavior
- Speech issues
- Development of deadly chronic disorders
It’s important to be aware of the consequences of even the first glass of alcohol that you decide to consume.
Although it is possible to treat alcoholism irrespective of the amount of damage you have already taken, it’s always wise to take preventive measures right from the beginning.