Social v problem drinking

This month, I have decided to put out an extra couple of lifestyle blogs on Health and Wellbeing. I love and will continue to write about the things that affect us all, socially, mentally, and environmentally.

Alcohol is something we drink, something we get a taste for through social drinking, something we go back to, just to be social, but for those people with a predisposition to alcohol, they may not always be able to predict how much they will drink, or when or if they will stop.

Alcohol dependence can start at any age. There are no good predictors of when it may start, whether it’s though a family history or a current family problem with alcohol. Drug abuse problems may also influence the start of personal drinking. It is common for those who struggle with alcohol to deny the negative effects of drinking, or that they even have a problem.

Alcohol is considered a drug because it depresses the central nervous system and can disrupt mental and motor skills. When drinking excessively, it can damage internal organs. Alcohol is not only harmful to our health but economically too.

The effects of alcohol

Alcohol lessens tension, reduce inhibitions, and eases social interactions. When used in excess, however, it can be physically and psychologically addicting; it causes impaired memory, co-ordination and judgment; it can also damage the heart, liver and nervous system. It can lead to birth defects.

Some people may have been heavy drinkers for many years, but other people may develop a drinking problem later in life. The onset of a drinking problem may be triggered by a big life change that can cause depression, isolation and loneliness.

Safe drinking

Below are steps to reduce the risk:

  • Make sure you eat before drinking so that you slow the absorption of alcohol and slow its effects;
  • Don’t drink when you’re thirsty. Reduce your thirst before drinking alcohol;
  • Don’t pick up a drink when you’re under stress, emotionally upset, or tired;
  • Know when to stop. Think why you want to drink, don’t just drink to get drunk;
  • Don’t mix alcohol with drugs or medicines.

Signs of problem drinking

  • Frequent uncontrolled drinking episodes;
  • Drinking until drunk;
  • Going to work drunk, or drinking on the job;
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol;
  • Getting into trouble with the law or injuring yourself as a result of drinking;
  • Problems at school with social relationships, or with family because of drinking;
  • Using alcohol to decrease anxiety or sadness;
  • Downing alcohol;
  • Frequently having more than 2 drinks a day for men, or 1 drink a day for women or older adults;
  • Lying, or trying to hide drinking habits;
  • Needing more alcohol to get high;
  • Feeling irritable, and being unreasonable because you’re not having a drink;
  • Having social or financial worries caused by drinking.

What we can do

  • Learn more facts about alcoholism;
  • Treat alcoholism as a disease, not a moral failure or lack of willpower;
  • Be understanding, but don’t become an ‘enabler’ by protecting or lying for an alcoholic, or denying the problem exists;
  • Encourage treatment.

My conclusion

Where having a drink is considered social, over the years our interpretation of what is social has changed. But as part of us having a healthier lifestyle and moderating the amount of stress we take in, we will moderate how much we drink and will rely less on alcohol.

It is important we understand alcohol and its effects. The more we understand how alcohol works, the less likely we will become reliant on it. Alcohol has become so accepted, we don’t think about it when we pick up a drink. We’re not consciously thinking about what we drink or how much we drink.


6 Dec, 2018

2 thoughts on “Social v problem drinking

  1. Alcohol can take you to a place where you can easily get lost, especially when you don’t know when to be ashamed of yourself. Then a different you may appear out of nowhere.

    The fact is, alcohol has no center and no boundaries if it finds you vulnerable. Just sip it the right way.

    Ilana, I love your effort to keep people safe and healthy during this holiday season.

    1. Thanks Tim. Yes, alcohol doesn’t care who it affects, or how many families it breaks up or hurts. It’s one of the many vices we’ve normalised, without us thinking about its consequences and its impact on our lives.

      You’re right when you say, ‘alcohol has no centre and no boundaries if it finds you vulnerable.’ We don’t always know if we are vulnerable, because we don’t equate our emotional wellbeing with our vulnerability.

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