Influences of Alcohol and Substance Abuse on Mental Health


The recurrent and excessive use of alcohol is the definition of alcohol abuse. Left untreated it would become a psychological or physical dependence referred to as an addiction. While each alcoholic is already engaged in alcohol abuse, it is possible for an individual to abuse alcohol and even not be an addict by the strictest definitions. Determining whether the line has been crossed between abuse and addiction is significant but regardless of whether an individual is a drug user or an addict, getting help is vital.

Behaviors often associated with alcohol abuse include DUI’s, unstable social relationships, and organ or neurological damage due to excessive and/or prolonged alcohol intake. Alcoholic addiction is characterized by an obsessive need to drink alcoholic beverage and physiological and or psychological dependence on its substance. The family relationship that exists between alcohol and an alcoholic could be likened to an all-consuming matter with an abusive lover that alienates its victim from every other relationship in his or her life.

The road to alcohol abuse and potential alcoholism starts in a high society where drinking alcoholic beverage is a preferred pastime and an acceptable way to let off steam and unwind. Business associates often meet for drinks after work. Special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries are often celebrated with champagne and mixed drinks. Sporting events and tailgating parties aren’t complete without individual favorite beer. Drinking is an accepted social behavior among grownups and a rite of passage for those turning 21. Unfortunately, social drinking could be the first step toward alcohol abuse.

An individual’s coping mechanisms and genetic makeup share equally important roles as predetermining factors in whether social drinking could potentially turn into an addiction. A history of mental disease or emotional instability could also increase the potential for alcohol abuse.

The earliest warning indicators of potential alcoholic abuse involve a subtle but growing preoccupation with the role that alcohol plays in an individual’s life.

•Social assemblies without alcohol become boring.

•Unwinding at the end of a stressful day is regularly defined by having a few drinks.

•Thoughts become preoccupied with consuming the next drink.

•Driving drunk becomes a more regular behavior, culminating in DUI’s.

•What starts out as a way to have fun goes on into the means of numbing out emotionally or dealing with pain?

•Mood swings onset that are not attributable to any other physical or mental health issue.

When an individual carries on to abuse alcohol, reinforcing its role of importance while relying upon it as a coping mechanism, addiction is the next step. A substance abuser who is well on his way to becoming an alcoholic will get down to drink, not just socially, but alone. He could also develop a ritual of when and how much he drinks. That will protect his behavior at the expense of friends or loved ones.

Alcohol addiction is considered by the mainstream mental health community to be a disease because it alters brain chemistry, creating a compulsion to consume one drink and then another, and another. Alcohol is a drug and those who abuse it can develop psychological and/or physiological dependence. When there is physiological addiction, withdrawal, referred to as detox, without suitable supervision and enough medical support, can lead to loss of life.

Symptoms of alcohol addiction include the following:

1. Drinking alone

2. Inability to control the amount of alcohol consumed

3. Hoarding alcohol

4. A chronic and compulsive desire to drink

5. Loss of interest in prior activities and relationships

6. A gradual build up of tolerance to increased levels of alcohol

7. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal when not able to drink, this could include nausea, irritability, sweating, shaking, and hallucinations.

Social drinkers rarely give serious consideration to the possibility of getting a problem with alcohol abuse. A lot never will. The gradual onset of alcohol abuse is marked, however, with warning signs and indicators that highlight the truth that a problem exists. Still, those who abuse alcohol rarely see the danger signs that may be staring them in the face. Chronic abuse is simply minutes away from becoming the beginning of addiction.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides wide information both to public and professional populations to assist in education and self assessment for the potential of having a trouble with alcohol.

Help for alcohol abuse and/or addiction generally falls out as family and close friends see the warning signs and become proactive in encouraging a problem drinker to seek help.