Alcohol Addiction Versus Socializing: Walking a Fine Line

Alcohol addiction does not develop overnight. However, because addiction is a disease, it can run in families and be further influenced by repeated exposure to substance abuse at home. 

More than ten percent of children in the United States resides with a parent who abuses alcohol according to a study performed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Unfortunately, these statistics only further reinforce how important it is to be aware of what it looks like when alcohol addiction develops, and how to help others get professional care. 

Identifying an alcoholic isn’t as easy as you may think. The regular consumption of alcohol has become commonly accepted among many cultures and for many reasons, especially when it comes to socializing. Usually, drinking on occasion does not typically raise a red flag for many adults. However, when it starts to happen in excess, you might be looking at the development of alcohol addiction. 

How Someone Becomes a “Social Drinker”? 

These days, as jobs and home lives become more and more stressful, demanding so much of ourselves, it’s not unusual for a person to suggest grabbing a drink when the clock strikes 5 pm. Unfortunately, it really doesn’t take much for a “social drinker” to develop an alcohol addiction. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking is responsible for one in ten deaths among working-age adults (20-64 years old). It’s estimated that 17 million adults in America suffer from alcohol addiction. Even more alarming, over 850,000 young adults in America between the ages of 12 and 17 have presented with some sort of alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse. 

Development Of An Alcohol Addiction

Typically, when we reach a certain age, it becomes a routine of trial and error. We try new things and see what works for us. Experimenting with alcohol was seen as a rite of passage as we grew into adulthood. Unfortunately, taking part in these actions, whether with your peers or alone, can quickly take a dangerous turn. In fact, these actions can lead to alcohol addiction. 

Trying out different mixtures and seeing how much of them we can handle can eventually lead to disastrous results if not done responsibly. Oftentimes, young people take it a step further and take part in consuming large amounts of alcohol within a small amount of time, and it is known as “binge drinking.” 

Alcohol Addiction: Battle of the Sexes

Typical alcohol consumption guidelines are measured differently between men and women. This is due to the different rates that alcohol is metabolized. In the case of males, consuming more than five standard alcoholic beverages within a period of 2 hours is considered binge drinking. 

alcohol addiction treatment
Alcohol affects women differently than men.

For women, four or more within that same time frame is the standard. Aside from the obvious observation that men are generally larger in body mass, there are several other factors that play into different alcohol tolerances between the sexes. 

In general, women tend to have a physical make up that consists of a larger amount of body fat. This is due to anatomy and generally does not coincide with physical fitness levels. Alcohol is actually stored within fat cells, thus causing women to retain more of it in their body for a longer period of time before it is expelled. 

Another interesting fact is that alcohol, once consumed, is held in reserves within our blood, where we also store the majority of our bodies’ necessary water. Because women tend to be smaller, therefore having less blood by mass, the toxic chemical then builds up and concentrates higher in the female body. 

Additionally, there is also the matter of the enzyme known as alcohol dehydrogenase. This little key player takes immediate action within the body to try and break down the drink before it can even make it to the blood. Men typically produce more of this enzyme in their bodies, which can lead to having a higher tolerance than women, allowing them to consume more before having the same effects.

However, both men and women can develop alcohol addictions. Because men can metabolize alcohol more quickly, they have a tendency to drink more over a short period of time. This leads to not only building a tolerance to alcohol but provides a higher risk of dependency. This leads directly to abuse and addiction. 

What is Considered a Standard Alcoholic Beverage?

It is important to know that different types of cocktails have different measurements for their alcohol content. For example, it is said that 1.5oz of a distilled liquor is equal to 5oz of wine. However, depending on the type and brand, these measurements can vary. Some liquor or wine can have a higher percentage of alcohol than the guidelines of these measurements. 

It is important to know what you are putting into your body, rather than an estimate. One wrong calculation can lead to consequences, both deadly and life-altering. Before considering what type of alcohol, if any, is right for you, make yourself aware of the dangers involved that could lead you toward the path of alcohol addiction. 

When Alcohol Becomes a Problem

Some indicators that alcohol abuse is present may be: 

  • drinking more to achieve the same effect while at social outings
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms after they have discontinued drinking
  • decrease or lack of motivation in work performance due to drinking 
  • family/relationship issues that seem to revolve around alcohol or multiple nights out socializing
  • Lack or decline in personal hygiene
  • Signs of worsening depression or anxiety
  • Overall decline in health or wellbeing

An alcohol addiction (also known as alcoholism) occurs when a person’s life is controlled by their drinking. Just the same as with any substance abuse, alcohol addiction will intertwine itself into many different parts of your life, leaving behind a mess. Be on the lookout for some of these initial changes that start to develop when a person is suffering from alcohol addiction. 

Many times people are unaware that they are dealing with alcohol addiction and contribute these negative factors to an increase in stress. 

Unfortunately, it is also true that an alcoholic can be aware of the impacts drinking is having on their lives and still refuse to recognize it. Take notice if you or someone you love is showing signs of partaking in binge drinking, or any alcohol-related activities that could indicate serious alcohol addiction. 

Increased Drinking Can Indicate an Alcohol Addiction

Binge drinking is a very obvious sign that there may be an impending problem that will likely lead to alcohol addiction. But many alcoholics will try to make excuses for these types of behavior. Other times, a gradual increase in the amount of alcohol they drink can be just as dangerous in fueling substance abuse. 

When the increase of alcohol consumption happens on more of a daily or every weekend basis, the risk of developing an alcohol addiction is only growing higher. 

A person might choose to drink more often because of things like:  

  • The need to get out and spend more time with friends in a mutual social environment. 
  • In order to relieve themselves of, or reduce the higher levels of stress they are experiencing.
  • Desire to celebrate positive personal accomplishments more often.
  • Finding daily life to be boring and mundane.
  • Dealing with hardships or loneliness in personal or romantic relationships, or lack thereof. 
  • To feel the sense of “normal” that they feel when they have developed a dependency on alcohol after prolonged use. 

Because an alcohol addiction develops over time, the more often a person incorporates alcohol into their routine, the more of it they will need to ingest to feel the same effects. At first, this may not even be recognized by an alcoholic. However, over time, they may find themselves unable to experience the ups and downs of life without leaning on alcohol as a coping mechanism. This leads to developing an alcohol addiction slowly impacting their everyday behaviors. 

When Someone Starts Drinking to Forget

Alcoholics often turn back towards alcohol to forget the pain that their own addiction is creating. 

When an alcoholics life has become to spiral, many things in their life will start to change for the worse. Alcohol addiction has now begun to show more negative outcomes than positive ones. They may become more depressed or unmotivated, leading to issues with their work or in their relationships. 

They may even experience legal repercussions as a result of their actions while under the influence. As things start to decline, a person that is now addicted to alcohol will most likely only resort to what they can count on to ease the pain. They will turn to alcohol.  

Because someone has now been using alcohol as a crutch, they usually now have issues caused by their alcohol addiction, such as: 

Consequences of alcohol abuse can often spiral quickly. It’s important to get help as soon as possible.
  • Having people in their social circle distance themselves.
  • Problems in their romantic relationships.
  • Pushing away family or those that they have personal relationships with to avoid having to face their alcohol addiction. 
  • New peer groups in new locations to socialize that accept intoxicated behaviors.
  • Unpredictable mood changes or unnecessary outbursts.
  • Replacing old friends with new ones that drink more often and more heavily.
  • Having a hard time getting to know new people as a result of being overly intoxicated.
  • Difficulty at work, school, or activities that were once of great value. 
  • Altercations or in legal trouble as a result of binge drinking. 
  • Irresponsible behavior or acting out in ways that are damaging to their social life. 
  • Problems communicating with those that don’t know them. 
  • Isolating themselves because they no longer feel accepted. 

As bad as things may seem for them now, alcohol addiction will only continue to make them worse over time. Once substance abuse has taken hold of your social life, physical signs of dependency will then be the icing on the cake. It is important to know that before it gets worse, taking action to get alcohol addiction treatment can help avoid further self-harm. 

The Physical Side of Alcohol Addiction

When you have developed a dependency on alcohol, your body will have a hard time functioning without it. A person can be dependent on alcohol without having an addiction, but please note that it only means that they are only on their way there. This is when it becomes even more hazardous to your health.

At this point, someone who uses alcohol regularly has developed a tolerance to how much their body can stand before becoming physically ill. This only allows alcohol addiction to get worse, as they drink more and more to have the same intoxicating effect. Now that the brain and body expect alcohol to be flowing through it more often. 

When someone who is addicted to alcohol stops using, physical symptoms will be present. These look something like: 

  • Shanking of the hands and arms, these can be slight or even resemble all over body tremors.
  • Increased perspiration or heavy breathing.
  • Nausea or upset stomach (lasting longer than the initial hangover).
  • Mood swings or uncontrolled emotions. 
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Having a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep.
  • Oversleeping or inability to feel rested and stay focused.

In order to sustain an alcohol addiction, the fastest way to get rid of these horrible feelings is to then ingest more alcohol. Having withdrawal symptoms as your body works to detox in between drinking, feeding the hunger of the addiction is often a result to avoid it getting worse or lasting longer. 

Denying Help for Alcohol Addiction

Even when everything has taken its turn for the worse, an alcoholic may still refuse to get help for their addiction. There are many reasons why those who abuse alcohol turn away help or refuse to admit they have a problem. Often, people who can’t admit they have a problem with alcohol are still functioning “normally” as though the alcohol is not affecting their daily life.

The truth of the matter is that most alcoholics do not fit the stereotype. In fact, those who do fit the stereotype likely started as functioning alcoholics. But, after years of abusing alcohol, the ramifications finally caught up to them. They may have lost their job, gotten divorced, or were arrested.

No one can drink heavily and maintain their responsibilities over time. Eventually, the drinking will catch up with him/her. Alcohol addiction will soon overtake their lives and health, leaving only two options: get help or let addiction ruin everything you have worked for. 

High Functioning Alcoholics

A highly functional alcoholic defies what most of us think a person suffering from alcohol addiction would look and act like. They can be high achievers, sometimes even in positions of power. In fact, the success of highly functioning alcoholics could actually lead people to overlook their excessive drinking habits or to ignore it to avoid conflict with authority. 

Highly functional alcoholics live what appears to be successful lives. They have great careers, families, and strong social connections, unlike the alcoholics depicted on television. As a society, we have been brought up to think alcoholics are disheveled, unemployed people who ruin family holidays and events by drinking too much. 

Denial is also a top reason why a high functioning alcoholic refuses to acknowledge he/she has an alcohol addiction. They are inclined to justify their drinking by reinforcing that they have a great job and provide excellent life for their family. An alcoholic usually diffuses confrontation, proclaiming that they are entitled to have a drink to unwind from the workday. 

The Binge Drinker

Binge drinking can have serious effects on the human body, especially over time. Aside from the risk of developing an alcohol addiction, it can be the cornerstone leading to many other deadly consequences. Binge drinking has been directly related to: 

  • Dui arrests, imprisonment, house arrest, hefty fines and penalties
  • Car accidents, proving deadly to both the person that is intoxicated, and the other unsuspecting drivers
  • Accidents such as falling or getting hurt as a result of being overly intoxicated
  • Alcohol poisoning that could result in permanent brain damage or death
  • Assault, violence, inflicting self-harm or even suicide
  • Developing chronic diseases or illnesses that could be deadly (heart disease, cirrhosis of the liver, stroke, cancer)
  • Accidental pregnancies, STI’s, miscarriages, birth defects
  • Cognitive function decline or brain damage 
  • Alcohol addictions that require professional rehabilitative treatment 

Anytime a person has consumed more alcohol than their body can reasonably handle, they are taking a risk. Unfortunately, when binge drinking is involved, more often than not, there will be repercussions to these actions. 

Over a period of time, a person’s body will eventually develop a dependency on alcohol, requiring the person to consume more to achieve the same level of intoxication. This is a sign of alcohol addiction that shouldn’t go ignored.  

Don’t Wait to Get Help

Watching your life fall apart because of an alcohol addiction does not have to be the end of your story. Rehab Facilities, such as Harmony Ridge, offer recovery services to help you take back control and rebuild the parts of your life addiction has taken from you. Watching someone you love suffer from addiction can be truly heartbreaking. Whether in denial or just not sure what to expect, reaching out for the help to get answers is only a phone call away. 

You can get in touch today to discuss your options and make a plan to face alcohol addiction head-on. Contact us today to find out how you can stop the cycle of alcohol addiction before it stops you from living the healthy life you deserve. We’re ready to help, and we’re here for you.

References:

https://pdb101.rcsb.org/motm/13

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/what-standard-drink

https://www.healthline.com/health/stages-alcoholism#addiction

https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline