In Canada, alcohol is a legalized drug and as you know, easy to get.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to see when your drinking has crossed the line from moderate or social use to problem drinking.
- If you consume alcohol to cope with difficulties or to avoid feeling bad, you’re in potentially dangerous territory.
- If you joke about alcohol and partying without being aware that it is a drug, and then use it, you’re at risk of sliding down the slippery slope of substance abuse.
Drug Classifications – For your information!
Drugs are typically classified in one of three areas: Uppers, Downers and All Arounders.
Each classification of drug will have a different effect on the user.
Although there is a great difference in strength, all stimulants increase the chemical and electrical activity in the central nervous system.
- Boost energy
- Raise heart rate and blood pressure
- Increase respiration
- Reduce appetite and thirst
- Makes user more alert, active, confident, anxious, restless, and aggressive
Uppers include: Adderall, Cocaine, Hookah, Meth, and Nicotine.
In general, downers, which are central nervous system depressants, depress the overall functioning of the central nervous system.
- Muscle relaxation
- Disinhibition of impulses and emotions
Downers include: Alcohol, Heroin, and Oxycontin/Vicodin.
All arounders usually act as stimulants and occasionally as depressants but mostly psychdelics dramatically alter a user’s perception and create a world in which reason takes a back seat to intensified sensations by creating illusions, delusions, or hallucinations. Much of the information about the effects of psychedelics has been anecdotal rather than the result of extended scientific testing.
All Arounders Include: Acid/LSD, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Mushrooms, PCP and Salvia.
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and take steps to cut back if you recognize them. Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it.
Understanding alcoholism and alcohol abuse
Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many interconnected factors, including genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health. Some racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans, are more at risk than others of developing alcohol addiction. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems. Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate.
Question: Do you have a drinking problem?
Answer: You may have a drinking problem if you…
- Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
- Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
- Have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking.
- Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
- “Black out” or forget what you did while you were drinking.
- Regularly drink more than you intended to.
Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking. The bottom line is how alcohol affects you. If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse
Substance abuse experts make a distinction between alcohol abuse and alcoholism (also called alcohol dependence). Unlike alcoholics, alcohol abusers have some ability to set limits on their drinking. However, their alcohol use is still self-destructive and dangerous to themselves or others.
Common signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
- Repeatedly neglecting your responsibilities at home, work, or school because of your drinking.
For example, performing poorly at work, flunking classes, neglecting your kids, or skipping out on commitments because you’re hung over.
If you feel that you might be better able to tolerate your job and would be much more successful if you drank less, but you won’t stop even occasional drinking, you have an alcohol abuse problem.
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s physically dangerous, such as drinking and driving, operating machinery while intoxicated, or mixing alcohol with prescription medication against doctor’s orders.
- Experiencing repeated legal problems on account of your drinking. For example, getting arrested for driving under the influence or for drunk and disorderly conduct.
- Continuing to drink even though your alcohol use is causing problems in your relationships. Getting drunk with your buddies, for example, even though you know your wife will be very upset, or fighting with your family because they dislike how you act when you drink.
- Drinking as a way to relax or de-stress. Many drinking problems start when people use alcohol to self-soothe and relieve stress. Getting drunk after every stressful day, for example, or reaching for a bottle every time you have an argument with your spouse or boss.
The path from alcohol abuse to alcoholism
Not all alcohol abusers become full-blown alcoholics, but it is a risk factor. Sometimes alcoholism develops suddenly in response to a stressful change, such as a breakup, retirement, or another loss. Other times, it gradually creeps up on you as your tolerance to alcohol increases. If you’re a binge drinker or you drink every day, the risks of developing alcoholism are greater.
Signs and symptoms of alcoholism (alcohol dependence)
Alcoholism is the most severe form of problem drinking. Alcoholism involves all the symptoms of alcohol abuse, but it also involves another element: physical dependence on alcohol. If you rely on alcohol to function or feel physically compelled to drink, you’re an alcoholic.
Tolerance: The 1st major warning sign of alcoholism
Do you have to drink a lot more than you used to in order to get buzzed or to feel relaxed? Can you drink more than other people without getting drunk? These are signs of tolerance, which can be an early warning sign of alcoholism. Tolerance means that, over time, you need more and more alcohol to feel the same effects.
Withdrawal: The 2nd major warning sign of alcoholism
Do you need a drink to steady the shakes in the morning? Drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms is a sign of alcoholism and a huge red flag. When you drink heavily, your body gets used to the alcohol and experiences withdrawal symptoms if it’s taken away. These include:
|· Anxiety or jumpiness· Shakiness or trembling
· Nausea and vomiting
|· Depression· Irritability
· Loss of appetite
In severe cases, withdrawal from alcohol can also involve hallucinations, confusion, seizures, fever, and agitation. These symptoms can be dangerous, so talk to your doctor if you are a heavy drinker and want to quit.
Other signs and symptoms of alcoholism (alcohol dependence)
- You’ve lost control over your drinking. You often drink more alcohol than you wanted to, for longer than you intended, or despite telling yourself you wouldn’t.
- You want to quit drinking, but you can’t. You have a persistent desire to cut down or stop your alcohol use, but your efforts to quit have been unsuccessful.
- You have given up other activities because of alcohol. You’re spending less time on activities that used to be important to you (hanging out with family and friends, going to the gym, pursuing your hobbies) because of your alcohol use.
- Alcohol takes up a great deal of your energy and focus. You spend a lot of time drinking, thinking about it, or recovering from its effects. You have few if any interests or social involvements that don’t revolve around drinking.
- You drink even though you know it’s causing problems. For example, you recognize that your alcohol use is damaging your marriage, making your depression worse, or causing health problems, but you continue to drink anyway.
Drinking problems and denial
Denial is one of the biggest obstacles to getting help for alcohol abuse and alcoholism. The desire to drink is so strong that the mind finds many ways to rationalize drinking, even when the consequences are obvious. By keeping you from looking honestly at your behaviour and its negative effects, denial also exacerbates alcohol-related problems with work, finances, and relationships.
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