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083 616 0162

Alcohol dependence and abuse

Alcohol dependence and abuse

Alcohol seems to be well-entrenched in our society. We celebrate an occasion with sparkling wine, we savour a good wine with a meal, we socialize with cocktails and we knock back a beer while watching our team’s match on TV. For some of us alcohol consumption doesn’t go further than this and as such it doesn’t bring problems. For some people, however, alcohol consumption gets out of control and moves into the realm of alcohol abuse and dependence which, in turn, tends to bring untold problems.
Some of the symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence include:
• drinking more or for a longer period of time than you want to or intend
• more than one attempt to cut down or control your drinking
• spending a lot of time obtaining alcohol, drinking or recovering from drinking
• getting drunk often
• frequent ‘hangovers’ that impact on your ability to do your job or fulfilling your responsibilities at home or at work
• cutting back on or withdrawing from important social, work and leisure activities because of drinking
• continuing drinking even though your drinking is causing you difficulties and problems in your personal, social and work life
• drinking a lot more than previously in order to achieve the same ‘pleasurable’ effect
• drinking in situations that are dangerous, inadvisable or illegal eg. at work , before driving
• experiencing repeated alcohol-related problems with the law eg. drunk driving offences
• developing physical symptoms and/or withdrawal symptoms eg. hand tremors, nausea, sweating, anxiety, restlessness, headache
• drinking to relieve withdrawal symptoms
• not able to remember what happened during a drinking episode
• needing 5 or more drinks a day
• regretting afterwards things that you did whilst drunk
• needing a drink in the morning in order to start your day
• denying that your drinking is a problem

Causes of alcohol dependence and abuse

Various factors play a role in the development of alcohol dependence including genetics, stress, cultural acceptability and brain biochemistry. It is also often associated with other disorders such as depression and anxiety as well as with the abuse of other substances such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine. Whatever the reason that causes an individual to start drinking, with some individuals the need to continue drinking out of habit and the need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol. As consumption increases the individual gradually develops a tolerance and needs to drink more and more in order to achieve the same effect.

Treatment of alcohol abuse

Treatment is a complex process usually beginning with the withdrawal of alcohol from the body in a process of detoxification. Withdrawal symptoms need to be managed during this process as they can be extremely unpleasant and in some cases quite severe. The doctor will decide whether this process needs to take place on an in-patient or an out-patient basis.

Once detox has passed and the patient is sober ongoing treatment might include the following:

• medication
• a process of therapy with the patient, his family and his partner
• support groups


Health society guide to stress

Caring for the mind Hales and Hales 1995