Alcohol: by any name--a 'depressant'
It’s important to remember that the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages is actually ethyl alcohol … a drug! A colorless liquid that through thousands of years of personal and cultural celebrations has been a part of the social fabric that, generally speaking, has brought people closer together. Unfortunately for some, alcohol has also been a factor in destroying self-respect and splitting people apart.
There’s really no mystery regarding the effect that alcohol has on us… as a 'depressant'--effectively an anesthetic--it slows certain parts of the brain, as well as your central nervous system. And it’s the amount of alcohol consumed that ultimately determines the effect it has on you—not the type of drink consumed. Here are a few of the effects that can be typically encountered following the consumption of an excess amount of alcohol:
In the Short Term:
In the Long Term:
Alcohol, in its many forms, is not a cause of concern for most people. But just as some people have personal issues with cancer, heart disease, vision, hearing and a host of other life-altering diseases or afflictions, for a surprisingly large segment of society, alcohol abuse leading to alcoholism, is the stumbling block. We recognize that most folks can drink safely—and although alcohol abuse is behind many preventable deaths, in moderation, alcohol may actually provide some health benefits.
For those of us that are unable to consume alcohol in moderation, the warning signs are clear to see, and the potential impact on our health is well documented. There is nothing bad, or wrong, with alcohol itself, but when alcohol use turns to abuse, the trap has been set.
We answered many of your questions regarding alcoholism in our FAQ section, but to concisely differentiate social drinking from alcoholism, compare these behaviours:
• Social drinking puts a reasonable limit on the frequency/amount of alcohol consumed, and generally is part of a social gathering or celebration. The consumption of alcohol is not the reason to participate in these activities, and is not a major component.
• Alcoholism is a progressive, chronic disease that includes these symptoms: craving, loss of control, physical dependence and tolerance. An alcoholic will continue to drink despite the many problems that can ensue because of it, and lives with an obsession that results in a physical compulsion to drink. Alcoholism lasts a person's lifetime and generally follows a predictable course—the chance of developing alcoholism is influenced both by a person's genes and by his or her lifestyle.
Alcoholism becomes a potential factor when an individual crosses over to inappropriate drinking behaviours:
…frequently, the drinker moving steadily towards alcoholism is suffering from personal issues that are easier to run from in an alcoholic haze, then to address head-on. The change from social drinker, to heavy drinker, to alcoholic can be virtually transparent to both the individual, and those around them. Picking up on warning signs at an early stage can give the problem drinker, as well as concerned parties, an opportunity to take positive steps to address the issue.
Alcoholism is a disease that has no particular ‘target market’. People of all ages and backgrounds are at risk, and if you’re suffering from a chronic drinking problem, it’s not because you're weak, or due to a lack of moral conviction. Recovering from ravages of alcoholism is a gradual process, and while alcoholism cannot be cured—it can be arrested. It’s important to remember that completely quitting drinking is just another step on the road to recovery … but it is a critical step that you can successfully take!
Sobriety...seize it, embrace it and cherish it! Seek out the help you need, and lean on those that can walk with you during your journey of recovery--and discovery!
Today, you can take a small step away from your drinking problem, and towards a vibrant, new life without alcohol. Yes…you can do it!