Drug and Alcohol Abuse

March 20th, 2011

Drug and alcohol abuse is a worldwide problem that has existed in societies since our earliest recorded history.  Ancient religious texts warn against the dangers of drinking too much and equate drunkenness with foolishness.  Not much has changed over the millennia – people tend to lose their inhibitions when they are drunk or high which results in dangerous or inappropriate behaviour.
What constitutes drug and alcohol abuse?
Alcohol is generally considered acceptable in Western societies.  It is readily available in many social settings (for example restaurants, clubs, and pubs) and is present in many households to enjoy over a meal or barbecue.  So where is the line drawn between acceptable social use and drug and alcohol abuse?
Let us first start by defining the difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence.  At its most simple understanding we can say that drug and alcohol abuse is a repetitive pattern of using drugs or alcohol that causes problems or that results in the person endangering their safety and is therefore unhealthy.
There is a fine line to be drawn between drug and alcohol abuse and outright addiction, or as it’s clinically known, dependence.  Addiction is usually accompanied by physical symptoms as well as behavioural patterns.
The physical symptoms of addiction (dependence as oppose to abuse) include “tolerance” (needing more and more of the substance to get the same high or drunken feeling) and withdrawal symptoms which are drug specific. Also needing the drug or alcohol to feel normal or delay withdrawal symptoms will qualify.
Behavioural symptoms of addiction are the continued use of drugs and alcohol despite the recurring negative consequences it causes.
If you find that you’re missing work or neglecting other responsibilities such as looking after your children as a result of using your substance then you meet one of the criteria for drug and alcohol abuse.  A person in the grip of this disorder will struggle to maintain a normal life as they will be under the influence of their substance for significant amounts of time.
Another potential sign of drug and alcohol abuse is if you use substances in situations where being high or drunk places you in danger.  For example: driving or operating heavy machinery while drunk or high is dangerous.  People who drink socially will not place themselves in risky situations as a result of having a glass of wine at dinner.
If you’re in trouble with the law as a result of your habit then you may meet the next criterion for drug and alcohol abuse.  Examples of this could include being arrested for being “drunk and disorderly” or being in possession of an illegal drug.  If a group of friends has a barbecue and each one enjoys a single beer they are unlikely to be arrested or have legal troubles.  It is the person who abuses alcohol or drugs that will be arrested as a result of their heavy and inappropriate consumption.
Finally if you find that your personal relationships are deteriorating as a result of your substance then you may meet the final criterion for drug and alcohol abuse.  This could include having arguments with your spouse, having your parents be angry with you, isolating yourself from your children, and losing friends.
From the picture above we can summarize drug and alcohol abuse by saying that the person continues to use a substance even though it is causing real problems in a number of areas of life.
What should I do about my drug and alcohol abuse?
If drug and alcohol abuse is causing problems for you and the people close to you then the obvious decision should be to stop using drugs and alcohol.  This is easier said than done and the majority of people who try to stop using by themselves relapse despite their best intentions.
You will have a much better chance of beating drug and alcohol abuse if you contact one of our professional addiction treatment consultants and receive expert advice in choosing an appropriate treatment centre.

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