There is a stark difference between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependency as Binge drinking is consuming an excessive amount of alcohol occasionally but their drinking habit can cause damage to most of their organs. They can have alcohol poisoning if their blood alcohol level rises to dangerous levels.There are repeated negative impacts on a person’s health and wellbeing because of them abusing alcohol.
Drinking excessively, Binge Drinking and Drinking irresponsibly (Often in dangerous situations) are things that differentiate a user of alcohol to an abuser of alcohol. An alcohol abuser does not need alcohol to function in life and does have some control over their drinking.
There are usually four common symptoms to classify someone as being dependent on alcohol. They are:
Craving for alcohol – Like any other drug, the craving for alcohol can become so intense that the person is willing to do anything (unethical or immoral) for alcohol
Physical Dependency- If they don’t have alcohol in their system, they tend to experience withdrawal symptoms of Nausea, Sweating, strong stomach cramps and vomiting.
Tolerance – People develop a high level of tolerance to the effects of alcohol. They need more of it to feel any intoxication.
Lack of Control – Person can’t seem to stop themselves from drinking.
Here is what Dr. Vihan Sanyal, a Mumbai based psychotherapist says “ Alcohol Abuse and dependency, unfortunately, is very common in our society. According to the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (DSMIV), alcohol abusers are those who continue to drink despite recurrent social, interpersonal, and legal problems as a result of their alcohol use. Many people are not aware of the difference between the two and more importantly the consequences of their habits of consuming alcohol. Greater awareness is required to bring positive change in our society.”
WHAT IS BINGE DRINKING?
Binge drinking is drinking an excessive amount of alcohol occasionally. Binge drinkers don’t usually drink every day. They often justify their drinking habit by saying things like, “I drink occasionally and socially, I don’t drink every day. I am not an alcoholic!”. “I enjoy drinking; however, it does get too much for me as I don’t drink every day like some of my friends”. “I am perfectly healthy because I drink occasionally”.
Binge drinkers don’t realize that their drinking habit can cause damage to most of their organs. They can have alcohol poisoning if their blood alcohol level rises to dangerous levels (Often common in binge drinkers) and this can become fatal.
They are at a greater risk of becoming addicted to alcohol and start to depend on it. It can cause episodes of amnesia and cause blackouts. Some people become aggressive while they are intoxicated and get into physical fights and hospitalization.
The following morning after the drinking episode, the result is often of shame, anger, and regret and of guilt.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M DRINKING TOO MUCH?
A person needs to ask themselves if their drinking habits are risky or harmful.?
Dr.Sanyal advises “It is always better to seek help early. I have helped many clients who have come to the clinic with a binge drinking concern. I was happy to see that they recognized the problem and sought help for it. They are now able to enjoy a healthy lifestyle without being worried about the ill habits of binge drinking.”
INDIAN STATISCTICS ON DRINKING
Here are a few hard facts found in recent studies:
1. Kerala has reported to have the highest number of alcohol consumption in the country
People in this state drink 8 litres per capita, four times more than any other state.
2. People in states of Haryana & Punjab are next on the list of heavy consumers of alcohol.
3. India is one of the largest producers of alcohol. It produces 65% of alcohol beverages in the South Asian Region.
4. 80% of consumers in India prefer hard liquor over beers.
5. 14 million people are dependent on Alcohol in India
6. More people drinking with the intent of getting intoxicated and binge drinking than in the past.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION?
1. Dependency can lead to financial instability and financial crisis
2. Loss of Employment
3. Rise in domestic violence
4. Inability to sustain long-term relationships
5. Rise in cases of rape and of marital rape
6. Drink driving and accidental deaths
7. Alcohol-related convictions (Including Murder)
8. Alcohol-related deaths
9. Changes of permanent damage to the developing brain of children and teenagers
10. Can lead to the use of other drugs
11. Can result in damage of brain cells.
Dr.Sanyal explains that “People often underestimate the severity of the damage alcohol consumption can cause. Research conducted on alcohol consumption has shown significant amount on brain damage in just 4 days of drinking. Binge drinking, especially, adversely affects a person’s brain cells.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PREVENTIVE MEASURES A PERSON CAN TAKE?
· Be fully aware of the problems your drinking habit can cause you and your loved ones.
· Consume your drink slowly and try to spend the duration of the social event with just one or two drinks
· Drop the amount of drink per glass (from a 60ml to a 30ml, etc)
· If you are a habitual drinker, never attempt to completely stop drinking (Going cold turkey), this can have serious consequences for your health.
· Know you triggers. What gets you in the mood for drinking, avoid these triggers
(People, places, events)
Dr. Sanyal cautions people, “Please be sensible and responsible while drinking. Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of entering drinking competitions with friends. Be aware of the ill effects of excessive drinking (Especially Binge Drinking). Also please take extra care if you are taking medication for an illness. Some medicines react adversely to alcohol. They are not to be mixed.”
WHAT ARE THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON OUR MENTAL HEALTH?
Alcohol affects our moods, cognition and reasoning abilities. It has the ability to intensify any dormant emotions or traumatic episodes from our past, leading us deeper into grief and depression. The person is often consumed by these negative thoughts and emotions, it can easily transform into suicidal thoughts and actions.
Dr.Sanyal states, “People are not aware that regular consumption of alcohol changes brain chemistry. We have a “Feel good” Neurochemical called serotonin (It is a mood enhancer). Alcohol is a substance which is known as a downer, it reduces the amount of serotonin in our brain which leads to people feeling depressed. This can be counterproductive if a persons’ moto to drink is to feel less depressed!”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE FOR PEOPLE WITH A DRINKING PROBLEM?
MEDICATION – There are a number of medications available which reduce cravings, help with impulse control and with de-addiction. It is best to consult a psychiatrist who can suggest the best medication for the patient.
PSYCHOTHERAPY – Different modalities which are available in psychotherapy like CBT, NLP & Hypnotherapy can all help a person to curb the tendency of drinking excessively or to completely avoid alcohol where necessary. Often therapy is used in combination with medication to help such cases.
REHABILITATION PROGRAMS – We have a number of rehabilitation programs and facilities to help clients and their families cope with the addiction and dependency problem.
Dr.Sanyal Says, “I have worked closely in treating people abroad, as well as in India who has had a history of Alcohol Abuse. I have done so using therapeutic modalities with fantastic results. Psychotherapy has all the tools necessary to support people who are often tired of fighting a constant battle with their addiction.”