Millions of people in the United States and worldwide have abused alcohol. Due to alcohol’s propensity for dependence and tolerance, alcoholism is often a progressive condition which gets worse over time. While many people know the dangers of alcohol abuse, not everyone is willing to admit when they have a problem.
In many cases, alcohol abuse is not immediately recognized for the serious problem that it is. However, we have identified three distinct phases in the destructive downward spiral that is alcohol misuse. They include:
Binge drinking is often common in young adults, especially those college-aged 18-21. Generally speaking, alcohol consumption is considered binge drinking if the user consumes more than 3-5 drinks in one sitting (women, 3 and men, 5).
Binge drinking may stop abruptly or be infrequent, but any binge drinking is potentially dangerous. Among the many side effects include hangovers, blackouts, drunk driving episodes, personal injuries, assaults, and risky sexual behavior. Binge drinking may also cause persons to miss class or work due to hangovers and other complications.
Long-term, regular alcohol abuse can be even more destructive than binge drinking. Abuse occurs when alcohol consumption is starting to seriously affect one’s life. Commonly, drinking and driving may become more frequent, personal responsibilities may not receive adequate attention, and social relationships may be damaged.
Some abusers, however, manage to avoid many of these negative effects, and therefore are even less likely to realize the scope of their problem.
Alcohol Addiction or Alcoholism
Alcoholism is diagnosed when a person has a full-blown dependency on alcohol. They likely have faced serious consequences, including those listed above, but continue to drink due to their addiction. Alcoholics vary widely in terms of functioning. Some may maintain relationships and hide much of their problem from their place of employment. Conversely, others tailspin, losing jobs and sabotaging relationships despite the pain and suffering it causes themselves and others.