What is Considered Alcohol Misuse?
Alcohol misuse refers to excessive alcohol use that increases your risk of harm. Drinking habits include consuming too much alcohol over the week and binge drinking – alcohol consumption of more than 8 units for men or 6 units for women in a single drinking episode. Regularly drinking too much alcohol can harm your mental health and increase your risk of developing physical conditions. Low-risk drinking for both men and women is defined by
- Drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol a week regularly
- Spreading your drinking evenly over 3 or more days
- Having several drink-free days per week
If you have two or more binge drinking episodes a week, you increase your risk of short and long-term mental and physical health problems. The risk of developing serious health problems increases the more often you drink above 14 units of alcohol per week regularly.
Is Alcohol Misuse the Same as Alcoholism?
Harm from alcohol misuse includes the following mental and physical health problems
- Accidents and injuries
- Violence and aggression
- Risky sexual behaviour
- Being the victim of theft after heavy drinking
These risks may become more severe if you do not recognise your alcohol-related problems early. Early identification means you can take steps to change your drinking habits to reduce the risk of alcohol addiction taking control of your life.
What Are the Signs That Someone Is Misusing Alcohol?
Alcohol misuse can put a strain on your relationships and your performance at work. It can also create problems with childcare, cause problems such as drunk driving, lower inhibitions in the control of your behaviour, cause physical conditions such as liver disease, and lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Mild Alcohol Misuse & Binge Drinking
- More frequent arguments and a negative impact on your sex life
- Absences from work after a hangover or during episodes of intoxication
- Missed schooling from reduced childcare input
- Negative emotions and behaviours such as anger, irritability and aggression
- Physical conditions such as high blood pressure
- Alcohol used to relieve anxiety or low mood
- Increased risk of side effects from mixing alcohol with medication
- Motor vehicle accidents and injuries after drunk driving
- Unsafe sex
- Assault or aggression to or from others after drinking to intoxication
- Alcohol poisoning from high blood alcohol levels, with serious effects on the central nervous system
- Mental health problems such as poor concentration and memory problems from blackouts
Alcohol Addiction & Dependence
The presence of six or more of the following indicates alcohol addiction
- Alcohol use in larger amounts or over a longer period than you intended
- Ongoing or unsuccessful attempts efforts to cut down or control your alcohol use
- Increased time spent in activities needed to obtain alcohol, consume alcohol or recover from its effects such as hangovers
- Constant cravings or strong urges to use alcohol
- Inability to fulfil your roles and responsibilities at work, school, or home from alcohol use. In particular, alcohol addiction can have a profound impact on your family, also affecting the lives of significant others
- Domestic, work, social or recreational activities are replaced by alcohol use
- Recurrent alcohol use in situations where there are known risks, such as drunk driving
- Alcohol use persists even with the knowledge that it has caused harmful consequences
- Psychological and physical health risks are likely to have been caused or worsened by your drinking
- Tolerance – Either drinking progressively more alcohol to achieve a pleasurable effect or a reduced effect when continuing to drink the same amount of alcohol
- Alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Specialised treatment may be required to reduce your alcohol intake safely, There is always a fine balance in finding the right dose of medication to do this, with specialised medical assessment that can provide close monitoring of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Input from both trained medical and nursing professionals using detailed checklists can monitor symptoms of alcohol withdrawal to ensure a safe detox. If you are living with alcohol addiction, your emotions, behaviour, livelihood, health and relationships are controlled by dependence on alcohol. With the right treatment, you can reclaim your life, together with the positive emotions, behaviours and overall wellbeing that go with it.
If You’re Unsure About Your Drinking Habits
It is not always easy to recognise when you might be living with alcohol addiction. It often develops slowly and you may not be aware of the harm brought on by your drinking habits. You can get a better idea about the impact of your drinking by using a set of questions that indicate the need for further assessment.
If you have scored two or more on this questionnaire, we recommend that you reach out to us at Smarmore Castle for a free assessment. You can always contact us for a free confidential phone call.
What are the Risks Associated with Problem Drinking?
Health risks increase as alcohol use becomes more frequent and drinking becomes heavier. Added to this are the serious health risks from withdrawal symptoms. The following are examples of known health risks
1. Liver Disease
The build-up of fat can damage liver cells and may progress to cirrhosis
2. Alcohol-related Brain Damage
Damage to brain cells causes problems with attention, memory and organisational skills which may progress to dementia. Brain damage may also be caused by alcohol-related problems such as stroke or head injury.
3. Depressive Disorder and Self-harm
Alcohol may be used to relieve feelings of low mood or alcohol can lead directly to depressive disorder, with an increased risk of self-harm
4. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Drinking any amount of alcohol in pregnant women increases the risk of problems with a baby’s development.
5. Cardiovascular Disease
Heavy drinking can cause a range of serious health problems such as damage to heart muscles and raised blood pressure. Binge drinking can cause the heart to beat irregularly.
Heavy drinking is linked to seven types of cancer, including of the breast, mouth and bowel
What Should I Do if I’m Concerned About My Drinking?
- Work out your daily alcohol intake. If you drink a combination of drinks, a drinks calculator can help to work out a typical daily intake in units of alcohol. If you are going to reduce your drinking in a planned way, use only one type of drink and decide which drink will be the easiest to reduce and stop
- Make a plan by keeping a drink diary and reducing your intake by a little each day, then keep that level for three days to review. Sharing your plan is important in case you need additional help and support. If you are an older person, you may want to reduce your drinking at a slower pace.
If you are Dependent on Alcohol
If you are dependent on alcohol, symptoms like cravings and withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming and make it a struggle to cut down on your drinking. To get through this safely, you will need expert assessment and treatment in a specialised treatment facility that includes the latest evidence-based treatment programmes. As a registered addiction rehab that draws upon many years of experience from a range of qualified health professionals, Smarmore Castle provides alcohol detox and a therapeutic community as part of your residential rehab.
Offering support groups and behavioural counselling interventions tailored to your individual needs, you will receive a unique package of treatment and care. High standards of nursing and medical care mean we can offer you treatment even for the most complex presentations, providing the highest quality bespoke nursing and medical care tailored to your individual needs.
Set in the peace and calm of the County Louth countryside in northeast Ireland, our family-run clinic will treat you with the care you deserve in your path to recovery and beyond.
Treatment starts with a comprehensive medical assessment that covers all those parts of your life that are relevant to your alcohol addiction. This information is then passed on to the therapeutic team to better understand the complexity of your needs.
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We offer holistic treatment that respects and treats you as an individual so that offers a range of therapies to suit your needs. Group therapy is based on the 12-step approach that can break down the barriers of stigma and denial to provide a way forward, giving you the power to find solutions to address your alcohol addiction. With knowledge and greater motivation, you will discover that recovery is possible.
At Smarmore Castle, we offer one-to-one therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), which means your therapist can help you explore your emotions and behaviours, giving you a better understanding of your addiction and the issues that matter to you. Aquatherapy can bring your mind and body to a better place, while we also offer unique approaches such as drumming therapy and equine therapy.
Relapse in alcohol addiction can happen at any time, which is why we provide group therapy for 12 months after you leave Smarmore Castle – including family therapy that involves those who provide comfort and support. This can give you the coping skills to maintain your recovery and reduce your chances of relapse. Although we will refer you back to your previous medical team, care does not stop after treatment, Smarmore Castle can put you in contact with your local AA fellowship and help introduce you to a sponsor.