Treatment To Reduce Alcohol ConsumptionReduce alcohol consumption: Alcohol is one of the most widely abused substances in the world. But you don’t have to be drinking in excess to develop a problem with alcohol. Your reliance on alcohol can vary from having a mild to a severe attachment. With a mild attachment, you might struggle to imagine a Friday night going by without having a few drinks to get merry. With a severe attachment however, alcohol has more value than anything else in your life including your relationships, your work and possibly life itself. Reaching for a glass of wine at the end of your working day or when the children have gone to bed, or sharing some drinks with friends in a social setting are common unwinding, relaxing and socialising rituals for many adults. When you are drinking alcohol in moderation and you are keeping within the Government’s guidance limits, your drinking is unlikely to be a cause for concern. When these rituals become daily habits however, the pleasure that you gain from your drinking habit can switch to an ever-increasing “must have” at the end of your day, or as a way to cope with an ongoing demanding situation. When regular drinking habits are not monitored in some way, physical and psychological attachments can lead to deeper alcohol abuse problems; you need to consume more alcohol to have the same effect, bypassing the “enjoyment” phase that you previously experienced. As you increase your alcohol intake your tolerance to it will also increase. At the physiological level, your reliance on alcohol is being affected by changes in your brain’s wiring system. If your reliance on alcohol is not too deeply entrenched, just being aware of these habitual “alarm bells” can be enough for you to reduce alcohol consumption by yourself. For some people who struggle with an alcohol attachment problem however, professional assistance is needed to confront the compounding effects of habitual drinking at the cognitive, emotional and behavioural levels.
Reduce alcohol consumption: What causes a reliance on alcohol?A reliance on alcohol can stem from a number of different risk factors. These include: Family history – If you have a close member of the family who abuses alcohol, then this will increase your risk of forming attachments to alcohol. Although genetic associations have been found with alcohol attachment, there is no single genetic factor that can be attributed to its cause. Family histories of alcohol attachment can also indicate a conditioned learning factor or a combination of both genes and conditioned learning from the alcohol-reliant authority figure, since your environment can also influence how your genes are expressed towards alcohol. What you learn from your social environment can alter your perception of alcohol even when there is a low to moderate attachment to alcohol in your family. Young children can be influenced by the associations that adults make with alcohol. Observing the ways that adults punctuate the weekend, manage stress, socialise and celebrate an occasion etc. can form values that accumulate into patterns of acceptable behaviour. These patterns can then be increased by other risk factors affecting one’s own personal choices. Mental health disorders – Having a mental health condition can increase your likelihood of developing an attachment to alcohol. The connection between mental health and alcohol reliance isn’t always clear however, as some individuals can abuse alcohol before they develop a mental health condition or have a formal mental health diagnosis. Traumatic experiences – Suffering traumatic experiences and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can increase the risk of self medication with alcohol. Certain traumas have a strong connection with alcohol abuse, particularly when being a victim of a violent crime, suffering sexual or physical abuse and losing a parent at a young age (including a loss through parental divorce). Lifestyle Stress – Turning to alcohol to relieve short-term feelings of stress can become habit-forming when stressful events are recurring. Stressful occupations and experiencing numerous major lifestyle changes in close succession such as suffering a bereavement, divorce or redundancy can then trigger heavy drinking and increased alcohol attachment to cope with these major lifestyle events. A lack of family cohesion or cooperation – An unsupportive family background in which the adult authority figures are abusive, controlling or neglectful towards their young children is a risk factor for alcohol attachment for those abused children in later adulthood. Alcohol can then be used as a coping mechanism to gain control over these traumas, to spite the abuser, to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and for “building” self esteem. In contrast, alcohol can also be used as a form of self harm when there is an unsupportive family network. Peer influences – Pressure from one’s peers to drink alcohol in social situations is a significant risk factor for alcohol attachment. Teenagers place great importance on peer approval and the need to “fit in” led by active encouragement or criticism to motivate peer behaviour. Teenagers can feel alienated if they don’t participate in similar behaviour performed by their peers. These social norms can continue into adulthood with social drinking patterns being considered a necessary part of a social occasion. Age of first alcoholic drink – The earlier age that someone starts drinking alcohol, the more likely it is that they will become reliant on alcohol. Habits are usually reinforced over time. Gender differences – Men are more likely to have a higher alcohol attachment than women with some explanations relating to the increased amount of dopamine release that men experience when consuming alcohol. It can be concluded that there are numerous risk factors that can affect your reliance on alcohol. These risks include genetic and environmental (experiential) factors. How these factors connect through your childhood and your period of personal alcohol consumption will also impact on your alcohol attachment. When you want to reduce alcohol consumption understanding the background risks may help you appreciate your predisposition to drink alcohol and what you are struggling to cope with in your life.
Reduce alcohol consumption: Common reasons for drinking alcoholThere are generally two broad categories that characterise the reasons for drinking alcohol. People generally drink as a coping mechanism or for mood/behaviour enhancement. Understanding your motives can be useful when you want to reduce alcohol consumption. Click this link for more information on the reasons for drinking alcohol.
Signs and symptoms of problem-drinking and alcohol use disorderProblem-drinkers and those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) both have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol but there is a difference between both categories. Those who suffer with AUD are addicted to alcohol. Each day is a struggle not to drink and although sobriety can be achieved for extended periods, the risk of having one drink will cause a relapse. Those with AUD will always suffer with AUD, whether drinking alcohol or if your addiction is in remission. There are various terms to describe those who abuse alcohol, but are not addicted to alcohol. These terms include: problem drinkers, habitual drinkers, heavy drinkers, binge drinkers, compulsive drinkers, social drinkers etc. This category of drinker does not experience the same physical and mental withdrawal symptoms as those who are addicted to alcohol. For problem-drinkers , extended periods can be achieved without drinking alcohol, but when you do drink alcohol, it can be excessive and can have a detrimental impact on the quality of your (or someone else’s) life. At the time of drinking excessively, these problems may go unnoticed. After the period of drinking, the full extent of the problems and the decisions made whilst drinking heavily are then realised. Some might argue that with some types of problem-drinking, the "addiction" is related to the confined act of drinking, rather than to the substance of alcohol. A problem-drinker uses alcohol to achieve a certain state of mind. Alcohol might be used to “enhance” your mood or feeling of self importance. Or alcohol can be used to cope with problems, suppressing your negative emotions like anxiety. Some people use alcohol to momentarily escape your awareness of problems. The symptoms of problem-drinking (alcohol abuse) can include:
- Experiencing mood swings (getting angry, violent or depressed).
- Neglecting one’s responsibilities with your family, your work or study obligations.
- Social isolation from your family or peer group.
- Being abusive towards your family, peer group or strangers.
- Taking sexual, criminal, financial or personal risks that may be regretted after the drinking has stopped.
- Experiencing blackouts.
- Feeling like you need a drink (cravings) from the moment you wake up.
- You obsess over the need to have a drink.
- You plan your life around drinking alcohol.
- You find it hard to stop once you start drinking alcohol.
- You drink to help you cope with situations e.g. social or work situations.
- You have abandoned other activities to accommodate drinking alcohol.
- You drink more alcohol and for longer periods than you initially planned.
- The majority of your time is spent drinking, being hung-over or being sick from drinking too much alcohol.
- You drink more alcohol than before to access the same “benefits”.
- You’ve tried to reduce your alcohol intake but failed more than once.
- You neglect your responsibilities, continuing to drink even though it is harming your health, your relationships, your work and social life.
- You have experienced blackouts or memory loss from drinking excessively.
- You continue to drink even though alcohol has made you depressed, anxious or increased the risk of being harmed e.g. by driving or operating machinery.
- You have experienced symptoms including muscular tremors, nausea, fits, anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia and delusions when you have tried to withdraw from alcohol.