The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines alcoholism as “a chronic, progressive, potentially fatal disorder marked by excessive and usually compulsive drinking of alcohol leading to psychological and physical dependence or addiction.”
Each word in the definition is significant because most of us drink alcohol, socially or in the privacy of our homes. So, how do we know what constitutes alcoholism?
How much is too much?
Research by NIAAA shows that only about 2 in 100 people who follow the limits set develop an alcohol use disorder. However, even if one follows these limits, one may develop alcohol-related problems if one drinks too quickly or one has other health issues.
One standard drink is defined by the NIAAA as:
- 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of regular beer (about 5% alcohol)
- 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor (about 7% alcohol)
- 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of unfortified wine (about 12% alcohol)
- 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof hard liquor (about 40% alcohol)
Phases of alcohol use disorder
Alcohol use disorder usually has two phases: alcohol intoxication and alcohol withdrawal.
- Alcohol intoxication occurs when the level of alcohol in the blood increases beyond a safe limit. Signs are:
- Impaired attention
- Slurred speech
- Inappropriate behavior
- Poor coordination
If the blood alcohol level becomes too high, it may result in coma or even death.
- Alcohol withdrawal occurs when a person suddenly stops drinking or greatly reduces the amount of alcohol consumed after a period of heavy drinking. Signs are:
- Hand tremors
- Increased heartbeat
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough to prevent you from going about your daily life.
What do you have: alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction?
Alcohol abuse in India
- Between 1992 and 2012, per capita consumption of alcohol in India increased by 55% (OECD report, 2015).
- Around 30% Indians consume alcohol, of which 4%-13% drink every day (WHO data).
- 50% of Indians who consume alcohol belong to the hazardous drinking category.
- The average age when a person first consumes alcohol has dropped from 28 years (in the 1980s) to 17 years (in 2007).
- Almost 25% of road accidents occur due to the influence of alcohol.
- Healis conducted a Mumbai Cohort Study of 35,102 men aged 45 years and above and followed up for 5 years. They found that alcohol consumption led to an increased risk of mortality due to cancer, heart disease, and liver cirrhosis. The risk is increased when alcohol is consumed together with tobacco.
You should not drink if you’re:
- pregnant or trying to conceive.
- going to operate heavy machinery.
- going to drive a vehicle.
- taking medicines that may interact with alcohol.
- suffering from a medical condition that may get aggravated by alcohol consumption.
Denying that you may have a problem is commonly seen in at-risk people. If you are still not sure whether you suffer from alcohol addiction, you can take the alcoholic self-test developed by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.
If you feel that you may be at risk of developing alcoholism, do not hesitate to approach us at Askmile. You can ask a free question to our expert counsellors anonymously!