Alcohol Awareness

Dr Thapelo Motshudi
19 July 2023
4 min read

Alcohol abuse has become a widespread concern, with devastating consequences for individuals and society as a whole. Excessive and chronic alcohol consumption can lead to severe health problems, including liver disease, addiction, mental health disorders, and social complications. It not only impacts the individual’s physical and mental well-being but also affects relationships, work productivity, and overall quality of life. It is crucial to raise awareness about the dangers of alcohol abuse, promote responsible drinking habits, and promote healthier communities.

Alcohol is an easily available substance that acts on the brain and many other organ systems. It has been manufactured in different forms and used for recreational purposes by almost all societies for hundreds of years.  While a lot of people can use it responsibly, there are millions of others worldwide who abuse it.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 3 million deaths every year result from the harmful use of alcohol, and this represents about 5.3 % of all deaths. Alcohol consumption causes death and disability relatively early in life. In addition, a causal relationship has been established between harmful drinking and the incidence of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS. Alcohol also brings significant social and economic losses to individuals and society at large.

How do I know I’m addicted to alcohol?

When asked about their alcohol intake people almost always underestimate it, mainly because of denial, which is one of the defining features of substance abuse. One simple way is to use the CAGE questionnaire:

  • C - Has anyone ever felt you should C ut down on your drinking?
  • A - Have people A nnoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  • G - Have you ever felt G uilty about your drinking?
  • E - Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (E ye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

A single positive response is highly suggestive of an alcohol problem, and more than one answer is particularly concerning.

What is excessive drinking?

Excessive drinking includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 18.

Binge drinking, the most common form of excessive drinking, is defined as the following:

  • For women, 4 or more drinks during a single occasion.
  • For men, 5 or more drinks during a single occasion.

Heavy drinking is defined as consuming:

  • For women, 8 or more drinks per week.
  • For men, 15 or more drinks per week.

The following people should not drink any alcohol at all:

  • Younger than age 18.
  • Pregnant or may be pregnant.
  • Driving, planning to drive, or participating in other activities requiring skill, coordination, and alertness.
  • Suffering from certain medical conditions.
  • Recovering from alcoholism or are unable to control the amount they drink.

Alcohol abuse and dependence

Alcohol abuse has the following features:

  • Recurrent failure to fulfill obligations at work and home as a direct consequence of the substance;
  • Using it in circumstances in which it is physically hazardous to do so
  • Legal problems as a result of using the substance
  • Breakdown in social or interpersonal relationships arising from using the substance

For it to be called abuse the above conditions must be present for at least a 12-month period.

Dependence arises when one develops tolerance, which is a need for increased amounts of the substance to get the same effect. One also develops withdrawal symptoms on stopping to drink.

How do I get help?

Alcohol abuse is challenging to treat and is highly dependent on the level of motivation of the affected person, and the strength of the social support. Even if you are successful in other areas of your life, it is generally difficult to do this on your own.

Helping someone with an alcohol problem is hard. If you're covering for the person, you need to stop. For example, don't make excuses for the person when he or she misses work or gets in trouble, because your loyalty in this case does more harm than good. In addition, there are excellent NGOs and community organisations that provide support, the most notable of which is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).


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