Alcohol abuse

Alcohol is one of the most widely used (and abused) drugs in the world. It is seen as an essential part of social, work and family life in most countries and cultures.

Alcohol also causes more deaths every year than all other forms of drugs combined.

Most of us start drinking alcohol in our mid- to late- teens and continue to enjoy it regularly, with friends and family, for the rest of our lives.

Whilst moderate consumption of alcohol, even on a regular basis, may not be deemed too unhealthy, frequent and excessive consumption poses a serious risk to your health.

Most people are well aware of alcoholism as a form of addiction and the damage it causes in one’s life. However, alcohol abuse does not need to reach the point of addiction before damaging our health and wellbeing.

What is alcohol abuse?

Alcohol abuse is defined as the habitual, excessive use of alcohol that results in damage to health, interpersonal relationships or ability to work.

As everyone is different, it is not easy to say precisely how many alcohol units must be consumed in one session for it to count as binge drinking. However, binge drinking is commonly defined as consuming more than eight units of alcohol in a single session for men, and more than six units for women.

While it may be hard to accept, most of us will know somebody for whom alcohol abuse is an issue. Some of us may even suffer from it without noticing. In many cultures and environments, alcohol abuse can be an accepted part of life – seen simply as having a good time, or essential to relaxing.

Nobody should be judged for occasionally drinking alcohol to excess. However, it is important to understand the effects of alcohol abuse and symptoms so you can help somebody suffering.

The NHS estimates that around 9% of men in the UK and 3% of UK women show signs of alcohol dependence.

How can it impact on personal finances?

It is well known that alcohol abuse can lead to serious financial problems, but not only because of the actual money spent on alcohol. After consuming alcohol, people are more likely to spend impulsively, and their working productivity may diminish. Long-term drinkers may have to exit their career earlier than planned in order to manage health problems, or may have to spend money on treatment if necessary.

It’s not just a one-way relationship either. People who are in debt may also turn to alcohol to relieve the stress of their money worries.

‘High-functioning’ alcoholics

However, when people think of an alcoholic, they often think of someone who has a wildly uncontrollable life because of drinking alcohol. But that’s not always the case.

It is important that people realise that many high-functioning alcoholics seem fine on the surface. This is because believing that all alcoholics fit the life-falling-apart stereotype will result in some alcoholics denying that they have a problem with alcohol, and so they may not get help.

Further support

There is help out there for you if you are struggling with alcohol misuse/abuse. The following organisations and links are a good place to start:

  • If you are concerned about your own drinking habits, take the alcohol self assessment. It’s free and confidential: Alcohol abuse self assessment.
  • Drinkaware offer lots of information and support on cutting down alcohol intake.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous is an organisation that helps people to recover from alcoholism.