20 Oct How is alcohol use impacting you?
We have all heard it before; ‘everything in moderation’. This is certainly true when it comes to alcohol use. While many Australians enjoy a glass of wine at a weeknight dinner or a few beers with friends on a weekend, it is important to consider the impacts of alcohol use when it becomes excessive.
Alcohol alters the chemical messages in our brain that control movement, emotion, judgement, speech, behaviour and memory. This is why the short-term impacts of alcohol consumption, commonly experienced during a ‘big night’ of drinking, include compromised balance, slurred speech, impulsive behaviour, memory lapses or ‘blackouts’, intense emotional responses, and loss of coordination.
In the long term, chronic alcohol use increases one’s risk of:
- Decreased attention span
Alcohol use becomes alcohol abuse when a person’s life is affected by drinking and the alcohol use is interfering with the ability to function normally. For example, it may:
- Affect the person’s ability to work
- Manage finances
- Fulfil their family responsibilities
- Cope with stress
- Positively engage with their loved ones
If one becomes reliant on alcohol to cope with everyday life, they have reached the level of dependency. This brings with it an increase in tolerance, meaning the person’s brain becomes less sensitive to alcohol so the person consumes a greater amount in order to experience the physiological and behavioural effects of the alcohol.
Dependency also leads to withdrawal symptoms; the brain and body become reliant on alcohol frequency so when the person abruptly stops consumption, the body is deprived of the effects of alcohol and requires time to adjust to functioning without it. During this adjustment phase, the person experiences side effects including body shakes, insomnia, nausea, and anxiety.
So how can you tell if you are at risk of developing a dependency?
This is a difficult question to answer accurately but research undertaken by the National Health and Medical Research Council suggests that “limiting alcohol intake to two standard drinks on any day reduces the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury”. This applies to both men and women. You can read more about the guidelines at: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/ds10-alcohol.pdf
If you are worried about your drinking or are concerned about the drinking habits of a family member, it is important to seek help. Engaging with a psychologist can assist with developing adaptive coping strategies to, over time, replace the use of alcohol as a means of coping with life stressors. This support can also empower you to move toward your goals and live in accordance with your values.
Author: Di O’Malley – Founder and Managing Director of Young Minds Health and Development Network, and Counselling Psychologist.
Please call us on (07) 3857 0074 to book an appointment with one of our Clinicians; or send us an Appointment Request here via our website and we’ll contact you as soon as possible to book a suitable time for you.