Alcohol Abuse: How You Can Recognise It
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It is estimated that around 1.6 million people in England have an alcohol dependency and research indicates that around a third of men and women in Britain drink more than the recommended maximum alcohol intake at least once a week. This level of alcohol abuse leads to serious social consequences with thousands injured annually in motor vehicle accidents in which alcohol is a factor and alcohol-related crime costing the country billions of pounds a year. These statistics attest to the need to recognise the signs of alcohol abuse so that treatment can be started.
Signs of alcohol abuse
Problem drinkers often exhibit one or a number of the following signs:
- Inability to quit and withdrawal – it is not uncommon for problem drinkers to recognise that they are drinking too much. Unfortunately, they find it impossible to quit. Any attempt to quit is often accompanied by withdrawal symptoms like nausea, anxiety and insomnia.
- Shaking hands – commonly referred to (often in amusement) as the DTs or delirium tremors, shaking hands is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal and is frequently experienced by problem drinkers the morning after a night of heavy drinking. It is caused by the affect that alcohol has on the nervous system.
- Secrecy and lies – problem drinkers often indulge themselves in secret and will lie to cover up their behaviour. It is also not uncommon for them to drink alone. If confronted, they will deny the extent of their drinking.
- Facial flushing and broken capillaries – people with a low tolerance for alcohol or who drink too much often turn red as their alcohol intake increases. This is caused by dilation of the capillaries, which can also break; this is observable on the thin skin of the nose and face.
- Yellowing – alcohol kills cells in the liver, which is responsible for removing toxins from the body. This liver damage leads to jaundice that manifests itself in the yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes.
- Blackouts and memory loss – drinking heavily can lead to an inability to recall events during the drinking session; this is because excess alcohol affects the normal functioning of the brain, it can also lead to bouts of unconsciousness.
- Strained relationships – problem drinkers will often have frequent arguments with friends and loved ones, especially about their drinking.
- Reasons for drinking – many problem drinkers turn to alcohol because they are depressed or feeling low. As a depressant, alcohol actually only serves to deepen the mood. Some feel the need to drink when in company as an aid to fitting in.
- Early morning drinking – an early morning drink is not normal behaviour and may signal a problem. It can also lead to other problems, especially if the drinker is planning to drive during the day.
If you, a loved one or a friend exhibit any of these signs, a drinking problem may be indicated. Effective treatment is available and should be accessed as early as possible both to increase the chances of success and to prevent the problem getting worse. Lifeworks community is a rehabilitation clinic that provides specialist treatment for addiction to alcohol. The NHS also provide support and counselling for those in need to help.
What You Need to Know About Alcohol Poisoning
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Alcohol poisoning is a life-threatening condition that results from the consumption of excessive amounts of alcohol over a comparatively short period of time. It usually requires urgent medical treatment.
The mechanics of alcohol poisoning
Simply put, alcohol poisoning is the result of rapid heavy drinking that leads to a blood alcohol content so high that it becomes toxic. It occurs when the liver, which is responsible for processing the alcohol, becomes overloaded so allowing unfiltered alcohol into the blood stream.
In the average person, the liver is only capable of handling one unit of alcohol per hour. If you have two units in one hour, then one of those units will enter the bloodstream unfiltered; every additional unit consumed will increase the amount of alcohol in the blood. The faster you drink, the greater the risk of alcohol poisoning as the concentration of alcohol in the blood (BAC – blood alcohol concentration) reaches dangerous proportions.
Even after you have stopped drinking, it is possible that your BAC will continue to rise for a while, as the body processes the last drink.
Who is at risk?
Anyone who drinks a lot rapidly puts himself or herself at risk of alcohol poisoning. The most common victims include:
- Binge drinkers.
- Young people and students.
- Those on medications with which alcohol can interfere.
- Children experimenting with alcohol.
Victims of alcohol poisoning exhibit symptoms beyond ordinary drunken behaviour. Among them are:
- Abnormal or very slow breathing - it is possible that breathing may cease altogether.
- Vomiting – risks associated with vomiting are choking and lung damage caused by inhaling the vomit.
- Stupor and passing out – victims can become unresponsive without losing consciousness or pass out altogether. Some may even lapse into a coma that can result in death.
- Skin colour – alcohol poisoning can cause the skin to become pale or take on a bluish hue.
- Hypothermia and dehydration – a drop in body temperature (hypothermia) can be dangerous as can extreme fluid loss (dehydration). The latter can lead to brain damage while a fall in blood glucose can cause seizures.
- Keep the victim awake and in a sitting position; don’t let them sleep or lay down.
- Try to give them water to keep them hydrated.
- If they are unconscious, check for breathing and place them in the coma position; don’t allow them to lie on their back.
- Under no circumstances should you give them more alcohol, give them coffee (it will exacerbate dehydration) or make them walk around.
Urgent treatment for someone with alcohol poisoning
If you come across someone suffering from alcohol poisoning, you need to get urgent help. It is vital that you call for an ambulance immediately. While you are waiting for professional help to arrive, you should take the following action:
Alcohol poisoning is dangerous
Make no mistake: alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect that someone is drinking too much, too fast then you should do your utmost to stop him or her. And, if you come across someone you suspect may have alcohol poisoning, it is imperative that you get immediate assistance.
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