- Kathy Antillano, Rita Asuquo, and Natalie Hamilton
Alcohol Awareness Month
April is Alcohol Awareness month, which affects many individuals, families, and communities around the country. It has been estimated that 1 out of 12 people are suffering from alcohol use disorder. Studies have shown that rural communities have higher rates of alcohol consumption, therefore discussing the effects of alcoholism are important. Below we discuss the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, the social impact, and drinking during pregnancy.
Physical Effect of Alcohol
Alcohol consumption has become a major part of America’s social culture making it hard to distinguish the signs and symptoms of alcoholism. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, some of the signs of addiction to alcohol include:
Loss of control: If a person finds themselves wanting to cut back on drinking, but is unable to do so
Relationship Issues: If drinking is impacting their work or social life in a negative way
Neglecting other activities: If a person is giving up activities they previously enjoyed doing in order to drink
Tolerance: If a person is developing a tolerance where more alcohol is needed to produce the same effects
Family history: Having a close relative that had an alcohol use disorder can increase a person’s risk by 50%
Secrecy: If a person is going out of their way to hide their drinking from family or friends
A very serious and life-threatening sign of alcohol addiction is going through withdrawal. Some symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol include anxiety, sweating, nausea and vomiting, irritability, insomnia. The more severe symptoms include fevers, confusion, and seizures.
If you feel that these statements are true for you there are many support services available. Talk to your primary care physician for more information or for more information on local treatment facilities or support groups you can call the National Hotline for free at 1-800-622-HELP.
Unfortunately, a person with a disability is more likely to experiment with drug and substance abuse, and are more likely to become addicted to these drug and substances. Studies have found that people who identified with being disabled and were also addicted to alcohol, found that their consumption was therapeutic, and seen as way to alleviate the burden of their disability.
The World Summit for Social Development found that engaging in excessive alcohol consumption has numerous implications on one’s social well-being. Besides this study, many researchers have agreed that the effects of alcohol extend beyond the physical and mental ramifications for users. Most of the other implications revolve around the social effect that alcoholism may bear for those who identify with having a disability. These effects include social alienation, encouraging maladaptive behavior from others who drink as well, and a mental-state change.
Primarily, excessive-alcoholic-consumers are more likely to engage in risky behavior. While under the influence of alcohol, vision is often impaired, temporary amnesia (or forgetfulness) is common, and gait/balance is decreased. Because of the altered mental state that is brought about from excessive consumption, anyone under the heavy influence of alcohol also has a shift in decision-making-capacity; thus, they are more likely to engage in risky behavior. For example, one is more likely to drive while under the influence, spend excessive amounts of money or gamble, or engage in activities that are generally against their own values and principles.
Secondly, excessive–alcoholic-consumers are more likely to feel alone and alienated from others, which may be for many reasons. First, often times alcohol abuse may be interfering with one’s relationship with a spouse, child, or friend, the relationship is strained, and often severed. This strain is more likely to result in divorces or termination of a relationship, lead to a lack of support, and lack of social interactions. Also, those who consume alcohol excessively tend to spend time with people who are tolerant or encouraging of the drinking. So, it’s more likely that spending time with someone else who is also consuming heavy volumes of alcohol will continue the usage of alcohol as therapy, which can lead to dependency. Overall, there are numerous social impacts, however most of these impacts place an already-vulnerable population, at more of a physical, social, and mental health risk.
Alcohol and Pregnancy
Drinking during pregnancy can result in fetal alcohol syndrome due to the fact that alcohol has the ability to cross the placenta and cause severe damages to the fetus. It has not been determined that there is a safe amount of alcohol consumption a mother can have in order to avoid the risk of alcohol exposure to the fetus. Therefore, abstinence from alcohol while pregnant should always be followed in order to protect the fetus. Fetal alcohol syndrome, is a serious and dangerous condition where the baby can have different outcomes, but this can vary from child to child. The signs and symptoms include intellectual disabilities, poor coordination, kidney defects, growth deficiencies, visual difficulties, hearing problems, heart defects, cognitive disabilities, poor social skills, and many others. It is critical to understand the effects of alcohol during pregnancy in order to avoid any serious harm to the baby.