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What Do We Mean By Alcohol Misuse?

People drink alcohol for a range of reasons and in varying amounts, primarily because they like the taste and the effects of alcohol, and because drinking is seen as a harmless and entertaining social activity. For most adults, drinking alcohol is a well-established and acceptable part of their life. For a large minority, however, alcohol has the potential to ruin lives. In recent years, over 8,000 people annually have died in Britain as a result of alcohol-related problems.

If your drinking causes you or someone else problems, in any area of your life, then that drinking is problematic: you are misusing alcohol. Drinking may cause problems with health (both physical and mental), with finance, work and the law, and with friends and relationships.

The psychological tell-tale signs of alcohol misuse include:

  • A preoccupation with alcohol (“When will I have my first drink today? When the next? ...”)
  • Guilt, prompted by damage to your car, the concern of a colleague, the desperation of your partner, or your own face in the bathroom mirror
  • Negative emotions, such as low mood or anxiety after, or even in some cases during, a drinking session

The medical signs can vary from one individual to another, but could include:

  • Dependence and withdrawal symptoms, often as soon as 5 hours after the last drink
  • The results of alcohol poisoning, including anaemia, gastric ulcers, pancreatitis, liver failure (and eventually death)

The social signs include:

  • Crime, particularly violent crime
  • Absenteeism from work
  • Increased risk of domestic accidents or accidents on the road