The average Indian consumes 11.4 litres of alcohol every year, and about 30% of India’s population are regular drinkers. On the WHO’s ‘Years of Lost Life’ (YLL) scale, which is a measure of premature mortality, India was placed at 4 on a scale of 1 to 5, for premature deaths caused by alcohol consumption.
Alcoholism comes in many forms and the terms alcohol abuse and alcoholism are often interchangeably used in common conversations. However, alcoholism refers to alcohol dependence when a person feels a compulsion to drink continuously. Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is a pattern of behaviour when a person drinks in heavy amounts despite negative consequences.
Here are some warning signs of alcoholism:
Alcoholism can take a major toll on your personal life and health. However, there are people who manage to maintain their lives as it is, despite alcohol abuse for years. They are called ‘high-functioning alcoholics’. Their major problem lies in denial due to no losses or changes because of alcohol consumption. They believe they have their drinking under control.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention defines moderate drinking as up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. But if someone is consuming more than that on a daily basis, he or she may be a borderline alcoholic. High-functioning alcoholics tend to exhibit certain behavioural patterns such as:
According to the National Institutes of Health, around 25% high-functioning alcoholics struggle with depression.
High-functioning alcoholics may seem to have everything in control, but behaviours such as drinking and driving, and blacking out are only some risk-inducing behaviours.
Health risks involve:
Alcohol abuse can lead to behaviours of domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide, child abuse and neglect, and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Addiction takes a toll at some point in your life, no matter how high-functioning you may be. As the addiction gets increasingly problematic, health, family, finances, and professional lives start to see the differences. Like any other serious illness, alcohol addiction may seem less threatening in the onset but typically grows beyond your control if not checked early on.
Just how many addiction treatments require counselling and conscious changes in behaviours, so does treatment for an alcoholic. De-addiction centres, Alcoholics Anonymous, psychiatrists, and addiction specialists can guide you along your journey to recovery. Relating to and discussing with other alcoholics can often be a stepping stone to break through the denial.
Living with an alcoholic is never an easy choice. However, if your loved one or partner is showing signs of alcoholism, here’s what you can do:
You can’t expect changes to happen overnight, either with yourself or with a partner who is a high-functioning alcoholic. However, constant support and understanding can go a long way.
Early treatment leads to better outcomes, and also prevents you and your loved ones from going through pain that comes with functional deterioration. With the right help in the right environment, you can come out of your alcoholism and resume a new healthy life.