“DRY” January

Will your resolutions for this year include losing ten lbs., calling your mother on Sunday, shopping less, and not drinking during this month? Will your willpower be compromised within a few weeks? Will drinking return to pandemic levels during these winter months? During the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when liquor stores were considered “essential business,”  the National Center for Health Statistics, examined deaths caused by alcohol in 2020.  Alcohol deaths soared during that time and binge drinking increased. I’m being optimistic that 2023 will not repeat the woes of 2020: isolation, uncertainty, financial strain and higher chances of job loss, and mental health problems.

However, before alcohol rates are analyzed, we have to separate the terms that are misused in the press. According to The Addiction Inoculation by Jessica Lahey ( Harper Collins: 2021), The DSM-V, a manual for mental health providers, combined the terms substance abuse and substance dependence into a category of substance use disorder. Alcohol is a substance that can either be a stimulant or a depressant, depending on how much you drink.  It is not governed by the Food and Drug Administration.  For this reason, alcohol is not referred to as a drug yet it acts as a highly visible popular one.

So, how does alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence differ?  Alcohol abuse is less severe than alcohol dependence.  The behavior of alcohol abuse will:

  • drink habitually.
  • often put themselves or others in dangerous situations as a result of their alcohol use.
  • experience problems at home, work or school because of drinking.
  • binge drink regularly. Binging =5 or more drinks in 2 hrs. for men. In women, 4 or more drinks in 2 hours.
  • does not experience withdrawal symptoms.
  • possibly lead to alcohol dependence.

Alcohol dependence is more serious than alcohol abuse.  Alcohol dependence is also known as alcoholism or alcohol addiction.  The substance abuser is physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol.  According to NLM, National Library of Medicine, there are four main factors that define alcohol dependency including: physical dependency and withdrawal symptoms such as agitation, fear, hallucinations, seizures, severe confusion.  Those who are dependent may exhibit these symptoms: anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, nightmares, depression, irritability, clammy skin, pallor, sweating, hand tremors, loss of appetite, rapid heartbeat, delirium tremens, a dangerous form of alcohol withdrawal. There is tolerance to the effects of alcohol and a need to drink more and more each time to achieve the same effect.

They may be only partaking in activities in which drinking is present. Even after a short period of time without drinking, those with AUD ( Alcohol Use Disorder), will exhibit withdrawal symptoms.  Similar to the abuser of illegal drugs, alcoholics drink despite the fact they know the side effects are harmful.  They drink as a means of relieving stress.

Because of the intensity of alcohol dependence, treatment may often need to be longer:  one year or more for alcohol dependence as opposed to 90 days for alcohol abuse.  According to NJ1, people who are dependent on alcohol are also much more likely to become dependent on other drugs as well.

Let’s hope that this year there is an improvement in the population’s mental health so there isn’t a need  to drink.

Sources: alcoholabuse.com (alcohol abuse vs dependence) and alcoholabuse.com (alcohol abuse vs. alcoholism)

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting. Currently, she is targeting her writing about recovery to parents whose children have substance abuse disorders.

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