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How Excessive Drinking Can Destroy Your Life

Lisa Taylor
Lisa TaylorAddiction Counsellor

If you had to define excessive drinking, what would be your definition? We speak to people every day who come to us with drinking problems, people who need help getting their lives back under control. It is within the confines of these discussions that we have come to understand that people define 'drinking too much' in lots of different ways. But no matter how you define it, drinking alcohol in excess will negatively impact your life. Doing it long enough can destroy your life and the lives of everyone you love.

In order to establish a benchmark for excessive drinking, we can use the government standards for safe levels of drinking. Prior to January 2016, the government recommended that men consume no more than three or four units of alcohol per day and no more than 28 units per week. The number for women was 2 to 3 units per day and no more than 21 units per week. That has since changed.

From January 2016, the government now recommends that both men and women limit their alcohol consumption to no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. They also recommend those 14 units be spread out across all seven days rather than consuming it all on the weekends. For the record, one unit is equal to 10 ml of pure alcohol. Figuring out how much alcohol is in your drink means comparing the actual volume of the drink to of its alcohol content by volume, usually expressed as 'proof'.

When You Drink Too Much

When a person drinks too much, he or she opens the door to quite a few potential problems. Those problems can be classified under one of three different categories:

  • Physical – Alcohol consumption affects the physical body in a number of different ways. Persistent excess over a length of time can cause permanent damage to the liver, heart, and other organs. It can eventually kill.
  • Psychological – Alcohol consumption also affects the thoughts and emotions. This is due to the way the brain responds to alcohol exposure. These psychological effects can be minor or serious; they can be short or long-term.
  • Social – Alcohol consumption affects the social atmosphere by affecting family relationships, work performance, economic output, etc. Anyone who thinks excessive drinking only affects the individual drinker knows very little about what alcohol abuse really does.

We will go through each of the categories in detail as we complete this guide. Rest assured that drinking too much as a casual drinker is always what starts the future alcoholic down the road of destruction. If you routinely exceed the government's recommendation of 14 units of alcohol per week, you should step back and take a serious look at your drinking habits. Persistently exceeding the recommendations could mean you are already on your way to being an alcohol abuser or alcoholic.

Physical Problems of Excess Alcohol

Your body is capable of safely processing only a limited amount of alcohol. Anything that cannot be properly processed is allowed to circulate, via the bloodstream, to almost every other part of your body. This is not good over long periods of time. Long-term alcohol excess is linked to a long list of physical problems that can completely ruin your life. For example, alcohol abusers have a much higher risk of:

  • liver disease (cirrhosis, fibrosis, etc.)
  • cardiovascular disease (cardiomyopathy, hypertension, etc.)
  • cancer (throat, mouth, oesophagus, breast, liver, and colorectal)
  • autoimmune diseases (infectious diseases, viral and bacterial infections, etc.)
  • other conditions including diabetes, malnutrition, etc.

Experiencing these health problems is bad enough. But do you realise that the damage caused by alcohol may become irreversible if you do not stop drinking? Liver disease is a good example. There is no cure for liver failure or diseases such as cirrhosis and fibrosis. Should persistent drinking lead to liver failure, there are only two choices: you get a liver transplant or you die. Excessive drinking can destroy you if you don't stop.

Psychological Problems of Excess Alcohol

Excessive alcohol consumption affects the mind just as it does the body. Not surprisingly, the brain reacts to alcohol exposure by producing certain chemicals intended to overcome the effects of alcohol. Persistent drinking actually alters the physical chemistry of the brain which, in turn, alters everything from perceptions to the thought patterns to emotional responses.

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Short-term alcohol abuse has been linked to poor academic performance, poor performance at work, regular mood swings, emotional outbursts, impaired judgement, impaired cognition, and a tendency to irrational thinking. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to additional mental problems including clinical depression and anxiety.

You must understand that the psychological problems related to excessive drinking can become permanent in the same way physical damage to your organs can be permanent. Is it worth risking long-term depression or anxiety just to enjoy your current drinking habits?

Social Problems of Excess Alcohol

We cannot ignore the social problems of excessive drinking any more than we can the physical and psychological. Make no mistake about it; excessive alcohol consumption impacts the family, the community, and even the nation as a whole. You need only look at your family relationships to know this is true.

Alcohol abuse divides families by putting a wedge between spouses and partners. It creates an antagonistic relationship between a drinking parent and his or her children. Sometimes these damaged relationships become so strained that they lead to domestic violence. Ask anyone who has suffered violence at the hands of an alcohol abuser; they will tell you how very real the social impacts of excess alcohol are.

Excessive alcohol consumption leads to other social problems including chronic poverty, increased crime, strained healthcare systems, overwhelmed educational systems, and on and on.

If you have had any doubt that excessive drinking can negatively affect – and ultimately destroy – your life, we hope those doubts have been settled by the information we provided here. Do not play games with alcohol because you will likely lose. If you are suffering from a drinking problem, please contact us on our 24-hour helpline. Trained counsellors are standing by to offer you a free evaluation, sound advice, and treatment referrals.

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