Apart from cigarettes, alcohol is the most common stimulant in our society. According to CBOS (Public opinion research centre), half of us declare drinking alcohol occasionally. Also, nearly 1 in 10 say that they drink often.
About 16% of respondents say they do not drink alcohol at all. Statistic data reflectsthe fact of increased consumption of pure alcohol per head. According to OCED report an average Pole, consumes up to 11.7 litres of pure alcohol a year and up to one third of Poles gets drunk once a month. The most consumed alcoholic beverage is beer. Many of us imagine an alcoholic to be an unemployed and often homeless person. That is not the true picture.
When does occasional drinking become a problem? Can two beers every night be considered a problem? Does a Friday night trip to a bar for a few drinks show a deeper psychological problem which is dependence on alcohol?
Alcoholism and harmful use of alcohol
The problem of alcohol misuse concerns 12 to 15% of Poles. About 2% of our compatriots is addicted to alcohol. A person who is addicted drinks too much but usually does not neglect social or work relations. Such a person does not have strong need to drink and their alcohol consumption is connected mainly with social events or celebrating life’s successes. A person who is addicted to alcohol drinks due to a strong internal compulsion connected with addiction. A person addicted to alcohol has also problems with concentration and usually denies having a problem of excessive drinking.
If such an addicted person stops drinking, withdrawal symptoms occur, such as:
- increased anxiety
- tongue, eyelids and hand tremors
- increased heart rate
- increased blood pressure
- excessive sweating and shivers
- runny nose
The most serious complication of alcohol withdrawal is alcoholic delirium and severe alcoholic hallucinosis, which can pose a risk to life.
Does beer cause addiction?
Even though 100 ml of beer contains less alcohol than wine or vodka, it can still lead to addiction. One 500ml beer contains 18 grams of pure alcohol, which is equivalent to just under 2 standard units of alcohol. A standard unit of alcohol is equivalent to 10 grams of pure ethanol. Two beers contain approximately the same amount of pure alcohol as 100 ml of vodka.
Is drinking to relax a problem?
As I have already mentioned, alcohol consumption is a common occurrence in our culture. We usually drink during social gatherings or to relax after work.
However, one should emphasize that even social drinking can be a cause or symptom of alcohol addiction. Such situations listed below should make us rethink our pattern of drinking:
- drinking more alcohol than we intended
- thinking often about drinking alcohol
- loss of interest in other pleasures and activities in everyday life
- symptoms of alcohol withdrawal
But I work – I cannot be an alcoholic
Alcohol addiction conjures the image of an unemployed person, who starts each day with drinking vodka or cheap wine. However, it is not the case and specialist literature prove the existence of ‘highly functioning’ people who are addicted to alcohol. These are people who despite regular drinking are able to function in a professional field and in social relations. These are usually young, well-educated people, striving for perfection.
When to seek help?
Alcohol addiction is a difficult, but common social problem.
Stigmatizing addicted people prevents them from seeking help or makes them feel they won’t be able to remain abstinent from alcohol. Help from a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist will allow to assess the size of the drinking problem and start therapy.
Source: ‘Psychiatry’ by P. Galecki