Alcohol Abuse Signs & Effects

Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance amongst adolescents and adults throughout the United States and its abuse is connected to a number of negative effects, including short and long-term mental, physical, socioeconomic, and emotional damage.

Those who battle with anorexia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, and other eating disorders place themselves at a greater risk for abusing substances like alcohol. When one’s alcohol abuse becomes uncontrollable, the end results can inflict a great deal of harm, both physically and mentally. When eating disorders and alcohol abuse co-occur with one another, it can become a complex issue that can place individuals in serious danger.

Thankfully, even when these two issues do co-occur, they can both be treated. With the help of professional treatment, those who have battled with alcoholism and eating disorders can learn to control their compulsive behaviors so that happier, healthier lives can be led.

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Statistics

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), more than 86% of adults over the age of 18 in the United States have used alcohol at least one time in their lives. Data collected from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that 8.7 million young individuals between the ages of 12 and 20 (or roughly 23% of this age group), have consumed alcohol at least one time in the past 30 days.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) states that one out of every two people with an eating disorder also battles with the abuse of alcohol and/or other substances. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that women who are alcohol dependent are more likely to show symptoms of binge-eating disorder than are women who do not have a substance abuse problem.

Causes and Risk Factors for Alcohol Abuse

Studies show that genetics and environmental factors can influence one’s likelihood of developing an alcohol abuse problem or alcohol use disorder.

Genetic: When an individual has biological parents and/or siblings who struggle with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, his or her risk for struggling with similar issues is increased. Advancements in genetic research have shown that a number of genes and gene clusters can influence whether or not one will be more likely to become addicted to alcohol or other drugs.

Environmental: Growing up in a home where alcohol is frequently abused can also increase one’s chances of abusing alcohol in the future. Other environmental factors including being abused, neglected, assaulted, going through chronic stress, or living in poverty can impact one’s vulnerability to develop alcohol use disorder.

Risk Factors:

  • Abuse, neglect, assault, or other trauma
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Associating with peers who abuse alcohol or other drugs
  • Family history of mental illness and/or substance abuse
  • Personal history of mental illness and/or other substance abuse
  • Being male
  • Abusing alcohol at a young age
  • Having a low socioeconomic status

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

Below are the most common signs and symptoms that one might exhibit if he or she has grown dependent on alcohol:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Acting with unprovoked aggressiveness
  • Acting in a reckless, impulsive, or otherwise dangerous manner
  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Drinking early in the day
  • Unexplained absences from work or school
  • Decline in academic or work-related performance
  • Drinking throughout the day

Physical symptoms:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Reddening of the nose and cheeks
  • Jaundice
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Blurred vision
  • Vomiting

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Short-term amnesia
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Impaired problem-solving skills
  • Impaired judgment
  • Hallucinations

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Lacking the ability to feel pleasure
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Depression
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Some of the most common negative effects of alcohol abuse can include the following:

  • Job loss and chronic unemployment
  • Family dysfunction, separation, and divorce
  • Heart disease
  • Anemia
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Strained or destroyed interpersonal relationships
  • Irregular menstruation
  • Inflamed kidneys
  • Muscle weakness and atrophy
  • Breathing problems
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cirrhosis of the liver

Co-Occurring Disorders

In addition to eating disorders, below are some of the many disorders that tend to co-occur alongside alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorder:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Effects of Withdrawal and Overdose

Effects of alcohol withdrawal: Those who show the following symptoms when trying to stop alcohol consumption should obtain professional treatment to ensure that they are able to stop drinking in a safe manner:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Confusion

Effects of alcohol overdose: An alcohol overdose can be deadly, which means that if an individual shows any of the below listed symptoms after abusing alcohol, he or she should obtain immediate medical attention:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
  • Hypothermia
  • Shallow or otherwise irregular breathing
  • Mental confusion
  • Seizure
  • Skin with a bluish tint
  • Skin that is cold or clammy to the touch
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