If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.
What is alcohol abuse?
Alcohol abuse, also called problematic alcohol use, is a serious problem. It is a pattern of drinking too much alcohol too often. It interferes with your daily life. You may be suffering from alcohol abuse if you drink too much alcohol at one time or too often throughout the week. It also is a problem if you can’t stop drinking and it harms your relationships. It can cause you to be unable to function at work and in other areas of your life.
Alcohol abuse can lead to physical dependency on alcohol, or alcoholism. Too much alcohol at one time also can lead to alcohol poisoning. According to Health Canada, one drink = one 355 ml (12-oz ) bottle of beer (5 percent alcohol), one 150 (5-oz) glass of wine (12 percent alcohol) or 45ml (1.5 oz ) of 40 percent (80-proof) distilled spirits (rye, gin rum etc.
You are abusing alcohol if you are:
- A woman who has more than 10 drinks* per week or more than 3 drinks per occasion
- A man who has more than 15 drinks* per week or more than 4 drinks per occasion
- A woman who has more than 2 drinks most days or more than 10 drinks per week
- A man who has more than 3 drinks most days or more than 15 drinks per week
SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOL ABUSE
- You have tried stopping using alcohol for a week or more, but can’t make it past a few days.
- You can’t stop drinking once you start.
- You recognize you need to stop or cut back.
- You are unable to perform at work or home when you are drinking.
- You feel guilty after drinking.
- Others are telling you that you have a problem.
- You feel annoyed by criticism of your drinking.
- You have a drink in the morning to get yourself going after drinking too much the night before.
- You have physically hurt someone else or yourself after drinking too much. This could be due to accidents or violence.
- You hide your drinking or your alcohol.
- You have blackouts and memory lapses after drinking too much.
- You are depressed.
- You are getting traffic or driving tickets while under the influence of alcohol.
- Your drinking is interfering with your relationships.
- Your hands are shaking
Alcohol affects your health in other ways, too. It can cause cirrhosis, a disease of the liver. It’s a significant cause of deaths and injuries because of accidents. It can damage your baby’s health if you drink alcohol during pregnancy. It can cause a bleeding ulcer and irritate the lining of your stomach. Alcohol also can cause you to gain weight, feel sick or dizzy, cause you to have bad breath, and make your skin break out.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
What causes alcoholism?
People abuse alcohol for many reasons. It may be due to social pressure, a desire to relax, a coping mechanism for anxiety, depression, tension, loneliness, self-doubt or unhappiness, or a family history of abusing alcohol
Can alcohol abuse be prevented or avoided?
If you have a family history of alcoholism or alcohol abuse, you may have to work harder at resisting or limiting alcohol. Other ways to reduce your alcohol consumption include:
- Limit yourself to one drink when by yourself or with friends.
- Seek treatment for underlying mental health conditions.
- Avoid spending time with others who abuse alcohol.
- Talk to your healthcare provider.
- Consider joining a support group made up of others facing the same challenge
If you are the one suffering from alcohol abuse, the first step is recognizing you need help. Many studies show that people struggling with alcohol abuse can benefit from some form of treatment. However, everyone is different. Not all treatments work the same for every person. The sooner a person seeks treatment, the better the outcome.
Behavioral therapy can be used to treat alcohol abuse. Therapy can take the form of support groups, counseling, or a combination of the two. Some prescription medicines can treat alcohol abuse by helping people stop or reduce their drinking. As with all medicines, some might cause side effects.
Once you have found a treatment that is effective for you, it’s important to stick to that treatment. Also, it’s helpful to avoid situations that involve a lot of alcohol.
Living with alcohol abuse
Living with alcohol abuse means recognizing the triggers that make you want to drink. For example, hanging around with others who drink will make it difficult for you. You may be experiencing stress or unhappiness in your life and don’t have a counselor or friend to talk with. This could cause you to turn to alcohol to help you cope.
Living with alcohol abuse will continue to be a struggle if you do not recognize that you need help. You will continue to jeopardize your safety, your job or school, and your relationships.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Government of Canada Website at:
Nova Scotia website at:
Prince Edward Island Website at:
Alcoholics Anonymous Nova Scotia website at: