Abuse and Addiction Versus Normal Drinking

What Is Abuse? What is Addiction?

Abuse occurs when a person engages in an activity or ingests a substance at levels beyond or for purposes beyond what the majority of other people do. In other words abuse is misuse, overuse or abnormally high or more or unusual usage. Abuse usually preceds addiction.

Addiction occurs when a person engages in an activity (e.g. gambling, sex, shopping, criminal activity etc.) or ingests a substance (e.g. caffeine, alcohol, bhang, khat, cocaine etc.) that was initially for pleasure but has now become compulsive and interferes with ordinary life, health, work or relationships. Such persons may not be aware that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

The word addiction is used in several different ways. One definition describes physical addiction. This is a biological state in which the body gets used to the presence of a drug/substance so that drug/substance no longer has the same effect when consumed in average quantities; this is known scientifically as tolerance. Because of tolerance, the user requires higher quantities to feel the effect of the drug/substance and there is a negative body reaction when the drug/substance is not taken. Tolerance leads to abuse and eventually to addiction. When addicts miss taking their drug/substance of abuse they develop a negative body reaction called withdrawal syndrome. Another form of physical addiction is the phenomenon of overreaction by the brain to drugs or to cues associated with the drugs, for example an alcoholic walking into a bar, for instance, will feel an extra urge to have a drink because of the (visual) cues.

Most addictive behavior is however not related to either physical tolerance or exposure to cues. People compulsively use drugs, or gamble or shop, nearly always in reaction to being emotionally stressed, whether or not they have a physical addiction. Since these psychologically based addictions are not based on drug or brain effects, they can account for why people frequently switch addictive actions from one drug to a completely different kind of drug, or even to a non-drug behavior. The focus of the addiction isn't what matters; it's the need to take action under certain kinds of stress.

No matter which kind of addiction you encounter, it is important to recognize that it is not caused by a search for pleasure and that addiction is not about poor morality or weak strength of character. Addiction is a disease of the body and mind requiring effective treatment and that is why it is important to understand it, to be able to recognise it in yourself or someone close to you and to refer them for expert treatment at a rehabilitation centre like Fountain of Hope Addiction Treatment Centre. 


Roughly how many units of alcohol are in each drink?

Single shot of spirits (25ml): 1 unit

Standard (175ml) glass of wine: 2.1 units

Large (250ml) glass of wine: 3 units

Pint of 4%-strength beer: 2.3 units (1 pint = 474ml or roughly half a litre)

Pint of 5%-strength beer: 2.8 units

Pint of strong cider (8%): 4.5 units


What is the recommended alcohol limits for men and women?

14 units of alcohol per week which is equivalent to:-

  1. 6 pints (6 half litres) of 4% strength beer.
  2. 7 x 175ml glasses of 11.5% strength wine.
  3. 14 x 25ml (single shot) of 40% alcohol (as is found for example in spirits)


What is the official advice on alcohol consumption? What is excessive drinking?

To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is best not to drink more than 14 units a week.

If you do drink more than this amount it is best to spread your drinking evenly over three or more days.

The risk of health problems, including some cancers, increases the more you drink on a regular basis.

The World Health Organization defines drinking heavily as consuming more than 7.5 units in a single occasion.

Drinking this much at least once a month is associated with detrimental consequences even if the average level of alcohol consumption of the person concerned is relatively low.


The Ill-Effects of Excessive OR High-Risk Drinking and Drug Abuse 

1.      Numb, tingling fingers and toes.      

2.      Impaired sensation and coordination leading to frequent falls.

3.      Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

4.      Vitamin deficiency. Bleeding. Severe inflammation of the stomach.

5.      Frequent Vomiting and Diarrhea.

6.      Weight Loss (or Abdominal Obesity) and Malnutrition.

7.      Cancer of mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach and liver.

8.      Kidney failure and Premature aging.

9.      Alcoholic Face and Drinker's nose.

10.  Weakness of heart muscle. High Blood Pressure. Heart failure.

11.  Anemia and Impaired blood clotting leading to frequent bleeding.

12.  Breast cancer.

13.  In men: Low libido and Impaired sexual performance.

14.  In women: Risk of birth to deformed, retarded babies or low birth weight babies.

15.  Aggressive, irrational behaviour.

16.  Arguments. Violence.

17.  Depression. Nervousness.

18.  Frequent flu and colds.

19.  Reduced resistance to infection.

20.  Increased risk of pneumonia.

21.  Alcohol dependence. Memory loss.

22.  Peptic Ulcer.

23.  Liver damage. Cirrhosis. Liver Cancer.

24.  Trembling hands and Clumsiness.

25.  Social, legal, medical, domestic, marital, job and financial problems.

26.  Reduced lifespan  

27.  Increased risk of accidents and accidental death.