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Alcohol and you. Is it time to get honest about your drinking?
Australia has a reputation for being a nation of big drinkers. It’s somewhat of a dubious honour.
We enjoy our beer, our wine, our spirits. Anything that brings on that ‘hair of the dog’ feeling the next day has long been considered part of our Aussie birth right. And sure, getting a little tipsy on a Friday night with mates, or indulging in an expensive cocktail or two isn’t cause for alarm.
But it’s one thing to enjoy a few glasses of merlot on the weekend, and another, more serious, issue entirely if you need alcohol every day to survive your life. If this hits too close to home, you may have a problem.
Having a drink or ten can take its toll on your body and mind
Believed to be the most commonly used drug in Australia, alcohol can have deeply damaging, long term effects not only on your physical health, but mental health as well.
In fact, drinking in excess on a regular basis can increase your chances of developing the following chronic conditions:
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Brain damage.
Needless to say, a heavy reliance on alcohol can have a negative influence on the rest of your life too. Relationships can break down and lives fall apart as a result of family violence, crime and car accidents.
While alcohol can make you feel great in the short term, over time it can increase your risk of anxiety and depression. So, it’s a slippery slope and certainly not an antidote for feeling down.
“Long term alcohol abuse can cause serious physical and mental health issues.”
Alcohol abuse: do you have a problem?
Enjoying a glass of wine over dinner every night doesn’t necessarily constitute alcohol abuse or make you an alcoholic. But if you’re reading this blog with a drink in your hand because you simply cannot function without one, you may need to reconsider your life choices.
These are the warning signs of alcohol addiction:
- Drinking alone
- No control over the volume of alcohol consumed
- Anxiety, nausea and sweats when not drinking
- Need more and more alcohol to get the same ‘buzz’
- Crave alcohol constantly
- Hide alcohol from family and friends
- Can’t stop drinking even when it’s damaging relationships
- Struggling with work, education, life in general
- Start drinking early in the day
- Black out regularly after a drinking session.
If you recognise that you are reliant on drinking daily and in large amounts, you may experience withdrawal when you attempt to cut out or even cut back on alcohol.
The intensity of symptoms and how long they last will depend on a few variables such as, your age and the length of time you’ve had an issue with drinking. The symptoms will also vary from mild to severe and can include: nausea, anxiety, fatigue, depression, tremors, insomnia, cravings, aches and pains. These symptoms, among others, can last for days to several weeks so always seek the guidance and support of your GP while you’re going through it.
If you’re caring for someone experiencing alcohol withdrawal, remember to reassure them and encourage their progress, reminding them why they’ve chosen to quit. But don’t forget your self care during the process by maintaining a healthy diet, exercise and rest.
A quick self-test
Sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate between a healthy passion for a good drop of red and an unhealthy attachment to regular drunken nights (and days).
If you do suspect alcohol may be a problem for you, try taking the following self-test to get closer to the truth. However, bear in mind that, these questions will not replace seeking professional help and guidance if you are experiencing drinking issues.
- Does drinking make you feel guilty?
- Do you have to drink more to really feel the buzz of alcohol?
- Are you violent or abusive when you’ve been drinking?
- Is your drinking creating problems at home, work, school?
- Do you agree that cutting back on your drinking will be a good thing?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, it may be time for you to speak with your GP.
“Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in Australia.”
The five types of alcoholics
The commonly held perception of an alcoholic is that of an older male with a troubled home life, who drinks to excess every day, struggles to hold down a job and is generally a loud, public nuisance. The reality however, is very different.
- Young Adult can be the 20-year-old binge drinker who consumes alcohol compulsively.
- Young Anti-social has a personality disorder that triggered their drinking in their teen years.
- Functional is educated with a high income, stable home and binge drinks every other day.
- Intermediate Familial has alcoholism in their family and started drinking at around 17.
- Chronic Severe is usually male, divorced and with a history of multiple drug abuse.
Helping to combat alcohol abuse: the new alcohol guidelines for Australians have been released
Alcohol is arguably one of the most destructive, readily available drugs in the world.
To reflect the recent medical research on the health risks of drinking alcohol, the Australian Government recently launched the new recommendations on alcohol consumption in this country.
It’s a positive step forward in the fight against alcoholism. In fact, it’s the first time the guidelines have changed in 10 years and they’ve been put in place to help reduce the health risks.
Can you treat alcoholism?
Yes. Like all addictions, it can be a long and challenging road to recovery, but it’s not impossible with the right support, guidance and, in some cases, medication.
- Speak with your doctor for advice on peer support programs like Alcoholics Anonymous
- Look into rehabilitation programs to help you learn new coping skills and strategies
- See a therapist regularly to discover the emotional reasons that may trigger your drinking.
“The new guidelines for alcohol consumption are a step in the right direction for all Australians.”
Recovering your health and freedom
Living with an unhealthy attachment to alcohol can take a severe toll on your physical and mental health – not to mention the negative impact it can have on the people you love.
But there is help at hand and while it’s a cliché, the first step is always the hardest. Right now there are organisations all over the country ready to guide you on the road to recovery and freedom.
What’s more, with our Gold tier Hospital covers, you can access a range of rehabilitation programs. To check if a program you’re interested in is covered, just give our Member Care team a call.
For more articles on how you can start living a healthier, more positive life free of alcohol, check out our mind and body health guides.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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