I have already written articles on this site about how childhood trauma can lead us to develop a need to DISSOCIATE (click here to read my article on dissociation) and that one of the main ways people attempt to achieve such a psychological defence can lead to alcohol dependence (click here to read my article about the link between childhood trauma and the later development of alcoholism). But how is alcohol dependence defined?
ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE :
There is no precise definition of ‘alcohol dependence’, but it is generally agreed between experts that it usually includes the following features:
– a pattern of daily drinking
– being aware of a compulsion to drink alcohol
– changes in tolerance to the amount of alcohol that can be consumed (in the first stage, tolerance increases,but, eventually, tolerance actually reduces again)
– frequent symptoms of withdrawal from alcohol (commonly referred to as a ‘hangover). Symptoms of this may include : nervousness, shaking, tenseness, agitation (or feeling ‘jittery’ and ‘on edge’), feelings of tension, feelings of sickness/nausea
– finding relief from some or all of the above symptoms by consuming more alcohol
– during any periods of abstinance, finding that the features of dependence on alcohol soon re-emerge
It should be noted that individuals who are considered to have become dependent on alcohol may not have all of the symptoms noted above; however, the more symptoms one possesses, the more seriously dependent upon alcohol one is likely to be. The intensity of these symptoms of alcohol dependence will also vary considerably between individuals.
The cycle below represents the common experience of the highly dependent drinker :
STRATEGIES FOR THE REDUCTION OF ONE’S ALCOHOL INTAKE :
– cut out at least some drinking sessions (eg lunchtime drinking) and, ideally, find something else to occupy the time to act as a distraction (such as actually eating lunch!)
– during drinking sessions, alternate between soft drinks and alcoholic drinks
– avoid drinking environments / the company of people who may pressure you to drink, during periods that you have decided to stay alcohol-free
– if people who are likely to encourage you to drink cannot be avoided, plan how you will resist their influence
– add generous amounts of non-alcoholic mixers to alcoholic drinks where possible, but drink at same speed as you would if the alcohol were less diluted (or slower!)
– avoid falling into social traps that tend to encourage drinking, such as participating in a large, hard-drinking group of people who are buying ’rounds’ for one another where a ‘group mentality’ is likely to predominate
Alcohol, to put it starkly, can destroy lives (see chart below), so, if you feel you have a serious problem, it is strongly advisable to seek professional guidance and support.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).