There are many things that set alcohol apart from other commonly abused substances, starting with the fact that alcohol is a perfectly legal drug.
Unlike other drugs whose use could result in a lengthy prison stay, alcohol can be purchased just about anywhere, and buying it will not result in arrest or imprisonment.
The legal status of alcohol has had a number of unintended consequences, starting with the widespread misconception that the use, and even overuse, of the drug, is no big deal.
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In fact, many people do not think of alcohol as a drug at all, and as a result, they tend to minimize the impact it has on drinkers and their families.
These misconceptions are all too common, but the truth of alcohol abuse and alcoholism are much more serious and far more damaging.
Far from being a benign substance, alcohol has the capacity to destroy lives, not only the lives of the alcoholics themselves but others in their orbit as well.
The physical impacts of alcoholism have been widely studied, and they are well understood by problem drinkers and their families.
The emotional impact of heavy drinking, on the other hand, is far less obvious and far less understood, than the liver, kidney and brain damage that alcoholics suffer from.
If you want to help someone in your life who is suffering from alcoholism, it is important to understand not only the physical dangers but the potential for emotional disruptions as well.
For alcoholics who are married or in long-term relationships, for instance, the risk of domestic violence often rises along with the use of alcohol.
The implications of this increased risk of domestic violence can run the gamut, from imprisonment and arrest to depression and anxiety that could make an already bad drinking problem that much worse.
Alcoholics may also be more prone to a number of mental illnesses, especially if they already have a genetic predisposition to those health challenges.
In fact, there is a strong correlation between excessive drinking and undiagnosed mental illness, with budding alcoholics using alcohol to self-medicate their anxiety, depression, panic attacks and other mental health challenges.
If someone in your life has been drinking to excess, it is a good idea to get them into long-term residential treatment, but getting them diagnosed for some common mental illnesses could be just as vital.
Addressing alcoholism on its own may be less effective if the underlying mental health challenges are not considered, an important thing for loved ones and friends to keep in mind.
The use of alcohol has both a physical and an emotional component, and it is important that any treatment efforts be directed to both sets of consequences.
If someone in your life has been drinking to excess, it is important to talk to them about their drinking and offer help wherever and whenever you can. You cannot force an adult alcoholic into treatment, but you can encourage your friend or family member to accept the help that you are offering.