Lose control of drinking – what does this mean and how does it happen?
What does it mean to lose control of drinking?
- Verbally, physically or emotionally abusing someone – often a spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend or child
- Doing poorly at work or school because of the drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking
- Fighting with loved ones about the drinking
- Being admitted to the emergency room with a high BAC
- Binge drinking
- Experiencing blackouts
- Driving while under the influence
- Having unplanned, unwanted or unprotected sex; committing date rape
The above are known as drinking behaviors. These behaviors occur when a person drinks more alcohol than their bodies and brains can process. With the new capabilities to study the live human brain and the resulting scientific discoveries, it is now understood that many people who misuse alcohol can use the new research about genetic and behavioral risks of alcoholism to change their drinking habits before their drinking behaviors disrupt their education or careers, harm their relationships with family members and friends or damage their health. This only works if their alcohol misuse has not crossed the line from alcohol abuse to alcohol dependence (alcoholism), however. One way to wrest control is to understand how it is that a person can lose control of their drinking.
9 Reasons a Person can Lose Control of Drinking
1 Not staying within moderate drinking limits:
For women: no more than 7 standard drinks in a week with no more than 3 of those 7 in a day
For men: no more than 14 standard drinks in a week with no more than 4 of those 14 in a day
3 Lack of awareness that not all ‘drinks’ are the same.
A margarita, for example, may contain 2-3 “standard” drinks; a bottle of table wine contains 5.
4 Not understanding the difference between alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
Alcohol abuse is drinking more than moderate limits and experiencing any of the drinking behaviors listed above.
Alcoholism is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by cravings, loss of control, tolerance and physical dependence. Alcoholics also exhibit drinking behaviors like those listed above.
5 Not understanding that brain changes occur with both repeated alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
The drinking that occurs with repeated alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence (alcoholism) causes chemical and structural changes in the brain. These changes affect the very areas a person needs in order to “think straight” and act responsibly.
6 Not understanding the impact of early use of alcohol on a person’s brain development.
This recent brain research shows the brain goes through a critical developmental stage from ages
12 – 25. The portions of the brain that deal with emotion, memory, learning, motivation and judgment are the last to develop. As such, they are the areas most deeply affected by alcohol (or drug) abuse. An adolescent can become addicted to alcohol in as little as 6 to 18 months. See related post, “How Teens Can Become Alcoholics Before Age 21.”
7 Not understanding the risk factors that contribute to a person developing the disease of alcoholism.
Alcoholism is ‘caused by’ a combination of alcohol abuse and biological, developmental and environmental risk factors that include: genetics, mental illness, early use of alcohol, social environment and childhood trauma.
8 Not understanding that treatments of alcohol abuse and alcoholism differ.
People who abuse alcohol but are not alcohol dependent (alcoholics) may be able to return to moderate drinking limits (see #1).
People who are alcoholics cannot drink any amount of alcohol if they want to stop their drinking behaviors long?term. Alcoholism can successfully be treated, however, and the brain can recover.
9 Not understanding the consequences to a person (child or adult) of living in a family where there is alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
Living with and trying to cope with a loved one’s drinking behaviors when a person does not understand alcohol abuse or alcoholism can cause that person to experience serious psychological and physical problems that interfere with school, work, family & relationships. See related post, “The Ripple Effect of Loving Someone Who Drinks Too Much.”
For help and information, consider the following resources:
Anonymously Assess Your or Someone Else’s Drinking
NIAAA has designed a website to help people anonymously assess their (or someone else’s) drinking and offer suggestions for making changes. Visit www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov
About addiction and alcoholism visit, www.hbo.com/addiction.
Information about alcohol related issues and impacts on families, look through the posts on this blog, www.breakingthecycles.com
NIAAA’s website, Rethinking Drinking.