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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

When drinking stops being fun and becomes a problem

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Alcohol consumption is widespread among the population, especially among the youngest. It is a rite of passage into adult life that is cheap, accessible, facilitates socialization, reduces stress, disinhibites verbal behavior, and is associated with leisure and celebration. There are a number of customs that have become traditions: no party without alcohol, no resort without a bar. The integration of alcohol into community life has led to a lack of awareness of the issues surrounding its abuse. Unlike other drugs, many young people (and not so young) are unaware of the risk and think that overdose is definitely a problem affecting other people.

Why are you drinking so much? Mainly due to the broad social roots of this habit and the general perception that alcohol is part of patterns of leisure and social integration. You drink for everything and for nothing: to have fun with a light laugh, to console yourself, to mingle with friends, to flirt, to ward off loneliness, to forget.

As with other drugs, men drink more than women, but women are more vulnerable to some of the negative effects of alcohol use (e.g. being victims of sexist violence). There are biological reasons (they tend to weigh less, have less liver processing capacity, and higher percentage of adipose tissue) that explain the need to reduce alcohol consumption in women. On a motivational level, men are more likely to seek the euphoric effects of alcohol, while women are more likely to find relief from stress or depression in this substance. In young people, however, the consumption and motivation differences between the two sexes are more diffuse.

Alcohol drinking ceases to be fun and becomes a problem when a person drinks alone and in a negative mood, drinks on an empty stomach or outside of meals, cannot go to a meeting without alcohol, has memory lapses (forgetting conversations, appointments, o commitments) , irritable, jealous, or suspicious, suffering from impaired work or school performance, losing friendships, feeling guilty in lucid moments, and lying about the amount of alcohol consumed. Ultimately, there is a negative impairment of everyday life, the integration of increased alcohol consumption into daily habits (there is no day without alcohol) and a strong need to drink even under inappropriate circumstances. Alcohol has become the central axis of a person’s thoughts, emotions and activities. Then the red warning lights come on.

Alcohol can be the gateway to using cocaine or other stimulants to counteract the sluggishness or drowsiness caused by alcohol abuse, following the rhythm of the music and continuing to drink (with a lucid binge) for the rest of the night, or even adopting a chaotic form of the indiscriminate and massive use of all kinds of substances.

These people are unaware of the magnitude of the problem because they distort reality (they think they drink less than they do) and because they are aware of the social rejection that people with drinking problems generate. Drinking is seen socially, but the loss of control over consumption creates social rejection and exclusion of those affected. All this delays the search for therapeutic help.

What’s new about many young people today is that they drink ’til you drop and go out with the goal of getting drunk (not having fun). It has evolved from the Mediterranean pattern (slower consumption, in company, and with smaller amounts) to the Nordic pattern with very high intake and pronounced intoxication. This is the case for people who hardly ever drink alcohol on a daily basis but occasionally binge drink without realizing the risk they are taking. This episodic consumption of alcohol (bottles) is usually concentrated on weekend nights or at popular parties and on an empty stomach (meaning alcohol is absorbed faster, reaches the brain sooner, and does more damage). Craving five or more drinks, or two or three mixed drinks and four or six beers in less than two hours is what defines binge drinking. Being able to endure a larger consumption without getting drunk is not an indicator of health, but depends on the acquired tolerance for illness.

The harm from alcohol abuse is greater in adolescents due to cognitive impairment (memory, attention, concentration). In the brain, the frontal lobes that control self-control and risk perception and modulate the activity of emotional circuits do not complete maturation until ages 18-25. Alcohol and drugs dampen their activity. Therefore, this type of consumption implies risks (reckless driving or unprotected sex) or dysfunctional behaviors (fighting or sexual assault). In the case of acts of violence, negative attitudes towards the victim (machi, homophobia or xenophobia) are added to the disinhibiting effect of alcohol.

If you continue to drink alcohol despite its harmful effects, it’s a problem, not a joke. In these cases, alcohol consumption is inversely related to the presence of healthy attitudes toward health, creative use of leisure time, and rewarding social relationships.

In summary, moderate alcohol consumption does not have to be harmful in adults if they are healthy and without medical contraindications, eat a healthy diet and live an active life, have no previous alcohol problems, do not use distilled beverages (gin, whiskey, rum), do not overdo it and abstain from it certain situations, such as driving a car, completely on alcohol. In any case, if someone doesn’t drink, it’s best that they continue without drinking and learn to have fun without doing it; If you drink a glass or two of wine some days, but not every day, and you do it in good company, you can keep going as long as you’re not doing it in a negative mood (depressed, angry, or anxious); And if you drink more than two drinks, you should try to drink less as it poses a risk to your health. And when a person cannot control themselves, there is no shame in seeking help when it is needed.

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Source elpais.com

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