Understanding Beer Abuse
Beer is an alcoholic beverage, made using water, malted barley, hops, and yeast. The final product and active ingredient in beer is ethanol—pure alcohol. A standard serving of beer is 12 ounces, and contains five percent alcohol, which is 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol.
Typically, beer has the lowest alcohol content by volume (ABV) of any type of alcohol. The average beer has an ABV of four to six percent. Craft beers continue to push ABV to higher levels, and often contain double the amount of a standard beer. Nonetheless, the best-selling beers in America are light beers, which have an ABV just above four percent.
While beer has a significantly lower amount of alcohol than liquor or wine, it can be abused just like any other kind of alcohol. Drinking beer has become an American pastime, and businesses, holidays, sporting events, lives, and activities incorporate it.
Many people binge drink beer, which consists of five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women, in a matter of about two hours. Binge drinking is dangerous and can result in alcohol addiction, violence, learning problems, and even death.
Heavy drinking may also contribute to alcohol dependence. Heavy drinking is more than two drinks per day for men, or one drink per day for women. All in all, a person drinking beer has the same risk of developing an alcohol use disorder as a person who drinks wine or liquor.
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by loss of control over drinking and a negative emotional state when not using alcohol. Alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction are both types of AUD’s, which are defined as either mild, moderate, or severe.
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Who Is Likely To Abuse Beer?
With the growing trend of microbreweries and craft beer, the beer market is dominated by people in their twenties to early thirties. The most common demographic for beer drinkers is college graduates.
Drinking beer is a large part of the college experience, but one in four college students report academic consequences due to alcohol abuse. Almost 60 percent of college students ages 18 to 22 reported past-month alcohol drinking in 2014, and almost two out of three of them engaged in binge drinking during that time frame.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, men are more likely to practice high-volume drinking than women, which appears to increase with age. On another note, women are more likely to abstain from alcohol, and they are also more likely to have stopped drinking than men.
Short-Term Effects Of Beer Abuse
The short-term effects of beer will vary based on the amount an individual drinks. Many people drink beer to help them unwind, while others abuse it as a means to cope with stress, trauma, grief, mood, or mental illness.
When a person starts drinking beer, they may become more sociable, excitable, or outgoing. As more of it is consumed, the drug’s effect can be unpredictable.
The short-term effects of abuse may include:
- reduced tension
- slower reflexes and brain activity
- trouble breathing
- slower reaction time
- reduced coordination
- risky sexual behaviors
- violent behaviors
- poor judgment
- slurred speech
- poor vision
- increased urination
- lower body temperature
- passing out or blacking out
- alcohol poisoning
- coma and possible death
Even in small doses, beer changes the way a person’s brain works, and may fuel an alcohol addiction. Many people who struggle with alcohol use disorder will switch to more powerful substances, like liquor, when beer isn’t enough to feed their cravings.
Long-Term Effects Of Beer Abuse
Beer can negatively affect a person in many ways over time. Due to its high-calorie content, beer is fattening. A 12-ounce beer can contain anywhere from 64 to 198 calories. Beer may also negatively affect the body’s organs.
The long-term effects of beer abuse can harm the following organs:
- Brain—Beer disrupts normal brain development and kills brain cells to decrease brain mass. Over time or in one drinking session, beer can change the way the brain looks or works, and may alter behavior, mood, or mental stability. Too much beer at one time may cause a lapse in memory known as a blackout.
- Heart—Beer causes a person’s blood pressure to increase, which may lead to heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Drinking beer can also lead to arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart muscle.
- Liver—Beer can lead to a variety of problems with a person’s liver. Heavy drinking can cause steatosis (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis, liver disease, fibrosis, and cirrhosis.
- Pancreas—Beer causes the pancreas to produce a toxic substance that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, which is a long-lasting inflammation of the pancreas that can damage cells responsible for producing insulin. Damage to the pancreas can result in problems with digestion, and even diabetes.
Beer can even lower sperm count, lead to stomach ulcers, and damage a person’s immune system, making them more susceptible to disease. Drinking alcohol may cause cancer of the mouth, esophagus, breast, liver, and colon. Long-term beer abuse may result in alcohol addiction, wherein a person becomes unable to moderate or stop drinking alcohol.
Signs And Symptoms Of Beer Addiction
Most people are able to moderate their beer drinking when necessary, while others may not be so fortunate.
Alcohol addiction (alcoholism) is complex with many causes which can be environmental, biological, and psychological. Other factors that play a part in alcohol addiction are age, weight, amount of alcohol consumed, and gender.
A person suffering from a beer addiction may not be able to see their drinking as a problem, even if it causes distress in their personal life, school work, or career. A beer addiction can cause a person to lose interest in things they were once passionate about. Many people who suffer from beer addiction withdraw from family members, drink in the morning, or begin spending a lot of time alone.
Deciding if someone has a drinking problem isn’t always easy. Expressing concern about someone’s drinking and making suggestions for change may be met with defensiveness or hostility.
In trying to help someone overcome alcohol addiction, it’s important to help them realize that beer contains alcohol, and is a highly addictive central nervous system depressant that alters the brain’s chemistry. Recognizing the problem can open the door for taking the next step into treatment.
Beer Addiction Withdrawal Symptoms
A person suffering from a moderate to severe form of alcohol use disorder (alcohol dependence) may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug.
The more alcohol a person drinks, the more severe their withdrawal symptoms will be. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can range from mental anxiety and depression to nightmares, hallucinations, or seizures.
Alcohol withdrawal may vary from person to person, but often includes the following symptoms:
- mood swings
- foggy thinking
- rapid heart rate
- delirium tremens
Withdrawal symptoms occur as early as eight hours after an individual’s last drink, and can last for several weeks. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are generally at their worst by 24 to 72 hours. Delirium tremens is the most severe form of alcohol withdrawal. Left untreated, alcohol withdrawal may result in brain damage, relapse, and in some cases, death.
Medically-Supervised Alcohol Detoxification
Alcohol addiction has medical, psychological, and spiritual factors, which means that treatment should cover all of these areas. In a medically-assisted detoxification program (medical detox), the physical addiction to alcohol is managed and withdrawal symptoms are minimized.
A medical detox is often the first step to a comprehensive alcohol treatment, and helps a person safely overcome their withdrawal symptoms. In a residential detox setting, a multidisciplinary team of professionals watches a person closely for hallucinations and delirium tremens, while helping them restore health. Medical detox is not considered a full treatment for alcohol addiction, but it’s a good place to start.
Treatment For Beer Addiction
Because beer addiction is considered a chronic disease, there isn’t necessarily a proven cure, and relapse rates are similar to those of diabetes, hypertension, and asthma. Yet when alcohol addiction is treated as a chronic disease, it may help reduce relapse rates, improve behaviors, and help improve quality of life.
No two cases of alcohol addiction are the same, so treatment shouldn’t be the same across the board either. With an individualized treatment approach, alcohol addiction is treated as it relates to each person and their life. Alcohol addiction treatment provides the necessary care required to teach a person coping skills and healthy behaviors.
Vertava Health can help a person struggling with alcohol abuse and addiction. Call today.