Everyday on television, in the newspaper, or even online, you will encounter news about crimes involving drunkenness and alcoholism. From petty crimes to heinous ones, you will always find someone having broken the law because he or she is under the influence of alcohol. And now wonder—we Filipinos are ranked as the world’s third heaviest drinkers.
Our appetite for alcohol can be credited centuries back to our Spanish colonizers. Pair this with our love for celebration, socialization and merriment and we indeed have something brewing. In fact, with beer being the most predominant alcoholic drink of choice, we have countrywide and month-long event specially devoted to beer drinking: Octoberfest. Our celebratory link to alcohol consumption used to be taken as a generally positive quality but the alarm has started to sound as soon as our rapidly westernized ideals found alcohol and drinking as a way to deal with life’s daily blows.
Alcohol dependence has rapidly become a problem in our country, with more than 5 million Filipinos as young as 13 years old drinking on a regular basis. Just a small number of these people will seek help for their alcohol problems, while some continue on, not thinking of their drinking habits as a problem to be professionally or clinically addressed even in the face of severe abuse-caused diseases such as liver cirrhosis.
Identifying Drinking Problems
According to healthcare professionals the recommended and safe levels of alcohol consumption are:
- 2 servings per day for adult men
- 1 serving per day for adult women
- 1 drink per day for those aged 65 and up
- minors (those below 18) should completely avoid alcohol
Anyone who drinks more than these recommended daily limits can be considered as alcohol abusers or alcoholics. These are characterized by:
- Being unable to control amount of alcohol drinking
- Having a compulsion or strong need to drink
- Needing to drink to feel “good” or feel “normal”
- Developing stronger tolerance to alcohol consumption
- Having to drink alone or hide drinking from family and frieds
- Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms such as sweating, shivering, or feeling nauseous
- Developing a drinking routine and getting irritable when there is no alcohol available when the drinking time draws near
- Keeping alcohol near all the time, such as in the house, at work or in the car
- Getting involved in troubles, brawls or crimes committed under the influence of alcohol
- Having “black outs” and forgetting commitments, appointments and conversations
- Losing interest in activities and changing routines
Those who may have one or more of the symptoms above but have no strong compulsion to drink may have drinking problems that does not necessarily equate to alcoholism. However, these symptoms can still lead to alcoholism and other problems and still require help and intervention.
Consequences of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
For anyone who has experienced drinking alcohol or getting drunk, people will at first experience stimulation. As drinking continues, they become calm as if sedated. Soon, the alcohol has gone to the brain, affecting emotions, judgment, speech, and muscle coordination which can cause lowered inhibitions and even increase risks for danger and accidents. Alcoholism steps in. Many who are under the influence of alcohol become involved in these situations:
- Accidents such as car crashes and other vehicular accidents
- Domestic problems
- Committing crimes and getting involved in fights
- Missing work or school, not fulfilling responsibilities
Excessive alcohol consumption, such as heavy binge drinking where people drink a huge amount of alcohol in such as short time, can often lead to fatal coma or even death. Other health complications brought by alcohol drinking include:
- Liver problems such as alcoholic hepatitis to cirrhosis
- Digestive problems such as inflammation of the stomach lining, digestive ulcers and pancreatitis
- Heart problems such as high blood pressure, enlarged heart, heart failure or stroke
- Diabetes complications such as hypoglycemia especially for people who already have diabetes
- Problems in sexual function (erectile dysfunction in men) and menstruation
- Eye problems such as weakness and paralysis of eye muscles
- Birth defects for pregnant women who drink
- Bone loss such as osteoporosis
- Neurological problems such as numbness in limbs, dementia and memory loss
- Increased risk of cancer such as in the mouth, throat, breast, colon, and liver
If you feel like you or someone you know has a drinking problem, it is best to assess your drinking habits and talk to a family member for support. It is also advisable to talk to your doctor or a health professional regarding your drinking habits and have intervention or professional help in place.