I took a class in the spring called Addictions. It was a psychology class taught by a funny looking man who was partly responsible for the state of South Carolina no longer having gambling machines. He was a great and wise teacher. The first class he went around the room and asked: “Why do you drink?” He got all sorts of answers: to forget, to have fun, to talk to women, to talk to men, etc. His answer was and I quote “Wow, you want to know why I drink? I drink because I want to be a better dancer.” I say this because he later went on to explain that alcohol does not grant one the dancing ability of a dance god, but it only gives the illusion of dance greatness.
The greater the illusion the more likely a problem can occur. The DSM 5 has listed eleven criteria for alcohol use disorder:
- Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain alcohol, use alcohol, or recover from its effects.
- Craving or a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.
- Recurrent alcohol use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
- Continued alcohol use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
- Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol.
- Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: a) A need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect b) A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol.
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following: a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for alcohol (refer to criteria A and B of the criteria set for alcohol withdrawal) b) Alcohol (or a closely related substance, such as a benzodiazepine) is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
In 3000 B.C. the great Egyptian empire made the world’s first beer. It’s been around a really, really, REALLY long time. I don’t like the taste or smell of beer, I’ve had a sip once (yes, I am older than 16 for those living in Austria, Belgium, Congo, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Germany, Haiti, Luxembourg, Morocco, Netherlands, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland. I am older that 18 for those in Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bahamas, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt(I would think any age goes here, but to each country there own), El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece,Seychelles, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe (just to name a few). I do, however, live in the United States, and yes, I am 21. Funny story on that but more on it in a later post. Notice what I did there. The United States is one of only 12 countries where the drinking age is 21. Throughout history, the drinking age for the United States was: birth, 12, 16, 18, (then the 18th amendment happened), and now 21. There are 19 countries that don’t care how old you are when you start drinking and 16 where you CAN NOT drink at all. As always, please use this information with care. Don’t go drinking where you are not supposed to be drinking.
Anyway, back to me not liking beer. It’s been around for like 5016 years, (yes the world is older than 2000 years) and it still tastes like grass and dirt. I know how grass and dirt taste like because I was very adventurous child. In my class, a guy said, “I like the way it tastes,” to which my addictions professor answered, “Do you not have any taste buds?” It doesn’t taste good. I prefer black coffee over alcohol (this might play into my addiction, but shh).
Anyway, people think that alcohol (not just beer) is a stimulant. No! The Goddess Caffeine is a stimulant. Well, okay, yes, alcohol is a stimulant but it is also a depressant. Which is why depression is usually co-morbid with alcohol usage. It acts as a stimulant because it interferes with sleep (coffee and soda taste better). It, however, impairs judgment and cognitive function. In fact, people with an alcohol use disorder tend to live 12 years less than those who don’t. Their brain actually shrinks. In addition, alcohol stops problem-solving abilities and thus, suicide is a risk factor for heavy users. Additional, 40 % of automobile deaths occur because of intoxication, about 40-50 % of murders, and over 50% of rape cases involve alcohol.
I say this not to scare people from drinking, I am not the 18th amendment, but to caution on the use of heavy alcohol usage. Have a beer, tequila, vodka, wine, whatever you want, get wasted once in a while (as long as you are of age in your respected country). Just be careful and don’t do it often. Be safe: drink with friends, have a DD (someone who will not drink to be the one who drives or is responsible), and if you or anyone you know meets the 11 points at the start, please seek help. I’m telling you, dying from cirrhosis of the liver is a painful way to die, I’ve seen it.
This is part one. Part two will include factors that play into alcohol dependence and abuse, and possible treatments. Until next time: “It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby