Alcohol abuse is when a person consumes alcohol at a level or frequency that harms them.
In the short-term, taking in large quantities of alcohol can lead to problems like alcohol poisoning (which can involve vomiting, seizures and unconsciousness), violent behaviour, an increased risk of injuries and accidents, and an increased risk of losing money, keys and other possessions. In the long-term, alcohol abuse increases the risk of conditions like heart disease, strokes, liver cancer and other serious conditions.
Regularly drinking too much alcohol can also lead to a dependency. A person with an alcohol dependency who then stops drinking can experience a number of symptoms, including hand tremors (often known as “the shakes”), anxiety, depression, sweating, sleeping problems and hallucinations.
A GP can discuss alcohol abuse with a person, and is likely to use a test called an ‘alcohol use disorders identification test’ to assess a person’s alcohol use. Community groups and charities can also help.
Counselling is an important treatment for alcohol abuse. This can include self-help groups and therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy.
Detoxification is another treatment, which involves a doctor or nurse helping a person to slowly reduce the amount they drink over time. Medicines may also be used to reduce withdrawal symptoms or to lower the urge to drink.