Beer Abuse, Addiction and Treatment Options
Beer is one of the oldest beverages in the world, created with a variety of grains, often hops, yeast, and many other flavorings, and made alcoholic through fermentation. Today, individuals commonly celebrate holidays, sporting events, and a number of other occasions with the libation. Beer is also associated with binge drinking and can often lead to addiction.
What’s In Beer?
Typically, a 12 oz amount of beer contains 5 percent of ethanol —pure alcohol. While a smaller volume of wine (5 oz) equates to about the same amount of ethanol, some have the misconception that beer is a safer alcoholic beverage, as there is a higher volume of liquid. However, this is untrue, as ethanol is still what produces intoxication, regardless of the type of beverage.
The craft beer craze of recent years has seen types of beer being created with higher and higher alcohol content by volume, or ABV. As ABV rates rise, it becomes easier to consume alcohol in higher amounts while not being aware of how much one is drinking. Beer does typically have a slightly lower ABV than wine or liquor, yet can still be abused. And as rates of ABV increase in beer, it becomes more likely for individuals to become addicted when it is consumed in larger amounts. In fact, some craft beers contain twice as much ABV as light beers.
Who’s At Risk For Beer Abuse?
Binge drinking is considered to be five or more drinks on one occasion for men, and four or more for women. Binge drinking can result in immediate intoxication, and bring about other mental, social, and physical problems.
Binge drinking is also largely popular among the teen population. In fact, 90 percent of alcohol drank by teens is consumed via binge drinking. Becoming accustomed to binge drinking in one’s youth can be extremely dangerous. It is important to develop good habits at a young age, because drinking excessively at a young age can predispose alcohol abuse and addiction at a later age. Additionally, drinking alcohol while young can increase the risk for using other drugs.
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Side Effects Of Beer Abuse
Drinking can often begin harmlessly, with a few beers every now and then. It’s certainly not uncommon to drink beer to relax, but when that habit turns into heavy drinking, some can experience serious problems. When someone has begun drinking heavily on a regular basis, this can raise the risk of becoming addicted. Additionally, when someone drinks often, alone, or is unable to stop when they want to, this can be an indicator of abuse.
When a person consumes beer, they may become more excited, talkative, or extroverted. But when beer is consumed in larger amounts and more often, the side effects can become more extreme, and the person can become unstable. The amount of intoxication an individual experiences depends on the amount of beer they have consumed. Other factors, such as height, weight, age, and gender can change the way one experiences alcohol.
Short-term side effects of abusing beer may include:
- slurred speech
- blurred vision
- slowed reflexes
- poor judgment
- increase in urination
Long-Term Effects Of Beer Abuse
Over time, abusing beer can become dangerous and even deadly. Beyond the short-term side effects of beer consumption, there are a number of effects that can be damaging to someone’s health. The more a person drinks over time, the more difficult quitting will be.
More serious long-term effects of beer abuse include:
- violent behavior
- loss of consciousness
- lowered body temperature
- alcohol poisoning
- coma and death
These serious effects can have long-term consequences. For example, a person may experience legal problems as a result of heavy alcohol use. In addition, prolonged, heavy intake of alcohol can increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, depression, stroke, and more. Sexually transmitted diseases from risky behavior while drinking is a possibility as well.
Overall, prolonged, heavy use of alcohol always increases the risk for addiction.
Beer Vs. Liquor
Beer has a higher volume of liquid, and liquor has less liquid per recommended serving. Still, the amount of ethanol ingested is the same. The type of alcohol a person drinks doesn’t determine whether they are addicted to it or not.
For this reason, some believe that beer is less addictive. For a person with an alcohol addiction, the type of alcohol consumed does not matter. The amount of ethanol consumed is what’s most important.
For some, it may take longer to become intoxicated while drinking beer. For this reason, someone may switch their alcohol preferences over time. Liquor is absorbed in the bloodstream more rapidly than beer, and can make someone intoxicated more quickly. Therefore, it may become more appealing to make the change to liquor, in order to speed up the effects of alcohol.
Signs Of Beer Addiction
Prolonged beer abuse can lead to addiction. An addiction to alcohol, or alcoholism, can be predisposed by many factors, such as genetics, environment, psychological illness, and social factors.
Some signs that may indicate a problem with drinking include:
- hiding amount of beer consumed from friends and family
- drinking beer in greater amounts than previously
- inability to monitor amount of beer drank
- experiencing problems in work, school, or home due to drinking
- drinking despite negative life consequences
Another indicator of abuse is the use of other addictive drugs in addition to drinking beer. Because different drugs can alter the effects of alcohol, it may seem appealing to use multiple substances at once. While alcohol can be more uplifting and energizing, using an opioid like heroin can create more calming and relaxing effects. Some might believe that the two substances “balance each other out,” and choose to use both at once.
Beer Withdrawal And Detoxification
When someone stops drinking beer after consuming it in large amounts for an extended period of time, they will experience adverse physical and mental side effects.
Some side effects of withdrawal from beer include:
- rapid heart rate
Withdrawal from beer can include serious side effects, such as delirium tremens, hallucinations, seizure, coma, and even death.
It is important to undergo withdrawal from beer at an accredited treatment facility. A rehabilitation center will have medical professionals to assist with any adverse symptoms. They will also provide medication-assisted therapy (MAT) to help with the more serious symptoms, which can be painful, dangerous, and even deadly.
Treatment For Beer Abuse And Addiction
Unfortunately, relapse rates for alcohol addiction are high, but with the right treatment, many can enjoy years of freedom from alcohol.
Seeking treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab facility is a great first step toward living a life free from alcohol addiction. The treatment process begins with detoxification or the removal of alcohol from the body. After detoxification is complete, the rest of the treatment process may include individual, family, and group therapy, medical treatments, and potentially, educational and vocational training. The variety and selection of treatments offered will depend on the treatment center selected.
However, each care plan should be as personalized as possible, so that the individual receives the most appropriate treatment necessary.
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