Addicts whose lives seriously go off the rails are usually people with a drug problem, right? Their love of cannabis, cocaine or heroin has cost them everything. Their addiction has left them friendless, penniless and purposeless; and maybe in the most tragic cases even cost them their lives.
But beer, wine and spirits regularly imbibed in excessive quantities can prove as lethal as all the aforementioned drugs. They can create the same dreadful problems, leading the drinker to an equally horrific and seemingly inexorable end.
Alcoholism is as much an addiction as drug addiction
Alcohol abuse is not ‘safer’ than cocaine abuse, or indeed abuse of any of the other aforementioned substances. But calling a heavy drinker an addict rarely goes down well. Alcoholics simply detest the term.
Like drug addicts, drinkers can be unpredictable. They can suddenly turn nasty. And there’s really nothing nastier than a violent drunk; as former police commander and now Alcoholism Rehab Treatment counsellor Cressida Smart discovered during her many years in uniform:
- Often, arresting and taking into custody drug addicts, dealers and, for example, pimps who’d ensnared young girls and women through getting them hooked on drugs and then controlling them was considerably easier than dealing with alcoholics.
- While working as a policewoman in London, the worst cases of violence I dealt with were drink-fuelled incidents. Drug-caused situations were rarely if ever as tense or as threatening as when drink was involved when alcohol abuse was the reason.
- Alcoholism can be devastating for the addict and those around them: family, friends, colleagues, or people unknown to the drinker who have had the misfortune to somehow get caught up in a fierce situation, purely by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’ve seen that on many occasions.
A huge problem the Police and Social Services have is that there is not enough awareness particularly amongst young people as to how much alcohol is a safe amount to drink. And even those who have at least some idea can often misinterpret the information they have accessed.
When does social drinking end, and antisocial drinking start?
Some drugs can be described as ‘recreational’ (cannabis, ketamine) or ‘class A’ (cocaine, heroin), but can alcohol be thought about in the same way?
How can someone who drinks a lot know if they are definitely addicted, or if they just drink ‘recreationally’? Maybe they are simply a social drinker, rather than someone with a serious drink problem?
Let’s see what governmental guidelines say
Alcohol how much is too much?
According to DrinkAware.co.uk, the government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of: 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units of alcohol for women (equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine).
That seems clear enough, but, as Cressida mentioned, guidelines can often be misinterpreted, which can be highly dangerous, as tragically Simone, a 24-year-old data entry operative in Truro, found out:
- My brother, Richie, was always a bit of a lad, Simone explains. He had a reputation amongst family and friends for always living life close to the edge. The last time I spoke to him before he died last year he jokingly explained to me that, ‘in compliance with government guidelines’, he had been regularly ‘saving up’ his daily alcohol units for a whole month, so that he could drink them all at an end-of-the-month weekend party in Penzance. On the Monday morning afterwards, Richie was found dead. In the Coroner’s report, the cause of death was ‘Intoxication’ the consequence of alcohol entering Richie’s bloodstream faster than it could be metabolised by his liver.”