The World Health Organisation asserts that alcohol misuse is now one of the leading risk factors in developed countries. According to the charity, Alcohol Concern as many as 5% of U.K adults could be classed as ‘alcoholics’ with statistics relating to alcohol consumption increasingly alarming.

Consequences of Alcohol Misuse and Dependency

Such significant figures of alcohol misuse and dependence undoubtedly have considerable impact on health services, public service expenditure and social factors such as crime and anti-social behaviour. According to research conducted by the World Health Organisation, alcohol dependence has been linked to over 60 illnesses and accounts for between 20-30% of the worldwide cases of oesophageal cancer, liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, epilepsy, murder and motor accidents. In addition, Alcohol Concern estimates that alcohol is related to 65% of suicide attempts and accounts for 23% of annual child neglect calls.

Levels of Dependence

According to studies carried out by the Institute of Alcohol Studies, an individual can be diagnosed as alcohol dependent if they have experienced at least three of the symptoms described below over the course of a year: these include, a strong desire to have an alcoholic drink, struggling to control the volume of alcohol consumed and not being able to stop even when they are aware that they have drunk too much. In addition to this, alcohol dependence may cause visible withdrawal symptoms, including sweating, trembling, agitation and sickness when less alcohol is consumed indicating an increased level of alcohol tolerance; this signifies a need for larger volumes
in order to produce the same effect. Another symptom is a decrease in the time devoted to activities aside from drinking and continuing to drink even though the consequences are obviously negative.

Binge Drinking

Today, the nature of consumer-driven society impacts significantly on alcoholism; happy hour offers, buy one get one free and the availability of cheap, poor quality alcoholic products mean that drinking establishments are
actively encouraging people to drink as much as possible; binge drinking is an increasingly serious issue particularly amongst young people, who are consuming increasing amounts of alcohol; episodic drinking to excess as seen at pubs and clubs across the country on a Saturday night, for example, is proven to be a serious contributor to alcohol dependency in later life.

Societal Concerns

In terms of wider society, alcohol misuse has been connected to higher rates of crime and anti-social behaviour, increased risk of unsafe sexual encounters and road traffic injuries; alcohol is also one of the most common reasons for arguments between families and couples and is often cited as a reason for the breakdown of relationships and divorce.

Support for Alcoholics

Several charities offer help and advice to those who have issues with drinking. Alcohol Concern and Alcoholics Anonymous run weekly meeting groups as well as confidential phone lines; Drinkline is the U.K’s national helpline and is open 24 hours a day. The NHS recommend contacting your local GP if you feel you may have an