Alcohol and Substance Abuse - Edward A. Dreyfus, Ph.D.
Alcohol abuse is more insidious than drug abuse. Since having a drink is socially sanctioned, there is no overt reminder that the behavior may lead to trouble down the road. With illicit drugs merely using the substance is a reminder because it is illegal. Having a cocktail at dinner, drinking a beer at a ballgame, and celebrating a wedding with champagne are all socially supported and even encouraged. One can receive accolades for being able to hold one’s liquor. Becoming “shit-faced” in college is a right of passage. There are many models of respected people enjoying alcohol. This is not true for other substances. Hence, it is easy to rationalize moving from the occasional beer, cocktail, or glass of wine to daily use.
It is easy to go from the meal enhancing drink to using alcohol to self-medicate for social inhibition, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and other discomforting affects. Because some people can develop a tolerance for higher levels of alcohol in their system, they may need higher doses in order to experience the same effects. One drink becomes two, two becomes three. Where one beer was good, for some people it can easily become three, four, or more during the week with a few extras on the weekend.
Unfortunately, most alcoholics are not aware that they are alcoholics until they get into some difficulty. And when there is some warning, they often deny it. Often the early signs are related to work performance, health problems, social problems, legal difficulties, financial problems, or marital difficulties.
Some people are born with a genetic and biochemical predisposition that leaves them more vulnerable to abusing alcohol. They do not receive a signal from their brain that they have had enough or too much. Rather than producing sleep, nausea or other obvious physiological effect, they develop a tolerance for large amounts of alcohol. In fact, with continued abuse they begin to crave the substance. In addition, these people find that the alcohol temporarily comforts them by reducing shyness, anxiety, depression, and inhibition. In a world where alcohol use is approved of and even encouraged, it becomes part of the culture. Alcoholics do not want to think of themselves as not able to control their drinking. They want to keep up with and be part of their social group. Declining a drink in many situations is difficult for these people. It is not until they have developed a dependence that interferes with work, family life, and social life that they begin to recognize that they have a problem. But by then it is often too late. The physiological craving for alcohol becomes so great that giving it up does not seem like an option. The centers of the brain that regulate judgment have been so affected that it takes a crisis to motivate these individuals to seek treatment.
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Edward A. Dreyfus, PH.D.
Dr. Dreyfus has been in private practice in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 40 years. Having written six books and been published extensively in industry publications, as well as expert quotes in Mens Fitness and Cosmo magazine Edward Dreyfus is seen as an authority source in his field. To benefit from Dr. Dreyfus expertise and gain the understanding and help you need to work through the challenges in your life, please contact Dr. Dreyfus at: (310) 208-5700 or e-mail him.