The true cost of alcohol dependence

alcohol addiction


Just recently I have been giving some thought to the issues around alcohol dependence and in particular alcohol dependence in women. I am writing this from a number of perspectives. The first is from experience of friends and relatives who have fought battles with alcohol over the years. Some have won and sadly some have lost. I have to say where lives have been lost due to alcohol abuse and dependence the impact is huge and long term.

Alcohol abuse can affect people from every walk of life and it isn’t fussy about where it tries to make a friend but from my experience it is particularly tempting women into its claws.  There are at least six women I have known as friends or colleagues who have had serious issues with alcohol. If I know six and I am sure there may be more of my friends and colleagues who are struggling with this then I wonder how many you know?.  My second viewpoint comes  because I work as a psychotherapist and I am seeing an increasing issue with the use of alcohol in women as a way of solving more deep rooted and complex issues. It can seem to help to obliterate feelings that hurt us or situations that cause us to lose sleep at night. it can temporarily make high levels of  stress go away and mask financial worries. Alcohol has a clever trick of making us feel in control.

Research from the institute of alcohol studies show that in recent years the gender gap between men and women drinking alcohol has closed. 13% of women ( I would say a conservative estimate) in Great Britain drink at dangerous levels. At levels considered by the Chief Medical Officer to be binge drinking. Interestingly research from the Institute of Alcohol Studies shows that drinking levels are higher in females with managerial or professional careers rather than manual workers. The rate of alcohol related hospital admissions has gone up by over 30% in the last 8 years.

These are just statistics and often don’t stir anyone to really think about the true cost of excessive alcohol consumption. I am not talking about people enjoying a drink and going out to socialise with friends. These are often secret drinkers who hide away.  If like me you have seen a friend, relative or colleague suffering you will know that it will wreak havoc on families, tear relationships apart, cause financial hardship, lead to family breakdown and all of the consequences inherent in that. Perhaps worst of all it changes the person you know and love or knew and loved into someone you don’t recognise. Alcohol abuse /dependency can lead to among other things depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and eating disorders. There appears to be very little support available out there for those battling with alcohol.

Excessive use of alcohol is usually a symptom of something more complex- such as extreme stress, low self worth and self confidence, loneliness, and guilt.  Some of the clients I have talked to describe alcohol dependence as having ” no off switch”

These issues /feelings can be dealt with by recognising them and addressing them the earlier the better. Talking to someone, seeking help and taking that first step will make all the difference. Find out about how to get help through your GP or local counselling services. The first step is the hardest.

Sue Richardson