A reality check on alcohol
By Dr Matthew Frei, Head of Clinical Services, Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre
As Australians we like to drink alcohol. In fact, according to the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey Report, around 8 out of 10 Australians could be called “drinkers”, having had a drink in the past month.
For many of us, alcohol is our social lubricant, and public drinking venues are the “town squares” where we congregate.
However, the problem is that alcohol is a toxic drug when taken in excess, and can create a lot of health problems.
Most people like that alcohol provides euphoria, relaxes and disinhibits. However this potent drug would never make the grade as a medication given its nasty side effects. Alcohol use can damage the heart, liver, gut, brain, blood cells and even the skin. There are also the adverse emotional effects to consider.
Having a quiet one to “take the edge off” may be a common practice, but can progress to problematic drinking when stressors - in family, marriage or finances - escalate.
Men in their 40s are important role models for children. We know that drinking patterns of adolescents moving into early adulthood are influenced by what they observe at home. If parents use alcohol frequently and inappropriately, their children will be watching and learning unhealthy behaviours.
While women are fast catching up, men are the most prominent in harmful drinking statistics. Men are also the group who are likely to “tough it out”, avoiding health checks and not complaining of symptoms. When heavy alcohol use is a cultural marker of masculinity, progression of alcohol related illness may occur with avoidance of care and denial.
Alcohol, the drug, is here to stay as an Australian favourite. However, when drinking becomes associated with physical or psychological disorders, harming the drinker and those around him, help is needed.
Effective treatments that address medical, psychological and social factors are available and people or significant others can contact support services.
Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre operates Counselling Online, a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week online service where people can seek help.