Alcohol is a well known substance that has been present ever since. It provides a variety of functions for different people from the earliest times until today. In the past, alcoholic beverages were served not only as thirst quencher; it also played a significant role in the aspect of religion (Watson). Alcohol connotes pleasure and sociability through the enhancement of the quality of life. Most alcoholic beverages are well represented in wine, beer, and spirits. They have been accounted for numerous positive and negative effects upon consumption (Watson).
While alcohol has been proven to be beneficial if taken moderately, its misuse may lead to alcoholism. Alcoholism is one of the prevailing social problems of today. Alcoholism is noted to be a chronic disease wherein the body becomes dependent on alcohol. It is characterized with alcohol obsession, and the person with alcoholism is unable to control the amount of alcohol being taken. Alcoholism can cause serious problems and may affect a person’s relationship, health, finances, and work (“Alcoholism”). The physical effects of alcoholism are evidently well recorded.
It is a general knowledge that the abuse of alcohol may lead to serious problems, most especially the abrupt deterioration of human health and its detrimental impact on the internal organs. Thus, most people often associate the impact of alcoholism on the physical health. However, what is less considered are its psychological effects that are much more damaging and equally painful to the physical effects that the alcoholic person is aware of (Briggs). It was found out that alcohol consumption and mental health are closely affiliated in numerous ways.
Based from the summary presented by the institute of alcohol studies, “mental health problems can result [in] excessive drinking, but that problem drinking can lead to mental health problems” (Tolevanen et al. qtd. in Cattan and Tilford 142). Aside from this, it was suggested that external factors are major contributors to mental health and alcohol problems. These external factors include genes, social and family environment, psychological and culture influence, the perception about the impact of alcohol, and the level of acceptance for alcohol consumption (Tolevanen et al. td. in Cattan and Tilford 142) Moreover, the influence of the expectancies of alcohol greatly affects how people drink. Take for example the young and middle-aged adults.
Since the said group of people has a positive perception on the effects of alcohol consumption, they tend to consume more alcohol. It was concluded that people who use alcohol consumption as a coping strategy perceive the effects of alcohol to be positive, and that alcohol reduces the repercussions of factors that induce stress (Satre and Knight qtd. n Cattan and Tilford 142). Hence, although there were evidences that alcohol consumption may have positive psychological effects, it is still apparent that the negative impact of alcohol on human psychology overshadows its positive effects. Depression, Anxiety, and Suicide Since alcoholic beverages are depressants, by the time they begin circulating within an individual’s system, they decrease the activity carried out by the nervous system to the brain (Naq). Thus, it was noted that depression may be the cause or aftermath of alcoholism.
Some studies suggest that the effects of alcohol have two phases, the initial of which is that it produces a feeling of euphoria which is then generated to depression by the time the alcohol level in the blood has gone down (Institute of Alcohol Studies [IAS] 6). It was also stated that, when an individual consumes an amount of alcohol that is more than the body’s capacity, it would result in stress. In the spur of the moment, a series of psychological manifestations of stress can be observed through anxiety.
Certain conditions, such as restlessness, nightmares, and overwhelming fear, are some of the anxieties felt or experienced by an alcoholic (Naq). Dependence in alcohol also results in heightened emotions. Most alcoholics are in a high risk of depression and anxiety, creating a strong link between suicide and alcoholism (IAS 6). Aggression and Violence Many researchers have proven the link between alcoholism and aggression. It was believed that the excessive consumption of alcohol does not only promote aggressive behaviors, but it may also lead to victimization.
Alcohol disrupts the normal functions of the brain. Thus, alcohol encourages aggressive behavior and violence. Violence is within the category of aggression, which is characterized by behaviors that are often threatening and hostile. The percentages of alcohol related violence are alerting, and the figures are still raised in the upper limits (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services). According to Bancroft, the consumption of alcohol allows offenders to act on what they desire (47). Because of this, offenders become more insulting and intimidating.
Most often than not, perpetrators deny the activity and use alcohol as an excuse. Courts sometimes condone perpetrators who blame the committed crime to drinking problems (Bancroft 48). Obsession Alcoholics are identified as intense and obsessed people (Zimberg 4). Once a person becomes dependent to alcohol, obsession with drinking is the likely result. For an alcoholic, there is no difference between a large and small amount of alcohol. Because of alcohol dependence, a person loses interest with other activities except to get the next drink (Naq).
Memory loss An alcoholic is more likely to experience periods where one cannot remember a thing, otherwise known as ‘blackouts’. It is important to take into consideration that alcohol abuse may result in memory loss, which in turn, may be psychologically damaging and self destructive at great levels (Briggs). Apart from this, the dependence in alcohol has a great association with brain damage and cognitive impairment which may lead to an advance stage known as alcoholic dementia. When such advance case of memory loss is combined with amnesia, the intellectual function of the brain is then lost (IAS 16).
Socio-Psychological Effects of Alcoholism The socio-psychological effects of alcoholism may be short term or long term. One of the most prominent short term socio psychological effects of alcoholism is ‘disinhibition’. This is well manifested when an individual lacks self regulation and control which leads to numerous anti-social behaviors. Furthermore, alcohol has the capability to repress a person’s ability to respond to emotions and decrease inhibitions which, in the end, may cause the alcoholic to exhibit risky behaviors (Curtin et al. qtd. in “Short-term and Longer-term Effects”).
Disinhibition also may result in activities that greatly affect the society such as crime and violence. For instance, in Australia, where alcohol is deeply embedded in the culture, out of 70% of crimes committed, 41% were done under the influence of alcohol (National Health and Medical Research qtd. in “Short-term and Longer-term Effects”). Long term socio-psychological impact of alcoholism is apparent in a family. Alcoholism is recognized as a “family disease. ” In a family, the alcoholic may be a father, mother, teenager, and other close relative.
Alcohol dependence of one member of the family may lead to family disruption and may put the whole family at risk that may last for a very long time. In a recent study done by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration) National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, the numbers of American adults who have been vulnerable to alcoholism reached up to seventy six million (Parsons). Most family problems are blamed to alcoholism (Parsons). Family members take on different characteristics as a way of adapting to the situation.
In the case of the family’s child or children, various attitudes may be noticed: (1) Family hero is a way by which a child acts on the responsibilities, exhibiting obsessive perfectionism and doing things that are “too good to be true;” (2) Scapegoat, wherein misbehavior and delinquency is a form of escape to the situation; (3) Lost child is characterized with passiveness and isolation from others to withdraw from the situation; and (4) Mascot, by making fun of the situation through comic relief (Donatelle and Davis qtd. n “Short-term and Longer-term Effects”). In the case of the spouse of the alcoholic, the spouse has to take on the status of both parents. This may cause the spouse to develop feelings of hatred, self-pity, and anti-social behavior. The spouse is also likely to become extremely exhausted, leading to physical and mental illness. Moreover, the non-alcoholic parent has the tendency to neglect the children (Berger qtd. in Parsons).
The effects of alcoholism are not limited to the physical aspect. It is evident that it has adverse psychological effects that do not only affect the alcoholic individual, but extend to the society where the alcoholic belongs. Furthermore, based from the results that were framed from the study, it is suggested that comprehensive analysis on the psychological effect of alcoholism according to gender should be done so as to give further justification on the subject.