Alcohol Awareness Week 2023 takes place from 3-9 July and presents an opportunity for those who drink alcohol to look closely at their drinking habits. Even when alcohol is consumed in moderation, it wreaks havoc on our minds and body over time. With alcohol being readily available worldwide, its popularity and cultural significance can often mask its true identity – a highly addictive and toxic drug with devastating long-term effects, diseases, and disorders. An estimated 10 million people in England regularly exceed the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk drinking guidelines, including 1.7 million drinking at higher risk and around 600,000 dependent on alcohol. *
Here, Lee Hawker-Lecesne MBPsS, Clinical Director at The Cabin, looks at how poor mental health related to the cost-of-living crisis has and will continue to increase the nation’s alcohol consumption, with many of us struggling with increased stress, anxiety, and depression.
Lee comments: “The relationship between the current cost-of-living crisis and problematic alcohol use is complex, and the impacts will likely vary among individuals and communities. Factors such as personal circumstances, cultural and subcultural norms, and individual coping mechanisms at the level of personal resilience will all play significant roles in determining how people respond to economic challenges and alcohol use. The financial crisis will affect individuals and communities, including potential impacts on alcohol consumption patterns and problematic alcohol use.”
It’s important to understand that certain barriers often exist for those needing treatment. These can often be gender specific, but where the UK cost-of-living crisis leads to financial hardship for individuals, it will certainly affect their ability to seek and afford treatment for alcohol-related issues. Reduced financial resources will make it challenging for individuals to access counselling, therapy, or other professional support, potentially exacerbating problematic alcohol use during this difficult period.
Even small amounts of alcohol affect our emotions, judgement, memory, speech, and anger levels. Excessive drinking and long-term consumption can kill brain cells. Drinking affects the frontal cortex, which is used for planning, forming ideas, and making decisions, and the hippocampus stores our memories. Once the hippocampus is damaged, you may experience difficulty learning new things and retaining new long-term memories. Prolonged consumption of alcohol causes the brain to shrink, resulting in difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions. This contracting of the brain further causes confusion and irritation.
The blood carries alcohol and travels throughout your body to your organs. Each organ is necessary for life; deterioration can alter its function and health. Long-term use of alcohol ravages your most vital organs, particularly the heart, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
Long-term alcohol use is toxic to nerve tissue and causes nerve damage. Nerves transmit signals between the brain and the body, and symptoms will appear when this system is damaged over time. This damage can also be attributed to nutritional problems linked to alcohol, such as vitamin deficiency and malnutrition. It is heartbreaking to know that alcohol-induced nerve damage is often permanent.
Someone with alcohol dependency needs to get help, reclaim their lives and get out of the vicious cycle of addiction. The sooner you or your loved one gets help, the better their chances of recovery, which is why it’s important to seek help at the first signs of addiction. The Cabin Chiang Mai has helped thousands break free from alcohol dependence and addiction.
Lee Hawker-Lecesne, is Clinical Director at The Cabin, Asia’s most respected rehab. Located in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and with a clinical team that has more than 50 years of experience, The Cabin has successfully treated over 5,000 inpatients. Lee heads up the clinical programme and works individually with clients to create bespoke treatment plans. His areas of expertise include mental health, addiction, and trauma.