For most, alcohol is not seen or categorized as a drug; however, it is the most widely used and easily accessible drug plaguing our country today. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a survey completed in 2019 showed that 85.6% of people ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. That same survey also showed that 414,000 young adults ages 12-17 reported being diagnosed with an Alcohol Use Disorder.
Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism
Due to its easy accessibility and effects on the nervous system, which causes a sense of relaxation, reduction of inhibition, lack of judgement and memory, alcohol is the drug of choice for most who are wanting to de-stress and forget their problems. However, continued avoidance of one’s challenges can lead one to develop an alcohol disorder, as well as other mental health issues. The more one uses alcohol as a coping mechanism the more they are susceptible to addiction, damaging relationships and increase in failure at developing healthy ones.
How Alcohol Affects the Brain
Our brains rely on a delicate balance of chemicals and processes. Alcohol is a known depressant, which means it can cause a disruption in the balance, which affects our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Alcohol is known to lower one’s inhibitions, which is why some report feeling more confident and less anxious. Regardless of the mood you were in when you started drinking, it is highly possible that negative emotions are more likely to take over. Alcohol consumption is also linked to higher levels of aggression, anger, anxiousness, depression, and suicidal ideation.
Signs that Alcohol is Harming your Mental Health Include:
–Issues with sleep
-Feeling more worried or anxious
-Issues with memory
-Increase in risky behavior
-Increased anger or aggression
-Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
Seeking support and assistance
If you find your self in a situation where you feel out of control and in need of assistance the following is recommended:
-Group Therapy (AA/NA)
-Residential Treatment Program
-Intensive Outpatient Program
Finding the root of what is causing one to choose alcohol to cope is very important in order to find ways to over come becoming addicted. Alternative coping skills include reaching out for support, practicing mindfulness, physical activity, and speaking to a professional.