Not everyone who uses alcohol will misuse it or have a problematic relationship with it. However, the misuse occurs when a person is using it at levels that are associated with short-term or long-term harm.
Alcohol makes people less alert and impairs concentration and coordination. However, alcohol can also have an impact on our mental health.
Some people use alcohol to reduce symptoms of anxiety, to mask feelings of sadness, to feel relaxed in times of high-stress, and to feel more confident within social settings. Although these impacts sound positive, when they become a coping mechanism this can lead to negative impacts; self-medicating on alcohol can have many harmful outcomes.
Let’s discuss the short-term and long-term implications alcohol misuse can have.
Suicide and self-harm
When a person is intoxicated, they are more likely to engage in self-harming behaviours and are more likely to act on suicidal thoughts. Alcohol increases risk in several ways; alcohol amplifies and intensifies feelings of anxiety, depression, and anger. Alcohol also reduces inhibitions and inhibits the use of approved coping mechanisms.
This is a type of psychosis which is brought about by the direct effects of alcohol and involves hallucinations. This can be so severe that some people require hospital admission to recover from their episode of psychosis.
Alcohol is in fact a depressant. This means that the alcohol consumed can interfere with and slow down the central nervous system, it can reduce the levels of serotonin and dopamine which are the neuro-chemicals which help regulate our mood. Alcohol can also interfere with our sleep which can enhance feelings of depression as feelings of fatigue increase.
Although short-term alcohol use can relieve anxiety however long-term misuse can actually increase anxiety levels which can then place the person into a vicious circle.
Interactions with medication
Alcohol can interact with some psychotropic medications, sometimes reacting badly and dampening the effects they have on the mental health condition. Also, with some drugs alcohol may increase the level of toxicity of some medications.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol misuse, then please see our list of help and support on the right.
Drinkline: 0300 123 1110 (9am-8pm)
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA): www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk
Nacoa – 0800 358 3456
Turning Point: www.turning-point.co.uk
Childline – 0800 1111