It is estimated that South Africans drink in excess of 5 billion litres of alcohol per annum; this equates to 9 – 10 litres of alcohol per person.
Alcohol use among the youth of South Africa is rife and increases with age for both males and females. The reasons for alcohol use and abuse range from a desire to fit in, peer pressure, boredom, poor home environment, the relative cheapness of alcohol, as well as it’s ease of access.
Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcohol Dependence
A distinction is made between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence (or alcoholism). Alcohol abusers are thought to have some semblance of control over their alcohol intake and as such are able to set limits for themselves; this does not, however, mean that their drinking cannot or will not progress to more dangerous or dependent habits.
Alcohol dependence or alcoholism can develop gradually over time as a person’s alcohol tolerance increases. The risk of developing alcoholism is greater for those who partake in binge (a period of excessive or uncontrolled indulgence) drinking or who consume alcohol on a daily basis. Alternatively, alcohol dependence can develop relatively suddenly due to a genetic predisposition or family history of alcoholism, or stressful life events.
Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol abuse refers to drinking habits that impact negatively on a person’s personal, interpersonal and work/school relationships and environments.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include, but are not limited to:
- Drinking as a stress reliever – For many the use of alcohol to de-stress is the beginning of a downward spiral; the reason for this being that alcohol is a sedative, meaning that over time a person needs to consume more of it in order for it to have the same effect it initially had.
- Repeated neglect of responsibilities – Either because of drinking or the effects of drinking (i.e. suffering from a hang over) responsibilities at home, school or work are neglected e.g. poor work performance, poor or failing grades, absenteeism etc.
- Alcohol use and poor judgement – Alcohol use impairs a person’s judgement and physical responses resulting in poor and dangerous decision making such as drinking and driving, drinking and having sex, mixing alcohol with medication, drinking in unsafe areas or neighbourhoods.
- Drinking despite relationship problems – Continuing to drink despite the fact that your alcohol consumption is resulting in relationship problems at home, with friends and at work / school.
- Legal problems due to drinking – Drinking patterns resulting in repeated legal problems such as: getting arrested for drunken driving, getting involved in drunken fights, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly conduct.
Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence
In addition to the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse, alcoholism includes three additional aspects: tolerance, physical dependence and withdrawal.
- Tolerance – refers to the need for increased amounts of alcohol in order for it to have the same effect. Signs of increased tolerance include: consuming more alcohol than other people without show signs of intoxication; drinking more than you used to.
- Lack of control – drinking more than you intended and / or for longer than you intended despite telling yourself or others that you wouldn’t.
- Inability to stop – you have the desire to cut down or stop drinking alcohol but all efforts either to stop or to stay sober fail.
- Pre-occupation with drinking – you spend increasing less time doing things that used to interest you as a result of your drinking; you spend an increasing amount of time drinking, thinking about drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking.
- Withdrawal – you experience withdrawal symptoms as the alcohol wears off and you sober up, e.g. shakiness, anxiety, sweating, trembling, vomiting, nausea, insomnia, irritability, depression, loss of appetite and headaches. Drinking in order to relieve or avoid these symptoms is a sign of alcohol dependence.
Ideo. (2009). Laboratory Posters for Eli Lilly and Company: Inspiring scientists to be more patient-sensitive. Retrieved from: http://www.ideo.com/work/laboratory-posters [Accessed on: 22 April 2015].
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. (2015). Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from: https://ncadd.org/learn-about-alcohol/signs-and-symptoms [Accessed on: 22 April 2015].
NYC Department of Healthy and Mental Hygiene. (2011). New Health Department Subway Poster Campaign Illustrates Dangers of Excessive Drinking. Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2011/pr032-11.shtml [Accessed on: 22 April 2015].
Seggie, J. (2012). Alcohol and South Africa’s Youth. South African Medical Journal, 102(7), 587.
We live in a society where, all too often, the go-to response to anything or anyone who gets in the way of what we want is: anger.
A car cuts you off in the traffic…anger
Lecturer locks you out of class for being 15 minutes late…anger
Parents won’t buy you the latest shoes / gadget … anger
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion but when it starts hijacking your life and becomes your automatic response to any and every situation it’s a sign that you need to start looking at the real reason for your anger and how to manage it.
What is Anger?
Anger is an emotional state which varies in intensity. It is both normal and healthy to experience anger in response to events or circumstances in which you have been unfairly treated or there’s a perceived threat. The feeling of being angry is neither good nor bad; rather, when it comes to anger, what is important is how you express it, experience it and what you do with it. When anger results in you either harming yourself or someone else, be it physically or emotionally, there is a problem.
Myths about Anger
Myth: It’s healthy to vent my anger and get it all out.
Fact: Suppressing or ignoring anger is not healthy, however venting it is not any better either. Anger does not have be “let out” in an aggressive manner in order for you to avoid “blowing up” or “going crazy”. In fact, by allowing your anger to be expressed in an aggressive rant or outburst you are merely reinforcing your anger and the feelings that come with it.
Myth: Anger, aggression and intimidation earn me respect and get me what I want.
Fact: Never confuse bullying with having power. People who use aggression to get what they want may be feared but they are never respected. People are more willing to listen to you and accommodate your needs if you communicate with them in a respectful and calm manner.
Myth: I have no control over my anger, it just happens.
Fact: You can’t always control your environment, how it impacts on you and how it makes you feel, but you can control how you express your emotions in response to it. You always have a choice in how you decide to respond to a situation – you can effectively express your anger without having to resort to verbal or physical abuse.
Myth: Anger management is about suppressing your feelings.
Fact: Anger is a natural response and will come out in one form or another regardless of how hard you try to suppress it. Anger management is a tool whereby you become aware of your emotional and physical reactions to situations and the underlying feelings and responses they evoke. The purpose of anger management is to learn different ways of expressing your anger and frustration which are both healthier and constructive.
Source: Segal, R. & Smith, M. (2014). Anger Management: Tips & Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control. Retrieved from: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/anger-management.htm
Why is Anger Management Important?
People express their anger in different ways. Not everyone expresses their anger in a loud, cursing and throwing of things manner; instead there are some who express a constant, simmering irritability and grumpiness, and there are those who withdraw and sulk or even become physically ill.
People who are easily angered are believed to have a lower tolerance for frustration. Simply put, they cannot cope with being subjected to frustration, inconvenience or annoyance. They find it difficult to take such things in their stride, and become particularly upset when they consider a situation to be unjust.
Regardless of whether you are genetically predisposed to being an “angry person” or you’ve learnt to rely on it as way of getting what you want; poor anger management can lead to the breakdown of relationships and impaired judgement. Out-of-control anger harms your:
- physical health – constantly operating in a state of stress and tension is bad for your health. Chronic (constant or recurring frequently) anger increases your chances of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and unhealthy cholesterol. It can also result in a weakened immune system and insomnia.
- mental health – Chronic anger uses up huge amounts of mental energy and can interfere with your thinking and judgment, making it harder to concentrate and enjoy life. Unmanaged anger can lead to depression, stress and other mental health problems.
- studies and career – Constructive criticism, creative differences and debates are healthy and necessary to help you grow as a student and employee. However, verbally abusing or lashing out at a peer, lecturer, colleague, parent or client both alienates the person and lessens their respect for you. In addition to this, you will earn a reputation for being “hard to work with”, “unable to take criticism”, “unpleasant” etc. which will follow you and make it harder for you to succeed in life.
- relationships – there is a saying “Taste your words before you spit them out“; once something has been said (or done), it can never be unsaid or taken back resulting in deep or even permanent damage to friendships and relationships. Chronic anger results in people perceiving you as being untrustworthy, they will struggle to address issues with you out of fear of your reaction and may even feel uncomfortable being around you.
In the next instalment of the FOCUS ON: Anger Management series we will be looking at strategies and tips to manage you temper
American Psychological Association. (2015). Controlling Anger Before it Controls You. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx [Accessed on: 08 April 2015].
Segal, R. & Smith, M. (2014). Anger Management: Tips & Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control. Retrieved from: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/emotional-health/anger-management.htm [Accessed on: 08 April 2015].
Physical Dependence vs. Addiction:
Physical dependence refers to when a drug user’s body normalizes / gets used to the presence of the drug; thus the user only “functions normally” when the drug is used and present in the body. Physical dependence is common with the chronic / prolonged use of marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms (physical symptoms when the dosage of a drug is seriously lowered or abruptly interrupted) can be experienced by those who are physically dependent on marijuana.
Addiction refers to behaviours which meet the criteria for substance dependence as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The addict’s mind does not accept abstinence (non-use) from the drug of choice and consciously forces the user to get more of the drug or even to increase the usage and amount of the drug so as to intensify the effect. Addictive behaviour is characterised by a pre-occupation, compulsive need to use a drug. Addiction is psychological in nature whereas physical dependence is a condition which can be overcome following a period of withdrawal.
Physical Dependence and Addiction to Marijuana:
Clinical evidence shows that marijuana withdrawal symptoms manifest following a period of dependency and that marijuana users qualify for diagnostic criteria of addiction.
Many find it hard to equate marijuana with addiction especially with its increasing use as a medicinal and recreational drug. However, the following is a list of the most common physical signs of marijuana dependence and addiction:
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty falling asleep
- difficulty sleeping
- loss of appetite
- mood changes
- raise in temperature
Exposure to marijuana has physical, biological, mental, behavioural and social consequences. The decision whether or not to use marijuana will always be a personal one.
Please refer to the Policies page of this blog for BMH’s Student Policy on the Possession, Use and Distribution of Illicit Substances (including marijuana).
Physical Addiction to Marijuana – Addictionblog.org and Dependence on Marijuana – Addictionblog.org