Alcoholism: What You Need to Know

Alcoholism: What You Need to Know | Dr. Ali Ghahary

When it comes to alcohol, there are four different classifications of drinkers:

An Abstainer: Someone who doesn’t drink or rarely drinks at all.
Social Drinker: Someone who drinks small amounts in social settings (i.e. when out with friends, celebrating a birthday, etc.) but knows when to set boundaries and when they’ve had enough.
Binger: When someone drinks to excess (usually 4 or more drinks in one setting.)
Dependent: Someone who consumes large amounts of alcohol and relies on alcohol.

There are also five different classifications of alcoholics:

Young Adult: Approximate 32% of alcoholics fall into this category, with the average age being anywhere from 20 to 24. Many young adults often deny they have any type of drinking problem and say they’re simply “having fun.”
Young Antisocial: This is considered the second largest alcoholics subtype, with an average age of 26 and even earlier onset of alcoholism – as young as 18. They’re at an increased risk of developing other dependencies, such as tobacco, and more than 50 percent are diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder.
Functional: Many functional alcoholics are heavy drinkers (5 or more per day.) However, they’re also still able to maintain relationships, jobs, and carry out other day to day activities.
Intermediate Familial: This is someone who not only struggles with alcoholism, but also has many family members who’ve gone through that very same struggle or are in an environment where those around them are heavy drinkers.
Chronic Severe: This is the rarest subtype, with only 9% of individuals falling into this category, but also the most severe. It affects more men than women, and is also often linked to illicit drug use or vice versa.

Just like depression, cancer, or other health conditions, alcoholism is a disease. As it develops, one may begin to crave alcohol, have an inability to drop drinking once they’ve started, become physically dependent to alcohol, or develop a tolerance to alcohol which requires them feeling as though they need to increase their alcohol consumption.

Alcohol has many different effects on the brain and body. It can alter your mood, cause depression, reduce self-consciousness, impair judgement, and cause blackouts. It can also impact the liver, and even lead to weight gain. Even when one isn’t addicted to alcohol, bad things can still happen. Car accidents, for example, are commonly linked to alcohol. While you might feel “normal” after having a few drinks, getting behind the wheel and driving after consuming alcohol is not only a bad decision, but also illegal, and your life could change in an instant.

If you or someone you know suffers from alcoholism, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, says it’s crucial to reach out for help. For additional information on alcoholism and substance abuse, visit the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction at CCDUS.ca. Other resources are also available via HealthLink BC.