PSYCHOLOGY AT SEA

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Seafarers and Alcohol Abuse Symptoms

May 17, 2019

 

 

 

 

Understanding Alcohol Use  

             

Alcohol has always played a key role  in all human culture  throughout history,  in defining the nature of social situations and events, describing cultural values and systems while shaping behavioral norms and expectations regarding alcohol use .   Drinking in almost all cultures,  is a social activity subject to social, cultural, community and societal factors.  Men reportedly consume  more alcohol than women; while women in developed countries drink more than women in developing countries.  People with higher socioeconomic status tend to drink more frequently than others, while drinkers of lower socioeconomic status drink larger quantities.  In almost all cultures, alcohol is used as a powerful and symbolic tool  in social activity associated with celebration and festivities.  (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles)

 

However,  alcohol  consumption is linked to a number of  a physical, psychological and social problems;  alcohol related illnesses including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems; mental health problems including depression and anxiety; learning and memory problems; social problems including lost productivity, family issues, violence and accidents.

 

A  large study conducted by  the Centre for Addiction and  Mental Health,  report that alcohol consumption has increased globally compared to 30 years ago. In fact, the total volume of alcohol consumed per year has increased as much as 70 percent between 1990 and 2017,  and at a faster rate than the number of drinkers, meaning that drinkers consume more alcohol.  (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com) . Furthermore,   alcohol use  in Europe shows a decrease while an increase is observed in middle-income countries like China, India and Vietnam. Considering the growing trends and patterns  of alcohol use, it appears that alcohol use will remain a leading risk factor for disease, mental health and social problems.  

Most shipping companies implement a written policy on drug and alcohol use along with clear rules of conduct and control, including regular testing to deter drug and alcohol abuse onboard.   The aim of this article is to provide a brief summary of  symptoms and signs of alcohol use in accordance with the 5thedition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM-5) and raise awareness  about differential patterns of  alcohol use.

 

 

Alcohol 

We all have a drink once in a while,  when having dinner, socializing or just relaxing at home after a hard day’s work. How can we distinguish between casual or social drinking vs. alcohol abuse?

Alcohol Abuse ……

Is the overuse or misuse of alcohol and differs from alcoholism. While,  they may coexist,  alcohol abuse does not necessarily include some of the hallmark characteristics of alcoholism:  an extremely strong craving for alcohol, tolerance, loss of control, or physical dependence.    However, in an effort to understand alcohol use disorder, it may be helpful to define excessive drinking ….

Excessive Drinking…..

  1. Heavy drinking – For men under age 65,  is  having four drinks a day or more than 14 drinks in a week. For women and men over age 65, heavy drinking is more than three drinks a day or more than seven drinks in a week.

  2. Binge drinking – Binge drinking is drinking a large amount of alcohol at one time. For men, it’s defined as five or more drinks within two hours. For women, it’s four or more drinks in that same time frame.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder

  • You drink more alcohol than intended to or continue to drink for a longer period of time than you had intended.

  • You decide or trying to cut down or control your alcohol use without success. You may return to drinking after a period of abstinence.

  • A significant amount of your time is spent in obtaining alcohol, drinking alcohol, or recovering from the effects of drinking, resulting in too much of your time devoted to alcohol.

  • You have a craving for alcohol, which you might also describe as a strong desire or urge to use alcohol.

  • Your recurrent alcohol use results in a failure to fulfill some of your major obligations to your family, at home, at your job, or at school.

  • You have problems with family, friends, or co-workers as a result of your alcohol use and you continue to use alcohol use despite these persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems.

  • You have reduced or given up some of your social, work, or recreational activities because of your alcohol use. This is often described as drink-seeking behavior and includes decisions such as only going to social events that will include drinking, or only hanging out with others who drink. You may do this to avoid stigma, escape judgment from others, save your money for alcohol, or because you prefer to spend your time drinking over participating in other activities.

  • You repeatedly use alcohol in situations that are dangerous, such as swimming, driving, or using specialized equipment. Using alcohol in situations that leave you vulnerable to attack by others or personal safety. 

  • You continue to use alcohol despite negative emotional effects, such as depression, anxiety, or memory lapses that you believe to be caused  or related to your alcohol use.

  • You have developed or are developing alcohol tolerance, which means having to drink increasing amounts to achieve previous effects. Tolerance is defined by either of the following: a) A need for increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or desired effect, or b) diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of alcohol

  • If you experience either of the following, then you have problems with alcohol withdrawal: a ) You have withdrawal syndrome, which includes physical symptoms, such as shaking, jitteriness, irritability, sweating, or perceptive disturbances (like hallucinations) after going a short period without drinking, or b) You may drink alcohol or use a substance such as a benzodiazepine to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms or to "cure" a hangover.

(https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders).

 

  Severity of alcohol use disorder  is defined as….

  1. Mild: The presence of two to three symptoms

  2. Moderate: The presence of four to five symptoms

  3. Severe: The presence of six or more symptoms

 

Ten Warning Signs You’re An Alcoholic or suffer from  severe Alcohol Use Disorder if …. 

  • Drinking alone and in secrecy

  • Losing interest in other activities that were once enjoyable

  • Alcohol cravings

  • Making drinking a priority over responsibilities, such as employment and family

  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms (sweating, anxiety, etc.)

  • Extreme mood swings and irritability

  • Feelings of guilt associated with drinking

  • Having a drink first thing in the morning

  • Continuing to drink, despite health, financial and family problems

  • Inability to stop or control the amount of alcohol that’s consumed

 

 

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