As the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence discusses, the following are some of the ways in which problem drinking affects family members, employers, colleagues, fellow students, and others:
In essence, alcohol abuse causes a person to make drinking a priority.
As a result, the time, effort, and resources formerly dedicated to life-sustaining activities, such as working and spending time with the family, are disrupted. Initially, a person may think that abusing alcohol will help them deal with these stressors, but as they continue to drink a lot, over time, this abuse can turn into dependence on the substance. Once individuals become psychologically addicted, alcohol abuse can become all-consuming. As individuals are often part of social networks, it is easy to understand how alcohol abuse has a ripple effect across a person’s entire network of family, friends, employers, colleagues, and anyone else who depends on the person.
Because your inhibitions are lowered when you drink alcohol, you may be more likely to impulsively buy things without thinking through the consequences of those purchases in the moment.For instance, a person who is intoxicated may be apt to spend more money than planned at a bar. Even drinking at home does not provide a shield against spending when inhibitions are low. The Internet opens up an entire world of shopping possibilities. The “beer goggles”effect can make an item seem more attractive and the purchase price more inviting, and increase the likelihood of an unnecessary purchase.
Work productivity can suffer from alcohol abuse. Finances are about more than the dollars earned; they also include earning potential. Studies show that drinking can affect work or academic productivity at every phase of working life. Students who binge drink in college may have lower grades, which can have a ripple effect across their employment prospects and salary potential. Employees who binge drink or drink heavily are prone to absenteeism or presenteeism (i.e., being at work but underperforming). Long-term drinkers may have to exit careers earlier than planned in order to manage health problems.
Drinking heavily is associated with a host of health consequences that will likely need medical attention, such as cardiovascular illnesses, pneumonia, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and different forms of cancer.
In addition to the cost of health plans and the premiums paid to participate in them, the individual in need of treatment for alcohol-related conditions will likely have copays, transportation costs, and lost wages while being out of work. A loss of work income lowers social security contributions and contributions to employer-provided or independent retirement accounts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, binge drinking results in $171 billion a year in healthcare-related costs and lowered employee productivity. Alcohol abuse can lead to an increase in debt, especially credit card debt, in numerous ways, such as:
Most often, working-class Americans rely on a certain amount of base income. When a person begins to abuse alcohol, the gap between anticipated earnings and expenses and actual earnings and expenses can widen. As a result, the individual’s personal stability (if single) or family can be radically shaken. Although the cost of rehab treatment may seem like an additional burden, it is one of the most effective steps that can be taken to restore the individual’s sobriety and personal or family finances. Concerns about paying for rehab services should never be a barrier to treatment.
Regarding financial instability, the earlier discussion on the real and potential economic losses associated with alcohol abuse, as well as debt, can easily trigger profound problems in a marriage. A spouse’s alcohol abuse can also trigger a host of emotions, such as feelings of abandonment, unworthiness, guilt, and self-blame. These emotions can all collect into a disorder known as codependency.Marriage and family therapist Darlene Lancer is an expert on codependency.
As Lancer insightfully explains, people may develop a maladjustment to a loved one’s drinking that causes them to enable it through the process of caring for it. Individuals who abuse alcohol experience physical impairments that can draw others into caring for them. While some individuals may be able to resist the urge to help, many will not, especially spouses, children, and other family members or concerned individuals in the person’s immediate environment.
Over time, the caregiver can habituate to this rescuer and provider role, and even develop an identity based on it. Further, the caregiver grows accustomed to a relationship with the person abusing alcohol that is primarily based on caregiving. The line between helping an alcohol abuser becomes blurred with enabling the alcohol abuser to maintain the addiction. For this reason, literature on codependency used to refer to the caregiving person as a “co-alcoholic.”
As with alcohol abuse, treatment for codependence is available and has been proven effective. One of the main goals of codependency treatment is to help realign caregivers with their own needs so they can live personally fulfilling lives, rather than being in constant service to a loved one’s addiction.
Alcohol abuse also disrupts routines, such as mealtimes and bedtimes, which children need for healthy emotional development.
The following are some ways in which children may respond to alcohol abuse in the home:
Children can recover through therapy and other forms of treatment, provided the parent or a concerned individual can overcome the denial associated with alcohol abuse and get help. Treatment is available from child psychologists and psychiatrists, both on a one-on-one basis as well as in a group setting with other similarly situated young people. There are also independent recovery groups for the children of alcoholics, such as Alateen and Al-Anon. These treatment approaches can be effective not only in helping children to cope with the alcohol abuse but also in helping kids to avoid becoming alcohol-dependent in the future.
In the fortunate event that the parent who abuses alcohol seeks treatment, a rehab center that offers a full spectrum of services will be able to provide family therapy that can involve affected children in the healing and recovery process.
In addition to the financial and emotional toll alcohol abuse can have, domestic violence and child abuse may occur. According to one report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 92 percent of victims of domestic violence reported that the assailant had used alcohol or other drugs on the day of the assault. Another study found that of those individuals who attack a partner, 60-70 percent had abused alcohol. The prevalence of alcohol in abuse situations does not necessarily mean that drinking causes the domestic violence (although it may be a factor in the violence).
Some studies challenge the belief that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between alcohol abuse and domestic violence. For instance, the majority of men who are classified as “high-level drinkers” do not abuse their partners. Rather, some researchers in the field of domestic violence postulate that the violent partner’s assaults are part of a pattern of abuse that is independent of alcohol consumption. Some individuals may use alcohol consumption to excuse their actions, but the blame is usually misplaced.
Domestic violence is a learned behavior. The abusive individual may have been exposed to violence as a child or developed violent tendencies as a result of neglect or exposure to a parent’s alcohol abuse. Irrespective of the causal relationship between alcohol abuse and domestic violence, anyone who is the victim of domestic violence should immediately receive help from a local care provider, such as a nonprofit organization for battered persons.
According to the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence, some form of substance abuse is present in 40-80 percent of families in which children suffer physical abuse. Children of parents who abuse alcohol or other drugs are three times more likely to suffer abuse and four times more likely to be neglected as compared to children from drug-free homes. Child abuse and neglect can lead to myriad other problems in the child’s life, both in the short- and long-term, such as problems in school, ending up in juvenile detention, becoming pregnant, and numerous emotional and psychological problems. Comprehensive treatment for the child or the family unit (including the parent who abuses alcohol or other drugs) can effectively address and improve the many problems associated with violence and neglect in the home.