How Beer Fits into Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

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How Beer Fits into Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

The most common type of alcoholism is not a sensational, docudrama-worthy lifestyle. It is the average beer-drinking Joe who dulls his psychological pain one can at a time, functioning but eroding.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the cases of severe alcohol abuse and alcoholism do not involve hard liquor or spirits of high alcohol content. Instead, it’s beer. In fact, alcohol abuse is more common with beer than with any other form of alcohol.

True Stories of Alcoholics

Older than the year on his birth certificate, alcohol had robbed the gray-haired man of time. Before he slept in the alley, he had a job, a family, a life. His penchant for mixed drinks graduated to straight liquor right out of the bottle. Now with sallow cheeks and a few missing teeth, the gray-haired man doesn’t think about that life or life at all. All he thinks about is getting more sauce.

Is that the picture you have of an alcoholic? It is the way many people view alcoholism. But this gray-haired man is one of the least common types of alcoholics.

The alcohol in hard liquor is no more intoxicating than that of wine or beer. A standard size drink contains half an ounce of ethanol no matter the type of liquor.

Why Beer Is the Most Abused Drink

Dating back to ancient Egyptian times, beer has been brewed and shared throughout civilizations. It’s an inexpensive form of alcohol and promoted everywhere from sports stadiums to tourist activities. Brewery tours, beer festivals, restaurants, gas stations and poker nights all tout the stout.

Beer Has Fewer Side Effects than Other Beverages

The alternatives – wine and hard liquor – have harsh side effects such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritation to the gums, stomach, intestines, liver and throat

Comparably, beer has relatively mild side effects. When an alcoholic wants to keep the alcohol levels in their body comfortable, the side effects from wine and hard liquor can be a nuisance. For heavy drinkers, this can be especially disconcerting.

Beer Is Easy to Drink

The carbonation in beer is appealing in the way people enjoy soda. Drinking beer can be a pleasurable experience. It goes down easier with fewer irritants and settles the stomach from the negative repercussions of alcohol. The pleasurable feelings and enjoyable taste of the average ale or lager makes drinking for long periods easy to most.

A study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology in 2013 showed the flavor of beer alone increased the production of dopamine (the feel-good chemical) in the brain. The taste of beer significantly increased the all-male study participants’ desire to drink.

Beer Is Habit Forming and Contains a Lot of Liquid

Contrasted with wine and shots, beer contains more liquid and can be consumed for lengthy periods without getting as drunk as fast. We’ve all seen people who can sit around and nurse can after can slowly and maintain whatever level of intoxication they desire. Beer is the closest beverage you can find to straight water and alcohol.

Compared to 1.5 ounces of vodka or 5 ounces of Merlot, the equivalent serving size of 12 ounces of a lager dilutes the same amount of alcohol content. For someone with a dependence on alcohol, beer feels weaker and makes it easier to control intoxication levels, maintaining an equilibrium of drunkenness when necessary.

However, beer affects the neurotransmitters in your brain, hence why you lose your balance, slur words and have impaired judgment.

Like other alcoholic beverages, a pilsner or ale would be poisonous to the body if the liver didn’t break it down to useable substances. The liver contains an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase, which does this job. Women are reputed to have less of this enzyme. Additionally, women have less muscle tissue than men. Therefore, women get drunk faster on less alcohol than men.

Sipping Away to Insobriety

Alcohol abuse is more common with beer than any other beverage. This process usually starts off innocently enough. Beer can be brewed in different ways, but on average it is comprised of 95 percent water and an alcohol content of 5 percent. Because beer has a relatively mild ratio of alcohol to water and is easily consumable, it is easy to fall into a habit of frequently drinking your favorite brew.

Even before the dependency on alcohol develops, the taste of beer can influence people to keep a can or bottle around to sip on all evening. According to happiness guru Gretchen Rubin, a bad habit can be developed in as short as two occurrences, while good habits can take daily effort for 66 days. So, very quickly can people develop a beer habit and spend their evenings nursing the bottle.

As is the way with addictive substances, a tolerance ensues and the individual is drinking more and more to achieve their first feelings of pleasure. Dependency is not far behind. And when left unchecked, addiction and loss of sobriety become a way of life.

Recovery from Beer Addiction

Through many addiction recovery stories, we have learned that the psychological addiction to beer often lingers long after the chemical dependency is halted. Recovering alcoholics don’t usually have a hard time in sobriety going without shots of hard liquor or mixed drinks. Even cravings for the taste of wine are not as significant as those for beer, recovering addicts say.

In contrast, those who become addicted to beer struggle longer with significant psychological withdrawal. For people addicted to drinking beer, the habit has become second nature like drinking water.

Alcoholics are taught in rehab to replace their former alcohol habit with drinking Gatorade or mineral water. However, for former beer drinkers, replacing that beer they always had in hand is much harder to do. The need to have something to drink always at one’s side is a much stronger urge.

Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium

An addiction to beer can sneak up on you. Additionally, many people view beer as something different from alcohol, causing heavy beer drinkers to insist they are addicted to beer and not alcohol.

However, addiction to beer is just as dangerous as other types of alcohol addiction. In some ways, it can be more dangerous because of its subtle nature and attributed societal paradigms. Heavy beer drinkers can suffer from alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD), a condition causing severe side effects when beer use is abruptly stopped.

To avoid the serious symptoms of AWD, hospitals and surgeons often administer beer to their patients before the patient undergoes surgery or other medical procedures. Many hospitals keep beer on hand to stabilize the alcoholic patient and to prevent tremors and stave off major withdrawal symptoms of AWD.

Doctors sometimes choose to administer beer for the same reasons those dependent on alcohol drink it:

  • It’s easy to monitor and control the amount of alcohol consumed.
  • It is best for setting tapering schedules.
  • It does not cause many of the negative side effects of other alcohols.
  • It is as close to water plus alcohol as can be found in a drink.

Although it is dangerous for heavy drinkers to do on their own, there are many ways to taper off alcohol addiction using beer. Medical supervision is recommended since alcohol withdrawal is potentially fatal.

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