Alcohol. We see many people around us consume alcohol. Before we were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore had a vibrant nightlife where alcohol had heavy involvement. But when does grabbing a drink to relax become alcohol addiction?
Alcohol addiction, or alcoholism, is a disorder that can affect anyone. Research has not managed to pinpoint any single factor that could lead to this disorder. In Singapore, we are seeing a rise in the number of people diagnosed with alcoholism from 1 in 32 in 2010 to 1 in 24 in 2016. Fortunately, we are also seeing a trend of earlier help-seeking behaviours, with the medium number of years they delayed treatment in 2016 being 4 years, down from 13 in 2010.
Why do People Turn to Alcohol?
When we look at some reasons why people turn to alcohol, we find a variety of different reasons for the different age groups.
For youths, many see drinking as a rite of passage, eagerly awaiting their 18th birthday so that they can have their first legal sip of alcohol.
✽ Working Adults
For working adults, drinking is seen as a social activity and many employees feel pressured to drink with their co-workers and bosses. Accepting invitation to drinks are also seen as a helpful move towards being in the good books of those who have the power to promote you. In traditional Asian culture, drinks are also often perceived as a necessary pre-requisite towards sealing deals.
Before we can help support those who are battling alcoholism, we must first be able to identify the disorder. That said, it is important to not jump the gun and self-diagnose. While it is always better to seek profession advice and diagnosis when in doubt, here are some signs and symptoms we can look out for:
- Increased Quantity or Frequency of Use
- Drinking at Inappropriate Times
- Hiding Alcohol
- Dependence on Alcohol to Function in Everyday Life
- Increased Lethargy, Depression, or Other Emotional Issues
- Legal or Professional Problems such as an Arrest or Loss of a Job
How to Support Someone with Alcohol Addiction
For people suffering from alcoholism, social support is an important aspect of their recovery. To support our loved ones through this journey, there are some steps we can take.
✽ Step 1: Learn about Alcoholism
It is difficult to guide people through something you know nothing about. We don’t have to be subject matter experts, but knowing some basic facts will be very helpful in navigating the conversations to come.
✽ Step 2: Practice Empathy
Approach the conversation with the intention to let the person know that you come from a place of care and concern. Use ‘I’ statements to reduce accusations and approach the conversation with respect and avoid being negative, assumptions or hurtful. Be prepared for denial and resistance.
✽ Step 3: Respect the Individual
Sometimes, the person may require professional help that they may be resistant to because they are not ready for it. Respect that and give them space while gently nudging them.
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