Alcohol addiction nicely demonstrates the triumph of emotion over reason. It brings instant feelings of well being at the cost of reduced health and performance that would be obvious when sober. The personal effects range from disruptive to catastrophic. The financial costs to society of lost production, injury and medical support are stupendous.

Regular or binge use of alcohol indicates dependency and the relief or lift it provides is mostly from alleviation of withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol is the most effective mood stabilizing drug. When miserable it lifts the mood and when agitated it is calming.

When drunk and elated everything is great. A friend told me of a folk session that sounded so amazing towards the end of a day and night of playing and drinking that the other musicians got him to record it. It was the best they had ever played. When he played it back next morning he was astounded to discover that it was awful.

Alcohol is an organic solvent that interferes with most biochemical processes and damages every organ of the body. It makes most other ailments worse and leads to premature aging and death and a drop in intellectual function. Heavy use can take decades off a life span. The effects of extreme use are devastating.

Along with tobacco smoking it accounts for most hospital admissions. About a third of hospital admissions are complicated by alcohol withdrawal symptoms unless supplies are smuggled in.

Even moderate regular use can interrupt sleep and lead to feeling more angry, anxious or depressed.

Any amount of alcohol harms health. Regular use brings significant harm which becomes obvious over time. The more the worse.

The interpretations of research by industry apologists claiming health benefits for moderate use don't match most rigorous research and personal experience. Benefits are tiny compared to the harm and there are other ways to get the same benefits. The antioxidants in red wine are available in grapes. Relaxation and relief from stress can be found elsewhere in lifestyle changes, mediation or relaxation exercises.

binge drinking
For each binge drinker there is a certain number of drinks after which it is impossible to stop having another one until eventually the ability to get another vanishes.


Most moderate weekly users can reduce to occasional drinking with some discomfort but those who binged regularly or drank every week usually experience significant withdrawal symptoms. After prolonged daily use or heavy use withdrawal symptoms are more severe and detox may require hospitalization.

Some quit altogether. Others cut down gradually to ease the psychological and physical pain of withdrawal by having less drinks a day, setting aside alcohol free days, not drinking at certain locations, reducing the size or alcohol content of drinks, starting later or finishing earlier in the day.

Some people find the 12 step group programs useful but in my experience shifting away from the contemplation of alcohol and the circle of alcoholics is more successful.

Recovering from the effects of long term alcohol use takes about a year after which it becomes easier to abstain. Although some damage is permanent ex-addicts usually gradually regain their functioning.

Websites providing information for quitting alcohol seem less detailed and useful than for illicit drugs and smoking. Some contain drink industry disinformation from all kinds of experts reminiscent of the early days of the anti tobacco campaigns.

Governments are addicted to the taxes for alcohol and allocate funds for token small scale mostly ineffective detox, rehabilitation and public education programs. Until there is a national awareness campaign on a similar scale to the anti smoking campaigns the public will probably remain only dimly aware of the dangers in the face of the overwhelming social and commercial pressures to use alcohol.

When I worked in the Australian bush we used to drink a dozen bottles of beer each a night and on weekends or in town might finish off with a bottle of vodka or flagon or wine.

A pastime in the Territory was to play Bull where two totally drunk players on their hands and knees and ram their heads together - the first to be the only one conscious wins.

The drinking record holder at the time got through a dozen bottles of whisky in a 24 hour day.  If he had died the same day he would have disqualified himself - he just made it over the line.

When I was 21 I was walking by myself past the Richmond Hotel and felt a compelling urge to go in and have a drink. It was difficult to get my legs to keep walking past. They wanted to go in. I got a shock and cut down to an absolute maximum of 4 pints a day - still far too much but the beginning of a gradual reduction.

Teenagers metabolise alcohol quicker than adults but by the time they are 25 they are starting to feel its full effects.

Until I had almost stopped drinking completely I was not fully aware of the discomfort and loss of physical and intellectual capacity and the after effects. Perhaps there was a dim awareness but nothing clear enough to act on. When I became aware I stopped altogether. Well, occasionally I have a quarter glass of someone's home-brew or a sip of home made wine.