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Many of us like to have the occasional drink whilst some of us like to keep a weekly appointment with our favourite local bar. Whether it’s hanging out with friends and family, or a glass of wine after dinner, drinking is a way to wind down and just relax. But when are you actually crossing the line when it comes to your alcohol intake?

Drinking has become a part of our Maltese culture. The legal drinking age in Malta has now been put up to 17 years old, however many teens start drinking from an earlier age. In the Maltese context, it is estimated that 1 in 5 people are drinking to the extent that they are causing harm to themselves. An excessive amount of drinking can lead to developing a dependency on alcohol (Politika Nazzjonali Dwar l-Alkoħol, 2018), not to mention that there are a number of health related issues that might come up.

If a large amount of alcohol is consumed for a long period of time, this may develop into alcoholism, which is a serious form of problem drinking, known also as alcohol dependence (“Alcoholism: signs, symptoms and treatment”, 2019) . Having alcohol dependency issues means being more at risk for harming oneself and others due to intended injuries (such as violence) and unintended injuries (such as involvement in car accidents). Alcohol dependency may also lead to physical health issues in the liver, namely liver cirrhosis which is a scarring of the liver, caused by liver diseases (Kuntsche & Gmel, 2013).  


Reasons for developing alcoholism vary, as many resort to alcohol to drink themselves to a state where they can forget about their problems, if only temporarily. The feeling of numbness that comes with intoxication may become addictive to some people. It is also a fact that individuals who have a family history of alcohol abuse are more likely to become alcohol abusers themselves (A. Sayette, 1999).

If you are worried that you may have a drinking problem, here are some signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing (“Alcoholism: signs, symptoms and treatment”, 2019 ; Burke, 2017):

–  a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
–  needing to drink more in order to get drunk
–  feeling tired and irritable
–  unable to control oneself around alcohol and unable to decline alcohol
–  feeling the need to be secretive about your alcohol intake
–  feeling anxious or depressed
–  drinking alone more often
–  having fits of anger or violence, especially when asked about drinking



If you are worried that you might have a drinking problem, you can seek help from various entities in Malta which provide confidential and professional support.


References:

Alcoholism: signs, symptoms and treatment. (2019). Retrieved 24 November 2019, from https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcoholism/

A. Sayette, M. (1999). Does drinking reduce stress?. Alcohol Research & Health23(4). Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh23-4/250-255.pdf

Burke, D. (2017). Alcoholism: Causes, Risk Factors, and Symptoms. Retrieved 24 November 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/basics#symptoms

Kuntsche, E., & Gmel, G. (2013). Alcohol consumption in late adolescence and early adulthood – where is the problem?. Swiss Medical Weekly, 4. doi: 10.4414/smw.2013.13826

Ministeru għall-Familja, Drittijiet tat-Tfal u Solidarjeta’ Soċjali. (2018). Politika Nazzjonali Dwar l-Alkoħol [Ebook] (p. 19). Retrieved from https://family.gov.mt/en/Documents/Alcohol%20Policy%20-%20MT%20FINAL%20Online.pdf

Becky Faenza is one of the Triage Officers that form part of the Triage Team with Willingness. She is a University graduate, with a B.A Degree in Philosophy and Psychology, and also a Higher Diploma in Psychology (H.DIP).