Alcoholism and drug addiction affects your relationships, mental health and overall life

The difference between alcoholism and drug addiction

Both alcohol and drug addiction are considered to be forms of substance abuse and are rampant social problems in Australia that lead to a host of physical and mental health conditions.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported in the National Drug Strategy Household Survey that 43% of Australians aged 14 and above have illicitly used a drug at one point in their life.

A study by Cancer Council Victoria on substance abuse among Australian secondary students found that 66% of students aged between 12 and 17 had tried alcohol while 16% had used cannabis and 19% had used tranquilisers for non-medicinal purposes.


Alcohol abuse or alcoholism is an addiction to the consumption of alcoholic drinks or, alcohol dependency.

Despite being legal, regulated and available for purchase across the country, alcohol is still a drug that can be just as or more addictive than other substances.

This normalisation has led to young Australians starting to drink at an early age. AIHW also found that 43% of current drinkers aged 12-17 managed to get alcohol from their parents.

The organisation also reported in a study of alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia that of the 139,300 addicts that sought treatment in 2020-21, 37% were suffering from alcoholism, making it the most commonly treated drug in Australia.

Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant that slows down vital functions of the body resulting in slurred speech, unstable motor skills, and slowed reaction times. It can also have mind-altering effects and change the way people make judgements and perceive reality.

The effects of drinking alcohol also include

  • Increased feelings of confidence
  • Unstable emotions
  • Slower reaction times
  • Reduced inhibitions
  • Nausea and vomiting

Long term effects of heavy drinking also include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems and many more.

A high blood alcohol level (.15%BAC and above) caused by excessive drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning which is characterised by vomiting, seizures, unconsciousness and even death.

If those who become physically dependent on alcohol don’t consume a certain amount every day to keep withdrawal away, they can experience DTs or delirium tremens.

DTs are a very serious symptom of withdrawal that may lead to death without medical intervention. This kind of withdrawal makes alcohol a particularly dangerous and difficult addiction to overcome without treatment.

Signs of Alcoholism

  • Hiding drinking habits, stashing or hiding liquor
  • Needing large quantities of alcohol to feel effects
  • Binge drinking or heavy drinking
  • Blacking out when drinking
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not drinking
  • Not having control over alcohol consumption limit

Drug Addiction

Also known as Substance Use Disorder, it describes the chronic disease characterised by the misuse of a substance that leads to dependency. It’s essential to know the signs of drug addiction, no matter what drugs are in question.

These substances may be both legal or illegal, as addiction does not discriminate. When a person becomes addicted, they become dependent on the drug to feel normal. This leads to misuse that affects their daily routines.

Substance addiction leads to users becoming dependent on the drug to feel normal. This causes misuse of the drug where they will constantly need to feel high in order to function regularly.

This subsequently causes substance abuse that affects their daily routines, relationships and overall physical and mental health.

Although the initial use of the drug was voluntary, the body’s chemical dependency on the drug grows rapidly, causing the person to lose control over the reward circuit in their brain.

When using becomes central to someone’s life, they are faced with a constant cycle of cravings and withdrawal, leading the mind to seek out more of the substance.

Drug addiction is a complex disease that alters the way the brain works, which makes it very difficult for a person to quit using the drug. Those suffering from an addiction should not be seen as lacking a moral compass or too weak to walk away from it.

Substance abuse affects your mental health

Substance abuse, be it alcohol or drugs have dire effects on one’s mental health. In fact, the use of some substances may increase the risk of developing certain disorders.

Australia’s most well-known mental health organisation, Beyond Blue, reported in Drugs, Alcohol and Mental Health that consuming drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with mental health issues can in fact worsen existing conditions and create new ones.

Drugs and alcohol affect the chemical messaging process, which makes it difficult to predict how a person will react to them. This uncertainty varies between people and since illegal drugs are not regulated, you never really know their actual contents.

Overcoming an addiction

Ending an addiction takes much more than strong will and motivation. When someone abstains from a drug or stops drinking for a period and then decides to go back to it, they may consume too large of a dose, which can be potentially fatal. 

Most times, when people go about quitting their addiction on their own, they become much more susceptible to an overdose. The help and motivation provided by friends and family members can play a significant role in successfully quitting an addiction.

Thankfully, researchers have discovered many ways in which people can use monitored medication to help them overcome the terrible side effects of withdrawal to end the cycle of misuse successfully.

Relapse occurs when a person recovering from addiction inadvertently falls back into the slippery slope of drug use. While relapse is often a very normal part of treatment for drug addiction, it’s important to know that it’s not a sign that treatment isn’t working. Recovery is a long road that takes a lot of work to achieve.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.

Written by Jaka Exstrada

Back to all articles
1 of 4