Alcohol Abuse in Britain and Effects on Family Life

This essay is about alcohol abuse in Britain and its effects on family life. The epidemiological statistics of alcohol abuse and its causes in Britain will be highlighted. The essay will also discuss the national and local policies that are aimed at preventing alcohol abuse as well as safeguarding children from fathers or mothers who consume excessive alcohol. It will mainly focus on the role of nurses in public health. The known types of alcoholism such as beta, gamma, alpha, delta and epsilon will be highlighted. Cognitive therapy as well as family members in prevention of alcohol abuse will be discussed.

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Alcohol abuse poses a major threat to public health. Nurses in the public health sphere need to be acquainted with ways through they can help to solve this problem in order to promote health in the society. The essay is important in providing a comprehensive discussion that can assist public health nurses to understand alcoholism and its impact on families. With the understanding of the consequences of alcohol abuse, nurses will be capable of offering therapy and counseling to families that are affected. The role of public health nurses involves assisting the public in prevention of disease, avoidance of harmful substances as well as supporting and maintaining the health of communities. Alcohol abuse is the excessive use of alcohol to the extent of affecting family life socially and economically. It is usually a problem in men and women as well as the youth (William Alexander 1997 pp. 31-35).

There are several subtypes of alcohol abuse. These include;

  • Alpha alcoholism is a situation whereby a person craves for alcohol and is usually unable to control the amount that is taken or one’s actions when drunk. The withdrawal symptoms in individuals do not occur. An example is a working class parent who drinks after a long day of work.
  • Gamma alcoholism has the same characteristics as alpha. The individual loses control of behavior and the amount of alcohol that he takes. The difference is that there are usually withdrawal symptoms such as spasms, shivers, and fever. Individuals with these symptoms long for taking more alcohol. This kind of alcoholism is attributed to genetic factors. It is usually found in binge drinkers who interchange periods of abstemiousness and other periods of total drunkenness. People who are usually in the habit of drinking in groups such as students exhibit this kind of alcoholism.
  • Beta alcoholism is a case where the withdrawal symptoms are usually pronounced after drinking large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time. They are mainly attributed to the feeding habits of an individual. This kind of alcoholism usually causes health problems due to constant alcohol use such as; cirrhosis, weakening of the liver, heart, stomach, and esophagus. The withdrawal symptoms are normally caused by genetic orientation and malnutrition. This type is usually found in poor family settings. An example of a beta alcoholic would be a housewife who is a maintenance drinker.
  • Epsilon alcoholism is the case where drinkers can take a long time without alcohol, but once they drink they can do it for a considerable number of days. They can take large amounts of alcohol for several weeks and then get back to their normal state of abstaining from alcohol over a long period of time. Withdrawal symptoms do not occur. This is also manifested in binge drinkers such as students.
  • Delta alcoholism is similar to beta and alpha in desire to take alcohol except that individuals do not lose control. However, withdrawal symptoms are present after drinking small amounts of wine over a long period of time, which helps the individuals to control their behavior. Withdrawal symptoms are also caused by staying for long periods without alcohol. Examples are business men who take wine while on long business missions.

All these types of alcoholism affect the individual in various ways ranging from health, social and financially (William Alexander 1997 pp. 51-55).

Effects of alcohol abuse on the individual

Once drunk, the inability to control one’s behavior may cause aggressiveness which leads to the use of abusive language and poor reasoning capacity. The intoxicated person is usually unable to control emotions. He/she can cry easily especially on recollection of past miserable moments, laugh incongruously or get angered unnecessarily. The withdrawal symptoms caused by alcohol abuse cause stress in the individual and may have adverse emotional effects. The awkward feeling causes hopelessness and loneliness in the alcoholic after a period of heavy drinking. The feeling of guilt after spending unnecessarily usually affects the alcoholic. Physically, a drunken person usually reacts aggressively to the slightest provocation which is the main cause of fighting. This can cause physical injuries and is also known to have caused the death of many alcoholics. Excessive use of alcohol can inflict internal problems causing diseases such as cirrhosis, ulcers, headache, vomiting and other stomach problems. The withdrawal symptoms such as fever, tremors and seizures render the alcoholic physically weak. Financially, an alcoholic is adversely affected especially if he/she is unable to control his purchasing behavior. In many instances the person does not drink through a budget. While drunk, there is a tendency to make others happy, thereby spending more than one should per drinking spree. The impact on finances especially if this has to go on for several days is felt after the alcoholic later analyzes the amount of money that is spent on alcohol (Cawson, P. 2000 pp. 33-37).


Effects of alcohol abuse to the family

Alcohol abuse in students is one factor that contributes to poor performance. This is because the time that the student has for studies, recreation and personal responsibilities is limited, and therefore drinking has to fit in that time thereby disrupting the schedule for studying. On the other hand, the economic welfare of students largely depends on sponsors. The resources allocated to educational purposes normally do not include funds for purchasing alcohol which is a costly commodity. The students who engage in alcohol abuse tend to forego some of the activities such as educational trips in order to use the funds for drinking while others lack funds to purchase educational materials. The other alternative is to press their sponsors further to produce some more funds in order for the student to cover the deficit caused by drinking. For the sponsor to produce more funds, the student has to use dubious explanations on the need to have extra money. This promotes irresponsibility in the student as well as causing economic problems especially for families that are not financially well up. Alcohol consumption amongst British youth is particularly high although there is an increase in alcohol abuse amongst youth and alcohol related ailments globally. (Mark A. Karen H. Michela M. Karen T Sara H. Tony A. Dominic H.and Eduardo F. 2007). In 2007, the number of alcohol related ailments increased from 4,781 in 2006 to 6,707which is a 40% rise. It was also established through research that the highest rise was recorded in children between 12 and 16 years old which accounted for 62% of the total increase in alcohol related ailments (Paul Bignel 2008).

The other effect of drug abuse in students is truancy in educational institutions and disorder which may cause fighting, strikes, destruction of property, stealing and other social vices. The most critical problem that an alcoholic student may face is health problems. The impacts of all these problems caused by alcoholism to the family are detrimental. They bring additional costs to the family and parents have to work hard in order to pay for the damages caused by their children. It is a disgrace when students are arrested and jailed due to evils committed when drunk or are discontinued from educational institutions after many years of struggling to educate them. Health problems can lead to loss of life and some times are very costly to mitigate.

Alcohol abuse has adverse effects on families. It is a major cause of domestic violence that culminates in family breakages. Alcoholism accounts for most of the divorce cases in Britain, making it the leading nation in Europe with single mothers. Violence against women and children is mainly caused by uncontrolled behavior in while a person is intoxicated. In some cases, women have also been noted as being aggressive to their husbands and children. Children are also not exceptional especially in their late adolescence stages. There are cases whereby children have inflicted injuries to their parents while intoxicated. In some cases, alcohol abuse has caused spouses to commit suicide or kill their partner because of the stress that is caused to them due to alcoholism. Drinking frequently late in to the night breaks the family bonds. The drinking parents lose the link between them and their children. They are normally unable to offer the required guidance to their children. These children who do not get parental love and guidance have a possibility of turning out to be irresponsible in later stages. They may event end up copying the behavior of parents ones they grow up (Jarvinen J, Kail A, Miller I, 2008 pp. 37-44).

Alcoholism is known to cause financial difficulties due to excessive use of alcohol at the expense of the family budget. Alcohol is costly and uses an amount that is substantial to cater for family needs. Alcohol abusers normally assert their drinking habits regardless of the financial difficulties that a family may be undergoing. For a low income earning family, it is usually difficult to provide all the family needs while engaging in alcoholism. Children can not be well fed and can not attend good educational institutions. Alcoholism is one major cause of poverty in families. People who are addicted to alcohol would rather drink than purchase foot wear for the children. Such children usually grow up with low self esteem and hardly become confident in future. Ailments caused by alcoholism adversely affect families. Inability of the breadwinner to work due to such ailments can cause poverty in a family. It also causes unnecessary costs for medical services. At times they may be serious enough to cause death. Alcohol abuse in pregnant women is also detrimental to the success of families. It leads to birth complications such as miscarriage, giving birth to weak babies as well as exposing women to the risk of breast cancer (Cawson, P. 2000 pp. 56-61).

Alcohol abuse amongst all ages and sex in Britain may be attributed to the fact that affordability of alcohol has risen and there seems to be no moves towards increasing taxation to raise the cost in order to reduce consumption. Research also established that the alcoholic concentration in many beers has been increased and sellers have increased the volume of glasses thereby denying alcohol users the capability of keeping track of their alcohol consumption. Few people know the amount of alcohol content in the large glass of beer or wine and therefore end up consuming too much. Awareness in British women about the amount of alcohol that is optimum for them is higher than in the men. Awareness amongst the youth is also higher than amongst the older men and women. Family problems are usually high where both parents abuse alcohol. (Mark A. Karen H. Michela M. Karen T Sara H. Tony A. Dominic H.and Eduardo F. 2007).

National and Local Policies to Assist in Prevention of Alcohol Abuse

There have been efforts to help in avoiding alcohol abuse, prevention and safeguarding children from parents who consume excessive alcohol. These are mainly through government policies that aim to decrease the abuse of alcohol and its results. Such policies control behaviors attributed to abuse of alcohol as well as facilitating community education as well as major interventions aimed at influencing the manner of drinking. For pregnant women, The British policies recommend a quantity not more than four average units in a week, which translates to 32g of alcohol regardless of the level of dilution. This is for those who are totally unable to abstain from drinking.

Currently, there are new measures that have been planned to be introduced in the alcohol market as a way of reducing alcohol abuse in Britain. The government has developed new measures aimed to counter objectionable alcohol retail behaviors. These include; prohibition of promotions in alcohol that encourage people to drink through selling it at cheap prices and such slogans as “drink all you want for £10”, making sure that supermarkets do not encourage people to purchase large quantities of products in order for them to get discounts which could influence them to buy alcohol in the same way, emphasizing on training of staff designated to sell alcohol, ensuring that the size of glasses used in bars are reduced in size as well as ensuring that alcohol consumers are aware of the unit content in the alcohol they buy. Local government officials have been empowered to assist them in fighting against the alcohol sales campaigns (Andrew J. Paterson 2008). It is important to deal with alcohol abuse from a wide perspective. It should involve sensitizing the alcohol abusers on the dangers of such behavior, regulating the source of the products as well as controlling the marketing of alcohol products in order to ensure that their availability in the market is minimized. This will help in the campaign against alcohol abuse.

Public health nurses have a major role to play in the campaign against alcohol abuse. They should engage in activities aimed to put a stop to and act in response to alcohol abuse and cases related to it in the public domain. They should use their training and experience to offer guidance and counseling to members of the public who are affected by alcoholism. They should spearhead the sensitization process together with government officials in order to save the public from alcohol related problems together with families in Britain. They should be able to evaluate the reactions of members of the public to alcohol and advise accordingly in order for those who are addicted to alcoholism to be able to develop their personal plans on how to change their drinking behavior. They have an important role to play in advising policy makers on matters relating to alcohol abuse through their capability to interpret the impact of certain drinking habits on the health of the population. Their expertise is an asset to the nation since their advice can help in saving lives of many British citizens who have been affected by alcohol abuse (Cawson P. 2000 pp.34-37)


The significance of public nurses can not be ignored if a healthy population and stable families are to be maintained in Britain. It is them who should offer advice to the government in policy formulation on matters concerning public health. People should understand that alcohol abuse has adverse effects to individual health, finance as well as family life. Many families have been broken by alcohol abuse whereas many people have succumbed to alcohol related ailments. The rate of alcoholism amongst the youth and school going children is high in Britain. It rose considerably between 2006 and 2007. This is reflected by the increase in the number of Alcohol related ailments that were recorded in 2007, where 62% were people aged 12 to 16 years. Alcohol abuse leads to low productivity in its victims and can lead to loss of employment, eventually causing a decline in the overall income of families. With dedicated public health nurses, such problems can be avoided.


  1. Andrew J. Paterson 2008. New alcohol measures tackle irresponsible drinks deals – but not ‘loss-leading’, <>
  2. Cawson, P. Child maltreatment in the United Kingdom: a study of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect. London: NSPCC
  3. Jarvinen J, Kail, A, Miller I, 2008. Violence Against Women: a Guide for Donors and Funders, New Philanthropy Capital.
  4. Mark A. Karen H. Michela M. Karen T Sara H. Tony A. Dominic H. and Eduardo F. 2007. Predictors of risky alcohol consumption in schoolchildren and their implications for preventing alcohol-related harm, <>
  5. Paul B. 2008. Children and Alcohol: Britain’s Deadly Cocktail, Independent News and Media Limited,



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  1. William A. Cool Water: Alcoholism, Mindfulness, and Ordinary, Shambhala
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