“Do you think I drink too much?” a friend of mine asked one day while we were having my only and her first glass of wine. My bland answer was, “It’s not important what I think, it’s important what you think.”
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that according to a 2015 national survey, 86.4 percent of people over 18 reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime. Over 70 percent reported that they’d had a drink in the last year and almost 60 percent said they’d had a drink in the last month.
Just over 6 percent of the adult population had Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). I’ll explain this term in a minute, but first want to tell you that of those with AUD, only 8.3 percent sought treatment. And, it’s not just about adults. NIAAA estimated that 623,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 (2.5 percent of this age group) had AUD.
The term “Alcohol Use Disorder” is a combination of two separate conditions, one being physically dependent on alcohol (commonly referred to as alcoholism) and the other, alcohol abuse. Psychology Today explains:
“Alcohol dependence includes craving: a strong need or compulsion to drink; loss of control: the inability to limit one’s drinking on any given occasion; physical dependence: includes evidence of tolerance and withdrawal; tolerance: the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol to get drunk; withdrawal symptoms: nausea, vomiting, sweating, shakiness, hallucinations, anxiety and seizures.
“Alcohol abuse differs from alcohol dependence in that it does not include an extremely strong craving for alcohol; a person may experience some loss of control over drinking, which may lead to problems with work, home, school, relationships, or the law; it usually does not include signs of physical dependence.”
Answer the following four questions to ascertain if you or a loved one has a drinking problem:
1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
2. Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
“One yes answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. A yes to more than one question indicates that a problem likely exists. In either case, it is important to consult a health care provider immediately to determine if you have a drinking problem and, if so, initiate the best course of action,” Psychology Today says.
Typically if you think you have a drinking problem you do. But, perhaps you could justify saying no to the questions above. Now go to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence’s website, www.ncadd.org, and take their online quiz. This anonymous test will give you deeper insight to whether or not you have AUD.
NIAAA tells us that approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women die each year from alcohol-related causes making it the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.
The health hazards of abusing alcohol are staggering. It increases your risk of cancer, particularly of the larynx, esophagus, liver and colon. People who drink excessively are prone to alcoholic hepatitis; acute and/or chronic pancreatitis; cirrhosis of the liver; alcohol neuropathy; alcoholic cardiomyopathy; high blood pressure; nutritional deficiencies; erectile dysfunction; cessation of menses; depression; alcohol dementia and the list goes on and on. Plus, roughly 10,000 people die each year due to alcohol-impaired driving.
“Three general steps are involved in treating the alcoholic once the disorder has been diagnosed: intervention, detoxification and rehabilitation,” Psychology Today says. “Studies find that more people enter treatment if their family members or employers are honest with them about their concerns and try to help them to see that drinking is preventing them from reaching their goals.”
So honestly, yes, I think my friend has a problem. I’m hoping a self-evaluation will lead her to a trip to a healthcare professional. Is there a visit in your future?
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.