September 12, 2007
Learning More About Your Drinking Problem
Alcoholism is an illness marked by drinking alcoholic beverages at a level that interferes with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or occupational responsibilities. Alcoholism is divided into 2 categories: dependence and abuse. People with alcohol dependence, the most severe alcohol disorder, usually experience tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance is a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or the desired effect. Withdrawal occurs when alcohol is discontinued or intake is decreased. Alcohol dependents spend a great deal of time drinking alcohol, and obtaining it. People who are dependent on or abuse alcohol continue to drink it despite evidence of physical or psychological problems. Those with dependence have more severe problems and a greater compulsion to drink.
Because alcohol affects many organs in the body, long-term heavy drinking puts you at risk for developing serious health problems, some of which are described below. More than 2 million Americans suffer from alcohol-related liver disease. Some drinkers develop alcoholic hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, as a result of long-term heavy drinking. Moderate drinking can have beneficial effects on the heart, especially among those at greatest risk for heart attacks, such as men over the age of 45 and women after menopause. But long-term heavy drinking increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and some kinds of stroke. The pancreas helps to regulate the body’s blood sugar levels by producing insulin. The pancreas also has a role in digesting the food we eat. Long-term heavy drinking can lead to pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. This condition is associated with severe abdominal pain and weight loss and can be fatal.
Drunk driving is no accident. There were 16,885 alcohol-related fatalities in 2005 – 39 percent of the total traffic fatalities for the year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), "A motor vehicle crash is considered to be alcohol-related if at least one driver or non-occupant (such as a pedestrian or pedalcyclist) involved in the crash is determined to have had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01 gram per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. Thus, any fatality that occurs in an alcohol-related crash is considered an alcohol-related fatality. The term ‘alcohol-related’ does not indicate that a crash or fatality was caused by the presence of alcohol." The statistics reveal that most fatal alcohol-related crashes do indeed involve drunk drivers and far fewer of these fatalities involve intoxicated pedestrians or "bicyclists and other cyclists". Nationwide in 2005, alcohol was present in 24 percent of the drivers involved in fatal crashes (BAC .01-.07, 4 percent; BAC .08 or greater, 20 percent). The 16,885 alcohol-related fatalities in 2005 (39% of total traffic fatalities for the year) represent a 5-percent reduction from the 17,732 alcohol related fatalities reported in 1995 (42% of the total). The 16,885 fatalities in alcohol-related crashes during 2005 represent an average of one alcohol-related fatality every 31 minutes.
Alcohol addiction causes so much suffering in marriage. Besides being physically and emotionally harmful to alcoholics themselves, addiction is also harmful to those whose lives touch them. Addiction makes people insensitive to the feelings of those who care most for them, and they will stop at nothing to feed their addiction. Alcoholics commonly engage in their most painful habits while under the influence. Acts of infidelity are common. The fact that he or she is drunk at the time is no consolation to a grief-stricken spouse. It can require a lot of strength for children to resist peer pressure and media influences. When it comes to alcohol and drugs, the most useful weapon that your children can have is facts and knowledge, instead of scare tactics and threats from their parents. Children’s trust in parents can go way up on the scale when they actually researched the topic of drugs with their parents. Many successful parents decide that one of the best ways to avoid their children being drawn into drugs, is to educate them, and learn together, rather than simply condemning the topic out of hand. If you do not want to create that taboo effect in your household, while you do not wish to condone alcohol and drugs, you should make sure that your kids know that they can talk to you about these issues at anytime they wish. Although many parents may disagree, but other say that if their kids are going to try alcohol then they might as well try it in safety at home. One advantage of this liberal approach is that in children’s minds, if it does not seem like things are "off limits" then they will not be attracted to doing it just because they are not supposed to.
Children can be influenced from a very young age, and carry their experiences into their adolescent years. Growing up around alcohol can encourage them to drink, and vice versa. However, many parents ponder the issue of how much exposure to alcohol is too much and how much is not enough. Total abstinence of alcohol could lead to intense curiosity and therefore crazy experimentations. Total exposure can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. Thus, the best method would be a balance between the two, with the adults of the family setting good examples, and with schools educating children on alcohol thoroughly.
Over the past 20 years, modern methods of evaluating medical therapies have been increasingly applied to alcohol treatment. Alcohol treatment centers use both counseling and medications to help a person stop drinking. With support and treatment, many people are able to stop drinking alcohol and rebuild their lives. Alcohol treatment programs work for many people.But just like any chronic disease, there are varying levels of success when it comes to alcohol treatment. Some people stop drinking and remain sober on their own. Others have long periods of sobriety with bouts of relapse. With alcohol treatment, one thing is clear, however, the longer a person abstains from alcohol, the more likely he or she will be able to stay sober.
Here are some good step by step ways to stop drinking: 1. Write your reasons for cutting down or stopping. Why do you want to drink less? There are many reasons why you may want to cut down or stop drinking. You may want to improve your health, sleep better, or get along better with your family or friends. Make a list of the reasons you want to drink less. 2. Set a drinking goal. Choose a limit for how much you will drink. You may choose to cut down or not to drink at all. If you are cutting down, keep below these limits: Women: No more than one drink a day Men: No more than two drinks a day. A drink is: a 12-ounce bottle of beer; a 5-ounce glass of wine; or a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor. These limits may be too high for some people who have certain medical problems or who are older. Talk with your doctor about the limit that is right for you. Now-write your drinking goal on a piece of paper. Put it where you can see it, such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Your paper might look like this: My drinking goal I will start on this day ____________. I will not drink more than ______ drinks in 1 day. I will not drink more than ______ drinks in 1 week. or I will stop drinking alcohol. 3. Keep a "diary" of your drinking. To help you reach your goal, keep a "diary" of your drinking. For example, write down every time you have a drink for 1 week. Try to keep your diary for 3 or 4 weeks. This will show you how much you drink and when. You may be surprised. How different is your goal from the amount you drink now? Use the "drinking diary" below to write down when you drink.