Alcohol is probably the oldest known and certainly the most widely used drug. Most drinkers don't drink to get drunk, escape from their problems, etc. As one drinks more and/or more often, drinking may become problematic. The main factors that define problem drinking are: 1) loss of control, i.e., sometimes drinking more than intended; and 2) negative consequences such as DUIs, work impairments/loss, relationship difficulties, health problems, etc.
People drink for many reasons. While most people are not problem drinkers, those with anxiety, depression, and/or other mental health problems often use alcohol to self-medicate. Some drink to escape their problems for a short time period. It has been recognized by many therapists that some people with alcohol and/or drug problems have trouble accepting negative feelings.
While alcohol may temporarily ease these problems, it does not offer a solution. Also, it can worsen some problems, especially depression. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, and many other mental health issues are very treatable. Available treatments include individual or group therapies, relaxation training, assertiveness training, and medications. These issues are not always recognized in chemical dependency programs. These issues can be treated by mental health professionals
Possible Physical Problems
While studies show that a glass of wine a day may improve cardiac health, drinking to excess can cause and/or worsen many health problems, including liver problems; pancreatic problems; gastrointestinal problems, such as gastritis; cardiovascular problems, such as hypertension, cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, and strokes; sexual dysfunction; and neurological problems, including seizures, cognitive deficits, cerebral atrophy, and neuropathy. Alcohol contains "empty" calories and many gain weight. In addition to worsening the previously mentioned difficulties, a person can become more likely to develop diabetes. Mixing alcohol with some medications can be lethal.
Social vs. Problem Drinking
Drinkers often do not recognize the impact their drinking has on themselves and their families. Part of this is that alcohol problems are generally progressive. Another part is sometimes they compare themselves to their peer group, which may be the gang at the bar. People often do not realize the extent of problems until they are in trouble, often to the point of losing money, relationships, jobs, etc. People facing change, generally go through predictable stages of change. For more, go to my Change page. Some problem drinkers can reduce their drinking. Many cannot and need to stop drinking, altogether. Sometimes, being confronted by a family member, a physician, the courts is enough to address their problem. Often, a professional and/or AA is necessary. Professional services range from individual counseling, to group treatments, to Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOPS - groups several times a week), to residential programs. Most can be safely and successfully treated as outpatients.
In any one day, it is best for a man to drink no more than 4 units (1 unit is a 12 oz beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of liquor) and for a woman to drink no more than 3 units. Drinking over 8 units in a day for men, or 6 units for women is known as 'binge drinking'. Two drinks a day for a man and one drink for a woman are the limits of what might be helpful to one's health. Anything beyond that may lead to health difficulties. You can drink above the safe limit on one night, but there is some evidence that even a couple of days of binge drinking may start to kill off brain cells, even if you remain within your "safe" limit for the week. This was previously thought only to happen with people who drank continuously for long periods of time. Binge drinking also seems to be connected with an increased risk of early death in middle aged men. If you have questions about your drinking or want to cut back Problem drinking
While I wouldn't recommend online meetings as a primary or only recovery tool, you might try some to supplement your recovery plan. There are a number of specific meetings for different needs. For more information: Online AA groups.
Family members of problem drinkers often benefit from Alanon (http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/).
What ever your situation may be, take action now to begin turning things around.
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