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The Cardiologist's Wife - Alcohol Abuse or Alcoholism - Know What You Are Dealing With
Jun 05, 2019

The misuse of alcohol is a serious problem and it’s important to know the difference between having a good time and going too far. People tend to have a certain image when thinking of alcoholics - the drunk stumbling home from the bar at 2 a.m. - but the reality is that alcohol abuse and alcoholism can take many forms. Indeed, those two terms, alcohol abuse and alcoholism refer to slightly different problems that each adversely affect a person’s life.

Knowing which problem you are dealing with is key to successful treatment, as is early detection and intervention.

Alcohol abuse refers to a pattern of behavior where a person drinks excessively in spite of negative consequences. While alcohol abuse doesn’t disrupt a person’s life the way alcoholism does, it does harm a person’s mind, body and unchecked, can lead to alcoholism. Alcoholism is the most severe drinking problem and refers to an alcohol addiction where an individual has a physical or psychological compulsion to drink. There are even different levels or types of alcoholics. Some are quite successful and others would never dream they have a drinking problem while others suffer from mental illness and other types of addiction.

How much is too much? Excessive drinking can be divided into 2 categories: heaving drinking and binge drinking. Heavy drinking for men under 65 means having 4 drinks a day or more than 14 drinks in a week. For women and men over 65 this means more than 3 drinks a day or more than 7 drinks in a week. Binge drinking is drinking a large amount of alcohol at one time. For men, it’s 5 or more drinks within 2 hours. For women, it’s 4 or more drinks within 2 hours. Tolerance is a major warning sign - do you need to drink more than you used to to get buzzed or can you drink more than others without getting drunk? Withdrawal is the second major warning sign as is drinking to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms like anxiety or trembling.

Here are some other warning signs that should not be ignored.

-Drinking alone and in secrecy
-Losing interest in other activities that were once enjoyable
-Alcohol cravings
-Making drinking a priority over responsibilities such as your job or family
-Alcohol withdrawal symptoms like sweating or anxiety
-Extreme mood swings and irritability
-Feelings of guilt associated with drinking
-Having a drink first thing in the morning
-Continuing to drink despite health, financial or family problems
-Inability to stop or control the amount of alcohol that’s consumed
-underage drinking
-drinking to relieve stress or relax
-blackouts or short term memory loss
-legal problems, such as DUI
-not spending time with friends or family
-taking risks while driving
-lying to hide your drinking
-drinking in spite of it causing relationship problems or job problems

Alcohol doesn’t affect everyone the same way. For some, just one drink can result in intoxication while for others, many more drinks are necessary. A drink is defined as one 12 ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. The bottom line is how alcohol affects you. If drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem. Whatever stage you are at, help is available. Start with your family physician who can help you find the treatment program best suited for your needs and lifestyle.

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