4.01.2019

Alcohol Awareness Month:

 How to Know if you have a Problem with Alcohol


Each April the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence sponsors
Alcohol Awareness Month. The purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month is to shatter the stigma
that commonly surrounds alcoholism by encouraging individuals and communities to speak
openly and honestly about alcoholism and recovery. The theme this year is “Help for Today,
Hope for Tomorrow”.


A study conducted by the CDC reports that approximately one-third of Americans over 18 are hard
drinkers, but only 10% of those suffer from alcohol use disorder.  Differentiating between the hard
drinker and the alcoholic can sometimes be challenging as many signs and symptoms of the two are
similar. Both types of drinkers may drink heavily, face consequences for their drinking habits, and
have a love for alcohol, but there are some clear differences between the two.


Hard Drinker vs. Alcoholic


While a true alcoholic will drink heavily, not all people who drink heavily have alcohol use disorder.
People who are considered hard drinkers can be binge drinkers, where they may drink more than the
recommended amount in one sitting (4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within 2 hours), or drink
more than the average person. These individuals may encounter consequences as a result of their
drinking, such as facing a DUI, experiencing turmoil in relationships or suffering from various health
issues.


A person suffering from alcoholism is different from the hard drinker in the way that they have lost the
power of choice and control. When a hard drinker faces a consequence of their drinking, they are able
to stop drinking when they need to. However, when a person with a severe alcohol use disorder
faces a consequence of drinking, they may promise themselves that they won't drink again, then
find themselves at the bottom of a bottle a few hours later, as if they have no choice but to take
another drink.


A hard drinker can control the amount they drink if they have to. They can take one drink and stop.
The alcoholic, on the other hand, will believe wholeheartedly that they will stop after one drink, then,
several drinks later will somehow find themselves wondering what happened to the control they
thought that they had. If a person has lost the ability to control their drinking and choose whether or
not they drink, they are likely suffering from alcohol use disorder.


Physical and Mental Aspects of Alcohol Use Disorder


To be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder, there are physical and mental manifestations of the
disease of alcoholism that one will experience. When alcohol is consumed over an extended period
of time, the body will build a tolerance for it, requiring an increasing amount of the substance to
produce the desired effects. For example, a person with tolerance will need three drinks to feel the
same way they previously felt after only one.


As a person continues to increase their alcohol consumption, their body will begin to develop a
physical dependence on the substance. This occurs when withdrawal symptoms are experienced if
alcohol is suddenly removed from the body for a period of time. During alcohol withdrawal, a person
may experience any or all of the following symptoms.


  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Fever
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations
  • Seizures


Many people will continue to drink to avoid the brutal symptoms of alcohol withdrawal even when
they wish to stop.


In addition to the physical manifestations of alcohol use disorder, a person may also experience
intense mental cravings, or strong desires, for alcohol. Their thinking may be substantially distorted
and they may constantly obsess over drinking as alcohol progressively gains a more important, vital
role in their day to day life.


During alcohol abuse, changes in the brain occur which affect the judgment and decision making
areas of the brain. This may cause people with alcohol use disorder to engage in risky behaviors such
as drunk driving or other criminal behaviors. They may continuously attempt to stop or control the
amount that they drink and be unsuccessful, or may persistently continue drinking despite knowing
that it is harming them mentally and physically.


Do you have a problem with alcohol?


An integral part of Alcohol Awareness Month is Alcohol Free Weekend which is April 5-7th.
This weekend presents and an open invitation to all who are interested to abstain from alcohol for
72 hours. If you or a loved one chooses to participate and experiences any discomfort or difficulty
staying away from alcohol, you may have an alcohol use disorder.


If you think you may have a problem, here are some questions you can ask yourself to
evaluate your relationship with alcohol.


  • Have you tried to cut down on drinking but were unable to control the amount you drink?
  • Have you experienced a craving, or intense desire, to drink even when you shouldn’t drink?
  • Have you continued to drink even after facing financial or legal consequences?
  • Have you placed alcohol as a higher priority than work, family, or other obligations?
  • Do you find yourself having to consume more alcohol over time to feel the way you want to feel?
  • Does drinking interfere negatively with your personal relationships or career?
  • Have you experienced any withdrawal symptoms when you didn’t have alcohol in your system?


If you answered yes to some or all of these questions, rest assured, alcohol use disorder is a
treatable disease that millions have recovered from. The first step is to admit that you have a
problem and become willing to accept outside help. When you are ready, there are detoxes,
treatment centers, and support groups available nationwide that are ready and able to give you the
help you deserve.



Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida. She advocates spreading awareness on the
disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and
hope

1 comment

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