Be aware of signs of alcohol abuse

  • Tuesday, April 23, 2013

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. I get letters and calls almost daily about the impact of alcohol use, abuse and addiction, on individuals, marriages and families.

The impact is enormous and there are many misconceptions about the seriousness of the problems that problem drinking can cause. A huge road-block is the characteristic denial.

Denial can be recognized by a person becoming defensive about their use of alcohol, angry or attempts to blow it off, like there is nothing to it.

The behavioral problems, including high risks of impaired driving, get the most attention. But, there are physical health concerns, as well.

The director of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs, Dr. Raymond Anton, points out some facts we should be aware of including: 1. The World Health Organization says alcohol abuse is the third-leading cause of death and disability in the world; 2. Alcohol plays a role in cancers, including mouth and throat, breast cancer, liver and pancreatic; 3. The risk of domestic violence, falls and risky behaviors increase.

It is also interesting that while small amounts of alcohol (1.5 ounces of liquor, 5 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of beer daily has been shown to reduce strokes and heart attacks — even small amounts over that do the opposite, contributing to high blood pressure and other risk factors.

Dear Liz,

My husband and I used to drink regularly, socially, at meals and with friends. But lately, I’ve noticed our trend is increasing, especially when there is stress with our children or each other. And then, I notice our abilities to handle things drinking or not, has diminished. My husband doesn’t think there is a problem, but I’m not so sure.

Getting concerned

Dear “Getting,”

I commend you for having the awareness to recognize a problem. Your husband may be demonstrating the denial mentioned above. You are so right that there is a tendency to increase use of alcohol, and that your ability to deal with things decreases with use — even when you are not drinking. That is a sign your bodies may be developing tolerance (the physical dependence, when you need more to get the same effect) and that it is being used as a “drug of choice” when stressed.

Alcohol as a drug, is actually a depressant, and to many gives them an initial calming effect. Many people use it when anxious, to unwind. This is when use can turn into abuse. If there is a family history of alcoholism, it becomes far more likely that alcohol use can become problematic. And, it can sneak up on you.

For your own health and well-being, and especially that of your children — seek some specific guidance from a professional. If your husband is not willing, you do it. Free, anonymous support is available through Alcoholics Anonymous and Alanon and through various websites: www.alcoholscreening.org/; www.aa.org/; www.niaaa.nih.gov/; and the site listed above. Don’t delay. Your life and that of your children depends upon it.

Contact Liz via asksharpliz@gmail.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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