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Recognizing the signs of alcoholism

Having a glass of wine with dinner every night or drinking a few beers at a ballgame doesn’t mean that you have an alcohol problem – does it? Drinking in moderation – up to one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men – may be no cause for concern. How can you be sure, though? It may be hard to tell how alcohol is affecting your life. People often have a hard time admitting that they drink too much. However, staying in the dark about your alcohol use can be bad for your health.

Why worry?

Some studies link moderate alcohol use to a lower risk of heart disease. Heavy drinking is a different story, though. It raises your risk for certain types of stroke and cancer. It also can cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and problems with your immune system.

Your alcohol use can put others at risk, too. Drinking during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (a variable group of birth defects). It can also cause serious physical, mental and behavioral problems for your baby. Drinking and driving puts everyone on the road in danger.

A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of just 0.02 percent can impair driving skills. If a 160-pound man drinks two beers, his BAC will be twice that amount, or 0.04. Smaller people need to drink even less to reach this level.

Review your risk

At every age, men are more likely than women to have drinking problems. Alcoholism also runs in families. However, having an alcoholic parent doesn’t necessarily mean you will be one, too.

Have a heart-to-heart

Ask friends and family about how they view your drinking. They may have noticed that you’re anxious or depressed. You may have been in traffic accidents or received tickets. They may see that you’re not sleeping well, lacking self-esteem or not doing well at work. These are all signs of a possible problem.

Reach for recovery

Talk with your doctor if you’re worried about your drinking. Alcoholism can be treated with therapy. Sometimes medication is prescribed for withdrawal and cravings.

Successful recovery depends on abstaining from alcohol for the rest of your life. This sounds like a tall order, but avoiding events with alcohol and keeping alcohol out of your home can help. So can the support of your family, friends and other recovering alcoholics.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a strong desire to drink?
  2. Have I ever felt I should cut down on my drinking?
  3. Do I feel unable to control my drinking?
  4. Have people annoyed me by criticizing the amount of alcohol I consume?
  5. Do I need to drink more and more alcohol over time to feel its effects?
  6. Have I ever felt guilty about drinking?
  7. Do I have withdrawal symptoms when I stop drinking for a while?
  8. Have I ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady my nerves? To get rid of a hangover?

Even one “yes” answer may be a sign of a drinking problem. More than one “yes” makes it more likely that you’re dependent on alcohol.

source: My Optum Health

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