Most of us probably weren’t aware that the last week of January is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week but it’s a perfect time to raise awareness of important information about drugs and alcohol. Let me share some of what we know about alcohol use disorder.
Drinking alcoholic beverages is perceived in our culture as a way to relax, socialize or celebrate and the use of alcohol doesn’t automatically mean that someone has a substance use disorder (SUD). However drinking too much or drinking as a way of dealing with problems or pain is commonly called self-medicating and has negative consequences. Warning signs of SUD include being dependent upon alcohol to get through life, having problems at home or work, or having damage to one’s health as a result of the abuse. People with a mood or anxiety disorder are up to three times as likely to also have a substance use disorder, often called co-occurring disorders; 75 percent of SUDs develop by age 27.
Consuming small quantities of alcohol can cause one to relax and lower inhibitions in the moment, but alcohol use can produce short term problems including physical injuries from risky behavior or accidents, aggressive or antisocial behavior and even suicide or self-injury. Alcohol can intensify feelings of anxiety, depression or anger and inhibit the use of effective coping skills. In the long term, heavy alcohol use can lead to serious organ damage and memory problems. Seratonin levels in the brain are altered by alcohol, thereby affecting mood regulation and potentially causing mental health conditions including depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Do you know what the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines as one standard drink? It may be a surprise that 12 ounces of regular beer (five percent alcohol by volume [ABV]), eight ounces of malt liquor (seven percent ABV), five ounces of wine (12 percent ABV) and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (40 percent ABV) are each considered one drink. The general guidelines advise that men should consume no more than four drinks daily and no more than 14 drinks weekly. Because women’s bodies metabolize alcohol differently, they should consume no more than three drinks in a day or seven drinks total in a week. Of course, pregnant women, people under the age of 21 and people with health conditions or medications that interact with alcohol should not consume any alcohol.
Types of problem drinking include:
- Heavy drinking, consuming more than the daily or weekly guideline amounts for alcohol.
- Binge drinking, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in a short period of time, resulting in elevated blood alcohol content (for example, a man who has five drinks in two hours, or a woman who has four drinks in two hours). People who binge drink are especially prone to “blackouts” or lapses in memory.
- Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence, a disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to drink, inability to stop drinking once started, need to drink more and more to feel the effects (increased tolerance) and withdrawal symptoms if one doesn’t consume alcohol. Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, sweating, nausea or shakiness and can be deadly.
If you or someone you know has signs of SUD, reach out for help to treatment provider Licking Alcoholism Prevention Program (LAPP) at 740-366-7303 – they provide the path to a new day!
Penny Sitler is the MHA of Licking County Executive Director
Found in The Newark Advocate January 29, 2018