Two articles that appeared in the news last summer that feel like they would be good to share now when we have our hair shirts on rather than our Hawaiian one’s! One is from the UK Daily Mail and asks the question of ‘are we drinking too much?’ and the other is from the US and says the answer is yes! Both are incidentally talking about the same JAMA paper that was published in August 2017.
“The prevalence of 12-month DSM-IV AUD increased significantly from 8.5% to 12.7% (change, 49.4%) in the total population. Significant increases in AUD were seen in all subgroups except Native Americans and those residing in rural areas. Notable increases were found among women (83.7%), racial/ethnic minorities (51.9% for Hispanic and 92.8% for black individuals), adults 65 years and older (106.7%), those with a high school education (57.8%) and less than a high school education (48.6%), those earning incomes of $20?000 or less (65.9%), those living within 200% of the poverty threshold (range, 47.1%-55.8%), and those residing in urban areas (59.5%)”
From The Daily Mail article:
A DANGEROUS LINE
But when do your long lunches, after-work drinks or that ‘decompression’ glass of wine at home become a cause for concern?
‘Not everyone who drinks heavily will become dependent, or an alcoholic,’ explains Dr Mohiuddin. ‘But some of us are definitely predisposed to it.
‘It’s a mixture of genes and environment. Many people with a drinking problem have a family history of it – a parent, aunt/uncle, a grandparent. It doesn’t mean everyone in a family will suffer.
‘However, if the environment is there – perhaps a job with a heavy drinking culture – a problem can develop.’
Around 20 percent of people in Britain and the USA drink to a hazardous level, figures show.
‘It’s easy for many people to get through a bottle of wine a night, and over time, this can creep steadily upwards, to two or even three,’ says Dr Mohiuddin.
‘In my experience, a lot of heavy drinkers – both men and women – steadily move onto harder things.
‘They may start with beer or perhaps wine and then progress on to heavy spirits such as vodka or whiskey.
‘However it’s not necessarily what you are drinking or where, it’s the amount and the effect it’s having on your life (see below). Some people will be able to cut down, while others will try and then realise they can’t – a sign of dependence.
‘There is a significant proportion of heavy drinkers who don’t realise or are in denial that they could be functioning – albeit progressively less functioning – alcoholics.’
THE WARNING SIGNS
‘The main problem is that it’s quite easy for some people to slip into drinking regularly – and the soothing effect it gives you becomes like using a tranquilizing medication such as diazepam,’ explains Dr Mohiuddin.
‘But over time, the benefits wear off quicker and you need more alcohol to get the same effect.’
‘Many people associate being an alcoholic with drinking in the morning, the old adage of ‘vodka on the cornflakes’ or sitting on a park bench with a can of cider – but there are many more subtle signs of dependence and/or alcoholism.’
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced a list of classic symptoms that show your drinking has stepped up to a worrying level. These include:
- You regularly use alcohol to cope with anger, frustration, anxiety or depression – instead of choosing to have a drink, you feel you have to have it.
- You regularly use alcohol to feel confident
- Your drinking affects your relationships with other people – they may tell you that, when you drink, you become gloomy or aggressive. Or, people around/with you look embarrassed or uncomfortable when you are drinking.
- You stop doing other things to spend more time drinking – these other things become less important to you than alcohol.
- You carry on drinking even though you can see it is interfering with your work, family and relationships.
- You hide the amount you drink from friends and family
- Your drinking makes you feel disgusted, angry, or suicidal – but you carry on in spite of the problems it causes
- You start to drink earlier and earlier in the day and/or need to drink more and more to feel good/get the same effect
- You start to feel shaky and anxious the morning after drinking the night before
- You get ‘memory blanks’ where you can’t remember what happened for a period of hours or even days
Before I stopped I had all 10 warning signs. The articles recommendation:
HOW TO CURB YOUR DRINKING BEFORE IT’S TOO MUCH
- Set yourself a target to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Avoid high-risk drinking situations and work out other things you can do instead of drinking.
- Opt for lower-strength options, such as 4 percent beers or 10 percent wines.
- Involve your partner or a friend who can help agree a goal and keep track of your progress.
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOUR’E DRINKING HEAVILY
If you are drinking heavily, do not stop suddenly – see your GP or another medical professional, says Dr Mohiuddin.
‘Some people manage to stop suddenly without any problems, but others may have withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, shakiness, sweating, increasing anxiety, headache and even hallucinations. In fact, going ‘cold turkey’ if you’re a very heavy drinker is highly risky and could be fatal. Hence, it is not recommended.’
And if you fear you can’t stop or cut down on your own, there are many specialist alcohol workers who can help. Your GP should be able to tell you about services available in your area.
Some people, especially those with a possible or real dependence, will need more comprehensive help and treatment. For example, says Dr Mohiuddin, if you’ve been using alcohol as a de-stressor, or to try and block out your worries, therapy can help you address these issues and find other, non-destructive ways of dealing with them.’
In the case of alcohol and certain drugs a medical detox is essential – there can be serious health implications linked to sudden withdrawal.
There are also a wide range of tests to help staff ascertain the damage done to the body by drugs and alcohol, allowing patients to get tailored treatment plans that suit their needs with the help if therapists, doctors and a full nursing team.
‘Another option is to attend a support group for drinking problems, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, where there are other people in your situation who understand and can give you support,’ says Dr Mohiuddin.
‘There are meetings all over the world and they’re free to attend.’
And for friends or relatives worried about someone they know or suspect has a drinking problem, there is Al-Anon – a spin-off of Alcoholics Anonymous.
All good advice which I would advocate. You can always reach out to me here and I will do my best to signpost you to the relevant services and support you need.