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Harvard Commentaries
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Harvard Commentaries
Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School


Alcohol: When Enough Is Enough


September 27, 2013

Healthy Lifestyle
9273
Watching Your Intake
Alcohol: When Enough Is Enough
Alcohol: When Enough Is Enough
htmJHI22enoughAlcohol
About the only thing that alcohol abusers have in common is that they are all, in some way, damaging their lives. Here's how to recognize a drinking problem.
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InteliHealth
2010-03-05
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InteliHealth Medical Content
2012-03-05

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Learn how to recognize a drinking problem and where to turn for help.

Not all alcohol abusers look or act alike. Nor do they start on the road to alcoholism the same way or share the same set of problems. What they have in common is that they are all, in some way, damaging their lives.

There are many ways to be diagnosed as being alcohol dependent. Alcohol abusers often show at least one of these danger signs:

  • Tolerance — The need to drink increasingly greater amounts to get the same effects of pleasure (the same high or "buzz") or noticeable disability ("I can hold my liquor.").
  • Withdrawal — Symptoms, ranging from mild hangovers with nausea and headache to severe shaking, that develop soon after drinking stops and can continue for several days.
  • Loss of control — Showing an inability to control drinking behavior or having obsessive thoughts about drinking.
  • Concern by others — Problems reported by coworkers or friends.
  • Health, family and legal problems — Examples include repeated injuries, driving citations and chronic lateness.

Someone who abuses alcohol is not necessarily disabled. Many alcoholics are high achievers who work every day. It isn't always easy to detect an alcohol abuser by how much or how often the person drinks among company or by how intoxicated he or she seems to be.

Risk Factors And Resources

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 18 million Americans drink too much alcohol. The likelihood of developing a drinking problem depends on several factors:

  • Psychiatric disorders. Anxiety or depression may make a person more vulnerable to addiction.
  • Family history. Alcoholism often has a genetic basis, causing people with parents or siblings who have alcohol addiction to have a risk of alcoholism that is three or four times the usual risk. People who have a family history of alcoholism but are adopted to other families still have high rates of alcoholism
  • Age. If a person gets intoxicated for the first time at a young age, this person will have a higher risk of later developing alcoholism.

Despite the tremendous power of alcohol addiction, many people do achieve recovery and long-term stability. If you or someone you know has a problem with alcohol, don't wait, seek help today. You may want to start with a call to your family doctor. He or she can give you a medical evaluation and treatment information and refer you to community services that can help. Or you can contact your state agency responsible for overseeing alcohol and drug treatment programs. The recovery program with the most clear history of success, Alcoholics Anonymous, meets in many towns and communities across the country.


Resources:

24748, 24750, 28980,
alcohol,alcoholism,alcoholics anonymous,drinking problem
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