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By Karen Ambrosio

Oncology Wellness Specialist on 04/28/2017

April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol is legal in most countries around the world and it is easy to buy and consume. For most people, moderate alcohol consumption isn’t harmful. For others, drinking becomes a severe problem and is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older (6.2 percent of this age group) had AUD. This includes 9.8 million men (8.4 percent of men in this age group) and 5.3 million women (4.2 percent of women in this age group).

Alcohol dependence causes:

  • Craving: a strong need to drink
  • Loss of control: not being able to stop drinking once you've started
  • Physical dependence: withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance: the need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effect

Drinking too much alcohol is dangerous for your health. Heavy drinking can increase the risk of certain cancers, particularly cancers of the oral cavity (excluding the lips), pharynx (throat), and larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, colon and rectum, pancreas, ovary, prostate, stomach, uterus, bladder, and probably kidney cancer and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Alcohol abuse can cause anemia, dementia, depression, seizures, gout, high blood pressure and pancreatitis. It may damage your nerves, liver, brain, heart, and other organs. It can have harmful effects like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome if a pregnant woman drinks, and it increases risk of death from car crash, injury, homicide, and suicide.

To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet 2 of the 11 criteria described below during the same 12-month period. The severity of an AUD—mild, moderate, or severe—is based on the number of criteria met. Use the questions below to assess whether you or loved one may have an AUD.

In the past year, have you:

  1. Had times when you ended up drinking more, or longer than you intended?
  2. More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  3. Spent a lot of time drinking, being sick or getting over the aftereffects of drinking? 
  4. Experienced a craving — a strong need, or urge, to drink? 
  5. Found that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  6. Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  7. Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to drink?
  8. More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  9. Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  10. Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  11. Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating? Or sensed things that were not there?

If you answered yes to two of these statements, your drinking may already be a cause for concern. The more symptoms you have, the more urgent the need for change.

In 1987, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Inc. founded and sponsored April as Alcohol Awareness Month to encourage the public to learn about alcoholism and recovery. Alcoholism is a chronic, progressive disease that is fatal if untreated, and can be linked to genetic predisposition. However, there is hope. People can and do recover. Even severe cases can be addressed, amended, and resolved. Individuals and their families can recover their lives and enjoy living one day at a time.

 

To learn more and get help for yourself or a loved one, visit:

If you are a family member or loved one:

Al-Anon

If you think you may be struggling with addiction:

Gateway Community Addiction Rehabilitation Services

Alcoholics Anonymous

If you are a teenager living with an alcoholic:

Al-Anon for Teens

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