Spot Symptoms of the Other, High Functioning National Crisis

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The opioid crisis has been staking headlines across national and local media, but another substance has been quietly taking lives by the thousands for years: alcohol.

In 2016, more than an estimated 64,000 people died from drug overdose; meanwhile, an average of 88,000 have died from alcohol-related causes every year.

Alcohol use has been more normalized compared to other substance use. Because alcohol has become ingrained in mainstream American culture, it has become harder for people to distinguish between someone who enjoys having drinks in moderation and a person who is suffering from alcohol addiction. Further, the stereotype of an “alcoholic” at rock bottom who drinks all day and can’t hold a job does not reflect the vast majority of people living with alcohol use disorders.

One of those people could be your boss, who comes to work on time every morning, cleanly shaven and impeccably dressed, and finishes every task—then goes home and drinks bottles and bottles of beer. Or your neighbor down the street, who juggles raising kids and working a full-time job while never missing a single one of their games, but drinks an entire bottle of wine after putting them to bed.

The reality is that we all most likely know someone struggling with or affected by alcohol addiction. About 16 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder, ranging from mild to severe. However, less than 15 percent of people receive any treatment.

Alcohol does not affect everyone the same way and every addiction story is different, but these 11 questions can help you distinguish whether enjoying drinks in moderation has turned into a problem:

1.) Are you drinking more alcohol, or for longer, than you originally intended?

2.) Are you having unsuccessful efforts to cut back or quit?

3.) Are you spending a lot of time drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking?

4.) Are you experiencing cravings for alcohol?

5.) Are you having issues with carrying our roles at home or at school or at work because of alcohol?

6.) Have you continued drinking even though it was causing problems with loved ones?

7.) Are you getting into dangerous situations (like driving intoxicated or having unsafe sex) while or after drinking?

8.) Have you continued to drink even after experience negative side effects, such as depression, anxiety, and memory blackouts?

9.) Have you stopped participating in activities that were once enjoyable and drink instead?

10.) Do you have to increase the amount of alcohol consumed to feel the same effects as before?

11.) Do you have withdrawal symptoms after the effects of alcohol wear off, including shaking, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, nausea, or restlessness?

There are three categories for severity of alcohol use disorder: mild, moderate, and severe. Even if you or someone you care about is experiencing a mild case—the presence of two to three symptoms—seek out professional help.

And this April, Alcohol Awareness Month, let’s all reconsider the use of alcohol in our lives.

Alcohol Dependency & Women

Drinking Alcohol Poses More Health Risks for Women

A considerable downside of frequent alcohol consumption is a higher rate of health risks —especially for women. Women’s bodies are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than men’s bodies. As a result, women who drink are more prone to particular health risks, including breast cancer, heart disease and liver damage.

Women and Men should know the USDA guidelines and consume moderate amounts of alcohol. A standard drink is roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits

The USDA defines moderate drinking as:

  • Up to 1 drink per day for women
  • Up to 2 drinks per day for men

It’s important to note that alcohol effects each person differently based on factors that can include weight, general health and family health history. Even within the USDA moderate drinking definition, abuse can occur if alcohol is consumed too quickly or if other underlying issues exist.

Women Report their “Usual number of drinks per drinking occasion”

  • 1 Drink – 48.2% of women
  • 2 Drinks – 29.9 % of women
  • 3+ Drinks – 21.9% of women

Consumption reports from women past-year drinkers ages 18+. According to the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions.

Learn more about Alcohol Abuse and Women.

Why do women face higher risk of Alcohol Dependency?

Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems at lower drinking levels than men. One explanation is on average, women weigh less than men. In addition, alcohol disperses in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. So after a man and woman of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration will tend to be higher. Other biological differences, including hormones, may contribute, as well.

What are the health risks?

Breast Cancer
There is an association between drinking alcohol and developing breast cancer. Women who consume about one drink per day have a 10% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all.

Liver Damage
Women who drink are more likely to develop alcoholic hepatitis (liver inflammation) than men who drink the same amount of alcohol. Alcoholic hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis.

Heart Disease
Chronic heavy drinking is a leading cause of heart disease. Among heavy drinkers, women are more susceptible to alcohol-related heart disease than men, even though women drink less alcohol over a lifetime than men.

Pregnancy
Any drinking during pregnancy is risky. A pregnant woman who drinks heavily puts her fetus at risk for learning and behavioral problems and abnormal facial features. Even moderate drinking during pregnancy can cause problems. Drinking during pregnancy also may increase the risk for preterm labor.

Some women should never drink at all, including:

  • Anyone under age 21
  • Anyone who takes medications that can interact negatively with alcohol
  • Anyone who is pregnant or trying to conceive

Need help for Alcohol Dependency?

If you or someone you know needs help with alcohol dependencyGateway Foundation Alcohol & Drug Treatment can help. With treatment programs tailored to meet the specific needs of adult men and women and teens, Gateway’s team of experienced professionals has been helping individuals overcome substance abuse for more than 40 years.

For more information or to arrange a free and confidential consultation, please call 877-505-HOPE (4673).

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

alcohol abuseEver felt anxious, depressed or suffered emotional distress due to a trauma? If so, you are not alone in experiencing mental health issues. Actually, one in five American adults aged 18 or older, or 45.6 million people, had mental health disorders in the past year, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Mental health issues can significantly decrease a person’s quality of life and wellbeing, especially when left untreated. Unfortunately, rather than seeking help, many people may turn to alcohol or other drugs to briefly adjust their state of mental health.

The SAMSHA report revealed rates for substance dependency or abuse were far higher for those who had mental health problems than for the adult population which did not have mental health issues in the past year.

Mental health and substance abuse issues often co-occur. In other words, individuals with substance abuse issues often have a mental health condition at the same time and vice versa. Approximately 8.9 million adults have co-occurring disorders. What’s more, approximately 80% of individuals in treatment for substance dependency have co-occurring disorders. In essence, they are self-medicating in an attempt to cope with undesirable emotions and distressing thoughts.

To review the SAMSHA report findings click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance dependency, please call Gateway Foundation‘s 24-Hour Helpline to arrange a free and confidential consultation at 877-505-HOPE (4673).

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