Many people regularly drink alcohol and never develop a drinking problem. However, this isn’t the case for everyone. Many people do develop drinking problems and become dependent on alcohol. If you’ve ever questioned if you have a drinking problem, you more than likely do.
And if friends or family seem concerned about your drinking, you should seriously consider getting help right away.
If you’re drinking more than what is mentioned in the low risk drinking guidelines, you may be at risk for developing a drinking problem and it may be time to seek treatment. According to the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), to reduce your risk of developing a drinking problem, you should follow these guidelines:
Women – 10 or fewer drinks per week and no more than 2 drinks per day
Men – 15 or fewer drinks per week and no more than 3 drinks per day
For these guidelines a drink is considered – 12 oz. of 5% beer, 5 oz. of 12% wine or 1.5 oz. of 40% liquor. CAMH also recommends planning days of the week when you don’t drink so that you don’t develop dependence. If you find yourself regularly consuming more than the recommended low risk drinking levels, you likely have a drinking problem.
There are two different forms of drinking problems according to the US National Library of Medicine:
1. Alcoholism – a person will exhibit signs of physical addiction to alcohol, yet they continue to drink. Alcoholism can affect not only physical health, but mental health and can interfere with family and social relationships as well as employment.
2. Alcohol abuse – a person’s drinking will lead to problems, but the person doesn’t show signs of physical addition.
There are many health problems that are associated with excessive drinking. According to MedlinePlus, alcohol has a significant impact on the liver. Alcoholic liver disease can develop after years of excessive drinking. The longer a person drinks and the more that they consume increases their risk of developing alcoholic liver disease. Alcohol can cause inflammation of the liver, which is known as hepatitis. The swelling and inflammation of the liver can lead to scarring of the liver which can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. Cirrhosis of the liver is the final phase of liver disease.
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Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease vary and are dependent on how severe the disease is. Some people may not experience symptoms of alcoholic liver disease until the disease is in the advanced stages. Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease, according to MedlinePlus, include: abdominal pain/tenderness, dry mouth, increased thirst, tiredness, jaundice, decreased appetite, nausea, weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes and eyes), redness of the hands and feet, abnormally dark or light skin, paleness, abnormal bleeding, light headedness, mood changes (including agitation), confusion, difficulty concentrating, impaired judgment, slow movements, pain/numbness/tingling in the arms or legs. If a person has cirrhosis, swelling in the legs and/or abdomen may be seen.
If you are diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease you must stop drinking completely. Your liver will be able to heal itself if cirrhosis has yet to develop. However, if cirrhosis of the liver has developed treatment will involve managing the symptoms. Treatment of cirrhosis may also require a liver transplant.
Once it has been determined that an individual has a drinking problem, treatment should begin immediately. For people suffering from alcoholism, the ultimate treatment goal is abstinence. This can be very difficult so it is recommended that these people have strong social and family connections to help them through the treatment process. For individuals that abuse alcohol their treatment goal may be to reduce the amount of alcohol that they consume. However, if this treatment method is unsuccessful, they should aim for the treatment goal of abstinence as well.
Women and men who want to avoid developing a drinking problem may want to follow the following health tips:
- follow the low risk drinking guidelines
- If you start to think that you may be developing a drinking problem, seek help immediately or quit drinking all together
- Take steps to protect yourself when drinking (have a friend with you when you drink, and always have a designated driver or a safe way to get home)
By following these health tips, you will minimize your chance of developing a drinking problem. These health tips will also help to reduce your risk of developing a health complication that is associated with drinking.
There are many resources available to help people through the treatment journey. If you’re concerned about your drinking, or about the drinking of a loved one, speak to your medical professional as they will be able to put you in touch with all of the resources available to you.