Alcohol and Substance Use and Abuse

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There are approximately ten million alcohol abusers in the United States.

Two-thirds of these people will cease abusing alcohol after receiving support and counseling. When a person's use of alcohol interferes with physical, social, or economic functioning, then alcohol abuse is present.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse

  • Loss of time from school or work due to drinking.
  • Depression or unhappiness due to drinking.
  • Drinking in order to cope with personal problems.
  • Drinking to overcome shyness.
  • Loss of interest in family and friends.
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once of interest.
  • Difficulty sleeping due to drinking.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Drinking outside of a social setting.
  • Showing up intoxicated in inappropriate settings.
  • Drinking to build self-confidence.
  • Mood fluctuations.
  • Developing health problems due to drinking.
  • Experiencing memory blackouts during or after drinking.
  • Usually drinking to the point of intoxication.
  • Feeling guilty about drinking.
  • Not fulfilling promises or obligations because of drinking.

Confronting a friend with a drinking problem

When you approach a friend who you suspect has a drinking problem, he or she may exhibit some of the following behaviors:

  • Denial.
  • Rationalizing to excuse the alcohol abuse.
  • Making excuses when promises and obligations are not fulfilled.
  • Blaming others for problems.
  • Manipulation.
  • Dependency.

These are common, and while frustrating, you should continue to encourage abusers to seek help at once. Consider approaching them in a non-judgmental way about your feelings concerning their drinking. If they deny having a drinking problem, let them know about the consequences of failing to address the problem. If the abuser agrees to get help, then help him or her get it right away.

Do you have a drinking problem?

One of the most frustrating characteristics of alcoholism is the inability to accept or recognize that you may be in serious trouble. The National Council on Alcoholism has developed a series of 26 questions that can help you determine whether you or someone you know may need help.

First, read each question and record each "yes" response you make, and count them. The scoring key for this questionnaire is at the bottom of this page.

  • Do you occasionally drink heavily after a disappointment, a quarrel, or when the boss or someone in a position of power over you gives you a hard time?
  • When you have trouble or feel under pressure, do you always drink more heavily than usual?
  • Have you noticed that you are able to handle more liquor than you did when you were first drinking?
  • Did you ever wake up on the "morning after" and discover that you could not remember part of the evening, even though your friends tell you that you did not "pass out?"
  • When drinking with other people, do you try to have a few extra drinks when others will not know it?
  • Are there certain occasions when you feel uncomfortable if alcohol is not available?
  • Have you recently noticed that when you begin drinking you are in more of a hurry to get the first drink than you used to be?
  • Do you sometimes feel a little guilty about your drinking?
  • Are you secretly irritated when your family or friends discuss your drinking?
  • Have you recently noticed an increase in the frequency of your memory "blackouts? " 
  • Do you often find that you wish to continue drinking after your friends say they have had enough?
  • Do you usually have a reason for the occasions when you drink heavily?
  • When you are sober, do you often regret things you have done or said while drinking?
  • Have you tried switching brands or following different plans for controlling your drinking? 
  • Have you often failed to keep the promises you have made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking?
  • Have you ever tried to control your drinking by making a change in jobs, or moving to a new location?
  • Do you try to avoid family or close friends while you are drinking?
  • Are you having an increasing number of financial, school, or work problems?
  • Do more people seem to be treating you unfairly without good reason?
  • Do you eat very little or irregularly when you are drinking?
  • Do you sometimes have the "shakes" in the morning and find that it helps to have a little drink?
  • Have you recently noticed that you cannot drink as much as you once did?
  • Do you sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time?
  • Do you sometimes feel very depressed and wonder whether life is worth living?
  • Sometimes after periods of drinking, do you see or hear things that aren't there?
  • Do you get terribly frightened after you have been drinking heavily?

Scoring Key

If the answer is "yes" to any of the questions, possible symptoms of alcoholism are indicated. "Yes" answers to several questions indicate the following stages of alcoholism:

Questions 1-8 -- Early Stage
Questions 9-21 -- Middle Stage
Questions 22-26 -- Beginning of final Stage

Responsible Drinking

One out of every ten drinkers is an alcoholic. Many more have drinking problems. Alcohol can be enjoyed as an adjunct to meals, and as a social beverage when you're having a good time with friends. Responsible drinking is knowing when you've reached your limit and not having to apologize for things you've done while drinking. Here is a guide to responsible drinking, so you can enjoy alcohol without hurting yourself or others.

  1. Note how much alcohol is in your drink. It takes the body one hour to metabolize and eliminate 1/2 oz. of alcohol. Any excess alcohol circulates in the blood and goes to your head. One-half ounce of alcohol can be found in 12 oz. of beer, 4 oz. wine and 1 oz. or a shot of 100 proof distilled spirits. Remember, if you want to drink without getting drunk, space your drinks.
  2. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed into all the body's tissues. Drinking on an empty stomach is a sure-fire way to intoxication. This is not to mention the damage done to your stomach and intestinal tract if you regularly drink on an empty stomach. Take advantage of appetizers, or eat a meal so that the food will decrease the rate of absorption, and don't chug your drinks.
  3. Don't insist on drinking "one for the road.” Law enforcement officials consider a blood alcohol level of .08 an indication of intoxication. Even one drink affects your driving ability. Take some time before finishing off that cocktail and driving home. By the way, coffee, cold showers, and fresh air do not cure intoxication. All you'll be is a wide-awake drunk.
  4. Alcohol is a sedative. After the first drink, a drinker may feel a burst of energy and excitement. After that, the alcohol that accumulates in the body may make the drinker feel very drowsy. Enough alcohol can cause you to pass out. If you want to be around and alert while drinking, don't drink so much, so fast.
  5. If you're the host, please don't force alcohol on people who've decided they've had enough. Provide enough munchies so that no one has to drink on an empty stomach. Let your guests feel that you enjoy them for themselves, not their drunken and unsteady selves. Please don't let people drive themselves or others home until they have sobered up.
  6. Take time to decide what kind of drinker you want to be. You can enjoy alcohol without the hassles of hangovers, cottonmouth, missing work and physical illness. If you think you are drinking too much, talk to your doctor or consult an agency that can talk to you about problem drinking. Look in the white pages of your phonebook under alcohol for your area's referral agency or call the Counseling Center at 585-395-2207.

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Last Updated 7/1/20

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