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When Does Alcohol Use Become A Disorder

01 April 2017 Written by 

The joke in most drinking gatherings states that if you want a drink you’re not an alcoholic, but if you need a drink then you are (an alcoholic). The “hair of the dog” theory is that the morning after drinking too much the night before, one needs a bit of the hair of the dog to get right with themselves. I was told that Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the source of this next answer (to the question) about alcoholics but I was unable to confirm it.  “When a drink has a drink.” First the man has a drink, and then the drink has a drink, and then the drink has the man.”

Alcohol Becomes A Disorder In Stages

Alcohol affects each person differently, and not every person who has one drink wants another drink. We’ve all known people who have a drink on celebrations and never want one otherwise. Many people define themselves as social drinkers but that is a description that’s hard to define. When I took a history from a patient in my office I would spend a fair amount of time on the social history. This includes family history, work and military history and behavior history (what I call the drugs, sex and rock and roll history). How much do they smoke and drink, do they use illegal drugs, etc. When a patient told me that they were a “social drinker” I would always follow with this question: well, how social are you? Some consider the yearly family celebrations (wedding, funerals, graduations, etc.) to be social while others consider every Friday night at the neighborhood watering hole to be social. Or every night.

A chemical addiction separates a drinker from an alcoholic, as do the reasons for drinking. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association roughly 50% of individuals with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse and 37 % of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. Of all the people diagnosed as mentally ill, 29% abuse either alcohol or drugs.

Many get-togethers, both business and general social events, have the use of alcohol as part of the function. And there are a number of benefits that people obtain from social drinking. *  “Alcohol is often described as a social lubricant”. People tend to relax and open up as the alcohol helps them to feel less self-conscious. It also helps people unwind and forget responsibilities for a while. But go to any function where alcohol is served and you can soon separate the social drinkers from the alcoholics. Look in the “corners” and you will them. The one in the “’corner” is there because everyone is having a good time and an alcoholic is miserable so he wants to be alone.

If you’re a social drinker you go to a party; if you’re a drunk and want to be around your own kind, you go to a bar. Many people in a bar aren’t having a good time but they want to be around others like them. Drunks don’t want company, they want miserable company. And then there are the alcoholics who are functional alcoholics. They are like everyone else during their workday but when they get home they drink until they pass out. Alcoholism is a secondary dysfunction to depression: it’s an escape from depression. The drink gets you happy—until it doesn’t, or until you pass out. The drink makes the world go away for a while; it lets you push the “pause” button.

One Sign Of A Disorder Is When Cutting Down Doesn’t Work

Often people have some awareness that they are drinking too much. Drinking may have come to affect their lives in a variety negative ways. DUIs, blackouts, risky behaviors are among them. They resolve to drink less, but can’t cut down. Getting help can mean starting a 12 Step program, having an addiction professional provide treatment in patient or outpatient setting. A continuum of care can also include daily alcohol testing to make sure the disorder is in remission and to insure accountability.

Take the Quiz Am I An Alcoholic. 

There are also ten signs that alcohol may be a problem.

  1. Are you having black-outs?
  2. Are you avoiding others who aren’t drinkers?
  3. Have you tried to quit but find that you can’t?
  4. Are you drinking to cheer up (and avoid obvious depression)?
  5. Are you hiding your drinking? Putting it in your orange juice, or hiding it in your closet, etc.
  6. Do you have skin changes on your face such as a flushed appearance and broken capillaries around your nose?
  7. Do your hands tremble?
  8. Are you having problems with loved ones because of your drinking?
  9. If you don’t have a drink do you find yourself anxious, nauseated or have trouble going to sleep?
  10. Do you have a drink in the morning? “The hair of the dog.”*

A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By Dr. Gail Dudley

sober stories

Read 9014 times Last modified on Friday, 14 April 2017 11:25
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Dr. Gail Dudley

Dr. Gail Dudley, DO, MHA, FACOFP, is board certified in four areas of medicine. For more than twenty years Gail Dudley had a busy family practice with a hospital and nursing home component. Gail also obtained a MHA (Masters of Healthcare Administration) and completed a year-long health policy fellowship. Dr. Gail has worked in quality assurance and utilization review, hospice practice, and now works full time for a company that has contracts with Medicare and Medicaid to evaluate fraud, waste and abuse in the medical world.
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