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Alcohol Use & Problem Drinking

When is alcohol use considered problem drinking?

Alcoholic beverages are a common part of meals and social gatherings. You may choose to drink alcohol because you enjoy the taste, or because you feel it helps you relax or celebrate. But when alcohol use negatively impacts any aspect of your life (health, work, home life) or the lives of others, it is considered problem drinking.

How can alcohol affect me?

Alcohol is a drug. When it enters the blood stream and reaches the brain, it impairs your judgement, reaction time, physical coordination, mental alertness, and memory. This is known as "intoxication."

The more alcohol you drink and the more quickly you drink it, the more intoxicated you become. It takes the body about one hour to burn the alcohol in one drink. A 12 oz. can of beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine, and a 1 1/2 oz. shot of liquor are all considered "one drink."

How can problem drinking affect me?

Problem drinking may involve drinking large amounts of alcohol over a short period of time (binge drinking), or heavy drinking on a regular basis. No matter how you go about doing it, if you drink to the point where it affects your ability to perform your daily activities and your job responsibilities, it will lead to problems in your relationships with co-workers, friends, and loved ones.

In addition, problem drinking can seriously affect your health. It can cause liver damage, brain damage, cancer, heart disease, and stomach problems. Problem drinking also plays a role in nearly half of all traffic deaths.

How can I tell if I'm a problem drinker?

One way to tell if alcohol is a problem for you is to take the CAGE test. Have you ever felt...

  • The need to Cut down on drinking?

  • Annoyed by people criticizing your drinking?

  • Guilty about your drinking?

  • The need for an Eye-opener (a drink to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover) first thing in the morning?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be a problem drinker. Recognizing your problem is the first step toward correcting it. Be sure to consult your doctor for advice to help you change your drinking behavior.

Additional information

Women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should avoid alcohol use. Women who drink during pregnancy may have babies with physical, mental, and behavioral problems. Consult your OB/GYN for advice.

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