Man pouring a drink

Know these seven warning signs of alcohol abuse

Alcohol Abuse, Substance Abuse

Many adults enjoy a bit of bourbon, a craft beer or a glass of wine at the end of a long day or during dinner. 

For some people, however, drinking can develop into a problem if it becomes less of a social event and more of an uncontrollable need. 

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, dedicated to increasing the understanding of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. 

Those who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to abuse alcohol than those who first drink at age 21 or older. That’s why it’s important to spread word about the dangers of alcohol misuse to young people as well as adults. 

"Alcohol works as a central nervous system depressant which means it can slow some activity in the brain," said Dr. Danielle Anderson, Addiction Medicine Specialist. "Since the start of the pandemic there has been an increase in the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression. It’s also important to know that alcohol can worsen the symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions and can make them harder to treat." 

Seven questions to consider 

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence encourages teens and others to answer these seven questions to find out if drinking is a problem for them: 

  • Do you use alcohol to feel more self-confident, more sociable, or more powerful? 

  • Do you ever drink immediately after you have a problem at home or school? 

  • Have you lost friends because of your alcohol use, or started hanging out with a heavy-drinking crowd? 

  • Do you feel guilty or bummed out after using alcohol, or ever wake up and wonder what happened the night before? 

  • Have you gotten into trouble at home or school, missed school, or been busted or hospitalized because of alcohol? 

  • Do your friends use less alcohol than you, or do you consume alcohol until your supply is all gone? 

  • Do you think you have a problem with alcohol? 

A “yes” answer to any of these questions means a person could be headed for a problem. 

Why it matters 

Over time, heavy drinking or binge drinking can have serious health consequences, such as: 

  • Dementia. 

  • Stroke. 

  • High blood pressure and heart disease. 

  • Depression and anxiety. 

  • Increased risk for many kinds of cancers. 

  • Liver diseases. 

  • Digestive problems. 

"Alcohol also interacts with many medications we use to treat mental health conditions," said Dr. Anderson. "If you have concerns about how alcohol may interact with your medications you should talk to your doctor.”

How to get help 

If you think you or someone you know might have a drinking problem, talk with your healthcare provider, who can help you get counseling, join a support group or point you or a loved one toward other treatment. 

"If you are ready to reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption, please consult your doctor or another healthcare professional to create a plan that will allow you to do so safely. They can also provide guidance for obtaining support resources to help you meet your goal," Dr. Anderson said. "Reducing your alcohol intake can have positive effects on your health. However, some people experience physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal if they stop drinking abruptly.

"Alcohol withdrawal can cause seizures and in rare cases result in death. Alcohol withdrawal can be treated by a medical professional. Always talk with your provider before making changes in your alcohol intake.”

The UK HealthCare SMART Clinic is available to evaluate and treat problematic alcohol use. Call 859-562-2356 to schedule an appointment.

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