Are you concerned that you may have a drinking problem? You may have heard that having two drinks a day can reduce the chances of developing heart disease, gallstones, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. The problem is that at this age we may have built up alcohol tolerance and are drinking more than we should.
As our daily consumption keeps increasing, health risks start to replace the so called benefits of drinking.
According to the results of a study published in a 2017 issue of JAMA Psychiatry, alcohol use and abuse among older adults has risen substantially. Our bodies don’t metabolize alcohol as well as we get older. And that beer or cocktail will not only impact your sleep, it may have dangerous consequences when mixed with medication.
Not everyone who drinks daily abuses alcohol, and not all drinkers dependent on alcohol drink everyday. How do you know if you (or someone else) are abusing alcohol?
Warning signs include:
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Experiencing short-term memory loss or temporarily blacking out
- Making excuses for drinking (e.g. you need it to relax)
- Drinking alone or drinking in secret
- Drinking in situations where it’s not safe such as driving
- Experiencing mood swings
- Neglecting family, work and personal responsibilities
If any of this rings true for you, then you probably need to address your drinking habit.
Screening for Alcohol Abuse
There are a number of tests available to screen for alcohol abuse also known as Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). One screening tool is the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), which is accurate up to 94% of the time. Another is the Michigan Alcohol Screening Test, or MAST test, a 22-question self-assessment, which helps you determine if you have a drinking problem. The Drinker’s Checkup, a computer based integrated assessment, can also help you to decide what your next course of action should be.
There is a wide array of resources available to help those struggling with compulsive alcohol use. They include peer group support programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, working with substance abuse counselors and therapists, residential treatment programs, spiritual practices, yoga, acupuncture, and more.
If you’ve been addicted to alcohol, can you ever drink again? The prevailing doctrine for addiction has always been that picking up even one drink can lead to relapse. However there has been some research focused on “moderation management” and responsible drinking. You can learn more about what’s considered low-risk drinking at www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov.
Excessive alcohol use can pose a number of health risks including serious wear and tear on every major organ in your body. If you think your drinking has gotten out of control, don’t hesitate to seek help.