Is Your Drinking Really Moderate?

Is Your Drinking Really Moderate?

Paul Knoll is the director of the Recovery Center at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center.

Paul Knoll is the director of the Recovery Center at Tallahassee Memorial Behavioral Health Center.

Paul Knoll, PhD, LMHC, CAP

While we may think of alcoholism as an easily-identified problem, in reality, alcohol dependence tends to develop gradually through subtle shifts in behavior. It is a slow process that can be difficult to recognize.

It may begin as just a few glasses of wine on Saturday night when going out to dinner with friends from work. Before long, this ritual evolves into having a few glasses of wine every night. As alcohol dependence increases, feelings of nervousness or boredom may sometimes prompt drinking earlier in the day. Eventually drinking alone is more appealing than going out. Dinner engagements are cancelled, excuses are offered, and grocery shopping always includes a few bottles of wine.

You might be thinking, wow, that sounds like someone in my family. It could even be you. What are some signs that a person might have a drinking problem?

Many professionals in our field consider the following factors for diagnosing someone with an alcohol problem: increased tolerance of alcohol, withdrawal symptoms, unsuccessful attempts to cut down on drinking, and giving up social, work or recreational events because of increased alcohol consumption. Another possible indicator would be continued drinking despite knowledge that a health or psychological problem could get worse.

Most people assume their loved one has to be drinking a lot of alcohol to have a drinking problem, but that’s not necessarily true. Increased tolerance can signal a growing reliance on alcohol. Defining moderate drinking is also problematic. Experts report this to be two drinks per day for a male, and one for a female. This can be broken down even further to one beer (12 fluid ounces) one glass of wine (5 fluid ounces) or even distilled spirits (80 proof) 1.5 fluid ounces. Anything more than that could be considered alcohol dependence.

Not everyone who stops drinking experiences withdrawal symptoms. But many people do. They can range from increased depression and anxiety, to poor sleep, headaches, and the ‘shakes’ and progress to vomiting, fever, convulsions and even blackouts. A few people even experience the dreaded DT’s-delirium tremens, where they might become confused and have hallucinations.

Family members believe the best bet would be for their loved ones to stop drinking ‘cold turkey,’ but that’s really the worst thing to do. Entering a facility for a few days, where the individual can be medically monitored while they are withdrawing is the safest option.

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