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Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

Should You Rethink How You Drink?

Developing alcoholism isn’t something that happens overnight. According to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAA),  which has a program called “Rethinking Your Drinking,” there are deceptively mild symptoms that can indicate the start of a drinking problem.

If you’re aware of the signs, you can recognize them early enough to make a change. The NIAA recommends that you look at the following symptoms and see if you recognize any of them in yourself.

In the past year, have you:

Drunk more than you planned?

Thought you should cut down or stop drinking, but weren’t able to?

Been in risky situations – such as driving or having unsafe sex – because of drinking?

Found yourself increasing the number of drinks to get the effect you wanted.

Continued to drink despite its making you feel depressed?

Been sick or had other aftereffects such as shakiness from drinking?

Kept on drinking although it caused difficulty with your family and friends, or work?

Had legal problems because of drinking?

If any of these sound familiar, it’s time to take a serious look at your alcohol consumption. The NIAA suggests the following strategies:

Keep track of how much you drink. Do this before you have each drink, the NIAA says, and it could help you slow dow.

Be aware of standard drink sizes. You could be consuming more alcohol than you drink. With wine, the NIAA suggests, avoid “topping off” a partially filled glass.

Have a plan. Decide how often and how much you want to drink. It’s good to have some days when you don’t drink at all.

Pace yourself. Sip drinks slowly, the NIAA says, and make every other drink a non-alcoholic one.

Eat. Don’t drink on an empty stomach, the NIAA says. Having food means that your system will absorb the alcohol more slowly.

Find alternatives. Develop new hobbies or activities. Look for relationships that don’t have anything to do with drinking. Avoid “triggers” that make you want to drink or that you associate with drinking.

Be prepared. Carry messages reminding yourself why you want to change, the NIAA says, or have someone you can talk to. Planning ahead is essential, since it’s likely you’ll be offered a drink when you don’t want one or know you shouldn’t have it.

For more information on rethinking your drinking, visit the NIAA’s website: http://rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/.

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