Following the various articles and blogs that contain my google keywords: drunk driving, alcohol, underage drinking, alcohol abuse, alcohol research, alcohol and the brain, codependency, etc., brings me so may tragic stories of what can happen when a person abuses (or is addicted) to alcohol — things like impaired driving, date rape, domestic violence — all related to a person not being in their ‘right mind’ because they’ve had too much to drink. As I skim the comment trails of some of these, there is often a lot of ‘discussion’ about whether the person was really drunk or on medication or had a medical condition flair up. The fact is, however, that when these kinds of things/behaviors happen and alcohol is involved, at minimum it is alcohol abuse — consuming more than moderate drinking quantities. Alcohol abuse destroys a person’s ability to think and act responsibility — whether that person is an alcoholic or not.
One of the misconceptions about drinking is that it is either “normal” or “alcoholic.” There are actually three stages of drinking – use, abuse and dependence. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates there are four times more alcohol abusers than there are alcoholics.
To be an alcoholic (dependent on alcohol) is to have the disease of alcoholism. Alcohol abuse is not alcoholism. Alcohol abuse is defined as drinking more than moderate limits but not being addicted to alcohol (an alcoholic). Moderate limits are defined as 7 per week for women; with no more than 3 of the 7 on any given day; and as 14 per week for men, with no more than 4 of the 14 on any given day. There are two key reasons to stay within moderate drinking limits and thereby avoid alcohol abuse:
to avoid the destructive drinking behaviors that occur with consuming too much alcohol — including binge drinking, blackouts, DUIs, unplanned or unprotected sex, verbal abuse, physical violence, poor work performance, financial problems, arrests and fighting with loved ones about the drinking. (Basically doing things you wouldn’t do if it weren’t for the drinking.) These drinking behaviors are related to the amount of alcohol consumed and are common to both alcoholics and alcohol abusers; and
to avoid the chemical and structural changes in the brain that occur with alcohol abuse. To see brain change images of alcohol abuse, visit www.amenclinics.com. The World Health Organization reports that all alcoholics go through a period of alcohol abuse but not all alcohol abusers become alcoholics.
If you are wondering about your drinking patterns, consider taking NIAAA’s anonymous quiz found at it’s website, www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov. This site also offers a number of great tips for changing your drinking patterns.