Alcohol abuse very common and serious

Summer is a great time to sit back on the patio or at the lake with a cold beverage and relax. It’s a perfect way to beat this Okanagan heat while enjoying the summer atmosphere and socializing with friends.

Unfortunately, a recent study done in the US suggests that many of us are abusing the alcoholic beverages we should be enjoying in moderation.

According to this study, more than 30 percent of adults have abused alcohol or suffered from alcoholism at some point in their lives and very few have received any treatment for their alcohol abuse.

Only 24 percent of alcoholics reported receiving any treatment at all and those who did so waited an average of eight years after they developed a dependence on drinking before they sought help.

Fewer alcoholics seem to be seeking treatment today than did a decade ago. Although this study didn’t look at reasons for this decline, other research has revealed a belief among some doctors and the public that treatment doesn’t work.

I believe this is a misconception. Treatment does work. Even though alcoholism is correctly termed a disease and is now shown to have a genetic component to it, there are a variety of treatment methods proven to be effective in helping individuals beat their addiction.

Addiction and even abuse of alcohol is very bad for your physical health and dangerous to yourself and others. Quitting this destructive behaviour is critical to achieving health and reaching your goals in life.

Of course, beating any addiction is a difficult and usually lengthy process. This will not be an easy road, but it is possible and very important.

Some common approaches to treating alcoholism include 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous; one-to-one counseling using cognitive behavioural therapy or motivational enhancement therapy; and residential rehabilitation centres where a combination of methods are used in a safe environment.

Medications such as Antabuse (disulfiram), naltrexone and Campral (acamprosate) can also help, but are not widely used in Canada at the moment and should not be used as the sole treatment, but in combination with some form of counseling or support.

It is critical to identify any co-existing medical and especially psychiatric conditions when treating alcohol abuse. Co-existing psychiatric conditions can complicate things and need to be treated simultaneously.

Until recently, complete abstinence from all medication was advocated in some treatment models, meaning patients had to stop all psychiatric medications. This is not recommended and can make it even more difficult to treat the addiction.

Alcohol abuse is defined as drinking-related failure to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home; social or legal problems; or drinking in hazardous situations such as drinking and driving.

Alcoholism is more serious and characterized by compulsive drinking; preoccupation with drinking; and tolerance to alcohol or withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.

Both alcohol abuse and alcoholism are serious and should not be ignored. Speak with your doctor if you want help to moderate or stop your drinking.


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