Each month, we talk to our resident Doctor on different topics, relatable to all of you HANX guys and girls. No nonsense, educational posts on things that matter. This month, we are talking alcoholism.
Recent research showed that millennials are not that bothered about alcohol… only 10% said that drinking was “cool” and with the huge health drive going on around us, many stated they would opt for a smoothie rather than an alcoholic beverage after a big night. No more hair of the dog then? Respondents of the EventBrite study of 1,023 young people viewed getting drunk as “pathetic” “embarrassing” and “something the older generation did.”
All of this being said, we are a society in which drinking is all too acceptable and accessible. Bottles of wine at lunch meetings, after work drinks, bottomless brunches; the list is endless. There is always an excuse to drink and for some, this routine becomes an addiction, and like any addiction, there may be a trigger, such as a break-up, a bereavement or stress. Alcohol becomes the coping mechanism.
Problem drinking comes in a spectrum of forms. From binge drinking, to an uncontrollable desire to drink, alcoholism will often place drinking above everything and results in withdrawal symptoms if stopped. Dangerous drinking, such as drinking heavily at a party and being at risk of falls or vomiting, can lead to alcoholism if done regularly, but the real damage starts when “problem drinking” becomes alcoholism.
Drinking too much can have a wide range of results, both psychological and physical. Firstly, it may just be that you become irritable and tired. Then you become secretive and defensive about drinking, which can lead to a breakdown in relationships. Alcohol becomes your number one, above anything else and you will do anything for drink. Excess alcohol can have significant long-term consequences. It damages your skin, hair, nails, and most importantly your liver. The vital organ that detoxifies alcohol, too much drink can cause cell damage, cirrhosis (scarring) and cancer. Not only cancer of the liver, excess alcohol increases your risk of pretty much all cancers.
Are you a functioning alcoholic?
In medicine, we use a simple questionnaire called the CAGE questionnaire to assess whether a patient has an alcohol problem.
C- Cutting down: do you ever think you should cut down the amount you drink?
A- Annoyance: do you ever feel annoyed if people say you drink too much?
G- Guilt: do you ever feel guilty about the amount you drink or the things you do when you drink?
E- Eye-opener: do you ever feel like you need a drink to feel better, particularly in the morning?
You do not need to answer yes to all of the questions, but having 2 or 3 can start to raise alarm bells.
As with anything discussed on Dr HANX, the first step is acknowledging there is a problem. The second is to seek expert advice if anything we have spoken about is something you resonate with. This can be via Your Doctor, and there are many help groups including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which is a widely available and free support.The road to recovery is often not a straightforward one, but by surrounding yourself with the right support will help a great deal.