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Substance Abuse Resource Card

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Alcohol

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many interconnected factors, including how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems. Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate. Remember, alcohol is a drug. 

Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary so widely from person to person, it's not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking. The bottom line is how alcohol affects you and why you need to drink.  If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.

Do you have a drinking problem?

You may have a drinking problem if you...

  • Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
  • Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
  • Have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking.
  • Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
  • "Black out" or forget what you did while you were drinking.
  • Regularly drink more than you intended to.

Five myths about alcoholism and alcohol abuse

Myth #1: I can stop drinking anytime I want to. 
Maybe you can; more likely, you can't. Either way, it's just an excuse to keep drinking. The truth is, you don't want to stop. Telling yourself you can quit makes you feel in control, despite all evidence to the contrary and no matter the damage it's doing. 

Myth #2: My drinking is my problem. I'm the one it hurts, so no one has the right to tell me to stop. 
It's true that the decision to quit drinking is up to you. But you are deceiving yourself if you think that your drinking hurts no one else but you. Alcoholism affects everyone around you especially the people closest to you. Your problem is their problem. 

Myth #3: I don't drink every day, so I can't be an alcoholic OR I only drink wine or beer, so I can't be an alcoholic. 
Alcoholism is NOT defined by what you drink, when you drink it, or even how much you drink. It's the EFFECTS of your drinking that define a problem. If your drinking is causing problems in your home or work life, you have a drinking problem whether you drink daily or only on the weekends, down shots of tequila or stick to wine, drink three bottles of beers a day or three bottles of whiskey. 

Myth #4: I'm not an alcoholic because I have a job and I'm doing okay. 
You don't have to be homeless and drinking out of a brown paper bag to be an alcoholic. Many alcoholics are able to hold down jobs, get through school, and provide for their families. Some are even able to excel. But just because you're a high-functioning alcoholic doesn't mean you're not putting yourself or others in danger. Over time, the effects will catch up with you. 

Myth #5: Drinking is not a "real" addiction like drug abuse. 
Alcohol is a drug, and alcoholism is every bit as damaging as drug addiction. Alcohol addiction causes changes in the body and brain, and long-term alcohol abuse can have devastating effects on your health, your career, and your relationships. Alcoholics go through physical withdrawal when they stop drinking, just like drug users do when they quit.