Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, it’s likely you’ll attend several gatherings with family members, friends or co-workers as everyone celebrates the holidays. It’s also likely you’ll have a few alcoholic drinks – it’s a party, right? We live in Wisconsin – the land of beer and cheese. Drinking is part of our culture.
Unfortunately, that thinking is far too common. It’s estimated that 1 in 12 U.S. adults abuse alcohol or are chronic alcoholics. In Wisconsin, those numbers are higher – state residents drink more than the average American and have a higher percentage of binge drinking. Nationwide, almost 100,000 die each year because of alcohol abuse and it plays a role in more than half of the nation’s murders, suicides and traffic accidents. It doesn’t end there: alcohol is also involved in many problems from missing work to spousal and child abuse. In short, drinking too much can have serious effects on your health and the health of others.
Most people realize drinking too much can cause liver damage, but it can also cause high blood pressure, gout, nerve damage, depression and circulatory problems. But that’s not all; alcohol affects a person’s decision-making process, which can lead someone to decide that another piece of pie is a good idea or, more seriously, that driving home after a night of drinking is no big deal.
Wondering if you or a loved one has a problem with alcohol? Honestly ask and answer these questions:
- Do you feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking?
- Do you lie to others or hide your drinking?
- Do you have friends or family members who worry about your drinking?
- Do you need a drink to relax or feel better?
- Do you black out or forget what you did while drinking?
- Do you regularly drink more than you plan to?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to bring it up with your family physician. Alcohol abuse is a serious problem that shouldn’t be ignored. You need to be honest about alcohol use since it may interact with medications you’re taking or make a health problem worse, such as high blood pressure. Your physician can help by providing you with resources and information so you can start making positive changes.