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Detecting a drinking problem

Troubling patterns

Are you wondering if you or a loved one might have a drinking problem? Here are some signs from the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information. Check the boxes that apply to you:

  • No matter how many promises you make to yourself about cutting down, you frequently wind up under the influence of alcohol.
  • You’re uncomfortable when alcohol or other drugs are not available.
  • You have a few extra drinks before the evening begins that others don’t know about.
  • You regret things you’ve said or done when under the influence.
  • You handle all social celebrations with alcohol.
  • You drink alcohol after a confrontation or an argument.
  • When faced with a problem, your immediate reaction is to drink.
  • Drinking changes your personality from shy to outgoing, or vice versa.
  • It takes more alcohol than it used to to get the same effect.
  • You remember how last night began but not how it ended, so you’re worried about your mental health.
  • You’ve missed work or other obligations because of your abusive behavior, or you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence.
  • You’re angry or alarmed when others mention that you might have a problem.
  • Your hands shake in the morning.
  • You feel alone, scared, miserable and depressed.

If you can check even one box, you may have a problem. Talk to your doctor or contact Alcoholics Anonymous or Women for Sobriety.

Before going to a party, Nancy has a glass of wine to get her in a “celebratory” mood. Whenever Jean has a fight with her boss, she unwinds at home with a gin and tonic. As for Lynn, well, her husband has noticed that her hands shake in the morning. What do all these women have in common? Quite possibly, an alcohol problem.

As women age, their drinking habits may change. They may turn more frequently to alcohol to soothe stress or even fill time.

In some cases, this tendency may quickly lead to a destructive drinking pattern. In addition, women do not metabolize alcohol as efficiently as men, making them more susceptible to its effects. And because their metabolism becomes less efficient with age, the drink they barely noticed at age 30 will pack the wallop of two or three drinks at age 60. What’s worse, late-stage complications of alcoholism, such as liver damage, high blood pressure, anemia and malnutrition, develop more rapidly in women than in men, even though they may be drinking less alcohol than their male counterparts.

Finally, women who drink to excess are more likely to mix alcohol with over-the-counter or prescription drugs, a combination that could be deadly.

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