Each April, National Alcohol Screening Day raises awareness of alcohol misuse and brings attention to the critical needs of those with alcohol and other substance use disorders, and their families.
How can you tell if you — or a loved one — are drinking too much? There are warning signs for potential alcohol misuse. While many signs are easily recognizable, others can be more subtle and harder to identify.
“Mild alcohol misuse can be easily overlooked. However, what may appear as a minor issue can turn dangerous over time,” says Dr. Fadi Nicolas, chief medical officer of Sharp Behavioral Health Services. “Long-term alcohol abuse puts you at a greater risk for heart disease, liver disease, certain cancers and suicide.”
According to Dr. Nicolas, the following warning signs should not be ignored:
- Drinking more over time to get the same results (tolerance)
- Exhibiting signs of irritability and extreme mood swings
- Creating excuses to drink such as to relax or manage stress
- Choosing to drink over other obligations like work or family responsibilities
- Distancing yourself from family and friends
- Experiencing short-term memory loss
- Being secretive about drinking or drinking alone
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, anxiety and sweating when not drinking
No matter how minor a drinking problem may seem, symptoms of alcohol misuse should be taken very seriously.
For women, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, it is defined as no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week. “If you find yourself exceeding this amount, it may be time to seek help,” Dr. Nicolas says.
He encourages people to be mindful of their consumption and aware of additional risk factors such as a genetic predisposition to alcoholism. If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol misuse, seeking treatment sooner rather than later will help you get back to the things you enjoy most in life.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your use of alcohol or other substances. Sharp McDonald Center, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital all provide substance use programs to help define a recovery path that works best for you.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Fadi Nicolas about National Alcohol Screening Day or alcohol misuse for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.