Common Questions & Concerns

Is alcohol a drug?

Alcohol is a depressant.Yes. Alcohol belongs to the class of drugs called sedative-hypnotics. This class of drugs includes Valium and Librium.

Alcohol is called a depressant drug because it slows down your brain's ability to think and to make decisions and judgments.

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I only drink beer, so I don't need to worry about alcohol problems, do I?

All beverages containing alcohol can lead to alcohol problems.

A 12-ounce can of beer, a 6-ounce glass of wine, and a 1-1/2 ounce shot (a single) of distilled spirits, such as gin or whiskey, have similar amounts of alcohol and can cause similar adverse effects on the body.

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My father was an alcoholic. Does that mean I will be an alcoholic, too?

It is wise to be cautious about the amount you drink if you have a family history of alcoholism.

Although alcoholism tends to run in families, it does not mean that you will become an alcoholic as well.

But, since you may be at increased risk, it pays to be careful.

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Can't I reduce my drinking without stopping completely?

Many people can cut down on their drinking and significantly lower their risk for alcohol-related problems. Those who are alcohol dependent, however, are strongly advised to stop drinking.

Others who should not drink at all include:

  • pregnant women
  • people who operate machinery
  • people taking certain medications

and

  • people with certain medical disorders like diabetes and ischemic heart disease.
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I've heard that alcohol is good for your heart. Is this true?

Several studies suggest that low or moderate use of alcohol may provide some protection against coronary artery disease in some individuals.

If you are alcohol dependent or currently do not drink, there is no reason to begin drinking based on this information.

You can obtain similar protection from proper diet and exercise.

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I thought alcohol would help me sleep, but I'm having trouble sleeping.

Sleep studies show that drinking before going to bed usually makes sleeping problems worse. We need to assess what may be causing your sleep problems and discuss other actions you can take to help you sleep better.

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If I become pregnant, how much alcohol can I drink without harming my baby?

Drinking while pregnant should be avoided.Because we do not yet know if there is a safe level of drinking during pregnancy, women who are pregnant or who are trying to conceive should not drink alcohol at all.

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Can drinking be harmful to my health?

Alcohol can be harmful to your health in many ways.Alcohol is directly associated with many serious health problems. These problems include hypertension, liver damage, depression, sexual and reproductive disorders, serious memory loss, fetal alcohol syndrome, and stroke.

Alcohol also is implicated in other problems, such as traffic crashes, homicide, suicide, family violence, and injuries.

The overall risk for alcohol-related health problems begins to increase when more than two drinks per day are consumed.

The health risks of consuming three drinks per day are double the risks associated with consuming two drinks per day. People who drink heavily are likely to die younger than people who drink lightly or not at all.

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How dangerous is mixing alcohol with other drugs?

Mixing alcohol with other drugs can be very dangerous!It can be very dangerous. Alcohol can interact with medications such as antibiotics, antidepressants, antihypertensives, benzodiazepines, antihistamines, or acetaminophen.

Many accidental deaths have occurred after people have used alcohol combined with other drugs like tranquilizers and barbiturates.

The bestadvice is: DON'T MIX ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS !

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I can drink a six pack or a liter of wine without feeling high. Does this mean the alcohol is not hurting my body?

Some people are proud of this tolerance - the ability " to hold your liquor " - and think it means they are not being harmed by alcohol. Actually, the OPPOSITE is true.

Tolerance for alcohol may be a serious risk factor for alcohol problems. The person with a high tolerance for alcohol reaches high blood alcohol levels, which can damage the brain and other organs of the body but has no built-in warning that it is happening.

Tolerance is not a protection against being harmed by drinking; to the contrary, it makes damage more likely because tolerance has more to do with actually being at a high blood alcohol level and not feeling it.

On the next page, you will find a chart (one for men and one for women) showing you how long it takes for one or more drinks to disappear from the blood (zero blood alcohol concentration), depending on your body weight.

Times to Zero Alcohol Concentration

Approximate hours from first drink to zero alcohol concentration levels for men.

Number of drinks Body Weight in Pounds
  120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260
1 2 hrs 2 hrs 2 hrs 1.5 hrs 1 hr 1 hr 1 hr 1 hr
2 4 hrs 3.5 hrs 3 hrs 3 hrs 2.5 hrs 2 hrs 2 hrs 2 hrs
3 6 hrs 5 hrs 4.5 hrs 4 hrs 3.5 hrs 3.5 hrs 3 hrs 3 hrs
4 8 hrs 7 hrs 6 hrs 5.5 hrs 5 hrs 4.5 hrs 4 hrs 3.5 hrs
5 10 hrs 8.5 hrs 7.5 hrs 6.5 hrs 6 hrs 5.5 hrs 5 hrs 4.5 hrs

Approximate hours from first drink to zero alcohol concentration levels for women.

Number of drinks Body Weight in Pounds
  120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260
1 3 hrs 2.5 hrs 2 hrs 2 hrs 2 hr 1.5 hrs 1.5 hrs 1 hr
2 6 hrs 5 hrs 4 hrs 4 hrs 3.5 hrs 3 hrs 3 hrs 2.5 hrs
3 9 hrs 7.5 hrs 6.5 hrs 5.5 hrs 5 hrs 4.5 hrs 4 hrs 4 hrs
4 12 hrs 9.5 hrs 8.5 hrs 7.5 hrs 6.5 hrs 6 hrs 5.5 hrs 5 hrs
5 15 hrs 12 hrs 10.5 hrs 9.5 hrs 8 hrs 7.5 hrs 7 hrs 6 hrs

As you can see from these tables, it takes much longer--at any given body weight and for the same amount of drinks consumed--for women to get down to a zero blood alcohol concentration than for men. For both men and women, the lower your body weight, the longer it takes to get down to zero blood alcohol concentration, for any given number of drinks consumed.

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How do I know if I have become dependent on alcohol?

Answer these questions as accurately as you can, putting a check mark () in either the Yes or No box for each question :

  • Do you have increased tolerance (it takes more alcohol than before to get "high")?

    Yes   | No 

  • Do you experience withdrawal symptoms (evidence of tremor, nausea, sweats, or mood disturbance) when you are not drinking?

    Yes   | No 

  • Do you need to drink to avoid such symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

    Yes   | No 

  • Do you have impaired control (unable to stop drinking once started)?

    Yes   | No 

  • Do you drink compulsively or spend alot of time thinking about drinking?

    Yes   | No 

  • Have you made unsuccessful attempts to cut down or control your drinking?

    Yes   | No 

  • Do you have alcohol-related medical or behavioral problems?

    Yes   | No 

  • Have you reduced your social or professional activities because of drinking?

    Yes   | No 

If you checked Yes to any of these questions, you may be dependent on alcohol. Discuss your concerns with your treatment provider to be sure.

If you are dependent on alcohol, you should not just cut down on your drinking - YOU SHOULD STOP DRINKING COMPLETELY. Your treatment provider will advise you about what is right for you.

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What benefits may I get from quitting drinking?

Here are 21 benefits that you may experience. You may even be able to think of more!

  •  Sleep better
  •  More energy
  •  Lose weight
  •  No hangovers
  •  Memory will be better
  •  Better physical shape and appearance
  •  Reduced risk of injury to yourself and others
  •  Reduced risk of high blood pressure and heart disease
  •  Reduced risk of liver damage
  •  Reduced risk of brain damage
  •  Reduced risk of cancer
  •  Improved mood
  •  Less hassles from family
  •  Reduced risk of drunk driving
  •  Better work performance
  •  More money to spend on other things
  •  Fewer fights
  •  Less embarassment
  •  Better sexual performance
  •  Less guilt
  •  Take fewer risks
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