This April, during Alcohol Awareness Month, Door County Medical Center (DCMC) encourages you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the dangers of drinking too much.
According to recent data from the State of Wisconsin, an average of one person is killed or injured in an alcohol-related crash every 2.9 hours on Wisconsin roadways. Drinking too much alcohol also increases a person’s risk of violence, drowning, injury, liver disease, and some types of cancer.
If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:
Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
Keep track of how much you drink.
Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
Don’t drink when you are upset.
Limit the amount of alcohol you keep at home.
Avoid places where people drink a lot.
Make a list of reasons not to drink.
What if cutting back or quitting alcohol feels impossible?
“Alcohol addiction is not a moral weakness or character flaw,” says DCMC Internal Medicine physician and Addiction Medicine Consultant Dr. Paul Board. “Addiction is a medical illness with genetic, biological, environmental and psychosocial risk factors.”
Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) is a chronic relapsing brain disease characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences. AUD can range from mild to severe, and recovery is possible regardless of severity.
According to Dr. Board, addiction can develop with complex interaction of bio-psycho-social events with significant interplay between genetic predisposition and environmental factors. The final pathway to addiction seems to be an alteration in brain chemistry such that the pleasure & reward system is “hijacked” by regular exposure to alcohol or drugs. This rewiring results in continued out-of-control use of substances despite consequences.
“Some drugs, like nicotine or opioids, are more potent at triggering this process and thus require less genetic predisposition,” explains Dr. Board. “If someone with genetic predisposition is never exposed to drugs or alcohol the illness will not manifest.”
I struggle with alcohol use and I am ready for help. What is my first step?
Re-establishing balance in brain chemistry takes time and requires abstinence from further drug exposure. When you are ready for help, try contacting 1 or more of the following resources:
Door County Department of Human Services: 920-746-7155
Primary Health Care Provider or Therapist
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Local Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Resources
My loved one struggles with alcohol use. What can I do to help?
If you are concerned about someone else’s drinking, offer to help, but remember to consider your own health as well. “Recognize that you may be profoundly impacted by the addiction of a family member and consider obtaining counseling for yourself,” recommends Dr. Board.
“Therapy can help you learn how to support your loved one most effectively while setting appropriate boundaries. Self-Help meetings may also be beneficial as you begin to realize that ultimately you cannot control someone else’s behavior.”
To schedule an appointment with your DCMC Primary Health Care Provider, call 920-743-5566. The 24/7 Crisis Hotline Number is 920-746-2588.