Although we know more about the effects of alcohol than we did in the past, there are still some popular myths about alcoholism and drinking problems. Learning the truth as opposed to the myths can help you make healthy decisions.
1. If you can “hold your liquor,” you have a lower risk of alcoholism.
This is one of the long-standing myths about alcoholism. Truth: Having a few drinks without feeling any effects sounds like a good thing. However, if you need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol to feel an effect, this is called tolerance. This could be a sign that you have a problem with alcohol.
2. You won’t become an alcoholic if you only drink on weekends.
Truth: You don’t need to be a daily drinker to have a problem with alcohol. Heavy drinking is defined by how much you drink in a day or in a week.
You may be at risk if you:
- Are a man and have more than four drinks in a day or more than 14 drinks a week
- Are a woman and have more than three drinks a day or more than seven drinks in a week
Drinking this amount or more is considered heavy drinking, even if you only drink on the weekends. Heavy drinking can also put you at risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, liver disease, sleep disturbances, and some types of cancer.
3. The risk of having an alcohol use disorder (AUD) decreases as you get older.
Truth: In case you thought that alcoholism has to start early in life, the fact is that some people develop alcohol problems at a later age.
People become more sensitive to alcohol as they get older. Some people take medicines that make the effects of alcohol stronger. Sadly, some older adults may start to drink more because they are bored or feel lonely or depressed.
Even people who never drank much when young can have problems with drinking as they get older. A healthy range of drinking for men and women over 65 is:
- No more than three drinks in a single day
- No more than a total of seven drinks in a week
Adults aged 65 and older tend to drink less than they used to, but 40% of them still drink. Because of the way the body breaks down alcohol with age, they often feel the effects quicker. Signs of alcohol dependence particular to older adults include:
- depression and anxiety,
- loss of appetite,
- mysterious bruises, and
- poor hygiene or cleanliness.
4. If you only drink wine or beer, you don’t have a problem.
Truth: Problem drinking isn’t about what you drink. It’s about how it affects your life. If you can answer “yes” to two of the following statements, you have an alcohol problem:
- Sometimes you drink more or longer than you planned to.
- You haven’t been able to stop or cut down on your drinking on your own, even though you have tried to or you want to.
- You spend a lot of time drinking, being sick from drinking, or getting over the effects of drinking.
- Sometimes your urge to drink is so strong, you can’t think about anything else.
- Because of your drinking, you take care of your responsibilities at school, work, or at home. Maybe you keep getting sick because of drinking.
- You continue to drink even though it’s causing problems with relationships.
- You have cut back or quit taking part in activities that you used to enjoy. Now you use that time to drink.
- Drinking has led to situations that could lead to you or someone else getting injured, such as driving while drunk or unsafe sex.
- Drinking makes you feel anxious, depressed, and forgetful or causes other health problems, but you continue to drink.
- You need to drink more than you used to to get the same effect from alcohol.
- When the alcohol wears off you have symptoms of withdrawal. These could include tremors, sweating, nausea, insomnia, seizures, and hallucinations.
5. Drinking is a good way to take the edge off chronic pain.
Truth: Pain relievers and alcohol are a bad mix. Drinking while taking painkillers may increase your risk of liver problems, stomach bleeding, and other issues. Additionally, drinking to relieve pain increases your risk for alcoholism. Most people need to drink more than a moderate amount to relieve pain.
Also, as you increase your tolerance for alcohol, you will need to drink more to get the same pain relief. Drinking at that level increases your risk for alcohol dependence and addiction. Ironically, long-term alcohol use can actually increase pain. If you have withdrawal symptoms from alcohol, you may become more sensitive to pain. Heavy drinking over a long time can also cause a certain type of nerve pain.
6. If you drink too much, coffee will sober you up.
Truth: If you are drunk, only the passage of time can sober you up. Your body needs time to break down the alcohol in your system. The caffeine in coffee will help you stay awake but it won’t help your coordination or decision-making skills. These can be affected for several hours after you stop drinking. This is why it is never safe to drive after you’ve been drinking, whether you’ve had coffee or not.
7. One drink equals whatever I pour in my glass.
Truth: A drink is defined as:
- 12 fluid ounces of beer
- 5 fluid ounces of wine
- 1½ fluid ounces of liquor
Many American glasses and mixed drinks hold much more than one serving. For example, some cocktails count as three or more standard drinks.
8. Drinking makes you more social.
Truth: An alcoholic drink may cause you to lose some of your inhibitions. However, overdoing it can actually hurt your social life. You might say and do things you really shouldn’t. Over time, heavy drinking can harm healthy relationships and cause problems when you fail at your responsibilities at home, school, or work.
9. Kids can safely drink some alcohol.
Truth: Even before birth, drinking can harm children. If mothers use alcohol while pregnant, it increases the risk of learning and behavior problems for their children. Also, young people who begin drinking before age 15 have five times the risk of alcohol problems when they become adults.
10. Alcohol doesn’t cause as much harm as other drugs.
Truth: Drinking can create many health dangers. In the short term, excessive alcohol use can increase your risk of accidents, injuries, and violence.
In the long-term, chronic drinking increases your risk of :
- liver damage,
- high blood pressure,
- irregular heartbeats,
- memory loss, and
- some types of cancer.
For people with mood disorders or osteoporosis, the risk is even greater.
11. It’s okay to drive as long as you don’t feel drunk.
Truth: Alcohol almost immediately impairs the coordination you need to drive safely, even if you aren’t slurring your speech or stumbling. And you’re still not safe after you stop drinking. The alcohol in your stomach and intestines continues to enter your bloodstream for hours.
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder
Although it is a serious disease, there is treatment for alcohol use disorder. Unfortunately, only about 15-20% of people with alcoholism get help from doctors or treatment programs. A lot of people don’t get help until they are forced to by a court, family member, or employer.
Still, studies show that 66-75% of problem drinkers are able to make positive changes. Recovery for AUD follows a continuum. Each step flows into the next with the goal being long-term sobriety. Steps along the continuum include:
The first important step for people with AUD is detox. The point of detoxification is to give your body time to clear out the alcohol and return to a normal balance. Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within six to 24 hours after the last drink. The symptoms can begin even while there is still alcohol in the bloodstream. Most people require a medically supervised detox in a treatment center to help deal with these withdrawal symptoms:
- Tremors (mainly in the hands)
- Sleep difficulties
- Unstable heart rate and blood pressure
- Delirium tremens (DTs): A life-threatening symptom that can make a person restless, confused, and cause seizures, fever, and hallucinations
Individuals in a medically monitored detox receive 24-hour supervision with clinicians available to give medications if necessary. The main goal of detox is to stabilize the patient and prepare them for a formal treatment program.
The highest level of patient care is offered by a residential (or inpatient) program. In this type of program, the individual lives at the treatment center for a duration of time that meets their needs. This typically ranges from a month to a year.
Residential treatment provides the patient a secure, safe, and structured environment in which to recover. This allows the addict a safe space free of any triggers or reminders of alcohol use. The focus each day is on them, their recovery, and how to prevent a relapse.
Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
Also sometimes called partial hospitalization programs, IOPs offer a second level of care. Depending on the severity of the patient’s AUD and their support network at home, this may be a good alternative to a residential program.
In an IOP, patients are able to live at home and attend therapy and group sessions during the day. It is usually three to five times per week for several hours a day. Because the individual will be living at home, IOPs are frequently used after residential programs as a step along the continuum of care. This is meant to ease the patient back to an unsupervised life while maintaining sobriety.
An OP could be considered the next level of care. These programs are similar to the IOPs but require fewer days at the treatment facility, for fewer hours. Once again, another stop along the continuum of care meant to ease the transition into normal life.
Aftercare or Sober Living Program
If, after completing the formal treatment programs, an individual is still not feeling confident in their sobriety, they may want to enter an aftercare program or sober living residence. Recovering alcoholics find valuable support through continuing therapy, participation in 12-step groups, or sober living homes. Studies show that people who continue in some type of aftercare have a better chance at long-term abstinence and recovery.
How To Help an Alcoholic
Maybe you have a friend or other loved one who is an alcoholic. Now that you know the myths about alcoholism, here are some ways to help.
- Stop hiding the problem. When everyone knows about it, it can be dealt with.
- Get support. Make a plan to talk to the alcoholic person with whoever they respect most.
- Do not attempt to talk to the person when they have been drinking or are stressed.
- Form a non-accusing team to confront the person with the damage they are doing to themself, their job, and their community. Be specific.
- If this is the first confrontation, you may want to give them another chance to quit on their own. If they are a long-term drinker, it probably isn’t the first confrontation.
- If the person has had second chances and failed, they will have plenty of excuses. This is the time to discuss rehab.
- If they refuse to talk about rehab, family, and friends will need to agree on consequences.
- If these steps fail, find someone that the individual holds in high regard, or as an authority. Sometimes that person can convince them.
- Finally, you may reach the point where you need to contact a professional interventionist. Bring in the interventionist and give them all the help they need to get your friend or loved one into treatment.
Getting Treatment at Intrepid Detox
You can get this type of comprehensive treatment for alcoholism at Intrepid Detox. Whether it is for yourself or your loved one, you can be assured that we have the expertise and experience in handling this condition.
Our clinicians are certified professionals whose only goal is to help you succeed. Plus, many members of our staff were former clients. They understand exactly where you are and what you’re going through. And they are able to relate to family and friends at the same time. Do not hesitate. This issue is too serious to let it go and hope for the best. Contact us now.