In the midst of the worsening opioid crisis, which claimed more than 64,000 lives in 2016, it can be easy to forget that there’s yet another drug associated with even more deaths each year: alcohol. Every year upwards of 88,000 deaths are linked to alcohol, whether by liver disease, alcohol poisoning, drunk driving accidents or crimes related to alcohol.
Earlier this month was National Alcohol Screen Awareness Day. Every year thousands of community-based organizations, colleges, and military installations support this program to raise awareness of the consequences of dependent drinking behaviors and to encourage everyone to check in on their drinking habits. And most of all, National Alcohol Screening Day is meant to give those in need of help the courage to ask for it.
And although the national screening day may have passed, it’s always a good time to check in on your habits. We encourage you and your loved ones to take a minute today to reflect on your relationship with alcohol. We are not suggesting that you stop enjoying a cocktail with dinner, or a glass of wine at evening, or an afternoon out to the new tap house down the street; we just want to make sure you’re doing okay.
Below are warning signs as outlined in the DSM-V, a handbook used by healthcare professionals as the authoritative guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders, that you or a loved one may be at risk of developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and its accompanying physical, mental, and social health consequences.
In the past year:
- Have there been times when you ended up drinking more or longer than you intended?
- Have you, more than once, tried to cut down on drinking, but couldn't?
- Have you spent a lot of time drinking or dealing with the after-effects of drinking?
- Craved a drink so badly you had trouble thinking about anything else?
- Has drinking seemed to interfere with your home, familial, education, or career responsibilities?
- Have you continued drinking even when it was causing problems with your family and friends?
- Have you cut back on activities you once enjoyed in order to make time for drinking?
- Have you, more than once, found yourself in unsafe situations while or after drinking, including swimming, walking in dangerous areas, using machinery, engaging in unsafe sex, and any other situations that put your safety at hazard?
- Have you continued drinking even though you felt your drinking was causing anxiety, depression, or other problems?
- Have you found your tolerance for alcohol has risen considerably?
- After the effects of alcohol have worn off, have you ever experienced withdrawal symptoms, such as shakiness, irritability, trouble sleeping, anxiety, depression, restlessness, sweating, nausea, or ever sensed things that were not there?
If you think you have experienced a number of these symptoms, you may be at risk of AUD, and should seek help from a healthcare professional, who will perform a formal assessment and provide treatment recommendations.
Nobody needs to hit rock bottom before they choose to be well and prioritize their health. Treatment is out there and it works and, if you need it, you are worthy of it. Screening for Mental Health hosts a free and anonymous alcohol dependency screening to assess your drinking habits. Complete the questionnaire here: howdoyouscore.org