How do we know when we have a problem with alcohol? Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or NIAAA says a very early sign is when people are uncomfortable with your drinking; and feel uncomfortable and start walking away, it is something to pay attention to. He says broadening that out, for me it is impairment and social and occupational functioning so if you start to see a deterioration in your personal interactions, if you are late for work, if you aren’t making your work deadlines, you are not sleeping well, these are all things that are indicators that maybe there is a problem.
When asked how much is too much from a health point of view, Dr. Koob says there is there is really no safe amount of alcohol, particularly when it comes to women because any small amount of alcohol epidemically can contribute to the risk of breast cancer. He goes on to say the dietary guidelines are one drink a day for females and two drinks a day for males and no more than seven drinks a week for females and 14 drinks a week for men and that doesn’t mean you should take all fourteen drinks in the same day.
Dr. Koob says, we tend to think that if one drink or one dose of a drug is good for us, then four drinks or four doses of the drug is good for us and this is almost inevitably not the case, whether you are talking about aspirin or you are talking about alcohol. He says four is not better than one, and in fact four can be toxic.
Dry January allows you to re-evaluate where you are at. Dr. Koob says if you stop drinking for a month and you start sleeping better, you’re feeling better and your gastro-intestional system feels better and your interpersonal relationships start improving and you’re back into work with a real zest, I think your body and life are telling you something and you need to listen to your body, so I think those are some of the first steps.
If you would like more information, go to niaaa.nih.gov