Alcohol FAQs:

Question: Is Alcoholism a Disease?

Answer: Yes. alcoholism is a chronic, often progressive disease with symptoms that include a strong need to drink despite negative consequences, such as serious job or health problems. Like many other diseases, it has a generally predictable course, has recognized symptoms, and is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors that are increasingly well defined.

Question: Can Alcoholism be Cured?

Answer: Not yet. Alcoholism is a treatable disease, and medication has also become available to help prevent relapse, but a cure has not yet been found. This means that even if an alcoholic has been sober for a long time and has regained health, he or she may relapse and must continue to avoid all alcoholic beverages.

Question: Are there any medications for Alcoholism?

Answer: Yes Two different types of medications are commonly used to treat alcoholism. The first are tranquilizers called benzodiazepines (e.g., Valium, Librium), which are used only during the first few days of treatment to help patients safely withdraw from alcohol.

A second type of medicatio is used to help people remain sober. A recently approved medicine for this purpose is naltrexone (ReVia). When used together with counseling, this medication lessens the craving for alcohol in many people and helps prevent a return to heavy drinking.

Another older medicatin is disulfiram (Antabuse), which discourages drinking by causing nausea, vomiting, and other unpleasant physical reactions when alcohol is used.

Question: Do only alcoholics experience problems from alcohol?

Answer: No. Even if you are not alcoholic, abusing alcohol can have negative results, such failure to meet major work, school, or family responsibilities because of drinking; alcohol-related legal trouble; automobile crashes due to drinking; and a variety of alcohol-related medical problems.

Under some circumstances, problems can result from even moderate drinking -- for example, when driving, during pregnancy, or when taking certain medicines.

Question: Are some groups more likely to develop alcohol problems?

Answer: Yes, Nearly 14 million people in the United States -- 1 in every 13 adults-- abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. However, more men than women are alcohol dependent or experience alcohol-related problems. In addition, rates of alcohol problems are highest among young adults ages 18-29 and lowest among adults 65 years and older. Among major U.S. ethnic groups, rates of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems vary.

Question: How can you tell if someone has an alcohol problem?

Answer: A good first step is to answer the brief questionnaire below, developed by Dr. John Ewing. (To help remember these questions, note that the first letter of a key work in each questin spells "CAGE")

Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?

Have people Annoyed you by critizing your drinking?

Have you ever felt bed or Guilty about your drinking?

Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover (Eye opener)?

One "yes" answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one "yes" answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important to see a doctor or other health provider right away. He or she can determine whether a drinking problem exists and, if so, suggest the best course of action.

Question: Can't I just cut down on my drinking?

Answer: That depends. If you are diagnosed as an alcoholic, the answer is "no." Studies show that nearly all alcoholics who try to merely cut down on drinking are unable to do so indefinitely. Instead, cutting out alcohol (that is, abstaining) is nearly always necessary for successful recovery.

However, if you are not alcoholic but have had alcohol-related problems, you may be able to limit the amount you drink. If you cannot always stay within your limit, you will need to stop drinking altogether.

Question: How can a person get help for an alcohol Problem?

Answer: You can call the center for substance abuse treatment at 1-800-662-HELP for information about treatment programs in you local community and to speak to someone about an alcohol problem.

Many people also benefit from support groups. For information on local support meetings run by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), call your local AA chapter (check your local phone directory under "Alcoholism") or call 212-870-3400.

For meetings of Al-Anon (for friends and family members in an alcoholic person's life) and Alateen (for children of alcoholics), call your local Al-Anon chapter or call the following toll-free number: 1-888-4AL-ANON.

Question: Is it safe to drink during pregnancy?

Answer: No. Drinking during pregnancy can have a number of harmful effects on the newborn, ranging from mental retardation, organ abnormanities, and hyperactivity to learning and behavioral problems. Moreover, many of these disorders last into adulthood.

While we don't yet know exactly how much alcohol is required to cause these problems, we do know that they are 100-percent preventable if a woman does not drink at all during pregnancy. Therefore, for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, the safest course is to abstain from alcohol.

Question: Does Alcohol affect older people differently?

Answer: Yes. As a person ages, certain mental and physical functions tend to decline, including vision, hearing, and reaction time. Moreover, other physical changes associated with aging can make older people feel "high" after drinking fairly small amounts of alcohol. These combined factors make older people more likely to have alcohol-related falls, automobile crashes, and other kinds of accidents.

In addition, older people tend to take more medicines that younger persons, and mixing alcohol with many ober-the-counter and prescription drugs can be dangerous, even fatal.

Further, many medical conditions common to older people, including high blood pressure and ulcers, can be worsened by drinking. Even if there is no medical reason to avoid alcohol, older men and women should limit their intake to one drink per day.

Question: Does alcohol affect women differently?

Answer: Yes. Women become more intoxicated than men after drinking the same amount of alcohol, even when differences in body weight are taken into account. This is because women's bodies have proportionately less water than men's bodies.

Because alcohol mixes with body water, a given amount of alcohol becomes more highly concentrated in a woman's body that in a man's. That is why the recommended drinking limit for women is lower that for men.

In addition, chronic alcohol abuse takes a heavier physical toll on women than on men. Alcohol dependence and related medical problems, such as brain and liver damage, progress more rapidly in women than in men.

Question: Can I drink and Take Medication?

Answer: Probably not. More than 100 medications interact with alcohol, leading to increased risk of illness, injury and, in some cases, death. The effects of alcohol are increased by medicines that slow down the central nervous system, such as sleeping pills, antihistamines, antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and some painkillers.

In addition, medicines for certain disorders, including diabetes and heart disease, can be dangerous if used with alcohol. If you are taking any over-the-counter or prescription medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you can safely drink alcohol.









Programs licensed by the Texas Department of State Health Services D.S.H.S.