In addition to social and psychological damage caused by alcohol, there are also physical health risks. Although alcohol isn't the only cause of liver disease, it is one of the
major ones. even moderate amounts of alcohol can have toxic effects when taken with over-the-counter drugs that contain acetaminophen. Long-term alcohol abuse is also linked to
some serious heart problems. Alcoholism can also lead to nerve damage.
If you are concerned, for yourself or for a loved one, a doctor can help you determine if there is a problem with alcohol, how serious it is, and what can be done about it. If
there is an underlying emotional or mental problem behind the use of alcohol, a doctor is also best able to determine how to deal with this problem.
If there are no underlying causes that need to be addressed first, and you have simply decided that it's time to either stop drinking or to cut back on the amount of alcohol you
consume, there are several things that may be helpful:
* Watch out for people, places or times that seem to trigger an urge to drink
* Avoid bars and/or people who drink while they socialize
* Get support, either from friends and family or by seeking out a support group in your area
* Stay active; find activities that don't involve alcohol and spend more time on such activities
* Learn how to say "no" and plan ahead for what you'll do or say when offered a drink
* Don't keep alcohol at home
For someone with a serious drinking problem, willpower alone isn't enough; outside help is essential. An alcoholic may need medically supervised detoxification, otherwise
potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms such as seizures may occur. Depending on the extent of the problem, outside treatment and therapy may involve office visits,
hospital stays or residential treatment programs. Alcoholics also need ongoing help resolving psychological issues that may be associated with problem drinking.
A residential treatment program for alcoholism may help. At such centers, the emphasis is on abstinence, combined with individual and group therapy. Such centers may be better
able to help an alcoholic deal with detoxification and withdrawal symptoms. Medical and psychological support at such centers is also available.
There are also medications that can be used. One drug - disulfiram - will produce a severe physical reaction if you drink. The reaction includes nausea, vomiting and headaches.
Other drugs block the pleasurable effects of alcohol on the brain, which can be a deterrent. Some of these medications are taken orally, others are injected. Medications need to
be used in conjunction with counseling and therapy.
Giving up alcohol - even cutting back - is not an easy change to make. In many cases, alcoholism may be a coping mechanism for other illnesses. But given the potential risks of
overindulging, it can be one of the most important changes you ever make.