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Alcohol / Drug Abuse

This information provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. The information is NOT a substitute for you visiting your doctor. However, as Medical Science is constantly changing and human error is always possible, the authors, editors, and publisher of this information do not warrant the accuracy or completeness of this information nor are they responsible for omissions or errors as a result of using this information.

Alcohol / Drug Abuse:

Addiction: Strong dependence or habitual use of a substance or practice, despite the negative consequences of its use. Intoxication: Poisoning, or the state of being affected by a poisonous substance. Often used to describe drunkenness. Withdrawal: The act or process of giving up the use of a drug to which one has become addicted or dependent.

How can I tell if alcohol is a problem for me?
Alcohol is a problem for you if it causes problems in any part of your life. This includes your health, your work and your life at home. You may have a problem with alcohol if you think about drinking all the time, if you keep trying to quit on your own but can't, or if you often drink more than you plan to.

How does alcohol affect my health?
Alcohol is best known as a cause of cirrhosis, a disease of the liver. However, it has many other effects on your health. It's a major cause of deaths and injuries due to accidents. It can have severe effects on a baby during pregnancy. It can also cause stomach pain due to a bleeding ulcer or irritated stomach lining.

What causes alcoholism?
The causes of alcoholism are not fully known. A history of alcoholism in your family makes it more likely. Men seem to be more at risk than women. Some drinkers use alcohol to try to relieve anxiety, depression, tension, loneliness, self-doubt or unhappiness.

Drug Abuse: How to Break the Habit

What drugs can cause addiction?
People can become addicted to both illegal drugs and drugs that doctors prescribe. Commonly abused illegal drugs include marijuana (pot), hallucinogens (PCP, LSD), methamphetamine (speed, crank, crystal, meth), cocaine and crack, and heroin. People can also become addicted to things they may not think of as drugs, such as alcohol.

Aren't prescription drugs safe?
When prescription drugs are taken the right way, they are safe and there is little chance of addiction. However, prescription drugs can be dangerous if they are abused (for example, taking too much or taking them when they're not needed). Some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs are painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs.

How do I know if I have a problem?
You have a problem if you keep craving and using a drug even if it's causing trouble for you. The trouble may be with your health, with money, with work or school, or with your relationships with family or friends. Your friends and family may be aware you're having a problem before you realize it, because they see changes in your behavior.

Why should I quit?
Quitting is the only way to stop the problems alcohol is causing in your life. It may not be easy to quit. But your efforts will be rewarded by better health, better relationships and a sense of accomplishment. As you think about quitting, you may want to make a list of your reasons to quit.

How do I stop?
The first step is realizing that you control your own behavior. It's the only real control you have in your life. So use it. Here are the next steps:

1. Commit to quitting. Once you decide to quit, you can make plans to be sure you succeed.

2. Get help from your doctor. He or she can be your biggest ally. Alcoholism is a kind of disease, and it can be treated. Talking with your doctor or a counselor about your problems can be helpful too.

3. Get support. Contact Alcoholics Anonymous or the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. They will give you the tools and support you need to quit. Ask your family and friends for support too.

What does it feel like to quit drinking?
As you drink, your body tries to make up for the depressant effects of alcohol. This built-up tolerance to alcohol can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms when people who drink a lot quit.

Serious withdrawal symptoms include seeing things, seizures and delirium tremens (confusion, seeing vivid images, severe shakes, being very suspicious), and can even include death. This is why you may need your doctor's care if you've been drinking heavily and are trying to quit.

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Last modified October 2015