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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Learn how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books.


What is An Alcohol and Other Drugs Problem?


D
ear Dr. Steve:

I need you to help me get my wife off my case. She’s gotten it in her head that I’m an alcoholic and has made my life a living hell for me as a result. Right now she’s moved out and taken my two daughters with her. She told me that she won’t let me see the kids until I do something about “my problem.” I put that in quotes because I don’t believe I have a drinking or drug problem. Sure, I like to occasionally get high so I smoke a little pot. It loosens me up after a hard day at work or it allows me to be a little more spontaneous with my friends. I’ve been known to use coke every once and awhile but really I think she’s just overreacting. It’s not like I go into withdrawal when I haven’t used it for awhile. I don’t drink that often or that much and when I do it’s only beer. Compared to some of the guys I work with, I’m a teetotaler. How can I convince my wife that she’s wrong about my alcohol and drug use?

Although it’s true that not all people who drink and drug are alcoholics or drug addicts, it’s also true that you don’t have to be an alcoholic or a drug addict in order to have a problem with alcohol and other drugs. So let me clarify for you what an alcohol and other drug problem is.

An alcohol and other drug problem is a condition that exists when an individual continues to use alcohol and other drugs despite experiencing adverse consequences to one’s financial, legal, occupational, familial, interpersonal, emotional, psychological, physical, and/or spiritual well-being as a result of using alcohol and others drugs. Examples of this would be:

1.) Physical health e.g., withdrawal syndromes, liver disease, TB, neurological disorders, immune system problems, gastrointestinal problems, anemia

2.) Psychological functioning e.g., impairments in cognition, changes in mood and behavior

3.) Interpersonal functioning e.g., impaired social relationships, relationship problems, family problems, inability to get along with people at work, child abuse

4.) Occupational functioning e.g., problems at work or school, unemployment

5.) Legal e.g., DWI, arrested for criminal behavior related to sustaining alcohol and other drug use

6.) Financial e.g., overextended credit, inconsistent job history leading to insufficient income, bankruptcy,

7.) Spiritual e.g. alienation from Self, others and divine creator

Alcohol and other drug problems exist on a continuum of severity ranging from occasional binge drinking to alcohol and other drug abuse to alcohol and other drug dependence (alcoholism or drug addiction).

Binge drinking is one type of problem drinking most often engaged in by young people in the 18-21 year old age range. Within this age group binge drinking is more prevalent among college students than non-students. Binge drinking can be defined by the consumption of five or more drinks at one sitting for males and three or more drinks at one sitting by a female. Common consequences of binge drinking are: 1.) Damaged property, 2.) Trouble with legal authorities,
3.) Hangovers, and 4.) Injuries to one’s physical being.

Alcohol and other drug abuse is another type of alcohol and other drug problem. Alcohol and other drug abuse occurs when an individual continues to drink and drug despite the knowledge that drinking and drugging causes recurrent and significant occupational, interpersonal, legal, emotional, and behavioral problems. Typically problems from alcohol and other drug abuse manifest themselves as absence from and/or impaired performance at work or school, neglect of parental responsibilities, and legal and/or financial problems.

Alcohol and other drug dependence or alcoholism and drug addiction is a primary, chronic, progressive, and often times fatal disease that is prone to relapse. Alcohol and other drug dependence or alcoholism and drug addiction has a generally predictable course, recognizable symptoms, and is influenced by a complex interplay of genes, psychological factors such as the influence of family members and friends, and the effect of culture on drinking behavior and attitudes. Signs of alcohol and other drugs dependence are a strong need to drink and drug despite repeated social or interpersonal problems such as losing a job or deteriorating relationships with friends and family members combined with the following symptoms:

Neglect of other Activities: Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol and other drug use.

Excessive Use: Alcohol and other drugs are consumed in larger amounts over a longer period than intended.

Impaired control: Ongoing, unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol and other drug consumption.

Persistence of Use: Alcohol and other drug consumption is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely caused or exacerbated by the consumption of alcohol and other drugs.

Large Amounts of Time Spent in Alcohol Related Activities: A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use or recover from the effects of alcohol and other drugs.

Withdrawal: Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety when alcohol and other drug use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.

Tolerance: The need for increasing amounts of alcohol and other drugs in order to feel its effects.

A diagnosis of alcohol and other drug dependence or alcoholism and drug addiction can be made when at least three of the seven symptoms listed above have been present within the last year. As I said above, you don’t have to be an alcoholic to have an alcohol problem or a drug addict to have a problem with alcohol and other drugs. Remember one thing. For those who do have a problem with alcohol and other drugs, alcohol and other drug problems tend to get worse over time and can grow into alcohol and other drug dependence or alcoholism and drug addiction.

I would suggest that you consult a qualified healthcare provided to help you make the most informed decision you possibly can about your consumption of alcohol and other drugs. The evaluation may include a behavioral and/or medical evaluation.

The behavioral evaluation focuses on the history of an individual’s drinking and drugging, the pattern of one’s drinking and drugging, the circumstantial and environmental stressors related to one’s drinking and drugging, the interplay between one’s interpersonal world and their drinking and drugging, as well as the individual’s attitudes and beliefs about their drinking and drugging.

The medical evaluation focuses on the physical well-being of an individual as well as determine the presence of the physical markers that are the signs and symptoms of alcoholism.

Alcohol and other drug problems which do not involve physical dependence can be treated through interventions such as education, counseling and a reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. A variety of treatments exist for alcohol and other drug dependence including self-help groups, medication, detoxification and rehabilitation on either an in-patient or out-patient basis. Just remember, in the end, it only matters what you believe to be true about your drinking for you are the only one who can do anything about it.


Learn how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. series of Recovery books—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) Alcohol and other drug problems exist on a continuum ranging from binge drinking to alcohol and other drug abuse to alcohol and other drug dependence.
2.) Alcohol and other drug problems are not measured by how much one drinks, how often one drinks, or what type of alcohol one drinks. Alcohol and other drug problems are measured by the consequences of one’s drinking.
3.) The best way to determine whether someone has an alcohol and other drug problem is to be evaluated by a qualified professional.
4.) There are different modalities of treatment available depending on the nature and severity of one’s alcohol and other drug problems.

G.B.U.

Steve



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