What is An Alcohol and Other Drugs Problem?
Dear Dr. Steve:
need you to help me get my wife off my case. Shes gotten it in her head that
Im an alcoholic and has made my life a living hell for me as a result. Right now
shes moved out and taken my two daughters with her. She told me that she wont
let me see the kids until I do something about my problem. I put that in
quotes because I dont 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. Ive been known to
use coke every once and awhile but really I think shes just overreacting. Its
not like I go into withdrawal when I havent used it for awhile. I dont drink
that often or that much and when I do its only beer. Compared to some of the guys I
work with, Im a teetotaler. How can I convince my wife that shes wrong about
my alcohol and drug use?
its true that not all people who drink and drug are alcoholics or drug
addicts, its also true that you dont 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.
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 ones
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:
Physical health e.g., withdrawal syndromes, liver disease, TB, neurological
disorders, immune system problems, gastrointestinal problems, anemia
functioning e.g., impairments in cognition, changes in mood and behavior
functioning e.g., impaired social relationships, relationship problems,
family problems, inability to get along with people at work, child abuse
functioning e.g., problems at work or school, unemployment
Legal e.g., DWI, arrested for criminal behavior related to sustaining
alcohol and other drug use
e.g., overextended credit, inconsistent job history leading to insufficient income,
e.g. alienation from Self, others and divine creator
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 ones 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.
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:
of other Activities: Important social, occupational, or recreational
activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol and other drug use.
Use: Alcohol and other drugs are consumed in larger amounts over a longer
period than intended.
control: Ongoing, unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol and
other drug consumption.
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.
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
Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety when alcohol and
other drug use is stopped after a period of heavy drinking.
The need for increasing amounts of alcohol and other drugs in order to feel its effects.
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 dont 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 individuals drinking
and drugging, the pattern of ones drinking and drugging, the circumstantial and
environmental stressors related to ones drinking and drugging, the interplay between
ones interpersonal world and their drinking and drugging, as well as the
individuals attitudes and beliefs about their drinking and drugging.
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.
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
how to prevent and recover from chemical dependency as well as the aftereffects of
chemical dependency on you and your family. Read Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. series of
Insanity to Serenity.
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 ones 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 ones alcohol and other drug problems.