IF SYMPTOMS PERSIST
By DR. JOSE PUJALTE JR.
“They tried to make go to rehab, I said no, no, no.”
— Amy Winehouse (1983-2011), English singer/songwriter, “Back to Black” (2006)
I guess “no, no, no” was as much poetic as it was truthful. Amy Winehouse died in 2011 at 28 and the official coroner’s report was “misadventure” – the British way of calling it an accident. At the time of her death, her blood alcohol level was 416 mg/dL or about 5x the legal drive limit. The coroner: “The unintended consequence of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden death.”
Definition. When you lose control over your drinking and your body becomes dependent on alcohol, then that is alcoholism. You are an alcoholic if you:
- Are unable to limit the amount of alcohol to drink.
- Feel a strong desire to drink.
- Develop tolerance to alcohol (need more and more to feel pleasurable effects).
- Have legal problems or relationship, work or financial problems because of drinking.
- Drink alone or in secret.
- Sweat, shake, or feel like vomiting when NOT drinking.
- “Black out” – not remembering anything after a drinking bout.
- Are irritable when alcohol is not available.
- Store alcohol in secret places at home, at work, even in the car.
- Gulp drinks or double portions to get the “high” sooner.
So are you are an alcoholic? You know. But to be somewhat objective, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS) provides criteria to diagnose alcoholism. Over a 12-month period, any three or more will suffice:
Withdrawal symptoms – tremors, insomnia, nausea, anxiety in attempting to stop.
- Desire to stop, to no avail.
- Spending excessive amount of time drinking.
- Giving up important activities from work to social and recreational.
- Drinking more than intended.
- Continued alcohol use even if it is already causing problems.
Before it’s too late, you may want to see a doctor. A psychiatrist can oversee a detoxification program, along with counseling and intravenous and oral medications. If you are a caring relative or friend, you may want to intervene for the loved one you have identified as an alcoholic (based on the list above).
Self-coping. To battle alcoholism, professional help is needed although you can change ruinous habits. For example, it makes sense to try new activities that don’t involve alcohol. Also, stay away from social situations that involve drinking; stay away from drinking buddies and instead adopt a healthy lifestyle of more sleep (up to 8 hours a night), regular exercise (30 minutes four to five times a week) and eating well – without the alcohol for now, of course. Alternative treatments may help: yoga, meditation, and acupuncture.
Dr. Pujalte enjoys his Irish whiskey in moderation. [email protected]