Are You a Social Drinker?

When I do presentations on the most common diseases in the Hispanic community, no doubt I have to speak of alcoholism and / or alcohol abuse. There are a large number of people with signs and symptoms that clearly reflect a serious problem with drinking.

There are several factors influencing why many immigrants choose to abuse alcohol. A lack of English proficiency, loneliness, undocumented immigration status, and unemployment are among factors that can increase stress levels. For many, the consumption of alcohol may be a way to relax. However, it is important to know how much alcohol is being consumed and what the consequences of consumption are in order to identify whether a person has a serious problem with drinking or may even be suffering from alcoholism, a disease that destroys thousands of people and families every year.

Many tell me that they only drink “socially”, but when I ask them if they have lost control or have had difficulties at work or with family due to their consumption, the answer is almost always “yes”. People may avoid being honest with themselves and others about alcohol consumption because denial can be an obvious sign of someone with alcohol problems. Thus, to  get a better idea whether a person has a drinking problem, it is important to analyze what experts say. There are signs and symptoms that help clarify whether someone has serious problems with drinking. Answer the following questions honestly, or ask a relative to help you answer them.

  1. Have you ever thought that you should reduce or cut down on the amount of alcohol you consume?
  2. Does it bother you when people criticize your manner or habit of drinking alcohol?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty because of your drinking habits?
  4. Have you taken a drink of an alcoholic beverage after waking up in the morning to steady your nerves or to help get rid of the effects of a drinking binge?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is possible that you have a drinking problem and need to be evaluated to determine whether you can benefit from treatment. It is also important to consider if you think binge drinking is a sign of courage or achievement. Some people drink because they believe it makes them very “macho”. Sometimes poor job performance, problems with studies, or difficulties in other areas that require responsibility could also indicate you are having difficulties with drinking.

Another question I am sometimes asked is, “What are the causes of alcoholism?” This question is very common. Studies have been conducted which suggest that certain genes may increase the risk of this disease. Genetic inheritance can be an important factor that should be looked at closely. Do your father and/or mother drink? Is there someone in your family; i.e., an uncle, grandfather, aunt, cousin or other close relative who has been struggling with alcohol? Answering these questions may help you find out if alcohol consumption is linked to genetic factors in your case.

Another consideration that may influence how much you drink is the social aspect. Many of us may have heard our mothers and grandmothers say, “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” In other words, the behavior of people will often reflect that of their friends or social contacts. I remember how my mother would say, “If you walk day and night with a thief, the odds that you will end up stealing are very high.”

An additional contributing factor to alcohol consumption may be the presence of emotional illnesses. For example, someone with depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders or schizophrenia may have co-occurring problems with alcohol. Individuals with low self-esteem or interpersonal problems also tend to consume alcohol easily.

Tragically, the percentage of individuals currently receiving treatment to combat alcoholism is minimal. However, there are many programs and agencies that constantly offer help and support to people who want to change their lifestyles.

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