The Tipping Point—Are You Enjoying a Drink or Needing a Drink?

Whether it is to celebrate or simply forget our day at work, alcohol can help change the way we feel. But while a glass of wine after a hard day might help us relax, in the long run, too much alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health. Warning signs that alcohol is affecting our emotional health include disturbed sleep, feeling lethargic all the time, feeling blue and experiencing anxiety in situations where one would normally feel comfortable.

If you are worried about your drinking, take a self-assessment and try these tips:

  • Go for a run, swim or to a yoga class, or talk to a friend about what’s worrying you instead of reaching for a beer or glass of wine after a hard day.
  • Be aware of why you’re drinking. Don’t assume it will make a bad feeling go away; it’s more likely to exaggerate it.
  • Assign specific days of the week as “alcohol-free days.” If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol and this can result in increasing the amount of alcohol you drink.

For more information, visit the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) website: www.ncadd.org.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends not to exceed 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men. One drink is considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces (a “shot”) of liquor.

Self-Assessment

How much is too much? Take the CAGE Self-Assessment, developed by Dr. John Ewing.

  1. Have you ever felt you should Cut down on your drinking?
  2. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
  4. Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

One “yes” answer suggests a possible alcohol problem. More than one “yes” answer means it is highly likely that a problem exists. If you think that you or someone you know might have an alcohol problem, it is important to see a doctor or other health provider right away.

You can also take a personalized self-assessment for risky drinking online at: www.alcoholscreening.org.