USAO Logo

Alcohol Abuse/Addiction

Alcohol makes people less alert and impairs concentration and coordination. Some people use alcohol to reduce anxiety, and in the short term, it can reduce the symptoms. In small quantities, alcohol causes people to relax and lower their inhibitions. However, alcohol use can produce a range of problems for an individual.

Short term effects include behavioral changes, impairment of judgment and coordination, greater likelihood of aggressive acts, respiratory depression, irreversible physical and mental abnormalities in newborns (fetal alcohol syndrome) and death. Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include damage to the liver, heart and brain, ulcers, gastritis, malnutrition, delirium, tremens and cancer. 

How much is too much?

Many people consume alcohol, and in most cases this will not damage their health. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has defined the risk of alcohol consumption as follows: 

Low-risk drinking? 

People who drin kabove the alcohol recommendations are at risk of developing physical and mental health problems. 

the rapid alcohol problems screen (raps4)

The RAPS4 Questionnaire was developed as a tool to assess whether people have an alcohol use disorder. 

  1. During the past year, have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking? 
  2. During the past year, has a friend or family member ever told you about things you said or did while you were drinking that you couldn't remember? 
  3. During the past year, have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking? 
  4. Do you sometimes take a drink in the morning when you first get up? 

Note: a "yes" answer to at least one of the four questions suggests that a person's drinking is harmful to their health and well-being and may adversely affect their work and those around them. In this case, the person should seek help from a qualified professional. 

how to cut back? 

Small changes can make a big difference in reducing your chances of having alcohol-related problems. 

Keeping Track. Find a way that works for you, such as a 3x5” card in your wallet, check marks on a kitchen calendar, or a personal digital assistant. If you make note of each drink before you drink it, this will help you slow down when needed.

Counting and Measuring. Know the standard drink sizes so you can count your drinks accurately. One standard drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor, 5 ounces of table wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80–proof spirits. Measure drinks at home. Away from home, it can be hard to know the number of standard drinks in mixed drinks. To keep track, you may need to ask the server or bartender about the recipe.

Setting Goals. Decide how many days a week you want to drink and how many drinks you’ll have on those days. It’s a good idea to have some days when you don’t drink. Drinking within the limits below reduces the chances of having an alcohol use disorder and related health problems.

Pacing and Spacing. When you do drink, pace yourself. Sip slowly. Have no more than one drink with alcohol per hour. Alternate “drink spacers” — non-alcoholic drinks such as water, soda, or juice — with drinks containing alcohol.

Including Food. Don’t drink on an empty stomach — have some food so the alcohol will be absorbed more slowly into your system.

Avoiding “Triggers.” If certain people or places make you drink even when you don’t want to, try to avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan what you’ll do instead of drinking. If drinking at home is a problem, keep little or no alcohol there.

Planning to Handle Urges. When an urge hits, consider these options: Remind yourself of your reasons for changing. Or talk it through with someone you trust. Or get involved with a healthy, distracting activity. Or “urge surf”— instead of fighting the feeling, accept it and ride it out, knowing that it will soon crest like a wave and pass.

Knowing Your “No.” You’re likely to be offered a drink at times when you don’t want one. Have a polite, convincing “no, thanks” ready. The faster you can say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in. If you hesitate, it allows time to think of excuses to go along.

Additional Tips for Quitting. If you want to quit drinking altogether, the last three strategies can help. In addition, you may wish to ask for support from people who might be willing to help, such as a non-drinking friend. Joining Alcoholics Anonymous or another mutual support group is a way to acquire a network of friends who have found ways to live without alcohol. If you’re dependent on alcohol and decide to stop drinking completely, don’t go it alone. Sudden withdrawal from heavy drinking can cause dangerous side effects such as seizures. See a doctor to plan a safe recovery.

resources

Options Counseling Service (405) 222-3018
Byte and Associates (405) 222-4786
Southwest Youth and Family Services (405) 222-5437
Red Rock Behavioral Health Services (405) 222-0622
Alcoholics Anonymous www.aa.org
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism www.niaaa.nih.gov
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

(800) 662-HELP
www.samhsa.gov
www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov

how to get help? 

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the USAO Counseling Office at 405-574-1326 or counseling@usao.edu. Feel free to come by the 3rd floor of the Student Center (Room 305).