To help clarify some of the aspects of alcohol abuse, I interviewed Sonia Redwine, the Assistant Director of Health Education here at Texas Woman's University. Here are her responses to some of the more common questions that individuals have.
Question: What is alcohol abuse?
Redwine: The American Psychological Association characterizes someone who has experienced one or more of the following situations in the past year as abusing alcohol:
- Recurrent alcohol use resulting in failure to fulfill role obligations at home, school, or work.
- Recurrent alcohol use in dangerous situations, like while operating a motor-vehicle.
- Recurrent alcohol related legal problems, like a DWI.
- Continued alcohol use despite social and interpersonal problems caused or worsened by alcohol.
31% of college students met the criteria for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse within a year (Kinght, et al., 2002.).
Question: What are the potential issues that can arise when a person abuses alcohol?
Redwine: Traditional age college students are already at increased risk of unintentional injury, and alcohol is a contributing factor to falls, burns, drowning, and motor-vehicle crashes. A reported 3,360,000 college students between the ages of 18-24 drive under the influence (Hingson, et al., 2009). That is a staggering amount! We also know that alcohol is the #1 date rape drug and the abuse of alcohol can result in sexual assault or date rape. In addition to sexual assault, 100,000 students between the ages of 18-24 reported being too intoxicated to know if they consented to sex (Hingson, et al., 2009). If students don’t know if they are consenting, how do they know if they are properly conducting safe sex practices, like using a condom? Academic problems can also occur, such as, missing classes, falling behind, doing poorly on exams/papers, and receiving lower grades. The Bacchus Network has a great link that shows the correlation between the number of drinks per week and the average GPA. The more you drink, the lower your grade (http://www.bacchusnetwork.org/alcohol-academics.html). Health consequences that can arise with chronic use include liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and high blood pressure, along with various types of cancer.
Question: What are some of the warning signs of alcohol abuse?
Redwine: Here are some good questions to ask yourself or someone you think is abusing alcohol:
- Do you look for reasons to get drunk?
- Do you wake up the morning after not remembering part of the evening before?
- Do you drink to get drunk?
Other warning signs would include failure to fulfill obligations, poor attendance, low grades, irritability, and defensiveness.
Question: What are some strategies for cutting back on or quitting drinking?
Redwine: The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests the following guidelines:
- Write down your reason for cutting down/abstaining
- Set a drink limit and write it down.
- Place both of these in a place you will see often.
- Keep a diary of your drinking.
- Don’t be around temptation
- Learn to say no
- Get support
- Don’t give up!
Question: What can you do if you are afraid someone you know is abusing alcohol?
Redwine: Talk to a healthcare provider or counselor to get more information and resources. When talking with the individual, use specific examples, especially recent ones, which illustrate your concerns. Get help from other friends, family members, and community resources. For more information on local programs, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Question: Where can individuals get more information on preventing alcohol abuse?
Redwine: Students can always come by Student Health Services to get information from our health education library, or make an appointment to see a provider. We are located in Hubbard Hall, next to DPS, and across from ACT. If you are not on the Denton campus, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The TWU Counseling Center is another great resource, and they have some materials available on their website. I also use the following websites: www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov and www.niaaa.nih.gov.
Do you have other suggestions for help in preventing alcohol abuse? If so, please share your resources with us!