Alcoholism is a distinct and serious disease and a challenging task for the physician to help those who are suffering from it. It is usually referred to as the country’s third most serious public health problem, following heart disease and cancer. However, in terms of total morbidity, as contrasted to mortality, it is probably the number one health problem in U.S.A.

There has been a steep rise in per capita alcohol consumption in the past 2 decades. The rate of consumption in USA began to rise almost 20 years ago and is now almost 35% higher than in 1964. Besides USA, other countries also showed sudden spurt in the use of alcohol over the same interval. For example West Germany reported 61% increase and Netherlands showed 81% increase in alcohol consumption. Although there is no relationship between alcohol consumption and rates of alcoholism, it is believed that such relationship does exist.

Similarly among Sikh population whether residing back in India or in foreign countries, alcohol abuse is much more prevalent now than it was 20 years ago.  Almost two decades ago you could count on fingers, the people who were drinking alcohol but now days a bottle of whiskey is becoming a common household article. This menace of alcohol abuse is draining out both money and health. Besides this, it impairs both the working abilities and social interactions of the people who abuse it. Its abuse generally has serious repercussions on the individual’s family also. In a way, due to alcohol abuse entire society suffers.

But in spite of serious health hazards and social impairments which are generally associated with alcohol image, there is always a strong denial on the part of an individual abusing alcohol. “I just drink once in a while; I don’t think it is a problem.”’ The denial of any alcohol problem can lead to serious consequences and delay in early detection of this crippling disease. In order to self-realize the alcohol problem one should ask the following questions, (Michigan alcoholism screening test or M.A.S.T.)

(1) Have you ever felt that you ought to cut down your drinking?

(2) Have people ever 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 to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye opener)?

Two positive answers in a list of four definitely place you in an alcoholic range and definitely tell that you have problem with alcohol. Be careful?

As reported earlier an alcoholic suffers from various physical and psychological impairments, liver cirrhosis, alcoholic amnestic syndrome, alcoholic hallucinosis, dementia are only a few which can be mentioned in this short summary. Besides this social vocational and accident proneness, there are other hazards associated with its abuse.

If you think and admit that you have this problem you should immediately seek professional help. But there are many other things also that you can do yourself. Take pledge not to drink. Cocktail parties where liquor is served are part of American life. Such parties are especially tempting to those who are more predisposed to alcohol abuse. In certain instances these parties can be dangerous and uncomfortable to those who want to quit drinking as they are surrounded by people who are ingesting the very substances that an alcoholic must avoid. In frequent instances the other drinkers in such parties frequently urge others to drink.

My advice is that the persons who have alcohol problem and want to quit drinking should arrive at such cocktail parties early and say, ‘“‘You know I am not drinking for a while could I have a cola, or a ginger ale, or soda water with a slice of lemon?”’ Always ask for something special in your drink. Keep your glass in your hand all the time. This deters the host or hostess from urging you to have a “real drink’ and also removes the danger of picking up someone else’s glass by mistake.

Always tell the host that you have a dinner party somewhere else so you will have to leave before the drunks get drunk. And actually make a plan, to attend dinner somewhere else. This helps guarantee that you’ll leave in good time.

In order to control your craving, you can do few other things also. Like you should keep your stomach full during evening hours. It is a proved fact that excess hunger when booze is available tempts the person to drink. Avoid eating sweets. Eating proteinacious food like cheese, fish, chicken soup and even milk help more than pure carbohydrate diets. If you are anxious, tense and angry due to any reason there are more chances that you will be compelled by internal urges to drink in order to relax yourself. Try to relax and do exercise. Various yogic exercises and meditation help in such instances.

Tiredness is also another factor which tempts an individual to drink. Try to keep up your work pace in such a manner that you don’t feel tired in the evening. Working overtime frequently results in alcohol abuse. Cut down your work hours.

Feeling of loneliness also increases this chance of alcohol abuse. Try to increase social interactions. Join some club for this purpose if possible. Try to make friends who don’t drink.

So you are advised to adhere to a familiar acronym, ‘“‘HALT”’’ (don’t get too hungry, angry, lonely and tired) if you want to stay sober.

Article extracted from this publication >> May 24, 1985