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Sioux Falls VA Health Care System




Unhealthy or dangerous drinking habits can include drinking every day or drinking too much at a time.

By Vanessa V. Ferguson, Ph.D., Primary Care Mental Health, Psychology Internship Director
Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Booze, hooch, cocktail, highball, shot, belt, swill, toddy, brewskie, snake poison.  Alcohol.  We give it many names, and we use it for many reasons.  It’s often part of our celebrations, used to calm our nerves, to compliment a nice dinner, enjoyed when spending time out with friends, and sometimes to help us to numb our feelings or to try and forget.  But, when does it turn from something pleasant to something that is a problem?  April is Alcohol Awareness Month and a good opportunity to take a closer look at our own use of this “nectar of the gods.”  
Most medical providers recommend that low risk drinking for a healthy male should be no more than two standard sized drinks a day and no more than one standard sized drink a day for a healthy woman.  But why? The reason is that drinking above this level can put a person at higher risk to develop various types of health problems such as high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, liver disease, sleep problems, depression, and medication interactions to name some.  But, alcohol can also result in other problems such as legal issues, fights with family and friends, loss of relationships, poor job performance, missing work, and loss of income.  A good place to start exploring our own alcohol use is by asking ourselves some of the following questions: “Have I ever thought I should cut back on my drinking?” “Has anyone ever told me they were concerned with my drinking?” “Have I ever done something I regret while drinking or felt guilty about my drinking?” “Have I ever done things while drinking that I don’t remember?” “Have I ever had a drink shortly after I get up to calm myself or to ease a hangover?” “Do I feel like I can only have fun going out if I am drinking?” “Has my drinking caused problems in relationships?”  “Do I use alcohol as a stress release, to forget my troubles or to avoid bad memories?” If you answer yes to any of these questions or others like them, it may be a good time to re-examine your relationship with alcohol. 

As you take a closer look at this relationship, you may find some good, some bad and some ugly results.   You may find you don’t need to make any changes at all or you may find that you do.  You may find that the alcohol is covering up another issue you have been avoiding that may need to be addressed.   You may be ambivalent about what to do or where to begin.   A good place to start would be at your VA.  There are a number of professionals to talk to and who can provide you with more information.  Your primary care provider, nursing, mental health, social works or one of the substance abuse specialists are all available to help you examine the issue.  They can let you know about different options as you decide on what feels right for you.   Remember we are here and ready to help you whenever you are ready to take that step.

For specific questions about substance abuse treatment options call 605-333-6890 or 1-800-316-8387 ext. 6890


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