What “not-so-healthy” ways do you use to get through difficult times? These are the responses to stress, emotional pain, or fatigue that cause un-healthy consequences or get in the way of healthier ways of coping. Be aware of them and be honest with yourself. To cope with emotional pain, stress, or exhaustions, some people:
- increase their alcohol intake
- use drugs
- overeat or eat poorly
- smoke cigarettes
- sleep too much
- shop excessively
- withdraw from loved ones
- are rude or impatient with others, especially those less powerful
- use social media to excess.
Let’s look at one common harmful way of coping:
Guidelines for Limiting Alcohol Use
The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 (2020) says the following regarding alcohol use:
- “Adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink,”
- “Drinking less is better for health than drinking more.”
When alcohol is consumed, the USDA recommends moderation, “by limiting intake to:
- 2 drinks or less in a day for men
- 1 drink or less in a day for women.”
Reference: US Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.
How much alcohol is considered one “drink?“
People often have more in a single serving than what is meant by a “drink” in these guidelines. A “drink” is measured as shown in the following image:
What Is Binge Drinking?
It is possible to screen negative for alcohol use disorder but have a serious problem that threatens your health and safety if you binge drink even occasionally. Binge drinking is defined as:
- 5 or more drinks at one occasion for men
- 4 or more drinks at one occasion for women (CDC, 2022).
Binge drinking can lead to risky behavior, for example, from making poor choices, and can also lead to alcohol use disorder.
The impaired student: Substance abuse in medical students A relevant blog by a medical student: (Fry, 2015). A 4th-year Australian medical student wrote an editorial on alcohol and other substance abuse in medical students in a medical student journal. He described:
- The problem of alcohol use by medical students
- Management of alcohol use problems, legal implications
- Mandatory notification requirements of abuse in a medical student.
Reference: Fry L. The impaired student: Substance abuse in medical students. Australian Medical Student Journal. December 1, 2015.
Selected Resources on Alcohol Use
AUDIT: A Screening Tool for Alcohol Use Disorder
The AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tool) screens for problematic alcohol use. You can download the questionnaire and a guideline to score it from the World Health Organization.
Binge Drinking: Information from the CDC.
Helping Someone with a Drinking Problem – Includes “Recognizing the Signs” and “How to Talk to Someone About Their Drinking” By Lawrence Robinson and Melinda Smith, M.A., updated July 2020, HelpGuide, an independently funded non-profit that provides online evidence-based information for the general public to improve mental health and make healthy changes.
Alcoholics Anonymous – Find AA near you
Resources from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):
- Check Your Drinking. Make a Plan to Drink Less. CDC’s online interactive tool for the general public. A good resource for evaluation and making a plan for self-help and for patients.
- Rethinking Drinking: A collection of resources for the individual who may be drinking too much for their health, including “How Much is Too Much?,” “Thinking About a Change?” and “Tools to Make a Change”
- Alcohol and You: Learn the effects of alcohol use on each organ. Some of them are not well known and may surprise you.
- Alcohol Treatment Navigator: Includes “What to know about alcohol treatment” and “How to find quality alcohol treatment.” See also NIAAA’s basic fact sheet on Treatment for Alcohol Problems.
For treating your patients:
The Healthcare Professional’s Core Resource on Alcohol. Knowledge. Impacts. Strategies. New Clinical Resource for Healthcare Professionals Released by NIAA in 2022