Although many people think they are one and the same, alcoholism (alcohol dependence) and alcohol abuse are two different forms of problem drinking.  According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, alcoholism is defined as one who has signs of physical addiction to alcohol and continues to drink, despite problems with physical health, mental health, and social, family, or job responsibilities. Further, with alcoholism, alcohol may control one’s life and relationships.  Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, is when one’s drinking leads to problems, but not physical addiction.

There is no known cause of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. Research shows that a person’s environment and peer influences impact the risk of becoming alcohol dependent.  Further, although a massive amount of scientific research indicates heredity plays some role in developing alcoholism, having a family history of alcoholism does not doom a person into becoming an alcoholic. The genetic tendencies can be overcome. Also, although research suggests that certain genes may increase the risk of alcoholism, which genes and how they work are not known.  What is known, however, is that how much a person drinks can influence their chances of becoming dependent. Again, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, those at risk for developing alcoholism include:

  • Men who have 15 or more drinks a week
  • Women who have 12 or more drinks a week
  • Any individual who has five or more drinks per occasion at least once a week
  • (One drink is defined as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor)
  • People have an increased risk for alcohol abuse and dependence if they have a parent with alcoholism.
  • Individuals may also be more likely to abuse alcohol or become dependent if they:
  • Are a young adult under peer pressure
  • Have depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia
  • Have easy access to alcohol
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Have problems with relationships
  • Live a stressful lifestyle
  • Live in a culture alcohol use is more common and accepted

It is interesting to note that alcohol abuse is on the rise.  Around 1 out of 6 people in the United States have a drinking problem.  Again, not all of these cases are classified as alcoholism, but they may lead to the disease eventually.  Symptoms of alcoholism can include people who often:

  • Continue to drink, even when health, work, or family are being harmed
  • Drink alone
  • Become violent when drinking
  • Become hostile when asked about drinking
  • Are not able to control drinking — being unable to stop or reduce alcohol intake
  • Make excuses to drink
  • Miss work or school, or have a decrease in performance because of drinking
  • Stop taking part in activities because of alcohol
  • Need to use alcohol on most days to get through the day
  • Neglect to eat or eat poorly
  • Do not care about or ignore how they dress or whether they are clean
  • Try to hide alcohol use
  • Shake in the morning or after periods when they have not a drink

Alcoholism is a major social, economic, and public health problem. Problem drinking can affect every part of a person’s life. If an individual has an alcohol problem, abstinence can help improve their mental and physical health and possibly, relationships.  Treatment programs can help you quit. However, drinking again after treatment is common. Research has shown that it is important to have a good support system when overcoming alcoholism.

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Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks to the point that their blood alcohol content (BAC) reaches dangerous levels and causes the central nervous system to slow down. Breathing and heart rate become slower and slower, and the person can lose consciousness, slip into a coma and die. If someone is unconscious and begins vomiting, they could choke to death on their own vomit. The severe dehydration of alcohol poisoning can cause seizures or permanent brain damage.

Alcohol poisoning is most likely to happen when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol very quickly. Because the liver can only process roughly 1 drink per hour, a person’s BAC can continue to rise for several hours.

Warning signs of alcohol poisoning:

  • Person cannot be roused (unconscious).
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute).
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths).
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, or paleness.

If you find a friend that has any of these symptoms, call 911.


It’s pretty common for many people to drink more heavily during the holiday season.  In our previous post, we discussed holiday-related depression for people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. With this post, we want to discuss the risks associated with heavy drinking.  Our goal is to encourage people to drink responsibly, and not abuse alcohol or substances this holiday season.

According to the Center for Disease Control, heavy drinking (drinking more than two drinks per day on average for men or more than one drink per day on average for women), or binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks during a single occasion for men or four or more drinks during a single occasion for women), can lead to increased risk of health problems such as liver disease or unintentional injuries.

In addition, a recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey has shown that more than half of U.S. adults drank alcohol in the past 30 days. The survey also shows that approximately 5 percent of the total population drank heavily, and 15 percent of the population had participated in binge drinking.

Finally, the most startling statistic is that from 2001 to 2005, there were approximately 79,000 deaths in the U.S. each year due to excessive alcohol use. This was the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death of U.S. adults.

Our goal with this post was not to scare people, but to encourage people to drink responsibly, and in moderation this holiday season. We at Turning Point Centers, a Utah alcohol program, also want to promote the use of designated drivers, and to wish everyone happy holidays and a happy New Year.

Had to speak at my son’s school today to a business class.  I did some research to take in and found some crazy statistics on teen drug abuse!  The most popular drugs used by teens are alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, inhalants, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy…in that order.  It’s not good to see heroin even on the list!  Anytime we get a call from a family and they’re looking for treatment for a family member who is under 25 years old I don’t even have to ask what the drug of choice is.  Nine out of 10 times it’s going to be heroin.  Also, prescription drugs?  Still?  Yes!  Not going anywhere as long as these drugs are given out like M&M’s!

Michael’s Intervention Follow Up Finally, our clip that was on A&E’s INTERVENTION is on their website!   It was fun to watch and a pleasure to be involved with.  Michael is doing incredibly well battling his disease of alcoholism!  He’s been sober over 4 months now, is re-establishing his relationship with his beautiful daughter Bella, living in a local sober living house, attending our intensive outpatient program and generally doing exactly what he should be doing!!!  We’re very excited for him and his family as they move forward on this journey!!!!

After 2 + years of working on trying to get on the show “Intervention” on A&E it finally happened!  They were here yesterday and filmed the outside of our drug and alcohol treatment center.  Today, after a successful intervention last night with a 35 year old man dependent on alcohol, they’re back and filming our Clinical Director for the interview and some of the inside.  We’re all very excited and honored to be a part of such a great show.  What I love about the show is that it is bringing addiction out of the closet to the masses.  Thanks A&E for the opportunity!  Can’t wait to see the show air.

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