April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a month where people are encouraged to talk about the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption. For some people, it’s a hard conversation. Fortunately, the Hancock Health Connection Center is here to listen with a non-judgmental ear, serving as a resource for people who are struggling with their own alcohol intake or that of a loved one.

Alcohol can be a pervasive part of life, whether you’re celebrating a milestone birthday with your college friends or joining business colleagues who are discussing the next big project over drinks. Some people may have no problem nursing one or two drinks and stopping, while others feel like a switch has been pressed in their brain, telling them to continue drinking until they’re well past a reasonable limit. Alcohol misuse can lead to various health concerns, including high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers, and memory issues. Excessive alcohol may also lead to risky and potentially harmful behaviors, including injuries, motor vehicle crashes, and risky sexual behaviors. It may lead to mental health problems, job issues, or unemployment. Finally, an individual’s alcohol misuse can be detrimental to family members and loved ones.

Alcohol misuse warning signs   

How do you know if your alcohol use is seeping into the alcohol misuse category? Take an honest look at the warning signs below. Remember, alcohol misuse doesn’t have to define the rest of your life. Treatment options exist, and the Connection Center Support Navigators can help you find therapy or support groups that can make a difference.

You drink more alcohol than you planned. Are you someone who goes to a party with a promise to stop after two or three drinks, only to find yourself in for a dozen over the course of the evening? This inability to control your drinking can be a red flag, especially if it happens almost every time you drink alcohol.

You experience alcohol blackouts. It’s easy to laugh about a blackout: “Gosh, I can’t remember anything after the moment I stepped on the stage and started to serenade the crowd.” Blackouts are no joke, however, and can indicate a problem with alcohol.

You build up a tolerance to alcohol. Have you noticed that it takes a lot more alcohol to bring on the “buzzed” feeling? Your brain may be trying to tell you something.

You drink even though it is causing problems in your relationship or professional life. When you and your spouse argue over your alcohol intake, you may be tempted to blame them for the problem, rather than pointing the blame where it belongs. If the people who genuinely love and care for you are concerned, perhaps you should be as well.

You crave alcohol. If you find yourself fixating on your next drink, you may want to pull back and take a look at your drinking habits.

You’re engaging in reckless behavior while under the influence of alcohol. Are you getting behind the wheel when you know you’ve had too much to drink? Are you taking unnecessary risks while you’re under the influence?

You’re experiencing health problems that may be related to your alcohol consumption. Alcohol can have an insidious effect on our bodies. Some people report sleep concerns, depression, or a lower immune response due to their alcohol intake. Other health problems don’t necessarily give off warning signs until they’re progressed to a serious condition – issues like heart arrythmias, increased stroke risk, cancer, or liver cirrhosis.

You’ve unsuccessfully tried to stop or limit your alcohol intake. Maybe you’ve been worried enough to try to cut down on your drinking in the past, only to discover that you’re back to your old habits within a couple of months. If you’re worried about having a problem, you very well might have a problem.

Finding help for alcohol misuse

If the warning signs above hit a little close to home, take heart in the fact that you are not alone. About 11.2% of all adults in the US show symptoms of alcohol misuse, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Nobody is immune to alcohol misuse. It can affect people of any age, race, or socioeconomic group.

Fortunately, help is available. Alcohol misuse treatment includes behavioral therapy, medications, inpatient treatment, or support groups. Talk to your healthcare provider, or stop by the Hancock Health Connection Center, at 120 W. McKenzie Road, Suite G, Greenfield, during regular business hours. You can also call us at 317-468-4231 for treatment resources. From there you’ll be connected to a Support Navigator or a Peer Recovery Specialist, who can provide non-clinical assistance to support long-term recovery from substance use disorders.

Alcohol misuse is not a weakness or a character flaw. It’s a symptom of a brain that cannot process alcohol in a healthy fashion, leading to risky behaviors, difficult relationships, physical ailments, or other health concerns. Let the Hancock Health Connection Center help you find your way back. We’re here for you.

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