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I read somewhere that drinking alcohol was good for you. Is that true?

Maybe. Experts for many years have discussed the idea that a moderate intake of alcohol may actually be beneficial to one's health, although it has only recently received any major press coverage. There has been concern about the potential for misinterpretation of the message if it were spoken too openly. The concept that moderate alcohol may be beneficial, after all, flies in the face of those who preach complete abstinence. So what exactly are the benefits? Statistical analysis has shown that total mortality is reduced with moderate alcohol consumption but not with heavy alcohol consumption. This is thought to be due to reductions in the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The amount of alcohol associated with the lowest mortality appears to be two standard drinks per day in men and one standard drink or fewer per day in women. More recent studies refute that, however, stating that the previous studies were flawed and that moderate alcohol use confers little to no benefit, whereas greater use clearly confers greater risk of many diseases. The window between health "giving" and health "taking" is very narrow.

Neurochemical a broader name for neurotransmitter. Any chemical that has effects on nerve cells.

What is a safe level of alcohol consumption?

If a person is alcohol dependent, then no level is safe. If an individual is concerned that he or she may be a problem drinker, it is important to understand the information in Table 7. Even individuals who never exceed the daily or weekly limit are not entirely immune from the possibility of alcohol abuse or dependence, however low the risk. For individuals who exceed the daily and weekly limits regularly, however, only one in five will develop abuse, and one in four will develop dependence. Although these numbers are dra matically higher, the fact that a person drinks that much is still no guarantee that he or she will become ill. As stated in Question 16, the reason is that although increasing amounts of consumption may increase the odds of developing the disease, it is not dependent on the frequency or the amount of use, but rather the consequences of one's use. These facts are probably the strongest evidence that supports the concept of alcoholism as a disease because although the disease of alcoholism is clearly linked to alcohol use, there is no guarantee that one will develop the disease — -just as smoking cigarettes does not absolutely determine that the individual who smokes will develop lung cancer or emphysema even though both are clearly the consequences of chronic smoking. The risks increase dramatically when the daily limits are exceeded, as demonstrated in Table 7.

Table 7 Amount of Alcohol Associated with Risk of Dependence or Abuse

Drinking pattern no more than 4 per day and 14 per week for men and 3 per day and 7 per week for women

Prevalence in U.S. adults 18 years and


Abuse without dependence

Dependence with or without abuse

Never exceeds


Less than 1

Less than 1

weekly or daily limit

in 100

in 100

Exceeds only the weekly limit


1 in 17 (6%)

1 in 100 (1%)

Exceeds only the daily limit one time per week


1 in 8 (12%)

1 in 20 (5%)

Exceeds only the daily limit more than one time per week


1 in 5 (19%)

1 in 8 (12%)

Exceeds both the weekly and daily limits


1 in 5 (19%)

More than 1 in 4 (28%)

What is a dry drunk?

The concept of a "dry drunk" is controversial. No systematic personality studies have demonstrated the validity of this concept, yet its application persists in the recovery field. The concept of a dry drunk is generally linked with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and is used to describe the individual who has stopped drinking but continues to display the thinking and behavior of an active alcoholic. Its origins are derived from two sources. The first source is from the early founders of AA, and the second source can be found in the work of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the first physician to elucidate the stages of grief and loss. A dry drunk exhibits specific personality traits, and these individuals are thought to be "one-steppers" — that is, they have only completed the first step toward abstinence, without achieving true sobriety. AA has developed 12 steps that an individual must complete in order to reach sobriety and a full recovery. The traits of a dry drunk or one-stepper consist of the following:

• Grandiose behavior

• A rigid, judgmental outlook

• Impatience

• Childish behavior

• Irresponsible behavior

• Distorted rationalization

• Projection

• Overreaction

• Exaggerated self-importance and pomposity

The concept of a dry drunk is generally linked with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and is used to describe the individual who has stopped drinking but continues to display the thinking and behavior of an active alcoholic.

Another source that can be used to understand the phenomenon of the dry drunk may be from the work regarding the stages of grief and loss that Elizabeth Kubler-Ross developed. Dr. Kubler-Ross purported that any loss that significantly impacts a persons daily life is accompanied by a number of stages of grieving, which include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. To an alcoholic, abstinence usually constitutes a big loss. Unfortunately, according to the theory of the dry drunk, alcoholics often get stuck in the stage of anger. Thus, they are constantly irritable and find it difficult to engage interpersonally. Although the validity of this remains hazy at best, it does make intuitive sense. Alcoholics and all addicts, in order to maintain abstinence, lose a huge part of what constituted their daily activities, in terms of thinking about, pursuing, and engaging in alcohol consumption. Many alcoholics and addicts also lose friends who were their "drinking buddies." The only possible way to get over a consuming activity is to replace it with other activities. Until that happens the ever-present feeling of loss will remain extremely palpable. The chances of being irritable and edgy as a result of the frustration at not acting on those desires will continually plague the recovering addict or alcoholic. Irritability often leads to poor interpersonal interactions with family, friends, and other acquaintances. Thus, the consequences of alcoholism both medically and socially can continue even though sobriety has been achieved.

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