Self Help - Substance Abuse
Why Do People Drink?
Students give many different reasons why they may drink. Some students say they drink because of peer pressure and to be part of a crowd. Some use alcohol to avoid difficult situations that may arise at school and work and with family and friends. Others use alcohol to avoid uncomfortable feelings, like anxiety or sadness. Anyone who drinks runs the risk of developing an alcohol problem. A serious problem can develop quickly, especially among college students.
How Do I Know If I Have A Drinking Problem?
Below is a set of questions designed to help you find out if alcohol use may be a problem:
- Do you prefer to drink alone rather than with others?
- Does your drinking cause problems with school (e.g., falling grades) or at work (e.g. being late)?
- Do you drink to escape your problems?
- When you drink, do you get very emotional?
- Do you ever have memory loss or blackouts due to drinking?
- When you drink, do you often get drunk even when you did not mean to drink to excess?
- Do you find that you have to drink more and more to get the same effect?
- Do you get into trouble with the law or injure yourself when you drink?
If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you may have a drinking problem. If you have a drinking problem, or suspect that you have one, there are many others out there like you. As a matter of fact, more than 10 million people suffer from alcoholism.
What Effects Can Alcohol Have On Me?
Immediate physical effects from alcohol include: loss of muscle control, impaired reflexes, vomiting, and unconsciousness. Because alcohol goes directly into the bloodstream, overuse of alcohol can effect almost every system in the body. Long term use can cause cancer, brain damage, cirrhosis of the liver, weight gain, and birth defects if drinking while pregnant. Excessive drinking can also cause serious accidents, injuries, and death. For example, more than one out of every three motor vehicle fatalities involves alcohol and one out of every four drownings are alcohol-related.
Alcohol can have psychological effects as well. It can affect your school work and family and social relationships. Studies have shown that students who drink alcohol to excess end up with poorer school grades and take longer time to complete their degrees. Because alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, risky and violent behavior can result. For example, students impaired by alcohol often engage in vandalism and physical fights. Friendships and romantic relationships can also be jeopardized. Alcohol can lead people to say or do things they might regret, like making a bad decision about having sex with someone. Alcohol abuse can also lead to family conflicts and broken households.
One does not have to be using alcohol to be damaged by its effects. Children and partners of alcoholics can be seriously effected too. Family members and other loved ones often suffer from psychological symptoms, including low self-esteem, depression, health problems, and relationship problems, like difficulties getting close to others. They may also find themselves minimizing the severity of their loved one’s problem, feeling responsible for the problem, or feeling a lot of anger, shame, and resentment.
In addition, family and friends of alcoholics may display their own addictive behaviors. Being related to an alcoholic or living with an alcoholic puts one at greater risk for alcoholism and other addictions, including gambling and overeating. Finally, family and friends who are close to an alcoholic often take on their responsibilities, attempting to function for them in ways that are often unhealthy. This is commonly known as "codependency" and includes feelings of having lost control over one’s own emotions and behavior.
How Can I Get Help?
Help is available and easy to find! There are many different types of treatments to help those whose lives are affected by alcohol. For severe alcohol addictions, there are detoxification programs that require the alcoholic to stay in a hospital or a treatment center. There are also programs that treat the problem at a clinic that the patient can attend daily. Once the physical addiction is addressed, follow-up treatment is always recommended.
Treatments for detoxified patients and those with less severe problems include individual, family, or couple’s therapy. Support groups are also available for sufferers of alcoholism and their family members or loved ones. UTHSC students can contact University Health Services at 901-448-5064 to get more information about alcohol treatment or you can call:
Alcoholics Anonymous - (212) 870-3400 or (914) 949-1200 or www.alcoholics-anonymous.org
Whether you are over or under 21, the legal drinking age, you will be faced with decisions regarding the use of alcohol and other drugs. When encountering opportunities -- at parties, on dates, or in your dorm or apartment -- to use or abuse alcohol or other drugs, it is important to remember that you have choices. Prepare yourself to make informed decisions. The consequences of alcohol or other drug use can be devastating. The choices you make can affect your academic performance, increase your chance of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or developing other acute or chronic physical problems, expose you to legal repercussions, or jeopardize your enrollment at the University (which prohibits the unlawful manufacture, possession, use, distribution, sale, or purchase of alcohol or illicit drugs).
Any person can develop problems of substance abuse or dependence. Some factors, however, can place certain individuals at increased risk for these problems. Such factors include having a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Being closely involved with someone, such as a family member, spouse, or friend, who displays alcoholic or addictive behavior can also lead to emotional conflicts and subsequent problems in managing relationships and getting along with others.
You may at some point have concerns about the use of alcohol or other drugs by yourself or someone you know. It is often frightening to consider the possibility of a serious problem. A natural first reaction to such fears is to ignore them or to deny that anything could be wrong.
The student mental health staff at University Health is available to discuss concerns you may have regarding drug or alcohol use in your own life or the life of someone close to you. Frequently, seeking professional assessment can bring new perspective. To obtain confidential advice and assistance, please contact:
University Health Services
910 Madison Avenue (Plaza Building)
Memphis, TN 38163
Call 448-5064 for appointment information.
If you are a UTHSC student or employee (coming soon for BCHS students), you may now schedule appointments, exchange messages with UHS staff, complete forms or surveys, check your financial account summary, or review/print immunications through a secure online web-based portal using your NetID and password!
University Health Services
910 Madison Ave. Suite 922
Memphis, Tennessee 38163