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In Bars & Clubs

If alcohol makes you the life of the party, it might be the kiss of death.

Are you an alcoholic?


"Bar Month" at OnMilwaukee.com is back for another round! The whole month of February, we're serving up intoxicatingly fun bars and club articles -- including guides, bartender profiles, drink recipes and even a little Brew City bar history. Cheers!

If you get drunk every weekend, does this make you an alcoholic? What if you imbibe every night, but only have one or two glasses of wine? Or what if you drink excessive amounts of liquor on a regular basis, but manage to hold down a job and maintain successful relationships?

Many people wonder at various stages of their lives if they are an alcoholic, and even though alcoholism is easy to detect for some people, many drinkers know there's a fine line between social drinking and problem drinking but aren't sure on which side they fall.

John Hyatt is the senior vice president for IMPACT, a local organization that provides prevention, intervention and assessment services to help people define their problem, get help and develop a plan for long-term success.

According to Hyatt, there are four categories of drinkers: people who don't drink or drink in a way that doesn't put themselves or anyone else at risk; drinkers who put themselves at risk but have not (yet) suffered consequences; alcohol abusers who suffer or suffered consequences regularly like a loss of job, driver's license or meaningful relationships; or alcohol dependants who experience physical symptoms (withdrawal) if they do not drink every day.

A recent study conducted at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health found that Wisconsin has the highest national rate of high school drinking, with 49 percent of students drinking alcohol regularly. Wisconsin also came in first in the nation for underage drinking (39 percent), drinking among adults (69 percent), binge drinking among adults (22 percent) and chronic, heavy drinking (8 percent).

"Alcoholism doesn't run in my family at all, but I went to Madison, started drinking a lot, and couldn't stop," says Milwaukee's M. Franz. "It started out fun -- you know, just a lot of parties -- but by the time I was 30, I was pathetic."

Plus, according to the aforementioned study, Wisconsin's drunk driving rate is twice as high as the norm. In 2005, 41 percent of fatal automobile accidents in the state were due to alcohol consumption and 369 people died as a result of drunk driving.

"We know that in Wisconsin there's a strong and long history of alcohol abuse," says Hyatt. "The message we often send to our youth is that drinking is OK and a right of passage. It's a question of whether or not (Wisconsinites) have a lack of education or ignore the information."

Although it depends on a person's size, for the most part, a man is considered to possibly be an alcoholic if he drinks more than five drinks in one sitting, more than two every day or more than 14 drinks in a week. A woman may be alcoholic if she drinks more than one drink every day, more than seven in one week or more than four in one sitting.

Hyatt says it's a good indicator that drinking is problematic if loved ones start to verbalize concern, especially if they give an ultimatum.

"Basically, it's questionable any time negative consequences are apparent but a person continues to drink," says Hyatt.

The following test is used by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to decide if a person is an alcoholic.

1. Do you lose time from work due to drinking?
2. Does drinking make your home life unhappy?
3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
4. Does drinking affect your reputation?
5. Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
6. Did you get in financial difficulties due to drinking?
7. Do you turn to lower companions in an inferior environment when drinking?
8. Does drinking make you careless of your family's welfare?
9. Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
10. Do you crave a drink at a definite time daily?
11. Do you want to drink the next morning?
12. Does drinking cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
13. Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
14. Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
15. Do you drink to escape worries or troubles?
16. Do you drink alone?
17. Have you ever "blacked out" from drinking?
18. Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
19. Do you drink to build up self-confidence?
20. Have you ever been in a treatment facility or hospitalized for drinking?

The administrators at Johns Hopkins say anyone who answers "yes" to three or more of these questions is an alcoholic.

"You know if it's a problem, and you know if it's not," says Franz. "Just listen to yourself."


Talkbacks

ghostpower | Jan. 22, 2010 at 1:43 p.m. (report)

3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people? 20. Have you ever been in a treatment facility or hospitalized for drinking? Drinking a few beers as a social lubricant is quite a bit less severe than getting so drunk you get alcohol poisoning or injure yourself, yet they are both simplified into a check box. "Basically, it's questionable any time negative consequences are apparent but a person continues to drink," says Hyatt." If I drink more than a few drinks in a night, I'm likely to get a hangover. That's a negative consequence, so basically anytime you risk a hangover by drinking, which is most of the time, you are probably an alcoholic according to this fellow. Enjoy your stigma.

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rattlerz_1 | Dec. 10, 2009 at 9:02 a.m. (report)

Anyone who has ever done any heavy partying ,even once,is going to check off 5 and 17. Those 2 should be tossed from this list.

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Flathead | May 1, 2009 at 12:49 p.m. (report)

I think the 20 questions are good guides for potential problems. I think the questions are a bit loose for intereptation and poor self diagnosis. I definitely don't agree with the number game, as for how many drinks in a week. One reason alone, Culture. I have heard 10 drinks a week make you an alcoholic, who decided this and is it simply that black and white. The United States as far as how they treat their drinking is a lot different then France, Germany, Ireland, Russia and Wisconsin. I use to hang out at John Hopkins University and I honestly can say that can't hang with Wisco. drinkers. Not that its a bragging point, its culture conditioning point. The most important thing for people who drink often remember, is to be responsible and realize when to say when.

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alba | Feb. 19, 2008 at 11:06 a.m. (report)

I think 90% of UWM students drink more than 14 drinks in a week. It's weird, some studies say that drinking 2 drinks a day is good for your heart and brain, yet this guy says it makes you an alcoholic. I think he is underestimating how much many people between 21 to 40 years old drink. Almost all of my women friends drink more than 7 glasses of beer or wine in one week I think Ill recommend rehab for them all.

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TomSellecksMustache | Feb. 18, 2008 at 10:38 a.m. (report)

I think too many people (and "experts") fail to differentiate between Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. One leads to the other but doesn't not always guarantee it. If you've ever abused alcohol, like any drug, you can experience a lot of negative impacts, like on that list. I don't think that it necessarily guarentees you are an alcoholic. I'm pretty sure there are legions of college kids who have to check off 1,5 and 17 that aren't struggling with anything else on that list.

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