People sometimes have questions concerning their drinking patterns and whether they might constitute signs of alcoholism. Typical among them are the issues of drinking alone, to relax, to “kill the pain,” and so forth. Many of these could apply to non-medical or recreational use of drugs, as well.
First of all, lest drinkers object to being lumped together with drug users, let me point out that alcohol (ethanol) is a drug, and that drinking beverage alcohol is recreational drug use. Ethanol is not only a drug, it is one of the most lethal ones when used to excess. Simply withdrawing from alcohol, once addicted, can be fatal without medical supervision. So drinkers who like to tell themselves that they’re better than people who use drugs need to think again. The only differences are that their drug is cheaper, more easily acquired, and legal.
There is a quote attributed to one B. Franklin: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” Certainly there is nothing wrong with a couple of beers at the end of a hard day, and for about 90% of the population, that’s all that drinking amounts to, if they bother to drink at all. But pointed questions need asking if we becomes uncomfortable when denied the beers. Likewise, questions might well arise if a planned “couple of beers” turns into a full-blown night of drinking. We should be able to predict and control our consumption of drugs without giving it much thought. When “having a couple” of whatever turns into a prolonged bout of using despite plans to the contrary, it’s cause for taking a good look at our overall drinking or drugging behavior.
One of the first signs of addiction is the loss of control mentioned above. Another is a developing tolerance. If the two or three beers that get a “normal” person tipsy no longer have that effect — if it now takes four or five to “feel” it — that too is a sign of problems ahead. The ability to drink everyone else under the table is not a good thing; it indicates a well-developed tolerance when it takes more to get you high than it used to, and tolerance is a sure sign of a developing addiction.
Even less desirable, and a sign of an existing problem, is when we need to be told about our exploits by someone else. Even one blackout — the inability to recall what we did when we were using and awake — is an almost certain sign of addiction.
It’s not what, how, or how much of a drug we use that’s important, it’s what happens when we use that’s the key.
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