Do You Have A Drinking Problem?

Is one of your New Year resolutions to curb your alcohol intake?

Mine too. Indeed, after our great nation overindulged over the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday season, I’d hazard a guess that every second person would have this one top of their list.

RELATED: Is Too Much Alcohol Making You Fat?

Alcohol can make us feel euphoric, warm and fuzzy, bolder and sexier, and with the combined dance moves and finesse of Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. But drink too much and it can negatively impact every facet of your life, from your relationships through to your work productivity.

The Federal Government recently estimated the societal costs of alcohol abuse in Australia to be in excess of $15 billion, with $10.8 billion attributed to tangible costs (for example, labour and health costs) and $4.5 billion to intangible costs such as loss of life through violence.

Alcohol is the most widely-used social drug in Australia, with heavy drinking or binge drinking said to cause serious health, personal and social problems.

What’s more, you can have the best diet and/or exercise program to rival Jane Fonda’s, but drink too much alcohol and the empty calories will be sabotaging your hard efforts.

alcoholism, drinking issues, binge drinking

So, how do you tell if you or a loved one has a drinking problem? Health experts say signs it might be time to get help may include: you can’t go a night without a drink; you frequently pass out drunk by 9pm; you regularly can’t remember the night before; you have an increased tolerance to alcohol and drugs and/or you’re regularly binge drinking.

And, according to experts, another good question to ask yourself: Is my drinking negatively impacting my relationships?

Leading Sydney dietician/nutritionist and author Susie Burrell (pictured below) who just launched her new program: Shape Me, The 30 Day Plan, said drinking too much alcohol was a very serious and common problem in Australia.

Susie, who herself enjoys the occasional social drink or two, said many people use alcohol as a crutch to relax and escape from their personal issues and problems.

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“Unfortunately, this is the type of drinking that we see far too often in Australia – ½ a case [of beer] or a bottle or more on a daily basis that is not helping you to relax and unwind like you are telling yourself,” she says.

And, as any health professional will tell you – the demon drink is like kryptonite when you’re trying to lose weight. If you can’t budge that final 5kg of baby weight, for example, chances are your excessive alcohol consumption is to blame. Then there are the significant adverse health effects of alcohol abuse, Susie says.

“From a health perspective, excessive alcohol consumption causes two main issues,” Susie says, “the first is that alcohol is relatively high in calories and hence it is easy to gain weight when we drink too much.

“Individuals who drink too much alcohol over many years often develop an alcohol fat apron around the abdominal area – for women this can make them appear pregnant, while for men it’s often a hard-packed solid mass which is exceptionally hard to budge.

“The other issue, which is perhaps the worse of the two, is that excessive alcohol consumption results in disinhibition and lethargy – you do and say things you should not, far less gets done, your mood is impeding and basically you function at a much lower level than you could be at any point in time. Occasionally, this is no issue, but on a daily basis, this pattern of behaviour starts to destroy lives.”

alcoholism, drinking issues, binge drinking

Susie says going cold turkey may be enough for many people to serve as a reminder of their unhealthy reliance upon alcohol to relax or socialise. If not, and you still can’t quit the grog, it’s time to seek medical attention.

“If the issue is bigger than this it is time to get professional help, as our lives and relationships are far too precious to be lost over beers or a cheap bottle of wine,” she says.

If you need help, visit and/or

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Sober October – Could You Do It?

Ocsober, or Sober October has become an annual event in Australia and is a time for people to dig deep and find some will power to ditch the drink for 31 days.  In recent years it has been gaining popularity due to the number of alcohol related crimes and the alarming increase in numbers of underage drinkers.  In America the problem is the same.  The criminal justice system is being flooded with alcohol-involved offenders with studies in recent years showing that 40% of state prisoners were under the influence of alcohol when they committed their crime.  And it’s not only adults who have a problem with the bottle – in 2008 more than 190,000 people under the age of 21 visited an emergency centre for an alcohol related injury.

When people drink for the first time, it’s generally due to curiosity about what alcohol tastes like and how it affects them physically.  Normally the first drinking experience is not a big deal but over time the drinks become more frequent and the amounts consumed increase too.  For some people drinking eventually becomes a problem and starts to interfere with daily activities and can cause serious strain on relationships.  So if you drink, be it regularly or occasionally, Sober October can be the perfect excuse to give your body a break for 31 days.  Here are some reasons why you should consider it:

It will help lower your tolerance

Just like drugs, the more alcohol you consume, the more your body gets used to it, so after a period of time you’ll find that your tolerance to alcohol will be quite high and you’ll need more of it to feel the same effects.  If you refrain from drinking for a month it’s highly likely that your tolerance level will decrease so it should be easier for you to cut back on the amount of alcohol you consume after those 31 days.

It will help to lower the risk of you becoming dependant on alcohol

Some people drink every day, not necessarily large amounts, but perhaps they find they can’t do something without a glass of wine or a cold beer, like settling down in front of the TV for the night.  You could be dependent on alcohol if not having it for a day causes problems so to tackle the dependency you should try and break your drinking cycle.  This should help lower your risk of becoming dependant on it.

It will help you to feel better

Giving up alcohol for a month will not only speed up weight loss and improve your vitamin levels but it will also help you to sleep more soundly and increase the quality of your skin.  Over time, the consumption of alcohol can cause the blood vessels in your face to dilate, resulting in red, spidery veins and the alcohol can also interrupt the balance of oestrogen and testosterone levels, causing pimple break outs.

If you’re not convinced that Sober October is a good thing then why not give it a go and see for yourself?  You might be pleasantly surprised at just how good you feel after 31 days, alcohol free.  And who knows, perhaps you’ll be converted for life.

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