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Alcohol Misuse ?

What is alcohol misuse?

There are different levels of alcohol use, from not drinking at all to serious drinking problems. +

A standard drink is the amount of alcohol found in

  • 12 ounces of beer,
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor,
  • 5 ounces of wine, or
  • 1.5 ounces or a "shot" of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey).

Drinking in moderation is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Drinking more than this amount can lead to getting drunk.

When people drink a lot of alcohol in a short period of time to get drunk, they're said to be binge drinkers. People are considered binge drinkers if they have four (for women) or five (for men) or more drinks within 2 hours.

Chronic alcohol misuse can result in abuse or dependence. Alcohol abuse is a pattern of drinking that harms a person's health, interpersonal relationships, or ability to work. Symptoms of alcohol abuse include the following:

  • Failing to fulfill major responsibilities at work, school, or home.
  • Drinking in dangerous situations, such as drinking while driving or operating machinery.
  • Having legal problems related to alcohol, such as being arrested for drinking and driving or for physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Continuing to drink despite ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.

Alcohol dependence, also known as alcohol addiction and alcoholism, is a chronic disease characterized by a strong craving for alcohol; continued use despite repeated physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems; and the inability to limit drinking.

What we know about alcohol misuse:

A variety of liquor bottles lined up on a shelf

Drinking too much can increase a person's risk of getting or transmitting HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) by affecting the choices that person makes about sex. For example, someone who's drunk might have more sexual partners, sex with someone they don't know, sex without using a condom, or a harder time using a condom the right way every time they have sex.

Drinking alcohol is dangerous for people with hepatitis B or C and other forms of liver disease because it makes them get sick faster and worsens the side effects of treatment. +

Hepatitis B and C are viruses that infect the liver. Many people with hepatitis B or C don't know they have it because they don't feel sick. Even if you don't feel sick, you can transmit the virus to others. The only way to know for sure if you have hepatitis B or C is to get tested. Your health care provider will recommend a hepatitis B or C test if you have risk factors for these infections, such as injection drug use. If you don't have a health care provider, click here to find contact information for your local health department.

There are medicines to treat hepatitis B. If you've never had hepatitis B, there's a vaccine to prevent it. There are medicines to treat hepatitis C, but they aren't right for everyone. There's no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about hepatitis B and C.

Drinking too much can lead to other health problems. Immediate health risks include injuries, violence, and alcohol poisoning. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, and cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.

What you can do

Therapy and other methods are available to help you stop or cut down on your alcohol use if you have a problem. Talk with a counselor, doctor, or other health care provider about substance abuse treatment options.

To help protect yourself from getting or transmitting HIV, don't drink alcohol in excess. When you drink too much, you are more likely to take sexual risks and increase your chance of getting or transmitting HIV or other STDs.

If you're going to a party or know you'll be drinking, you can bring a condom so that you can reduce your risk if you have vaginal or anal sex. You can also consider sexual activities that are lower risk for HIV than anal or vaginal sex (like oral sex).

To find a substance abuse treatment center near you, check out the locator tools on SAMHSA.gov or AIDS.gov. Through the AIDS.gov locator, you can also find mental health service providers, HIV testing sites, housing assistance, family planning services, and health centers near you.