One of the most common Aussie traditions is to have a beer in your hand, its implied its required after a hard days work, but is it becoming a problem? The standard image of an alcoholic is someone drinking out of a brown paper bag sitting on the side of the road in dirty clothes who can’t hold a job. Today though this couldn’t be further from the truth.  There’s the public perception of what a drinking problem is, and then there’s the medical view, which are quite different.  The reality is this; if you drink alcohol nightly or almost every night, and its been going on for an extended period of time, and worse yet you can’t (don’t want to) stop. Medically you are classed as an alcoholic. This shocks many of my patients, but so many conditions I see can easily be resolved by simply cutting back on the alcohol.

For most people it starts out as a coping mechanism, but then it becomes habit and before you know it, we have a serious problem.  Another factor when drinking at home is;  a glass of wine measured at home tends to be well above the “standard drink’ mark served in a restaurant wine glass.  When patients say they only have 1-2 glasses of wine a night, they are really having 4-5 “standard glasses”.  There’s an age old saying in emergency rooms, “whatever the number of drinks the person says they have at home, double it”. Sadly this is often true.

The challenge is this, take a week of drinking, and see if you can do it, if you can’t, then there is a problem that needs to be addressed.  It’s sadly a sign of the times, people are working harder, longer, for less money, so we need something to help us cope. Instead of having a hobby though, or doing exercise to relieve stress, people drink.  It is a terrible Australian habit, largely modelled off our British cousins, and its something that needs to stop.  There’s nothing wrong with having a few social drinks on the weekend or at parties, that’s nothing to feel guilty about, but finishing each day with a drink, is not healthy.

One of the long term dangers is called “Tolerance”. Our body is an incredible machine, like with drugs, pharmaceuticals and alcohol, the body can adjust to long term abuse and become tolerant. This means that when 6 months ago you only needed one drink to relax, you now need 3 to achieve the same state,  and this can continue to escalate if left unchecked.  Aside from the damage to the Liver and Kidneys, long term alcohol abuse will begin to impair the digestion, cardiovascular system and fertility.

Patients are frequently amazed how good they feel even after only one week of not drinking. They are sleeping more soundly, able to concentrate better, their memory is sharper and they have more energy.  Often Acupuncture isn’t even needed, all that’s need is a small lifestyle adjustment.   The paradox of drinking alcohol is, most of the symptoms that cause people to drink (like not being able to fall asleep), are the very things being caused by the alcohol.  This is where Acupuncture comes in, it can help break that cycle, providing the relaxation and stress management needed so you don’t feel the need to drink.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with the occasional drink, it’s the age old “everything in moderation”…