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Health Topic of the Month

April: Alcohol Awareness

How To Cut Back

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:

  1. Limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men.
  2. Keep track of how much you drink.
  3. Don't drink when you are upset.
  4. Avoid places where people drink a lot.
  5. Make a list of reasons not to drink.

Drinking too much alcohol increases people's risk of injuries, violence, liver disease, and some types of cancer. This April during Alcohol Awareness Month, US Family Health Plan encourages you to educate yourself and your loved ones about the dangers of drinking too much.

Alcohol is one of the most highly used drug substances in the entire world. For most adults, occasionally or moderately drinking does not pose any health threats; however, for around 18 million adult Americans, alcohol use can be problematic. Excessive drinking includes heavy drinking, binge drinking, or both. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, men who drink, on average, two or more alcoholic drinks per day are considered heavy drinkers. Women who, on average, drink one or more alcoholic drinks per day would be considered heavy drinkers. Someone who binge drinks consumes at least five (men) or four (women) drinks during one occasion. If you're not sure where your drinking habits fall on this spectrum, check out this interactive tool to gain more insight into your drinking patterns.

Most alcohol drinkers are neither alcoholics nor alcohol dependent. Still, excessive or heavy alcohol consumption over a long period of time can have negative health and social consequences. Examples of these include:

  • Heart problems.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Psychological disorders including depression, anxiety and, in some cases, suicide.
  • Cancer (breast cancer and cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon).
  • Liver disease (cirrhosis).
  • Neurological problems such as dementia, stroke and neuropathy.
  • Alcohol abuse or dependence.
  • Social problems such as loss of job, lost productivity, and family problems.

Dependency on alcohol, also known as alcoholism, is similar to alcohol abuse, but it is a chronic disease. Those with a dependency to alcohol experience strong cravings for alcohol and are not able to limit their intake. In addition, they will continue to use alcohol despite repeated physical, psychological, or interpersonal problems.

If you would like to stop or decrease your drinking, a good first step is to speak with your primary care provider (PCP). She or he can make recommendations for treatment. If you are concerned about the drinking habits of a family member or friend, your PCP may also be helpful in providing guidance. USFHP members may also want to call Health Integrated (HI), USFHP's Behavioral Health Services partner. HI can be reached at 1-866-390-0933.

Remember, changing your drinking habits can be difficult. If at first you do not succeed, try again. Each attempt gets you closer to your goal.

Resources:

Alcoholism (MedlinePlus)

Alcohol and Public Health (CDC)

Alcohol information from MedlinePlus